Seasonal reads with drink pairings

I keep forgetting, I’ve got two Christmas novellas out there from previous years. In keeping with all the recipe posts I’ve done lately, I’ve included festive drink suggestions for each one.

Changeling1.5Old Traditions takes place between Changeling and Rabbit in the Middle Hill series, and is about Matt and Kevin’s respective holiday traditions colliding, Fae politics, and the best way to wrap Sam’s Christmas present. (Read an excerpt) Pair with mulled wine, for something traditional that feels like it has a hint of ritual to it. There are infinite variations and I usually just wing it, but if you need a guideline, Jaimie Oliver’s recipe is a solid place to start. For a non-alcohol version, sub in cranberry juice or apple cider and don’t add the sugar.

Black Shades is part of the Past and Present Tense series. When Peter’s boyfriend’s dead drag queen lover shows up to reenact A Christmas Carol over the Christmas holiday, the life lessons will be hard, but at least the shoes are going to be absolutely fabulous. (Read an excerpt) Pair with eggnog generously spiked with rum, or a fruity spiked punch. (I feel like there’s a bad pun lurking there involving drag queens and stiletto heels, but I’ll spare you that.)

My latest fruity punch rendition:

  • One can of hard apple cider
  • 2 cups of cranberry juice
  • 2 cups/1 can of club soda
  • 2 oz of vodka
  • 2 oz of rum
  • optional – 1 oz of orgeat syrup (Almond syrup used for 1920’s cocktails, and coffee–we found our bottle at a local coffee shop.)

Mix all the non-carbonated ingredients, chill if not already cold, and add the hard cider and club soda at the end, stirring gently just enough to mix. If you want to be extra-festive, add frozen cranberries.  Deceptively potent. Sub in apple juice or non-alcoholic cider and leave out the rum and vodka, and it will also do just fine non-spiked.

Cream biscuits, because I’ve been baking

I seem to be posting more recipes than writing posts lately. I’ve got three different finished manuscripts that I’m bouncing between, doing last-round edits before submitting. There’s the third book of the Tempest trilogy, the third (and possibly fourth because things got long and complicated) book of the Middle Hill series, a stand-along pirate-slaveboy-fantasy thing with the working title of Shark Punching. (Spoiler alert – there is a shark that gets punched. Other spoiler alert – the working title will not be the final title.)

So of course, I’ve been making biscuits. It all started with the need for goodies for various Christmas party pot lucks, when I wanted to try making clotted cream. (Not a spoiler – it turned out, and was delicious.)

The cream biscuits are easier than butter, flakier, and stay fresh longer.  I’m giving the basic method and the variation I actually made:

Regular cream biscuits:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (though you could use self raising flour, which is even better, just skip the baking powder and salt)
  • 1-2 tbs of sugar (depending on how sweet you like them)
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Mix all dry ingredients well. Add cream. Mix with a spoon until combined. Within the bowl or on the counter (tipping out the rest of the dry ingredients if you have it so as to not add more flour, don’t knead the dough so much as pat it out flat and fold it over three or four times. The pat flat and fold method will give you the layers.

You could use a biscuit cutter to cut biscuits, then reroll and cut, reroll and cut, but every time you do so, the dough gets less and less tender. So embrace the square biscuit and cut up all your biscuits at the same time. Use a bench scraper for best results. This is best done quickly. If you saw at it, you could “glue” the layers down and they won’t puff up.

Use a pastry brush dipped in the container that held the cream and dab what you couldn’t pour out on top of the biscuits. Sprinkle with sugar if going for a sweet version. Separate the biscuits on a parchment lined cookie sheet so the heat can get at all four sides. They don’t need much space, though. They’re not going to spread out.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. They should be lightly browned on top when they come out. Delicious with jam or honey! Even better with clotted cream.

But I made buttermilk vanilla cream biscuits, which is the same as above, just adding:

  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla seeds (you can use 1 tsp vanilla paste or even 1-2 tsp vanilla extract)

I followed the exact same method. I definitely recommend sprinkling sugar over them before they go into the oven.

