Time to Tart It Up! By Taylor Lee

Disclosure: I write sexy murder mysteries and “tart” describes a goodly number of my heroines. Although I prefer to call them feisty.  But I’m on a tart rampage. One that appeals to my other obsessions–cooking and eating.  (I’m convinced that sex and food are, or should be, integrally related.)

On to tarts. My trusty NYT’s April food columns declared in so many words that sheet pan dishes were the “must make” recipes of the month. (All elements of the meal are baked on a single sheet pan). My guy and I made a series of concoctions that you’d never guess would work in one humble pan.

Carrot Tart

Pepperidge Farm

Come May, I was thrilled to see that “tarts” were the recipes of the month. Remember Pepperidge Farm puff pastry from years ago?  Guess what? It’s baaack. And it is now the foundation for every kind of tart you can imagine.

After making dessert tarts and meat and fish oriented tarts, I ended up with my favorite—vegetable tarts.  If you want to impress everyone from the most discriminating gourmand to grandsons who could care less about fine dining, win them over with this recipe I conceived.  Try it.  I promise everyone will be fighting for whatever leftovers exist.

Taylor’s Sumptuous Vegetable Tart

Ingredients:

Crust:  Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (in frozen food section of your supermarket)

Cheese filling: 8oz ricotta cheese, 6 oz crumbled Feta cheese, salt pepper, fresh herbs (your choice).  Combine in a food processor to a “spreadable consistency”.

Vegetables:  My favorites – (you choose yours)

Multi colored carrots, bright red pepper, asparagus (thin), broccolini, sliced cremini mushrooms, red onion.

Directions:

Slice vegetables in thin strips. Generously drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer and roast in a 425 degree oven.  Different vegetables will require different roasting times.  Cool and set aside.

Thaw one sheet of puff pastry.  Line a 12 x 16 baking sheet with parchment paper (essential for scooting the finished tart onto a snazzy serving tray.) Generously sprinkle the parchment paper-covered cooking sheet with parmesan cheese.  Roll out the puff pastry and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Using the point of a sharp knife, score a ½ inch line around the edge of the pastry. Spread the cheese mixture over the pastry leaving the ½ inch border uncovered.

Decorate the puff pastry with your roasted vegetables. I used multi-colored carrots as placeholders.  Then I arranged the other vegetables to fill out the canvas. (See photos.  Note in one recipe I used multi colored heirloom tomatoes drizzled with pesto. Yum.)   Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until pastry is crisp and puffy.

Tomato Tart

Present to your wowed guests.  You and they will never think about “tarts’ the same way again. Promise!

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If you’re ready for a seriously tarty young woman, grab Tanya: Book 1; The Trouble Sisters Saga.

Tanya by Taylor Lee

She’s a brash deputy. He’s an undercover agent. When sparks start to fly, a murderer might be the death of them.

If you like smart characters, tough-talking cops, and scorching passion, you’ll love this sizzling thrill-ride.

 

NCAA Women’s Final 4 by @TaylorLeeWrites

For those of you who follow my blogs know that I’m an avid sports fan. AND I’m a huge supporter of women in sports. That said if you missed the NCAA Women’s Final Four you missed the beginning of an era. One that will be remembered as the game that put women’s basketball on the trajectory to greatness. I love the article by Greg Moore of the AZ Republic below. Heck, it’s got all the hot knocks guaranteed to get attention. Supposed racial slights, social media and broadcast television going crazy. Heck even Jill Biden got in the mix (to her regret).

What if this was the moment that the women’s basketball world has been waiting for, and we all missed it?

The NCAA women’s Final Four was the story of spring.

Think about it.  Angel Reese vs. Caitlin Clark was bigger than anyone could have predicted. It was bigger than Opening Day in baseball. Bigger than the NBA playoff race. And bigger than the Masters tournament.

“It’s been coming,” former Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “It’s been culminating. Even pre-pandemic. 2019 NCAA Tournament was the most viewed. Biggest fanbase. … It’s been trending great.”

