Friday, March 28, 2014

"Elvis & Mama"--how my mother's sacrifice for me lead to her moment of a lifetime--plus Mama's recipes

August 16, 1977 will always be remembered as the day that Elvis Presley died. No one could ever replace Elvis, and no one could ever take his place in my mother's heart. Here is the true story of how my mother's sacrifice for me led to her moment of a lifetime.

January 8, 1935 is the birth date of one of the most incredible entertainers who ever lived--Elvis Presley. It's hard to believe that Elvis would now be 79 years old, and it's even harder to believe that over forty years have passed since I saw him in concert in Roanoke, VA, a popular stop throughout his concert career. Even though I was in one of the "high altitude" seats in the civic center, the power, passion, and potency of this magnificent performer could barely be contained by the walls of the structure. It was April 11, 1972, and I was thirteen years old. I have been a fan of Elvis since I was old enough to recognize him on TV. During my growing up years, I never missed an "Elvis movie" at our local theater. At the time of this performance, Elvis was 37 years old, and he was in his prime. Mercy!

It was only natural that I would adore Elvis. My Mama was one of the all-time greatest Elvis fans who ever drew a breath. She was so well known as his fan that even casual acquaintances would bring back souvenirs from Graceland and give them to her for her collection. When a series of Elvis collectible dolls became available at one of our local stores, I almost lost my life making sure that I got one for Mama, but I will save that story for another day. I have written numerous articles and commentaries about Elvis, and I definitely have an "Elvis book" inside my soul. However, my greatest story is the one about Mama and Elvis, and how her sacrifice for me resulted in her ultimate reward.

A very good friend and coworker of my mother's had obtained four tickets for the concert, and she wanted Mama to join her and her two sisters in attending the show. Well, of course Mama was thrilled, but she didn't want to go without me, so the five of us went with only four tickets. We squeezed together into the coworker's dark blue VW Beetle, and off we went, with Mama sure that somehow things would work out so that all of us would see Elvis. I am five-feet-ten, and so were Mama's friend and her sisters. Mama was the shrimp at five-feet-five. We were like sardines in a can, but what an adventure!

When we got to the civic center, there was no way to obtain a fifth seat anywhere for the concert, and Mama would not allow me to miss seeing Elvis. She asked for the keys to the car and said she would wait on us, and that she would probably be able to hear some of the concert outside the building. I did not want to see the show without Mama, and I felt tremendously guilty about being inside while she was outside waiting. In fact, I kept saying how bad I felt until our friends told me in a nice way to "shut up". I was also very worried about Mama being out there somewhere on her own. I should have never underestimated my mother. She said all along that things would work out, and they couldn't have worked out better if they had been planned with meticulous detail. When we left Mama inside the entrance of the civic center, she didn't immediately try to go back to the car. She decided to call home and let my grandparents know that we made it okay, and so she went and closed herself up in the phone booth to make the call. When she came out of the booth, everyone was gone and the doors were locked. All of the civic center people had gone into the show so they wouldn't miss Elvis, and they had locked Mama in the building! She couldn't find anyone to help her, so she followed everyone else's lead and went inside to the show. No one stopped her or asked her what she was doing, so she walked straight down to the stage area and watched the whole concert from ten feet away from the stage. She was able to describe the color of Elvis' eyes, count all of his rings and admire the detail work of his jumpsuit and cape. All the while that I was up in the rafters making everyone miserable, Mama was front and center having the time of her life! I will never forget the weird, almost other-worldly sensation of going through the inner doors when the show let out and hearing Mama call me from behind. Behind? She was in the parking lot all by herself, possibly in peril--wasn't she? No, she wasn't! I finally turned around, and there she was behind me in the crowd, waving madly. Her face was lit from within, and she looked like a kid who caught the real Santa Claus placing presents under the tree. Mama sacrificed her concert seat for me, and she ended up with the best seat in the house! I don't know if you believe in miracles, but as for me and Mama, we believed.

Mama worked at our local hospital for over thirty years. The original hospital had an old-fashioned "plug-in" switchboard, of which Mama was the master. The day that Elvis died, August 16, 1977, Mama was working the switchboard as part of her duties as an admissions clerk. The hospital was flooded with calls, and the switchboard was lit up and humming. Most of the calls were for Mama. When Elvis died, she was the first person that many people thought of, and they called to check on her and offer their condolences. It took me a while to reach her, and then we shared our disbelief. In fact, she was one of the people who didn't believe that Elvis was really dead, and as long as Mama lived, he lived in her heart. I like to believe that when she passed away, she was met at the gates of Heaven by a man dressed all in white--a white jumpsuit, that is. What beautiful music they make! Mama on the keyboard, and Elvis singing Gospel with all his might.

Have you ever made a sacrifice for someone and unexpectedly received much more in return? Has someone made such a sacrifice for you? Do you believe in your inner voice? Have you ever followed your inner voice when no one else believed in your intuition? Do you have some new authors and titles that you can't wait to explore in the new year? What is the upcoming book or book series that you most anticipate? To start you off with some food for thought and great reads, I am sharing Mama's recipes and some "Elvis-themed" books.

FIT FOR A KING is my favorite of all my "Elvis" books. This book is overflowing with recipes, photos, inside information and wonderful, sweet memories. FIT FOR A KING was put together with thoughtfulness and sincerity. So many of the other books about Elvis are just an excuse to use his name and image. If you like music, food, nostalgia, and most of all, Elvis himself, then you will truly appreciate FIT FOR A KING. Review >>>

GRACELAND'S TABLE is filled with amazing personal stories, beautiful photos, touching and humorous insights, and an astounding variety of recipes. The food is fabulous--ranging from down-home good cookin' to creative culinary delights! I am Southern to the bone. I have loved Elvis since I was a little girl. For almost 50 years, I lived with a legendary Elvis fan--my Mama! "Graceland's Table" proudly resides among my collection of Elvis memorabilia. Good cookin' tonight!!! Review >>>

EXPOSURE: This fun and involving romantic suspense story from Susan Andersen features a hunky hero with a hook--that's right, one hand and one hook. Sheriff Elvis Donnelly (we need more heroes named Elvis) is six-feet-six of solid muscle with laser-blue eyes and thick, dark hair. He also has a metal hook in place of one hand, and an angry, jagged scar on his handsome face. Review >>>

ELVIS BY THE PRESLEYS reveals life at Graceland like never before. We witness the arc of his love affair with Priscilla; Elvis as a father to his adored Lisa Marie; his obsessions and passions; and the strength of his musical legacy, which continues unabated to this day. There are Christmas cards here, too; contracts and invoices; selections from Lisa Marie’s childhood scrapbook; and even a picture of the champagne bottle (signed) from Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding." Read more >>>

"When George Klein was an eighth grader at Humes High, he couldn’t have known how important the new kid with the guitar—the boy named Elvis—would later become in his life. But from the first time GK (as he was nicknamed by Elvis) heard this kid sing, he knew that Elvis Presley was someone extraordinary. During Elvis’s rise to fame and throughout the wild swirl of his remarkable life, Klein was a steady presence and one of Elvis’s closest and most loyal friends until his untimely death in 1977." Read more >>>

Butter-Fried Chicken

one whole chicken, cut into fryer pieces
one to two sticks real butter
salt & pepper
poultry seasoning

In a large ziploc bag, add about one cup flour with a good shake of salt & pepper and a pinch of poultry seasoning. Add chicken pieces a few at a time and shake in sealed bag to coat well. Repeat until all chicken pieces are well-coated. Save any leftover flour mixture to make pan gravy. In a large (10 inch), deep cast iron skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken pieces and cook until crispy brown on bottom. Turn chicken pieces and cook until well-done and golden, crispy brown. Arrange chicken pieces on serving platter. While skillet is hot, brown leftover flour in grease (add extra flour if needed). Carefully add enough cold water (be careful of hot grease splatters) to make gravy. Stir gravy continuously until smooth and thick. If needed, add extra seasoning to taste.

