Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I think we've all been there. We've volunteered, signed up, committed ourselves over our actual time and abilities. I have to finally admit I've done it this year. I'm self-publishing, in effect starting up my own business, president of the preschool parent's organization, who are hoping for a large silent auction in the spring along with the other fundraisers we organize every month, and I've volunteered for coordinating my regional SCBWI conference. Oh, and I put in a proposal for a workshop too.  Whew. That made me tired just to type it all!

I want very much to do all of these things and to do them well. I don't want to give up any of them. But I'm realizing I've seriously over committed myself.  I still have a preschooler home half the day, dance class, gym class and piano lessons to take both of my kids to.  I'm so doomed!

Oh, and you know, I'm a writer so I'd like to write the next book in the series... sooo, how to do it all?  If you know please share it with me.  I'll tweet your name to the rooftops!

So here is a little recipe that I think everyone should know.  Short and sweet.  And can be added to ANYTHING to make it taste great.  Soup, cheese and crackers, hamburgers, vegetables, grains, rice. 

Seriously, you name it, if you add this to it, the taste will be awesome.  Well, if you like caramelized onions that is.  If you don't care for them, this is not the recipe for you.  If you love how they taste, all sweet and buttery and melt-in-your-mouthy, here ya go. They are well worth the time!

Caramelized Onion

  •      Lots of sliced onion.  Thinly sliced.  As many onions as your pan can hold. Trust me.
  •      2-3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil or combo of the two
  •      pinch of salt
  •      for extra sweetness add up to 1/4 cup brown sugar... but depending on your onion and how long you cook them you may not need it.

In a large frying pan melt your butter and oil. Add the sliced onions.  Cook them over medium heat, but don't let them brown quickly.  This type of browning takes time. Slowly cook and occasionally stir the onions until they become soft and golden brown. This can take from 40-60 minutes.  Take your time. 

Add more oil or butter to keep them from sticking.  Taste them and adjust the salt, or if you want them really sweet add brown sugar to taste.  

The caramelized onion keeps in the fridge for a week, but I doubt you'll be able to keep it that long.  Try it in eggs in the morning, on a sandwich in the afternoon and in your veggies at dinner... super yum!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Revision Provisions

I don't know about all of you, but I'm a snacker. When the powers that be decided that more smaller meals was healthier than a few big meals, I was pretty excited. That meant I could be all munchy all the time and still be "healthy."

Well, the last few weeks I've been deep in revisions for L'Agent and when I'm in the zone, food is not exactly a priority. That being said, I'm a HUGE fan of food. Would I really be posting on this blog if I wasn't? Seriously.

So during revisions, I'm not too keen on cooking. As opposed to the rest of the time when I am strictly semi-homemade cooking. Unless something on Pinterest tickles my fancy and I make an attempt. But that is a whole other blog post waiting to happen.

Not cooking leads to a general foraging way of life for me. Luckily Husband ensures the chickies and baby bug get real food, but I'm a bit too distracted to be pulled into an actual meal. I know a lot of peeps out there have a few of their favorite snacks to help them through drafting or revisions, or just surviving one day to the next. 

Personally, I'm a fan of pretzels, popcorn, Swedish fish, and carrot & celery sticks. Throw in a KitKat every now and then, and I'm all set. I know, I know, not well balanced, but hey, it's still sustenance, right? And most writers I know will tell you, if it keeps you going while you're in the zone, it's good enough!

*due to some technical difficulties and a new Mountain Lion, I wasn't able to get pictures uploaded ... sorry!* 

So what do you guys like to munch on?


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Staples

As a writer with deadlines and limited time, there are three things in my kitchen I cannot live without. Those three things are: 1. My Crock Pot 2. Condensed Mushroom Soup (which is funny because I hate mushrooms and 3. Packets of Onion Soup Mix (also funny because I hate onions.)

Unfortunately, I don't have as much time to cook as I would like. So I need something fast that's going to be delicious enough even my picky five-year-old will eat. Take these three items, mix in a can of water, add a meat of your choice, and you have a delicious dinner everyone in the family will love.

Combine the above with a roast, carrots, and red potatoes, and in eight hours you'll have a drool-worthy pot roast your family will swear you slaved over. And the same ingredients to cubed steak and you have a delicious melt in your mouth Salisbury steak. You can also add the same ingredients to chicken and pork chops. Your options are limitless. And if you throw in a disposable crock pot liner, your clean up will take no longer than five minutes.

These ingredient have saved my hide so many times when I've found myself looking inside my fridge and wondering just what on earth I'm going to make for dinner.

