Monday, October 27, 2014

Buon Appetito!

Today I'm participating in Holly Sinclair's Foodie Blog Tour 2014. This is one of my favorite blog hops ever because it lets me share with you another of my passions, which is cooking.

Holly has published a lot of cookbooks! The one I chose is 365 NIGHTS. I've owned the print copy of this cookbook for a few years, and I love it.

One of the reasons I love it is the way it's organized. Complete dinners for every night of the year. I'm not nearly put together enough to follow it through for a full year, but if I were, we would enjoy a totally different dining experience every single night.

Another reason I like this book is there's a back-to-basics section that includes basic recipes like rice, mashed potatoes, etc., plus an excellent substitution list and other kitchen basics.

I asked Holly a few questions, and you'll see those down below with the photos. The questions don't match the photos, but it's a good spot to put them. What? This is the Tiki Hut, LOL!

My final choice of what to prepare came down to a yummy favorite - a Southwestern chicken dish called Santa Fe Chicken with Rice and Beans - and one of my all-time Italian favorites called Spaghetti alla Checca.

Spaghetti won because this dish is pretty, and it's sooooooo easy to make. Even if you don't like to cook, you can make this dish in 30 minutes or so, and your family and/or guests will think you've been hiding your foodie obsession. It's instant gourmet with no fuss, no muss.


Because alla checca is a raw sauce using fresh, uncooked ingredients.

This is a perfect dish to make on hot summer nights, but it's also wonderful in cooler times of the year to bring back the fresh summer tastes we all love. Plus there's a surprise in the preparation that will make you smile :)

So moving along, here's the recipe:
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 8 oz. whole-milk mozzarella, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sautepan until smoking hot. Immediately pour over the tomato mixture. When pasta is done, drain and add to the tomato mixture. Toss until well coated. Cover the bowl and let stand 2 minutes.

See? I wasn't kidding when I said EASY!

I halved the recipe because only Live-In Handyman and I were eating. And I used grape tomatoes cut in two instead of chopping larger ones. This is all you need.

Me: How long did it take you to compile the recipes and dinner combinations for 365 NIGHTS?

Holly: I would love to say just 365 days, but it's more like two years. Many of the recipes were already in my files, but others had to be adapted and tested.

If you think my oregano and thyme looked a little wicked, it's because they were already drying in the pots. But the fresh flavor was still there. Here is everything in the bowl. Looks like the Italian flag!

Me: What's your favorite thing to prepare for dinner, and is the recipe included in this book?

Holly: This tends to be seasonal. In the fall, I love to make soups and stews. My favorite is Minestrone Soup. It goes together so quick and eating it give me a nice energy boost. It is in the book.

Another thing about alla Checca is you can add your favorites like green onions, garlic, black or green olives. You can also add grilled chicken or sliced Italian sausage. Or whatever you wish. And you it with other forms of pasta such as farfalle or penne, etc. But here's how it looks served in bowls after following Holly's recipe. See how pretty!

Me: How did you learn to cook?

Holly: Trial and error. Lots of both.

Thank you, Holly, for such a great cookbook!

One commenter on this post will win a free digital copy of this cookbook. To enter, just leave a comment. If you want to leave a comment but don't want to enter, add "I hate food" to your comment. The winner will be announced on October 31st on Holly's blog.

365 Nights: Menus & Recipes for Every Night of the Year
You can put something different on your dinner table each night for an entire year! The meals in this book are easy to prepare, and they are balanced to provide a variety of taste sensations, ingredients, and nutrients. The flavors will appeal to your family and to dinner guests of all ages.
Cost: $19.95 print | $3.99 ebook

If you buy the print version of the book from Amazon, you get the digital version free.

Where to get it:
Amazon (print) []
Kindle []
Smashwords []
ibooks []
Barnes & Nobles []

Holly Sinclair, who goes by Southpaw on the Interwebs, finds cooking cathartic. The recipes she's created and collected grew into cookbooks. Holly's trying her hand at fiction and food seems to creep into most of her books.
Holly Sinclair Cookbooks, the website []
HR Sinclair, the blog []

Join Holly on the rest of her Blog Tour [], each stop features a different cookbook and a chance for a free ebook!

You can join in the fun by signing up for the End of Tour Foodie Blog Hop!
Talk about a fond food memory, describe your disasters in the kitchen, post your favorite recipe or pictures of food, or do anything food related. Sign up here. []

This is the last week to push the big WIN button at the top of my right sidebar for a chance to win Susan Swiderski's two books:
They will make fantastic Christmas gifts for readers on your list!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Leaping Lizards!

