Dream Dishes: Devon Rhodes’s Family Traditions, Cornucopias and Oysters

November 16, 2015

Family histories—so many times you don’t appreciate them until the person who knows the information is gone. And of course traditions you grow up with are hard to break, even little things…like how you keep your recipes.

My grandmothers on both sides as well as my mom all have wooden recipe boxes that sit on their counters, some index card sized, others bigger, with all tons of recipe cards inside. So of course I wanted one too. I didn’t want to buy just any old box—but I had a hard time finding one I liked.

Devon with Marge Sept 2015

Then when I was visiting my paternal grandmother in Rhode Island before I was married, she threw me a surprise bridal shower for my extended family there, since most of them wouldn’t be traveling to attend my wedding. And she gave me one of her recipe boxes that had survived the house fire that had destroyed her house in 1990. She had more than one, she told me, and wanted me to have this one because Red, my grandfather, had made it. It smelled a little smoky, but was in pretty good shape except for a crack on the lid from the heat from the fire or the water from the firefighters or some combination of the two.

Rhodes Family Recipe Box

In a side note— years later my dad came across a sheet of paper with a drawing of a cornucopia inside a book and made a frame for it. When I visited, I recognized that it was the cornucopia on top of the recipe box, that my grandfather had drawn (or more likely traced) to stencil on the top, then tucked into the book.

Anyway, when I got the box from Marge, she also had my relatives write out some recipes to put inside to start it off, and included some of her own, including one of my favorites—Scalloped Oysters.

Everyone’s family has those required dishes for the holidays—you know, the ones where leaving them out would probably cause the world to stop spinning—and ours is no different.

The original Scalloped Oysters recipe came from at least as far back as my paternal great-great-grandmother. The Rhodes side of the family has been in New England since the early 1600s (not a typo), and it’s a dish that makes me think of that part of the country. It was a side dish that my grandmother always made, and so Dad requested it be included in holiday meals when he married my mom. And of course, when I moved out on my own, I brought the tradition with me.

Many people put oysters in their stuffings, or have some sort of scalloped corn dish they make, but this recipe is nothing like either of those. I liken it most to grilled fresh-shucked oysters you get in seafood restaurants—same flavor, just all in one big dish rather than individually. Now I live in Oregon and have access to great oysters, which makes it even better.

Oysters do have a reputation, I know, and while I can’t verify the libido-increasing powers of this recipe, I can say that it’s the one that my guests request the most. ☺ Maybe give it a try this holiday season when pints of fresh oysters are easy to find in the meat section, and let me know what you think! And if you make it on Thanksgiving or Christmas, know that there are Rhodes households from Oregon to Nebraska to Rhode Island having the same dish.

Cheers!

*****

Rhodes’ Scalloped Oysters

2 pints fresh shucked oysters (not canned—you can find them in the seafood section of the meat department)

4 Tbsp reserved liquid

2 Tbsp ½ and ½ or milk

½ c. fine bread crumbs

1 ½ c. cracker crumbs (I usually do half saltines and half Club crackers, but suit your taste—roll and pound in a plastic bag)

½ c. (1 stick) melted butter

*****

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking dish. Mix the crumbs together and stir in the melted butter. Pat a thin layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Add oysters in a single layer. Packed tight is fine. Salt and pepper then drizzle the combined liquids over the oysters. Top with the remaining crumbs Bake 30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

*****

When I’m not lost in my imagination, you can find me in beautiful Oregon and at:

My Website: http://www.devonrhodes.com/
My Blog: http://devonrhodes.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/devon.rhodes
Twitter: https://twitter.com/devonrhodes

Dream Dishes: Julia Talbot’s Squash Casserole

November 12, 2015

Hey, y’all! I’m Julia Talbot, and while a lot of my readers know me for my stories about Colorado and New Mexico, I spent a third of my life in the Carolinas. My Aunty L was a Home Ec teacher in York, South Carolina, though she lived in a tiny town called Hickory Grove. She’s the person who taught me to eat yellow summer squash without gagging. Now I grill it a lot, but this was her answer to all the people who tried to force me to eat creamed squash.

