In Case of Emergency, Make Cupcakes

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A change is as good as a rest, my mother used to say. I didn’t get it at then, but I do now.

I’ve been working on Tease, Book Two of The Insatiable Need Trilogy ever since Book One, Please, was published. I wrote a full draft before I realized it was as far away from romance as you could get and shoved it in a virtual drawer.

This fall, I started working on it again.

But writing an erotic romance with a sex addict hero is not easy. For one thing, sex addiction is not sexy. If you don’t believe me, watch the movie Shame.

Even Michael Fassbender couldn’t make sex addiction hot.

Not that I’m trying to make sex addiction seem sexy. Behavioral addiction of any kind is a disorder, if not, as many are starting to recognize, a disease. And disease is the enemy of hotness. It’s dark. It’s ugly.

But isn’t conquering darkness to win the heart of a good woman what romance is all about?

My hero will get there. But in the meantime, I’m suffering along with him. And in these dreary days of late winter, I need a break from the darkness.

So I’m taking a page out of my friend and fellow romance writer Cameron Allie’s book. As she wrote in this blog post, you can’t wait on the Muse. If he’s not being cooperative, you’ve got to change things up.*

That’s why I’m putting Tease on hold.

Instead, I’ve been writing something as sweet and light as the frosting on these Zucchini Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting I whipped up recently to inject a little saccharine into my dark mood.

zucchini-cupcakes

Abbie Hernandez wasn’t looking for love when she sold her successful NYC literary agency and moved back to East Aurora to open The Sweet Somethings Café. But when her unrequited high school crush becomes a regular, Abbie wonders if he’s interested in more than just her Devil’s Food Cake.

If you’d like a taste of my WIP, you can check out the snippets I’ve been posting in the 100 Words a Day Facebook group.

And if you’d like a taste of these cupcakes, you can nab the recipe here.

*Be sure to check out Cameron’s weekly Author Spotlights to meet your next favorite erotic romance author.Nikki Prince, Mira Noire and Sarah Hawthorne (to name just a few) share juicy details about what makes them tick and how they whip that bratty Muse into submission.

Taking the Slow Road

childs-pose

My personal mantra for 2017 is “low and slow”.

The ‘s’ word doesn’t have many fans these days.

It’s a fast world.

People want to fast-track their degrees, so they can thrive in the fast-paced environment of their workplaces. Businesses are all about increasing productivity and efficiency, streamlining and enhancing customer turnover – all euphemisms for doing things faster.

Describing yourself as slow in an online dating profile or job application won’t get you many takers.

We’ve all bought into the idea that faster equals better, myself included. Hence my initial aversion to the slow-cooker.

How could anything slow be good? I thought.

Then my mother-in-law gave me one. Naturally, it sat on the shelf for months.

Finally, one cold fall day, more to prove to myself that it was another useless piece of kitchen gadgetry than anything else, I dusted it off and plugged it in. I chucked in a cheap cut of beef with a bit of this and that and ended up with… heaven.

The same top round steak fried in the pan would make shoe-leather look tender. But in the gentle heat of the slow-cooker, the tough connective tissues dissolve, the aromatics seep into the meat and the result is tender, fragrant deliciousness.

It got me thinking. What if I took the slow-cooker approach to the rest of my life, specifically, writing?

This month some of my author friends have been sharing their goals for the year. Some examples?

“Self-publish ten novels” “write a novel a month” “increase my word-count to 3,000 a day”

Translation: write faster.

Kudos to them. I’ve tried the fast thing. I’ve knocked out a novel in 3 weeks, had it edited and published in 6. I’ve pulled all-nighters and ignored my family and neglected my finances and my health. But not this year.

My goal? Write one hundred words a day.

A hundred words a day is slow by any definition. But by this time next year, I will have 36,500 words steeped in a year of research and rumination.

I’m betting on them being delicious.

Slow-Cooker Beef Barbacoa

slow-cooker-beef

Ingredients:

1 ½ lb top round steak

1 large red onion, chopped finely

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp salt

Dash of ancho chili powder

1 tbsp chopped hot green chilies (from a can, if you like)

¼ cup lime juice (bottled is fine)

tortillas and taco fixings of your choice, to serve

Method:

Cut the steak in half and place in the slow cooker, on top of the other ingredients. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Remove meat from cooker and shred. Return to cooker while you prepare taco fixing – I recommend cotija cheese, crema and a slaw of very thinly sliced radishes, carrots, red onion, white cabbage and cilantro dressed with a squeeze of fresh lime juice  and a sprinkle of salt.

The Thrill of the Old

To say there have been a lot of changes in my life within the past year is an understatement. In fact, even within the last couple of months I’ve adopted a new country, moved into a new house and signed a contract with a new publisher.

Now, I like new. I like different. I like change. But when the default mode in my life is transition, I need to balance it with a little familiar.

How do I do that?

Like Sherry Wilson-Wong, the heroine of my latest novel Dance with Me, I put on my proverbial apron and cook.

Sherry’s no domestic goddess. The dust bunny collection gathering under the Ikea coffee table in her Brooklyn studio is evidence of that. But when she’s feeling overwhelmed, it’s stirring and sautéing the spicy dishes her Singaporean mother taught her that brings back her equilibrium.

While the menu at our house tended more toward shepherd’s pie and mac and cheese, and my dust bunnies never live to breed, I get the same sense of calm from slicing and dicing that Sherry does. But whereas she sticks to her mother’s recipes, I try to recreate tastes I’ve had on my travels, like these cheese-filled poblano chiles.

pep

When we were poor English teachers living in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, one of our favorite splurges was a visit to a local family-run restaurant for stuffed poblano peppers on the grill. The combination of spicy charred chile and creamy molten cheese was insanely delicious. So when I saw a pile of emerald green poblanos at my local farmers’ market, I knew exactly what I had to do.

Speedy San Luis Poblanos Rellenos

Serves 4 greedy people.

Ingredients:

5 poblano peppers

3/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled (feta will work, in a pinch)

1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

1 cup quick-cooking farro

1 (15 oz) can of black beans

  1. Preheat the broiler and place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil the peppers, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and black in places.
  2. Place the peppers in a large Ziplock bag and seal.
  3. In the meantime, turn off the broiler and set the oven to 400 F. Prepare the farro according to the package directions and drain and rinse the beans.
  4. Remove the peppers from the bag and carefully peel off the blistered skin. Don’t worry about removing it all. Slice off the tops of the peppers and remove and discard the seeds.
  5. Combine the two cheeses and, using a spoon, fill the peppers’ cavities. Return to the foiled baking sheet and pop in the oven for 2-5 minutes.
  6. Drain the farro and combine with the black beans. Spread on a plate. Top with the oozy, melty peppers. Eat and enjoy. (Alternatively, you can skip the farro and beans and just serve them with warm corn tortillas.)

I consider it comfort food with a kick. I’m pretty sure Sherry would approve, and I think you will, too.

WARNING: Poblanos can vary greatly in heat intensity. Dance with Me, on the other hand, is consistently hot. Consume with caution.