You could add anything to these. Dried cherries or cranberries, chocolate chips, grated cheese and chives…they’re extremely versatile and you never have to cut butter into the flour.

2017 art update

I’ve been getting back into painting and drawing over the last year and a bit. It’s been amazing to do something creative just for pleasure, without the business side of things attached. As much as I’m enjoying it, I am in no danger of throwing aside my writing and starting down the equally long road to be a professional artist any time soon.

IMG_1771My dad wanted a higher resolution, one spot for all my artwork, so this post is that. This oil pastel work is really the first representational thing I’ve done in a while. I’ve been working on patterns lately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been working with a lot of patterns and sheets. These are jelly-plate prints, cut and reassembled.

 

The first one was a proof of concept thing. The seond was the same thing with paint added after the fact. I really like the hexagon as one of the most complicated nesting shape.

 

Here are two 22×28″ canvases that I’ve finished without painting on top. I just like the color combinations.

 

And these are the same basic method in both abstract and more representational.

I’ve spent a lot of this summer building up sheets of color to use as my palete, but some of them I will probably like too much to ever use as material. I have a lot of these in various colours.

 

So I’ve been busy. Just not doing finished work.

Gluten (and free) flatbread at the same time

A stack of flatbread on a plate

Flatbread by Le Mai on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We decided to have bread and Greek dippy things for supper and make our own flatbread. The breads started from the same idea:

  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of yeast
  • 1 tsp of sugar.

The regular flour one got thrown into thrown into the stand mixer for five minutes. While it was kneading, mix up the gluten-free flour mix (we use the stuff from cost-co). Laugh at the idea that all that flour will only need 2 1/4 cup of liquid total. Add another cup of water and then add enough to bring all the flour together. It should be a thick texture but with no dry flour on the back.

Both rose for an hour. The gluten one got punched down and divided in half, half and half again to make eight balls. They rested for another hour rose for an hour, divided into eight, then let rest for another hour).

Shaping the gluten ones is pretty simple. Flatten them by hand or with a rolling pin. The gluten-free ones need to be rolled out between two greased parchment papers. It flattens nicely. Leave the bottom  paper on to manoeuvre into the hot frying pan, then peel sheet off. You can use and reuse the sheets, just spray with oil if it starts to stick.

With two frying pans going at the same time, cook the flatbread. The gluten ones took about half the time as the gluten-free ones. On Medium-medium low heat (as the crow flies) they took two minutes a side. If the pan was too hot, I turned down to a four. If it didn’t brown, I upped it to five. I also swapped the pans around if one was too hot and the other was too cold. Our burners have very different heat settings.

The gluten-free ones turned out really well. They’d make perfect flatbread, sandwich bread or pizza crust. I kept them in a 250 degree oven while I cooked up the whole batch. The Cloud-9 flour mix works really well for bread.

Surprisingly awesome lemon rice pilaf

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Preserved lemons Again by Emma Nagle on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We eat a lot of rice around here. Most of it is Japanese short grain. I like the clumpiness of it. But last week we made a pilaf I’m still thinking about. It’s a “some” recipe, and things can be subbed in for other things, but if you have the chance, use preserved lemons. It makes all the difference.

The recipe doesn’t veer too far into the unknown at the start. You’ve got chopped carrots, onions and celery that get sweated on the stove. Cut it up into matchsticks and then dice the match sticks, though I suppose if your knife skills lacks, you can totally food processor chop it.

Standard chicken stock liquid, standard bay leaf, nothing new to see here, but then chopped up apricots go in with an extra bit of water. While that’s cooking in your rice cooker with all the veggies added, toast some almonds until you can smell them, chop (or process) them into fairly large chunks and chop up a good half of preserved lemons.*

Serve. The best part is, the rice is so good, you don’t need a particularly good source of protein. All the flavour of the meal will come through with the rice. Sub out chicken stock for veggie stock, or even use water. It doesn’t matter. The veggies make their own broth.

