Coffee Break – Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

I found myself with a touch of a sweet tooth after work last week, and editing my culinary cozy mystery was not helping the issue. When my main character whipped up a batch of biscotti,  it seemed like the perfect time to try a new recipe.

IMG_8910I love the cinnamon and almond extract with the rich chocolate in these cookies. I think that the higher-quality chocolate makes a big impact as well.

I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!
I love this multi-tiered cooling rack for a small space!

This makes a lot of biscotti, but they freeze up very nicely. Just take them out for a half hour or so before you want to eat them. Home-baked treat whenever you want them. 🙂

Chocolate Chip Pecan Biscotti

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Ingredients

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
4 Tbsp. Cold Butter, cut in chunks
3 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Good-quality Dark Chocolate Chips or Coarsely Chopped Dark Chocolate
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Course Sugar (Optional)

 

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl,  mix the Flour, Sugar, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, and Salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender or 2 butter knives until incorporated and crumbly.
  1. Add eggs, and stir until incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients, then knead in bowl until fully combined.
  2. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead a few more times, then divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall.
  3. Place on baking sheet, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice each log into 1/2 inch slices, cut on a diagonal. Lay each slice on its side on the baking sheet. They can be close, but not touching the other cookies. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and firm.
  5. Cool completely on cooling racks. The biscotti will continue to harden as they cool.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

IMG_8917There is nothing like a crispy cookie to dip in a mug of piping-hot coffee!

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Off to work–with a tasty treat in my lunch bag. Hope you have a wonderful day! ❤️

Blog Signature Do you have a favorite little treat to go with your coffee or tea? Do you prefer cookies, cakes, or pies?  Or are you more of a salty-snack fan? Please share in the comments! 🙂

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Hubby and I have felt a little under the weather lately, thanks to a brutal allergy season.  Nothing serious–just the usually stuffy head, sore throat, watery-eyed fun that comes with walking out the front door in the morning. 😉

IMG_8826The other day, we just wanted comfort food for dinner, and what is more comforting when you aren’t feeling well than a piping-hot bowl of soup?

Yummy roasted vegetables--my favorite!
Yummy roasted vegetables–my favorite!

I started out thinking I would make a standard hearty chicken noodle soup, but until I got all the veggies and chicken in, there was no room for noodles!

After the wine
After the wine

This was super-easy to throw together–I just roasted a bunch of vegetables, browned the chicken, added the roasted veggies and a bit of wine, cooked a few minutes, and added the stock. Just before serving, I added a splash of cream and a bit of fresh-grated parmesan cheese. Easy-peasy!

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Before the cream–probably would have been great just like this!

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 lb Creamer Potatoes, cleaned and quartered
3 Cups Mushrooms, Cleaned and sliced
2 Leeks, halved and thinly sliced
1 Onion, Diced
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch chunks
1.5 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables (12-16 oz)
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 box Chicken Stock (4 cups)
1/4 Cup Half and Half
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Prepare Potatoes, Mushrooms, Leeks, and Onion and add to a baking sheet. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil. Mix with your hands and spread the vegetables on the baking tray evenly. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, season the chicken with the Montreal Steak Seasoning (or other seasoning blend of your choice). Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining Olive Oil to a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Add the frozen vegetables and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the roasted vegetables to the Dutch Oven. Add the wine and stir. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes, stirring.
  5. Add the chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pot and cook 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the Parmesan and Half and Half. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Yum! Tasty and (mostly) healthy!
Yum! Tasty, hearty, and (mostly) healthy!

I used salted chicken stock (I prefer Kitchen Basics brand), and the Montreal Steak Seasoning has a lot of salt, so I went light on the salt on the veggies and didn’t add any more salt to the chicken or mixed vegetables. I did add extra pepper. Hubby thought it was perfect, though I did salt it a bit at the table.