Every so often I miss the South and I think about setting a book in my Dad’s old home state. Then I get distracted by my new home in New Mexico, and it’s all over.

Enjoy!

Summer Squash Casserole

3 lb. yellow squash
2 med. onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream
1 sm. jar pimento
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 stick butter
1 pkg. dry stuffing mix, finely crushed Pepperidge Farm corn bread stuffing mix

Cook squash in salted water until tender; drain. Grate onion and carrot. Add soup, sour cream, pimento and pepper. Melt butter; blend with dry stuffing mix. Grease 8 1/2 x 13 1/2 inch dish or three 8 inch pans; spread a layer of dressing mix in pan. Pour in squash mixture; cover with remaining dressing mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. NOTE: May be frozen.

Now, I usually half the recipe and make one 8×11 pan because I like it thin and crunchy. I only partly cook the squash instead of cooking it tender so it doesn’t become mush when you bake it. We’re also gluten free and sat fat free here now, so here’s my healthy recipe:

5-6 small yellow squash, chopped into rounds and steamed until half cooked.
1 small onion finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
1 small carton Pacific or Imagine cream of chicken soup
8 oz light sour cream or fat free sour cream with 2% greek yogurt
1 small jar pimientos drained
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes to taste
(mix all of these)

¼ cup of butter flavor olive oil, or of grapeseed oil and 1TBSP butter, melted.
¼ cup chicken stock
1 box Glutino gluten free cornbread stuffing, finely crushed

Mix oil and stuffing with chicken stock and layer half in pan. Pour in squash mix. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes until stuffing is crunchy and inside is bubbly.

 

Find Julia Talbot online!

www.juliatalbot.com

https://twitter.com/juliatalbot

https://www.facebook.com/juliatalbotauthor

Passions with Jaime Samms – Post + Giveaway

November 11, 2015

Passions

Hi, all. I’m here to talk about my new release, Like No One Is Watching, which is the first book in a new series titled Dance, Love, Live. The series is about a group of friends, most of them dancers, but also instructors, former dancers, or those whose lives have been overrun by the passion most dancers have for their art. Oddly enough, the series came about because I thought I had lost my own passion there for a minute.

 

There was a day, a while back, when I was going about my routine, trying to come up with a new story idea to get myself out of a rut. I wanted something that would write itself. Something I didn’t have to think too hard about. Something I wouldn’t have to spend hours researching. But my life, I thought, as I looked around my daughter’s dance studio (I was cleaning it at the time) was so devoid of anything, lately, other than sitting at my computer writing stories…or trying to write stories…that I just didn’t have anything interesting to bring to the table.

 

As I stood there, gazing through the mirror at the rest of the room, a spider flitted across the floor about ten feet behind me. It was big enough for me to see it in the mirror ten feet away. Knowing the studio’s Director as I do, I hunted that sucker down and evicted its ass before she got back, thereby avoiding any awkward moments when a grown woman in charge of a gaggle of tutued young ladies had to try not to freak out over it.

 

I was still standing there, writing the spider scene of this story in my head when my fellow cleaner (aka: Husband) came along and asked me what the ever loving heck I was doing leaning on my broom staring into space.

 

For weeks before that day, I hadn’t felt much like a writer at all. I’d spent many an hour doing just about anything I could find to do other than write. I felt like I was losing it. But when he asked me that, and I answered “writing” without even missing a beat, I realized there are some things, once they are in your system, in your blood and under your skin, they never go away completely.

 

And there it was. The opening scene of book one, the theme for the series, the setting and characterization for the first book. I had the landscape. The rest was details. I hope you like the first act, because it rekindled that need to do what I do, even when I should be doing something else.

 

So what is it in your life that drags you away from the everyday and burrows into your soul so that you can’t let it go or walk away, or finish folding the laundry and washing the dishes? For me, it’s writing.

 

LikeNoOneisWatchingFS

If you want to read the book, you can find it here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7060

If you’d like a copy of something else from my back list, talk to me about your passion in the comments, and let me know what you’d like to read, and I will chose one winner at 9:00 AM Eastern November 12.