Likewise, I have go to staples when it comes to writing. For example, if I'm staring at a finished manuscript and wondering just how I'm going to start editing, there are three books on my bookshelf that I frequently reread and no writer to should live without. They are:

1. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
This is such an amazing book. I fully credit it for helping me get my novel in good enough shape to attract an agent. Not only is it a great read for any first time author looking for tips on how to edit their finished manuscript, but it's a great refresher for published authors as well.

2. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass
Another amazing novel for beginners as well as writing veterans. What I like about this book in particular, is that it focuses more on technique and the actual wring process. Every writer should have this on their book shelf.

3. On Writing by Stephen King
It doesn't matter if you like Stephen King's novels or not, this book is wealth of information on technique. Even published authors will find Stephen's tips and advice valuable.

So there you have it. Those are my must haves for the kitchen and the office. How about you? What are your food and writing staples?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Frozen writer shares Ice Cube recipe

Have you ever done this? I've spent the last two weeks trying to write one sentence. ONE SENTENCE! 
Coming soon!

Okay, so it was the first sentence of the first novelette that I'll self-publish on Kindle. It's a prequel to my debut historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME, so it needs to be available before the actual date of Zero Time--Dec. 21, 2012. And I've drafted another novelette that needs to be published before then, too.

You've probably already figured out why I froze: striving for excellence is one thing, but I put too much importance on making it perfect and getting it out immediately. That can be a recipe for disaster.

Which brings me to a recipe that I found on for ice cubes -- a frozen treat we all love, but seldom think about until we get stuck without it. If you ever find yourself frozen like I was, just remember the right words don't always come automatically. Sometimes you have to fill the empty "word trays" and wait patiently--you can't make "ice" freeze any faster.

Don't miss the comments at! They're hilarious.

2 cups water (approximately)
2 tablespoons water (additional if needed)


1-- Empty the ice cubes that are left in the trays (if there are any left) into the bin.
2--Take the trays over to the sink and fill them with cold water.
3--Place the water filled ice trays back in the freezer.
4--Replace the ice bin if you had to remove it.
5--Shut the door to the freezer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Adventures with Okra

You heard me right. Okra! It’s one of nature’s most mystifying vegetables, and boy oh boy, do reactions to it vary. When it comes to okra, there are three basic schools of thought:
           (1) I love it!
           (2) Gross! It’s so slimy!
           (3) What’s okra?

Since I’m featuring it today, I obviously fall into the first group. The problem, however, is that even okra fans have a hard time figuring out what to do with it. Okra doesn’t look, feel, or taste like any other vegetable, so it’s not an easy substitute for other ingredients. Furthermore, the odds are that unless you grew up in the South in a family of okraphiles, the fried version is your only exposure to this podded wonder.

While it may not be the most versatile food ever, okra gets a bad rap. Okra is high in fiber, low in calories, and chockfull of vitamins and nutrients. It’s inexpensive, easy to grow, and, at least for me, extremely productive. I live near St. Louis, and every year, the okra plants in my little garden are superstars. (This year’s six okra plants are producing 15-20 pods I can pick at least twice a week from mid-summer through the fall.) That makes it cost-efficient, which is a big win for us.

As a result of this productivity, I’ve had to get creative. Soups and gumbos, fried okra, and okra piccadilly (add some cabbage, tomato, onion, and peppers) have filled our fridge. I’ve cooked it with rice and potatoes and whatever other veggies are fresh from the garden (squash and tomatoes usually work). It even freezes well. I haven’t had the nerve to try okra bread yet, but I’m thinking of mixing it into hushpuppies or cornbread soon. The lesson—as I’m sure the Okra Growers of America would endorse—is that trying something different can be worth the adventure.

I suppose that’s my point about writing too. Try something different every now and then. Mix in a character type you would never normally consider. Attempt a genre or viewpoint you’ve never embraced. Heck, throw a truckload of okra into a scene and see what happens. You might just have your most interesting story yet. If nothing else, you’ll at least have a lot of okra. And if that happens, here’s one way to cook it.

Jonathan’s Fried Okra
 32 oz. (4 c.) okra, cut into ½-inch rounds
1½ c. cornmeal
2 c. flour
1½ tsp. pepper
  T. salt
1 T. cumin
3½ T. sugar
1½ c. milk (or buttermilk)
oil—I prefer peanut, but vegetable and canola also work well
Pour ¾ inches of oil into a skillet. Heat on medium to about 350° F. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in medium or large container. (I use a 9x9 Pyrex pan). Pour milk into a smaller bowl.

(A comment at this point: depending on the size of your skillet, you’ll likely want to divide the okra up into batches [I made four]. Coat each batch while the previous one is cooking.) Place okra in milk, then remove okra with fingers or slotted spoon—after allowing milk to drip back into bowl—and place in cornmeal mixture. Fully coat until no longer wet. Shake crumbs off. Then place back in milk briefly, before once again coating it in the cornmeal mixture until you feel no dampness.

