Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Okay, so it's not the cream puff recipe that I promised...

Once again, life has gotten completely crazy with work, being the assistant coach for my son's baseball team and trying to get editing done on the book.  That leaves weekends to clean and do laundry.  I think I am taking a "me" day on Saturday, to focus on editing and also post the cream puff recipe I promised a couple of weeks ago.  In the meantime, here is an update from my writing world:

Ever since I came back from the writer's conference, I have had a lot of ideas and tips swirling around in my head, but one in particular kept popping to the forefront. One of the speakers encouraged getting out into your community, whether it be a local library or arts center, and asking if they would be interested in getting a creative writing class going. They encouraged us to look past the most common obstacle that we, ourselves, might put up, which is, "What makes me qualified to teach a writing class?" Their answer was, "You've already written a book. That is already more than what can be said about a large majority of the population." Without trying, I have thought of different ideas for individual classes: writing prompts, short stories, writing a different spin on popular characters, etc. Well, today I took the first step in that direction, mostly with the gentle nudging & encouragement from my good friend, Michelle. I sent off an email to The Arts Center, laying out my idea and asking if they would have any interest. Not only do I think it would fill a void in this community, but it would be beneficial to me, as well. Just being involved in something like that is bound to keep the creative juices flowing, not to mention that it would look great on my author platform (in bios going out to agents I am trying to land). Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Let me share a little bit...

When I last posted, I spoke of something exciting coming up, but wasn't ready to share completely.  Well, now I'm ready to spill the beans.

I have a confession to make - for 4 years, I have been guarding a secret that only a few have known. I have been writing the first book in a series of six, and finally finished it in early March. The reason that I have held this endeavor so close, not willing to share, is because it's an extremely personal matter. I've poured my heart and soul into this project, and couldn't bear the thought ...of people thinking I was crazy to envision it published or delusional to imagine it on bookshelves everywhere. Worse yet would be telling everyone about it, only to find years upon years of rejection. Even though I have had a small circle of people reading the book and giving it good reviews, I still let the little voice of doubt rent space in my head. But, just a few short weeks ago an email arrived that set a change in motion. The email was for a Writer's & Creativity Conference in New York City. There was something about that conference - it wouldn't leave my mind. I was almost in tears, wanting to go, but thinking it was impossible. Then, a couple of things fell seamlessly into place at work, making it suddenly very possible, as if it was meant to be. After the support of my wonderful husband and children, that conference became a reality. On April 11th, I flew to New York and pitched my book idea to an editor at the conference. Mind you, they were not offering contracts, but evaluating your book idea and giving tips where you need them, or if there is or isn't a market for your work. After giving my pitch, and answering several questions about it, the editor told me that she loved my concept and that I would not have a problem selling it. Her only tip was that I research agents carefully & query those representing other authors writing similar style books. During the rest of the conference, I was able to visit with several other aspiring writers, an agent, marketing rep and even a multi-published author, who gave me the same response as the editor. I visited with the author for a while, and she told me that publishers really like the idea of a series, and my unique idea was a good one. She finished by saying, "It will sell. It will sell." The immense validation that I felt, getting this kind of response from professionals in the writing field gave me the confidence boost to finally share my secret. It renewed my commitment to get the polishing and editing complete so I can market it. One of the speakers talked about following your passion, and it resonated with me. Writing has been my passion since I was in the fifth grade, I just forgot it for a number of years, while I became a responsible, bill-paying adult. Now I want to follow that passion. I love writing. I truly feel it is what I was meant to do. I came home feeling refreshed & with a renewed purpose. Not only have I decided to share my aspirations, but I am trying to follow some good advice given at the conference, which is to have a social media presence. I have created a Facebook page & Twitter account to follow my journey in getting published, as well as giving excerpts from the book and other little snippets. It will also hold me accountable - not letting me slack, as I have in the past.  Here are the links to each:  Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anita-Roberts-Soupir/715073628544102?ref=hl and Twitter - https://twitter.com/AnitaRSoupir
I recently spent a solid week working on re-writes & now think I'm pretty happy with the manuscript.  On to the ever-so-fun task of editing.  It is my least favorite part of the process, but a necessary one.  I hope to land a literary agent soon - so fingers & toes crossed, everyone!
I came across a couple of writing quotes that really speak to me & thought I would share them with you.  "To write means more than putting pretty words on a page; the act of writing is to share a part of your soul with the world." - unknown author.  "There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway.  Both are so very true!
Oh, & on a cooking note, I will be posting a wonderfully easy recipe for homemade cream puffs this weekend, so check back for that.
Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Let's get caught up.....

