Monday, January 28, 2013

Enter to Win!

To celebrate the fifth and final book in the Unbidden Magic series, I’m hosting a special contest with two prize packages, one for those in the U.S. and the other for international readers. The contest will run from January 29th to April 1st.

Pictured below is the prize package for readers in the United States. It consists of a signed book of your choice, a fairy magnet, a silver crescent moon charm, five personalized bookplates and a plaque for your desk or garden inscribed with, “Don’t Piss Off the Fairies.”

The prize package for the international readers will include the following: $10 Amazon gift certificate, five personalized bookplates and a $10 gift certificate from Etsy. If the winner chooses to download one of my books from Amazon, I will use Kindle Authorgraph to attach a personal message.

I’ll be embarking on the blog tour starting January 29th. My first stop is an interview at Demon Lovers Books and  More on February 6th. Comments are always welcome.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 21, 2013

On the Road with Chef Jean

My friend, cookbook author Chef Jean Denham, recently hit the road with her hubby, Roy. Along the way, they take time to sample local gastronomical delights. Are you a chili fan? Here’s Jean’s latest entry from Hatch, New Mexico. Be sure to scroll to the end of the page for a peek at the newest member of the Denham family.

Monday, Jan. 14 – Finally got to Hatch, New Mexico – a goal of mine ever since a friend, Bill Miller, introduced us to the Hatch Chili a few years ago.

Picked up two pkgs. ground Hatch chili powder, mild and hot – I’ve had the hot before and it’s just too hot for us, so I’ll try combining with the mild and get a tolerable heat. Also, the little gal that waited on us introduced me to ‘Chicos,’ which is dried crushed corn and said to add to a pot of pinto beans  along with the dried Hatch chili powder to make a stew. Anxious to try this.

Across the street was a restaurant, Pepper Pot, a little house set back from the street that looked at first like a hovel, but as I got closer, the antiques were artfully arranged on the porch and I decided to take a chance. 
And, what a surprise! We arrived just before noon and by 12:10 the place was almost packed and what a riotous group they were – everyone knew everyone else and included the newcomers in their fun and talk, which of course, turned quickly to the playoff football games the previous weekend. Roy & I split 3 tacos, just plain, beautifully seasoned and garnished tacos, no decisions about chicken, pork, etc. You ordered tacos and these are what you got.                                        

 I wish we had time to go back for a full dinner and try more dishes.
From Hatch we drove back towards Las Cruces, where we are staying and stopped to do a little wine tasting in Mesilla and discovered the most beautiful historical town – a plaza in the center and adobe shops and a stunning church overlooking the entire scene. I so wished I’d had a panoramic camera with the sun shining on the church and the plaza, it was right out of a tourist guide book.
One of the shops, Thunderbird de la Messila, was so full of trinkets, gadgets, clothes and well, everything. You just didn’t know where to look next. As I was looking at cookbooks, the owner and I chatted about cooking, books, etc. and turns out she, her son and grandson love making their own pizzas!! Well, right up my alley and she ended up buying my Pizza book plus a Chef’s Journey…Home. And, I picked up Salsa Lovers Cookbook (over 180 salsa recipes). What a wonderful feeling to walk out of a shop with packages plus a profit!!

She also told us of a restaurant that if we had time, we should see – La Posta located in  the Historic Old Butterfield  Stage building – it’s huge with twists and turns and dining rooms everywhere. The staff we talked to said all new hires are lost for the first week they work there. Since none of the wine tasting rooms were open on a Mondays around the plaza, we settled for sitting in one of the lounges and having a glass of wine. But, we were soon overcome with the wonderful aromas wafting through the corridors and rooms and ordered an appetizer to go with the wine. Caldillo, a New Mexican Green Chili Stew  containing beef round or pork, oil, potatoes, onion, garlic, salt and green chiles served with flour tortillas, was our choice and as we were waiting its arrival, a wait staff came through to tell our bartender a customer had proclaimed his Margarita the best she had ever had.

So, Roy ended up with my glass of wine and I ordered a Margarita!! And, I was not disappointed – he even gave us his ingredients: Patron Tequila, Patron Orange Liqueur , fresh lime juice and agave nectar (which is  very sweet and flavorful. Many people compare the taste and consistency to honey. It also has no aftertaste.)

New Mexican Green Chili Stew (Caldillo)

2 pounds lean beef round or pork
2 tablespoons oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
8 green chiles
Cube round steak, sprinkle with salt and fry until brown in oil.

Add potatoes to browned meat together with onion, garlic, salt, chiles and enough water to cover. Continue to add water if necessary. It should be of a soupy consistency.

Recipe Source: "Mexican Cooking at the Academy" by the California Culinary Academy.
My note: try adding  a helping of the ‘chicos’ to the stew, also.

After talking to our bartender (how disappointing that I neglected to get his name), the talk naturally turned to cooking and cookbooks and he recommended a book in Mateo’s Gallery, a part of this historic building, where his girlfriend, Melissa was working – 300 Best Taco Recipes. On our way out, I did stop in and meet Melissa and compliment her on her choice of boyfriend and to buy the taco book.

What a full day of wandering around a beautiful old city and there was much more to see for our next time through this area – we even found an RV park just a walk away from the old town to stay next trip. But, for now I will be content to try new tacos and salsas!!!

Okay, as promised, here's a pic of Jean's newest project. Real dog or the stuffed version? Guess you'll have to ask Chef Jean.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mapping New Territory

It’s my pleasure to welcome my long-time friend and certified wine professional, Durella Degrasse, back to Book Blather. How about a lovely glass of Austrian wine along with your current read?

If you’re one who looks for new adventures in wine tasting, some day you may walk into a wine store and see some or all of these words:  Blaufrankisch, St. Laurent and Zweigelt.  These Austrian reds will reward you with a sense of adventure!  It’s just more evidence of the bounty of interesting, distinctive, world-wide wines ever more available to consumers.

Burgenland is Austria’s second largest wine region after Lower Austria.  Burgenland huddles against Hungary on the far eastern border.  It is mostly known for its opulent sweet wines, but some remarkable, assertive reds also come from here.  Though decent red wine has a long-established foundation here, superb red wine is rare and a more recent phenomenon.  Quality improved in the mid-1980s as advanced winemaking techniques and improved vineyard practices became the standard by young professionals.

The foremost red grape is blaufrankisch and when it is good, it can become a daring wine, suffused with the unusual flavor of raspberries dusted with white pepper.  In texture, the wine’s crushed-velvet softness and juiciness are reminiscent of the best California zinfandels.  This grape variety is known and grown in my home state of Washington as lemberger.  Hungarian growers who first planted it in British Columbia brought Lemberger to the United States from central Europe in the early twentieth century.  From there, it was introduced to Washington State in the early 1940s. 

The St. Laurent grape is related to pinot noir and Zweigelt is a cross between St. Laurent and blaufrankisch.  What these three red grapes from Burgenland have in common is they look dark and smell dark and spicy, bursting with blueberry and blackberry fruit as well as some juicy plums.  One would think these are big red wines from the look and the nose.  However, in the mouth they are surprisingly light-bodied.  They can offer tastes of sage, tarragon, and other spices, sometimes along with some licorice.  In addition to having an authentic sense of place, these wines were made for food.  Some foods that you can pair with any of the three Austrian reds:  game, black bread, venison, foie gras pate, rabbit stew, veal stew, sauerkraut, oily fish, mushrooms, curried lentils.  Though these are unusual food pairings, the Burgenland reds from Austria offer unusual tastes, but are very approachable and easy.  So keep an open mind and a sense of adventure in trying any new wine.

Cheers and Happy New 2013.

Durella DeGrasse
Certified Wine Professional

Monday, January 7, 2013

Renegades, Rebels, Rabble Rousers and Rogues

Most writers listen to music when they write. I’m no exception. However, it took a while to find my groove. I have satellite radio in my office with dozens of stations. What to choose? Semi-highbrow Classical Pops seemed appropriate. Surely, it would inspire me to create pages and pages of beautiful prose. Not so. After fifteen minutes, my eyelids began to droop. Time out for a nap. Jazz made me twitchy. Under the influence of New Age, I fought the urge to rip off my clothes, drape my body with diaphanous sheer curtains and twirl around the living room.

Then I found Outlaw Country. Warning: if your idea of country music is Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, Outlaw Country is not for you. No, I’m talkin’ Waylon and Willie. Johnny and June. Hank 3 and Shooter Jennings. I’m talkin’ cringe-worthy grammar like ain’t got none and she don’t love me no more, along with some truly creative cuss words. I’m talkin’ real life, podnah. So, grab hold of that saddle horn and hang on tight.

It’s all there. All of life’s challenges. Religion. Relationships. Break-ups. Drinkin.’ Lots of drinkin’ songs like You Ain’t Much Fun Since I Quit Drinkin’. Why, you may ask, would an author of young adult urban fantasy pick such an inappropriate and occasionally degenerate genre of music for inspiration? Killer question, indeed. Even though I write from the viewpoint of a teenage girl, I am the product of many years of living. Hopefully, my life experiences will help create a richer, more three-dimensional character. Oh, who am I kidding? I like to laugh and Outlaw Country makes me laugh.

Searching for a spiritual facelift? Here are a couple of songs for you: Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life. I’ve Been Roped and Thrown By Jesus in the Holy Ghost Corral. Heaven’s Just a Sin Away.

Relationships are always tough, especially when the object of your affection is flawed—Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pureor a teenage romance, Billy Broke My Heart at Walgreens and I Cried All the Way to Sears. Can a man be too impressed with himself? I Wish I Were a Woman So I Could Go Out With a Guy Like Me. Who could forget the following heartfelt ditty, There Ain’t Enough Room in my Fruit of the Looms to Hold All My Lovin’ For You.

But, when love goes wrong, as it inevitably does on Outlaw Country, there’s a song for that. It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night that Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long. You’re the Hangnail in my Life and I Can’t Bite You Off. If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Ain’t You Dead Yet? Your Negligee Has Turned Into a Flannel Nightgown.

Family Values? You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly. Mama, Get the Hammer/There’s a Fly on Papa’s Head.

Feel a little naughty? These songs are for you: There’s a Party in my Pants and You’re Invited. How Can I Get Over You if You Won’t Get Out From Under Me? Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.

Okay, I confess I’ve listed the most outrageous song titles I could find for this post. Most of the time, O.C. plays solidly good, old school, down-home country music that reflects America’s roots. And, they also feature wonderful new singers/song writers like Elizabeth Cook, Lucinda Williams, Jace Everett (he sings the True Blood theme, Bad Things), Elliot Randal and Kacey Jones whose song, 222nd Wind is featured on my website. So, give it a whirl. You might be pleasantly surprised.

What inspires you? 80’s rock? Blue grass? Heavy metal? Inquiring minds want to know.