Mama's Summer Salad

one red ripe tomato
one yellow ripe tomato
one cucumber
one bell pepper
one onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light cooking oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cut vegetables into bite-sized chunks and mix together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar with vinegar. Blend in oil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and stir well. Cover and chill. Flavor improves overnight. Stir salad well before serving.

Yellow Cake with Caramel Icing

one two-layer size butter-flavored yellow cake mix
Prepare cake mix as directed for two cake layers. Bake and allow to cool.

2 c. white granulated sugar
2 c. brown sugar
2 sticks butter
1 sm. can evaporated milk plus a small amount of milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk (pour evaporated milk in a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with whole milk). Place in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook to the soft ball stage. Add vanilla extract. Cool and beat until creamy. Spread quickly over cooled cake.

Mom's Cole Slaw

1 c. mayonnaise
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
Stir together all ingredients. Cover; chill. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

To make slaw:
Shred one small head fresh green cabbage and place in a medium glass bowl. Finely shred several carrots and add to cabbage. Stir to combine. Add one small green pepper and one small onion, both finely chopped. Stir to combine. Add dressing to slaw mixture and stir to mix well. Cover tightly and chill overnight. Stir well before serving.

Lemon-Lime Poke Cake

one 2-layer size lemon cake mix
Prepare cake mix as directed for 13x9 inch pan. Bake cake and allow to completely cool.
one small box lime gelatin
one cup boiling water

whipped topping frosting:
1 c. milk
1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding
1 (8 oz.) container non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

Blend milk and instant pudding. When partially set and beginning to thicken, fold in whipped topping. Ready to spread in a few minutes.

In a small bowl, combine lime gelatin and boiling water. Stir until well dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. With the handle tip of a wooden spoon, evenly poke holes down through the baked and cooled sheet cake. Pour the lime gelatin liquid evenly over the surface of the cake, using all of the liquid. Frost immediately with whipped topping frosting and store loosely covered in refrigerator. Better when chilled overnight.

Betty's Baked Beans

1 large can of pork & beans (or 2 16oz cans)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup of ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
couple of shakes of hot sauce
dash of salt & pepper
6 slices bacon
Add all ingredients to a greased baking dish and stir together (with the exception of the bacon). Place bacon strips over the top of the beans and bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. (Beans are ready when the bacon is completely cooked)

Comfort-Food Hamburger Steak & Gravy

one pound lean ground beef
salt & pepper
one onion, rough-chopped
one green pepper, rough-chopped
3 tbsp. butter
Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper
pinch of sugar
Season ground beef with salt & pepper and form into patties. Melt butter over medium-low heat and add beef patties. Cook until well done, turning once. After patties are done, remove from pan and place on a plate. Add a few tablespoons of flour to hot grease in skillet and stir until browned. Carefully add about two cups cold water, stirring continuously. Add a couple of shakes Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper to taste, and just a pinch of sugar. Stir and add in onions and peppers. Carefully add patties to gravy in skillet. Reduce heat to low and simmer until onions and peppers are softened. Serve with mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles.

Shredded Carrot Salad with Raisins

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup mayonnaise, or to taste
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
chopped peanuts for topping

Put grated carrots in a large bowl; toss with remaining ingredients, except. Chill thoroughly. Top with chopped peanuts before serving.

Waldorf Salad

2 cups cubed apples, unpeeled (use firm, slightly tart apples)
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2/3 cup mayonnaise

In a large bowl, combine fruit and nuts; mix lightly. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Blend in mayonnaise. Pour dressing over salad and stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least until well-chilled.

Quick Kraut

one 1 lb can chopped sauerkraut
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp caraway seed
1 chopped unpeeled cored apple

Empty sauerkraut into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until apple is cooked down, stirring occasionally.

Canned Ham with Sweet & Tangy Glaze

one 5 lb canned ham
whole cloves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp prepared yellow or brown mustard

Score top of ham and stud with whole cloves. Bake per package directions. Prepare glaze by combining sugar, juice, and mustard in a small bowl. During last 15 minutes of baking, pour glaze evenly over ham. Bake until done, spooning glaze up over ham. Allow ham to cool, spooning up glaze to coat ham.

Company Corn Casserole

1 sm. onion, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1 stick butter
1 (16 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (16 oz.) can cream style corn
1 (6 3/4 oz.) box corn muffin mix
3 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Saute onion, green pepper in butter over low heat. Allow to cool until just warm. In a medium bowl, combine sauteed mixture (including butter), kernel corn, creamed corn, muffin mix,eggs, and sour cream. Mix well. Pour into a greased 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes Bake until puffy and lightly browned.

Savory Southern-Style Green Beans & Potatoes

1/2 lb. bacon, uncooked, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 cups (approximately) of fresh or frozen cut green beans,
2 medium red potatoes, unpeeled, medium-diced
Chicken stock, to cover
1 tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

If using fresh green beans, remove the ends and snap in half or cut; rinse and set aside. Add the bacon directly into a large saucepan and cook over low heat until it begins to brown. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. If using fresh or frozen beans, saute them in the cooked bacon and onion for a bit first, and then add the potatoes to the beans. Pour over enough chicken broth to cover. Add sugar, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let them low for 20 minutes, or until potatoes and beans are tender.

Sweet Potato Pie

1 (9 inch deep-dish) unbaked pastry shell
1 lb. (2 med.) yams or sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled**
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixer bowl, mash yams with butter. Add remaining ingredients except pastry shell and eggs. Beat until mixture is smooth and well blended. Stir in eggs. Pour into prepared pastry shell. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool. Serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Refrigerate leftovers.

**TIP: 1 (16 or 17 oz.) can sweet potatoes or yams, drained, can be substituted for fresh. Melt butter. Proceed as above.

Black-Eyed Peas with Ham

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained well
1/2 piece smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
hot sauce to taste
Cook celery and onions with 1/4 each tsp salt and pepper in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 cup water and simmer 3 minutes. Add peas and ham and simmer, covered, just until heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with hot sauce to taste.

Baked Stewed Tomatoes

2 (15 oz) cans sliced stewed tomatoes (with celery & onion)
2 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups bread cubes (the drier the bread, the better)
1 stick butter, sliced
Butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour in stewed tomatoes. Sprinkle evenly with sugar. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Evenly spread bread cubes over top of tomatoes. Place butter slices evenly spread out over bread cubes. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until tomatoes are bubbly, and bread is well toasted. Check after 20 minutes, and watch to make sure bread doesn't burn.

