Newly released on Smashwords!

There’s a new release on Smashwords, although it was previously released on Amazon, but it marks its debut into other formats besides that of Kindle.  It’s 56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes.

I’m every bit as excited as I was when it was first released, and just as nervous.  This is a new format, and although I had help reformatting the content for Smashwords, it’s always nerve wracking as I wonder if something was overlooked in ensuring that it was in an easy-to-read format without errors.

To celebrate its new release, I’m offering a 50% off coupon to all of the blog readers.  That translates to $1.99 off, making the book cost just $2.

So how do you get your discount for being a loyal reader?

Just enter this coupon code when checking out on Smashwords: CY77U

That’s it.  Nothing to download.  No list to sign up for, no page on Facebook to like, and you don’t even have to follow me on Twitter!

(Although if you would LIKE to follow me on Twitter, you can.  I’m @giascott there!  My author page on Facebook is www.facebook.com/giascottblogs and I’d be thrilled to get a like there as well!  It’s not required though.)

You can find the book right here on Smashwords.

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes cover

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes cover

Smashwords blurb:

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes presents 56 different mixes, plus variations on many mixes,that can be made at home.

Take control of your family’s foods while keeping all of the convenience and speedy preparation we all love in our home kitchens by simply mixing these mixes in the comfort of your own kitchen. Whether you are the pioneering sort that loves doing it all yourself or the budget minded mother, there are recipes here to speed food preparation, as well as save your hard earned money.

Homemade mixes are good for the environment too, as far less packaging is used when you do it yourself. Making the mixes yourself means you have the option of using locally produced ingredients as well as homegrown ones.

Nothing is more appreciated as a gift than a homemade food gift too, and any of these mixes can be packaged into a thoughtful and tasty gift, ideal for hostess and holiday gifts.

Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb

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Posted in Cookbooks, Easy, Mixes, Quick, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At my house

I’m a really good cook, not a fancy cook.  I can be very creative at cooking.  I write about food, cooking, and recipes, and have done so for years now.

That doesn’t mean that every meal is a gourmet experience at our house.

Usually, it’s just the two of us here.  That means that if I’m working on a new cookbook, we’re apt to have a bit of experimenting going on in the kitchen, which gets to feeling more like a laboratory than a home kitchen during those experiments.  Sometimes, they are wonderful.  Other times, they can be so-so or even absolutely awful.

We do dine on those experiments, unless they are so awful we can’t.  Thankfully, experience means that the really awful rarely happens.

But just like any household, stuff happens.

Maybe at our house, stuff happens more often than not though.  We bought an old house, in serious need of renovations of all kinds.  We’re living the renovation experience on a shoe string.  That means they don’t always happen as fast as I would like or maybe even as fast as we need them to.  That results in frequent crisis management.

Current crisis management has us only cooling one room of the house.  That leaves the kitchen almost unbearably hot during the afternoon and early evening, that time of day when most of us are doing the major cooking of the day.  Add in the fact that I am now disabled, very intolerant of heat, and that shifts to absolutely miserable.

Then, there is the cooktop.  It died.  I turn it on, but nothing happens.  That isn’t all that convenient either.  Thankfully, I am an avid camper, which means that over the years, I have obtained numerous portable stoves.  I simply brought in a burner, and I’m an expert at one burner preparation of meals.  It doesn’t mean that it is convenient or desirable though!

So we all know what the Gulf Coast and southern Mississippi is like in late July.  It’s not exactly invigorating out there, and the only term that I can find that fits the mood the weather gives me is languid.  Languid is not inspiring for meal preparation.

It’s Sunday.  That traditionally means a big dinner, or at least a more elaborate one than most days of the week.  So what are we having?

We have a selection of ramen noodles or the option of peanut butter and a selection of jellies.

I’m not cooking.  

Sure, my husband can complain.  That’s fair enough.  I have an answer to the complaints too.  He knows how to cook, and he knows where everything is.  He can go cook dinner.  I am not going to cook!

Is it fair?

I think so.  It’s hot.  It’s miserable in the kitchen.  I don’t like being hot and miserable.  If he doesn’t like the solution to hot & miserable, he can wave HIS magic wand and complete the renovations, add air conditioning, and repair the cook top.  Mine’s broken!

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Grandchildren & the Cool Grandparent Badge

Being a grandparent is a lot different than it was being a parent.  Parts of it are a lot more fun, some things are a lot more frustrating, but it is just as much an adventure as it was being a parent.

While I tell my daughter that being a grandma means I’m a mom with experience, rather than the mom who was winging it, it’s only half true.  I haven’t seen a kid yet that comes with an owner’s manual, so it’s always a case of winging it.

