Friday, December 15

Raising the (Cranberry) Bar ;-)

Over the years, my family has enjoyed a wide variety of cookie traditions. From green cornflake
hollies to jam thumbprints to beautifully-decorated cutout cookies. I can’t tell you how many millions of red hots I’ve meticulously placed and gallons of colored icing I’ve spread and piped over the years!

That said, the recipe that I have shared below is one I found online a few years ago. It doesn’t come with any family tradition story or memories, but it has become one of my all-time favorites. It fulfills all my current baking requirements: Quick and easy. It’s moist, and the cranberries lend a lovely tartness to counterbalance all the sweets on the dessert table. You know, that zing in the corner of your mouth that has you reaching for another one before you’ve even swallowed the bite in your mouth!

Although I haven’t ever deviated from the recipe, some fun options to try would include other pie fillings or fruits (raspberry and tart cherry come to mind), or maybe even different cake mixes. Chocolate and cranberries, yum! OOOoooo, go crazy with peanut butter cookie mix with a grape jelly center! Red Velvet cake? Funfetti? I guess the possibilities are endless, even though I love the original recipe as is!

Enjoy these recipes we’re posting this week (and let us know how yours turn out!), and click to participate in our rafflecopter! Note: All the Word Wranglers are participating, so be sure to click on ALL the giveaways!  

1 (12-oz) package whole cranberries
1 Cup white sugar
¾ Cup water
1 (18.25-oz) package yellow cake mix
¾ Cup butter, melted
 2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
¾ Cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberries, white sugar, and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the cranberries have popped and the mixture is thick (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Side Note: This is how my grandmother would make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, which not only worked with the turkey meal, but was also enjoyed as a leftover sandwich spread, dolloped on vanilla ice cream and/or cottage cheese (don’t judge too harshly… she also served lime jello with pineapple chunks topped with a spoonful of mayo).

Back to the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, melted butter, and eggs. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Set aside half the mixture, and spread the rest into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Pack down to form a solid crust, getting it as even as possible.

Spread the cooled cranberry mixture over the crust. Then pinch off pieces of the remaining mixture and place evenly over the cranberry layer.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in the oven until the top is lightly browned. Cool in the pan for about 40 minutes before slicing into bars.


Thursday, December 14

Margie Senechal's O'Henry Bars!

by Margie Senechal

So, Kristi did sugar cookies which are my go-to holiday cookies. LOL And even though, we have different recipes, I thought I'd go with what I made last night.

I have bunco tonight and we have our annual Christmas potluck. I signed up for dessert, but because we're having so much food, I thought I'd go more snacky than fancy. And these cookies fit the bill. Plus, I had cornflakes in need of a recipe.

 I call these O'Henry Bars. But when I looked the recipe up online, I discovered there are several variations of homemade O'Henry Bars.

Mine is this:

Pour 6 cups of cornflakes into a 9X11 baking pan and crunch up with your clean hands into a course cornflake dust.

Melt 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of light Karo Syrup, and 1.5 cups of creamy peanut butter together. I usually use med-high heat and cook until warm and everything is all melted together and you can't feel any sugar granules.

Pour peanut butter mixture over cornflakes and mix well--get all that dust incorporated. Spread to the corners of the pan evenly.

Melt a package of chocolate chips in 30 second intervals in the microwave. Slather over peanutbuttered cornflakes. Put in fridge to firm up. Once firm, cut into pieces and place in an airtight  container and keep in reaching range. Enjoy!

As I don't have a book to promote or giveaway, I am giving away a couple of Coasters handmade by me. 

Have a great Thursday!

Remember to check in on the posts from earlier this week and come back every day for another fun recipe and more ways to win! Here is the link to our Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, December 13

@AuthorKristina Knight's Sugar Cookies!

We're sharing cookie recipes this week at WordWranglers - and I'm up today with my Sugar Cookies recipe. Everyone loves an iced sugar cookie at the holidays, and this one is always a crowd pleaser...I think it's because of the icing.

We always take a couple of Saturdays in late November/early December to bake and ice and then we freeze the resulting cookies so that starting on December 23, we just have to grab a tin of cookies from the freezer when we're ready to munch.

Here we go with the recipe!