Gran's Mac & Cheese

Comfort food from Gran herself : )

Boil 16oz elbow macaroni in large pan of salted water until slightly undercooked. Drain pasta quickly so that it will not continue to cook in hot water. Butter a 13in by 9in baking pan. Layer pasta with at least 16oz grated sharp cheddar cheese (sharper the better). Feel free to be very cheesey! Pour one pint of half-and-half or heavy cream over pasta and cheese. Add some whole milk if needed to bring liquid to top of pasta and cheese. Dot with slices of real butter and a very light sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper. Liberally top off with grated Parmesan cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let Mac & Cheese set in covered pan for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"BE STILL MY SOUL"--illuminating look at the people and stories behind some of the world's most popular hymns

Be Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns
"Be Still, My Soul" is a collection of 175 of the most popular hymns and the stories behind them. Many of these hymns were written out of incredible life experiences--from the heart cry of a repentant slave trader to the renewed hope of a survivor of attempted suicide. In this devotional you'll discover the stories behind the songs we sing. You'll experience the passion and joy contained in these hymns' lyrics and melodies. In addition to the hymn stories, "Be Still, My Soul" includes the musical score, lyrics, and in-depth biographies of 12 of the most-prolific hymn writers, singers, and composers. Whether you are new to hymns or have cherished them for a long time, you'll enjoy this illuminating book on the stories behind some of the most popular hymns you sing in worship.
With its beautifully textured and toned parchment, "Be Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories Behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns" immediately gives the reader a feeling of coming home to something wonderfully familiar. Author Randy Petersen has put together a richly rewarding hymnal and historical, offering an in-depth look at twelve composers and purveyors of inspirational music, and encompassing a wealth of information on how these hymns became popularized. As you read the text, and run your fingers over the lyrics and musical scores, you most likely will find yourself humming the tunes or singing out loud. This is a historical reference, songbook, and a source of inspiration for singers and soul-searchers. Many songs in popular culture, including holiday carols and more, have their roots in secular music. "The Index of First Lines" is a helpful resource at identifying songs for which you know the tune, but not the title. Even if you can't play a note or carry a tune, you will enjoy this entertaining and enlightening work from author Randy Petersen.

Review Copy Gratis Tyndale Blog Network
Once-A-Day Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today's Leading Country Music Stars
Pour yourself a fresh, cold glass of sweet tea and ease into your favorite chair with a copy of the Once-A-Day Country Faith. You'll enjoy a front row seat to an intimate look at your favorite country stars as they discuss the personal significance of their favorite Bible passage. With contributions from 56 of today's top country artists, the Once-A-Day Country Faith includes the Bible passage that tops each of their charts as well as the reasons why this part of scripture is so valuable to them. After reading Country Faith, you'll be inspired to identify the Bible passage that's most meaningful to you. You'll also listen to your favorite country artists in a whole new way.
"Once-A-Day Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today's Leading Country Music Stars", by Deborah Evans Price, is a slim, beautifully-photographed volume of inspirational thoughts from a generation-crossing group of country music stars. Each of the featured artists has selected their favorite Bible passage, and in a brief, but insightful article, they explain why that verse has so much personal meaning. One of my favorite entertainers, Trisha Yearwood, has placed a Bible verse in the liner notes of every one of her albums since she began her recording career in 1991. It's one of the ways she expresses her faith and gratitude. Singer Billy Dean, another artist whose work I enjoy, chose one of my own favorite verses from CORINTHIANS. Country music favorites like Alan Jackson, Wynonna, Barbara Mandrell, Billy Ray Cyrus, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Charlie Daniels, Miranda Lambert, and many others also offer enlightening and thoughtful reflections. The book concludes by featuring THE GOSPEL OF MARK, a detailed accounting of the amazing ministry of JESUS--including the wisdom of his parables, the miracles he made possible, and the profound legacy of his death and resurrection. "Once-A-Day Country Faith" is a beautiful reminder of living faith and of how each of us experiences our own moments of spiritual inspiration in our everyday lives.

Review Copy Gratis Zondervan Press via Booksneeze
Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories
Rob Morgan's inimitable style will help people reacquaint themselves with the hymns of the faithful. His goal is to keep these traditional hymns vital and meaningful to all generations.
Don't look for a dry recounting of boring stories. These devotional-style stories show the emotion and drama behind the hymns of faith that have changed many lives throughout history -- the people whose faith led them to write these wonderful hymns and the people whose faith was affected by reading, hearing, and singing the songs. Designed to be personally reflective, these stories speak to your soul and add depth and meaning as you worship God through song.

  • Includes words and music to each hymn
  • Special softcover, french flap cover design
  • Ivory paper with brown ink
  • Jagged-edge paper, giving it a classic feel
  • Complete with hymn index
  • Use for devotionals, teaching illustrations, introductory remarks for song leaders and music ministers


"Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories #2", is a fascinating, faith-filled volume of music, lyrics, and the stories of the creators and popularizers of familiar inspirational songs. My mother was quite musical, and for many years she was the organist in the little country church attended by my family. Upon reading this history of hymns by author Robert J. Morgan, my mother and I realized that our favorites, "Take My Hand Precious Lord" (hers), and "Peace in the Valley" (mine), were both written by Thomas A. Dorsey. This is a wonderful, heart-stirring hymnal, full of history and sentiment. The ivory pages and sepia ink along with the rustic look and texture of the paper give it a homey feel. Very enjoyable and most certainly worth your time. A delight for the devout and for those still seeking, and a treasure for those whose trace their musical roots to their house of worship. "Then Sings My Soul" will stir your soul indeed.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Let's do brunch! Sharing our love of some of the finer things in life--food, friends, fiction and fun!

Let's do brunch! I am ready to celebrate the arrival of Spring! Let's get together and share our love of some of the finer things in life--food, friends, fiction and fun! We'll have a terrific variety of tempting treats that are easy to make and even easier to eat and enjoy. 

I'll put on some easy listening and light jazz--Harry Connick, Jr; Norah Jones; Tony Bennett; Diana Krall; and Michael Buble'. Some nicely scented candles will provide aromatherapy along with the bunches of fresh cut flowers. Casual dress--relax and be yourself. Bring a favorite book along, and tell us why it's a favorite. Read a special passage or line from the book--don't be shy! Be sure to attend--bring a book and bring a friend. There's no telling when this party will end!


One gallon lemonade
3 cups frozen mixed berries
if desired, sugar to taste

Place berries in a blender, and add enough lemonade to cover fruit. Puree until blended. Combine puree and remaining lemonade in a large serving pitcher. If desired, add sugar to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir well before serving.


1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar for topping

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture (the dough will be soft). Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Place on a serving plate and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.


2 cups cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and chilled
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Romaine lettuce or mixed greens
thinly sliced tomatoes
avocado slices
lemon wedges

In a medium bowl, mix shrimp with celery, onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill well. Serve on individual salad plates on a bed of romaine lettuce. Garnish each plate with tomato and avocado slices and a lemon wedge.


1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to package directions (do not overcook). Drain and set aside. Spray four 12 cup mini-muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray (if you only have one mini-muffin pan just repeat the steps until finished). In a large saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and continue cooking and whisking for 5 minutes. Add both cheeses and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in egg and paprika. Add macaroni to pan and stir with a large spoon to combine. Spoon macaroni into the muffin cups in slightly rounded tablespoons, gently pressing them into the cups. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden, careful not to overbake. Let cool for about 5 minutes. Gently loosen each mini mac from the cups using a butter knife, then lift from pan. Serve warm.


6 mini bagels, split
1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing
3/4 cup drained sauerkraut
1/4 pound thinly sliced deli-style corned beef
4 large slices of Swiss cheese, each cut into 6 pieces
12 dill pickle slices

Heat broiler. Place mini bagel halves onto ungreased baking sheet, cut-side up. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until bagels are lightly toasted (1 to 2 minutes). Spread 1 teaspoon dressing onto toasted-side of bagels. Divide corned beef evenly among bagel halves. Top each with 1 tablespoon sauerkraut and 2 pieces cheese. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is melted (1 to 2 minutes). Garnish each appetizer with 1 slice pickle; secure with toothpick. Serve warm.


1 (6 ounce) package. chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

Melt chocolate chips and butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Cook stirring constantly about 5 minutes until mixture is hot and slightly thickened. Keep warm in fondue pot while serving. If mixture thickens too much, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until at a dipping consistency. May also be used as ice cream topping. Serve with assorted dippers. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Cubed pound or angel food cake
Fresh strawberries
Pineapple chunks
Apple wedges
Maraschino cherries (with stems)

Bacon Crackertizers: 

1 package Club Crackers
1 pound Thin Sliced Bacon
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Lay crackers face up on a cookie sheet. Scoop about 1 teaspoon of grated Parmesan cheese onto each cracker. Cut your package of bacon in half (or cut pieces individually) and carefully, so the cheese doesn’t fall off, wrap each cheese covered cracker in one half piece of bacon, completely covering the cracker. It should fit snugly around the cracker. Place the bacon wrapped crackers onto a baking sheet that has a rack on it. Place in a 250-degree oven for about 2 hours (check at about an hour and forty-five minutes so they won’t be overdone). Serve warm.