It’s a key point that’s been lost in the debate over whether racism was the reason that Reese has been considered obnoxious while Clark has been viewed as precocious, and why in the world Jill Biden thought it was a good idea to invite a losing team to the White House, and why we credit the wrestler John Cena with Clark’s silly hand gesture when he stole it from the rap star Tony Yayo: We were debating women’s hoops with the intensity typically reserved for Jordan vs. LeBron!

This normally would be the space where we explain in detail what happened in the aftermath of LSU’s win over Iowa in the women’s championship, but it feels unnecessary given all that already has been been written and said, which is the exactly the point.

I missed it at first, too. That was until I called my mother on Easter Sunday. When she gave me an update on the family, she told me about my niece, who’s 9, and said the little one has been talking about making the WNBA, which prompted my mom to watch the final.

It must be said that I don’t think my mom has watched a game in her life — of any sort.

Not a Super Bowl, World Series or Stanley Cup game. Not an All-Star, celebrity or charity game. And let’s just be blunt about it, I played seven years of football, and she maybe — MAYBE — came to see me once. (In her defense, I didn’t play much, and when I did, I was a horrifying combination of scrawny and slow. She probably didn’t want to see her only son trampled. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t have watched me, either.)

NCAA

LSU’s Angel Reese (right) shows her ring finger toward Iowa’s Caitlin Clark after the Tigers won the women’s national championship.

But this month, my mom was watching a game between two teams with which she had no direct connection and was so invested that she brought it up to me, unprompted.

TV networks and social media have played a huge role in that attention, which is a far cry from Turner-Thorne’s playing days.

“Back in the Stone Age,” the consultant and broadcast analyst said in a phone interview, “we didn’t have media coverage, so it was hard to draw fans.

“When I played, Pablo Morales, the Olympic swimmer, covered our team. … That was our claim to fame. Other than that, it was pretty pathetic.”

Now? Traditional media outlets were all over Dallas. But forget them. “Saturday Night Live” made Reese into character on Weekend Update.

“The Bayou Barbie is in the building!” cast member Punkie Johnson said as Reese, wearing a No. 10 LSU jersey.

Rhonda Bennett, associate commissioner for women’s basketball with the Pac-12, appreciates the attention.

“It was great that we had people talking about the women’s game, two and three days after the national championship and on the weekend after the national championship game,” she said.

As for the “SNL” jokes, Bennett said “that’s showing that women’s basketball is engaging fans that maybe aren’t traditional women’s basketball fans. It’s getting into pop culture. I think that’s great.”

She thinks the growth is sustainable because it’s part of a trend.

“I think this has been building over several years, I don’t think this is a fluke,” she said, citing sold out Final Fours and huge moments, including Morgan William of Mississippi State hitting a buzzer-beater in 2017 to end a 111-game win streak by UConn.

There’s still room for the sport to grow before the Final Four reaches Phoenix in 2026.

We still don’t see early tournament games at neutral sites. We still don’t see big attendance numbers in November and December. And we aren’t seeing the big endorsement deals that put players on national television ads.

But it could be coming up.

After all, my sister says that my niece just had her first basketball practice.

If my mother is watching, that’s a good sign.

Could be that in 50 years, we’ll all look back at this as the moment women’s basketball arrived.

I invite you to check out my book…

Sapphire: Book 1 Ladies of the Night Series.

Kindle Books Sapphire

Gabriella Shaw, Code Name: Sapphire

Sapphire is hired to seduce and capture the leader of a lucrative international human trafficking enterprise. The epitome of the mastermind’s targeted women, Sapphire is the consummate bait. Unfortunately for the evil man, Sapphire is as deadly as she is beautiful. Paired with former Col. Jase Malone, the two agents enter the Caligula Club to trap their prey. The club is the salacious playground for the rich, famous and deviant, and the conduit to the human trafficking horror. The only thing more challenging than the mastermind to the fiercely independent Sapphire is her commanding partner. The sparks fly as Sapphire and Malone fight to capture the criminally insane mastermind while their fierce personal attraction threatens to bring them both—and the mission—crashing down.

And while you are feasting on the two sexy Special Agents, check out this great Box Set by my ABB pals:

Unforgettable Loyalty

Is there anything more important in a relationship than loyalty from the one you love…knowing that person will always be there for you?