*You can make preserved lemons; cut organic lemons (the organic is important here, because you’re using the peel) three quarters of the way, lengthwise so the lemon opens up like a flower. Pack as much non-table salt (pickling salt, kosher salt etc, basically anything without iodine in it) as you can jam inside it and then pack salt around the layers of lemon as you cram them into a mason jar. Leave them on the counter for a week and then put them in the fridge for a month. Or you can buy a jar of them at a store somewhere, but I’m telling you, home made is truly awesome.

Also, just incidentally, have I mentioned that it’s new book** release week for me?

(**When Matt, the former prostitute long-lost heir to the Fae throne finds out the tradition his Fae prince boyfriend has been protecting him from, he learns why the rabbit has to run. Contains gay romance, a surprisingly useful bear, and no rice pilaf–although hot buttered noodles are a plot point.)

Rabbit is loose!

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Rabbit, book two of the middlehill series (though it should stand alone) came out today. I couldn’t be happier with the final version or the cover art. Isn’t it amazing? That’s Matt, in Kevin’s sweater standing next to his…uh…spoiler.

I really like how this book came out in the end. It’s probably my most rewritten book. As much as I love Matt and Kevin, Sam will always have my heart.

Five months have passed since Kevin saved Matt from working the streets. Matt didn’t think he could be happier having his prince, Kevin, at his side. But nothing is simple in the Fae world Kevin belongs to, and both love and deceit lay tangled webs. Life under the Hill needs a strong hearthstone to power the long lives of the Fae and the magic they use, and Matt couldn’t have guessed how corrupted and dark the source of that power has become. What once had been a beautiful ceremony between the King and those who loved him has become a terrifying ritual of being hunted down like a rabbit and drained for the good of the Kingdom.

Matt had thought his love for Kevin knew no bounds, but he doesn’t know how the hearthstone is refilled, or that in all the years the rabbit had run, there had only ever been one who had survived the night. Matt’s own father had been caught and drained. Only one rabbit had ever survived the night–Kevin himself. Love is easy when life is simple. When things go to hell, love is forged…or burned away.

You can buy it on the Loose Id website or it’s now live on Amazon.

 

 

 

Apple and pecan pancakes

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Pancakes with Caramelised Apples by Edward Kimber on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We brought home a lot of apples back from BC and I wanted to cook something that would be delicious, filling and have a lot of good protein in it, so we made pancakes. I made them gluten-free but they don’t have to be. Scaling back the gf flour while using the oats and nuts as part of the substitution really worked.

This is more of a… guideline than a recipe. I’m assuming past pancake-making experience. You need:

  • A large apple chopped finely. You could grate it, but diced leaves a better texture.
  • 4 eggs. I used duck eggs, you don’t have to.
  • 1/2 cup oats, put through a blender until it is flour.
  • 1/2 cup of pecans (or any nut) also pulsed in the same blender
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, whole, chopped or pulsed
  • 1 cup of buttermilk (or milk, or milk and 1/4 cup of buttermilk powder)
  • Mix 1 tbs of baking powder with 3/4 cup of flour. We used 1 for 1 substitute gluten-free flour blend.
  • 3 tbs of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Butter and maple syrup for serving, or topping of your choice

If you’re making this gluten-free, you can mix as much as you want to bring it together. You’re not going to develop gluten that isn’t there to begin with. If you are using regular flour, mix only until combined.

Mix together, get out your frying pan or griddle. Cook until the edges are dry and the bubbles in the middle of the pancake. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes.

These are the closest gf pancakes I’ve ever tasted to regular pancakes. With all the nuts, oats and seeds it is quite filling, but I would substitute this recipe for regular pancakes to avoid the white starch crash right after eating them. If apples aren’t in season, I’d definitely smash up three bananas, but that’s really going to increase the sugar so scale the recipe sugar back and cook at a cooler temperature.