Foodie Friday--Magic Christmas Cookies

Sometimes the best surprises happen when one is forced to substitute.

Magic Christmas Cookies

Soft and sandy texture

Different combinations added to the base cookie makes it magic.


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 cup salad oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, mix well, then add salad oil and vanilla, mixing well. Add oats, flour, soda, and salt.  Stir to combine. Cut dough in half.

Mix into ½ batch of dough, either:

Zest from one orange
½ cup craisins
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts 


1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
1/2 cup bacon crumbles, (Kirkland bacon crumbles-1 cup fried until toasty) drain on paper towels.
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 


¾ cup toasted coconut, (1 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted in pan)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup toasted almond slices 


Zest from one orange
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup craisins
½ cup NaturSource salad topper mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, craisins)


¾ cup Heath toffee bits with milk chocolate
½ cup chopped pecans
1 Tbls. ground cinnamon 


½ cup fried bacon crumbles
Large pinch Hickory finishing salt
2/3 cup of mixed chocolate chips (Milk, mini, semi-sweet, butterscotch, white, sea salt caramel, etc) 

Using a cookie scoop (@ 2 Tbls), place balls on parchment lined cookie sheet, lightly flatten. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2-4 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. 

Makes about 60 2-inch cookies.

Tips and Tricks:

·         Parchment paper is God’s gift to baking—no muss, no fuss, just toss it in the trash.

·         Some of the combinations were invented simply because I happened to have the ingredients on hand (bacon crumbles, salad topper seeds/craisin combination, oranges to zest).

·         To toast the bacon, coconut, almond slices, or pine nuts, just heat in skillet on the stovetop, tossing until they are as toasted as you want. Do not leave the room. It will seem like the ingredients are taking forever to toast, but as soon as you walk away they will burn. Don’t ask me how I know this…

·         When mixing in strong spice flavors (chipotle, hickory salt, and cinnamon) start with the amount suggested. Bake and taste a small sample cookie. The chipotle has a late burn, but it shouldn’t be an overpowering flavor, just unexpected. Same with the hickory salt. Don’t over do it.

·         I baked all the cookie combinations and took them to work. ALL cookies were demolished within 4 hours. Not a true taste testing, but many people liked the chipotle-bacon, hickory salt bacon and the coconut macaroon combinations the best. I’m a fan of the orange zest with seeds.

·         If you want to make smaller cookies, then go for it, but bake a few practice ones first to adjust your timing.




Foodie Friday--Savory Meatloaf

I meant to publish this recipe a few weeks ago, but never sat down at the computer to get it accomplished. Oops...

Savory Meatloaf


2 lbs. ground beef
1 c. Kirkland bacon crumbles
1 onion, diced
1 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. savory
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced, or ¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup Ciabatta bread, crumbed in Cuisinart

Preheat oven to 350◦F.

Prepare pan with parchment fitted to 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Fry bacon crumbles to render grease. Add onion, and sauté until onions are translucent and lightly browned. Mix spices into onion mixture, and then add milk. Stir to combine.

In large bowl, mix ground beef with egg and onion mixture. Add breadcrumbs to combine. Spread meat mixture in loaf pan.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 160F.


Tips & Tricks:

·         My family hates raw onions, which is the reason I sautéed them.

·         Kirkland bacon crumbles were put into the recipe because I needed to use them up. BTW: they are found in the salad topper/condiment aisle.

·         Ciabatta bread because we had some mini ciabatta sandwich rolls that were getting old. Bread crumbs of any type work. If I didn’t have enough ciabatta, I had Panko bread crumbs on standby.

·         Parchment paper is AWESOME! I use it all the time for baking cookies to making fudge to reheating pizza. Just throw it away when you’re finished!

·         Fold a piece of parchment paper to fit into pan, then make a nice sharp edges and corners and staple them to keep the correct form. Keep paper long to use as “handles” when you take the meatloaf out of the pan to cut. This makes cleanup short and sweet. Take care. There is a lot of fat in this meatloaf so remove from pan near the sink in case of spillage.


Rite of Passage

There are so many rites of passage hurdles that must be crossed before we reach adulthood. Since I'm not a male, nor do I have a male child, I'll focus on female-types of rites of passage. It's what I'm familiar with.

