Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Today I want to introduce you to the fabulousness of Gretchen McNeil. I met Gretchen through the Apocalypsies where she and Lynne Kelly have served as den mothers of sorts, corralling the craziness of 100+ debut authors into a highly fun and functional group. But Gretchen is also a food-lovin' lady and avid home cook who is lucky to live amid the amazing restaurants of L.A. and thus a natural for Pots 'n Pens.
Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown. Her YA horror/paranormal POSSESS debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins, August 23, 2011. Her second novel, TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – is tentatively scheduled for a Fall 2012 release. Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk (http://www.cirqueberzerk.com ). Gretchen is also a founding member of the vlog group YARebels (http://www.youtube.com/yarebels) where she can be seen as "Monday."
Tell me about a typical writing day and how food fits into it. Do you stress bake or cook compulsively on deadline, or does the food prep fall away when the writing gets busy? How about when you’re performing?
I think any writer will tell you that food plays a HUGE role in the process. When I'm writing on deadline I require certain food items in the house: jelly beans, fresh corn tortillas and guacamole (for quesadillas), and I always make a big batch of my homemade meatballs. Yes, totally random, but I think those items fill three essential food needs: sugar high, comfort food, brain protein.
Performing is similar, except I'm usually expending a lot more calories singing and dancing on stage than say, sitting on my butt in front of my laptop, so I tend to crave carb energy, usually in the form of the French fry…
I love a mix of salty and sweet. There's a brunch restaurant in West LA that does this to perfection in the form of waffle sliders – mini Belgian waffles sandwiching a fried egg, thick cut bacon and sharp cheddar cheese, served with real maple syrup. I also love the Pancakes 'n' Bacon cupcake from Yummy Cupcakes. Oh, and anything labeled "salted caramel." Mmmm. Now I'm hungry.
What are some of your favorite books involving food?
I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain fan. I've read all of his non-fiction books and I adore the way he mixes his unique voice (I call it "overeducated snark") with amazing food commentary. He makes me want to hop a plane to Asia and eat my way from Japan to India!
Recipes or improvisation? Plotter or pantser?
Can I be both? I like to start with a recipe, and then modify it to my own personal tastes overtime, like said homemade meatball recipe mentioned above.
Your writing seems to straddle different genres. Does your cooking, as well?
Oh yes. I was exposed to a variety of cuisines as a kid growing up in California. I love all food, and I've tried my hand at everything from dim sum to tamales to shepherd's pie!
Possess is set in your birthplace of San Francisco but you live in L.A. Which city has the better dining scene?
Yes, I'm a San Francisco native but I've lived in LA for almost 15 years. And as much as I adore San Francisco's foodie culture, I think for sheer variety, inventiveness and insanity, LA is my preferred food city. I mean, where else can you eat at the #1 Himalayan restaurant in the U.S.?
Now for the signature Pots and Pens question: If you had to choose a single book and a single food item, desert island style, what would you pick?
Does champagne count as a food item? No? Damn. In that case, an After School Special (grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough with tomato soup to dip it in) and John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps. Don't ask. I love that damn book.
What recipe are you going to share with us? Tell us a little bit about it!
So this is my favorite recipe, the one I always include in recipe swaps. It's a brunch dish which takes all of 5 minutes to assemble, and every single time I serve it, people beg me for the recipe. It's also the easiest dish I have ever made in my life. Ready?
Spanish Cheese Pie
3 eggs, whisked with 2 tablespoons of milk
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 small can diced fire roasted green chiles (I like the Ortega brand)
1 small can French's French Fried onions
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Poor in a glass pie plate. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. Cut and serve.
You'll thank me for this one. ;)
Friday, November 25, 2011
It's during revisions when I try to add those subtle layers - make that character a little deeper, make that motivation a little more complex, make that first kiss a little more spine-tingling ;-) It's all about the layers. And the more unexpected those layers can be, the better.
So, although yesterday was Thanksgiving, I will not be sharing a Thanksgiving recipe today. In honor of layers (and my birthday which is today) :D here is my all time favorite "layered" recipe.
