Third Time’s A Charm

My daughter and I have been playing around in our test kitchen again and have come up with a delicious new cookie!  Test kitchen is just a fancy way of saying we’ve been cooking and concocting and this time, our mouths watered at the results. Oatmeal-Carrot Cookies that literally melt in your mouth with sweet delicious flavors that will have you tossing carrot seeds in the ground so fast your head will spin!

Oatmeal Carrot Cookies

Sure, you can buy carrots from your local market but where’s the fun in that?  I love to go to my supermarket and wander the aisles (I’m particularly excited by the weekly buy-one-get-one deals), but I really love harvesting vegetables from my organic garden, then proceeding directly to the kitchen for consumption of the same. Awesome feeling.

Anyway, with a bounty of freshly harvested carrots, I thought, “I need a new way to eat these babies.” My Fluffiest Carrot Cake is divine but way too fattening to eat on a regular basis. I mean, it’s too easy to eat three slices in a sitting. Too easy and bad for the hips. Very bad. So I decided to make a healthy cookie, instead. Unfortunately, healthy cookies are kinda hard to make, hence the title of this blog post. Our first two attempts failed. We sweetened the dough with honey which made the final cookies too “liquidy.” For the next batch we cut down on the honey but the cookies still didn’t have enough substance to them. Answer? More

Ladd Springs

Ladd Springs_Book1-LGLADD SPRINGS

“Ladd Springs was one of those books that I couldn’t put down – at first because it drew me in with a ton of questions to be answered about the pasts of the characters, and a great story. Second because of how heart pounding it gets towards the ending!” ~~ Debbie Jean’s Blog

A deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the Tennessee forest bring Delaney Wilkins and Nick Harris together in a dramatic fight for the rights to Ladd Springs.

Delaney Wilkins finds herself at odds with hotel developer Nick Harris over a deathbed promise and a mysterious find in the forest.  Both are after title to Ladd Springs, a mecca of natural springs, streams and trails in the eastern Tennessee mountains, a tract of land worth millions.  But Ernie Ladd, current owner of the property and uncle to Delaney, is adamantly opposed to them both.

Felicity Wilkins, Delaney’s daughter, deserves to inherit her family’s legacy, but neighbor Clem Sweeney is working against her, ingratiating himself with Ernie Ladd.  Clem is also harboring a secret that will make him a very wealthy man—unless the others stop him before he can bring it to fruition.

Complicating matters is Annie Owens.  Ex-girlfriend to Jeremiah Ladd, Ernie’s estranged son living in Atlanta, she declares her daughter Casey is Jeremiah’s, making Casey every bit as entitled to the property as Felicity—only Annie hasn’t proven this claim.  Yet.

All are fighting to get the property, but only one will walk away with the gold.  Which will it be?  Find out in the first installment of Ladd Springs…

pan-frying cornbread

While reading this novel, don’t be surprised if you get a hankering for some good old-fashioned southern cooking.  Take my cornbread, for instance.  Delaney Wilkins makes some of the best and her hero agrees.  Try it and see what YOU think! 😉  Check out my recipe section for full details!

***This is book #1 in a series of 5

Visit my website for a complete listing of my books.

Pulling Sweet Babies from the Ground

In my kids’ garden world, there’s nothing better than harvest time–unless, of course, we’re tilling.  My son loves tilling and tearing through the dirt.  (Doesn’t every boy? :)) And we’ve waited so long for the sweet onions to mature, it’s time we get digging. 

Planted back in the fall, these sweet delicacies take time to fill out and ripen to perfection, about six months or so.  You’ll know when they’re ready when their tops brown over.  As you can see, we didn’t wait that long.  Besides, we could clearly see the rounded tops poking up through the soil surface, these onions were calling our name…

“Hey, you–come and get me!”

Pulling onions

Didn’t take much to distract my daughter from her chore of weeding carrots.  With the recent cold snap, she’s been craving French onion soup, so we pulled a little early. Simply wedge the onion back and forth from its position and gently pull. Voila!

pull it easy...