Pizza Pasta Salad 

I box tri-color spiral pasta
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper (or red or yellow), chopped
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 small pkg. sliced pepperoni, slices halved
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large bottle favorite Italian dressing

Cook pasta in cups boiling water to al dente. Don’t overcook. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add to remaining ingredients in an extra large bowl, then toss with enough dressing to coat well. After salad has thoroughly chilled in refrigerator, may have to moisten with additional dressing. If desired, top with additional shredded mozzarella cheese before serving.


8 to 10 cups fresh melon cubes
1 to 2 tablespoons white corn syrup
1 pint fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 oranges, sectioned
Fresh mint leaves, optional

In a large bowl, combine melon cubes and corn syrup. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, stir in remaining fruit. Garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired. Yield: 3-4 quarts.

Margarita Pie with Pretzel Crust
1-1/4 cups crushed pretzels
1/4 cup  sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 can  (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
**1/2 cup lime juice
1 envelope. Lemon Lime Unsweetened Soft Drink Mix
1 tub (8 oz.) nondairy whipped topping, thawed, divided
**use a fresh lime for juice; finely grate lime peel for garnish before cutting and squeezing lime for juice
Mix pretzel crumbs, sugar and butter; press onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate until ready to fill. Mix next 3 ingredients in large bowl. Gently fold in 2-1/2 cups whipped topping; pour into crust. Freeze 6 hours. Remove from freezer 15 min. before serving; let stand at room temperature until slightly softened. Top with remaining whipped topping and grated lime peel.
Creamy Roquefort Dip & Fresh Vegetable Platter
1 medium clove garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. Roquefort cheese
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
assorted fresh vegetables such as yellow, green, and red bell pepper strips; yellow and red grape or cherry tomatoes; celery, carrots, and green onions; radishes; broccoli and cauliflower florets
toasted baguette slices; baked pita triangles; assorted savory crackers and breadsticks

In a medium bowl, mash the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Add the Roquefort cheese, roughly mashing  the cheese with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sour cream and several grinds of pepper, and then add the cream until the consistency is slightly thinner than sour cream. (It should cling to the vegetables nicely but not be too thick) Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate until shortly before serving. (The dip will thicken in the refrigerator but will return to its original consistency as it comes to room temperature.)
Wash and drain vegetables and allow to dry on paper towels. Cut larger vegetables into long thin strips. On a large platter, place bowl of dip in center and surround with prepared vegetables. Serve with crispy breads and crackers.
Carrot Cake Cuties
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, undrained
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots powdered sugar
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in large bowl. Add undrained pineapple, eggs, butter, raisins and carrots; stir until just blended. Spoon evenly into 36 mini-muffin cups sprayed with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Bake at 375°F., 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans onto wire rack to cool. Before serving, sprinkle muffins lightly with powdered sugar.

Quick Coconut-Almond Macaroons
2 packages (7 ounces each) flaked coconut (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix coconut, sweetened condensed milk and almond extract in large bowl. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto greased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Immediately remove from baking sheets to wire racks; cool completely.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

THE THINGS THAT MATTER by Nate Berkus--pieces of our life, physical reminders of hopes, dreams, and memories

The Things That Matter
Does your home tell the story of who you are?

In The Things That Matter, Nate Berkus shares intimate stories from his life, introduces us to people who influenced him and helped him forge his sense of style, and opens up about the remarkable experiences that have left him forever changed, all of which find expression in how he lives today. From his most cherished flea market finds, to his beloved books and photos, to the many extraordinary mementos he’s collected in his travels, every piece defines who he’s become and what endures in his world.

Berkus invites readers into his own home as well as into twelve others, including a sleek steel-and-glass high-rise that soars above Chicago, a rustic cottage in the Hudson Valley, an ultra-chic atelier that maximizes every inch of space, a Greenwich Village townhouse that holds multiple art collections, and a study in meaningful minimalism in Marfa, Texas. The distinctive interiors beautifully displayed in this book offer revealing portraits of their owners’ lives and the inspiring choices that have made them who they are today.
The Things That Matter convincingly lays out Nate Berkus’s philosophy that things do matter. Our homes tell our stories, they reflect the places we’ve been and the people we’ve loved along the way—and there can be no more beautiful design for living than that.

"The Things That Matter" are important because they are pieces of our life, physical reminders of hopes, dreams, and memories. Author and design expert Nate Berkus offers a baker's dozen of very different lives and lifestyles, but the most fascinating story remains his own. Influenced at a young age by his interior designer mother and image-conscious entrepreneur father, Nate marched through his childhood to the beat of his own unique drum, and he continues to follow his own inner compass to this day. The book begins with Nate's own narrative, and I was drawn into his life experiences, which includes the tragic loss of his life partner, Fernando. Vacationing together in Sri Lanka in 2004 when the devastating tsunami struck, Nate watched in terror as his loved one was swept away in the dark, swirling water. Nate survived a horrible ordeal, and no trace of Fernando has ever been found. Eventually, Nate moved forward with his life, always carrying memories of loved ones, and favorite places and moments in time with him through the living space he created in his own private world. Having risen to national prominence through his work with Oprah Winfrey, and later with his own TV show, Nate has also written other design books. What I enjoyed most about "The Things That Matter" was the sense of embracing your own life, and letting that essential energy be the guiding force of the reality of your own living space. The heart of this book is the heart of the author himself, and he most appropriately includes a photo gallery of "people who matter" in his own life. When you read this book, you will be encouraged, as I was, to look at your own "things", wonder where you got some of them, and ask yourself why you have them. Other things will need no such reminder, for they are the things that matter.

Review Copy Gratis Library Thing
In 2002 Nate was invited to make over a small space for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” after which he became a featured design expert for the show and continued to garner national press in publications such as Elle Decor, US Weekly, People, O Magazine, Lucky, InStyle and House Beautiful. Following the debut of his branded line of home products, Nate’s first book, Home Rules (Hyperion) was released in 2005 and went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. “The Nate Berkus Show,” a daily syndicated first run talk show hosted by Nate, launched in September 2010 and returned for a second season in the fall of 2011 (co-produced by HARPO Productions and Sony Pictures Television [SPT] & distributed by SPT). In 2011, Nate also enjoyed a new role as executive producer on the Disney and DreamWorks film, The Help. Nate’s Chicago-based design firm, Nate Berkus Associates, which he founded in 1995, continues to design interiors across the country and around the world. This fall, Nate will bring his branded line of home goods and accessories to Target starting October 21st 2012. October also brings the publication of his 2nd book The Things That Matter (Spiegel & Grau). Nate's  new reality show American Dream Builders premieres Sunday, March 23 at 8/7c on NBC.

"SPRING CHICKEN"--a whole roost of fabulous flavors to freshen up a favorite food!

Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

2 pints (4 cups) chicken salad (homemade or premium deli)
6 to 8 firm, ripe medium tomatoes

lettuce leaves for garnish
hard-boiled egg wedges for garnish

Place a couple of lettuce leaves on each serving plate for garnish. Top each bed of lettuce with one tomato that has been quartered but not cut entirely through to form a cup for the chicken salad. Scoop chicken salad into the tomato cups. Add a couple of hard-boiled egg wedges to each plate for garnish.