From graduating kindergarten, to screaming girls at sleepovers, to the horrors of puberty, to entering high school, to celebrating a quinceañera or a sweet sixteen party, or even graduating high school to enter the next phase of life known as college, or pre-adulthood, as it is known to parents, for the simple reason parents usually foot the financial bill while the kiddos pretend to make grown-up decisions and push the boundaries without parental supervision. *PARTY!*

While all these occasions contain some form of emotional excitement there is one rite of passage that is traumatic for young women. It is never spoken about, but dread is the primary emotion.

I'm talking about graduating from the JUNIOR clothing department to WOMEN's clothing.


Graduating from cute, skinny clothes to MOM clothes! The HORROR!

Young women reach this rite at varying times in their lives. Many adult women can still shop in the junior department especially if they are slender and are less endowed than other women.

And yes, I know of a few of these ladies (Hate them!), but alas, I'm not one of them.

My kidlet has been struggling with her new reality for a few years now. I can't force her to realize that having boobs puts a young lady firmly in the women's department and the realm of Mom clothes.
*sigh* I just wished the buyers for those departments would realize that no one wants to wear boxy, oversized, unattractive clothes, not this 57-year-old nor the 17-year old high school senior.

To all the moms out there who have faced, or will face, this rite of passage:

Hang in there! College is around the corner!
Thank you.

That is all.



Foodie Friday -- Beef Stroganoff

I had every intention of trying a Martha Stewart beef stroganoff recipe, but a few things stood in my way. One it was a crockpot meal, which would have forced me to chop onions, mushrooms and meat at 5:30 in the morning prior to work.

Yuck. No thank you. Coffee and I have a special bonding moment at 5:30 in the morning. I'd hate to disrupt that particular ritual.

And two, it had Dijon mustard in it, which my family dislikes. I did think of sneaking it in this recipe, but forgot. Oops.

A few days earlier, I had purchased a 5-lb chuck roast from Costco, which I cut up into both cubes and strips while defatting it. I ended up with about 2-lbs of strips and 2-lbs of 3-inch strips (about 1/4-inch thick and 3/4-inch wide), which I tossed in the freezer. I'll use the cubed meat for chili or some sort of stew next week.

It's 4 PM and time to start cooking dinner...Improvise time!

Beef Stroganoff
2 lbs beef, sliced into strips (roughly 3-in long x 1/2-in wide x 1/4-in deep)
2 small onions, or one large onion, diced (or sliced, if you prefer. I think I will slice it next time)
1-lb mushrooms, cubed (sliced, if you prefer)
2 cups beef broth*
garlic powder
8 oz. lite sour cream
1-lb egg noodles
1) Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in large Dutch oven pan on medium-high. Add onion and mushrooms, cook until tender about 6-8 minutes. Season lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Remove from pan, leaving juices, and add meat. Brown meat, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a couple Tablespoons of flour. Stir until flour is cooked, about 1 minute.
2) Return onions and mushrooms to pan. Add beef broth. Stir.
3) Lightly cover (angle lid instead of placing it tightly on), and turn heat down to keep beef at a strong simmer. Cook for 1-2 hours or until broth thickens to a gravy. ** Adjust seasoning at this time, but you probably won't need to add anything. Just saying.
4) Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.
5) Stir sour cream into beef mixture.
6) Place noodles on plate and spoon beef stroganoff over noodles.
Tips and Tricks
  • * I never have beef broth, or chicken broth for that matter, in the house . . . ever. But what I always have is Better Than Bouillon, chicken and beef. For this recipe, I used about 1 Tablespoon of beef Better than Bouillon, along with 2 cups of water.  
  • ** I cooked my stroganoff about 1 1/2 hours. It just worked out that way. If you use a more marbled cut of beef, it will become less tough the longer it is braised as the fat will break down. My inspiration for this recipe was guided by Paula Deen who cooks her meal for only 45 minutes. Slower = more tender.  
  • If you want to cook the beef first, then the onions and mushrooms. Go for it! It doesn't really matter. 


Life is full of Rejection

Life is full of Rejection


Get used to it.

Sorry to burst your happy bubble, but I’m a realist.

Life is rejection.