Happy reading!

Jaime

Dream Dishes: SJD Peterson’s Easy Holidays Treats

November 11, 2015

With my busy writing schedule I don’t have a lot of free time so I thought I’d share simple and easy recipes with you that you can make in moments rather than hours. Both are kid favorites and so easy they can give you a hand.

 

The first is something I have been making with my kids for years and was a classroom favorite around the holidays.

Photo1

Ingredients:

1 Bag Hersey Kisses

1 Bag MM peanuts

1 Bag small pretzel twists.

 

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to warm (170 degrees) Lay pretzels out on a cookie sheet and place on unwrapped Hersey kiss on each one. Place in oven for approximant 5 minutes or until the kiss begins to get soft (not all melty). Remove from oven and set one MM on top pushing down just hard enough to set it in the chocolate. Let cool and enjoy!!!!

 

Get creative. Try using a Rolo and candied pecan or a mini peanut buttercup topped with cashews. OMG what about a white chocolate kiss topped with a strawberry or Raspberry?  The yumminess is as unlimited as your imagination.

 

Photo2

This is another super easy 3 ingredient recipe! (4 if you include the topping)

Ingredients:

1-16 oz jar crunchy peanut butter

1 box brown sugar

3 eggs.

 

Directions:

Preheat oven on 350 degrees. Mix all three ingredients into large mixing bowl. Spoon out a tablespoon of batter onto a non-stick cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

(Optional) add a Hersey kiss to the top while cookie is still warm.

Makes 2 dozen

Enjoy!

 

Meet Jo Peterson

SJD Peterson, better known as Jo, hails from Michigan. Not the best place to live for someone who hates the cold and snow. When not reading or writing, Jo can be found close to the heater checking out NHL stats and watching the Red Wings kick a little butt. Can’t cook, misses the clothes hamper nine out of ten tries, but is handy with power tools.

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS

AUTHORS AMAZON PAGE

Life’s Sacrifices by J. J. Lore – Post + Giveaway

November 11, 2015

Lifes sacrifices1

Drumroll please and here it is, my big debut, both as a Dreamspinner Press author and as a writer of m/m romance. It’s pretty nerve-wracking for any author on release day, but with those additional factors, I’m a bit of a wreck right now. My new sci-fi book, Raider Captured, is finally available after what has seemed like months and months of writing, submitting, waiting, and editing. Hold on a minute, that’s exactly how long it has taken. Hopefully all that hard work both on my part and all the talented folks at Dreamspinner will result in an entertaining read for you.

Raider Captured, as the title implies, is, in addition to being a romance and outer space adventure tale, my exploration of the strictures and pressures of imprisonment on both sides of the cage. My initial inspiration for the story was putting two characters in opposition to each other in the most fundamental way; prisoner and jailor. How could I weave romance into such a power imbalance? Both characters would have to overcome many obstacles to eventually place trust in each other and finally discover love. Equally important was having each character empathize with the other’s position. Sagiv, the captured warrior, knows that Daran, his young captor, is facing tremendous pressure to return him for a ransom. Sagiv is certain none of his people would offer up anything for his return as he’s disgraced in defeat. Daran realizes he should feel nothing but disdain for Sagiv, a man who attacked his ship, but he can’t suppress his innate curiosity about the mysterious fighter. There is a connection between them, forged first in the manacles around Sagiv’s wrists, and only strengthened when Daran decides to remove the restraints and free his fearsome prisoner.

There’s always an element of risk when falling in love. Oftentimes we have to give up things we thought were important in order to create that emotional bond with another person. We might have to move, face a friend or family’s disapproval, or open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection. Everyone has to make a leap into the unknown for the chance at romance.

I’m curious about what you had to risk in order to find love. Please leave a comment below for the chance to win a copy of Raider Captured or something useful if you’re ever captured by an alien.

Check out Raider Captured here!

RaiderCaptured_FINAL

 

Check out J. J. Lore’s website and follow J. J. on Twitter! 