The King's Chicken and Rice 

4 cups soft breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 cup dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
12 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
1 cup butter or margarine, melted 

Combine first 7 ingredients in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in butter; dredge in crumb mixture. Place in a large, lightly greased roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Reserve pan juice, adding a little water if needed to make a drizzle for the rice.  

Rice: 1 stick butter (1/2 cup); 4 cloves garlic, minced; 1 large onion, chopped; 1/2 cup chopped celery; 1/2 cup chopped carrots; 6 cups chicken broth; 3 cups uncooked brown rice; 1 jar sliced mushrooms, undrained; salt & pepper to taste. 

Melt butter in a Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, and carrots. Stir and cook until vegetables begin to soften. Add chicken broth, and stir in rice and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a bubble, and then reduce heat. Cover and cook about 30 minutes, or until rice is tender.

To Serve: Place each cooked chicken breast on a bed of cooked rice and drizzle lightly with pan juices from chicken. Makes 12 servings.

Caesar Chicken Pasta Salad

1 (16 oz) pkg tri-color rotini pasta, cooked al dente, drained & cooled
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cooled, cut in bite-sized pieces*
*(recommended method: spray a non-stick skillet lightly with cooking spray & saute chicken until done)
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp coarsely grated black pepper

1 (16 oz) bottle creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

romaine lettuce leaves
cooked crumbled bacon
additional grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, combine pasta and chicken. Stir to mix. Add in tomatoes, minced garlic, green onions, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Stir until combined. Add dressing, and stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to develop. To serve: arrange lettuce leaves on plate, add a scoop of salad, and top with bacon, Parmesan cheese, and croutons.

Butter-Fried Chicken

one whole chicken, cut into fryer pieces
one to two sticks real butter
salt & pepper
poultry seasoning

In a large ziploc bag, add about one cup flour with a good shake of salt & pepper and a pinch of poultry seasoning. Add chicken pieces a few at a time and shake in sealed bag to coat well. Repeat until all chicken pieces are well-coated. Save any leftover flour mixture to make pan gravy. In a large (10 inch), deep cast iron skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken pieces and cook until crispy brown on bottom. Turn chicken pieces and cook until well-done and golden, crispy brown. Arrange chicken pieces on serving platter. While skillet is hot, brown leftover flour in grease (add extra flour if needed). Carefully add enough cold water (be careful of hot grease splatters) to make gravy. Stir gravy continuously until smooth and thick. If needed, add extra seasoning to taste.

Sweet & Saucy Grilled Chicken

2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 cup apricot or peach preserves or orange marmalade
2 tsp  Dijon-style mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tsp vinegar
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Combine all ingredients except chicken in small bowl; mix well. Grill chicken 5 inches (11.5cm) from heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until juices are clear when pierced, turning once and brushing frequently with prepared sauce.

Chicken Tenders with Cranberry-Mustard Sauce 

1 pound fresh, uncoated chicken breast tenders
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2/3 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup  Dried Cranberries
1/4 cup sliced green onions, green part only

Lightly toss chicken pieces with flour; shake off excess. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and oil in a large skillet. Add half of the chicken; cook about 2 minutes, turning once until chicken is golden brown on each side and cooked through. Add more butter and oil if needed. Remove to a platter; keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken. Add wine, chicken broth and mustard to skillet, scraping up browned bits. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir into skillet. Add dried cranberries. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in green onions; cook 1 more minute. Pour sauce over chicken.

Chicken Salad Pita-Wiches

1 pint best-quality deli chicken salad
1 3oz pkg or jar real bacon pieces
1 thinly sliced red, ripe tomato
fresh lettuce leaves
white or whole wheat pita bread halves

Stir bacon pieces into chicken salad. Stuff pita pocket half with a lettuce leaf and a couple of tomato slices. Add chicken salad to pita pocket, filling well. Serve with chips and dill pickle strips. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken with Apples and Onions

1 Whole chicken
3-4 Apples (mix tart and sweet for best flavor)
2 Yellow onions
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop onions and apples into one-inch chunks. Toss together with lemon juice, half of the melted butter, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the remaining butter into the skin. Stuff as much of the apple mixture into the chicken as possible. Cover and set aside any remaining apple mixture. Place in a roasting pan breast up and put in oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and cook for 45 minutes. Take chicken out. Baste and add remaining apple/onion mixture to the pan. Roast for up to another 30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees. Test for doneness. Let chicken stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature before carving.  

"White Heat" Chicken & Bean Chili

3 1/2 c. water
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinned chicken breasts
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. frozen white corn kernels, thawed
1 can (15 1/2 oz.) Great Northern beans, undrained
3 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies, undrained
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

salt to taste
1/3 c. sour cream
2 tbsp. cilantro, fresh, chopped

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add chicken. Lower the heat; cover the saucepan and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender. Drain. Cut chicken into 3/4 inch cubes. In the same saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion; saute 5 minutes. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Stir in the corn, beans, chilies, lime juice, cumin, coriander, pepper and salt. Bring to boiling. Add the chicken. Lower heat. Cook just until heated through. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in sour cream and cilantro.

Savory Sauced Chicken with Wild Rice

1 1/2 cups apple juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolve in a small amount of cold water before adding)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in halves
1 small green apple, unpeeled, sliced thin
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin

Combine apple juice, mustard, honey, and cornstarch; set aside. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet until hot. Cook chicken until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Add apple and onion; cook and stir 5 minutes. Stir in reserved sauce. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes until sauce thickens. If sauce becomes too thick, thin it with additional apple juice. Serve over hot cooked wild rice.

Chicken & Bacon Spinach Salad with Honey-Dijon Dressing

Salad: fresh spinach leaves (washed & dried)cooked chicken breast meat, cut in bite-sized pieces; fresh white button mushrooms, sliced; crumbled cooked bacon; small red onion, thinly sliced; cherry or grape tomatoes, halved; crumbled or shredded cheese, like Blue, Feta, or Parmesan; sliced hard-boiled eggs; croutons 

Dressing:1 tbsp minced garlic; 1 tsp salt (or to taste); 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper; 2 tbsp Dijon mustard; 2 tbsp honey (or to taste); 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar; 1 cup olive oil 

For the dressing: In a bowl whisk together garlic, salt, black pepper, Dijon mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar; add in olive oil slowly until blended. Adjust honey and salt to taste. Chill for several hours before using to allow flavor of dressing to develop. 

For salad: In a large glass bowl, sandwich layers of spinach with chicken, sliced mushrooms, bacon, onion, tomato, and cheese. Garnish with sliced eggs and croutons. Serve with prepared dressing on the side. Store any remaining dressing covered in refrigerator.   

Monday, March 17, 2014


annual St. Patrick's Day

The month of March brings to mind the winds of change, a breath of Spring, and all things Irish! Since I am of Scottish/Irish descent—half Campbell and half Conner—I am all for sipping some Irish Coffee, dancing a jig and passing along a Bit O’ Blarney! I had so much fun researching Irish foods and folklore, and I could almost imagine myself sitting down to tea in an Irish family home, being served the secret family recipe for apple pie. Most of the recipes I found were simple and hearty with very basic seasonings. It’s the flavor of each ingredient along with the cooking technique that makes the food so appealing. I adapted the recipes in order to make them more universally user-friendly.

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright happy hours that stay with you all the year long.


2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cup milk
½ stick butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 green cabbage
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup cubed thick sliced bacon (uncooked)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Start recipe about 1½ hours before serving time.