I know it has been more than 6 months since I posted last and I apologize for that.  Shortly after my last blog, my husband's uncle passed away to liver cancer.  It was very hard for our close-knit family, and I wasn't feeling very creative for quite some time.

Then, the holidays came rushing in.  I'm not exactly sure if I was in a time warp or what, but suddenly Thanksgiving and Christmas had come and gone.  Before I knew it, New Year's Day was staring me in the face, and I took a long look at what my resolutions were going to be. 

Two things were a certainty:  I needed to get back to writing and excess weight needed to come off.  Those were my goals for 2014, but being the obsessive person that I am, I knew that I had to choose one to focus on.  One had to be my main priority, but both are very important.  On one of the many late nights that I was still awake, with the rest of the house slumbering, I knew that 2014 had to be the year that I finished my book and did my very best to get it published.

Okay, all of you health nuts out there, don't start giving me any grief.  As soon as this blasted snow that seems never-ending in my neck of the woods goes away, I will be out running again, which will help me shed the many pounds that have crept back on.  I just knew in my heart that my number one priority was writing.

Once that decision was made, I felt my creative juices start flowing again.  Not like a little trickle either, but a full-on flood.  I set goals for myself, where I wanted to be by certain times of the year, and haven't made them all, but it keeps me moving forward.

I am very happy to say that by the beginning week of March, I finished the first draft, of the first book, in my series of 6, called The Dessert Club.  Now I am busily working on re-writes and editing, but I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.  I WROTE A BOOK!  As you may have guessed from the series name, The Dessert Club, it revolves around food.  Surprise, surprise!

Actually, it follows the lives of 5 friends, who meet once a month for a fabulous dessert.  Each friend takes a turn making the dessert and hosting the other friends at her home.  While there, they dish about family, work, love and everything in between over much laughter and good wine.  As a little bonus, the recipe for the dessert will be at the end of the book.

At this moment in time, I am getting prepped for what I hope will be a life-changing moment.  I don't want to elaborate just yet.  I'm not sure if I have mentioned it or not, but I'm a bit superstitious.  I'm afraid if I say too much, I'll jinx myself.  I know with the logical part of my brain that it's a ridiculous notion, but in the less logical regions, I can't stop feeling that way.  Let's just say, if good things happen, I will be sure to explain all.

So, where does that leave this blog?  It is a question I have struggled with since the beginning of the year and the start of my resolutions.  As I work to get published, I can't devote a lot of time to writing recipes and taking pictures while I am cooking.  Yes, I am still cooking the same way, but now it's flying through the steps, trying to get the meal on the table, my family fed, and a little quality time spent with them before I settle in for a couple of hours on the book.  I've hesitated in shutting the site down.  Something has held me back, for whatever reason.  So, I'm going to go with my gut and keep blogging when I get the time, but the content is going to change.  I will post a recipe if it really strikes me as something worth sharing, but I'm going to use this as my journal on the way to making my book a reality.

I hope you all understand, and thank you for your support.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Baby Potatoes & Green Beans with Lemon Thyme Sauce

Well, here we go again - 2 weeks have gone by since I lasted posted a recipe.  Things have been very busy, and stressful, around my home.  The kids have had volleyball and football practices, as well as games, almost every day of the week.  Plus, we are dealing with a family health crisis:  Chris' uncle has been battling liver cancer for a year now, and recently has had spots pop up on his spine and in his brain.  A week and a half ago, he was hospitalized with pneumonia that quickly turned into Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).  Last Monday and Tuesday were scary days for our whole family when it seemed he wasn't going to pull through.  Thanks to the prayers and positive thoughts of a huge circle of family and friends, he is slowly improving.  He's not out of the woods, but things are definitely looking up. 

So, with all of this going on and the fact that I am trying to finish my book, I don't know if I can commit to posting recipes twice a week.  I am going to do my best to get a recipe up once a week, but I don't want to have a set day.  It will be very spontaneous so just keep checking back.