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Do you ever get a soup craving in summer? Have a go-to dish when you are feeling blah? Please share! 🙂

 

A Summer Treat: Lemon Blueberry Scones

I have worked hard to be a little healthier lately–more workouts, more veggies, more fruit, less junk food. I started this little experiment because I was told it could help me out with the pain I have dealt with from arthritis–and it worked! As an added bonus, I have dropped 20 pounds in the last three months–not a bad side effect! 😉

IMG_8641One of the things I love about the way Hubby and I are approaching this is that we didn’t cut any food out completely; we are simply more cognizant about how we make them. Nothing processed–we make it from scratch (though we did that most of the time before). If we want a sweet treat, we have it–but we have 2 small cookies, not 6. 😉

That being said, I have a bag of whole-wheat flour here, and I was determined to make something fun with it. I researched a bunch of scone recipes, made a couple attempts at my own, and this is what I came up with.IMG_8608

These Blueberry Lemon Scones are super-tasty, with a crumbly crust on the outside and a soft, moist center. Perfect for a midmorning snack with a piping-hot cup of coffee or tea!

Lemon Blueberry Scones

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

2 Cups Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour*
 2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
 1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 Stick Butter (8 Tablespoons)
2 Eggs (Fork Beaten)
1/3 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/4 Cup Honey
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1-2 tsp. Cane Sugar (optional)

*Please Note: Using Whole Wheat Flour will change the texture of the final product.

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with Parchment Paper and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine Flour, Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Salt.
  3. Cut the stick of Butter into 8-10 pieces, and add to the flour mixture. Use a pastry blender to mix the butter into the flour, mixing only until the butter is slightly smaller than pea-sized.
  4. Add the Eggs, Cream, Lemon Juice and Zest. Stir until it just comes together.
  5. Add the Blueberries and gently combine by hand, trying to keep as many blueberries whole as possible.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll into a large circle, about 3/4 – 1  inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges. (Alternatively, break into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a triangle shape. This will prevent blueberries from being cut in half).
  7. Put 12 triangle pieces on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Cane Sugar (I used 1 pack of Sugar in the Raw for the entire batch).
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes until brown.
  9. Serve with a little butter and your favorite beverage. Enjoy!

IMG_8646This is a really easy recipe, and the end product is great. Buttery dough with juicy berries and just a hint of lemon.

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Do you have any favorite treats that are healthier than they taste? Favorite fruit or veggie recipes? Feel free to share! 🙂 

Savoring the Spring Green

A winter shot of the golf course.
A winter shot of the golf course.

Spring is in full bloom in NC (and much of the east coast, I would imagine). My favorite part of spring is being able to spend more time outdoors, whether that is a simple walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the farmers market.

Late last summer, I finally joined my family–all major golf fans–and played my first round of nine holes. I followed that up with a few more rounds of nine before tackling my first full round of eighteen last weekend. Keep in mind this was literally my fourth time on a golf course, so it wasn’t pretty, but I did play all eighteen holes.

Some holes, I would love to ignore altogether. I may or may not have uttered language but I was not aware was part of my vocabulary.

Our scorecard--don't tell hubby I shared this! He was not happy with his round.
Our scorecard–don’t tell hubby I shared this! He was not happy with his round.

But all that was worth it for one beautiful hole. Check out number 13 on the above scorecard (ignoring 14 altogether). A beautiful drive, followed by a strong second shot, had me throwing a party because I made it on the green in regulation (two shots less than par, so for a par four, you should be on the green in two shots) for the very first time. Then I walked up to the hole, and saw this:IMG_7838

That yellow ball was mine. I’ve always been better on the putting green than anywhere else. I knew I was capable of making that shot, but I was also very skeptical. No one was more shocked than me when it actually went in.

Birdie!

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I immediately texted my mom, asking where she was with my birdie shot. I’ve never golfed with my parents (something I’m hoping to change shortly), but I have long heard about my mom’s little container of shots and the tradition that everyone does a round when someone gets a birdie.

I guess I’m just going have to figure out how to do that again. Hopefully, lightning really can strike twice. 😉

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What are your favorite spring-time activities? Are you a sports fan? Watching? Playing? Both? Or do you prefer to lounge outside with a good book (another of my favorites)? Any suggestions on how to celebrate the Birdie that I doubt will ever happen again? 😉  

Spring Veggies: Grilled Asparagus

Hubby and I have been focused on eating a bit healthier lately, along with adding in a lot more exercise. We both have more energy, and are feeling happier overall–which makes it so much easier to stick to our healthier lifestyle.

