My Favorite Time of Year! #mgtab @NatalieAnn121

My Favorite Time Of Year!

What is your favorite time of year? Do you even have one?

In Upstate NY most people are begging for spring after a cold winter. But oftentimes we don’t get a spring and it jumps right into summer. That is how it seemed to happen this year.

There was a record number of days over 90 and we even hit 100 a few times. We had 4 days over 90 just last week and frankly, I’m sick of it.

But now it’s September and I’m looking forward to my favorite time of year.  Fall!!

Nice days and cool nights. Sleeping with the windows opened. Football Sundays and best of all apple picking!

It’s a tradition I’ve had with my son since he was a toddler. We’d go once in September, pick a big bag of apples and I’d come home and make apple sauce and his favorite apple cake. I only make it once a year since it’s such a rich decadent dessert.

I love Fall so much, I just released a new book this week, Autumn Love. It’s based around a beloved community’s apple orchard. When the orchard got to be too much for Ali Rogers’ mom to handle she decided to sell it. Liam Sullivan is a contractor that wanted to bring the orchard back to life and found that it’s more than a business venture when he falls for Ali. Add in Ali’s meddling grandfather’s ghost and it’s a great book to curl up with!

This story has so many things in it that I love personally and I hope that you will too. It’s just 99 cents, or FREE to read on Kindle Unlimited.

And if you want to try out my famous Apple Cake, here is the recipe for you!

3 cups of flour

4 teaspoons of cinnamon

2 teaspoons of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ teaspoon of baking powder

3 eggs

2 cups of sugar

1 cup of oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

4 cups of diced apples (no skin)

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside
  • Beat eggs, then add sugar and oil
  • Add vanilla and then the dry ingredients
  • Once all is mixed well, add the apples. Mix until blended, but not until the apples are broken up. Using the mixer will bring some of the juices of the apples out and make the cake extremely moist, but you still want to leaves some small chunks in it.
  • Pour into a greased 13 x 9 cake pan
  • Bake at 350 for an hour (test by sticking a toothpick in the center. If batter comes away, continue to cook until the toothpick is clean)
  • Frost with vanilla or cream cheese frosting
  • Cover and keep at room temperature for about a week

Enjoy!

Returning to a Place of Love

Beaubien Street, Greektown, Detroit, Michigan

 

The Greektown Detective Stories grew from my childhood memories of going to Greektown with my father to shop every Saturday. When I close my eyes, I can remember the sounds of traffic a few blocks over from quiet Greektown, the smells of bread baking, even the cool but sunny weather of a late spring morning. We never ate at the restaurants. My father was there to shop for ingredients he would use to prepare his favorite Greek recipes.

The apartment over Gus’s Greek Grocery in The Greeks of Beaubien Street belonged to my grandfather’s friend. The walnut dining room furniture with the picture of the Evzone in the ornate frame hanging over the buffet, and the tiny kitchen with the window overlooking the alley was a real place.

 

 

While other Greek families worshiped together, our family ate. My Aunt Zoola made the most phenomenal lamb roasts. Peeled potatoes were baked right in the juices and fat of the lamb giving it a leathery exterior with a fluffy interior.  We still talk about how wonderful they tasted. My father cooked Greek food on the weekends and the times I went with him to the Eastern Market for supplies are precious memories.  There was nothing more delicious than my dad’s Greek salad with fresh baked bread from Greektown.

My Papou author George Coutoumanos by Jane Simmonds

As a young girl the desire to belong was strong. I didn’t fit in with the white kids in our suburban neighborhood, and I longed to find my place there in Greektown. But my mother was English – a strike against me even in my father’s family where I didn’t feel totally accepted. My character, Detroit homicide detective Jill Zannos also doesn’t feel like she belongs in spite of being Greek and living in Greektown. She grows up in the apartment above the grocery store. My dad’s father ran a bar in a small, provincial town outside of Detroit, and the children felt the stigma of being Greek, and being bar owners.

 

The Greek community was insular in my memory. In the Greektown Stories, I expose issues that many modern Greeks find offensive, that they choose to ignore. There is a movement among some modern Greeks in America to only look at the positive. In my opinion, it’s the way tragedy is swept under the rug.  Some Greeks don’t like the issues I depict, saying Greeks

don’t act that way. But that’s not my experience. I love it when a reader validates the stories, able to identify with the situations.

 

In the preface of his beautiful book, My Detroit, Growing up Greek and American in Motor City (Pella Publishing Company, NY, NY, 2006) author Dan Georgakas writes, “…the Greeks who emigrated to America thought their citizenship would change, but not their basic culture. Somehow they would remain Greek, and their children’s children….” As a young girl, I was enthralled with anything that was remotely Greek. I longed to go to the Greek Church, but my family wasn’t religious. My grandmother said she’d give me $100 if I would learn the Greek alphabet, but there was no one to teach me. I’m smiling while writing this. The perspective of a child is so absolute. As an adult, I’m not religious and I still don’t know the Greek alphabet.