There is one huge difference though.

As a grandparent, in general we aren’t responsible for the day to day routines or rules.  We are allowed to take their side, be their buddies, forget discipline, and just have fun.  That’s part of the reason that kids adore their grandparents too.

We can’t just spoil them with total abandon, however.  As grandparents, just like kids, we’re stuck with parental rules about some things, and sometimes, that includes food.  Sometimes, it’s for good reason, as when a child has a serious health problem or food allergies.  Sometimes, it’s a case of “mom knows best” or whatever the latest food fad regarding childhood nutrition is.  Then, it can get touchy.  Parents are potentially very unhappy when their rules are blatantly ignored.  That unhappiness can result in some serious family disputes, and even include exclusion of the grandparent from the child’s life.

Every grandparent wants their grandchildren to be healthy and happy.  That’s a given, and that’s the whole point to spoiling a grandchild on the occasions we can do so.  Sometimes, that means we can bend the rules a bit, or even push the limits on occasion.  So what does the modern grandchild want or like?

As unique as our children are, our grandchildren are just as unique.  What pleases one child may totally be refused by even their own sibling.  So how do we know what to get at the grocery store for that all-snacks-included-movie-marathon-weekend?

If  you don’t get to play the doting grandparent often, this can be a daunting goal with the approach of the coveted weekend with the grandchild or grandchildren.  Even with our one-and-only living just over an hour away, we don’t often have the opportunity to have her come spend a few days with us.  Everything from our own schedules, her schedule and her parents’ schedules can interfere with such lofty plans.  That makes knowing what is going to please her a challenge.

Start with asking the parents what the food rules are.  This is important if its a rare occasion and they may have food restrictions that you are not familiar with.  In my case, our granddaughter is sensitive to cinnamon, and we have to be careful with anything containing that as an ingredient or flavoring.

Next, find out what the favorite drinks and foods are, along with any particular dislikes.  We’re fortunate–our granddaughter loves broccoli and greens, and isn’t particularly picky about her foods overall.  With that said, her day to day preferences are as whimsical as her tastes in movies can be.  What pleases her today may be something she wants no part of tomorrow.

Then, there’s the packaging.  As parents, we’re always much more focused on nutrition and value than we are on the packaging, at least officially.  As grandparents, we are more interested in pleasing the child than using common sense.  After all, we have them a handful of days, not every day.  So, the cute packages of beverages may be a yes from a grandma, while mom may frown at the expense of purchasing that drink.

One clue as to what is apt to appeal is to find out what channel(s) they watch on television, then tune in on those channels yourself and watch some of their favorite programs.  You don’t have to enjoy the characters & plots–you are there to watch the commercials!  Those commercials are going to be the same ones that your beloved grandchild is getting day in and day out, and that’s usually going to show you what they are apt to want for snacks, treats, and beverages.  It’s also going to show you what they are apt to have on their wish list for Santa or upcoming birthday.

Then, the most effective way with most children is to simply plan the grocery store as the first outing specifically to acquire the desired foods.  Decide how much is reasonable, both in terms of cost and quantity, prior to going to the store.  Keeping excess on hand after the child goes home is fine, if it is a product that you will use or if the child is coming back within the shelf life of the food item.  Otherwise, any leftover items will need to be sent home with the child, and will surely advertise the spoil status with the parents!

Remember items that were a hit with  your kids when they were young or even from your own youth too.  Here is some that remain perennially popular because of their nature.

Jiffy Pop Popcorn–maybe it isn’t as amazing in 2014 as it was in 1970, but it is still going to thrill the younger crowd, and popcorn in general isn’t a totally unhealthy treat.  They love seeing the foil expand as the popcorn pops, and this is also a treat that works well over the campfire or on the kitchen stove.

Pigs in a blanket–yes, the hot dogs wrapped in dough and baked.  We called them wiener winks when they were wrapped in bread dough, or pigs in a blanket when crescent roll dough was used.  My kids loved them just as much, and for the hot dog crowd, they are always a sure bet.

Smoothies–frozen fruit, ice cold milk, a little sweetener, and your blender turns it into an almost-milkshake that pleases the kids, tastes good to adults too, and isn’t going to alienate the parents.  It’s also amazingly easy.  One of our favorites is blueberry or blueberry-banana, but ice cold pumpkin puree (from a can) along with some spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of allspice and a touch of vanilla) and brown sugar makes a delicious pumpkin pie flavored smoothie.  If cow’s milk is on the no-no list, choose an alternative such as soy, almond, or rice milk.  If its vanilla flavored, be careful about adding more.  Sweeteners may also need adjusting, as some of the non-dairy milk alternatives taste sweeter.

