Christmas Candy by @JoanReeves #mgtab

I love Christmas — the music, the decorations, the Salvation Army bell ringer, wrapping presents, the food — everything!

Every year I say, “I’m not scheduling anything from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.” I say this because I want to be free to dive into the holidays and all the fun stuff.

But…that never happens. Instead, I drive myself — and my husband crazy — trying to finish a book or short story, participating in FB parties, etc. To make matters worse, this year I took off a week to go on a cruise which puts me not 1 week behind, but 2 weeks behind— if that makes sense.

What’s a girl to do?

Forget about all of it and make Christmas Candy, of course. This is the month that I allow myself to cook — and eat — foods I normally avoid. As if it wasn’t enough to scarf down Chocolate Melting Cake and other delights on the cruise!

One of the things I love to make — and eat — are those high fat/sugar concoctions beloved in the South. I’m talking about Pralines. (Pronounced praw-leen, not pray-leen.) If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you’ve probably had a praline.

They’re made of caramelized brown sugar, butter, and pecans, and they’re delicious, fattening, and irresistible. By the way, the nut pecan is pronounced puh-con. Not pee-can. (I always tell non-southerners that the latter is a vessel in which to collect urine.)

Cookbook author Nathalie Dupree wrote in Southern Memories: “I can’t imagine a world without pralines.”

Me either! You just can’t grow up in the south without learning how to make pralines. Today, I’m going to share my secret family recipe for those yummy melt-in-your-mouth confections.

Joan’s Christmas Pralines

Photo by Angele J from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/candy-caramel-nuts-pecan-pralines-128405/

You need: heavy flat-bottomed saucepan, candy thermometer, heavy cream or Pet Evaporated Milk, brown sugar, butter, pecans, something to spoon them onto like parchment paper, foil, granite, or a silicone mat already spread on the counter and ready to go.

In the saucepan, combine:

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream (or 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup Pet Milk)

Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan so that the bulb rests in the liquid. Turn the heat on and bring mixture to a boil. Cook on medium heat to 238 degrees on the candy thermometer.

When 238 is reached, add:

1 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (Some people use pecan halves as in the picture above, but I find when they are broken into big pieces, you get more blobs of candy filled with pecans.)

Keep on the heat, and stir until butter melts and pecans are coated. Continue cooking until candy thermometer reaches 245 degrees.

At 245, remove immediately from heat. Quickly — before mixture seizes — spoon dollops of the mixture onto a silicone mat or parchment paper or whatever you planned on. The pralines will spread so try to use small spoonfuls until you get the hang of it and can make the size you want.

They crystallize as they cool. When completely cool, wrap each praline in a small paper doily or wax paper and store in airtight container. These make a wonderful gift, and they are simply scrumptious.

If you want to make some more Christmas goodies, try the recipes in my cake cookbook, Friday Is Cake Day, only $0.99. This collection of 52 family recipes has something for every level of cook. Some are super easy; some are intricate. All are delicious.

Whatever you make during the holidays, have fun doing it and sharing with family and friends.

Remember all the wonderful bargain box sets from our bestselling authors here at Authors’ Billboard.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Joan is a New York Times and a USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All her fiction have the underlying premise:  It’s never too late to live happily ever after. Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Join Joan’s Reader Friends and be the first to know about new books and giveaways. Get a free ebook just for signing up!

Joan Reeves

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband.

They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter.

Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

 View website

My New Addictions: Chocolate Toffee and Sexy Romance Novels

Maybe I’ve taken this summer vacation thing too far, indulged too much, for too long, but it’s too late now.

I’m addicted.

Even thought I’m back to work, I rush through my tasks to get to the end of the work day and back to my latest indulgences, nicely paired together (the new bonbons and soap operas): chocolate toffee and sexy romance novels.

I haven’t found anything else to distract me from this dynamite duo of delectably dangerous desert. (I know what you’re thinking: this girl needs to get a life.)

This pair of perfection is the exact antidote to the routine, boring life, or the stressed, crazy life. Either way, it’s a welcome reprieve from a life filled to the brim with responsibilities and work. If you’re up for a staycation experience on any given Sunday afternoon or rainy Saturday or evening after dinner alone, I want to share the delight with you.