Put the bacon bits and the thinly sliced onion into a non-stick pan or spray regular skillet lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Fry over low heat, stirring gently until the bacon is just browning and the onions are beginning to soften. Discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, remove the core and slice thinly. Add to the pan with the onions and bacon. Stir the mixture over a medium-high heat until the cabbage starts to brown around the edges. Add the cup of boiling water, turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for one hour. Stir occasionally and add water as needed. After an hour, remove the lid, turn the heat back up to medium-high, and stir the mixture until it becomes almost dry (about 5-10 minutes). The cabbage and onions should both be browned and very soft. While cabbage mixture is cooking, boil the potatoes until tender. When potatoes are done mash with milk and butter. Add a dash of salt & pepper to taste. Put the mashed potato into an oven proof dish, cover with the cabbage mixture and sprinkle the top with the grated cheddar. Place under a hot grill (broiler) until the cheese is bubbling.

May your neighbors respect you, ttrouble neglect you, the angels protect you, and Heaven accept you!


Green are the hills of Ireland, and green they will always stay. Warm are the blessings wished for you, and they’ll always stay that way.

Beef “Hand Pies”

1 tablespoon(s) vegetable oil
1/4 head(s) green cabbage, shredded
1/2 pound(s) red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 pound(s) ground beef sirloin
3 tablespoon(s) tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon(s) Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon(s) dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 (9 inch) pie crusts, homemade or ready-made

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; add cabbage and potatoes. Cook until mixture begins to brow, about 8 minutes. Add beef, breaking up meat well as it cooks. Brown meat well, until no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and 1 cup water. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Lightly mash mixture with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely. On a lightly floured surface, roll each crust into a 14-inch square; cut each square into 4 equal squares. Place 1/2 cup filling on one half of each square, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the filling. Brush borders with water; fold dough over filling to enclose. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. With a paring knife, cut 3 small vents in top crust of each pie. Spray 2 foil-lined baking sheets lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange pies on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Reminder: When pies are served hot, filling will be very hot.

An Irish wish from the heart of a friend: “May good fortune be yours……may your joy never end!”

Irish Cream Dessert Sauce

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups strong black coffee
1/2 cup Irish Cream liqueur

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and boil until it turns light golden in color. Add
the coffee, bring back to the boil and boil over medium heat until the mix is syrupy. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool slightly and thicken. Mix in the Irish Cream and serve over sliced pound cake and ice cream. 

‘Behave! The faeries are watching you!’ Irish legend states that if a child has been bad or has misbehaved then a parent or grand-parent will chastise them by telling them if they are not good then the faeries or the Sidhe (pronounced shee) will come and spirit them away and leave a changeling in their place. Irish folklore is also full of fanciful tales of Leprechauns. Many stories exist of how when a Leprechaun is caught they have to grant three wishes or part with their much cherished pot of gold. However, you must beware and use the wishes wisely. A Leprechaun does not like to part with either his gold or his wishes and will try his wily best to trick you!

The Irish whiskey cake is not only a delicious treat but it is also the traditional cake for Irish weddings. It is the custom to freeze the top layer/tier of a wedding cake to save and eat it at the one year anniversary. However, in the UK it is also a popular tradition to keep the top tier to celebrate the Christening of the couple’s first child. If the top tier is a fruit cake with a generous soaking of spirits, the cake will be well preserved and will not need freezing – it can just be stored in a cool, dry location.

Glazed Whiskey Cake

3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 yellow cake mix
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
4 eggs
1/3 cup Irish Whiskey
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup golden raisins

1 stick butter
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 to 1 cup Irish Whiskey (to your taste)

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining cake ingredients in order given, and mix well. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool; invert onto plate. Prick holes in cake. Prepare glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Add water and sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in whiskey. Drizzle glaze over top and sides, allowing it to be absorbed into cake. Continue until all glaze is used. Cake should set at least one day before serving.

One of my all time favorite entertainers, the late, great Eddie Rabbitt wrote the beautiful "Song of Ireland". Eddie's parents were Irish immigrants who originally settled in New York and later moved to New Jersey. The Irish spelling of the family name is "Rabbitte", a name common to Galway and County Clare, Ireland. Eddie's father, Thomas, can be heard playing the fiddle on the recording of "Song of Ireland":

"I remember daddy playing on the violin, jigs and reels that he brought from Ireland. And I'm the first born in America, my friend. I have never been there but someday I'll take a trip. I'll cross the ocean on a big long silver ship.Hear them sing those songs I learned from Mama's knee; I just close my eyes and I can almost see, those shamrock hills and those forty shades of green. And the roots that tie me to a land I've never known...are calling me home, are calling me home. Sun shines through my window here in Tennessee. God sure made this a pretty place to be.But sometimes it just don't feel like home to me.So I close my eyes and I can almost see those shamrock hills and those forty shades of green.And the roots that tie me to a land I've never known are calling me home. Are calling me home. Are calling me home."
 The romance and beauty of the Emerald Isle are great food for thought and imaginative wanderings. As you sip your Irish Coffee, or your beverage of choice, you may feel poetic and long to give your thoughts voice. Here are some great Irish toasts to keep you in the spirit:

May the roof above you never fall in,And those gathered beneath it never fall out.

Here's to health, peace and prosperity. May the flower of love never be nipped by the frost of disappointment, nor shadow of grief fall among your family and friends.
May your home always be too small to hold all your friends.
May you live to be 100 years, with one extra year to repent.
May the good Lord take a liking to you...But not too soon!
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door.
There are good ships,and there are wood ships,The ships that sail the sea.But the best ships, are friendships,And may they always be.
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,Who through strategy and stealth,Drove all the snakes from Ireland,Here’s a toasting to his health.But not too many toastings, Lest you lose yourself and then Forget the good Saint Patrick And see all those snakes again.
'Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!' Happy St. Patrick's Day!

AUTHOR RENEE VINCENT--magnificent romantic saga "THE EMERALD ISLE TRILOGY"--now a special-value boxed set!

Emerald Isle Trilogy Boxed Set

Raeliksen, Mac Liam, and The Fall of Rain

One man risks his life to save her.
Another risks his heart to love her.
Who will be the victor?

Three of Renee Vincent’s bestselling and critically acclaimed historical Viking romance novels are now available in one spellbinding bundle.

Full of fast-paced adventure, unforeseen plot twists, and courageous, to-die-for heroes like you’ve never read before, this extraordinary boxed set is sure to satisfy every readers’ craving for the ultimate in historical Viking romance.
Whether she is writing about grand historical romantic adventures or contemporary love with its modern complexities, author Renee Vincent puts her heart and soul into her storytelling. Today, I am focusing on Renee's remarkable book series, "The Emerald Isle Trilogy", which now available in a special-priced boxed set. This is a series to savor, one that will stay in your heart and mind and lead to your own dreams of irresistible Irishmen and magnetic Northmen! The powerful and moving love story of Daegan Raeliksen and his Lady Mara will resonate long after the last page is read. This is historical romantic fiction at its best, written by an author inspired by the legends and lure of ancient Ireland and Norway. Renee Vincent has brought to life a turbulent time in history when cultures collided and to the victor went the spoils! Only a love story as intense as "Raeliksen" could match the true passions and intrigue of tumultuous Ireland of Olde! Daegan is a charismatic Northmen, a world-traveling tradesman, and a leader of his people. One look at a beautiful maiden who visits his favorite secluded woodland spot takes his breath and steals his heart. He soon learns that she is Mara, daughter of an Irish king, a woman who should be forbidden to a Northman. Daegan is not a man to be denied, and fate and undeniable love soon set in place an adventurous course of events. When two hearts truly love, no risk is too great to keep that love safe. The timeless melding of two souls in spiritual and sensual union is both poignant and passionate. Not to be missed!    