It starts at an early age when a parent must deny a child, whether it is during the weaning process, or the extra dessert, or the potentially dangerous things kids can get into as they grow up. The older we become the rejections segue into the romantic arena (who hasn’t been crushed by their crush?), school (last pick in gym class, raise your hand *raises hand*), and other extracurricular activities such as dance (sorry, not flexible enough), sports (sorry, not fast or skilled or up to the same level enough), or the arts (Meh, it’s a picture, albeit a nice picture).

Until finally, when true adulthood arrives, you are writing your resume for your dream job. You’re happy in the knowledge that they have to pick you out of the 100 of your fellow job seekers.

But they don’t pick you. Not even an interview, much less a thanks-but-not-for-us letter.

And without feedback as to how to ‘boost’ your resume to the top of the stack, what do you do? How can you tailor your resume to fit their needs? How do you find out what exactly they are looking for?

You don’t. Rejection sucks, doesn’t it?

As a writer I’ve been rejected A LOT, from contest entries to agents to editors at publishing houses. We’re talking rejections in the THOUSANDS. The responses have been no response (no response = no, right?) to generic “not for me” rejections to negative comments, namely “not good enough”.

The hardest part of rejection is to figure out what to do after having your soul crushed. Do you keep trying? Do you switch gears? Do you give up? Or do you dig deeper?

I’ve done all of the above. I think writing historical romance to fantasy to middle grade to picture/chapter books and, finally, back to fantasy could be considered ‘switching’ gears.

And no, I haven’t found that elusive magic elixir. . . yet.

After a long writing break that segued into rejoining the working force, I think I’m ready to take baby steps into the writing arena again. Rejuvenating my blog is a start. Maybe I’ll be able to dig deeper into my soul to pull the rawness out of my hidden psyche to craft a story.

To paraphrase (actually, I’m brutally ripping off the concept, not paraphrasing) one of my favorite shows, FORGED IN FIRE, “It’s not what the rejection does to you, but what you do when you receive the rejection.

I don’t care who you are, rejection hurts.

But when rejection happens…it’s how you deal with it that molds you into the person you can become.  






From a very young age young children ask, “Why?”

“Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” “Why do I have to do my homework?” Why? Why? Why? It’s enough to drive a parent nuts.

Since rejoining the workforce, I’ve discovered the tendency to ask the very same why question. Sometimes, I get an answer. But more often I get, “You don’t need to know that.”, or “That’s just the way we do things.”, or “Don’t worry about it.”, or “You’ll learn it later.”

Here’s the deal. It’s my JOB to WORRY about stuff. When I ask a question, I’d like an answer. I work in a hospital—a TEACHING hospital, mind you—I NEED to know the answer to my questions to be able to do my job. I might be a newbie after a 13-year hiatus, but I also have 22 years of experience under my belt. The technology and computer systems might be different, and we are doing many more tests that weren’t available thirteen years ago, but I have twenty-two years of knowledge in the field of medical technology that won’t let me rest until I find out WHY.

If you don’t know the answer, just say so. Or even better, “I don’t know, why don’t you find out and let me know what you discover.”

The dumbing down of America started when no one cared enough to find out the answer to WHY. When I stop wondering WHY about job stuff, gardening stuff, nature stuff, or just life stuff, then I’ll be dead.

Because when you stop asking WHY, you stop living.
Never stop asking, WHY.


Last Wild Dragon

Last Wild Dragon


It was impossible.

A dead dragon.

But dragons didn’t just die. Only thread or old age could kill a dragon. When it was time to die, dragons went between.

Besides dragons lived in weyrs, and Telgar weyr was seven days walk from the cliffs of Xadu. From the top of the cliffs, not the bottom.   

Wild dragons simply didn’t exist.

Except this one had.

Kyte had noticed the carrion birds while she gathered herbs for the Hold’s healer who was too frail to venture into the forest. Five massive birds circled a few kliks away. More than one herdbeast had fallen from the cliffs of Xadu where the forest dissolved into a fifty-foot drop. Shrugging on her knapsack, she began walking.

At the edge of the forest, Kyte looked down an arrow nocked on her bow focusing her sight on the still form. The carrion were becoming braver as they hopped toward the massive form. Weyr dragons were purported to be huge, though this dragon seemed smaller than the ones Calon, Lord Holder’s son, had bragged about when he had been chosen as a candidate to impress a dragon. Kyte snorted. At least those newborn dragons had enough instinct to know better than to impress upon him.

