Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Features - Pot Lucks, Birthdays and Over Time recipes

Do you ever wonder who is lucky enough to have the job of coming up with delicious recipes like these? To get paid to invent in the kitchen sounds like a dream job. One day I'll have to write book about a baker. I won't be the first, that's for sure. Sweet, savory, and sensual go together pretty well. 

I picked these recipes to try for work. We seem to have pot lucks on any excuse. On the first Wednesday of every month we celebrate the birthdays of everyone born in that month. One of us volunteers to bring the cake, or cakes, since there about 30 in our department. 

This weekend we're going through the second phase of upgrading our computer servers and putting all our files on The Cloud. Ooo, The Clooouuud. It's not been an easy transition. We're on mandatory overtime this weekend, which is good and bad. We've had overtime restriction almost continuously since the recession started. So to get an extra eight hours at time and a half is great. But it's hard to think of working on the weekend after a hard week. So I'm going to make the Mini Orange Dream Cookie Sandwiches to take on Saturday as a treat. 

Do you have a favorite recipe that you like to take to work, club or church pot lucks? 


Enjoy Perfectly Topped Spring Desserts

(Family Features) Whether you’re getting together with family or hosting a large gathering, celebrate this spring season with great desserts that won’t have you crumbling under pressure when it is time to set the dessert table. From chocolate cake to frosted cookies, the answer to flawlessly frosted desserts is right in your freezer.

COOL WHIP Frosting makes it easy to impress with sweets such as Mini Orange Dream Cookie Sandwiches and Double-Mocha Layer Cake. With the perfect amount of sweetness, the frosting’s whipped texture is so easy to spread on your cakes and cupcakes, for a simple, show-stopping dessert every time.

For more recipes using spreadable COOL WHIP Frosting, visit

Double-Mocha Layer Cake
Total time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Yield: 16 servings

1          cup hot water
4          teaspoons MAXWELL HOUSE Instant Coffee, divided
1          package (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1          package (3.9 ounces) JELL-O chocolate Instant Pudding
4          eggs
1/3       cup oil
4          ounces BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
1          package (8 ounces) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1          jar (7 ounces) JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Crème
1          tub (10.6 ounces) COOL WHIP Chocolate Whipped Frosting, thawed

Heat oven to 350°F.
Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; spray with cooking spray. Add hot water to 2 tsp. coffee granules in large bowl; stir until dissolved. Add cake mix, dry pudding mix, eggs and oil; beat with mixer until blended. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 33 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Melt 2 oz. chocolate as directed on package. Add to cream cheese, marshmallow creme and remaining coffee granules in large bowl; beat with mixer until blended.

Use foil handles to lift cake from pan; cut crosswise in half. Stack cake layers on plate, spreading cream cheese mixture between layers. Spread frosting onto top and side of cake. Melt remaining chocolate; drizzle over cake.

Mini Orange Dream Cookie Sandwiches
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 56 cookies

1          package (2-layer size) white cake mix
3          tablespoons dry orange flavor gelatin
1          cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
1          egg
1          tub (10.6 ounces) COOL WHIP Cream Cheese Whipped Frosting, thawed

Heat oven to 375°F.
Stir all ingredients except frosting until blended. Dough will be stiff.

Shape into balls, using 1 teaspoon dough for each. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-covered baking sheets.
Bake 7 to 8 minutes or just until edges of cookies are set. Do not overbake. Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack; cool completely.
Fill 2 cookies with 1 teaspoon frosting to make sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and frosting. Keep refrigerated.

Substitution: Prepare using your favorite flavor of gelatin.
Variation: Spray baking sheets with cooking spray instead of using the parchment-covered baking sheets.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Writers' Tips - LOCK your GMC.

Today I’d like to share a helpful acronym from Plot & Structure - Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell, published by Writer’s Digest Books from their Write Great Fiction series.

I’m a panster working to find a happy medium between plotting and writing by the seat of my pants. As I work on my novella I keep feeling a need to revisit the parts of a novel and remembered this book on my shelf, which is full of sticky flags.

Bell analyzed hundreds of plots and came up with “a simple set of foundational principles” he calls the LOCK system.

This just touches on the system. It is the foundation of the book, each category is thoroughly discussed. As the title suggests, the book is full of plot and structure advice.