 

My family was Americanized. My grandmother, who I called Bunny instead of the Greek word, Yiayia, that my cousins used, was seven years old when she came to the United States. I found out later she studied at Wayne State University in Detroit. She married my grandfather who came to Greece as an adult, and they lived in Detroit until 1941, moving to the suburbs because even that long ago, she was frightened to raise her family in the city.

 

The only opportunity my grandmother had to speak Greek was to her father, my Papou (Greek for grandfather), or to her sisters. When my mother and the other non-Greek aunts were present, the aunts ignored them and spoke Greek. My mother said they’d add just enough English so the non-Greeks would know they were being talked about. I play with that dynamic a little bit in the Greektown books.

 

Bunny worked at keeping the family together.  In 1957, she bought a large, ancient farmhouse in Saugatuck, Michigan and spent the next year getting it ready for the extended family to enjoy. We’d drive in from Dearborn on Friday night and relatives from all over Michigan and from the Chicago area would converge. We’d spend the day at the beach, coming home tired and sunburned. The men stayed up all night playing poker, their laughter filling the old place. I can still smell the oregano from my grandmother’s kitchen.

The old farmhouse right before it was torn down.

After Bunny died, most of our relatives moved to California leaving us behind.  After that, my dad tried to continue the traditions that made our family Greek. It became even more important for him to hang on to some of the Greek ways, and for our family, since we didn’t go to the Orthodox Church, that meant Greek food and Greektown.  Rarely, Greek friends would come to the house but when they did, the food was phenomenal.

 

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a work of fiction. I wanted the family to be more Greek than ours was, so I had to embellish what I knew from growing up in our mixed, Greek American family. The situations in the book are the complete opposite of my family’s. Yiayia Eleni in the story is critical and stern.  My grandmother was loving and kind, at least to me.  Although she was known to chase an errant child around the neighborhood with a switch she cut from a pussy willow tree, she never struck me. One of the last things my mother said to me before she died was that I reminded her of Bunny, something I will treasure forever.

 

Like Jill, I have a special needs sibling. In our youth, we referred to her as mentally retarded, a term which is no longer widely used. Now, when I hear the word retard used to describe a person, I cringe. My parents were pioneers during that time; they brought my sister home from the hospital instead of placing her in an institution, and she was mainstreamed into our community. Now in her mid-sixties, people from the old neighborhood still remember her and ask how she is.  My Greek relatives loved her and showered her with affection.  The shame and secretiveness of my character’s responses to their Down Syndrome child is foreign to us, thankfully.

 

I have not been to Dearborn or Detroit in over thirty years. The Detroit in the story is a conglomeration of the Detroit of my childhood, (when our mothers felt it was safe for twelve year-olds to take the bus in for shopping), and post-riot Detroit. Although I mention the riots and some of the desecration of the city, I do so only to keep things realistic.  I relied on aunts and uncles to fill me in on some of the trivia, like the story of the parrot who spoke Greek. My aunt remembers the parrot vividly from visits to Greektown with her father in the late 1940’s. Dan Georgakas also mentions the parrot. For a real view of Greektown, I highly recommend his book.  Everything else is a product of my imagination.

 

The memories of that time are powerfully influential. My husband and I moved from New Jersey to live in Saugatuck after our children were grown, and I felt close to my Papou, also an author, as I wrote The Greeks of Beaubien Street in my office overlooking the woods of west Michigan.

 

My detective stories set in Greektown Detroit, Michigan, are full of references to food. The family congregates around an old, walnut dining room table, eating the same food my family ate when I was growing up.

Readers asked me to compile a recipe book. I thought, why not? How hard can it be? Well, it was so far over my head, I quickly put the brakes on it and instead offered titles to the plethora of fabulous Greek cookbooks available.

One recipe however, is mine when I’m too lazy to make real Baklava, which I’d never attempt anyway.  This is a pretty cake, a big hit at potlucks, and takes very little effort.

Baklava Cake

Ingredients –

Yellow cake mix

White frosting

Walnuts to cover top of cake

Honey

Frozen Filo dough

Prepare the cake mix according to directions, divide into two pans.

While the cake is baking, toss walnuts with a Tsp. of oil and a pinch of salt, spread on a cookie sheet and roast, being careful they don’t get too dark. Chop coarse when cooled.

After removing the nuts from the oven, put several layers of semi-thawed filo dough prepared according to the directions on the box, into the oven to bake. It doesn’t take long. You’ll want the sheets to be light brown.