The Love of the Game with Elle Brownlee – Post + Giveaway

November 9, 2015

LoveoftheGame

Hello DSP readers! I’m Elle Brownlee, and I love baseball. I also love writing, and writing gay romance. These two loves lead to an inevitable conclusion: I wrote a baseball-themed book entitled Force Play.

I’ve always loved baseball. I was raised on it (I think it’s likely I heard my first game while in the womb). Baseball was something I shared with my family, and something I’ve taken pains to pass on to my niece and nephew. Many of my cherished memories are of going to Triple-A games as a kid, thinking it was the Big Leagues and believing our team couldn’t lose. Even if they did, we agreed they’d get ‘em next time, and we’d drive home listening to a different game all the way from another state far away crackling on the radio.

There’s always a game to be found during baseball season, and I’m always glad to listen along when one is playing. I know I’m not alone in thinking baseball games make the perfect ambient background noise for just about any task, from cleaning house to falling asleep with the radio tucked under your pillow. When you’re a fan of baseball the game itself gets deep inside you, down to your marrow, and there’s inherent comfort in having its reliable rhythm around.

That idea of being grounded by the game itself is what sparked my character’s journeys for Force Play. Harmon is at a major crossroads where the book opens, and Caleb is in a rut. Harmon wants to leave the game for good, and Caleb can’t walk away despite never being given the chance to shine. They argue, and clash, and sparks fly. But despite their differences, and different directions life has taken them, at their hearts they still have baseball. Baseball is the one thing that defines them separately, connects them to while they figure out being friends, and binds them as they start falling in love.

As I wrote Force Play I listened to old favorite games played by My Team. I’d steep a pot of tea, fire up Word, and stick Game 7 from the 2011 World Series in the DVD drive. (Psst, if you follow baseball, you’ll see I’ve just given away who I root for as My Team.) Often, as soon as the sounds of the game started filling the room, the words would flow, and Harmon and Caleb would be there telling me about their place with each other, and in the game. Even on days when writing was hard, I trusted my guys to show up the next day ready to give it and each other their best, because that’s what a true ballplayer does.

Baseball has so many stories to tell because baseball is about struggles and triumphs we can all relate to. So even if you’re not a superfan like me, there’s no need to worry. As the game begins and the sounds and rhythms surround you, you’ll understand what’s going on. There’ll be outs, runs, hits and misses—and I promise, the good guys win in the end.

Do you love baseball as much as I do? What is one of your cherished baseball memories—who does baseball connect you to? If you’re not a baseball fan (gasp!) what’s your go-to perfect ambient background noise?

I’ll be checking in to comment and I’m looking forward to your responses. I’ll also choose a giveaway winner from the commenters to nab the title of their choice from my backlist, so take a few swings or put on your glove. Play ball!

 

Find me all over the web. I’m always glad to chat—baseball and writing or both!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

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How Far We’ve Come with Aisling Mancy – Post + Giveaway

November 6, 2015

Celebrating the Release of A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy!

 howfarwevecome3

A very special thank you to Elizabeth North, Lynn West, and all the folks at Dreamspinner Press for hosting Shira Anthony and me for the release of A Solitary Man! It’s great to be here!

My name is Aisling “Ash” Mancy and my name may be new to you. But my writing may not be. I write young adult works for Dreamspinner’s Harmony Ink Press label under C. Kennedy.

I have a unique writing background in a number of ways, not the least of which is that I was raised by a prolific author. I have also written in multiple mainstream venues for years, and spent way too much time on movie sets watching films come to life for the silver screen. Though I write for Harmony Ink Press and have spent the past four years concentrating on young adult works, I write primarily for adults—surprise!

Shira and I love to write romance but when we sat down to write A Solitary Man, we wanted to write more than a love story. We wanted to write a story to raise awareness about two very important issues: youth placed in solitary confinement and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Both have devastating effects on our youth of today and leave everlasting invisible scars. In A Solitary Man, assistant district attorney, Chance Fairchild, and deputy sheriff, Xavier Constantine, are hot on the trail of a trafficking cartel whose interest isn’t only drugs, but also that of trafficking children. The story rocks some seriously hot sex and romance, but it also rocks a great mystery, spine-tingling suspense, and a lot of action—centered on these two serious issues.

