Friday, October 7, 2011

Suzanne Lazear on Steampunk, Bento Boxes and Tired Mommy Dinners

I met Suzanne Lazear through the Apocalypsies group and have been following her bento box lunch chronicles on Facebook. Her young adult Steampunk dark fairytale, INNOCENT DARKNESS, Book 1 of The Aether Chronicles, will be released from Flux in August of 2012. Visit her website here. She’s also part of the Steampunk group blog Steamed.

Tell me a little about your own history with writing and with cooking.
I like to cook and bake, but I’m a total disaster in the kitchen—I prefer to refer to myself as “domestically awkward.” I do enjoy good food and I often bribe myself with candy and cookies when on deadline. I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl. I have vivid memories of making a chocolate putting pie with an Oreo crust when I was about 6. I let my little brother lick the middles out of a whole box of Oreos so I could crush up the cookies for the crust. I am not entirely sure where my parents were during this process.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time—the third grade is when I really remember publication as a goal, but it may go back even further. For the most part I “doodled”—writing stories for fun but never finishing them—and certainly never editing them. Then one day I realized that if I really was serious about getting published, then I needed to write an *entire* story. So I did. Then I did it again. And again. Finally, I wrote one someone liked enough to buy. (INNOCENT DARKNESS, my YA Steampunk Dark Fairytale comes out in August 2012, from Flux.)

Do you write about food? Do any foodie scenes appear in your debut novel?

Sometimes I write about food and cooking, but it all depends on the characters. In Innocent Darkness, there’s not a whole lot of cooking or food scenes, though there are a couple of scenes in the Otherworld where Noli, the main character, is trying foods she’s never had before.

You write steampunk... have any cool steampunk kitchen gadgets found their way into your work?

I have flying cars and hoverboards, but no neat kitchen gadgets. Noli, being a bit of a rebellious hoyden, would much rather fix things then engage in the “ladylike” arts.

What kind of food fuels your writing process?
I have a thing for sour patch kids, chocolate toffee, and those butter cookies with the slabs of chocolate on them.

What kind of meals do you make for your family? How does cooking fit into your workday?
I work a full-time day job in addition to writing and having a family. My dinners tend to be easy things—a lot “tired mommy dinners” where you cook everything in one pot. I try to make things healthy while also making them quickly—and I’m always on the hunt for new recipes especially since I have a picky eater with food allergies.

I do make bento lunches for my daughter—they tend to be on the easy spectrum. A lot of people think bento lunches are only for stay-at-home moms—that’s not true, there’s a ton of fun and easy lunches you can make. Here’s the first part in a four part series I did on bento lunches for the working mom.

Your blog bio says you keep chickens. Do you cook the eggs?
We have two chickens, Trudy and Fluffy. They’re spoiled pets, though we do eat the eggs. Gathering the eggs and feeding them are part of my daughter’s chores.

If you were marooned on an island, and Pots 'N Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose?
Wow, that’s really hard. I would have to say chocolate and Little Women – I love that book and have read it a million times.

Tired Mommy Dinner
This one is designed to use whatever you have handy, you can use whatever meat and sauce you have handy—fish and chicken will go well with white sauce, beef and chicken with red sauce, etc. You don't even need to add meat. Add whatever veggies you want (fresh or frozen) for a yummy vegetarian dinner.

Note: I made this for three, adjust accordingly

Noodles (I used 1/3 of a box of angel hair pasta)
Veggies (I used about a cup of tiny, uncooked broccoli florets; use as much veggies as you think you can get everyone to eat)
Meat (I used 1/2 lb cooked shrimp)
Sauce (I used 1/2 c. prepared Alfredo sauce)


Boil water for noodles. Since the angel hair pasta only needs 4 min to cook, I dump the uncooked broccoli florets in with the water, I've cut them so they're tiny and cook faster.

When the water boils I add the noodles and the shrimp (which is cooked, I just need to warm it up).

While it's boiling I put some garlic toast in the toaster oven. You can also put some lettuce in a bowl for a salad.

When the noodles are done, I drain the whole mixture, then put it back in the pot and toss it with just enough sauce to coat everything. I like alfredo sauce, but depending on your meat and veggies you could use marinara, pesto, or even gravy. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese if you'd like. Serve with garlic toast and salad.

Prep time: virtually none, unless you need to cook the meat ahead of time or cut veggies.

Cook time: varies depending on how long the noodles need to cook, but under 20 min.

Serving notes: There are infinite ways you can make this. You can also make the noodles with veggies and sauce as a side dish (sans meat) and serve it underneath a chicken breast, piece of fish, etc.—or use lots of different veggies for a hearty vegetarian dish. I also make this using couscous—I add some veggie or beef bouillon to the water, tiny pieces of chicken or beef, and sweet corn or frozen mixed veggies.


  1. Great interview. You know what? I could use a tired mommy recipe. And I have all the ingredients! woo hoo!

  2. Oh, I am jealous! I keep telling my husband that I want some chickens and he keeps telling me that I am crazy!

  3. I love the title of both recipe and upcoming book.

  4. Innocent Darkness is a very catchy title...and I enjoyed hearing about your evolution as a writer. Thanks for an easy, healthy recipe. That's my kind of cooking!

  5. One pot dinners=yay! Love the Bento Box ideas too!

  6. Yay! Another Flux author! And I love Suzanne, she's so funny and cool. What a great interview. And my daughter would gobble this up.

  7. Love this interview! I am also a domestically awkward writer, and I have been making a version of the tired mommy recipe for a while. I like to add peas, red peppers, and s slice of fresh lemon. I find the lemon makes jarred, "light" alfredo sauces taste fresh. For more writing about eating to live vs. eating to live, check out the "Not Your Average Food Writing" issue of Talking Writing magazine online.