Stuffed Pork Chops

from Sloane Taylor

A dish fit for a king that takes a little time but is well worth it. Prep more chops then freeze them to finish cooking for another meal.

Stuffed Pork Chops

2 loin chops, boneless

Stuffing, recipe below

1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil

½ cup (120ml) chicken stock

4 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).

Slice a deep pocket in each chop. Pack in stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold pocket closed as much as possible by inserting down through both layers of meat at one end then up as close as possible. You’ll use 2 toothpicks per chop.

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on each side 2 – 3 minutes.

Pour stock into an ovenproof dish. Lay chops in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes.

Stuffing

This recipe makes more than you’ll use for the pork chops but it freezes well to use with other meals.

1 package bread stuffing cubes, plain or seasoned

½ lb. (250g) breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk

8 tbsp. (1 stick) (114g) butter

1 celery rib, chopped½ med. onion, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried sage

1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried thyme

2 cups (450ml) chicken stock, maybe a little more

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl.

Fry sausage in a medium-sized frying pan, breaking meat into small chunks, until no longer pink. Add sausage and its juice to bread cubes.

Melt butter in same skillet. Add celery and onion when the foam subsides. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until translucent, be careful not to let it brown. Add vegetables with all their juices to the bread cubes. Mix well.

Pour egg onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well.

Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy.

To Bake as a Side Dish

Spoon mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Do not pack it in. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate stuffing until you are ready to bake it, but no longer than two days.

To Freeze

Spoon the mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freezer no longer than 3 months. I use several sandwich bags that serve 2.

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come close to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

To learn more about Taylor go to her website. Stay in touch on Blogger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available on Amazon.

 
 

Pinwheels cookies

from Tina Griffith

I used to make these Pinwheels for my kids when they were in elementary school. The recipe is pretty easy and quite versatile. By that I mean, you can flavor and add color to both layers. Example: add cinnamon or almond flavoring to the chocolate dough, and add peppermint flavoring and pink food coloring to the white one. Can you imagine eating a purple and green spiral cookie on somebody’s birthday? Or how about a black and orange cookie on Halloween?

And just before you put them in the oven, you can also top them with sprinkles, candy shapes, or just plain sugar. Use your imagination to make the most interesting of cookies for any holiday or celebration, because experimenting is part of the fun with this dough.

Grama Tina’s Spiral Cookies

¾ cup of softened butter

1 cup of white sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons of vanilla

2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of baking powder

cocoa powder, peanut butter or Nutella – optional

rainbow sprinkles or candy shapes – optional

5 drops of food coloring – red, yellow, pink, orange, black – optional

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, almond, or nutmeg – optional

3 or 4 drops of flavoring – peppermint, lemon, etc. – optional

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Lay parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets or grease well.

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour with baking powder. Add to butter mixture in 2 additions, stirring until it becomes a soft dough.

Divide dough in half. Add cocoa powder (and/or cinnamon, peanut butter, Nutella, or mint flavoring). Mix and set aside. Now move to the other ball of dough. Leave this white and add mint or a cinnamon flavoring or any flavoring you like and coloring. Remember – both the colors and flavors should go together well.

Roll each ball out flat, and then place one on top of the other. Take one end and slowly roll this up into a log. Length-wise or width-wise determines how large your cookies will be.

Once you’ve completed rolling the dough, wrap it in plastic and place in the refrigerator until chilled. This could take up to 2 hours, but you can leave it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

When you’re ready to bake, take the log out and remove the plastic covering. Beginning at one end, slice the cookies about ¼” thick and place them on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for about 10 minutes – you want them to be a lovely golden brown. Let cool and serve.

**HINT – using a piece of thread instead of a knife, makes it easier to cut the dough.

Ophelia’s Curse is a suspenseful and intriguing novel from start to finish. The story will give you goose bumps and have you sitting on the edge of your seat. In short, this story will tickle your senses on a level that you’ve not known before. The thin line between witchcraft and terror is remarkable and written as if Tina Griffith had the gift of pure magic. This is an hypnotic and provocative book. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the twists and turns prove you wrong.