1 3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
(See the directions for the following ingredients)
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
Cream sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla. sift together dry ingredients and alternate with 1 cup milk, adding to creamed mixture. Mix the 1/2 cup cocoa and 1/2 boiling water together and add to mixture. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
I usually double this recipe to make 3 or 4 round layers and you end up with something scrumptious, like this:
*ahem I promise not all of my recipes will involve chocolate and/or cake :D But gotta go there for the birthday post ;-) *
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
While I was a sci-fi guy early on and had enjoyed the standard issue Narnia books, fantasy never seemed like my thing. They were awfully long and kind of boring. Then, I picked up T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, which is indeed long and some would say boring. But it worked for me, and legends and myths and honor and, of course, cool stuff with swords came alive for me. From then on, I couldn’t get enough of fantasy.
Mystery’s another genre I didn’t spend much time with as a kid. Sure, I liked the Encyclopedia Brown books, but it had never occurred to me that there was such a thing as a mystery that took more than fifteen pages to solve. Then, I read The Westing Game. Brilliant! Mysteries could be fun, with layers of character development, plot, and actual thinking on the part of the reader.
I could go on and on with genres and subgenres that I unsuspectingly got sucked into (e.g., technothrillers via The Andromeda Strain), but you get the point. I expect most book lovers have had this same experience, when a book snuck up on them and opened a whole new world of reading possibilities.
So, how about it? What book surprised you? What genre were you amazed to see in bed with you when you rolled over in the morning? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Here’s a recipe I’ve adapted from one my momma made for us. Much like The Old Man in the Sea shocked me because I liked it even though I’d hated previous Hemingway experiences, this recipe always catches me off-guard because otherwise I don’t even like pecans. These pecan tassies, though, are so worth it.
Basically, these are bite-size pecan pies with just a hint of doctoring.
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/3 c. chopped pecans
2/3 c. brandy
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. butter or margarine
2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Melt butter in frying pan on medium-high heat. Add pecans, stir until coated, and cook for 1 minute. Add brandy and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add brown sugar, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly, until pecans are slightly darkened. (Do not overcook!) Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix crust ingredients until crumbly. Shape into cherry-tomato-size marbles. Put marbles in mini muffin pan and press in center of each to spread along bottom and sides of each cup.
Mix egg, butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla and almond extracts. Then stir in pecans.
Put 1 heaping teaspoon of pecan filling in each shell. If there’s extra filling, each can be filled to the top of the shell.
Bake at 325° for 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 48.
Basic Version: Use plain, uncooked pecans, omitting the brandy and other ingredients in the pecan mix.
Lower-Fat Version: I’ve cooked these many times with reduced fat butter (or substitute) and reduced fat cream cheese, and they turn out just fine.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Denise, if a couple of your characters were raiding your fridge right now, what would they most likely to eat? Are they disappointed or excited about what they find?
Friday, November 18, 2011
Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available in e-book (Amazon US (also UK, France and Germany), Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and print (Amazon, Createspace, also autographed copies available from the author).
I love this recipe. My mom would make something similar and serve it with fried apple slices and powdered sugar. A very yummy dinner! :)
Thank you for joining us Susan, and Happy NaNo, I can't wait for the next book!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I'd love to learn how to make sugar cookies. Mine are always hard or falling apart. It's a sad situation when young boys never get the chance to decorate sugar cookies because their Momma is too cheap to buy them from the bakery and too lazy to master them.
Favorite kitchen appliance is the dishwasher. I throw things in dirty and they come out clean - fabulous!
I had a nightmare that I was playing with my boys in the backyard and a man walked up and shot me. I started thinking, What would make someone do that to a sweet little Mom?
I love Josi Kilpack's culinary mysteries. I cannot read one of those without trying at least a couple of the recipes. The only time I didn't like all the yummy food references was when I tried to read Key Lime Pie while in labor with my fourth son. Contractions and thoughts of food do not work well together!
Monday, November 14, 2011
2. With a mixer add the icing sugar.
3. Pour into greased pan. Refrigerate.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 c. bread flour
- 1 c. rye flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 1 tablespoon caraway seed
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- Place ingredients into the bread machine in order suggested by teh manufacturer.
- Use the whole wheat, regular crust setting.
- After the baking cycle ends, remove bread from pan, place on a cake rack, and allow to cool one hour before slicing.