Cooking in the Time of Pandemic

My sister and I were talking a few days ago. She said, “I’m tired of having to provide meals day in and day out.”

Yeah, me too. In normal times, we like going to restaurants. And, of course, we can still get carryout. But it’s not the same experience. I do feel guilty about not ordering from local eateries more often. But we had a couple of bad experiences with UberEats where they just decided to cancel our order and not deliver it. DoorDash has not failed us, but the problem with that delivery service is that it doesn’t use the full restaurant menu–leaving us with a much more limited selection.

Frustration with buying prepared food leaves me doing most of the cooking. My sister says she’s tired of making the same stuff over and over. I have that problem to a certain extent as well. But as a sometime cookbook author, I make an effort to be creative. Partly, that’s out of necessity because having to stock up on various ingredients leaves me with lots of “this and that” meals.

For example, we’re having an early dinner tonight because we have a Zoom meeting with a bunch of friends we haven’t seen in months. In order to be finished with the cooking chores early, I started dinner preparations in the morning using a wide variety of leftovers–beginning with a couple of hamburger patties I bought a few days ago. I decided to use them in spaghetti sauce. And because I had bought a jar of very hot chipotle peppers to use in a brown rice and black bean bake, I chopped up one of those and threw it in too. (Yes, they were much too hot to use the whole jar in one casserole.) Also on hand were two Italian sausage links I’d cooked the night before. They went into the pot, along with tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, a leftover half onion, chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms, and a little shredded cabbage. Not my usual pasta sauce, but it worked.

But no matter the unconventionality of my cooking today, I’m continually struck by how much easier it is than in previous eras.

I’m finishing up a story for the Dear Santa boxed set, called Christmas Miracle 1935, My heroine lives on a farm with a stove that looks almost normal until you get to the part where you open a door under the burners and put in pieces of wood for the fuel. And yeah, I actually cooked on a stove like that at a cabin where my Girl Scout troop went camping. There’s no fridge in the farm kitchen, only an icebox–where a man has to deliver ice to keep the contents cold. And the sink is one of those old-fashioned drainboard models like the one my grandma had.

When I’m standing in the front of the pantry, thinking about what to fix, at least I can use cans or jars of tomatoes, beans, applesauce, and jelly I buy at the store. The people in my novella must can their own produce. And they’re not buying sausage links in nice neat packages. They are grinding and seasoning the sausages themselves. Writing the story makes me think about how much things have changed and why I shouldn’t complain about my kitchen duties now.

What cooking challenges are you facing these days, and how are you meeting them?

Harvest Time Recipe by @Donna_Fasano

I went to a local farmer’s market yesterday and discovered that it’s HARVEST TIME. I bought eggplants, tomatoes, a red onion, and some peaches. Yum! Today, I made a veggie bake that turned out really delicious. Here’s my simple harvest time recipe:

Eggplant Tomato Parmesan Bake 

4 baby eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced thin and separated into rings
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Fry the eggplant in two batches so the pan isn’t too crowded. To fry: Place 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a skillet and set over medium heat. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate. Dip the eggplant slices into the beaten egg and then coat with breadcrumbs. Fry the eggplant until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the first batch to a plate and then add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the second batch.

2. Layer the vegetables. Spray an oven proof dish with baking spray. (I used a 10-inch quiche dish. Use your favorite dish.) Arrange half the eggplant in a single layer in the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese on the eggplant. Spread a layer of onion rings over the eggplant and cheese. Cover the onions with the sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to your taste. Add the remaining eggplant to the dish for the final layer.

3. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are baked to your liking. (I baked mine for 30 minutes as I don’t like my veggies to become too mushy.) Remove foil and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan over the top. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Harvest time is very, very near! I love fresh vegetables. This simple casserole is easy and it lends itself to any kind of herbs or seasonings you might like to add. If you like spicy food, add a pinch of red pepper over the top. Or try a pinch of Italian Seasoning or oregano. If you like more cheese, add more cheese. If you like a different kind of cheese, add a different kind of cheese.

I hope you enjoy! What are YOUR favorite harvest time veggies?

I have lots of books on sale for just 99¢. If you’ve never read one of my books, this is the perfect time to try one.

Harvest Time RecipeHarvest Time Recipe

Where Does Time Go?

As the expression goes, I’m a day late and a dollar short–make that three days! I was supposed to post on Monday. As I stare at my calendar, I can see the notation to do so, but somehow the fact that this is the last week of July refused to imprint on my brain. Could it be because I turn a year older on Saturday? Maybe. The years ahead of me seem far fewer than those behind.

As we age, we all have regrets, things we should’ve done but failed to do. I wanted to see far more places than I have, but thanks to COVID 19, my plans were canceled. For how long is anyone’s guess. This summer has been a rather uneventful one. No vacations, no quick trips, not even any dinners out. To celebrate my birthday, I’ll be doing groceries and getting take out, maybe getting a newer car, but that’s still a wait and see. One thing I will never regret is being part of the Authors’ Billboard and getting to dialogue with great authors and readers.

While I stay safely at home, last week was an exciting one for me as two more box sets featuring my writing were released. So far, I have books in six box sets, each one different from the previous one, with more in the works for fall.

