Monday, August 24, 2015

Special Report from Auggie Doggie

     Since it’s the Dog Days of Summer and my true name is August, it’s time for my special report. As you know, I have a very important job. My human mom, Marilee, writes books and I’m her muse. In other words, I’m supposed to be her source of inspiration. It’s a hard job because she has a bajillion ways to actually avoid writing. The woman never runs out of excuses.

“Oh,” she says. “My computer screen needs cleaning.” Out comes the spray bottle and cleaning rag. Squirt. Wipe. Repeat. And it doesn’t end there. Suddenly, the printer needs dusting, the trash emptied, the bookshelf re-arranged. She also needs what she calls thinking time. Looks a lot like naptime to me, but what do I know? I’m just the muse.

Now for my favorite excuse. She says,“Is that a spider on the ceiling? It might fall into my hair, make a nest and deposit a bunch of spider eggs. I can’t possibly work under those conditions.” If I had the ability to speak, here’s what I would say. “Hello! You have a laptop. Move it to the kitchen.” Instead, I just sigh and look reproachful. If that doesn’t work, a cold nose nudge on her bare leg does the trick.

There are days when I must be doing a great job, because she gets a certain look in her eyes, plops down in her chair and writes for hours. When that happens, I curl up in bed and think deep thoughts. I call it napping.

I guess you can tell my line of work is exhausting and requires special snacks, namely liver treats along with an occasional slurp of frozen yogurt. All in all, not a bad gig. A muse’s job is never done. Just saying . . .

Until next time, Auggie Doggie, signing off.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

After a long stretch without a new book, I’m pleased to announce I’ve signed a contract for Affliction. The book, intended for adult readers, is a mash-up of several genres. It’s basically romantic suspense but also has a touch of fantasy since my protagonist, Honor Melanie Sullivan (Mel), has the ability to read souls. In addition, it is targeted for a genre called New Adult. New Adult features characters in their early twenties who are away from home for the first time. After a brush with the law, Mel leaves her home in Southern California and travels to Bend, Oregon where she meets Harley-Davidson riding William McCarty (Billy the Kid) and stumbles upon a human trafficking/baby selling scheme involving foreign girls from Kazakhstan. As with most of my books, there’s never a dull moment. I’ll soon begin the editing process for Affliction and will continue to share information about the book on my Facebook author page:

Great Summer Reads

Need a good book? I asked my friends what they’re currently reading and, wow, did I get a great response. So, if you’re looking for something new, read on!

Writing coach and editor extraordinaire, Pat Van Wie, just finished True Colors by Judith Arnold and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Rach Lawrence recommends two books by author Suzanne Bierman Laqueur, The Man I Love and Give Me Your Answer True.

My writer friend, Donna Scofield, is reading Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok, a post apocalyptic novel set in Portland, Oregon.

Belle Book author, Skye Taylor, just finished Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

My Montana friend, Jean Brubaker, is enjoying All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Virgin of Small Plains, a mystery by Nancy Pickard and Hello Love by Karen McQuestion (a happy dog story).

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein is on Vivian Carl’s reading list. You might remember his first book, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

British author, Sue Roebuck, now living in Portugal, says she couldn’t put down Look Behind You by Sybil Hodge. Sue latest book, Rising Tide, is currently in the clutches of Chef Jean Denham’s.

My bookaholic sister, Beth Cazel, is also reading All the Light We Cannot See, as well as Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille and Handle With Care by Jodi Piccoult.

From my longtime friend and high school classmate, Sharon Van Rooy McCagg – Ordinary Grace by Kent Krueger and A Man Called Ove by Bachman.

As for me . . . I’m on a David Baldacci kick. I’m currently reading Memory Man, but also recommend the John Puller series, Zero Day, The Forgotten and The Escape.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Are Your Spidey Senses Tingling?

Okay, I admit it. I have a little problem with spiders. Yes, I know they’re good, veritable champions of the insect world who eat all the bad bugs. To this, I say, “Hurray for you! Please, just stay in your own habitat away from my personal space. My home. My bathtub. My car.” This probably makes me a terrible person, but there's something about those eight legs that creep me out. I’ve been told how wonderful spiders are many times by my husband who, upon hearing me scream, “Spider!” captures the little bugger and releases it into the wild (our back yard).

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Not long ago, I was a passenger in the back seat of my car along with my thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Madelyn, and her friend, Olivia. My husband (the spider lover) was driving. Our son (father of granddaughter) was riding shotgun. Madelyn yipped in alarm. A tiny orange spider was clinging to the passenger door. Tiny? Orange? Who cares? Shrieks of terror and foot stomping ensued (mine included).

But, I’m the alpha female . . . right? I had to save my girls. It’s entirely possible orange spiders are poisonous. I reached for the laminated map of Washington State and commenced whacking. One of the girls pointed at the passenger door. “You got it. It fell into the side pocket.” I handed her a tissue. “Make sure it’s dead.” She dipped the tissue into the pocket and lifted it up. It held the smushed remains of the orange spider. I said, “Throw it out the window.” Sweet, law-abiding Olivia said, “But that’s littering and Madelyn’s dad is a police officer!” I said, “Give it here.” She handed it over. Window down. No more spider.