Today I'm visiting Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress where I'm talking about researching material for novels in general and a couple of things that relate specifically to my own research. I hope you'll drop in and say hi.

While I'm at Mason's, I seem to have done the cloning thing again--because here at the Tiki hut, I'm sharing Bish Denham's A LIZARD'S TAIL.

From the moment he hatches, Marvin P. Tinkleberry knows he is destined for greatness. For one, he has a marvelous, well-groomed tail. For another he can puff out his throat pouch in the most spectacular way. Maybe the other lizards in his colony don't take him seriously, but he knows the truth. It lives in the marrow of his bones; he's going to be a hero.

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall in the Garden by the Sea, Marvin knows it's HIS destiny to get rid of the fearsome beast. Travelling Over the Hill to find help should be as easy as snapping up a sleeping moth. But it doesn't take long for Marvin to see that the world beyond Stone Wall is not the same as his pampered life back at the garden. From the deadly Sucker Cactus Forest to deadly mongooses, danger lurks around every corner and Marvin will have to decide if he's willing to be the hero he's long bragged about being.

Bish Denham was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. Her mother's side of the family has lived in the Caribbean for over one hundred years and she still has plenty of family there whom she visits regularly.

She says, "Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic."

Bish has known many lizards in her life. Marvin and Leeza are based on two that lived in her bedroom.

She is the author of Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Folk Tales which you can find on

Twitter: @BishDenham


Marvin P. Tinkleberry is such a fun character! I smiled every time I read his name. He has a positive attitude and sets off on his quest to save the lizards at Stone Wall filled with confidence.

Along the way, Marvin meets many characters, including El Grecko, the She-Beast, the Great Iguana, and more, including the lovely Leeza. He also encounters many challenges along the way, beginning with his trek across the Sucker Cactus Forest.

Although Marvin is a male lizard, A LIZARD’S TAIL is a great book for all young readers, both boys and girls, as well as for readers of any age who have remained young at heart.

Bish provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The free read was awesome, but it didn't change my opinion of the story or the rating I gave the book on Amazon and Goodreads, which would be the same even if I'd forked over my hard-earned dollars to purchase a print book. The book's solid. Check it out.

I will also be at the Texas Book Festival in Austin this Sunday, October 26, from 1-3 pm signing books at the Mystery Writers of America Southwest Chapter booth - Exhibitor Tent 3, Booth 320.  If you're going to be in Austin, drop by and say hi. I'd love to meet you in real life!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hot Diggity Doggies!

This is the week I hope to clear out all my backlog. Please wish me good luck with that!

So I'm sharing two short videos from yesterday. The first is Shiner going long for a Cheetos pass. The second is a mockingbird singing while the dogs ate dinner (you may need to turn your sound up to hear as it's not as loud on the video as it was outside). The dogs are spoiled--they get dinner and a show!



Even better, I'm participating in Medeia Sharif's fantastic cover reveal for her upcoming novel, VITAMINS AND DEATH.

YA Contemporary, Prizm Books
Release Date December 10, 2014

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother’s briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High.

Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, Deidra thinks no one will figure out they’re the Battles from recent news and that they’re safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed her life.

Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Find Medeia

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alex and the Boy in my Dreams

This week I'm visiting Alex J. Cavanaugh, and my post there is so short that I'll give it all away if I tell you what it's about here :)

Since we're speaking about short things, I have to share with you a tiny part of a dream I had the other night. Live-In Handyman and I were at some sort of outdoor gathering, and all sorts of strange things kept happening to me.

This sort of thing is more or less normal in real life, and I don't remember more about this part of the dream.

Then this little boy walked up to me. He was about four, and I can still see him and his face. He had wavy short brown hair that fell over his forehead, dark eyebrows, and large round brown eyes. When he talked, his face was all moving muscles, especially his lips - very expressive.

He wore brown shoes and socks, brown shorts, a belt, and a plaid shirt that was brown and white and blue. He was holding a yellow balloon.

I'm telling you all this because if you know about dreams and what significance any of this has, please share!

This little boy is asking all kinds of questions about me and Live-In. I only recall two of them. He said, "Do you do farm stuff?" to which I replied, "Not so much."

Then he asked, "Do you do beach stuff?" and I said, "We do lots of beach stuff."

Then he was quiet for a few seconds, moving his feet around while he stared at me with those huge brown eyes.

Then he said, "You people never behave." And I woke up. I can still hear his voice.

Any ideas?

Do you have dreams like this?