Your very own fresh sweet onion!  Hmmm…can you smell it?  VERY fragrant and oh-so-sweet when freshly harvested.  While not quite round in shape, this one is plenty fine to eat.  Again, we can be impatient gardeners and this is the fruit of our labor. My son prefers them raw, but my daughter likes them baked, broiled and caramelized. 

If you’ve never tried growing onions yourself, give them a whirl, if only for the fact that they taste like “butta” when eaten FRESH from the ground.  Try the Baked Sweet Onion recipe or perhaps the Onions Au Gratin.  Both are divine

The Sweet Smell of Dirt

Is there anything sweeter than the smell of dirt? I don’t mean the dirt in my garden, or the dirt and dust of outdoor living. No, I’m talking about the sweet scent of dirt that clings to my son on a daily basis, the aroma that hovers about him, follows him as he runs through the house at top speed, leaps over sofas in a single bound, jumps, twists in mid-air as he pushes off from an armrest managing a karate chop and kick before landing on his feet.

My son is amazing.  He smells like dirt and a myriad of other things I (thankfully) cannot identify, nor do I want to know their origin.  He dots the house on a regular basis with his tale-tell markings, adding to my list of things to clean.  But it all becomes irrelevant when he careens through the room, throws himself onto the seat beside me and wraps his skinny little arms around my neck. The boy can hug like the coziest of bears!  He snuggles close, wedges his toes between my legs (to become at one with me, I think), flashes that brilliant toothless smile and says, “Hi, Mommy.”

Warm ripples of love shoot straight out from my heart.  Short and sweet, he gets right to the point.  I’d expect nothing less from my little man-in-training (his father’s not big on love talk, either). Full of life, packed with love, he wants nothing more than to be with his mother–at the moment.

The minute Dad walks in it will be game over for Mom.  Like boys and bikes, fishing and skateboards, I don’t stand a chance when it comes to him and his dad. 

But that’s okay.  I’m a realist. I accept the realities of male-bonding and sashay right around them.  After all, he’s helpful in the garden and helpful in the kitchen–after the friendly reminder to wash his hands.

Bright and energetic, boys are quick and sharp and they do love their mothers.  After all, it’s my name he calls out in the middle of the night.  It’s my side of the bed he seeks during the pre-dawn light.  It’s my cheerful face he searches for in pick up line after school. 

So each night, as he scrambles from my lap en route for his father, I let him go.  Good practice for later.  For one day he will love another woman, cherish and adore her (and call his mother once a week, if he knows what’s good for him!) and I will no longer be the center of his universe. 

But until then, I’ll happily remain the love of his life.  And the feeling is mutual, dirt devils and dust bunnies, my boy is decidedly adorable–stink and all!

Butterscotch Cookies, Anyone?

Now that the brownies have vanished (okay vanished isn’t quite true — I mean, we know where they went), my daughter has moved on to cookies.   Sweet of her, isn’t it?  She’s actually baking in preparation for a family get together this weekend.   No special occasion, no particular reason, we’re simply getting together because we haven’t seen each other in a while.

Odd, when you live in a small town.   But it happens, doesn’t it?   We get so busy with our own lives, doing our thing, we forget to make the time for those we care about the most.   It’s almost as though we “assume” their presence in our lives until next thing you know, it’s been three months since you’ve seen one another! 

One of my best girlfriends pointed out this sad fact to me years ago.  Living only 30 minutes apart, we barely had time to visit, what between her three kids and my two.  Add a couple of husbands, a few jobs…next thing you know, months have passed without so much as a lunch date!   When she moved to Tallahassee, I was heartbroken.   “Now I’ll never see you.”   

She looked at me and stated quite bluntly, “You never see me now.”

While my first reaction was hurt, I couldn’t argue.   She was right. 

