Holiday Delights: Holiday cookie & story blog hop

Today is National Cookie Day!


To celebrate the return of the cookie season (not that the cookies season ever goes out of style for me) some of my favorite authors are sharing their favorite holiday cookie recipes AND their holiday-themed books!

Read to the bottom to find the list of authors and read more of their sweet, sweet delights! You’ll find great ideas for your holiday baking…and in the 10 minutes or so between batches, you can read!

Mom’s Spritz Cookies

These are some of my absolute favorite cookies. They are easy to make and I always have the ingredients. Plus, their delicately sweet and comforting flavor is perfect for short, cold days accompanied by a cup of tea.

  • Jessa Slade tea and cookiesButter, 1 cup softened
  • Sugar, 2/3 cup
  • Vanilla, 2 teaspoons
  • Flour, 2 1/4 cups
  • Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Preheat oven to 400. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add salt and flour. Beat until just mixed. Use a cookie press or cookie cutters. Sprinkle with sugar-in-the-raw or colored sugars for decoration. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. (The browning brings out the flavor). Cool on racks. Keeps well for days…if you don’t eat them 🙂

For more holiday spirit, check out the new Marked Souls Christmas novella:

The Darkest Night by Jessa Slade

A Marked Souls Christmas Novella

Possessed by a divine entity, Cyril Fane fought rampant evil and the pain of more private losses with a fiery golden sword…until he was beaten and left for dead by a malevolent force. Now exiled from his angelic brethren, he reluctantly joins the Chicago league of talyan—immortal warriors possessed by repentant demons—as his only chance to reclaim his sword and his place in the holy sphericanum.

Bella McGreay, mysterious mistress of the Mortal Coil night club, has also danced around an uneasy affiliation with the talyan. She has secrets of her own to keep, and as the days shorten toward the winter solstice, shadows are deepening all around. Even as she barricades herself against the joys—and terrors—of the Christmas season, she’ll have to decide whether the shadows or her secrets are more dangerous.

Bella and Cyril have good reason to fear evil when an old enemy returns to torment them and the Chicago league. But only together will they find a way to the light after the darkest night.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Smashwords  |  All Romance eBooks  |  Kobo

Find more Holiday Delights from  these fabulous authors:

Do you have a favorite holiday cookie? Leave a link to your recipe in comments. The more cookies, the merrier!

Happy 4th of July!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: My tan
Mood: Summery!

Summer doesn’t officially arrived in the Portland area until the first week of July, but it’s here now! I’m typing this outside, sitting in the shade, actually, because it’s finally warm 🙂 The raspberry bushes are kickin’ out the berries so of course I had to use them in a holiday dessert.

Happy Fourth of July! (For those in the U.S.) Happy Summer! (For those in the Northern Hemisphere.) Happy Monday! (For pretty much everybody, I think.)


Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

Start with a box cake mix. I’m sure there are times when baking from scratch is called for. Mixing up festive cupcakes for people who will be drinking beer all day is not one of those times. I’ve enthused before about the Cake Mix Doctor‘s cookbooks. I recommend the chocolate cake mix cookbook and choosing one of the recipes with pudding in the mix as well as sour cream/yogurt for extra scrumptiousness.

The fun of cake mix doctoring is the doctoring part anyway. For these, I injected the cupcakes with a raspberry/strawberry coulis and then made a barrier wall of buttercream frosting around the top of the cupcakes and backfilled the interior with the coulis.

Berry Coulis

  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 cup of strawberries (or whatever berries you have)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 Tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients the day before to let the flavors blend if you have time, then blender/food processor it all together into berry soup. Sample repeatedly over vanilla ice cream, because you’re the cook, and cooks deserve to sample. (Some people take out the seeds, but the beer drinkers won’t notice such niceties so I don’t bother.)

While the cupcakes are still warm from the oven, make a hole in the centers with a chopstick or similar implement. I used a cookie gun/cake decorator to aim the coulis into the hole, but you can just spoon it in too, as long as you have decent aim.

Let the cupcakes cool. Sample a few just to make sure there’s enough coulis in the middle.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick of butter (room temp)
  • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2-4 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar (the recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups of sugar with more for spreadability, but I think you lose some of the cream cheese flavor to the sweetness if you use all the sugar. So I just add enough sugar to make enough to cover the cupcakes. Plus, the less sugar/slightly thicker frosting works well in the cookie gun/cake decorator.)

Make a monk’s tonsure/barrier wall in a circle around the cupcakes’ tops. Usually I am a “more frosting is better” gal, but this ratio works out nicely with the strong mouth feel of the buttercream. Plus, the barrier wall gives you room to spread more of the pretty red berry coulis.

To thicken the coulis for the top of the cupcake, mix corn starch with just enough water to make a thin paste. Gently warm the leftover coulis and add the starch/water mixture until the coulis thickens enough to stay on top of the cupcake.

Spoon the thickened coulis behind the barrier wall, top with a berry (I might have used a blueberry instead of a raspberry, but I don’t share my blueberries with anybody), add a light dusting of blue decorator sugar, and eat.

Happy Cupcakes!

Summer yummin’

(Crossposted from Silk And Shadows)

Currently working on: Freaking out
Mood: Freaking out (Hey, it’s good to be consistent)

So I’m writing this Sunday night (due to the fact that I like to wait until the last minute; it’s not procrastination when I call it “time-lock inspiration”) and earlier today I tweeted: “2 parties last night and still home by midnight. We’re not getting older, we’re partying more efficiently.”

My oh-so-supportive twit friends laughed heartily.

And it’s true.  Oh, not just that I’m getting older.  That seems inevitable, more or less.  Worse, I’M GROWING UP!

How sad!  I actually ORDERED A SALAD for myself when I was at the last writers conference.  At home, XY always forces me to eat a salad because “it’s good for me.”  So I usually reserve vacation for an excuse not to eat salad.  But this time, I voluntarily ordered a salad.  And ate it.  And kinda liked it.

If that isn’t a symptom of growing up…

So appropriately enough this week our topic is BBQ cooking.  I went through my Cake Mix Doctors Cookbook, my box mix brownie recipes, my 8 lb. bucket o’ cookie dough options… and decided to share XY’s salad recipe.

Am I hanging my head in shame or because I suddenly fell into an age-induced nap?  Oh well, it’s a tasty salad and always gets rave reviews at BBQs.

Jessa’s XY’s “It’s Good For You” Salad


(This will feed about six people if mixed all at once. XY preps this amount but keeps the ingredients separate and mixes just enough each night for fresh salad. Yes, I know this isn’t a picture of a salad, but it’s a picture of XY and Christmas lights and the moon, which — if you squint — bears a not insignificant resemblance to the salad, honestly.)

Lettuce prep: Get a small/medium head of romaine, or equal that amount of romaine, red leaf, spinach, some arugula, or other fun greenery.

Clean the lettuce thusly (this technique will preserve the greens for a week or more if you keep it all for yourself):

1. Fill the sink with cold water and a cup of salt.  (Weird, I know.) Swish all the leaves through the water.  Pick out wilted and excessively bruised leaves.  (This is usually my job; I am not allowed to play with the knives.)

2. Empty the sink. Refill with fresh cold water.  Continue to pick out the bad leaves.

3. Empty the sink. Refill with fresh cold water and ice cubes.  Let the lettuce chill for about five minutes.

4. Drain the leaves and put them in a salad spinner.  This is crucial. Patting dry could bruise the leaves and hasten spoilage.  Plus, the salad spinner is one of the coolest technologies to come out of the space program, so use it and think of Mars.

Go through the garden. Or your local farmers market. Or the organic section at your local grocery.  Pick the good stuff, pretty stuff, or fun stuff.  But definitely get:

Scallions, one bunch
One cucumber
One carrot
Half-head of red cabbage

Also fun:
One tomato
Red pepper
Chick peas (garbanzo beans) — I don’t even like beans and these are good
Pine nuts
Edible flowers especially nasturtium — and they look nice in the garden

Extra extras:

Chopping time:
Thin slice the lettuce and about quarter of the half cabbage into small strips, like confetti.  For lazy home salads, you can chop it however you want; but for public consumption, the confetti cut looks pretty

Finely chop the scallions. Peel and grate the carrot. Partly peel the cucumber (some of the dark green skin adds color), scoop out the seeds, slice and quarter.

Halve and slice the tomato. Dice the red pepper. Drain and pat dry the chick peas. Roast the pine nuts. (Good heavens, there are a lot of verbs in this salad.  I swear, it’s worth the work for a party, or will feed you all week.)  Shred the flowers.

Pre-party storage:
Refrigerate the lettuce separately.  The other ingredients can be grouped into sealed containers for convenience to take to the party or store in your fridge for assembly at each night’s dinner.

This is a “it’s good for me” salad as well as a tastes good salad, so XY does an oil and vinegar dressing.  The ratio is as follows:

1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil
XY estimates 1 second of oil poured (from a spout, not from the open bottle) for each person.  So a 6-person salad gets 6 seconds of oil (extra virgin olive oil) and 2 splashes of vinegar (red wine, balsamic, etc.).

1 pinch of salt per 2 seconds of oil
So a 6-person salad gets 3 pinches of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste
XY is adamant the pepper must be fresh ground.  And he says don’t be shy with the pepper.

When the burgers are almost ready to come off the BBQ, put the lettuce in a big bowl.  Toss in the scallions and handfuls of the cabbage, carrot and cucumber until it looks pretty.  Throw in the chick peas and red pepper for visual appeal. Pour the dressing, salt and pepper, and toss well — very well to incorporate the oil and vinegar and dissolve the salt.

All the extras — the sliced tomato, pine nuts, cheese, olives, flower petals, etc. — can be sprinkled on top.

Yes, this is the salad that made me like salads.  Huh.  Now that I think about it, go eat cookie dough.

Do you have a favorite salad ingredient, a must-have dressing, or is lettuce merely for rabbits in your book?