The Recipe: Chocolate Almond Toffee

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. Toasted chopped almonds
  • 1/2 c. toasted chopped pecans
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Let butter melt and then cook, stirring constantly with a spatula (so the butter and sugar don’t separate!), until mixture turns a dark amber, 12 to 15 minutes. (This can take closer to 20 minutes if you’re heat is not high enough. Increase the heat and keep stirring until the color turns. Don’t give up! If you’d like to use a candy thermometer for this step, attach it to the saucepan and cook until the temperature reaches 285º, or hard crack stage.) Toffee mixture should be dark in color and very thick. Stir in ½ cup of chopped almonds.
  2. Pour toffee mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and immediately top all over with chocolate chips. Let sit 2 minutes so chocolate begins to melt, then spread chocolate all over with a spatula to create a layer on top of toffee.
  3. Sprinkle all over with remaining ½ cup almonds and pecans (use chopped crumbs too for nice texture!) and pink Himalayan sea salt.

Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour, then cut or break into pieces and serve.

AND

The Sexy Romance Novels:  Love on Fire

 

6 steamy romance novels by 6 bestselling authors…

Sometimes passion takes you and there’s nothing you can do to resist it. That hotfeeling overwhelms you until you can think of nothing else but him, want to do nothing else but make love.
Sometimes love sets you on fire until it consumes you.
Let these six novels of crazy hot love take you there, make you feel the heat of that passion, bring you that ecstatic joy.

Playing the Game – by USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Queen – International Digital Award Winning romance about a socialite playing the game of seduction to win against a superstar until winning feels more like losing her heart.
“Reading Queen is an absolutely scrumptious experience…with characters who come alive like Pop Rocks and carbonated beverages” –Romantic Times Book Review

Bittersweets – by bestselling author Suzanne Jenkins – A one-night stand for lawyers Terry and Alex segues into a long weekend of passion, leading to a lifetime of romance.
“…once I began reading I knew there was no turning back. Suzanne Jenkins has an incredible talent.”–Anonymous Reviewer

Red Rock Rises – by USA Today bestselling author Taylor Lee – A fiery former undercover agent, as tough as she is beautiful, no one messes with Red Rock until she meets the handsome Police Chief.
“Taylor Lee does it again! Red Rock Rises introduces another unforgettable heroine and a hero who is more than her match. From the first page to the last, the sparks fly between Jesse O’Donnell aka Red Rock and the sexy Police Chief.”–Kharma Queen

Bedroom Therapy – by NYT and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca York – Phone sex, fantasies and fetishes are all in a day’s work for sex advice columnist Dr. Amanda O’Neal until she meets sexy detective Zack Grant, and things get personal.
“Bedroom Therapy is a torrid private investigative romance with the heated emphasis on the equatorial hot relationship between the sleuth and the doctor. The story line is fun to follow” –Amazon Review

Tempted by Mr. Wrong – by USA Today bestselling author Jacquie Biggar – How can something so wrong, feel so right?
Jacquie Biggar had me reading well past my bedtime. The characters are so well written they could walk right off the page!” –Avonna

To Love A Hero – by NYT and USA Today bestselling author Mona Risk” – Amidst a clash of cultures, an American scientist finds more chemistry than she bargains for with a national hero from Belarus
Outstanding Read. Mona Risk’s To Love a Hero is a wonderful love story complete with deception, conceit, stubbornness and the love of a lifetime for two people who couldn’t be more different. Ms. Risk hits a homerun with this.”–Simply Romance. Review

Available for Pre-Order Now – Release Date August 14th

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Stephanie Queen

About USA Today Bestselling Author Stephanie Queen
A romantic at heart and a writer by nature, Stephanie Queen has the enthusiastic soul of a cheerleader. So of course she loves creating stories where the good guys always win. Although she’s lost count of all the jobs she had before she settled on being a Novelist, her favorite was selling cookies as a Keebler Elf. She is a graduate of UConn (go Huskies!) and Harvard U and lives in New Hampshire with her family, her cat, Kitty, and her (real or imagined?) chauffeur, Myren.

Chicken soup for the sick

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I ‘thought’ I was in good health for a woman of age, a spritely silver-haired vixen, but I was as sick as the old gray mare, ready for the glue factory.
Then again, three bouts of pneumonia in four months would probably sap even an Olympic athlete. It was time to supplement all those different antibiotics with old time medicine.
Some of the odd things I found in my online research were red onions, vinegar, and honey. Chicken soup is supposed to be great for a cold; it would probably help with the crud, too.
Not in my research, but known to me was an apple a day. It was too late to keep the doctor away, but was worthy as a component in the super soup I was concocting.

Short version: it works. I’ve polished off the pot of Super Soup, I’m breathing easier, and it’s great to have something hearty to eat at the zap of the microwave.