Thankfully, our family has a resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Family-Gatherings who coordinates such events — my beautiful stepmother.  Realizing it had been a while since our last gathering, considering the fact that my international pilot brother was in town, my cross roads trucker brother was on hand, my sister and I both without events, she scheduled dinner.  Casual, easy, a let’s-just-hang-out-together kind of evening.  The resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Everything-Else (my illustrious mom) will be there, too.  Odder still, what goes on in small towns!  

It’s actually very nice to be able to include everyone at the dinner table, and we do so, blending adult children and offspring, grandparents and friends, the new traditions continues;  my daughter is baking for said event.   Which means I’m tasting.  Well, I am Resident-Chief-Taste-Officer-of-all-Things-She-Bakes!  Where do you think her sweet tooth came from–the tooth fairy?  

Nope.   She inherited it from me, and I inherited mine from my dad (her second favorite person to bake for — after her daddy, of course).   Nibbling into the first morsel, the cookie melted in my mouth, drenching my palate with sheer glory.  The girl has outdone herself.   Using a recipe she found in Cuisine at home cooking magazine, she made butterscotch cookies and I’m here to tell you, these cookies are fantastic!   Who knew you could pack so much flavor into a simple cookie? 

I’m talking real flavor;  a mix of ginger and brown sugar, butterscotch and confectioner’s.  If you like cookies, you need to try these.  You’ll find the recipe on my blog as it’s not available online.  Plopping the remainder of the sample in my mouth, I gazed up at my girl from my spot on the couch, my shirt shamelessly covered with sweet white powder and swallowed.   “May I have another?”

She grinned.   “You like them?”

“Like them?  I love them.”

Rule number one:  if you want seconds, you’d better compliment the chef.  Cooking may be her passion, but positive reinforcement is her natural desire.   And you don’t want to be dropped from the invite list when it comes to her dessert table

Rule number two:   try to keep your cookie consumption to a minimum.   There are others waiting for the cookie dish so please move aside.   Chagrin.   Snag.  Thank you, come again!

The good news is we can always make more.   And with Valentine’s Day drawing near, you may find yourself wanting to ply your way into the heart of someone special — and these cookies will certainly do the trick!   Unless your sweetheart is allergic to butterscotch whereby I’d try a different course.   Chocolate does make for a handy backup plan, though, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Just a friendly reminder.   Family, friends and love…isn’t that what living is all about?

Blueberry harvest!

My blueberries are doing well despite some anxious early hours when the neighborhood bird population visits.  I’ve removed the netting to allow them the full ripening power of the sun.  Sounds silly.  I mean, the holes are pretty large, unlike the screen enclosure around a pool.  Sun should be getting in.  But ever the impatient gardener, I was in a hurry for my blueberries, so I whipped the netting off and awoke early each morning to check on my berries.  So far, so good.  A few dropped berries, suggesting they may have fallen after being dive-bombed by birds, but not too bad.  A tolerable diminishing of the harvest.

I’d show you pictures of my bounty, but the darned thing about blueberries is they are so sweet and succulent, most get eaten right from the bush!  And it’s not just me, I’ve spotted the kids frolicking through the blueberry patch (or is it orchard?) at all times of the day picking these jewels for themselves.  Real jewels, as in the Jewel variety of Highbush blueberry!  I also have Windsor, Misty, Sharp Blue, Gulf Coast and Jubilee of the high bush variety, along with some Rabbiteye varieties.

High bush are better suited for the climate in Central Florida, but of course, I didn’t know that when I first bought my blueberry plants a year ago.  My research indicated Rabbiteye would be great, but as in most things in life, research information and real life results are not always the same.  Local growers recommend the Highbush types. 

Either way, I have both.  From spring through early summer, I should have blueberries.  And while they may not make it into the picture perfect morning scenario I had envisioned where I stroll outside, pluck a few berries from the bush, deposit them into my yogurt and leisurely enjoy my coffee, they are good

Fresh blueberries are nothing short of heaven.