I’m delighted to announce my new series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense will launch later this year.
The Silver Valley PD Series is sometimes loosely, sometimes closely, based on where our family has settled after years of Navy moves. I’ve fallen in love with my new hometown and now the characters of its fictional sister, Silver Valley.
The Whidbey Island Series continues, as well, with Navy Justice out in September.
I’m including a couple of photos to give you a taste of the setting I’m writing in this winter and spring, for your reading by the holidays 2015.
As my sincerest, most joy-filled thank you to my readers and dear author friends who have supported the release of Navy Christmas and Navy Joy in Coming Home for Christmas, may I present my most closely-held family recipe! If I could have sent a dozen of these to each of the military and their family that you helped me send books to, I would have. Enjoy!
Geri’s Christmas Cut-Outs
This recipe is a combination of my Polish-American Grandmother’s huge cut-out cookies, and my mother’s Christmas cookies, topped with my aunt’s incredible frosting.
Sour Cream Cut-Outs
(very loosely adapted from Southern Living’s Sour Cream Cookies in their Christmas Cookies book of 1986):
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar (I like to use turbinado or raw cane but white is best for special occasions)
1 8-oz container of sour cream
2 tsps anise flavoring (all natural is best) note: my grandmother’s original recipe says “use 39 cents worth of anise.”
4-5 cups flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached but Whole Wheat Pastry flour works fab, too)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar, add egg, anise, sour cream. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, add to wet mix very slowly but make sure to mix well. You will need extra flour later, for rolling out dough. Divide the dough into thirds and chill for at least an hour. I usually make the dough a few days before I am ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 350.
Roll dough onto floured surface to ¼” and cut out in desired shapes (you can go thinner but they won’t be as scrumptious, plus you want a substantial cookie to hold the frosting). These cookies will rise and expand in the oven so leave enough room between them on the cookie sheet. Place cut-outs on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes depending upon thickness. They are done when very lightly browned. Cool on racks before frosting. Sometimes I don’t get to the frosting until the next day, that’s okay– just make sure you store in an airtight or foil-topped container.
Aunt Margie’s Frosting
½ cup milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
Mix the above 2 ingredients and cook in medium saucepan until it thickens. Stir in:
1 tsp vanilla
½ c. butter (softened)
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
Beat with a hand mixer (or stand) until creamy. Divide up as desired and color with food coloring. White with different colored sprinkles is always a hit. Frosting will set as it dries on the cookies. We set up a cookie decorating workshop and I put my family to task (since I’ve done all of the baking). They can decorate 12 dozen inside of 90 minutes!
Please join me in welcoming insightful and talented author Kathleen M. Rodgers to our final installment of the November blog party–all to send books to the military for the holidays. I picked Kathleen to finish our party on the highest note. Kathleen and I have been friends for years, brought together by none other than Debbie Macomber when we both needed a writing friend to lean on. Kathleen is indefatigable in her enthusiasm for life, and a generous friend.
What do you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays, Kathleen?
Since I’m not known for baking and I’m only crafty with words, I sometimes write holiday themed poems and send them out as Christmas cards. When I was twenty-seven and living at a remote Air Force base near the North Pole, I wrote the following poem with a newborn cradled in my lap and a yellow legal pad absorbing the scribbles of my restless pen. Back then, the days seemed endless and my thoughts came faster than I could catch them. The temperature outside hovered around thirty below zero. Somewhere off in the distance, beyond the Alaska Range, my husband flew his single-seat fighter high above the snow clouds.
The Snow Comes Early In The High Country Of Alaska
Please join me as we welcome New York Times Bestselling Author Laura Kaye to our holiday blog party today. Laura writes hot, poignant military romance that has captured the hearts of readers world wide. We share a common bond with the Naval Academy, which you will soon discover.
What do you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays, Laura?
One of my favorite things to make for the holidays are cut-out sugar cookies. Not only are they super tasty, but my girls (ages 10 and 8) love to help make them. They love to help roll them out, press the cookie cutters into the dough, and decorate them with homemade icing and sprinkles. The kitchen is always an utter disaster at the end, but it’s such a quintessentially holiday thing to do that I hardly mind! And the cookies are fantastic and colorful for enjoying or sharing!
Do you have a special military connection, Laura? I Taught for eight years at the U.S. Naval Academy as an Associate Professor of History.
Laura’s latest is Hard to Come By. Check it out here.
Today we welcome my beloved Romvets sister and gifted author Caro Carson. She will tell you about her military connection, but suffice it to say that each December she and I are rooting for opposite football teams. Nonetheless she remains a constant source of strength and unconditional support for me and many more.
What do you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays, Caro?
I love Christmas, but I was running myself ragged trying to cook every delicious holiday food from my family’s and my husband’s, as well as trying new recipes that friends recommended or magazines assured me my family would treasure. Then, I read a “simplify your life” type of article that suggested each family member should choose the one item that they just had to have, or it wouldn’t feel like Christmas. After all, if no one named the sweet potato casserole, then skipping it wouldn’t ruin the holiday, right?
I went around the table at dinner one night and asked everyone to choose carefully. I expected my family to complain that they couldn’t choose just one of the dishes I slaved over every year. I expected them to beg for the most complicated, most time-consuming dishes I’d ever served on the 25th. Perhaps they wouldn’t be able to choose between the cake, the three kinds of pie, and the three kinds of cookies we traditionally served.
Instead, the first kid had no problem deciding on the most important holiday food: green Christmas tree cookies. My husband? The green Christmas tree cookies. Kid Number Two? Green Christmas tree cookies. That was it. Piece of cake…or rather, cookie.
For the past two years, I’ve made batches of green Christmas tree cookies and let a lot of other fancy desserts go. If I don’t get to the rest, everyone is happy with the cookies! And my life is simpler, because these cookies don’t require any special ingredients, unless you count one of those little brown bottles of almond extract that lasts you for five years. These cookies mean Christmas to me, too, because the recipe is my mother’s, and I can’t remember a December without them. I’m happy to share the recipe. Enjoy!
Caro Carson’s Green Christmas Tree Cookies
(a.k.a. Butter Press Cookies)
1 cup of butter
½ cup of white sugar
On low speed, mix in:
2 cups of flour
1 tsp. almond extract
Green food coloring
Spoon into a cookie press, and extrude the batter into tree shapes.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
Do you have a special military connection, Caro?
I’m a graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, and I served in the Military Police Corps as an officer in the army after graduation. This may explain the somewhat unusual photo of the cookies. My husband took that photo and labeled it “West Pointer’s cookies in straight rows.” Very funny, honey.
My favorite military holiday memory is Thanksgiving. I loved being part of the tradition that officers serve the holiday meal to their troops. We wore “dress blues,” the most formal uniform with all the ribbons, medals, and jazzy military stuff, to scoop the mashed potatoes and cut the pumpkin pie. It was great fun to meet the soldiers’ children, too. In the military working environment, you don’t get to see little kids very often. What is a holiday without excited children? They made it special.
I have a Christmas book! Print books go into bookstores on November 18th. It’s a Harlequin Special Edition, A Texas Rescue Christmas.Check out the detailshere.
Please help me welcome the talented romantic suspense author Lara Lacombe to our holiday blog promo party! Lara and I met at RWA in San Antonio last summer when we signed our books next to each other. I know you will find her as charming as I did.
What do you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays, Lara?
My special holiday talent is wrapping. I LOVE to wrap presents, even the oddly-shaped ones that look ungainly when wrapped. I’m the official wrapper for my family–they all bring me their gifts, and it’s doubly fun for me because I get to see what everyone is getting before the actual day. My favorite paper is the heavyweight stuff that folds nicely, but I’ll use pretty much anything–I’ve made some cute gifts using the comics section from the newspaper. (My services are cheap too–I’m happy to accept cookies as payment!
Check out Lara’s December release, from Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Lethal Lies here.
Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Ann DeFee to our holiday party. Ann and I met in the Pacific Northwest at a conference many years ago. Ann gives us a peek at her family’s experiences when they lived overseas and had an English Christmas.
What do you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays, Ann?
As an Air Force family, we’ve had our share of “interesting” Christmas celebrations. One I particularly remember was our first Christmas in England. Let me give you a little back story on this tale. We moved to RAF Lakenheath in August, and finding housing at that time of the year, in a very rural area proved to be an adventure. Too big, too little, too far out in the country, too haunted. As a last resort, we rented the gate house to a manor owned by a Lord and Lady–related to the queen and yes, I’m talking about that queen. It was bucolic, it was quaint, and it was like living in Barbie’s Dream House–everything was miniature, from the doors, to the rooms, to the kitchen. I kid you not, it was tiny, tiny, tiny, and to make matters worse, it was heated by a coal stove and a couple of portable propane heaters. Lord, I wanted a thermostat. I fantasized about a thermostat, instead I shoveled coal. Then along came Christmas. I moved furniture to make room for a very small tree. But I had forgotten about Christmas lights and the difference between 110 and 220. One by one, the lights met an untimely death. By that time the BX had completely sold out of anything resembling Christmas. On the morning of the 25th, we one tiny light. That was okay, but did I mention that our oven was the size of an Easy Bake oven? A turkey? Are you kidding–a small Cornish game hen was a stretch. As for a cookie sheet–no way. So I fell back on a goodie that our family loves–caramel corn. It’s hard to think of Christmas without remembering Cracker Jacks and the Gate House. Regardless of the time, place or situation, military families are incredibly flexible. We celebrate our faith, our family and our friends.
An English ChristmasCracker Jacks recipe 1 gallon popped corn 1 cup brown sugar 1 stick butter 1/4 cup white syrup (Karo) 1/2 tsp baking soda dash salt Combine sugar, butter and syrup – cook 4 minutes. Stir in soda and salt. Pour mixture on popcorn, coating every kernel Bake on cookie sheet at 200 degrees for 1 hour. Cool and break apart. Careful–it’s totally addictive!
Check out the great excerpt Ann’s giving us from A Hot Time In Texashere.
Please join me in welcoming the classy, charming and always positive Barbara Wallace to our holiday blog party today.
What do you like to make, bake or create or purchase for the holidays, Barbara?
Every year, our family celebrates Christmas morning by making crepes. It’s a fancy sounding dish that is actually pretty easy to make. The key is to have a hot pan and to watch them closely because they cook very quickly.
INGREDIENTS: 1 cup flour (our family uses King Arthur gluten free) 2 eggs 1 1/2 cups milk 1 tablespoons cooking oil ¼ teaspoon salt
Beat until blended. Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet. Spoon in about 2 tablespoons of batter, lift and tilt skillet to spread batter. Brown on one side only. Remove from heat.
Our family likes to eat them several ways. My husband and son fill them with jelly and roll them up. I like to drizzle mine with lemon butter and confectionary sugar like German pancakes. And my son’s girlfriend likes to fill them with Nutella. No matter what you fill them with, they taste terrific. Just don’t eat too many or you’ll be too stuffed to enjoy Christmas dinner!
Do you have a special military connection, Barbara?
I don’t have anyone serving overseas…yet…but my son is a 3rd year ROTC cadet. He’ll be commissioning in the spring of 2016, and, if he has is way, will be seeing active duty that fall. Therefore, my heart is with all the parents who have a child far away from home this holiday season. I understand the special combination of pride and worry they must be feeling.
Please join me today in welcoming the always cheerful bestselling author Sheila Roberts. Sheila and I met when our family was stationed on Whidbey Island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Read on to learn about her movie deal!
Sheila, please share what you make, bake, create or purchase for the holidays.
I love the holidays! Love to bake (and I have the hips to prove it!), love to decorate, and I love to entertain. I’m not a big dinner party person. Dinner parties never are more than eight people, but I love to host a big bash where we play games and steal white elephant gifts from each other.
I don’t think a party has to be fancy, with Martha Stewart style decorations and goodies. I say what makes a party perfect is the people who come to it so I don’t sweat it when it comes to the food. Party fare at Sheila’s place usually consists of punch, chips, Christmas cookies and appetizers (Brie cheese spread with apricot jam, sprinkled with sliced almonds, and wrapped in puff pastry is always showy – Bake it at 400 until it’s golden brown and the cheese is melted, then set it out with some crackers and watch it disappear.)
This year we’ll be partying a lot as Hallmark will be airing a movie this month made from my novel The Nine Lives of Christmas. So, in honor of that, let me share my easy snack mix recipe. Quick to make and disappears even quicker!
MEOW MIX FOR HUMANS (From Ambrose the Cat, star of THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS)
Mix the following together in a large bowl:
2 cups Corn Chex cereal
2 cups roasted peanuts
2 cups broken pretzels
2 cups Reese’s Pieces
2 cups white chocolate chips
2 cups M & M candies
Leftovers, if you have any, will store well in an airtight container.
Do you have any military connections, Sheila?
I married into the military. My father-in-law was a Major in the Army and my husband was in Army Intelligence when we were first married. I can’t tell you what he did though. If I did, I’d have to shoot you.
Thanks for joining us today, Sheila! You can find an excerpt to Sheila’s latest, The Lodge on Holly Road, here.
Today we welcome Jeannie Moon, a contemporary romance author who certainly supports the military–she writes heart-wrenching romance with military heroes. I so enjoyed reading her latest, Second Chance Hero (excerpt link below).
What’s your favorite holiday activity, Jeannie?
I love to bake around the holidays. For Christmas brunch I always bake cookies and breads, but last year my favorite new thing was a Pizzelle iron. Pizzelles are a flat wafer cookie made in a contraption like a waffle iron. My nanny and aunts on my Italian side always made them and this year I tried my hand. I don’t have a recipe because I’m still finding the perfect one, but there are all kinds on the web. This one from AllRecipes was a winner the first time out. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pizzelles-iii/.
This year my daughters and I are having a cookie baking day. They don’t know it yet…but we are.
Do you have any military connection, Jeannie?
My father was in the Army Air Corps just after WWII. He was drafted on VJ Day! He would have gone in sooner, but my grandmother wouldn’t sign his papers allowing him to enlist. You see, during the war Nanny had five stars in her window. My dad’s five older brothers were in various branches of the military, and serving all over the world from the Pacific, to North Africa, to Europe. She wasn’t letting her youngest go any sooner than he had to.
Kim and Owen, the heroine and hero from my latest Intermix release, are both veterans. It was a story I needed to tell.
Jeannie has provided us with an excerpt of her wonderfully romantic novel Second Chance Hero.