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! 🙂


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? 😉  


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! ❤


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? ❤


Settling Back In

After two long months in PA, I am finally back home and settled in. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to return to my daily routine–writing, cooking, and even some baking. Of course, I do miss the magical sink in my parents’ house–put something in and it disappears, only to reappear in the cabinet, clean and ready to use, a short time later. 😉 Hubby and I really need to get ourselves a similar sink! (Thanks Mom!)

We probably should have had Cam's "seatbelt" a bit shorter. ;-)

We probably should have had Cam’s “seatbelt” a bit shorter. 😉

On a serious note, it was nice to be home with friends and family for a bit, but I am happy to be back home. A big shout out to my parents for putting up with me for so long! Apparently, no matter how compulsive I am at home, there is something about being in my parents house that turns me into a messy teenager again!

After a few days of visiting with friends and family, we decided to drive back to NC on Saturday to avoid the craziness that is traveling on the Sunday of thanksgiving weekend. After hearing the horror stories of people sitting in traffic for hours on end on Sunday, I am so thankful that we left early!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Of course, leaving on Saturday also allowed us the extra time to get our Christmas tree and decorations up on Thanksgiving weekend–a definite bonus! Even better, we are finally at the time of year that I can listen to Christmas music with the windows open (thanks to the crazy-warm fall we are having) without the neighbors looking at me like I am crazy. 😉

Despite being sick since I got back, I managed to whip up some yummy Apple Crisp! <3

Despite being sick since I got back, I managed to whip up some yummy Apple Crisp! ❤

How was your holiday weekend? Have you decorated for the Christmas (or any other winter holidays) yet? Baked any yummy cookies? Please share! ❤


NaNo Crazy

It’s November, which means writers all over the world are challenging themselves to write an entire novel in a month. Despite being five hundred miles from home, living with my parents for two months, dealing with insurance companies and contractors, and having no office to write, I decided I was going to join in. What the heck, why not, right? 😉 At least I have Christmas-themed writer treats to go with my Christmas novel!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) defines a novel as 50,000 words, which means each writer should average at least 1,667 words a day. Not too bad, actually.

I have heard the argument that 50,000 words is closer to a novella than a novel, but most of my first drafts come in short–around 60,000 words, with more words added in the editing stages, so NaNoWriMo is a great goal for me. (Check out my NaNo profile if you want to see more.)

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My stats page, not counting words written today, 11/10.

Ten days in, we should all have about 17k words, and I am right on pace–if I had until the end of the month. Unfortunately, I am a little short on time the end of the month. Hubby is coming up the day before Thanksgiving and we are packed with family stuff until we leave to (finally) go back to NC over the weekend. So, my 50K really needs to be done by November 24th. I guess it is time to start doubling up on those word counts, huh? 😉

Are you NaNoing? How are you doing this month? How do you deal with the holiday thrown in? Do you try to finish before, or do you write straight through the holiday weekend? 💜


Cozy Comforts – Easy Tomato Bisque

The temperatures are cooling off here in NC as we head into fall. Our ten-day forecast doesn’t have a single day over eighty degrees–a big change from the sweltering heat of summer.

The refreshing change in weather and the lovely apples and fall vegetables at the Farmers’ Market have me thinking of one of my favorite meals for a chilly day (or even a hot summer day): a rich, creamy Tomato Bisque. 🙂IMG_4332

I used to use a lot of fresh ingredients in this, but I have tweaked it over the years so I can make it almost completely out of my pantry.  I keep a storage baggie of Mirepoix in my freezer, and add any extra chopped onion, celery, or carrots from other recipes.  This way,  I always have some mirepoix in the freezer (though the ratio of carrots to onions to celery is sometimes off) and I don’t have to chop anything for a quick meal like this.

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Pantry-friendly ingredients

Just a note: I have subbed in pureed tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce for the crushed tomatoes, and it still turns out great!

Sauté the Veggies

Sauté the Veggies

Add the tomatoes

Add the tomatoes

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add rice or pasta (optional)

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Stir in some cheese and cream.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Serve with some crusty bread. I used this recipe, and added some herbs and garlic to one loaf.

Easy Tomato Bisque

  • Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients

1/2 Cup Mirepoix (Fresh or Frozen)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Dried Basil
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
1 Can (14-15 oz.) Diced Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup Cream or Half & Half
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

 

Optional (for Tomato Orzo Soup)

1 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Uncooked Orzo or White Rice

Instructions

  1.  Sauté Mirepoix (chopped Carrots, Onions, and Celery) in Olive Oil over Medium Heat until vegetables start to tenderize (about five minutes).
  2. Stir in Basil and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring.
  3. Add tomatoes and stock. (If using Pasta or Rice, add all of the stock.) Bump temperature to medium-high, and bring to a slow boil.
  4. Add Pasta or Rice (if using).
  5. Drop the temp and simmer for 10-15 minutes (if using pasta or rice, simmer until it is cooked through).
  6. Remove from the heat. Add cheese and cream, and stir until combined.
  7. Enjoy!

This soup is great topped with an extra drizzle of cream or with some croutons.

Tomato Orzo Bisque

Tomato Orzo Bisque

I tend to add the rice or pasta for dinner, but leave them out for lunch. I almost always double the recipe, then freeze half in individual portions for a quick weekday lunch. Perfect with some crusty bread or a fresh salad! 🙂

An old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! <3

A really old Instagram shot of this soup without the orzo. Still awesome! ❤

What is your favorite soup? Do you have any cooking shortcuts to help cut tome on your favorite recipes? Any pantry-only recipe favorites? Please share! ❤