And what were the two men in the front seat doing all this time? Despite the fact he received two glancing blows on the back of his head from the laminated map, hubby kept his eyes glued to the road. My son, after an amused glance at the hysterical females in the back seat, continued chatting with his father. He's my youngest and knows better than to mess with Mom.

Good thing I was on the job.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Welcome back, Chef Jean!

If you’re tired of cooking the same old stuff, you’ve just hit the jackpot. My long time friend—and favorite cookbook author—Chef Jean Denham, just contributed some fabulous new recipes for Book Blather followers. I can’t wait to try a couple of them, especially the crock pot Hawaiian Beef Cubes and the Black Bean Wrap. Be sure to check out her cookbooks on Amazon. They include Black Beans and Corn, Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!  and I Have Leftovers  . . . What do I do Now?
It’s great to have you back, Jean. Welcome!


I know it’s almost August and I have no idea where the summer has gotten to, but have a free day today and thought I’d send along some recipes to you to share..

Grilled chicken is one of our favorites as is this BBQ sauce recipe I have been making a few years from Joseph Pescatella’s cookbook, “Choices for a Healthy Heart.” His Barbecue Sauce became our family preferred sauce the first time I made it.

Heart Healthy Barbecue Sauce

  2  8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup liquid smoke flavoring
1 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 tsps. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar

In a medium pot, combine all the ingredients; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Makes approximately 5 cups.

Sauce will keep 4 to 5 weeks in the refrigerator or may be frozen.

Serving ideas: excellent on chicken, salmon, scallops and oysters – especially on the half shell.

Grilling note: And, I must pass along this "DUH moment” I had a few weeks ago – an  idea that many of you may already be doing (and if so, why didn't anyone tell me?) when grilling. Diluting the sauce 1/2 & 1/2 with water for brushing meat/poultry) while it cooks  and then brush full strength as you finish grilling.  No problem with burning because of sugar that is almost always in a barbecue sauce


For a go-with side dish that says summer, here’s a Black Bean Fiesta Salad from my cookbook, “Black Beans & Corn” – shameless plug here. The salad takes advantage of all summer’s bounty making use of fresh corn and herbs. You can use dried herbs, but using fresh will make the flavor just pop!

Black Bean Fiesta Salad

3 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
2 tsps. Balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 T. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 T. fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
15 oz. can black beans, drain & rinse
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded if desired & minced
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded Monterey jack cheese

In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, cumin and black pepper.

Add the beans, corn, celery, bell pepper, onion and jalapeno; toss to coat. Top with the cheese and serve. 6 servings.

CJ’s tip: grilled corn with the kernels cut off and added to the salad while still warm adds a nice flavor. 

When it is a very hot summer day, this salad is great as a light dinner – I just add some chopped cooked chicken, salami or whatever leftover meat you might have in the fridge. Another suggestion for leftovers of this salad – it’s great added to the topping for a pizza.


I love peanut sauce and playing with it last week, I came up with this blend of flavors which hit the spot with me. And, the nice thing about this sauce is its equally delicious tossed with hot pasta and served immediately or refrigerate the dish for a few hours and serve as a cold side dish to grilled meats.

Peanut Sauce (or dressing)
While the sauce is good used as a salad dressing, we prefer it with the pasta and for an added burst of flavor, include chopped up roasted poblano peppers.

2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 1/2 T. hoisin sauce
3 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic smashed (or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
1/4 tsp. ginger powder
3/4 tsp chili-garlic sauce
1 1/2 to 2 T. Mirin, if needed

Combine all the ingredients and whisk until peanut butter is completely dissolved.  Add miring to correct consistency of the sauce.

Besides adding to pasta or a green salad, this sauce is great as a slaw dressing.

Crockpot Hawaiian Beef Cubes

This recipe is very flexible – can be doubled, tripled; whatever your needs are. I made this with no clear idea of what to do with it after….So, I’m still looking for ideas. I’m including a few that I did with the small batch. I packaged it up in 4 oz. pkgs. to work with as I think of ideas.

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. Beef chuck roast, cut in chunks, 1” to 1 1/2" size (same size pork roast works nicely, also)
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha, optional

Spray crockpot with cooking spray for easier clean up later. Combine all the ingredients  together, cook in Crock-pot 6-8 hours...that's it! Done! Shred the meat and save the jus the meat was cooked in and use for cooking rice, noodles for a nice flavor addition.

Our favorite uses for the beef:

Use a meat for a pizza along with mozzarella cheese, tomato slices, black beans, green onions and pine nuts. This topping works on a round of pizza dough or on a Tortilla wrap used as the pizza ‘crust.’

Mixed with the pulp of a baked potato plus cheddar cheese, green onions and a dash of Sriracha – then bake until heat through and cheese has melted.