Pie Irons–whether it’s just a grilled cheese or something fancier, anything made in a pie iron is going to be a hit.  In my own childhood, we made fruit pies with buttered bread and any fruit pie filling from a can, and I was as delighted as if my grandmother had spent all day making a real pie from scratch, but it was much easier & quicker with the pie iron. They also work well on the campfire, and I used them with my own children for grilled cheese sandwiches as well as the fruit pies.  If you are buying a pie iron, they are not all made from cast iron these days, so read reviews for the brand–some pie irons are prone to becoming heat damaged.  Cast iron ones, while a bit more expensive, are much more durable.  These irons also usually come with a small recipe book to enable you to quickly become a pie iron expert (at least in the grandchildren’s eyes.)

Pasta–it’s cheap, easy, and comes in a large variety of sizes and shapes.  It also can be combined with other things to become pasta-and-cheese, as well as a long list of other favored foods.  Most children prefer foods on the bland side, so opt for less seasoning and fewer ingredients to stay kid-friendly.  For some strange reason, they also really like the boxed mac & cheese, which is usually simple to make as well.  If it isn’t favored by the grandparents themselves, make the boxed mac & cheese, and serve it alongside something more appealing to the adults, letting the child sample the adult friendly food while appeasing their desire for the familiar with the mac & cheese.  Who knows, they may soon discover that they love your balsamic roasted veggies or your rosemary chicken recipe!

Fried stuff–okay, I know that almost everyone over the age of 50 has been told to stay away from this type of food, but I’m not advocating eating it regularly.  The truth is, kids love fried foods, and most of us grandparents secretly do too.  Why not have a simultaneous satisfying experience as we all ignore the rules once in a while?  Vegetables, such as summer squash, onion rings or wedges, cauliflower, etc. are delicious when dipped in fritter batter and fried, typically served with ranch dressing as a dip.  Even fritters made with cubed chunks of pork, beef, or chicken becomes delicious when fried.  Many vegetables are available pre-breaded and ready to fry, including okra and summer squash.  French fries are also an option, but don’t forget the sweet potato fries!  We also like batter dipped potato wedges, eggplant, peppers, etc.  It’s a fun way to experiment too, and often children will sample vegetables this way that they would normally resist eating.

Fast food–this is something else that kids adore and parents typically don’t.  It also means easy meal prep for the grandparents as we opt for the kid’s meal or fast food.  It’s also appealing to the most difficult ages of all to please–the preteens and teens.  Let them choose the restaurant and either dine in or take it home to eat.

Pizza, whether homemade, frozen or delivered, is a sure fire hit if you get the right flavor.  Consult with the kid to find out what they want, whether it is pepperoni and extra cheese, plain cheese, spinach alfredo, or pineapple and Canadian bacon.  Cold pizza can also be reheated or eaten cold, so buying a whole pizza of a flavor that does not appeal to the adults is not a ridiculous waste.  It was also a favored breakfast food when I was a child, as well as with my own children.

Cold cereal can also be a delicious treat for dinner or even dessert.  There is no set in stone rule that says you can only eat it before noon!  If that’s what the kids like, why not? It’s easy, not expensive, and only dirties up a bowl & spoon too.  Some people also like it with ice cream as a dessert.

Frozen dinners come in a variety of types, and there are some that are marketed specifically to children.  Letting them choose their own meal is easy, and most are designed for heating in the microwave.  This is a great choice if your own meal is going to be something that isn’t necessarily favored by your grandchildren, as well as when you are going to opt for a frozen dinner as well.

Cold cuts-sandwiches are easy, most kids like them, and there are even pre-assembled kits designed for kids with immense appeal.  Often, these kits are not purchased by parents, and that makes them highly coveted treats.  Their purchase can make you the hero of the hour and qualify you as a cool grandparent.

Getting your “cool grandparent” badge isn’t hard.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t mean giving in to every little whim either.  Most kids desire just a short list of things, such as:

Listen to them.  Whether its their complaints, their hopes, their dreams, or even just a wild story, kids want someone who honestly is paying full attention to them, not just giving attention as lip service.  Listen to what they have to say and interact with them without passing judgement on everything.  That’s the cool part–you are not responsible for rule enforcement!

Treat them like they are intelligent and what they want does matter to you.  It may sound like it’s a silly thing to NOT do, but most kids don’t feel as though their opinions and desires are not taken seriously.  This was something that meant a lot to me as a child, to have grandparents that actually listened and thought I was intelligent.  Don’t treat them like they are silly or stupid or immature.  Treat them like their thoughts are just as important as anyone else’s are.

