Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday photo: library on wheels

I think this is my new dream job. . . Opening up a library like this in Tuscanny.   With a wine bar. Because it is, after all, Italy!

Have a wonderful weekend!  




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Layered Cranberry Apple Pie Recipe & giveaway



Since Thanksgiving's nearly here, I'm reposting this 2012 recipe for those who may have missed it.  Enjoy!  One person who comments will receive a Shelter Bay or Castlelough backlist book of their choice. Ebook or print (if available.) Winner will be announced here, on FB, and twitter Monday. 

When I decided to make a cranberry/apple pie for this year's Thanksgiving dinner,  I found a bunch of recipes online. But none of them really hit home with me.  Also, I'm sorry Martha Stewart, but after reading the recipe notes on Cook's Illustrated, I decided that just tossing the cranberries in with the apples didn't sound right.  

As Cook's points out, an apple pie is a balance between sweet and tart, crisp and tender.  If you add cranberries into the mix, not only does that upset the balance, but the juice the berries release while cooking can make for a soggy crust.  It took me some tasting and adjusting, but here's the recipe I came up with, which Sweetie swears is the best pie ever:

2 pie crusts (I'll share my no-fail crust recipe at the end of the post.)

For the cranberry layer, which should be made first:

Ingredients: 

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (you may not need this, but I wasn't taking any chances because I didn't have time to make a second one if the berries didn't set up.)

Bring to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  
Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally and pressing the berries against the side of the pan to break them down.  (I used a flat wooden spoon.)   They're done when you can drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan and the berries don't fill in the clear trail.

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. About 30 minutes, although mine sat longer because I hadn't peeled or sliced the apples yet.

Apple layer:

Ingredients 



5-7 cups of peeled baking apples.  You want an apple that's both tart and sweet, but won't break down while baking. To get some difference in tastes and textures, I used 3 Granny Smiths, 2 Jonagolds (Jonathons in some places)  and 1 Braeburn. 

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
white of one egg, lightly beaten
finely grated orange zest


Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, along with 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon orange zest.

Add apples, sliced about 1/4" thick, and lemon juice and mix them together until all slices are coated. (I started with another wooden spoon and ended up using my hands.)

Let sit for about ten minutes for the juices to come out of the apples. 

Brush the pie crust you've already put in the bottom of your pie pan with lightly beaten egg white and let dry to prevent a soggy crust.  

Spread cranberry mixture across the bottom of the crust.

Add apple slices, arranging so they build toward a dome in the center.  Don't worry if it seems like too many apples, they break down while baking. 

Top apples with cut-up pieces of cold butter.  

Lay top crust over the pie and seal/flute edges.  (There's a video at the end of the post if you need help with this.)

Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar 

Cut four diagonal slices in the dough.

Place pie pan on a pre-warmed baking sheet to protect against spill over and put on the middle rack in the pre-heated oven.

Now, normally, I'd start at 425 degrees for the first ten minutes, but -- oops -- we forgot to clean the oven after last week's roast chicken, so it began to smoke.  

I compromised by turning it down to 375 degrees, which stopped the smoking.  I covered the edges with a pie crust shield for the first 25 minutes.  You can use folded strips of aluminum foil, but they're more difficult to take off without tearing the crust.  After the first 25 minutes, I took the shield off, baked it for another 30 minutes, and it turned out such a pretty color (a bit darker than this picture), I think I'll stick with this way.

Let cool on a wire rack, then serve with a good vanilla bean ice cream.  (With all the calories in the pie, it makes no sense to go with a much less flavorful low fat ice cream.  This is all about yummy indulgence and not the time to scrimp!) 

As far as I'm concerned, pies are just as much about the crust. In fact, I've had more than one restaurant pie ruined by a thick, tasteless crust.  This one, adapted from Joy of Cooking (adapted because one time I made it and accidentally took a bit from two difference recipes, but it worked, so I've stuck with it), is no fail and I've been using it forever. Well, since Sweetie bought me my first edition of Joy of Cooking our first Christmas together when I was nineteen. 

I made 1/3 more dough than I usually make because I knew I was going to pile the apples high in the pan, and I'd rather have crust left over than not enough.  When our son was little, I'd cut the scraps of pie dough into strips, sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and bake them, too, as an extra occasional treat. 

