Fabulous Fall Soup a.k.a. Tortellini and Sausage Soup with Beans and Greens

LusciousHow is it possible I’ve never posted Olivia’s Get-Your-Groove-Back Soup from Luscious? Huge oversight!

I’m making it today for my WNYRW writer’s retreat. It never fails to deliver inspiration. Revitalization. Food for my soul. My husband discovered it nigh on thirteen years ago when our first daughter was born. I nearly died, and he made batch after batch to bring me back to life. I think it’s the fresh fennel that does it for me – especially back then when I WAS a food source for a hungry baby. Fennel adds a fresh and mysterious yet warm and familiar note to this filling soup.

Click the “Read More” tab for the recipe for this FABULOUS soup!

HungryForLove Usen Soup Continue reading “Fabulous Fall Soup a.k.a. Tortellini and Sausage Soup with Beans and Greens”

Luscious Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Just in time for Thanksgiving! In my culinary romance LUSCIOUS, the heroine gets her groove back by (in part) by making this dessert. I started recipe testing last spring, but (true to form) I didn’t write it down! Since I’m teaching pastry arts classes at Erie Community College this fall, too, I put my students to work. Our third try produced LUSCIOUS results. This pumpkin creme brulee is rich and velvety, laced with almond, Amaretto and star anise. If you want a twist on the traditional pie, give it a try! If you want a more traditional version, add a half-teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg and cloves to the mix. If you don’t want to mess with a propane torch, this custard would also be great sprinkled with granola or sugared almonds. Happy Pumpkins! *This recipe is gluten-free if you DO NOT put granola or anything containing gluten on top!

Olivia’s Luscious Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Makes 12 four-ounce brulees

24 ounces heavy cream

12 ounces pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

a good pinch of salt

5 star anise

3 eggs

4 yolks (you can use the whites to make macaroon cookies!)

4 ounces of Amaretto

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Find 12 ramekins or shallow bake-proof molds. Find a pan with sides. It must be large enough to hold the ramekins so you can make a water bath.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk heavy cream, pumpkin, half of the sugar and the salt.
  3. Add the star anise and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit at least 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, yolks and the rest of the sugar.
  5. Temper the hot mixture into the egg mixture by adding a cup of so of hot liquid to the bowl and whisking. Add remaining hot mixture to bowl. Whisk in Amaretto and almond extract.
  6. Strain into a pitcher or something easy to pour out of – or strain it into anything big enough, and use a ladle to dip the mixture into the ramekins
  7. Put ramekins into the high-sided pan. Fill ramekins with pumpkin brulee mixture. Put pan into oven. Then pour water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the outside of the ramekins. Bake until set. You will know the custards are done when you give the ramekin a gentle poke and the custard jiggles back and forth. You will know the custards are NOT done if you give the ramekin a gentle poke and the custard jiggles in concentric circles, as if a stone has been dropped in a puddle. Baking will take 30-45 minutes, but (as I always tell my students) bake until done, not until the recipe says stop. (Yes, they roll their eyes, too.)
  8. When the custards are done baking, let them cool slightly. Then remove them from the water bath and let them cool the rest of the way. Put them in the fridge overnight to chill completely.
  9. To brulee them, sprinkle an even 1/8 inch layer of sugar over the top and use a propane torch to melt the sugar. Add more sugar and torch again, if needed. Be careful not to hold the torch on one section of the custard too long or you will scramble it. Also – do not get any hot sugar on your hand! HOT! HOT! HOT!
  10. Alternately, toss some sliced raw almonds with a little egg white and sugar and bake until toasty brown. Put that on top of the custard to add some delightful texture. Or put granola or streusel on top. Mmmmm. Pumpkin! *Recipe will not be gluten-free if you put granola or streusel on top!

Passionate Cooks

Are you a passionate cook? Me, too! All Romance e-books has created something especially for us – a free cookbook! It will be available for download during the month of October and will feature recipes from today’s hottest romance authors – including my Luscious Tiramisu!

Personally, I can’t wait to try the Char-grilled Oysters! Ever since my husband and I left New Orleans, we’ve reminisced about the oysters. For those of you who like it messy, there’s a recipe for Avocado Body Paint…just sayin’. For those of you in the harvest mood, there’s Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup. Actually, there’s a little bit of something for everybody in Passionate Cooks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Morning, noon and night. Appetizers all the way through dessert. Two-hundred-fifty pages of deliciousness – all for you – all free!


Don’t try to resist. Hasn’t it been scientifically proven that it’s impossible to lose weight during fall and winter anyway? Let’s eat, drink and be Passionate together! Wait, I didn’t mean that how it sounded…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anyway…all of the Passionate Cooks authors are holding hands in a webring. If you want to learn a little bit more about us, click the icon to the left and hop from site to site. If you’d like to pre-order the Passionate Cooks e-book, click the Download Free icon. We’re looking forward to sharing our recipes with you!

Luscious Launch With Giveaways!