My book in the box set is:

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Knockin On Heaven's Door

She’s a go-it-alone detective. He’s a psychiatrist and FBI profiler. A serial killer brings them together. In more ways than one.

Tyra Stone is the lead major crimes detective in the city’s busy police department. Beautiful, brash, and a declared loner, cooperation isn’t part of her vocabulary. Deacon Walsh has more degrees than any one man should. A former Special Ops physician, psychiatrist, and now FBI profiler, the stunning black agent has spent a year tracking the serial killer of four Colorado girls. When the trail goes cold, a brutal murder of an Albuquerque girl with all the marks of his victims convinces Deacon his killer is responsible.

LISTEN to Your Kindle Book

Want to listen to your Kindle book? Check out this terrific option:

Get Alexa to Read Your Kindle Books

Go ahead and give it a try. When you start doing the dishes tonight, listen to Sapphire: Book 1 Ladies of the Night Series read by Alexa.

Kindle Books Sapphire

Gabriella Shaw, Code Name: Sapphire

Sapphire is hired to seduce and capture the leader of a lucrative international human trafficking enterprise. The epitome of the mastermind’s targeted women, Sapphire is the consummate bait. Unfortunately for the evil man, Sapphire is as deadly as she is beautiful. Paired with former Col. Jase Malone, the two agents enter the Caligula Club to trap their prey. The club is the salacious playground for the rich, famous and deviant, and the conduit to the human trafficking horror. The only thing more challenging than the mastermind to the fiercely independent Sapphire is her commanding partner. The sparks fly as Sapphire and Malone fight to capture the criminally insane mastermind while their fierce personal attraction threatens to bring them both—and the mission—crashing down.

And while you are feasting on the two sexy Special Agents, check out this great Box Set by my ABB pals:

Unforgettable Loyalty

Is there anything more important in a relationship than loyalty from the one you love…knowing that person will always be there for you?

My book in the box set is:

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Knockin On Heaven's Door

She’s a go-it-alone detective. He’s a psychiatrist and FBI profiler. A serial killer brings them together. In more ways than one.

Tyra Stone is the lead major crimes detective in the city’s busy police department. Beautiful, brash, and a declared loner, cooperation isn’t part of her vocabulary. Deacon Walsh has more degrees than any one man should. A former Special Ops physician, psychiatrist, and now FBI profiler, the stunning black agent has spent a year tracking the serial killer of four Colorado girls. When the trail goes cold, a brutal murder of an Albuquerque girl with all the marks of his victims convinces Deacon his killer is responsible.

Do Aphrodisiacs Work? By Taylor Lee

Being the confirmed sensualist that I am, I’m a true believer in the power of food to affect our moods and desires.  That said, I loved this terrific article by Diana Herrington (@DancinginLife) on the power of aphrodisiacs to affect our love life. Do aphrodisiacs really work? Can you change your mood with food chemistry? Here are famous foods and activities known for love, the science behind them, and tasty recipes to share with your sweetie.

  1. Honey
  • Honey is a great source of boron, the mineral that helps the body metabolize estrogen, the female sex hormone.
  • Studies show that boron may also increase testosterone, the hormone responsible for promoting sex drive in both men and women.
  • Medieval hopefuls drank mead, a fermented honey drink, to promote sexual desire.
  • Ancient Persian couples drank mead every day for a month (known as the “honey month”–a.k.a. “honeymoon”) after they married to prepare for a successful family life.

Tip: Start the morning with Honey Syrup on pancakes or waffles.

Chocolate

  1. Chocolate

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ~Charles M. Schulz

  • Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which mimics the brain chemistry of a person in love. It also promotes serotonin production. Together they give you a hormone rush that feels like the rush of love or love making.
  • There are other foods that may contain more of these ingredients (like cheese) but who cares? Chocolate tastes so good!
  • The problem with chocolate is that you risk a sugar crash, putting a damper on your “happily ever after.”

Tip: Create Homemade Walnut Dark Chocolate, a healthy choice since it has no refined sugar unhealthy oils, or preservatives!

