Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Garden is Planted!

My garden took two days to plant, but it's done! Hubby tilled all 3600 square feet with the walk-behind tiller--our tractor needs a new clutch, so the PTO-driven tiller was a no go. Son helped make rows. They were much straighter than my rows usually end up. We planted corn, green beans, potatoes, yellow onions, green onions, leeks, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, four kinds of squash, two kinds of melons, and eggplant. New this year are broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and a peanut plant. Yes, a peanut plant. We only put in five tomato plants since we have lots of tomato puree, soup, salsa, and barbecue sauce left from the last couple years. That left space to try something completely different. Hopefully the weeds won't see this as an invitation...

Watch for posts on how to use all those fresh vegetables as harvest time nears! Happy gardening!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Shortbread Cookies

In honor of Rebecca's shortbread giveaway over at Romancing the Palate, I'm sharing my recipe for Shortbread Cookies this week. They melt in your mouth and make a wonderful cheesecake crust. Real butter is a MUST for this recipe. And when I say sift, I mean sift!

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened **Do Not Substitute!**
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

Cream butter. Add sifted powdered sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and cornstarch. Add to creamed mixture; blend. Shape dough into a ball and chill at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to 1/2 inch thickness with a fork. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-22 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheets. Place on wire racks or waxed paper to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Makes about 4 dozen.

I bet you can't eat just one!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

50K Challenge

No, I am not talking about running. This 50K is a writing challenge issued by RWA PRO Liaison, Cynthia D'Alba. In March, RWA members were invited to take the 50K Challenge--write 50,000 words between April 1 and July 28 (the first day of the RWA National Conference). Participants can post their goals and weekly word counts on a forum message board. We give each other support and applause in our quest to meet the challenge. What a great group of writers!

As of midnight last night, I met my 50K Challenge!!! I'll continue to post my weekly totals and cheer on the rest of the group. For any of those reading my post...

Write, write, write!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Baked Zucchini (or Eggplant) Parmesan

I love pasta! And this is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes. I tend to make more with zucchini when I have it fresh from the garden, but love the eggplant version, too. Allow at least an hour to make this recipe, and a bit longer if using homemade sauce. I'm including my all purpose spaghetti sauce as well.

Zucchini (or Eggplant) Parmesan

2-3 zucchini (about 8 inches long), cut in half, then into 1/2 inch thick lengthwise slices
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut like the zucchini
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
16 ounces spaghetti sauce
olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti, cook while browning the vegetables (10 minutes for al dente)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Line up three medium bowls on your workspace. Beat the egg in one bowl. Add milk and mix well. Put the flour in second bowl and the breadcrumbs in the third bowl. Dredge zucchini or eggplant slices in flour. Tap to remove excess flour, then dip both sides in egg mixture. Transfer to breadcrumbs and pat to coat well.

Preheat a large nonstick frying pan over medium to medium high for two minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown breaded zucchini or eggplant slices on both sides, transferring to a medium casserole dish when done. Continue until all slices are browned, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese over zucchini or eggplant. Pour 1/2 the spaghetti sauce over the cheese. Top with cooked spaghetti. Pour remaining sauce over spaghetti and sprinkled on the rest of the mozzarella. Top with the grated Parmesan. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings.

Spaghetti Sauce

16 ounces (1 pint) tomato puree
1-2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Freezes well.

Whip up or buy a loaf of Italian bread and enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cell Phones and Driving Don't Mix

Finally, after five years of not riding my husband is going to buy a new bike. What happened to his old one, you ask?

One day he dropped off his truck at the mechanic's for a tune-up. He rode his bike from the garage to work--less than 2 miles. After work he headed back to pick up his truck. Halfway there a pickup driven by a man talking on a cell phone cut off a left turn, hitting my husband's bike and dragging it under the truck. Luckily my husband is very athletic and was able to jump off the bike. His ankle didn't clear the bike completely, leaving cuts and bruises. Five years later he still has ankle pain and flashbacks occasionally. Nothing like a big black truck almost squishing you to leave a lasting impression.

Please don't talk on your cell phone while driving. Instead, pull off the road or into a parking lot, let the call go to voicemail, or, if you must, use a hands-free device (speakerphone or bluetooth). You could save a life.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Apple Stir-fried Pork

Wow! Wednesday again already! This week's recipe is a favorite in my house. It's an adaptation of a Frugal Gourmet recipe I tried more than a decade ago. As this is served over steamed rice, I've included a very simple method for perfect rice every time.

Apple Stir-fried Pork

1/2 lb. very lean boneless pork chops, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry (I prefer Taylor New York)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 large apples, cored and sliced (I prefer Gala, but have also used Yellow Delicious)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium bowl combine pork, soy sauce, sherry, garlic powder, and ginger. Set aside to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Cook rice.
Preheat large wok over medium-high for 2 minutes. Add olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes. Add sliced apples and onions. Stir and cook until apples are tender and onions are translucent.
Serve over steamed rice. Makes 3-4 servings.

Steamed Rice: Combine 1 cup long- cooking, long grain rice with 1 1/2 cups water in medium saucepan (or 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water). Cook over medium-high heat until craters form in the surface. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 5 minutes.

I highly recommend making enough for lunch leftovers!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Deep Breath...AHHH

Okay, Life, I need a few minutes to catch my breath. The past week was insanely busy and I want a short time out. Between dental checkups for my son and me, an orthodontist appointment for my son, a doctor's appointment for me, my daughter moving home for the summer, my birthday : ) (and hubby had graduation duty that day), my local RWA chapter meeting, and Mothers Day I'm pooped. And I made time to write every day as well! And did I mention I'm the new PRO Liaison for my RWA chapter?!

How do we balance all those responsibilities and commitments without losing our minds? Let me know when you figure it out!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

April Update

Okay, so I'm a little behind on posting my April updates. Life got in the way this week! We celebrated my son's fourteenth birthday and attended my daughter's end of semester dance company performance at Purdue on May first. I began my month of mentorship with Kerri Nelson on the first as well, and started an online class taught by Cindy Vallar, To Be or Not To Be and Other Editing Quandaries. I chose this workshop as part of the prize pack I won from The Book Boost blog. Will I get past my editing woes? We shall see.

Drum roll...I wrote 30,046 words for the month of April. This goes toward the 50K Challenge issued by Cynthia D'Alba, RWA PRO Liaison. She threatened to up my challenge to 100,000 words by July 25th since I'm almost there already : ) My year-to-date total is 122,187 words!!! Hopefully the month of May will include a finished manuscript and those 1000 words a day.

Happy Writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With Kick!

Wednesday's Recipe - Guacamole

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, let's make a batch of guacamole! Be sure to start with a ripe avocado. How do you tell if it's ripe? First, see those bright green avocados in the produce section? NOT ripe. They should be very dark green, almost black. Look for one with some give, but not squishy. Hard will not work unless you want to make this recipe at least four days from now.

Peeling an avocado--cut in half lengthwise to the pit. Give each half a twist in opposite directions. One half is ready to scoop into a bowl, the other contains the pit. Pay attention--this gets technical now! :D Whack the blade of the knife into the pit and twist to remove. Ready to begin!


1 ripe avocado
two dashes of garlic powder (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
dash of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer no fat-no cholesterol since avocados are high in fat)

Scoop the insides of the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, lemon juice, and mayo. Mix well and chill.
Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, burritos, salads, etc., etc., etc.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!