Cookie Ingredients: 

1 1/2 cups butter (the real stuff, don't use butter substitute, the cookies won't taste right)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs (medium sized works great!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the good stuff, from Mexico, not the generic stuff off the grocery shelf!)
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cookie Baking Directions: 

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream them together until smooth; beat in the eggs and vanilla, again until smooth. Next, add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Now cover the bowl and put it in the fridge, you're going to chill this mixture overnight. The next morning (or afternoon), preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out your dough (finally! something to use that rolling pin Aunt Betty gave you at your wedding!) to about a half-inch thick. Use whatever cookie cutter shapes you like (we're fans of stars, trees and balls because reindeer legs have a tendency to get too thin and burn...but you do you!). Cut out the shapes and place the cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Back about 7 minutes and then let them cool completely. Ice the cookies (don't worry, the icing recipe is below)!

The most important piece of a sugar cookie (in my opinion) is the icing. Some are fans of buttercream, but I like a lighter icing. One that adds sweet, and maybe has the hint of a crunch, but that stays soft in the middle...that is exactly what this icing recipe does!

Icing Ingredients: 

3 teaspoons milk (I like 2%, but whole would also work well)
2 teaspoons KARO syrup (the white kind, not the dark)
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (the good stuff, from Mexico, don't just use that generic stuff off the Piggly Wiggly shelf)
Food coloring (I like gel coloring because the colors are more vibrant)
Any sprinkles or other edible decorations you want

Icing directions: 

Put the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl, add the milk, KARO syrup and vanilla and cream all of that together. You want the icing to be almost firm, not drippy, but it needs to spread easily. I always test it with a simple kitchen spoon -- if I can hold a spoonful upside down without it dropping right off, the consistency is right. Once the icing is the firmness you want, divide into different bowls and add the colors of food coloring you want, mix and you're ready to ice the cookies!

Remember to check in on the posts from earlier this week and come back every day for another fun recipe and more ways to win! Here is the link to our Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 12

Rolling Along and a Holiday Giveaway!

My holiday recipe is for rolls that melt in your mouth. We're doing favorite holiday recipes this week here in the round pen and honestly, these crescent rolls are favorites of all my neighbors and friends and family. I make a crazy number of them and send them to my clients and then make a crazy bunch more and pass them out all up and down my road. Try them--they're time-intensive, but man so worth it!

Nan's Butterhorns

In a small bowl, lightly beat 3 eggs, then set the bowl in a sink of hot water to warm the eggs.

In a large bowl, put:
4 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup Butter-Flavor Crisco

Mix the above together until it's crumbly. I use a pastry blender--it's work, but it turns out best.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 Cup of Milk to 117-120 degrees F. When you've warmed the milk to the correct temperature, whisk in 1 packet of Rapid-Rise Dry Yeast. Use a candy thermometer to make sure you get the temperature right--you can kill the yeast if the milk is too cool or too warm.

When the yeast is thoroughly dissolved, add the warmed eggs and the milk/yeast mixture to the dry ingredients. Blend it all together with a large wooden spoon. When it's well-mixed, cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it someplace warm to rise. I usually turn on my oven to 350 degrees before I start the rolls and then set the bowl on top on the stove. That's plenty warm. Or you can place it on your dryer if you're doing laundry that day.

After the dough has doubled in size, dump it onto a floured board and knead a little flour in very lightly--just enough to make the dough not too sticky. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each piece out into a 10-12-inch circle. Cut the dough like a pizza into 8 equal triangles. Starting with the wide edge, roll each slice into a crescent and place them on a cookie sheet. When you're all done cutting you should have 24 rolls.

Cover the cookie sheets with a tea towel and let the rolls rise a second time, until about doubled in size. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until they're slightly golden in color--like this. Serve warm with lots of butter. YUM!!

We're doing a Rafflecopter giveaway here this week; I'm giving away an e-set of the Women of Willow Bay (all four books!) if you'll go follow me on Bookbub! 

Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 11

Have a cookie...or a book...or... @Liz Flaherty

One of the best parts--and the laaaargest parts--of the holiday season, is the baking and eating of cookies. Lots of cookies. This year, I am once again dancing with Weight Watchers as my partner, and the recipes below are Weight Watchers friendly, costing only two Smart Points per cookie. The bad part of it is that I haven't tried them. I'm so sorry to admit it, but it has so far been an eventful season and none of those events have involved baking. Sigh.