While I have written GLBT content in the past, I’ve only written for the M/M romance community for a couple of years—and young adult works at that. When I peruse Dreamspinner’s wonderful library of works, it is readily apparent how much we, as authors, and you as readers, have accomplished to advance the rights of the LGBT community.

I’m old. I remember when no child protection laws existed, I remember segregation, and I remember when it was illegal to be gay in most states. Hell, I remember witchcraft was still illegal. While there have been qualified advances in the law over the past sixty years—most in respect to discrimination and hate crimes—progress in the recognition of rights and acceptance of the GLBTQIAP community has been slow. Very slow. In fact, most of the advancement has occurred in the past ten years. By way of example, intersex people were only granted negligible rights in 2006. We’re only now beginning to recognize the rights of transgender and transsexual individuals. And all of the aforementioned, from children’s rights to the rights of GLBTQIAP individuals is because we and our allies have come together to protect human beings.

The Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage is a historic event, to be sure. But it’s more than that. It ensures that every generation alive today lives in a time of profound change—not only one of change in perspective, but also one of behavior and the law. Now, more than ever before. As authors and readers, we bring awareness to the world. That makes me proud and I hope to bring you works that inspire you, give you strength and, above all, give you hope. Read more books! As tough as it may be, talk to people. Engage them in meaningful conversation. We’re changing the world one book at a time!

Comment below and let us know how else you think we’re changing the world for the better and don’t forget to enter for a chance to win! Thank you for celebrating the release of A Solitary Man with us! Go buy the book, read it, and become involved!

Now at Dreamspinner Press, ARe, Amazon, and Barnes &

Noble

Add A Solitary Man to Your Goodreads and Booklikes Shelves

Like A Solitary Man on Facebook

Thursday, October 29th Aisling is at The

Novel Approach Reviews

with A Brief and Frank Discussion of A Solitary Man

Friday, October 30th Aisling is at Jo

& Isa Love Books

with the Notes Behind the Music Playlist for A Solitary Man

Tuesday, November 4th Aisling is at Bike Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 5th

Aisling is at Joyfully Jay

Reviews

Shira is at Prism Book

Alliance

Friday, November 6th RELEASE DAY CELEBRATION!

Yarning to Write Kermit Flail with lovely Amy Lane!

Aisling is at Divine

Magazine

Aisling is on Dreampsinner’s Blog

Saturday, November 7th Aisling is at Love Bytes Reviews

Sunday, November 8th

Shira is at My Fiction

Nook

LIVE

FACEBOOK CHAT with Shira & Aisling 2-5pm EST

Monday, November 9th Aisling is at My Fiction Nook

Tuesday, November 10th Shira is at Bike Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 11th Shira is at Scattered Thoughts

and Rogue Words

TWEET, COMMENT, AND VISIT A SOLITARY

MAN’S FACEBOOK PAGE

TO BE ENTERED TO WIN A TOTE

BAG,

SIGNED BOOKS FROM SHIRA &

AISLING,

AND SWAG!

Dream Dishes: John Amory’s Vegetarian Antipasto Platter

November 5, 2015

Hi everyone! I’m John Amory, and I have a confession to make: I love to eat. I’m Italian (and from New Jersey), so it’s in my blood. No one knows how to eat better at the holidays than Italians, but all that heavy food can really take its toll from Thanksgiving to the New Year, when it seems like every week there’s some new feast, party, or family gathering. So I took my absolute favorite course, the antipasto, and modified it to make everything a little lighter and a little healthier, but no less delicious.

To start, despite what every take-out pizza place in America will have you believe, antipasto is not a salad. It means “before the meal,” so it’s technically an appetizer course, traditionally served with pre-dinner drinks. It can range from meat and cheese platters to fried foods like calamari. These are the kind of antipasti I grew up with, and they’re what my family still serves at Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. But my version of an antipasto platter is composed entirely of vegetarian options, so you’re not stuffed before you even sit down to the table (and so you can drink more, which is what the holidays are really all about). Everything in this antipasto is easy to prepare and can be served all together on one big tray, or you can pick and choose individual dishes to liven up your store-bought platters.