.The first box set was All That Glitters, Glitz, Glam, and Millionaires. It’s a collection of romance novels featuring Just For The Weekend, a story based on the old “What Happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” When she agrees to help her friend at a sci-fi convention, Cleo gets far more than she expected! https://www.amazon.com/All-That-Glitters-Glitz-Billionaires-ebook/dp/B083QLFQPV .

Passionate Protectors is a romance suspense set that can pull you in and keep you reading. It features Sworn to Protect, a second chance at love story where a marshal will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves. https://www.amazon.com/Passionate-Protectors-Danger-Combust-Protect-ebook/dp/B08CD1H2FQ

If you like romance suspense, You’ll love Unforgettable Temptations, featuring On His Watch and Unforgettable Surrender, with In Plain Sight. Both novels feature a revenge theme.

You’ll be up all night reading these great sets.Unforgettable Temptations https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082XQV3QB and Unforgettable Surrender https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08B4TCQC4

Of course summer isn’t summer without a trip to the beach, even if it is only in the imagination.

Summer Shorts features Tequila Sunrise a novella with my favorite trope, second chance at love.Writing this one, based on my experiences in Mexico in January, before the virus started, was a nice walk down memory lane. https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Shorts-Book-2-ebook/dp/B089RRCNDM

The other box set released last week was Fortune’s Favour, The Treasure.

The Blue Dragon is also a second chance at love romance, but for me, it was cathartic. I lost my father last fall, and I’m losing my mother day by day. She lives in a fantasy world of her own making, and while she still remembers me, there’s no telling how long that will last. Since she had to be moved into a nursing home both for her safety and to get the care she needed, we had to empty the house. Doing so gave me the plot of the story and awoke me to the fact that my parents were tidy hoarders. Not everything in the novel is 100 percent true, but there is far more truth there than you would expect. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08CTGRW8K

Coming next month, I have two more box sets to whet your appetites.

Unforgettable Sweethearts, available August 7th, features my historical romance, The Captain’s Promise, about two people in love torn apart by class and pride, reunited when one person determines to risk it all for the woman he loves. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DCM9YWR/ Pre-order now!

Sweet and Sassy Summertime 2 releases on August 12th.

It features Wedding Bell Blues. The wedding might be canceled but the honeymoon is on and it provides way more than the bride expected. Mermaids. Quimbois. Treasure. Its all here along with–you guessed it, a second chance at love romance with an island wedding, too. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08B45JD74

Finally, if you like a touch of realism in your historical romance, may I suggest Twist of Fate, one of the novels in The Golden Legacy Series? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087QJWMSM Three of the novels are available now!

That’s it. Here’s hoping August will be memorable with a few good surprises for everyone!

Memories and New Beginnings

July is drawing to a close and with it concludes a jumble full of memories to me – some are bittersweet sweet and some are endearing on so many levels.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a widow and my late husband’s birthday was July 5th. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of Joe and I – it was taken the Christmas we got engaged. Looks like he’s tickling me, right? For sure this man tickled my fancy.

Our wedding anniversary was July 11th. We were married on a white sandy beach in Hawaii. Joe always planned something special for Our Day, and I miss the wholesomeness of US more than I can say. He was the love of my life. He and I collaborated on my first novel Dinosaurs and Cherry Stems, and to our delighted surprise, the story became an award winning, bestseller. For this I am extremely blessed.

“Twice divorced, cynical Cindy Layton feels like a relic with prehistoric baggage, and doubts she can muster the courage to establish a new relationship, even if it’s on her own terms.
Her journey out of the Stone Age hits freaky, hilarious turbulence when she joins an Internet dating service. The scammers and weirdoes she meets in cyberspace make Cindy want to crawl back into her cave, until she receives an accidental email from Jay DeMatteo.
Jay has the dating blues, too, but after meeting Cindy, reconsiders his options. Now it’s up to him to convince her it’s never too late to pursue a meaningful relationship, even when a couple is struggling with midlife adolescence.” https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009BDJ5X0

After Joe died in May 2019, I was encouraged to make new and special memories with friends and family. My daughter Stacey took me to see Frozen in NYC in July 2019 – that was a fun, exciting evening and we dined on lobster rolls before the show – who doesn’t love lobster?

I also attended the RWC in New York City as a visitor last July 2019, and met up with my sweet friend Stephanie. We had a grand time and it’s my hope once the Covid 19 pandemic is under control, NYC will reopen in all its glory, as well the rest of our beautiful world.

Fortunately, life moves forward and this July I’m humbled and honored to be a participating author in many of The Authors’ Billboard Collections, including our new, number one release Sweet and Sassy Summertime: Volume One.

“NINE SWEET AND SASSY STORIES of SUMMER, Including Four Brand New, From New York Times & USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Authors. Some like them sweet and some like them sexy, but if you’re looking for a little heat, spice up your summer reading with this hot selection of stories!” FREE on Kindle Unlimited or 99 cents! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08957T3ZY

As you cruise into August, I pray you and your families stay safe, healthy, and embrace those blessings you have tucked in your memory bank – they will surely keep you rich and looking forward to the future.

Please don’t forget to enter The Authors’ Billboard Monthly contest – Win Amazon Gift cards, Free eBooks and other prizes. Simply click here: https://authorsbillboard.com/