Anyway, these look delicious to me. I have borrowed these recipes from Weight Watchers.

Crackle Spice Drops

·         1/2 cup(s) reduced-calorie margarine, soft
·         1/2 cup(s) unpacked brown sugar
·         1 large egg(s)
·         1 Tbsp vanilla extract
·         2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
·         1/2 tsp baking soda
·         1/4 tsp table salt
·         1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
·         1/4 cup(s) powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a mixing bowl, on medium speed, beat margarine with brown sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and spice.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into powdered sugar to coat. Place onto baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 7 to 8 minutes. Yields 1 cookie per serving.

Toffee Butterscotch Drops

  • 1/2 cup(s) reduced-calorie margarine
  • 3/4 cup(s) unpacked brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) fat free egg substitute
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 oz chocolate candy, chocolate covered toffee, or other variety

Heat oven to 375°F. Cream margarine and sugar until soft. Add egg substitute and vanilla to sugar mixture.
Whisk flour and salt together; add to sugar mixture. Stir in candy and mix well.
On parchment-lined baking sheets, place 1 tablespoon dough 1 1/2 inches apart for each cookie. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Place on rack; cool completely. Yields 1 cookie per serving.

In keeping with the season, we're having a giveaway. Please join us each day in our celebrations and be entered to win a prize!

Saturday, December 9

Dirty Santa Blog Hop! by Jana Richards

There's one more week to go in this blog hop, so hop on over to my blog and enter for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card and one of five copies of my humorous contemporary romance RESCUE ME. There are prizes at every stop, so begin your journey at Journeys with Jana -  See you there!

Friday, December 8

The End of the Beginning

By Ava Cuvay
Winner Notification: Molly Daniels is my winner from last week’s Word Wrangler giveaways! Molly, please pm me with your mailing address so I can get your copy of “The Lake House” Anthology and your mer-pug socks to you!
A few weeks ago, I attended my local chapter’s fall retreat, and enjoyed a momentous moment: I typed “The End” on my Blood King manuscript! I ran through the building, shouting it to the world, struck a few triumphant poses, fist pumped... Then returned to my computer and hung my head in gloom.

While coming to the end of a story is huge, and worthy of celebration, “The End” is by no means the end. “The End” is just the end of one aspect of crafting a worthy story. For a pantser like me, it really means "The End" of the beginning, which is to write the darn story. “The End” means the next phases of editing, critique partners, beta readers, hair-pulling begin. It reminds me of the scene in the Brendan Frasier version of “The Mummy,” when the defeated and dying Egyptian mummy Imhotep steps backward into the black, inky pool of souls and declares “Death is only the beginning.”

So it is with “The End.”

I have admittedly struggled with this particular story, and even upon reaching “The End,” I know I have so much work still to accomplish. More than simply tightening up the writing, reducing my passive sentence structures, replacing filler words with vibrant descriptors, and even wrangling any dangling participles. I have serious plotting, story, and character issues to address. So my celebration of “The End” was short-lived because I knew the bulk of my work still lay ahead of me.

I have taken a week (or four) off, and will take more off as the holiday festivities gear up. But I’m ready to tackle this. The mulling of thoughts in my brain is energizing my fingers, and when I have big chunks of time after Christmas, I’ll be ready to dive into my edits and fix what I know is broken.

So “The End” is only the beginning of bringing a book to life. And I’m ready for the next leg of this journey!

Wednesday, December 6

Christmas in a Small Town by @AuthorKristina Knight

Christmas in a Small Town is LIVE - you can pick it up in print and e formats, from your favorite book retailer, so go forth!

I'm super excited for this book, it's my first 'official' Christmas-themed book, and it's my fifth Slippery Rock title...and it's my 7th Harlequin Suprromance...but it's also bittersweet, because this is my last Superromance title. I'm still so sad that Harlequin has decided to close this line of rich, deep, thoughtful books, but I'm also feeling blessed that I've been able to write these books for the past three years. It has seriously been one of the best times in my life - I've learned a LOT from my editors, and I think I'm a better writer after it all. And Christmas won't be my last book - I've got more coming for you guys, and I can't wait to share that news!