Ingredients:

Sift 3 cups of flour
Stir in 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter flavored Crisco  (or half Crisco and 1/2 cold butter, but all Crisco is flakier.) 

Gradually cut half the the Crisco into the flour and salt mixture.  I use two dinner knives, criss-crossing them.  When the flour's the grain of cornmeal, cut in the other half of the shortening. Again, I use my knives, finishing up with a few chops with a pastry blender, then working it lightly with my fingers until it's pea size. 

GRADUALLY, 1 Tablespoon at a time, stir in approximately 7 1/2 Tablespoons of ice water, lifting it into the dough with a fork.  You want to do this gradually, because you can always add more, but it's difficult to take away.  You want just enough water to hold the ingredients together. When you can gather it into a ball, STOP HANDLING IT!  

Wrap the dough in waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the dough before rolling. Normally, I'd do half and half, but for this pie's height, I went  with1/3 for the bottom, 2/3 for the top.  (I did end up with extra dough, but again, more is better than not enough.)

Place the 1st ball on a sheet of waxed paper and smash it down with your hand. Then cover with another sheet of waxed paper.  This makes for an easy way to get the dough into your pan, plus, you don't have to add extra flour for rolling.  

Whether you use a rolling pin, a wine bottle, or a glass, always roll the dough from the center out in all directions. Don't go back and forth.  Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness or less. Don't worry if you have a few tears. You can patch them later.

When you have a circle a bit larger than your pie pan, turn it over and peel off the bottom waxed paper.  (The bottom piece usually ends up with more wrinkles and is a bit more difficult to work with.)  Then lift the remaining piece, flip the dough over and ease it into the pan, peeling off the paper once it's in the pan.  I've found it's best to tear it in strips.   Then firm it in place with your hands so there won't be air between the dough and the sides of the pan. 

Brush it with a light bit of egg white.  Don't prick the crust for berry pies.  

After you've added your berry/apple mixture, do the same to place the top crust over the apples. Cut off extra bits from the overhang dough to patch any holes.

Then it's important to pinch the bottom and top layers together.  (Cut off any excess before making your edge.) I use my thumb and forefinger; you can also use a fork. The important thing it to seal it well to release the steam so your filling won't bubble out.  

Brush with a dusting of egg white, sprinkle with sugar and don't forget to cut those slices in the top.  You can also make a lovely lattice top, but it's more difficult and I was making this late at night. Besides, this crust is super tasty, so the more the better. :)



Bon Appetit!

JoAnn 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Hump Day Hot Guy

Yikes, hugs, and mugs of cocoa to all of you buried in snow!!

 But I have a fix.... Wednesday hump day hot guy is waiting to Warm. You. Up!

So, a question...Do you prefer manscaping in your heroes?  Or some manly chest and underarm hair?  



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Teaser: You Again

Today's Tuesday Teaser is from YOU AGAIN.  Where Adam picks Meghann up at the Portland airport to take her to Shelter Bay.  Those of you who've read the book should recognize it. And if you haven't, why not?  :) 

They managed to make small talk as they waited for her luggage. About her flight, the meal, which was no longer served in coach, but hey, she could buy some sunflower seeds, and the wonder of flying over the Rockies and Cascades, which had made the lack of any meals worthwhile. 

He caught her up on the fund-raiser, and she told him how good it felt, after the past months spent deep in fictionland, to rejoin the real world.

Adam did not say how much he liked the way her ivory sweater, which was woven from some fluffy material that reminded him of clouds, hugged her breasts beneath that open yellow rain parka. Nor did he add that as pretty as she looked in it, he wouldn’t mind lowering that metal zipper running down the front. 

And even as he could hear Sax and Dillon ragging him, he didn’t ask her to the Snow Ball. 

She didn’t say how she’d been hit by that unexpected lightning bolt of lust the moment she’d seen him. Nor how his touch had brought back last night’s too-vivid dream where that hand he’d placed so casually on her back had created havoc over every inch of her needy, neglected body. 

And, although she knew that Caro would never have been so tongue-tied, Meghann couldn’t figure out a way to ask him if he was taking anyone to the Snow Ball. And if not, would he take her?


It was, she thought with a long, inward sigh, just like high school all over again. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Talking porcupine video and giveaway winner -- Belinda!