On Hallow’s Eve, as the veil between the two worlds was thinning, the face of the full moon was lit up like a Christmas tree. The dead would soon come alive, the alive would dress up as the dead, and witchcraft had a way of piggybacking off other spells. This was the ideal night to be a witch, for the effectiveness of all incantations, divinations, and other avenues of magic, was perfect.

Jayla is a clever witch, who had been cursed in her teens by her friend, Ophelia. Since then, she has had to retrieve dark souls from shrewd men in order to survive. While she has taken hundreds of souls in her lifetime, this story is about her trying to take the one which belongs to Roger Casem – the man she accidentally fell in love with.

Could she kill him, as she had done with the others? If she wanted to continue living, she must. But today, when his eyes skimmed her body with unbelievable passion, she began to recognize her own needs. As she blushed and turned her face away from him, Jayla did the only thing she could.

AMAZON

 

Tina Griffith, who also wrote twenty-seven children’s books as Tina Ruiz, was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school.

After her husband of 25 years passed away, she wrote romance novels to keep the love inside her heart. Tina now has eleven romance novels on Amazon, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they are different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and her sister’s scary biography.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her second husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina (Griffith) Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

The Importance of Trees

from Carol Browne

I’m a tree hugger and always have been. There’s something in my nature that draws me to them like old friends. How gratifying it is for me to see so many other people waking up to how important and precious trees are.

Photo by Studio Dekorasyon on Unsplash

Every oxygen-breathing organism on Earth benefits from the work done by these forest denizens. Their fallen leaves not only nourish the ground they stand in but also feed a network of fungi, plants and small critters essential to the circle of life. The trees hold the land in their roots, preventing soil erosion and landslides. They suck up water and protect the land from flooding. They provide shade, shelter and homes to countless animals, birds and insects. They give us fruit, nuts and medicine; wood for building and fuel. In the rainforests they even create their own weather.

Trees are amazing. And now we need them more than ever. Their ability to capture carbon from the air, to use and store it, while releasing life-affirming oxygen, is vital in the battle against climate change.

We must plant more trees. Anyone with a garden can do that. If you can’t, donate to an organization that will plant trees on your behalf and support campaigns to protect ancient woodland.

We have lost our connection with Nature, that fellowship experienced so profoundly by our ancestors. For far too long we have looked down upon primitive cultures that talked about nature spirits and the wisdom of trees. We dismissed the Druids for worshipping trees. It was all superstition. But we were wrong. The trees have been our allies all the time, even when we turned our backs on them. They remained the guardians of the planet and quietly went about the business of preserving its ecosystem. Now it is imperative we embrace them again as our friends and rediscover that lost connection, before it is too late.

There is a close relationship between trees and writers; don’t they provide us with the paper on which we write our stories? They can even give us the ink to write them with. Ink made from oak galls was favoured by scribes during the Middle Ages and Renaissance because of its permanence and resistance to water and it still enjoys a niche market today among artists.

It is fitting, then, that my fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel opens with the main character, Elgiva, asking an oak tree for advice. As an elf she is fortunate in being able to understand the language of trees and she knows that ancient oaks are steeped in wisdom. It is this encounter at the beginning of Chapter One that determines everything that follows.

Without the tree there would be no story. Here’s an a brief intro for you.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?


EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”


Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Amazon Buy Link


Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

I BLAME UNCLE STEVE

by Sloane Taylor

My obsession with cooking is his fault. No denying it. He was a carpenter until the Army sent him an invitation to join their illustrious ranks. He did and was made a cook. Go figure. Until then he had no clue about kitchen work, but he soon learned and loved his job. Fast forward to me age five. This quiet mountain of a man sat me in a chair close to the stove where he created magic with the merest of supplies. He was patient and answered every dumb question I asked while he encouraged me to toss in a handful of chives, parsley, or whatever else was available. He made cooking interesting and fun. Watching and working with my favorite uncle was a wonderful experience I cherish.

Time passed and I setup my own household. No longer did I have the ease of single dish prep. I had to concoct the entire meal and was expected to cook many entire meals. Fear struck so I beelined to the store and stocked up on cookbooks. And that led to frustration. All those delicious sounding recipes left it up to me to decide what to serve with them. Beans or peas? Fried or boiled potatoes? To salad or not. You get the idea. We’re not talking Haute cuisine, but a clue or two from those big-buck chefs, whose books I paid dearly for, would sure have helped. And that’s why I took matters into my own hands and wrote a cookbook, Date Night Dinners available on Amazon, with full menus minus desserts. I don’t bake and my family is grateful since my creations are horrible.

Back to hands, I use mine for most meal prep instead of spoons and spatulas. Therefore, I work with big pots, pans, and bowls. That means more washing by hand, but everything stays in the container, and I have room to work comfortably with the ingredients instead of them flying all over the counter.

We’re cooking here not baking, so no need to be precise. Change measurements to suit your taste. You love garlic – toss in more. Pepper isn’t your thing – leave it out. Make these recipes your own. Side dishes and beverages are suggestions not a rule of thumb. Those recipes are found in the Veggies section or Salads, Sauces, Sides, & Extras section at the back of my cookbooks.

So, grab your partners and don your aprons. Crack open a bottle of your favorite wine! Let’s take a giant step forward to ease the burden of overworked women and bring romance back into our lives with meals to make together for a romantic evening.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

To learn more about Taylor go to her website. Stay in touch on Blogger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available on Amazon.

CUPCAKE FANTASY

from Helen Carpenter

The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume.

Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park.

She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce.

She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool.

Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand.

After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers.

When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon.

Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste.

Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd.

There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day.
But she didn’t think so.

Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Batter
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool.

Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick.

Fold chopped apple pieces into batter.

Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups.

Bake 20 minutes.

Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Frosting
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt.

Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils.

Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted.

Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes.

For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .b>

HITTING THE SAUCE

from Helen Carpenter

My husband and I like to hit the sauce at lunchtime—no, wait! That didn’t sound right! What I meant to say is we like barbeque sauce for lunch! At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

While we’re not sauciers or even a saucier’s apprentice, we do enjoy experimenting with flavors, because we are well aware that what’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the chicken.

However, in the case of our Simply Saucy Crockpot Barbeque Chicken, we seldom think outside the box—the box being the carton brick of fresh, sun-ripened Italian tomatoes that is the base of this delicious recipe.

Tomatoes in a box? Yep. We highly recommend that you give your can the boot. Switching to the box will turn you into a superb saucy chef, and the effect on your condiments will be awesome sauce. Pretty soon you’ll be hitting the sauce too! (The barbeque sauce, of course!)

Simply Saucy Crockpot Barbeque Chicken

1 box (26.4 oz) finely chopped tomatoes
⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp black pepper
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken

Put tomatoes, cheese, sugar, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and black pepper in crockpot. Stir to mix.

Add chicken.

Cook on high setting for 2-3 hours; or low setting for 4-6 hours.

Serve on rolls, or eat as a main dish with a side of chips.

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .

Happy Valentine’s Day

Hello, my dear friends!

Where did the time go? The holidays are behind us, and it is February already, the month that fills us with hope and wish for the early spring. And we have one very lovely holiday to celebrate in February: Valentine’s Day.

February 14th is a day to celebrate romance and love. But did you know that the origins of this festival of candy, flowers, and cupids are actually dark, and a bit muddled? Well, it is. And it all started with Romans.

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain (!!)

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” That was likely confused with St. Valentine’s Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.

As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages.

Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.

Well, after a bit of history, I want to wish all of you a very lovely and Happy Valentine’s Day. May this February 14th bring you love and romance, AND LOTS OF CHOCOLATE!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

from Sharon Ledwith

This is a fantastic soup to serve to your crew and freezes well. Salad, hard rolls, and wine (red or white) complete this meal! You can make it 24 hours ahead of time without the noodles and wait to add noodles when you reheat the soup to serve.