Almonds

  1. Almonds
  • Through history, almonds were regarded as fertility symbols.
  • The aroma of almond supposedly arouses passion in females–or so thought the poets and scribes.
  • Almonds provide high doses of vitamin E, magnesium and even fiber.

Tip: Share some Almond Milk that you made yourself with love.

Beets

  1. Beets
  • One of the first known uses of beets was by the ancient Romans, who used them medicinally as an aphrodisiac.
  • Beets contain high levels of nitrates which increase blood flow by expanding blood vessels walls. Increased blood flow to the genital areas is one of the mechanisms Viagra and other pharmaceuticals create their effects.
  • Beets also contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
  • Beets have a host of other health benefits.

Garlic

  1. Garlic
  • Garlic is full of allicin, another ingredient that will also increase blood flow.
  • In eastern traditions monks and priests are not allowed to eat garlic (or onions) because they are particularly stimulating.
  • Garlic has a host of other health benefits, many of which boost your immune system.
  • The obvious trouble with this food is that unless your partner is also a garlic eater, they might not like your smell!

bicyclists

  1. Exercise
  • Exercise doesn’t sound romantic unless it’s a “moonlit walk on the beach.”  But it turns out, exercise is so good for the body, that it triggers romantic moods, as well.
  • During vigorous activity, endorphins–the ”feel good” chemicals–are released. They can feel like a rush of love.
  • Exercise increases blood flow to the whole body and thus like beets and garlic, can increase moods and desire.
  • Exercise and building muscle mass also usually increases testosterone levels.

Tip: Take a walk together. What better way to deepen your love then while connecting with nature.

Licorice

  1. Licorice (Truly one of my TRUE addictions!  I eat it every day😊)
  • In ancient China, people used licorice to enhance love and lust.
  • The smell appears to be particularly stimulating.
  • Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Tip: Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, conducted a study that looked at how different smells stimulated sexual arousal. He found that the smell of black licorice increased the blood flow to the genital area by 13 percent.

Ginseng

  1. Ginseng
  • Asian ginseng is an adaptogen, or a substance that helps keep proper hormone balance in your body.
  • Ginseng, helps moderate the harmful effects of stress, enhances your energy and stamina and may improve your sexual function.
  • Caution: Because ginseng has an estrogen-like effect, pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take it. Although ginseng is not a kitchen food in the west, it is so well known and universally used that I have included it.

Basil

  1. Sweet Basil
  • Sweet basil herb is known across cultures to naturally increase sex drive and fertility by fostering a feeling of total relaxation in the body and muscles while increasing circulation.
  • In Italy, it is a symbol of love.
  • The scent of basil was said to drive men wild–so much so that women would dust their breasts with dried and powdered basil.

Is it all in your head? Well…yes. Each of these foods and activities can affect your chemistry but the effects are often subtle. If we are cued for love though, even a boost of energy from carbs could be perceived as an emotion or an attractive force. The body then enhances that effect since it can manufacture any number of its own mood enhancing brain and body hormones.

“Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work almost as well.” ~Lazarus Long

This is why western science officially states that there are no effective aphrodisiacs. Scientists are looking for something as powerful and immediate as steroids or Viagra. But why would we want to use those strong drugs when we could simply have fun eating real food that will enhance our health? An attractive happy body and mind comes from a healthy body and mind.

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I can’t say it better.  Let’s eat real food for love of our self and our loved one. And to feed all of our senses, check out my latest book:

The Unstoppable Detective Brooks: Prequel: A Christmas Reunion Kindle Edition

Trust me. Detective Piper Brooks and District Attorney Ethan Matthews more than feed all of our senses. Buckle Up and prepare to be wowed! These are two sexy dudes!

And while you are feeding your senses and your passions grab the latest box set from me and my ABB  author friends:

Unforgettable Devotion: Passion and Pain (The Unforgettables Book 29) Kindle Edition

February

Dedication, support, and loyalty are qualities we all look for in our relationships. When we add love into the mix, then we’ve hit the jackpot.  My book in the collection TARA: The Trouble Sisters Saga.

She’s a brash newspaper editor and declared environmental activist. He’s an arrogant land developer. A broken elevator forces them to confront each other not as diehard adversaries but as a man and a woman.