Okay, so it's after Halloween. But hey, it's still a treat and it's almost time for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!! Make sure you have your sound on and enjoy.  

Also, the winner of last Thursday Oregon Coast photo book is Belinda!  Belinda, if you email your post office mailing to joann At Joannross Dot Com,  we'll get your book out to you.

Have a happy week everyone!  We'll have more posts each day this week and a new giveaway Thursday!





Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Photo: Snow in Shelter Bay

Today's Friday photo is one of rare snow in Shelter Bay! (There was a reason I sent Cole and Kelli to Rainbow Lake for last year's Christmas in Shelter Bay when I wanted them to be snowed in, lol)  I hope everyone keeps warm in the new storm that's forecast.



For those who didn't see my previous post, I'm giving away a book of Oregon coast photos.  Just scroll down to Thursday and comment about dogs, cats, or whatever your favorite pets might be, for a chance to win. Winner will be announced on Monday with a new weekly giveaway next Thursday. 

Have a great weekend and stay warm!  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adaptable dogs and giveaway

Many of you have probably noticed how many of my books include dogs. That's because I've had dogs most of my life.  All were pound, or these days, shelter dogs.  One, a collie named Lassie (I know, not original, but hey, I didn't name her!) came with the house my parents bought when they got married the day before my fifth birthday. Then they went off on their honeymoon, leaving me to celebrate with my aunt Dee and Grandda McLaughlin, but hey, at least I got to be the flower girl, lol. Lassie was old and her previous owners didn't think she'd adapt well to moving.  

Dogs having to adapt is what this post is all about. Having lost our darling rescued German pinscher Jessie, to cancer in May, we're now down to two.  Shadow, a Shih Tzu/poodle, arrived with such terrible separation anxiety for having been horribly abused for the first six months of his life, he couldn't be left alone. Doing all the tricks to assure him we'd be back, he'd still froth and pant and tear up door molding.

When we first took him to training to boost his confidence, he saw other dogs for the first time and was ecstatic to be able to play with them. His best friend was Buddy the Rottweiler and to this day he has no fear of larger dogs.  Since we hadn't been able to go out for the same time together for months without him tearing up the house (having been kept in a tiny box without food or water, he could NOT handle crates), we immediately started looking for a dog for our dog.  

One of the photos below is of poor shaggy Shadow the day he arrived to live with us. The other is of a spiffier Shadow on the left and Toby, a Maltese/poodle rescued on his kill day, on the right. This is the day Toby joined our family. (He got a better haircut the following day. ) And no, they're not related.  In fact, they came from different corners of the state since we'd developed a reputation for adopting dogs no one else would take.  The third photo is a trip we all took to the beach the week after Toby arrived. 






From the day Toby arrived, Shadow changed from insecure, crazed anxiety dog to big brother.  He's our stoic boy. Even after he was diagnosed with diabetes that has him needing insulin shots twice a day, he never flinches.  Or hesitates going out in the snow to take care of business, even though snow and ice sticks in great clumps to his fur and feet. 


He now has a new challenge.  Over the few months his sight has been rapidly fading and now as much as we and the vet can tell, the most he can see is some shadow movement, if that.  Which worries us about how he's going to figure out how to find his way around our new house and yard, when he bumps into chair legs and walls (with his head!) here.  But did I mention he's adaptable stoic boy?  And also the alpha dog of the family.  

Two nights ago Sweetie was walking both of them before bed when some people down the street came home and their big dog leaped out of the car and came charging through the dark. Although the streetlights were on, it was in the shadows, making it impossible to see what kind of dog it was.

Toby (wisely) quickly hid behind Sweetie. But Shadow, who couldn't see anything, except possibly some sort of big shadow running toward them, jumped out in front, set his short little legs and growled a warning. Yep, fifteen years old, diabetic, blind, and all of thirteen pounds, he was prepared to take on any and all threats to his family. (Which turned out to be a Golden Retriever who just wanted to play, and much doggie joy occurred for a couple minutes before the people called their dog back.) 

So, this week's question is... Are you a dog person? A cat person? Or both?  (Until grandkidlets proved allergic, we'd always also had cats.  Mostly Siamese.)  Or maybe some thing else, like a bird? Or hamster? Or....?



One person who comments will receive this lovely book of Oregon Coast photos, which will allow you to envision You Again and my other Shelter Bay books more clearly and hopefully have you looking forward to A Sea Change, Sedona's story in early 2015. If all continues to go well, it'll come out in February, the same month we move into the new house.  

To give everyone time to respond, the winner will be announced here on the blog and Facebook on Monday.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hump Day Hot Guy

It's time for Hump Day Hot Guy! 

Hugs and sympathy to those buried in snow. Bunches of people up here are without power, but we've only had a few flashes of outages. Though after sunny warm days, it's supposed to get down to 26 tonight, so there go the rest of my herbs.

Meanwhile, I figure if this guy doesn't warm you up, we're all doomed!


Have a great rest of your week! And stay warm and safe!




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans' Day and Home for Christmas is now on sale!


Happy Veterans' Day!! 

I'm so excited that You Again is part of Home for Christmas, a holiday duet with USA Today Bestselling author and Iraq War vet Jessica Scott! This gorgeous graphic was created by Elizabeth Haney, who writes the Expressions of a Hopeful Romantic blog.   This two-for-one Duet book will be available for $2.99 from now until January 15th.  Just click on the title above or here for buy links, including print!. 

You Again - A Shelter Bay Novella 

A book nerd, a brainiac science guy, and a misplaced killer whale...

Meghann Quinn wasn’t always a hugely successful author. Adam Wayne wasn’t always a marine biologist studying whales. Back in high school in Shelter Bay, Oregon, she was the shy book nerd helping the brainiac science guy pass English. Meghann had no idea Adam would turn into such a hottie. Adam has no idea their once-upon-a-time sweet summer romance inspired Meghann’s popular teen novels.

Two shy geeks didn’t have the courage to share their true feelings back then. But now that Meghann’s back in town, they’re pondering life’s important questions. Such as, will Adam ask her to the Snow Ball? And what are they going to do about the lost Orca who shows up on Christmas Eve? And can two nerds get past their initial insecurity to take a second chance on a once-in-a-lifetime love?

All I Want For Christmas Is You - A Coming Home Novella 

From USA Today Bestselling author Jessica Scott comes an all new novella about a woman who came back from war changed and the man who loves her enough not to let her go. 

All Major Patrick MacLean wanted was Christmas with the woman and child who were his family in everything but name. But Captain Samantha Egan has come back from the war a different woman than the one who left - and she doesn't know if she can love him anymore.

But neither of them counted on the determination of a little girl they both call daughter and if Natalie has her wish, her parents may have no idea what's coming for them. It's going to take Christmas miracle to bring these two wounded warriors back from the edge of a broken heart.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Miss Moffett's Msytical Cupcakes and contest announcement!

Yesterday after I got my hair done across from the Farmer's Market, I stopped in at Miss Moffett's Mystical Cupcakes to get Sweetie a surprise treat. 

 But when I saw these salted chocolate caramel cupcakes (there's a soft gooey chocolate caramel center inside), all self-restraint crumbled and I also got one for myself.  Best. Cupcake. Ever.  Though Sedona, from Take the Cake might disagree.  Maybe we should have a Shelter Bay bake-off one of these days. Like the three-course dinner Throwdown in On Lavender Lane, lol. 


I'm sharing the cupcake picture to announce a new treat for readers beginning this week. Every Thursday, here on the blog, I'll be giving something away something book related. It could be a book. Or a book bag.  Or, maybe a mug.  Books will be print or ebooks, winner's choice, except, when it comes to print, it will depend on availability.  The easiest way not to miss out is to receive the post in your email, which you can sign up for in that little box to the right.  And a reminder, I NEVER give away anyone's information.

So, here's a new experiment I think will be grand fun. I hope you'll all visit and enter.  

Tomorrow I'll be announcing a new holiday duet release with fab author and friend Jessica Scott.  And announcing a really cool contest/giveaway to celebrate!

Have a marvelous Monday!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday photo: Oregon Coast Road



In You Again and my other Shelter Bay stories, characters often drive on the Oregon Coast road. 

This week's Friday photo is of their view. Making the coast even more special are the many turnouts where you can pull off and watch the waves crashing in. Which is especially cool during winter storms.






Have a great weekend!