Balsamic Garlic Cloves
Serves: 6-8

Please don’t be scared of this one. It sounds really intense to eat whole garlic clove cooked in pure vinegar, but I promise they get really soft and sweet and tangy. They’re delicious by themselves or smashed on a piece of toasted bread.

20-30 whole garlic cloves
1 c. balsamic vinegar

1. Peel garlic cloves, but don’t smash them. Leave them whole, but remove the papery covering. Place in a small saucepan.
2. Add balsamic vinegar until cloves are covered.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until garlic is tender.
5. Drain vinegar and serve once cooled. (You can reserve the reduced vinegar and use it for salad dressings; it has lots of flavor!)

Caponata
Serves: 6-8

This dish is an eggplant spread that I love to take to parties because you can make it a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it, and it will taste even better than when it’s right off the stove.

1 large eggplant (equivalent of 1-1.5 pounds), peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & black pepper

1. Cut peeled eggplant into cubes (about one inch).
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring often. (The eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb all the oil. If the pan gets too dry and the eggplant looks like it is burning, add some water.)
3. Add tomato, garlic, capers, vinegar, oregano, and red pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and has begun to release oil, about 5-10 minutes. (For softer caponata, cover and reduce to low and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.)
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. Stir in parsley and store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Serve cold or warm.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Serves: 6-8

You can buy artichoke hearts in a jar already marinated, but they have a weird texture that I don’t quite like, and they don’t taste the way artichokes were meant to: bright and green. So take the extra few minutes and marinate them yourself!

1 package (8-10 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. lemon zest
Salt

1. Thaw and cook artichoke hearts according to package directions. Place in small bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. Simmer thyme, pepper, and lemon zest in olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Pour oil over artichoke hearts, stir, and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (but up to a day). Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Assemble each of these components on a platter with your favorite store-bought additions: roasted red peppers, cheese (parmesan chunks, small fresh mozzarella balls), raw vegetables, olives, pepperoncini, crackers, dried fruits, whatever you like. Just don’t forget to add toasted slices of good Italian or French bread so everyone has something to build on!

Mangia!

Find John Amory online:

Twitter: @JohnAmory
GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/JohnAmory
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JohnAmoryAuthor
Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/john-amory

Dream Dishes: Kelly Jensen’s Caramel Slice

November 4, 2015

A Taste of Home

My family moved a lot. From Australia to England, to Europe, back to Australia and then to the U.S. I returned to Australia for college and moved back to the U.S. fifteen years ago. In between all that moving I traveled. I’ve been to so many wonderful places and met the most amazing people. I’ve lived in farmhouses, chalets, cabins, beach houses, apartments, condos, manor houses and gatehouses, caravans, tents and a converted postal wagon. I lived on the beach for a month way back in…well, a long time ago.

As I examine my stories I can easily see the influence of my upbringing. So many of my characters are searching for a place to call home and for people they can call family. A constant during those years was my family. As a unit we were very close and, as we absorbed new cultures, we created our own traditions. One of the things I remember most clearly, though, is my mother’s cooking. My mum was an amazing and adventurous cook. She tried a lot of local recipes and to this day, I’ll eat just about anything. But she always balanced the new with the tried and true, and one of my favourites was her caramel slice.

Caramel slice is like a bar cookie. I think that’s how an American would describe it. It’s what my mum made for school bake sales and special treats. It’s what I make when I need a little taste of home, wherever I am. I’ve had to adapt the recipe as it’s hard to get some of the ingredients over here, particularly as I live in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. I did find Golden Syrup at my local supermarket recently, which may prove a disaster for my waistline, but it does get cold here in the winter. Stupidly cold.

(Yeah, I know, I’m not even that far north.)

The ingredient I have the most trouble with is the desiccated coconut. You cannot substitute the flaked coconut readily available in American supermarkets, either the sweetened or unsweetened variety. It’s too moist and altogether the wrong texture. So the recipe below is half my mother’s and half a biscuit base (cookie?) borrowed from elsewhere and further tweaked to fit!