Be there for them, physically and emotionally.  That does not mean giving in to every demand and acting as their servants.  It means engaging them, getting them to participate and help in daily activities as well as special ones, and paying attention to them rather than your social network page or the soap opera  or whatever. They are important to you, so act like it!  Play with them, as in actually getting the toys in your hands and playing, not merely supervising the play.  Have tea parties, even if it’s fruit flavored drink instead of tea, and imaginary cookies.  Have grand expeditions in your backyard to some exotic land where there are cannibals and magical creatures.  Be a pirate, then a pirate princess.  Dress up with them.  Go fishing.  Have a picnic.  Lay on your back and find shapes in the clouds.  Make pancakes with smiley faces in them.  Have some mud pie fun.

Set boundaries and expect them to abide by those boundaries.  None of us like having to have rules or be a disciplinarian.  We’ve done that already, but all children need to know that certain things are not allowed.  Whether it is certain objects or areas are off limits or that certain words are off limits, knowing what is and what isn’t allowed when with the grandparents is important to kids too.  These rules have nothing to do with home or their parents either–they are strictly to make your interaction with your grandchild pleasant for both of you.  These might include things like leaving tools alone, not getting into Grandma’s jewelry box, no hitting, and no calling anyone names.  Be clear about what the punishment will be for violating rules as well, whether or not warnings are issued before punishment is inflicted, etc.

What happens at your house, stays at your house.  That means not snitching on minor misbehavior to the parents, keeping conversations confidential, and in general inspiring the child to believe that you are a safety valve for them.  It’s all about trust, and just like any other relationship built on trust, it may be easily given but not so easily regained if that trust is ever violated.  Treat it like a treasured gift, because it is.

Be honest with your grandchild.  If you can’t afford a desired item, just say so!  Don’t make plans that you can’t carry out, and when the occasions happen that do put a damper on plans, explain the situation honestly, whether its health related, budget related, or job related.  Many children feel as though adults hide things from them, making them uneasy and suspicious, as well as prone to imagining things as worse than they really are.  Stick to the truth, even if you don’t tell all!

Above all, enjoy the grandkids.  We only have them for short periods of time, usually, and then they go home to school, childcare, and parental rules.  We’re not part of the daily loop, and as such, we’re like a treat in itself to the child and we should look on time with them the same way–it’s a treat.

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New books, summer, and me

I have been one busy person the past few months.  Unfortunately, things like this blog have been neglected in the meantime.  Good intentions don’t create real blog posts!

So here’s what’s been happening.

abc muffins kindle cover

First, there was a “preview” book released in April or early May called A B C Muffins.  That had 35 different muffin recipes that were from the upcoming book, The Big Book of A-Z Muffins, which had a lot more recipes and photographs, which was part of what was keeping me busy.

I’ve made a lot of muffins, even after the weather got warm enough here on the Gulf Coast that baking wasn’t really all that appealing.  With that said…it has been published and is available through Amazon right here for $4.99.

Kindle THUMBNAIL

Just to share with my readers, here is a recipe that you should enjoy–Crab Au Gratin Muffins.

100_0961

 

The recipe calls for inexpensive imitation crab, but if you have fresh crab, it would make them even better!  These are delicious and well worth making, despite summer’s heat.

Cheesy, crab-by, and delicious, they are moist too.  If you want to serve these as an appetizer, bake them in a mini-muffin pan.  To bake ahead, cook them just until done, remove and cool.  Refrigerate until just before serving and reheat in microwave.  No one will realize that you “cheated” and baked them the day before!

Crab au Gratin Muffins

  • 1 ½ c. self-rising flour
  • 1 c. yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ c. melted butter or margarine
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. imitation crab, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ c. milk
  • 1 c. frozen seasoning mix, thawed (peppers, celery & onions)
  • about 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling muffin tops

Preheat oven to 400° degrees F.  Generously grease 12 muffin cups.

In mixing bowl, whisk 2 eggs, yogurt and milk together.  Add melted butter and whisk until mixture is creamy.  Stir in crab meat, cheese, and seasoning mix.  Fold in flour, stirring just until all ingredients are evenly moistened.

Divide thick batter between muffin cups, pressing down lightly to ensure that the bottom of the muffin cup is filled.  Sprinkle tops of unbaked muffins with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake muffins in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and tops of muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in pans for 5 minutes before removing.  Serve muffins hot or warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.

 

Posted in Breads, Breakfast & Brunch, buffet, Easy, Entertaining, Fish & Seafood, Make-Ahead, Potlucks & church suppers, Quick, Recipes, Southern | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s my birthday, so here’s a gift for YOU!

