Comfort Food. My way.

DISCLAIMER: Not a picture of my shepherd’s pie. Why not? Explanation at the end. This is a delicious Pixabay stock image (credit: RitaE)

Who wants a food post? I hope you do, because you’re getting one. Yes, this fiction author  is blogging about food again. Why? Because making food always leads to stories.

This story is about comfort. I don’t like restaurants OR cooking (or baking, for that matter) but I crave the comfort of a good meal. I crave it most  when I least wish to work hard.  Like, oh for example, when I’ve just gotten home from a 3-day convention bookended by 6-hour solo road trips. Yeah. Like now.

I have found many ways to make work in the kitchen as painless, practical, and fast as possible.  I am big on pan bakes & bar cookies, casseroles, stews, & other pantry put-togethers — things that can be assembled in 10 minutes and then leave to cook on their own….while I go write or something. See? Writing tie-in.

(Plus easily-distracted people are not the best cooks to put in charge of stir-fry, easily-burned sauces, or anything requiring precision measurements or timing. Yeah. Me.)

ANYWAY. Today’s entry in comfort food stories: a meal I call shepherd’s pie even though the only ingredient it shares with the traditional dish is potato. Its main appeal is that it can be thrown together in no time, feeds me & Spouseman for two dinners, and we both love it.  The ingredients can be conveniently kept on-hand in cabinets & freezer.

Spouseman makes it for me most times, on Bad Days like when I’ve just gotten home from a road trip and am thoroughly stressed. On other occasions I enjoy the think-free accomplishment of assembling asimple meal.

So here you go. One of my favorites.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. We use a 2 1/2 qt Corning casserole dish. Quantities were based on the dish.
  2. Dump into the casserole dish:
  3. 1 16 oz bag frozen vegetarian “meat crumbles.” No, I don’t thaw them. LAZY ME.
  4. Add enough wine/ketchup/barbecue/soy /Worchestershire/whatever flavors you like in a savory sauce. (Or, in my case, whatever’s in the fridge)  Make it fairly soupy.
  5. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper to taste.
  6. Once you have that base stirred together, layer in the following in order
    • 1 c frozen corn
    • 1 c frozen baby peas (or sub another niblet-sized frozen veggie if you are pea-averse)
    • most of an 8 oz bag shredded cheese. Mild cheddar is my fave.
  7. Make enough instant mashed potatoes to cover the top & load them in. How much? To taste. Depending on how thick you want.
  8. Shake the remaining cheese over the insta-tater layer.
  9. