Christmas Romance Extravaganza

holiday romance graphicToday, I have a pleasant surprise to share with you. To celebrate the holiday season, I’ve teamed up with more than 150 highly acclaimed romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS over $1,000 in prizes!

You can download my novel, AN IMPASSIONED REDEMPTION for free, plus books from authors in every style of romance — from contemporary to historical to paranormal. Hopefully, you’ll find some authors new to you as well as reconnect with familiar ones. Enter the giveaway by clicking here.

I hope you gather some great reading for your winter months.
Good luck with the prizes and enjoy the books!

A Christmas Recipe with an Odd Name: Forcemeat

Does “forcemeat” sound appealing? If someone says you’re dining on forcemeat this Christmas, you may think you heard “horsemeat,” which is definitely a turn-off.

forcemeat-stuffed tomato The word first came into usage around 1680 (at least that we have record of). I have prepared it nearly that long…. Wait, no, I’m not that old!

I found the recipe for forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes in a Moosewood cookbook. Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY, and so my recipe is without meat. I mistakenly thought that “forcemeat” came from “faux” meat as in “there is no meat here.” I knew the recipe came from a time when the majority of the populace in Great Britain had little access to a plentiful meat supply. So it made sense to me, and it became part of the story of this recipe.

However, after a little research, I found that forcemeat can indeed contain meat, finely chopped, and that the term “force” is a variant of “farce,” an old word for stuffing. Each Christmas, I’ve stuffed this fragrant concoction into both tomatoes and green peppers, using the beauty of their Christmas colors to visually enhance the dish.

This year, I made it for Thanksgiving using only tomatoes in order to convert a couple of naysayers who couldn’t believe it would taste good, not with the pairing of such ingredients as raisins and parsley. But it is delicious! And now they believe me. One guest said that it had a hint of the Moroccan about it.

Try this easy recipe for something a little different–a little medieval–and I truly hope you enjoy it this holiday season.

Forcemeat-Stuffed Tomatoes

forcemeat-stuffed tomatoes(I strongly suggest using fresh, not dried, herbs. You can substitute a quicker-cooking rice, such as flavorful basmati or jasmine, for the brown rice.)

6 large ripe fresh tomatoes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup butter

6 ounces finely chopped mushrooms

5 leaves fresh sage, minced (or 1/2 tspn dried)

1/4 tspn minced fresh rosemary (or pinch of dried)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 tspn sweet Hungarian paprika

bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp. Chop the pulp and set aside.

Saute the onions in the butter for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute a minute more. Stir in the tomato pulp, sage, rosemary, parsley, and salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

Add the rice, raisins, and paprika. Cook for a few more minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Stuff the tomatoes and mound and extra filling on top. Place in a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Christmas 2013: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’m going to try and keep this post as short as possible, but it will be difficult. Also, I am going to try my hardest not to make it depressing because let’s face it, this can be a sad time of the year for people anyway. Another year over, another year older, dreams dashed or wasted, but…there’s the promise of tomorrow for most of us and there ought to be a feeling of accomplishment for making it through another year on crazy planet Earth.

But some of us didn’t quite make it.

THE GOOD: my sweet and beloved cat, Chloe, who was all good, part Siamese (and for some reason part French) and who was smart, loyal, and absolutely devoted to me as I was to her. I’ve had her since she was a few weeks old and loved her for 19 years before having the unenviable task of having to put her to sleep (what a peaceful euphemism) two days before Christmas. I just picked up her ashes today in a beautiful black urn, with little silver paw prints carved into it. Her birthday would have been tomorrow.

Here she is as I think of her, looking bright-eyed and healthy. She is waiting her turn to eat behind her best buddy, Leo, who predeceased her by a year, and she’s keeping her back turned to the younger cats who knew better than to mess with my sleek panther:

ChloeShe was my only lap kitty; actually, she was my shoulder kitty, and I’ve had many claw marks on my right shoulder over the decades to prove it as she hung on when I tried to remove her. Here she is, looking up at me one day from one of her favorite spots, my lap:

ChloeFarewell, dearest friend, my good little girl.Perry and leo

Now for THE BAD: my naughty newest family member, Perry. While I was busy on Christmas Day, my dog decided to get into the Christmas chocolate, managing to eat an entire Lindt Santa that he pilfered from a Christmas stocking and an entire Terry’s chocolate orange ball that he took off a shelf, got out of the cardboard, and then unwrapped from its foil. (I hadn’t had one in years and still haven’t!)

As I found out after a frantic call to the emergency vet hospital, this is too much chocolate for a 30-lb. dog. I ran around in a panic getting the supplies the vet said I needed: hydrogen peroxide and a turkey baster. Perry had started to throw up on his own, but then stopped and we could see it wasn’t nearly enough.

With the dog being held by my son and husband, I blew hydrogen peroxide down his throat using the baster. Yes, blew, because of course, the bulb section had been missing for a year or so. (Apparently, I don’t baste a lot.) “Oh, my eyes,” said my husband as I may have been overly enthusiastic with my blowing, but it did the trick. The dog lay down for a minute, looking shell-shocked, and then wanted to go out. On the deck and down the stairs to the back yard, he managed to unleash what I can only describe as a river of chocolate. Thank God!

Did he learn his lesson? Of course not! He was hunting outside the next morning for the frozen chocolate that I had shoveled away.  Without further ado, Perry, both dry and wet (he loves to swim), and Perry with Chloe because she let him sit near her. The other young, foolish cats only run and hide::

perryPerryPerry and Chloe

Lastly, and I’ll be brief, THE UGLY: Coco Puff, or Skat-brain, as my father called her. She is “the ugly,” despite being cute becuase she pees where she shouldn’t, especially in gym bags and on clean laundry. She is a nightmare! I am not even going to look for a cute photo of her. Here she is (on the right) with Chloe.

coco and chloeSo that was my Christmas holiday week. No new year’s resolutions for me, only goals and more dreams. My main goal is to ride my new exercise bike often and with great results, if it ever arrives. And as for dreams … well, I’ll just let you know at the end of next year if they came true.

Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2014!!

Sydney