After the cake has cooled, assemble it, white frosting in between the layers with a drizzle of honey, but not too much, and a sprinkle of nuts. When the layers are stacked, cover with the white frosting.

Cover the frosted top with more chopped walnuts. Crush the filo dough into quarter-sized pieces. It’s easy to turn it into dust, so use caution here. Take the crushed baked filo and press it into the sides of the frosted cake. Drizzle with honey!

The crisp filo and salted walnuts are really nice with the super sweet frosting and honey. I use a light hand drizzling with the honey. Diners can always add more if they’d like.

Many fabulous Greek cookbooks are available. I love Around a Greek Table: Recipes & Stories Arranged According to the Liturgical Seasons of the Eastern Church

My favorite Greek Food Blogs

https://www.lemonandolives.com/

https://www.realgreekrecipes.com/

 

For more about my Greektown Stories, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scorching Summer Sale!

It’s August and the Scorching Summer Saletemperatures are hot as fire. To celebrate, I’m offering a scorching summer sale! You can get the first three books of The Ocean City Boardwalk Series in this box set for just 99¢. That’s a $7.00 saving off the regular cover price. So… what are you waiting for? Take advantage of this scorching summer sale now! This price is good through August 5th.

About the series: Sara, Heather, and Cathy are best friends. Through the years they’ve cheered each other on, celebrating each victory, and they’ve been supportive through every crisis. Join them as they face love and loss… and learn to hold tight to the idea that friends are your chosen family.

The Ocean City Boardwalk series, where life isn’t just fun in the sun—love is waiting on those sandy shores!

Don’t miss this scorching summer sale! Find the bundle:

US Kindle        UK Kindle

iBooks Store

Nook Book

Kobo

Google

I’d also like to offer you a recipe for a frozen summer dessert that’s sure to cool you down.

Summer Coconut Peach Dessert

Ingredients:

3 cups raw cashews

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 fresh peaches, peeled and thinly sliced

Preparation:

  1. Prepare cashews: Place nuts in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for several hours to soften, drain. Discard water.
  2. Combine the cashews, lemon juice, coconut oil, coconut milk, and agave in a food processor and process until smooth. This may take a few minutes so be patient.
  3. Line a greased sheet pan with wax paper. Allow paper to hang over the edges of the pan to make removing easy. Pour cashew mixture into pan, spreading evenly.
  4. Place the pan in the freezer and chill for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from freezer and layer peach slices on top. While I know you’d like to eat this right away, you really need to freeze for at least 2 additional hours.
  6. To serve, remove from freezer and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing into squares. Place any leftover squares in a covered container or zip-top bag and store in the freezer. Keeps for about a week.

 

Thanks for stopping by today!

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Turn Ordinary Brownies Into Extraordinary! #Recipe #Foodies #mgtab

Double Chocolate English Toffee BitsHave plain ol’ brownies ever made you yawn? Here’s a pick-me-up that is sure to make you smile. When the box of brownie mix sitting in my pantry made me say, “Meh,” I knew I needed a solution. Quick. So I concocted this fast and easy fix that will turn ordinary brownies into extraordinary! I’ll never look at brownies the same way again.

I call these Double Chocolate English Toffee Brownies and my husband LOVES them.

Bake a batch of brownies as directed on the box. As soon as you pull the pan out of the oven, sprinkle the brownies with 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate pieces (use more, if you like). I use Nestles Mini Morsels because they melt faster than the regular sized chocolate chips. Wait about five minutes and then use a butter knife to spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the brownies. While the chocolate is still lusciously melty, sprinkle about a cup of Heath English Toffee Bits over the top. Wait until the brownies cool and then cut into squares. Delicious!

Do you have a quick and easy fix that changes a recipe from ordinary to extraordinary? Please share in the comment section below.

While I have your attention, can I tell you about the newest book in my A Family Forever Series? A REASON TO BELIEVE is a cute little fairy tale that’s chockfull of Irish Folklore. It’s available in ebook and in paperback. I hope you’ll look for it!

A Reason To Believe

About the book: It seems like a grand idea, temporarily trading her pixie wings for a womanly form to help handsome widower Paul Roland with his baby girl. And the moment she holds the precious bairn in her arms, Fern knows true happiness for the first time.

But Fern never anticipates the dizzying emotions she feels for the man who not only needs her as a nanny, but as a woman whose passion can heal his wounded heart. Suddenly the forbidden fairy rule she gently bends because of the baby is in danger of being irrevocably broken.

Some things are meant to be…

Have a safe and happy holiday!

"Thanks for stopping by today!   We hope you enjoyed what we shared with you today! Please take a few moments to share with your friends using the share buttons below. Subscribe to our blog so that you don't miss a single post. ->>   And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, get some free books and then get a note containing sales and new releases each Friday."