IMG_2366The biggest change for us was eating a lot more vegetables. We have always been good at having a vegetable with lunch and dinner, but now we have added veggies to breakfast and snacks, too.

I am a salad girl, so making sure to get a side salad in with dinner every day–with homemade dressing, of course–was easy. Not sautéing my veggies in boatloads of oil and/or butter should have been harder, but I have learned that grilling or roasting them gives just as much flavor with less added fat.

IMG_7310My absolute favorite, especially in the spring, is grilled asparagus (though this recipe works well in a 425 degree oven as well). Spring asparagus is tender and sweet and cooks up in no time!

 

Grilled Asparagus

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

2 lbs. Fresh Asparagus
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  Kosher or Sea Salt
Fresh-Ground Pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat grill on high or oven to 425.
  2. Clean the asparagus and snap the ends off each stalk. (Hold the top and bottom and bend until it snaps. This will break off the woody part at the bottom of each stalk.)
  3. Place in a large bowl, and toss with Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper until well coated.
  4. Lay asparagus side-by-side on the grill across the grates, so it doesn’t fall through. Drop heat to medium and close cover.
  5. Grill for 3-4 minutes, until charred. Flip, and grill an additional 3-4 minutes.
  6. Alternatively, lay asparagus on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, flipping once.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Simple, healthy, and super-tasty, this has been a family favorite for years! I hope you enjoy it, too!

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Are you excited for grilling season? Do you have a favorite trick for eating more vegetables? Any great healthy recipes you can’t live without? Please share!

 

 

Baseball is Back!

Opening Day. One of my very favorite days of the year.

IMG_1018Full of hope, optimism for the year ahead. The media has analyzed every player, every stat, and have made their predictions, but none of the that matters now.

Now, all that matters is the game.

Two days in, and the hope is still alive. Win or lose, there is still plenty of time to make up any deficit, plenty of time to fix mistakes. At this point, everything is still a work-in-progress.

At a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game (the Triple-A Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)
At a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game (the Triple-A Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies)

Normally, Opening Day is also a sign that summer is on its way and sunny days and warm temps are just around the corner. It seems that time can’t come fast enough for may teams this year, as games are cancelled for cold or snow. Brrr.

Even if I did have to turn my heat back on this morning, I am hopeful for an exciting season ahead, full of ups-and-downs, teamwork, new faces, and yes, warm weather.

⚾️Play Ball!⚾️

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Are you a baseball fan? What is your favorite part of baseball season? How are you combatting the spring cold? Please share! ❤

Name of the Game   

Anyone who followed this blog from the beginning knows that I debated for years what name I wanted to publish under – a pen name, my maiden name, my married name, or some combination. I made changes more than once before realizing I was putting the cart before the horse, ultimately deciding to stick to my married name until I was ready to start sending query letters.

writing.jpgNine or ten months ago, after much debate and conversations with family, friends, a few published authors, and, of course, hubby, I made the decision to pursue publication under my maiden name. Not quite ready to go through the pain of making the change, I decided to sit on the decision for a while, just to be sure.

As I sat here last week writing a query letter, ready to send my baby out into the world, I realized the time has come. I made a list of everything I need to change (my goodness, that is a long list) and started checking things off. Writing this post was toward the top of the list.

In the coming days, I will be changing my page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I have already changed this site, though I do have a few more tweaks up my sleeve.

I have to admit, it is weird to see a different name atop my site, but I am excited about the next steps on my road to publication, and this is just another stepping stone.

 

Kicking back and reading a good book,

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A Quick Weekend Getaway

Sometimes, you just need to get away, even if it is January. Or, more likely, especially in January. 😉

More beach walking
Perfect day for a beach stroll.

It is no secret that I could spend all day, every day at the beach, so when Hubby suggested a January getaway to the beach, I jumped at it! After all, Carolina beaches in January aren’t too cold, right?

Well, kind of.