Luscious has hit the stands! If you want a chance to win a copy of the book, learn more about what inspired the story or get some great recipes, follow me on my blog tour! The links will become live when each post goes up and I’ll give a book away at every stop. 🙂

7/2/12 Luscious Food – Long and Short Reviews

7/3/12 True Love and Homegrown Tomatoes – Grilled Bruschetta with the Romance Bandits

7/5/12 Second Chance at Romance – Night Owl Reviews Hell hath no fury, right? Exactly.

7/5/12 Luscious Balsamic Vinaigrette – Stitch Read Cook

7/9/12 Luscious Launch Party! – Casablanca Authors Blog Good guys vs. Bad boys, you choose!

7/9/12 The Romance Reviews Sizzling Summer Reads Party– register with TRR and join the party! 400 prizes up for grabs and a grand prize of a $100 gift certificate!

Sign Up To Win Free Books!

7/11/12 The Inside Scoop on Luscious! – Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews And I do mean the inside scoop. These questions rocked!

7/11/12 USA Today Happy Ever After Blog

7/13/12 My Sexy Chefs – Sizzling Hot Book Reviews

7/17/12 Food and Romance, a Luscious Combination – Books-n-Kisses

7/18/12 Luscious Excerpt and my take on attitude and balance – Sia McKye’s Thoughts…Over Coffee

7/19/12 What do cookbooks and romance novels have in common? – Fresh Fiction

7/20/12 Blackberry Smash Recipe, my must-read authors and three things that might surprise you!  – Cocktails and Books

7/23/12 Do you want to know which 3 items my hero would never have in his bedroom? 😉 Sure you do! – Manga Maniac Cafe

7/25/12 The Great Escape. Have you ever wanted to walk out the door and start your life over? – Love, Romance, Passion

7/27/12 Luscious research and why I swoon for sexy chefs at The Romance Reviews

And last, but certainly not least, click on the paper airplane to sign up for my New Release Newsletter and I’ll put your name in the hat to win a $20 gift certificate to Amazon! Signing up for the newsletter means you’ll only get a notice when a new book comes out! 🙂

Click here to sign up for my New Release Newsletter and the chance to win a $20 gift card!

Sizzling Summer Reads

A Luscious sight, indeed!

You may have heard…but Luscious is coming! In some stores, it’s already here! I went to a graduation party the other night, and my friend Molly had purchased a half-dozen copies of Luscious and was giving them to our friends. She had already packed her copy in her suitcase, so she wouldn’t be tempted to read it until she got to Aruba. I am touched on so many levels by her gesture. She not only believes the book would be good enough to give away, she is taking it on vacation. That means she thinks it’s going to be a fun book, the kind of book you read when you’re in a good mood and giving yourself a treat – the exact kind of book I try to write. Thank you, Molly!

Sign Up To Win Free Books!

Summer is always so busy, and I’m going to be extra busy this month. July is packed with a Luscious release party at Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, a book signing at B&N, a blog tour all over the place and the RWA national conference in Anaheim. All good stuff! I’m also participating in The Romance Reviews Sizzling Summer Reads Party – and you can too. TRR will be giving away hundreds of books in July, so sign up for a chance to win! I’m giving away a copy of Luscious at the party and for anyone who visits my site this month and signs up for my New Release Newsletter (click the paper airplane at the bottom of this page), I’ll enter your name in a giveaway for a $20 gift certificate to Amazon or B&N – winner’s choice! Signing up for my newsletter does not mean you will get tons of promo from me – just a short e-mail when a new book comes out. Giveaway runs from June 25th through July 31st. Winner will be announced in August. Have a Luscious July XOXO! 😀

Click here to sign up for my New Release Newsletter and the chance to win free books!

How To Roast A Pig

Luscious is coming! July 2012!

If you’ve always wanted to know why there’s a pig roast scene in Scrumptious, this is why.

But first, a little housekeeping – Jessie won the mini-offset spatula, which is now winging it’s way to her. I hope she loves it! The Boat of Hope benefit, put on by Naturally Chiropractic, raised $5806 for the Dragon Boat Racing Team. That will buy a lot of gas to get that boat on the river! I had a wonderful time at the event handing out hors d’oeuvres and chatting about gluten-free cooking. All the recipes can be found here. Finally, Luscious is coming out in July! Hurray! It’s been getting good reviews, which delights me to no end. Here’s one of my favorites:

“Usen expertly blends engaging characters with a swoon-worthy Italian setting right out of Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) and an abundance of delectably described Italian dishes to create an irresistible literary treat for fans of sizzling hot contemporary romances.”

— John Charles, Booklist

John Charles, I think I love you.

If you want to Pre-order Luscious, go here. And thank you!