The carrion’s voracious appetites would destroy the dragon hide as they attacked the carcass with talons, beak and teeth. Arrow drawn, Kyte ran into the clearing to chase them away, shooting one with her arrow. Quickly nocking another arrow, she let loose volley after volley until the carrion scattered in the wind and her quiver lay empty.

They would return, but not today.

As Kyte picked up the spent arrows she kept a leery eye on the dragon, bemused as the scales changed color as she walked around it. Black, but not black. Green, but not green. Purple, but not purple. Blue, but not blue. Colors changing at will with light and shade, blending into the surroundings.

Hiding in plain sight. 

Its spiked tail curled around its head and body protecting itself as if it slept. Open eyes, once iridescent and full of vitality, were now grey and dull with the film of death. Spanning her hands between its eyes, Kyte whispered a blessing. Sadness at the loss of life drooped her shoulders. Sadness for the desecration she must commit. Dragon hide would fetch a steep price on the black market. Marks, she and her mother desperately needed. Inhaling deeply, she shook off her melancholy.   

A quick glance at the sun confirmed a few scant hours until sunset. The body of the dragon blocked a small cave at the base of the cliff, and would provide shelter for the night, while a fire near the entrance would discourage any curious night creatures.

Three hours later, a fire blazed while she scraped the dragon hide she’d removed. Guilt over violating such a magnificent beast warred with the necessity of removing the hide to prevent it from rotting. She’d worked around the bony spikes riding the dragon’s spine to cut even sheets of hide. Though she had to sharpen her blade numerous times, she harvested over twenty weaver’s lengths of hide. Sprinkling salt over the scrapped raw side of the hide, she placed them back to back. Tomorrow she would build a travois to carry the hide home.

Tossing a thick branch on the fire, she smothered a yawn as she placed her knife on the ground. Wrapping her cloak around her, she curled toward the fire and rested her head on her arm, closing her eyes to allow sleep to claim her.

Terror ripped through her body as Kyte woke, gasping for breath. Her heart pounded so rapidly it felt as if it would explode from her chest. The fire had burned down, but it was the numerous pairs of yellow eyes peering at her from their shadow shapes that triggered her fear.

Wulvines. Pack hunters. The smell of death brought them. Fear rippled through her, though not as intense as it had been when she’d first awoken.

Kyte grabbed a burning log with her left hand and held her knife in her right. “It’s okay. I’ll just scare them away. There’s plenty of dragon for the entire pack to eat.” She didn’t know whether she talked aloud to comfort herself or convince herself she could chase them away.

Yelling and brandishing her weapons, she charged the wulvines. Their yellow eyes winked out as they slunk behind the dragon’s carcass, growling and snapping at each other. Releasing the breath she hadn’t known she’d held, she placed more logs on the fire stoking it into a cheery blaze. There was more than enough wood to last the night. She lay down, trying to sleep, but sleep eluded her.

A rock clattered from the depths of the cave as a curious snuffling echoed. Heart pounding, she held her breath as she listened. She’d searched the cave earlier, but not as thoroughly as she should have done. Knife in hand, she carefully rolled over to peer into the darkness.

Emotions rolled over her. Loneliness. Fear. Hunger . . . intense, creeling hunger.

But they weren’t her emotions.

Whatever was in the cave, it didn’t want to hurt her. “It’s okay. You can come out. I won’t hurt you.” Staring into the cave’s depths, she laid her knife behind her and held out both her hands. “Come on out. I’m a healer’s daughter. I can help you.”

With an awkward gait, the creature wobbled toward her. About the size of a large canine, but not any type of canine she’d ever seen. Green ichor oozed from a cut on its front leg as it limped, wings dragging, toward Kyte until she could touch its muzzle.

A dragon? A baby dragon?

“Now, what am I to do with you?”

Its eyes whirled red, orange and yellow as it tilted its head.

Feed me?
    This short fanfic story is an homage to the Dragonriders of Pern by the late, great Anne McCaffrey.
   While it was entered in a Random House contest, there are many more entries much better than mine, I really enjoyed the challenge of writing a new story. Yes, I did use the same character name as all my other stories. To be honest, it's because I suck at naming characters and this one works for me.
    While this story was streamlined to fit the 1000-word limit, I have been thinking about how I can develop a plot to fit this submission. The rusty wheels are starting to churn in my brain.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll come up with another story.
Write on!