For now, here's a little bit about Christmas in a Small Town:

Running out on her wedding was the best decision ever!

A cheating fiancĂ© sends Camden Harris fleeing to her grandparents’ home in Missouri. When her ex follows, determined to win her back, Camden makes a deal with neighbor Levi Walters: they’ll pretend to be in love and she’ll support his plan to buy her grandparents’ land.

The boy from her childhood has grown up into an impressive man. His charm, good looks and sweet gestures make it difficult for Camden to remember this is fake. And Levi’s kisses only confuse her more.

Buy Christmas in a Small TownAmazon  B&N  iBooks  Kobo  Harlequin/paperback  Harlequin/e-copy

Here's a little snippet from the book: 

“It’s a nice-looking dress, though.”
“Not my style.”
“I find that hard to believe. You wear it too well.”
Because she’d been trained to wear it well. Her mother had started her on the pageant circuit when she was nine, and after her father died, the pageants had become almost weekly occurrences. Still, having a stranger comment on her appearance was nice. Maybe a little stalkery, but nice. “Yeah, well, it’s not like it takes a special set of skills to wear designer clothing.”
“I don’t know about that.”
Okay, that upped the stalker level a little too high. She was not going to let some cowboy in a small town take her to his trailer just because she’d walked out on her old life.
“I’m going to finish this glass of wine and be on my way. You can scurry back over to your buddies now and tell them what a hateful witch I am.”
“You don’t seem all that hateful. Maybe a little sad. But not hateful.” His voice was kind, kinder than she probably deserved after walking away from everything and everyone the way she had done. But she still wasn’t letting a stranger talk her into bed. No matter how sexy his voice sounded in the darkened bar. “You’re wearing a ring you didn’t pick out, and a dress that isn’t your style. Seems to me like this has not been your day.”
“Try lifetime,” she said and twirled the stem of the wineglass between her fingers. And she was not going to keep talking to a perfect stranger about her life. She was not feeling like herself, but she wasn’t completely desperate.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked Merle, who was looking from Camden to the man at the bar and back again.
“Ten dollars,” the older man said.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“I pay my own bills,” Camden said and turned to look at the man standing beside her.
He was tall, built like a football player. His skin was a rich brown, and there were golden flecks in his brown eyes.
And she knew him.
He was taller than she remembered. His shoulders wider. His voice deeper. But the laughter in the gaze was the same, as was the crooked tilt to his mouth. Camden clapped her hand over her mouth. Oh, god, she wanted to sink through the floor of the bar.
Of all the bars, in all the world, why did she have to walk into Levi Walters’s?

If you're ready for a fun, holiday read, pick up Christmas in a Small Town. Happy holidays!  ~Kristina

Tuesday, December 5

And...We Have Winners!

Last week was a load of fun for all of us Wranglers--we do love giveaways! Here are the five winners drawn randomly from all the people who commented on Word Wranglers' posts last week. Debby won the prize from Liz; Pat Bradley won the prize from Nan; Stephanie Coutts won the prize from Kristina; Jessica Desmukes won the prize from Margie; and Molly Daniels won the prize from Ava.

Speaking of contests and giveaways, I entered three in the last month or so. I'm not a contester--never have been, but I'm giving it a shot because I am crazy about the cover for Saving Sarah. My designer, Lani Diane Rich from Chipperish Media, caught Sarah and Tony perfectly with this cover and tag line. Is it just me or does the Saving Sarah cover just melt your heart? So I entered it in the JABBIC -- the Judge A Book By Its Cover contest sponsored by the Houston Bay Area RWA chapter. Hold a good thought, okay? Oh, and you will get an opportunity to vote--I'll post it here when it comes up.

I also entered Saving Sarah in a couple of reader-judged contests, so send good energy to Sarah and Tony--I'd love to see their story at least final in a contest next spring.Wouldn't that be just awesome?

Be sure to stop by Liz's post yesterday if you haven't already--there's lots of big doings, including a giveaway, around the release of her newest Harlequin Heartwarming romance, The Happiness Pact. I really love Libby and Tucker's story--it's delightful. Liz is on a whirlwind blog tour for the next week or so and all the info about her tour is in her post if you want to follow along. I know I'll be there!

That's all the news for now--go out and make it a great Tuesday!