My birthday is the 19th of this month, and while I’m going to leave my age a bit mysterious (ladies are like that…) I am going to be celebrating it with family and friends on a camping trip.

The_All_American_Biscuit

 

So here is the deal.  This book is totally free on April 19th and 20th, and yes, that includes Easter Sunday.  It normally sells for $2.99 in digital format, and is priced at $7.99 in print, and is available from Amazon.com.

But…to share with my readers, I am offering a free, no-strings-attached gift too!  It’s a free Kindle copy of The All American Biscuit, which happens to be the cookbook I had the most fun writing and remains one of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy it too, which is why I am giving away a copy for two consecutive days to anyone who wants one.  You don’t have to have a Kindle e-reader either–there are apps available to let you read the book on your iPhone, iPad, Apple, PC, Android device, Windows phone or Blackberry too (and they are also free right here.)

Then, just because you are an appreciated reader and I’m so excited to be going camping with friends and family for my birthday…there is a SECOND book being given away during the same two days.  Fruitcake! is also going to be free, and also with no strings attached.  You don’t even have to choose which one you prefer–you can have them both!  Fruitcake! also retails at $2.99 for the digital version and $7.99 for the print version, and is available at Amazon.com.

So mark your calendar and don’t forget to go get YOUR copies of these books totally free.

Red Cover Fruitcake!

Posted in Breads, Budget, Cookbooks, Easy, freebies, Holiday, Make-Ahead, Recipes, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Great new product for mushroom lovers

I discovered something in the freezer case, in the vegetable section, that has me smiling.

I love mushrooms, which aren’t exactly cheap.  I also hate slicing them, so often buy the pre-sliced ones.  They don’t cost that much more, and they are very convenient.

But there was still a problem.  I hate going to the grocery store as much as I hate slicing mushrooms.  I get to feeling like walking through the door is going to require a $100 bill.  So, I try to go to the store as seldom as possible.  That means I try to buy everything I will need for at least a week, including fresh vegetables like those pre-sliced mushrooms.

But I’m like everyone else.  Life happens.  Plans are disrupted.  The next thing I know, my precious mushrooms are slimy or petrified with green fur in the refrigerator, and I’ve wasted the money I used to purchase them.

That makes them VERY expensive!

So…what does spoiled mushrooms have to do with the freezer case?

I discovered something new (at least to me!) called “Recipe Ready” from Birdseye.  This mushroom blend is made up of white, crimini, and portabella mushrooms and is a 12 oz. package.  This makes it easy to get a few to toss on a pizza or into an omelet, or the whole bag for another recipe.  Granted, they are slightly more expensive than fresh, and they wouldn’t be the same on a salad, but for sheer convenience in use, these mushrooms score a 100% pleased cook!

Along with my bags of fajita mix, seasoning mix, green beans, and summer squash…this is a winner that I’ll keep on hand!

 

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Chicken Fajita Nachos

Everybody, or so it seems, loves nachos.  They are easy to make, easy to serve, and messy to eat, but we still love to eat them.  This recipe kicks them up a notch, turning a favorite snack into a meal in itself.  It uses prepared frozen vegetables, so it’s also something you can have on hand and make in a hurry.  The chicken can be frozen and partially thawed enough to let you cut them into cubes easily.  If you are cutting raw, unfrozen chicken breasts, it’s easy to do with scissors!

Chicken Fajita Nachos

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 c. frozen fajita mix (bell peppers & onions)
  • 1 can salsa style fire roasted diced tomatoes (with onions & chilies)
  • 12 oz. Mexican style Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 c. (approximately) sour cream
  • 1 bag tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium high heat.  Toss chicken pieces with chili powder and then add to hot oil in skillet.  Cook 4-6 minutes or until meat is cooked through.  Remove chicken and add fajita mix.  Cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes, until onions are translucent and soft.  Add chicken to mixture and reduce heat to low to keep warm.

Place tortilla chips in baking pan and place in preheated oven to heat through.

In a saucepan, heat tomatoes over medium high heat.  When tomatoes begin steaming, add cheese cubes.  Heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.  Remove from heat.

To serve: place desired amount of chips on plate, using spatula to transfer them to the plate to prevent burns.  Drizzle with cheese mixture and then scatter chicken mixture over the top generously.  Add a dollop of sour cream at the top and serve.  Forks may be desirable!

While this recipe is new and isn’t included in the cookbook I recently released filled with nacho recipes, you can find more in this book, No Naked Nachos.  It’s available for Kindle or in paperback from Amazon.com.

No Naked Nachos final cover

Posted in Cookbooks, Easy, Entertaining, Poultry, Quick, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment