spring asparagus and roasted cherry tomato pasta

IMG_1820I experimented a bit tonight. I’ve been trying to perfectly roast the thick asparagus without it tasting raw or turning mushy, so I broke off the stalks and threw them in our cast iron pot with a lid. I turned the oven to 450 degrees and threw in a couple cups of cherry tomatoes (sprayed with oil and a bit of salt) in a pan to roast and waited 20 minutes for the oven to come to temperature.

I removed the tomatoes, put the pot in (lid off), and roasted the asparagus for 10 minutes. Then I took the pot out, covered it off the heat and let it steam for the twenty minutes it took to bring pasta water up to boil and the pasta to finish cooking. It was green and tender, but still crisp. To make the simplest pasta ever, throw the roasted tomatoes, chopped asparagus and about a quarter cup of goat cheese and swirl it around until the roasted tomatoes and cheese become saucy. Then crack some pepper and you’re good.

Pulse is back in print!

pulsePulse is one of my few stand-alone novels. It’s an urban fantasy set in Phoenix, and for the longest time, had the working title of ZOMGZOMBIES! Here’s the blurb:

When the call comes in the middle of the night — disturbing what had been a hot, sticky dream — Chris’s troubles should have been over. The bad guy who was responsible for a series of late night attacks is dead, the waiter a hero. Everything should have been over except for the paperwork. But the young waiter, Gregory, is the one who’s been making Chris’s dreams very hot and sticky. Gregory is on the run from a hypocritical television evangelist who removes the will of people and turns them into mindless slaves. He wants Gregory back – and he’s only getting stronger.

It’s been out of print for the last few years, and I’ve held back on re-releasing it myself, always meaning to go back and tighten up the climax of the story a bit. But really, I have so many other project on the go that it’s been on the to-do list for about four years now.

As a story, I love the atmosphere and magic in this world. The love interest had an instant presence the moment he was on the screen. It was my first falling in love story that took the course of the book instead of something that happened in the first chapter and then spent the rest of the time running and screaming. I’ve always had a weird fascination with TV preachers and their insane private greed and public humility, so this story let me explore that world and it’s something I’d love to come back to.

From a writing perspective, the thing I like most about Pulse is that it was my first attempt at laying the pipeline through the story as the main character and I found out who and what the big bad was and what the big bad wanted together. Throwaway lines in the beginning were extremely significant when I realized what the story was about at the 35 thousand word mark.

Then it was just a simple matter of finishing the rest of the book as though I’d always known what the antagonist wanted. Of course the beginning needed to be rewritten and I never did sew the two halves together, but I also learned even if you could sew the new beginning onto the old end, I’d be missing out. The new beginning lead to more interesting twists than just trying to save the old prose.

You can pick up a copy right now on Amazon.com/Amazon.ca  etc, etc, and Smashwords, and it should be showing up on other Smashwords affiliates like Barnes & Noble in the next few days–I’ll keep you posted!

Quick carbonara with a twist

I found a recipe the other day for sauteed cabbage and eggs. If you haven’t had sauteed cabbage before, once it goes all wilty and slightly brown most of the harsh cabbage-y taste goes away and all you get is a sweet, tender vegetable with a slight kick. It’s really good. Cut up cabbage as fine as you can (don’t use a shredder) and saute it with butter, salt and pepper. That’s really good on its own. The egg recipe on its own is then to scramble 2 eggs into 1 cup of cabbage.

But we had leftovers of the cabbage, and we wanted to make carbonara. I remembered the egg recipe and decided to make cabbage carbonara. And it was mad good. The long cut bits of cabbage disappeared completely in the already long pasta. While I was reheating the cabbage, I threw in a couple of pieces of bacon that also had been pre-cooked and by the time it was hot, it all tasted of bacon so it really amplified the bacon taste without a lot of meat.

I didn’t separate any yolks — we just scrambled up four eggs. Since Elisabeth’s pasta doesn’t have any gluten in it, it was really hard for it to turn the eggy mixture into a sauce, so I threw the eggs into the hot (though off the heat) pan with the cabbage while stirring continuously to give it a head start on going saucy.

I’ve made classic carbonara with egg yolks and parmesan cheese and while that tastes amazing, to my palate this tasted better. It’s definitely in my mental PDA to make again for a quick meal that uses up leftovers.

Crusted polenta cakes for New Years

Happy New Year! Elisabeth and I had scallops for dinner, so trying to come up with a side that was gluten-free, delicious and wouldn’t overpower the seafood was harder than I thought. I was hoping to do crispy oven potatoes, but we only had waxy potatoes instead of baking potatoes. But we had a tube of polenta in the cupboard from Fairmont.

I tried frying a slice plain and a slice dipped into cornstarch, egg and cornstarch again and the battered version was a million times better. It was a simple batter — I threw the cornstarch and salt and pepper into a ziplock bag and fried it in a cast iron pan with a bit of oil. Since it was New Years eve, I shallow fried them, but I could have been a bit more conservative with the oil on another night.

I followed Alton Brown’s scallop recipe (though to be fair I could have put them in for 2 minutes a side — only the centre scallops browned up beautifully but they all were perfectly cooked.) Elisabeth prepared broccoli with a bit of lemon peel she stole from the preserved lemon jar she started yesterday and it was wonderful.

Happy pre-Boxing Day and beyond sale!

Smashwords is doing a special sale between Dec 25 and Jan 1, so between now and New Year’s, you can pick up all my Angela Fiddler books for 50% off. (Except for Cy Gets A Sex Demon which is 75% off at $1.00 USD because I’m wishing you all extra snark this Christmas.)

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! Happy Monday to those who don’t. A belated Blessed Yule, Happy Hanukkah, very late Ramadan wishes, happy Diwali, and all around wishes for the return of light and warmth.

Wishing you the chance to go curl up with a pet, loved one or blessed solitude and quiet, along with a good book.

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.