Breandan Mac Liam is a man who knows his heart belongs to only one woman, the beautiful Irish princess, Mara. For years he has loved her, dreamed of her, and held her close in his thoughts. However, Mara was the wife of a charming Northman chieftain, Daegan Raeliksen, and she was to remain unattainable to Breandan. When their paths unexpectedly cross years later, much has changed, and Breandan is once again a captive of his love for Mara. Sent to retrieve Mara by her dying father, Breandan must put his own desires aside to protect the woman he loves and return her to her home to grant the last wish of the king. In, "Mac Liam", the second book in "The Emerald Isle Trilogy", Renee Vincent once again takes us back to a time of great adventure and grand passions. Skillfully blending historical fact with exciting action and battle scenes and soul-scorching romance, she places the reader in Ireland of Olde. Her brave and brawny Northmen, the explorers and conquerors, are intriguing and vividly drawn. The conflicts and merging of these two cultures would change the face of the world forever, with far-reaching consequences. An endlessly fascinating era in time for lovers of history and great romantic characters.

The third book in the series, "The Fall of Rain", blends history and modern times in a thrilling, imaginative, and ultimately rewarding love story for the ages. Leif Daeganssen, an archeologist from Norway, is determined to trace back his Scandinavian roots as far as the Dark Ages and find proof of their existence on the Emerald Isle. After several years of living off the west coast of Ireland, he finally uncovers an ancient artifact-an intricately decorated chest with pagan carvings-buried beneath the very porch of his coastal cottage. Knowing it only confirms the presence of a glorified Norse-influenced settlement on Inis Mor, he's determined to establish a link between himself and those who once inhabited the rugged isle. For as long as she can remember, Lorraine O'Connor has had dreams of a Norse warrior kissing her. And even though she's never fully understood the reason for her vivid subconscious imagination, she welcomes the meaningless and wanton pleasure of being in a Viking's protective embrace-until the day she meets that brazen Northman on an impulsive vacation trip to Ireland. Though blindsided by the relevance of her dreams and the strange familiarity of the man within them, Lorraine can't help but feel a deep-seated intimacy toward Leif. And the more she gets to know him, the more she's convinced they've shared a life together in a time long forgotten. Are the clues to their ancestral past hidden within the contents of the chest or buried deep within their hearts?


Image of Renee Vincent

(Bestselling Contemporary & Historical Romance Author)

From the daunting, charismatic Vikings, to the charming, brazen Alpha male heroes of modern day, you'll be whisked away to a world filled with fast-paced adventure, unforgettable romance, and undying love.
Find her at

also writing Lighthearted, Fancy-free Chick Lit Romance as

For those who love to read fun, wholesome, and endearing romantic stories (with a smidgen of spunk) that your mother, sisters, friends, and daughters can enjoy.

* * *

"This author earned my highest recommendations and I feel privileged to have read one of the best. It is a must read for any lover of historical romance or even lovers of romance in general."
5 Stars TOP PICK ~ Night Owl Reviews

"An ingenious ending to an amazing trilogy. The gifted author Renee Vincent will capture your attention from the very first page."
5 Blue Ribbons ~ Romance Junkies

"Deliciously sinful!"
Best Selling Author of Broken, Maddie James

Saturday, March 15, 2014



I can think of no other place on the planet Earth that is a more splendid combination of magic and mysticism, turbulence and tragedy, and spirit and sentiment than Ireland. The country known to have "forty shades of green" may be small in size, but its heart and humor are without equal. Its charm is immeasurable. Many people who are not Irish or of Irish descent celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing green, dancing a jig, and engaging in a bit of Blarney and tomfoolery. There is much about Ireland to make us smile. In fact, who can resist that twinkle in those smiling Irish eyes?

My Favorite Irishman Pierce Brosnan, is handsome, charming, funny, and talented. He is also a dedicated family man who champions many environmental causes. From "Remington Steele", to "James Bond", and beyond, Pierce is the real deal!

There is wonderful, wry humor and "one-upmanship" in Irish proverbs, drinking toasts, and folk tales. You'll never outdo an Irishman at the top of his game, but think of the fun you'll have in trying! I am of Scottish-Irish descent, and I was born and raised in the mountains of Virginia, an area heavily influenced by settlers from Scotland and Ireland. The culture and history of my home area is filled with music and storytelling "from across the waters". We have a lot of very talented local musicians who excel at playing traditional Bluegrass tunes which set your toes to tapping, even if you have two left feet. I had a friend who took classes in clogging, and she even won a dance contest! I was never in her league as a clogger, but I was a very fine flat-footer in my day. Not in the realm of the amazing Michael Flatley, "The Lord of Dance", but at least I was enthusiastic!

Fairy folk, leprechauns and golden treasures, legends and lore are all part of the allure of the Emerald Isle. Ancient castles, Celtic history and mythology, fantastical creatures too numerous too mention, and haints and hooties abound. The music is soul-stirring, from soaring Irish Tenors to the simple and soothing melody of the flute. Ireland is also known for producing exquisite glass and crystal, with Waterford among its famous brands. The land called "The Old Sod" is also world-renowned for its dairy products, including sumptuous butter, cream, and cheese. A wee dram of Irish Whiskey has also been known to put the twinkle in the smiling eyes and loosen the tongue for some unrivaled fabricating and storytelling.

I hope you'll have fun with my little visit to Ireland. Maybe it will set your imagination to thoughts of handsome Irishmen, exciting tales of romance and adventure, and beautiful, beguiling fairies. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy some of these recommended reads and recipes. Perhaps a pixie will perch upon your shoulder as you daydream. If so, be sure to treat them as a friend!

1/2 cup butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup currants
1 egg
1 cup milk

In a bowl, combine butter and flour with pastry blender or fingers. Add baking powder, salt, sugar and currants. In another bowl, beat egg and stir in milk. Mix into dry ingredients and currants to make a dough. Turn onto floured surface and roll to one inch thickness or pat carefully with hands. With a cookie cutter cut dough into 2 inch rounds. Place on greased cookie sheet, about one inch apart and bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Makes about 18 scones. You can also add raisins, dates or other dried fruits to the dough.


8 medium potatoes
1/2 cup milk
5 tablespoon butter
one bunch scallions or green onions, chopped

Peel and cube potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain and mash slightly. In a small pan, heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Add chopped scallions. Fold mixture into the potatoes until well blended. Potatoes will be still be somewhat lumpy. Makes 6 servings.


6-8 potatoes, peeled
6 bacon strips
3-4 leeks
one cup grated Cheddar cheese

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain. In skillet, fry bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Trim leeks so that you have the white part and a small amount of green. Wash well, and slice thin. Add leeks to pan, and saute over medium heat until soft. Slice the boiled potatoes, and arrange half in the bottom of a pie plate. Season with salt and pepper. Layer with bacon, leeks and one half of the cheese. Cover with remaining with remaining potatoes and season again. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until top is browned and cheese is melted. Makes 6 servings.


2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 pounds lamb or beef, cut into 2" pieces
2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 cups water
1 large onion chopped
3 carrots, cut into 1" slices
2 peeled, cubed potatoes
1/2 cup light cream
1 tablespoon flour

Mix 2 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper; Roll meat in mixture and brown in hot fat, add onions to brown lightly. Add herbs, garlic and water. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Add carrots and potatoes. Cover and cook 25 more minutes until vegetables are tender. Combine cream and 1 tablespoon flour; stirring until smooth; blend into stew and cook until thickened, stirring well to avoid lumps. Remove Bay leaf. Makes 4 servings.


CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS by Taylor Caldwell--This is a great surging novel about the amassing of a colossal fortune, the political power that comes with it, and the operation of a curse laid on an Irish-American dynasty and the ruthless driving man who founded it. Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh was thirteen years old when he first saw America through a dirty porthole on the steerage deck of The Irish Queen. It was the early 1850's and he was a penniless immigrant, an orphan cast on a hostile shore to make a home for himself and his younger brother and infant sister. Some seventy years later, from his deathbed, Joseph Armagh last glimpsed his adopted land from the gleaming windows of a palatial estate. A multi-millionaire, one of the most powerful and feared men, Joseph Armagh had indeed found a home. CAPTAINS AND KINGS is the story of the price that was paid for it in the consuming, single-minded determination of a man clawing his way to the top; in the bitter-sweet bliss of the love of a beautiful woman; in the almost too-late enjoyment of extraordinary children; and in the curse which used the hand of fate to strike in the very face of success itself. Once again, Taylor Caldwell has looked into America's roistering past as a setting for a drama of the consequences of savage ambition - and its meaning then and now.