Shake loose particles off; then spoon the okra into the hot oil. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until coating is a light golden brown. Do not overcook or okra will get too hard.

Remove with slotted spoon to a plate covered with paper towels. Serve hot, and have an okrariffic day!
Note 1: For a lighter but equally tasty coating, dip in okra and milk only once. Cut all dry ingredient measurements in half.

Note 2: I tweak this all the time, so don’t be afraid to change up the oil, the seasonings, and the flour/cornmeal balance. Find what works for your tastebuds.

Note 3: This also works well for squash and pickles (but dip them only once).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sand, Sea, Sun and Fudge

After spending a week at the New Jersey Shore getting tanned and sandy, I had an opportunity to buy two of my favorite foods, okay, treats;  Saltwater taffy and fudge.  YUM. It was a wonderful hiatus from all the work I've been doing on my book.
The shore's saltwater taffy tastes better than I remember. And the fudge reminded me of my mom's peanut butter fudge that she made when I was a kid.  So I called her up, asked for her recipe, and got down to business creating fudge.  Now I have a full pound of fudge in my house and only I am eating it. My love for peanut butter fudge has not yet trickled down to my kids, and hubby is not a sweets eater.  I'm sure I'll manage somehow.
So now I will share with you the fudge recipe that is my food-bliss.  It's not difficult to make, but it does require a candy thermometer.

Mom's Peanut Butter Fudge
2 cups of white sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk
dash of salt
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of smooth or crunchy peanut butter (I prefer smooth)

Mix sugar, syrup, milk and salt in a heavy pot, stirring constantly bring to a boil and cover for 1 minute. Uncover the pot and cook without stirring until the candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees. (I guesstimated by looking at the thermometer, I need to get an instant read).  Remove from heat, add butter.  Let cool until mixture reaches 110 degrees, add vanilla and peanut butter.  Beat by hand until it loses its gloss.  Pour into a greased 8x8 pan.  Refrigerate.  Cut in 1 inch squares. Enjoy!

Has anyone attempted to make saltwater taffy?  I'm super curious about how much work it really involves.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Celebration Sweets!

Happy September!

And Happy Labor Day! Hope everyone has had a great weekend so far.

For the last few months, I've been going through revisions a plenty on a project, and organizing for a rewrite, but something I'm constantly reminded of by some dear friends, is to always celebrate the small victories. Well, finishing up some revisions was a HUGE victory for me. Not to mention sending kidlets back to school in one piece (and getting back into a semi-functional routine), and getting a few big day job projects wrapped up. 

Well, there's no reason to minimalize any of those victories. So to celebrate those (and let's not mention it was also my kid sister's 21st birthday), bring on the sweets!

Thanks to Pinterest and inspirations a la Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade view on cooking, especially when you're short on time, this was what things looked like:

The dessert menu included strawberry cheesecake dip, white chocolate Oreo pops, bROLOwnies, and 3 flavors of cupcakes: vanilla, chocolate, and rice crispy. 

Here's my how-tos on a couple of these sweets, shortcuts and all ... *looks around* don't judge my cheating ... lol!

Strawberry Cheesecake Dip
1 box graham crackers
1 package Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups cold milk 
1 can strawberry pie filling

directions: 1) Prepare Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake per directions on box. 2) Pour into center of serving dish. 3) Pour strawberry pie filling on top. 4) Surround with graham crackers. 

In the words of my 4yo chickie ... "Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!"

White Chocolate Oreo Pops
1 package of Oreos (Double-Stuf seems to work better)
lollipop sticks
2 packages Baker's brand white chocolate
Sprinkles or small candies to decorate with

directions: 1) Push 1 lollipop stick into the creme filling of each Oreo. Depending on number of broken cookies, 1 package of Oreos should yield ~30. 2) Melt 1 package of Baker's brand white chocolate per microwave directions. 3) Dip Oreo lollipop into melted chocolate, use spoon to swirl chocolate over cookie. 4) Place on wax paper. 5) Decorate each Oreo pop with sprinkles or candies. 6) Refrigerate pops for ~1 hour for chocolate to harden.

I found a short vase we already had, stuffed it with some tissue paper, and stuck the pops into the vase, and voila! Yum!

For the rest of the cheats recipes ;) ... check out my blog later this week!

Windy Aphayrath writes contemporary YA when she's not chasing after her 3 kids, flying all over the country for her day job, or trying to balance out her city girl ways with her outdoorsman husband. She's represented by Logan Garrison of The Gernert Company. You can find Windy at her blog (, on Twitter (@windyaphayrath), at, and pinning away on