Shredded Hawaiian Beef is great used on a slider – top with Fontina (or cheese of your choice), popped under broiler until cheese just begins to melt. Give everyone two of these little goodies and you’ll see some satisfied folks.

You’ll find many uses for this scrumptious meat.


I’ll throw this recipe in for those of you imbibe in alcoholic refreshments. On a hot day my husband and I make up a batch of these Milkshakes and sit in a cool spot and play cribbage. For us the two go hand in hand.

Peanut Butter Bourbon Milkshake

2 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. maple syrup
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup vanilla ice cream (we use frozen yogurt)
1 cup of ice cubes (or use however many to make as thick a shake as you prefer)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until fully incorporated and frothy.

BBQ parties are abundant in the summer, so I’ll add this recipe as a fun appetizer to offer at a party. Wraps were very popular a few years ago, but I don’t think they have gone out of style – folks still grab everyone on the platter.

Black Bean Wraps
I have made hundreds of these wraps over the years while I was catering  - I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like them. Made the day before makes them a perfect choice to taking to a party or picnic.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup (4 oz.) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of each: garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
6 10” flour tortillas (the flavored large wraps are perfect for this use)

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, cheddar or jack, sour cream, salt, garlic & onion powders and the cayenne until mixed, but still a little chunky. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Don’t wash the processor bowl. (You might want to wipe out the bowl with a paper towel.)

In the processor, now process the black beans until smooth; scrape into a second bowl and set aside.

Lay a tortilla on a work surface and lightly rub both sides with a wet hand. Spread the black beans on the tortilla and top with the cream cheese mixture. Roll up tortillas tightly, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for up to one day. Continue with the rest of the tortillas and filling.

At serving time, slice into 1 1/2" slices and arrange on a serving platter. Serve with salsa if desired.

CJ’s tip: wraps are so versatile, consider adding a thin layer of deli meat over the tortilla before rolling up.


Another dish to take to a party or picnic. I needed a chutney, salsa or relish for a charcuterie platter and as I grabbed ingredients from the pantry and fridge, this winner of a salsa came together and is delicious.

Cranberry Apple Salsa

1 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1/3 cup diced apple
2 green onions, minced
3/4 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 tsp. candied jalapeno or 2 tsp. minced jalapeno plus 1/2 tsp. honey
Pinch of salt
2 T. chopped roasted pecans

Combine all the ingredients and taste for degree of heat you like – adding more jalapeno if necessary. Chill for a couple of hours to meld the flavors.

Softly sweet and a little citrusy with a hint of Asia, this dressing can be used for a green salad, dipping vegetables or drizzle over a fruit platter. Another use is to spread on a ham sandwich.

Honey Lime Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise        
2 T. Dijon mustard                                
2 T. honey
3/4 T. apple cider vinegar                                    
1/2 T. sugar                                  
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
3/4 tsp. lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. horseradish sauce

Whisk all the ingredients together; cover and chill until ready to use. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Cook’s Note: when tasting salad dressings for balancing flavors, use a lettuce leaf to be able to taste the dressing as it will be on your salad. Using a spoon just doesn’t do dressings justice when tasting.

Some cool days work their way into our lives during summer also, so here is a quick Minestrone to throw together for those days. I have the cutest little book, “101 Things to do with Ramen Noodles,” and I get the fastest, easiest and very tasty ideas from it.


1pkg. ramen noodles, any flavor
1 can tomato soup
8 oz spicy smoked sausage, thin sliced
1/4 cup each: sliced celery, carrots and peas
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup kidney beans
Salt and pepper

Cook noodles according to pkg. directions. Do not drain. Add soup, sausage and vegetables.

Simmer 5 to 10 m in., or till veggies are tender. Add more water by Tablespoons if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 2 servings.


This baked "biscuit to doughnut" version from Pillsbury will become a favorite the minute you taste them. A reviewer posted a much easier way to fill the doughnuts than Pillsbury suggests – “Use a ketchup/mustard squeeze container; fill with the jelly.” With the smaller tip it’s very easy to squeeze just the right amount of jelly and is much easier to refill if needed.

Jelly Filled Doughnuts

6 T. Butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup jelly
1 can (12 oz) Pillsbury® Grands!® Jr. Golden Layers® refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 biscuits)

Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, place melted butter. In another small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Stir jelly until smooth. Seal tip of large baster with foil. Remove rubber bulb. Spoon jelly into baster; replace bulb.

Bake biscuits as directed on can. Immediately dip each hot biscuit into melted butter, coating all sides. Roll in sugar mixture, heavily coating all sides of each biscuit. Remove foil from tip of baster. Insert baster in side of each biscuit; squeeze small amount of jelly into center. (Refill baster as needed.) Serve warm or cool.

Yield: 10 doughnuts


Well, Marilee, are you ready to cry “UNCLE”??? Once I got started didn’t know where to stop. I don’t think I’ve sent you any of the above recipes (fingers crossed)