DECLAN'S CROSS by Carla Neggers--An escape to an idyllic Irish seaside village is about to turn deadly in this riveting new novel by master of romantic suspense Carla Neggers.

For marine biologist Julianne Maroney, two weeks in tiny Declan's Cross on the south Irish coast is a chance to heal her broken heart. She doesn't expect to attract the attention of FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, who are in Ireland for their own personal retreat.

Ten years ago, art was stolen from a mansion in Declan's Cross, but it has never been recovered and the elusive thief never caught. Now, from the moment Julianne sets foot on Irish soil, everything goes wrong. The well-connected American diver who invited her to Ireland has disappeared. And now Emma and Colin are asking questions.

As a dark conspiracy unfolds amid the breathtaking scenery of Declan's Cross, the race is on to stop a ruthless killer…and the stakes have never been more personal for Emma and Colin.


TO TEMPT AN IRISH ROGUE by Kaitlin O'Riley--Paulette Hamilton loves working in her family's London bookshop. Strong-willed and sharp-witted, she hopes to one day open a second shop, and she won't let romantic follies get in her way. But the best laid plans have never met such a handsome Irish widower with a dubious history. Declan Reeves came to London with his young daughter to escape his life in Ireland. Though he's vowed to never marry again, he quickly falls prey to the tempting blue eyes of fair-haired Paulette. But her family is suspicious of his past, and before he can make her his wife, he must travel to Ireland to vindicate his reputation. Torn between honor and desire, Declan and Paulette launch a perilous search for the truth. Whether it lies in the past or a present beyond their control, it's their only hope for a future together.


THE O'BRIENS by Peter Behrens--The O’Briens is an unforgettable saga of love, loss, and change spanning half a century in the lives of a restless patriarch and his splendid, tragic, ambitious clan.  

In Joe O’Brien—backwoods boy, railroad magnate, brooding soul—Peter Behrens gives us a fiercely compelling man who exchanges isolation and poverty in the Canadian wilds for a share in the dazzling possibilities and consuming sorrows of the twentieth century. When Joe meets Iseult Wilkins in Venice-by-the-Sea, California, their courtship becomes the first movement in a symphony of the generations. The O’Briens is the story of a marriage and a family moving through the turbulence of history, told with epic precision and wondrous imagination.


BLACK IRISH  by Stephan Talty--In this explosive debut thriller by the author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, where she confronts a city’s dark demons and her own past while pursuing a brutal serial killer on a vengeful rampage.

Absalom “Abbie” Kearney grew up an outsider in her own hometown. Even being the adopted daughter of a revered cop couldn’t keep Abbie’s troubled past from making her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo. And now, despite a Harvard degree and a police detective’s badge, she still struggles to earn the respect and trust of those she’s sworn to protect. But all that may change, once the killing starts.

When Jimmy Ryan’s mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, this sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through the winter-whipped city. It also seems to send a message—one that Abbie believes only the fiercely secretive citizens of the neighborhood known as “the County” understand. But in a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy, her search for answers is stonewalled at every turn, even by fellow cops. Only when Abbie finds a lead at the Gaelic Club, where war stories, gossip, and confidences flow as freely as the drink, do tongues begin to wag—with desperate warnings and dire threats. And when the killer’s mysterious calling card appears on her own doorstep, the hunt takes a shocking twist into her own family’s past. As the grisly murders and grim revelations multiply, Abbie wages a chilling battle of wits with a maniac who sees into her soul, and she swears to expose the County’s hidden history—one bloody body at a time.


UNTIL THE NEXT TIME by Kevin Fox--For Sean Corrigan the past is simply what happened yesterday, until his twenty-first birthday, when he is given a journal left him by his father’s brother Michael—a man he had not known existed. The journal, kept after his uncle fled from New York City to Ireland to escape prosecution for a murder he did not commit, draws Sean into a hunt for the truth about Michael’s fate.Sean too leaves New York for Ireland, where he is caught up in the lives of people who not only know all about Michael Corrigan but have a score to settle. As his connection to his uncle grows stronger, he realizes that within the tattered journal he carries lies the story of his own life—his past as well as his future—and the key to finding the one woman he is fated to love forever.


THE IRISH TRILOGY (A Woman's Heart; Fair Haven; Legends Lake) by JoAnn Ross--Rich, lyrical love stories about land, community, family, and the very special bond between men and women. Ireland--a land of unbridled spirit, ancient legends, whitewashed cottages and storybook castles. A place where anything can happen and there are no strangers...


THE YELLOW HOUSE and THE LINEN QUEEN--by Patricia Falvey--THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore. THE LINEN QUEEN tells the story of Sheila McGee. Abandoned by her father and neglected by her self-centered, unstable mother, Sheila McGee cannot wait to escape the drudgery of her mill village life in Northern Ireland. Her classic Irish beauty helps her win the 1941 Linen Queen competition, and the prize money that goes with it finally gives her the opportunity she's been dreaming of. But Sheila does not count on the impact of the Belfast blitz which brings World War II to her doorstep. Now even her good looks are useless in the face of travel restrictions, and her earlier resolve is eroded by her ma's fear of being left alone.When American troops set up base in her village, some see them as occupiers but Sheila sees them as saviors--one of them may be her ticket out. Despite objections from her childhood friend, Gavin O'Rourke, she sets her sights on an attractive Jewish-American army officer named Joel Solomon, but her plans are interrupted by the arrival of a street-wise young evacuee from Belfast. Frustrated, Sheila fights to hold on to her dream but slowly her priorities change as the people of Northern Ireland put old divisions aside and bond together in a common purpose to fight the Germans. Sheila's affection for Joel grows as she and Gavin are driven farther apart. As the war moves steadily closer to those she has grown to love, Sheila confronts more abandonment and loss, and finds true strength, compassion, and a meaning for life outside of herself.


THE WEDDING JOURNEY--by Cheryl St. John--The mysterious inheritance is the answer to a prayer. Now Irish lass Maeve Murphy and her sisters can come to America! She's sure happiness awaits her, even if it won't—can't—come from widowed ship doctor Flynn Gallagher. Yes, he made her his assistant, but she's not foolish enough to fall for the man all the eligible, wealthy female passengers admire. Flynn Gallagher may have his pick of ladies, but only one cares as he does for the sick and poor. Flynn vowed never to marry another woman who could break his heart. With Maeve, has his heart found safe harbor at last? The jumble of passengers on this voyage are headed across the sea for a wide variety of reasons, and many of them will find their lives changed by the crossing. The author has written an amazing and involving story line, with the ship itself being a "world within a world". I was fascinated by the travel necessities of the times, and how people had to adapt for survival on this type of ship voyage. My eyes were also opened to the devastation of the Irish people due to disease and the potato famine. Beginning in 1845 and lasting for six years, the potato famine killed over a million men, women and children in Ireland and caused another million to flee the country. Small wonder that the promise of the land of milk and honey that was America in the mid to late 1800's drew people from far and wide, and that their dreams and emotions were quite intense. "The Wedding Journey" is indeed the journey of a lifetime, where hearts are revealed and hope is reaffirmed. You will also enjoy the next two books in the "Irish Brides" series: "Mistaken Bride" by Renee Ryan, and "A Baby Between Them" by Winnie Griggs.