Components:

1 Tbsp coconut oil (or whatever oil you have)
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 red onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
2 heaping Tbsp chicken ‘Better Than Bouillon’ or equivalent in bouillon or chicken stock
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 chopped up cooked chicken breast (or whatever leftover chicken you have)

Saute the solid stuff in the oil until limp. Add the vinegar, chicken ‘flavoring,’ and chicken. If you used chicken stock, you should be good to go. If not, add about 2 cups of water.

Super-meal this!
Add a package of pre-cooked rice or quinoa mix (I like the Seeds of Change brand) or leftover rice. If you don’t have those, add one more cup of water and one cup or Minute Rice. Hearty and satisfying.

You’ll note that I didn’t add any salt. The bouillon has enough salt for the mix. The apple and vinegar gives it a bit of sweet and sour taste—not overwhelming, but fun as a change from ‘all soups taste the same’ stuff I’m used to. Oh, and I never used the honey. Go ahead and eat a big spoonful for dessert.

Enjoy! And if you can, get a pneumonia vaccine. I have to wait 3 months now. I never realized that there were over 36 strains of that strength-sapping, lung-filling crud out there!

NOTE: In 2008, I started writing my first book. In it, the main character (a sweet little old lady from Alaska) had a drug-resistant form of pneumonia. I didn’t know I was writing about myself! If you want to know more about her, and how an overdose of Fountain of Youth water and a drop through a time portal turned her into a young fox in 1780, read Naked in the Winter Wind on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, Amazon UK.

Dani Haviland

Dani Haviland, formerly of Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska, recently semi-retired from selling tractor parts, tools, and roses. She moved to a more temperate climate in western Oregon to pursue her passions: writing, gardening, and photography.
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New Year Black-eyed Peas @JoanReeves #mgtab

New Year's 2017 Graphic ImageNew Year’s Day is on the horizon. In the South, the first day of the New Year calls for Black-eyed Peas.

Some home cooks think cooking these beloved little legumes requires too much time and energy so they opt for the canned variety.

So I thought I’d share this really easy slow-cooker method. You just do a little prep work, throw them in your slow cooker or Crock Pot, and in about 6 hours you’ll have the most delicious black-eyed peas you’ve ever eaten. So if you want to serve black-eyed peas at midnight on New Year’s Eve, put them on at 6pm.

Black-eyed Peas the Slow Cook Way

1. Pour a 1-pound bag of dried black-eyed peas into a colander and wash them. Then place them in a cooking pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into the colander and rinse.

2. Place the rinsed peas in the slow cooker.

3. Add 3 cups of water to the slow cooker.

4. Add your choice of a pork meat product: 1/4 pound of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled OR 1/2 pound smoked ham, cubed OR 1 ham hock.

5. Add 2 medium-size onions, chopped

6. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt. I give this range because some bacon and ham can be very salty. So start with a little salt and add more if needed when they’re almost ready to serve.

7. Add 1/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground or cracked fresh ground black pepper.

8. Optional: 1-2 cloves of minced garlic if you like garlic. I use a little garlic because I don’t want to overwhelm the flavor of the peas.

9. Kick it up another notch with a few drops of Tabasco if you like this Creole flavoring. I always add 4-6 drops of Tabasco.

10. Final option: add a can of diced tomatoes to the mixture in the slow cooker.

Once everything is in the slow cooker, stir to mix well. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours. The aroma as they cook is mouth-watering.

I always serve these with cornbread and rice. Like most legumes, black-eyed peas are an incomplete protein so if you want to serve them as a complete protein main dish, serve them with steamed rice.

I hope you’ll try these. They’re really delicious and so easy to make that you may find yourself making them even when it’s not New Year’s.

Of course, remember the bottle of chilled bubbly.

My New Year Wishes For You

May you and your family have good health, good relationships, vocations and avocations you love, prosperity, the ability to endure and persist when life throws curve balls your way, and peace within.

Joan Reeves writes sexy Contemporary Romance Novels–available at most ebook sellers. Check out my Amazon Author Page for a list of books.  (Audio editions available at Audible, and iTunes.) All of Joan’s books have the same underlying premise: “It’s never too late to live Happily Ever After.” Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Readers, sign up for Joan’s Mailing List/Free NL and receive a free ebook. Connect with Joan Online: Blog * Facebook * Twitter * YouTube.

Joan Reeves

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband.

They have 4 children who think they are adults and a ghost dog, all the ingredients for a life full of love and warmed by laughter.

Joan lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

 View website