 

Where to find me:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Caramel Slice (Dessert)

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 20 minutes and another 10 for the chocolate. Cooling/setting time: 15 minutes and then at least an hour. Makes about 20 ‘slices’.

Ingredients

Biscuit:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
4oz (I stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp ice water
1 large egg yolk

Caramel:

2x 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6oz unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp golden syrup (Lyle’s) or dark corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate:

6oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp whipping cream

 

Preparation

Biscuit:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Blend the first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Add butter. Pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the tablespoon of ice water and egg yolk. Blend until clumps form. Press the dough onto the bottom of your pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool completely.

Caramel:

Stir the first 5 ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Take care to stir across the bottom frequently as the sugar will settle there and burn, putting little black lumps into your caramel. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil gently until the caramel is thick (if you’re the type to use a thermometer, temperature should be around 225°F). Should take about 5-6 minutes. Pour the caramel evenly over the biscuit base and leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

Chocolate:

Melt chocolate with cream in microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring occasionally. Spread chocolate over warm caramel and refrigerate for at least an hour. Overnight is best, but it’s hard to wait!

Cut into 2 inch squares. Makes about 20. ☺

 

Dream Dishes: Antonia Aquilante’s Struffoli

November 2, 2015

I come from an Italian-American family, which means we all gather around a table filled with a lot of food at the holidays. Much, if not most of it, is traditionally Italian. We even eat a pasta course before the turkey on Thanksgiving (and on Christmas too!), and Christmas Eve means eating fish. We eat holiday meals that are in multiple courses and take hours and are always accompanied by so much talking and laughter. I love those meals. And I love preparing for them too, helping with the cooking and setting the table for the family. I enjoy cooking and baking anyway, but I always enjoy it more at the holidays.

As much food as we have at those holiday meals, we have as many desserts. We bake for days beforehand – cookies, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake. Some desserts are made every year; others are tried on a whim. I have a fondness for the recipes we make each year, the traditional Italian recipes that have been passed down in my family and have been made year after year since long before I was born. I love them not only because they’re delicious, but also because of the history in them, the sense of connection and family I feel preparing them.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is one of those recipes. They’re a Southern Italian dessert called Struffoli. Struffoli are little balls of dough that are fried so they’re crunchy on the outside and light on the inside and are then coated in honey. They’re easy to make, which is good because a batch never lasts long in my family. If we make them too long before Christmas, they disappear and we always end up having to make more.

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 Here’s what you need:

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

1 tablespoon Butter, softened

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups flour **

Vegetable oil for frying

1 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar

colored nonpariel sprinkles

Whisk together eggs, butter, and 1 teaspoon of sugar until foamy.  Add baking powder and mix in. Add flour.  Work the mixture into a soft dough with your hands.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  On a floured surface, roll each piece into a rope the width of your index finger and 12 inches long.  Cut the ropes into 1 inch pieces and roll into balls.

Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a large sauce pan or a deep fryer.  Fry the struffoli a few handfuls at a time until they puff up and are golden brown.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the struffoli to a paper towel to drain.

Combine the honey and the 1/2 cup sugar in a large sauce pan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and keep it warm over low heat.  Add the fried struffoli, a few at a time, to the honey mixture and turn them to coat on all sides.  Transfer the struffoli to a large platter and mound them into a pyramid.  Sprinkle with the colored sprinkles and let stand 1 to 2 hours. (Or eat them warm – that happens in our house too!) The recipe makes about 48 struffoli.

** Struffoli can be made gluten free, and they turn out just as tasty. Substitute gluten free flour for the flour in the recipe in the same measure. Depending on what gluten free flour you use, you may need to add 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum with the flour.

 

The holidays are my favorite time of year, and I’m happy to have the chance to share one of my family’s recipes with you. I hope you enjoy this holiday treat as much as we do, and I hope you have a lovely holiday season!

 

Find Antonia here:

Website: www.antoniaaquilante.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AntoniaAquilanteAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/antoniaquilante