Friday, September 23, 2011

Interview with Tess Hilmo and Some Noodley Goodness

UPDATE (10/21/11): And the lucky winner of the signed copy of Tess' book is COLE! Congrats! I'll put you guys in touch!

It’s Friday, guys! I think a little high-kick and hooray goes without saying, right? And not just because it’s Friday, but I’ve got a fabulous interview to share with you with the ever-lovely Tess Hilmo. Tess’ debut middle grade historical novel WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE (Farrar Straus Giroux, Margaret Ferguson Books) is coming out on September 27! That’s next Tuesday, guys – Mark  your calendars!

Tess is an author, friend, family girl, maker of salsa and lover of curry. 

So firstly, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us during this super-busy pre-release time! We’re just days from WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE hitting the shelves, how exciting! The book takes place in the south, where food is a big part of life, can you tell us a little more about the book and what foods we’ll be getting a taste of?
WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE is a middle grade mystery full of heart and soul, set in 1957 Arkansas. The family is a traveling preacher’s family, so meals aren’t fance but there is a chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles, chocolate cake, shoefly pie and lots of plum jam.
Mmmm, you had me at chicken noodle soup and chocolate cake J

Now being a writer means inspiration can strike at any moment, so sometimes meals aren’t so gourmet. What’s a favorite go-to for you to get the family fed?
We have a joke in our home. The kids will see me writing and ask, “Is it fix-your-owni again tonight?” (It rhymes with macaroni). I wish I could say I have premade meals at the ready but, honestly, there are many nights when they end up making me dinner. That’s the blessing of having kiddos just a bit older.
Duly noted: writers – train your children to cook early so they can make YOU dinner ;)

That’s great the kids cook for you sometimes! That being said, who has been the BEST cook you’ve ever known and what’s one of your favorite dishes they’ve served you?
My husband’s grandmother, hands down. She passed away a few years back, but when she was with us she always cooked classic American fare steeped in love. My favorite was her Sunday potroast. Perfectly tender with lots of her famous chili sauce!

What writerly snack food / drink do you keep on-hand at all times?
Chocolate covered cinnamon bears get me through tough writing days. They are the bomb!

On the other hand, are you a snacky reader? If so, what are some of your faves?
I don’t snack much when I’m reading but I do love an ice cold diet coke to sip on.

Okay, so if you were marooned on an island and Pots & Pens granted you a wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose?
My favorite read is THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare. That and some curry chicken or tikka masala would make my island stay paradise.

And of course, the recipe!
The secret to out of this world chicken soup is to make your own noodles. It’s easy and fast. Big impact, minimal work – that’s what I like. My main character’s mother makes these noodles for her soup in the novel and it is the perfect balm.

Thanks for sharing the recipe for the noodles, Tess! I can't wait to try it with my own chicken soup recipe!

Homemade Noodles for any chicken soup
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 tbs water

Quick Chicken Soup
1 already cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store
1 onion
2-3 carrots
2-3 stalks of celery
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 quart of water
1 tbls dry Thyme
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Starting with the chicken soup base (and really, Tess told me you can use any basic chicken soup recipe you've got to go with these noodles. This is just my quick semi-homemade recipe, so feel free to use your own!) the water and chicken stock go into a pot over medium heat. 

While that starts to simmer, take the rotisserie chicken and basically separate the meat and skin from the bones. Put the bones into the simmering stock for added flavor along with the Thyme. You can also include the skin in this stage if you don't want it in the finished soup. My kids like the skin in their soup so I save it with the meat. Shred up the meat and set aside.

Chop the carrots, onions and celery. In a separate pan, heat a bit of olive oil and saute the vegetables for about 10-12 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Strain out the chicken bones (and skin if you included) and discard.

Once the vegetables are done, add it to the simmering chicken broth.

While this was simmering, I turned to Tess' instructions for the noodles.

Put the flour in a bowl, drop in the egg, then stir in water. 

Dough should be fairly dry and not too sticky . . . adjust as needed with sprinkles of flour. Roll out to ¼ inch thick on floured board and cut into wide strips – I like about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. 

At this stage, I added the chicken and chicken skin into the boiling broth, a few minutes before I tossed in the noodles :)

Dump the noodles into your boiling soup and cook for 1-2 minutes; the noodles are finished when they float to the top.

And if sharing her homemade noodle recipe wasn't enough, Tess is kindly donating a PERSONALIZED SIGNED copy of WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE to a random commenter on this blog post! That's right, you don't have to do anything but make a comment! The contest is going to run from now through midnight, Mountain Time on Tuesday, September 27 -- The big release day!

Thank you so much, Tess!

So spread the word. Come for some noodley goodness and you could be getting WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE in your mailbox, signed just for you!!


  1. CONGRATS on your upcoming release! Love the title, too. I grew up in Arkansas, so your book definitely sounds like something I'd be interested in reading. I never knew any traveling preachers, but heard a few of them at summertime tent revivals we attended with my grandmother in the Ozarks.

  2. We live on chicken soup in the winter. This is a great quick recipe. I usually make drop noodles (mom called them Rivels) using the same recipe with a bit more water. But I'm going to roll them out next time and make the real deal. YUM!

  3. Gorgeous cover and title! The recipe looks so good too. I have always thought making homemade noodles was too much hassle, but this makes it look so easy that I am definitely going to try it out!

  4. Windy: what a fantastic job you have done putting this post together! the pictures are gorgeous!!! thanks so much for hosting me.

    TW: my father's family hailed from Arkansas and that is why I set the story I had a great uncle on my mothers side that was a travelling preacher. Still, I've never actually seen one...that would be so neat!

    Ansha: if you roll them out, I'll drop them next time :)

    Kate: thanks! I do love this cover and we newbie authors get little to no say in our covers so I was really pleased with how the publisher put it together. And, the noodles are WAY easy. Little fuss..big impact, that's my favorite thing.

  5. Mm, I am so hungry now!
    I loved the interview--Witch of Blackbird Pond is one of my favorites, too--as is chicken tikka masala. :)

  6. Love the pictures that accompany your recipe, Tess! And, of course, I'd LOVE to win a signed copy of your novel!

  7. Oh wow! I'm popping over from Tess' blog. What a great interview and recipe. My family loooves homemade chicken soup, too, and now you've got me craving it. I would love to win that signed copy of Tess' book. My mouth has been watering to read it for a long time. (One of my personal favorite candies is chocolate covered gummy bears, so Tess and I have that in common, too. Tess, I knew I loved you!)

    P.S. This is such a great concept for a blog! I'm a new follower. :)

  8. Thanks to everyone, for the support of the contest! Spread the word, we've still got a couple days :) until the release! And truly, the recipe is deelish! Thanks for sharing it with all of us Tess!

  9. The recipe looks wonderful, and WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE sounds like a book I would really enjoy. It sounds like such a terrific family novel and I love all the food in it. Congratulations!

  10. The pictures for this recipe are mouthwatering. And the cover for your book is gorgeous. This post was a visual delight!