As for tonight's recipe, I was going for something colorful.  Yes, I wanted it to taste good, but I really wanted something that was going to look pretty on the plate.  That's a great reason, isn't it?  Yeah, I thought so, too.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

(2) 28 Oz. bags of baby potatoes, any variety (I love Honey Gold with Purple Passion)
10 - 12 Sprigs of fresh thyme, divided
2 Cups chicken broth, divided
(1) 12 Oz. bag fresh green beans
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tsps. minced garlic
6 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. Lawry's seasoning salt
1/2 Tsp. black pepper

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, add 1 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 sprig thyme and both bags of potatoes.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium high. 

Uncover, stir potatoes around and add green beans to the top.

Cover and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.  With a slotted spoon, remove potatoes and green beans to a large serving bowl. 

Cover to keep warm.  Meanwhile, add remaining ingredients to the skillet, pulling thyme leaves off the sprigs.  Turn to high heat, boiling for 5 - 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened slightly.

Pour over potatoes and green beans, stirring gently.

Serve immediately while piping hot.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sweet and Hot Pineapple Jalapeno Slaw

Well, the last 4 weeks have been crazy.  What with oral surgery, school starting, volleyball and football practice for the kids and my computer crashing, sharing recipes has been spotty, at best.  Now, the games have started so there is even more running, which leads me to my next sentence.  Sometimes it's easier when you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

What do I mean by that?  By now, you guys know that I prefer to make most things from scratch.  It's how I grew up and how I learned to cook, so now it's ingrained in me.  However, there are some shortcuts I am perfectly happy taking.  This recipe highlights one of those.  I could easily make a slaw dressing myself but if I am lucky enough to find a store-bought dressing that I like, why not take the easy way now and then?

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Package shredded red cabbage
1 Package broccoli slaw
1 Bunch cilantro, chopped
2 - 3 jalapenos, chopped*
1 - 15 Oz. jar pineapple slaw dressing**
1/2 Tsp. McCormick Perfect Pinch Southwest Sweet & Smoky blend
1/4 Tsp. cayenne pepper ***

In a large bowl, add both packages of slaw, cilantro and jalapenos *(depending on how much heat you want, leave in some or all of the seeds and membranes).

Pour dressing over top and add seasonings.

**(If you can't find pineapple slaw dressing, buy a jar of your favorite brand and add a small can of crushed pineapple with juice.)

Mix well until thoroughly combined.  ***(Again, if you want it a little spicier, add more cayenne pepper gradually.)

Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving either, by itself, or topping your favorite barbecue sandwich.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Please excuse my absence from the blog - my daughter installed something on my computer, which has caused it to crash.  I am posting via my smartphone, but I can't do a whole recipe that way.  I am doing a full system restore and hope to be back in full force on Tuesday.  The recipe will be Butternut Squash and Mushroom Cream Sauce.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Carrot Cake

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I don't really care for cake.  I'll have a piece every now and then, but I could really live without it.  Well, except for carrot cake.  To be more specific, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  I adore it!  I'm fairly certain that I could eat the whole cake, if it were acceptable.  I'm not even kidding a little bit.  The whole cake - mine!

Here's another thing you may or may not know about me.  I don't like to use box mixes to make cakes.  It all boils down to my dad.  When I was growing up, that man could tell a box cake with the first bite.  He would still eat it, but he didn't like it, so I just got used to making cakes from scratch.  I never minded and now I'm just so used to doing it that way, it's habit.  That being said, I've never made a carrot cake before.  It just seemed like a lot of work, and I've mentioned before how much I love baking (and by that, you know I mean loathe baking).  I don't know if I would have made the cake, either, if I didn't have an abundance of carrots from my garden.

After searching the web, I found a good base recipe that I heavily tweaked.  The result was a very flavorful and moist carrot cake that I just can't get enough of.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup honey
3/4 Cup vegetable oil
3 Large eggs
1 1/2 Tsps. baking soda
1 Tbsp. good quality cinnamon (like Saigon Cinnamon)
1/2 Tsp. nutmeg
1 Tsp. dried orange peel
1/4 Tsp., each, ginger and allspice
1 Tsp. salt (not pictured)
2 Tsps. vanilla extract
3 Cups freshly grated carrots
1 Cup pineapple juice, unsweetened
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Cup pecan pieces, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Here's where it gets really tricky.  Dump all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Mix well, until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  It's fine for a few crumbs to stick to the toothpick - it will be moist as it cools.

Top with your favorite cream cheese frosting, whether it is homemade or store-bought.

Whew!  That was tough, wasn't it?  I'm confident you can handle all the steps, though!