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

  • Print

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!

IMG_8893

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!

IMG_8822

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

Easy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

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.

Blog Signature

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
  • Print

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.

Blog Signature

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!

IMG_7937

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. 😉

Blog Signature

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
  • Print

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!

Blog Signature

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!⚾️

Blog Signature

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,

Blog Signature

 


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

IMG_6767

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


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.)

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 12.11.05 PM

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? 💜