Surf competition in front of the hotel
Surf competition in front of the hotel

On our 3-day trip, we had one day of mid-60s and sunny, one of 50 and rain. And one bright and sunny, with a high of 34. Brrr.

And every minute was worth it. We had an ocean-front room, so even in the cold, we could watch (and listen to) the waves crashing on the shore. We brought a whole stash of board games and a computer for Netflix. All in all it was a beautiful, relaxing weekend.

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Perfect!

And the last day may have been cold, but the sunrise made it all worth it. ❤

Have you ever take an off-season vacation? Where did you head? Did you find it to be as peaceful and relaxing as I did? Please share! ❤Blog Signature

A New Year

Happy New Year y’all (a bit late)! 🎉

I am settling back into a routine after the craziness of the holidays. My tree is down, and my house is back to its beachy delight–a stark contrast to the bitter cold of winter that descended upon us the past few days.

A good imagination and a bit of decor, and I can be at the beach whenever I want. Sort of. 😉

With the New Year, I have seen a lot of articles and social media post about resolutions.  I am not a New Year’s resolutions kind of girl. I prefer small changes I can actually stick to through the year than sweeping changes at the beginning of the year. That being said, the beginning of the year always causes me to be a little introspective–what did I do in the last year, what do I hope to accomplish this year.

The fact that my birthday is in the first month of the year probably adds to this–it is not only a new calendar year, but a new age as well. There is no arguing that I am solidly in my late 30’s at this point. 😉

The beautiful birthday “cake” my parent’s send me. ❤️


Two days before Christmas, I typed The End on the Christmas mystery I have been working on for six months. I have now switched gears to a very different story, and I am loving this one as much as I did that story.

Birthday dinner lovingly made by hubby.

I sat down and looked at my 2015 goals the other day and was happy with my progress on many, a little disappointed on others. I finished 2 stories. I got PRO status for RWA. Most importantly, I finally found a routine for daily writing.

I have lofty goals for 2016, too. I want to write 2 stories again, the one I am planning now and a follow-up to wither this or the Christmas mystery.  I also want to finish editing the Christmas mystery and the one I plan to start writing in the next week or two, so I can start sending them out to agents and editors.

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Pup’s thoughts on how to deal with the cold.

Of course, 2016 will bring some new challenges as well. I realized that I am not getting out of the house enough since we moved to NC, so I am looking to return to work. Learning to balance writing, family, and a day job will be different, but I am looking forward to the challenge. 😊💕

How about you? Do you make resolutions? Set goals for the year? Have any new and exciting challenges in the year ahead? Please share! ❤

A Bit of December Sun

The days are getting shorter and the countdown to Christmas is in single digits, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather on the east coast. From what I understand, the west coast is making up for it with record lows and a good amount of snow. As far as I am concerned, they can have it. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 4.24.56 PMI am a warm weather girl–it is one of the reasons I agreed to move to North Carolina with Hubby when the opportunity presented itself. I love fall, but would be very happy to skip over winter and go right to spring. So, seventy degrees in December works for me!

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Puppy keeping watch over the neighborhood.

Yesterday, Puppy and I spent some quality time outside, playing in the back yard. Once I wore her out, she took up residence in her favorite chair (next to my desk) and enjoyed the breeze from the wide-open windows while I wrote. Perfect afternoon, if you ask me! ❤

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My morning view from my desk. Beautiful, sunny skies! 

Of course, Sam Champion (of the Weather Channel) had even better weather in Miami, but it is Miami, so I guess I can’t complain–though I did ask Hubby if his company has any locations in Florida. 😉

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I have to admit, I would much prefer to be here! 

 

 

But, you can’t deny the perfect rich blue skies of Raleigh yesterday. I don’t often open my blinds all the way as I write since I overlook a parking lot, but I just couldn’t resist yesterday!

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It really is a pretty perfect blue, isn’t it? 

 

The forecast says we are supposed to be back to normal temperatures this weekend, so I think I better get outside and soak up all the sun I can before winter appears.

How about you? Are you experiencing the east coast warm up? If so, are you enjoying it, or do you prefer blustery Decembers? ❤