SAVORY SAUSAGE SOUP

1½ pounds sweet Italian sausage*
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1¼ cup dry red wine
5 cups beef broth
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
2 zucchinis, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package spinach fettuccine pasta (or plain, whatever your heart desires)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook sausage over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Drain fat from pan, reserving 3 tablespoons. If desired, instead of ground sausage, cut sausages in thin slices.

Sauté garlic and onion in reserved fat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, broth, basil, and oregano. Transfer to a slow cooker, and stir in sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, and parsley.

Cover, and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Break pasta into smaller pieces and drop into boiling water. Cook until al dente, about 7 minutes after the water returns to the boil. Drain water and add pasta to slow cooker. Simmer for a few minutes, and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Serve topped with grated parmesan.

* Use ground sausage or links you’ve broken into bits or sliced thin.

This recipe can also be made on your stovetop. Follow the directions, but instead of the slow cooker, combine all your ingredients in your original pot. Simmer partially covered for 1 hour.

Give yourself a well-deserved break while your soup simmers. Sit back, prop up your feet, and open a book you’ve been meaning to read. Why not pick up one of The Last Timekeepers adventures, and peruse the latest mission with Treena and her time traveling cohorts?

Only a true hero can shine the light in humanity’s darkest time.

Fourteen-year-old Jordan Jensen always considered himself a team player on and off the field, until the second Timekeeper mission lands him in Amsterdam during World War Two. Pulled into the world of espionage, torture, and intolerance, Jordan and the rest of the Timekeepers have no choice but to stay one step ahead of the Nazis in order to find and protect a mysterious book.

With the help of the Dutch Resistance, an eccentric baron, Nordic runes, and an ancient volume originating from Atlantis, Jordan must learn that it takes true teamwork, trust, and sacrifice to keep time safe from the evils of fascism. Can Jordan find the hero within to conquer the darkness surrounding the Timekeepers? If he doesn’t, then the terrible truth of what the Nazis did will never see the light of day.

EXCERPT
“I wonder what else is down here.” Drake beamed his cell phone across the basement, hitting jars of jams, pickles, and relishes. His stomach growled.

Jordan pulled the cheese from his pocket and handed it to Drake. “Trade you for your phone.”

“Best. Trade. Ever.” Drake passed his phone to Jordan.

Jordan walked over and grabbed a jar of pickles off the dusty shelf. At least they wouldn’t arrive at the baron’s place hungry. He hoped his uncle had managed to stop Amanda’s bleeding. His hand tightened over the jar, the ridges of the lid cutting into his palm. A scrape from behind the shelves made Jordan jump.

“Hello?” he asked, pushing jars aside. He flashed the cell phone into the small, dark area.

“Who ya talking to, Jordan?” Drake asked with his mouth full of cheese.

“Shhh, Drake.” Jordan listened. Hearing nothing, he shrugged and turned back around.

“I thought I heard—” Jordan stopped and pointed the phone at Ravi. His jaw dropped. “A-Are you serious, Sharma?”

Drake spat out his cheese, snorting with laughter.

“Is there a problem?” Ravi asked, tying the bowtie of his tuxedo.

“You look like a penguin with attitude!” Drake slapped his knee.

“Say what you want, but I’m glad we didn’t hit the cleaners on the way to school now,” Ravi replied, pulling down his sleeves, “or else I wouldn’t have these dry clothes.”

Jordan chuckled. Suddenly, he heard a door creak open, followed by heavy footsteps squeaking down the stairs. Panicking, Jordan stuffed Drake’s phone in his track suit jacket’s pocket and waved Drake over by the shelves. Drake slipped behind Jordan just in time, before the small light bulb above the bottom of the stairs clicked on. Jordan swallowed hard. There, staring directly at Ravi was a portly man in a blood-stained apron. Tufts of blond hair sprouted from the sides of his balding head. His brown trousers were pulled up past his waist, making him resemble an evil garden gnome. In one of his hands, he held a huge butcher knife, its blade flecked with blood.

Wielding the knife, the man pointed at Ravi. “Who are you?”

Ravi licked his thick lips nervously. “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”

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Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Mirror World Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. 1em;”>Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Mirror World Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and TwitterGoogle+Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books.