LOCK: Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Knockout.
Bell discusses having a strong Lead character who is “compelling, someone we have to watch throughout the course of the novel.”
The “Objective is the driving force of fiction.” It moves the story forward and gives the Lead something to do. She’s either going after something or running a way from something. There should be only one dominant Objective for the Lead character. “This forms the ‘story question”—will the Lead realize her Objective?”
Readers wonder if she will reach her Objective because of the Confrontation. The Objective needs to be crucial so the Lead will have a reason to face the Confrontation to achieve her Objective. If there’s no Confrontation the reader has nothing to worry and fret about, no suspense that the Lead with reach her Objective. 
The Knockout is your great ending that leaves the reader satisfied.  

This correlates with GMC, another writers’ acronym.
GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict

The Goal is the Objective, the character is Motivated because the Objective is crucial, Conflict is Confrontation. 

Now that I’ve revved up my plotting engine, I’m ready to get back to my novella.

Do you know of any writers’ acronyms that help you remember the many parts of a good story? 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Meet Gregor McInnis IV

Greg McInnis gives us a glimpse into his life: loves and trials. 

Interview with Gregor McInnis IV, hero of HER SCOTTISH CEO, at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews blog.

Her Scottish CEO, a contemporary romance.

Friday Features - Black Bean Salad and Chicken Wrap recipes

I eat salads several times a week as a meal and I especially like to include beans and corn. I also try to limit breads. Wraps are a good substitute. I prefer wrapping ingredients in corn tortillas because I believe wheat is the cause of some of my health issues. Nutrition Hint: as I've mentioned before, corn tortillas score 91 out of 100 on the NuVal scale and flour tortillas are down at the bottom around 5 to 15. That makes corn tortillas much more nutrient rich. I spritz them with some cooking spray and heat them in a toaster oven. They're not very good raw out of the package. I keep a variety of canned beans in my pantry to add to salads. 

Here are two recipes I'm adding to my menus this week... 

Find Nature’s Bounty in Your Pantry

(Family Features) Nature’s bounty has arrived with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available everywhere, including the canned food aisle at your local grocery store. Most canned fruits and vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and canned just hours after being harvested. So, all of that goodness is always on hand in your pantry, making it simple to get nutritious meals on the table that your family will love.

Many canned fruits and vegetables have the same nutrients as their fresh or frozen counterparts, according to a University of California Davis study. Our grandparents and great grandparents knew this. The canning process they used is the same process still used today, which locks in the freshness and nutrients of foods, naturally.

“When it comes to canned fruits and vegetables, I know I’m serving the natural goodness of the food,” said Jeanne Benedict, entertaining expert and cookbook author. “Canned foods not only help guarantee a homemade and delicious meal on the dinner table, they’re quick and easy – which means more quality time spent with the family.”

With a pantry stocked with canned foods, you have an amazing number of quick and delicious meal solutions right at your fingertips. These no-cook dishes will have you in and out of the kitchen without breaking a sweat, and earn cool points from the family.

For more recipes and to learn how you can get cooking with cans, visit and

Best Black Bean Salad
Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

1          red bell pepper, diced
1          green bell pepper, diced
1          yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2       cup diced red onion
1          (15.25 ounce) can Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn, drained
1          clove garlic, minced
1          teaspoon cilantro
1/4       cup olive oil
4          tablespoons red wine vinegar
1          teaspoon lime juice
1          (15 ounce) can Bush’s Black Beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortilla chips

In a small bowl, combine peppers, onion, corn, garlic and cilantro. Add olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add Bush’s Black Beans and toss well. Serve with tortilla chips.Cool 

Chicken Wraps
Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8

4          (12 inch) flour tortillas
1/2       cup mayonnaise
1/2       teaspoon dill weed
4          cups shredded lettuce, or shredded cabbage
1          (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained and rinsed
2          (5 ounce) cans Hormel Premium Chicken Breast in Water, drained and flaked
1/4       cup chopped green onions
1          cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Spread the tortillas with mayonnaise and sprinkle with dill. Top center of each tortilla with lettuce, Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes, chicken, onions and cheese. Fold bottoms of tortilla up 2 inches and then roll up.

Variation: For hot sandwiches, substitute 2 cups red and green pepper strips for lettuce. Spread salsa in place of mayonnaise on tortilla. Prepare as directed. Microwave on high until cheese is melted, about 30 seconds.