With that said, Pig Roast 2012 dawned a bit drizzly, which always drives my husband nutso. He begins weather-watching a solid month before the block party, driving ME nuts comparing Accuweather, WIVB, Weather Channel and more. He’s relentlessly optimistic, one of the things I love about him, and he believes it will burn off soon. Such is the power of his positive energy, the rain stopped when he turned on the rotisserie. 😀

Step 1: Find a deli or grocery that will know what you are talking about when you say you want a whole pig. A 100-110 pig will feed at least 50 adults and various and sundry children. (Although we always get hot dogs too. The kids might have fun daring each other to eat the eyeballs, but they don’t actually want a pulled pork sandwich.) Ben orders his pig about a month ahead and tells them he wants it half-thawed. That means they’ll get it in the week before and let it sit in their walk-in to slowly defrost. Then Ben picks it up the day before the roast and lets it sit in our garage over night. It stays below 40 degrees, wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box. It’s easier to put a mostly thawed pig on the rotisserie than it is to try to winch a stiff pig into submission. He’s learned this through trial and error. This is the third pig he’s done for the block party, but he’s done a few in the backyard for friends too. That’s why we started to do them for the neighborhood – it takes a lot of people to eat a whole pig! (For those of you inferring we don’t have enough friends to eat a whole pig *snort!*)

My Pig In A Box (Eat your heart out, Justin Timberlake!)

The Rest of the Roast

Luscious Has A New Cover!

“A sizzling second book in a new contemporary series featuring sexy chefs. Newly divorced chef Olivia Marconi is balanced on the knife-edge of a major meltdown. A week in Italy with Sean, her hot divorce attorney–not to mention the fantastic food and wine–sounds like the perfect getaway. If only she wasn’t there to break her parents’ hearts by quitting the family business. Sean’s attention makes her feel brave, desirable, and adventurous again. But Sean is hiding something, and Olivia is short on trust these days. Can a romantic interlude in Italy turn into something more, or will it all go up in smoke?”

I can’t wait for July 3rd! 😀

I’m giving away a mini offset spatula on May 14th! It’s my favorite pastry tool. It can do things like this:

You need one! You gotta have one!

If I could give everyone a mini offset spatula, I would! To enter the contest, leave a comment on the blog before May 14th. I’ll draw names out of a toque mid-May!

Celebratory Pig Roast


Okay, so I know it was a coincidence that I finished the second revision of Luscious the night before our neighborhood pig roast, but the timing was exquisite! The monkey on my back, the albatross around my neck, my nine-month labor was over! (Okay, writers, I know it’s not really over. I know.)

I haven’t done tooooo much public complaining on the off-chance my editor might come across my bellyaching on the internet and decide I’m not as brilliant as I have been trying to make her believe. However, I was terrified. It took me five years to write Scrumptious, partly because I stopped in the middle to have two kids and write four novellas… and Sourcebooks asked if I could write the sequel to Scrumptious in nine months.

I said yes.

Of course I said yes. With a two-book deal on the table, I would have said yes to anything that sounded remotely possible. Look to the right and you can read all about the sticky middle months, but now I’m done. Luscious is done! And this is what I did to celebrate:

Foodie Heaven
I made five different BBQ sauces for the pig! From top left: Eastern NC, Memphis Wet, Carolina Gold, Bourbon and KY Dip.

It was another happy coincidence that the Saveur Magazine barbeque issue arrived last week. Check it out if you want the recipes for the sauces I made and many others. I’ve loved Saveur (nope, don’t work for them) for years. The photography is amazing, the recipes generally work out (there was one brown

Some Pig!
My husband in pig heaven.

sugar meatloaf catastrophe a few years ago, but I should have known better), and the articles make me feel like I’m in an exotic location enjoying great food with friends. My husband and I have roasted many pigs, and I think I went looking for a back issue of Saveur for the first one. Anyway, I digress.

It was the best pig yet and the sauces were a hit. I’m a mixer, so I think my favorite combination was the Eastern NC and the Memphis Wet. Piquant enough to cut the fat, with a good bit of kick on the back end. Crowd favorite was the Bourbon, which is why there is slightly less in the cup in the picture – there wasn’t much left! One neighbor almost started crying because he used to live in Eastern NC and WNY has never pretty much never heard of a BBQ sauce that is almost pure vinegar. He’ll be coming by for the recipe, for sure. Carolina Gold was good, but it made me want to go looking for a chicken finger. The KY Dip is Worcestershire-based and very spicy. I like that in a sauce, but I wish I’d made the Dr. Pepper sauce instead. I guess there’s always next year.

Holy cow, I almost forgot that there’s a pig roast in Scrumptious! Joe and Marly drive to a little town in Kentucky to roast a pig for Joe’s entire family. Marly makes blackberry cobbler, falls in love and things get hot in the hayloft… Scrumptious, coming January 2012! I know of what I write – when it comes to pigs.


I’ve been craving chocolate cake. Since I’m up to my elbows in edits, this is as close as I’m going to get this week. Next week, however, I’m going to make the Mocha Rum Cheesecake that shows up in Chapter Two of Love a La Carte. It packs a double wallop of caffeine and booze, and is as close to a perfect dessert experience as I’ve every known. Just a little something to look forward to…

And – done!

I promised you cheesecake.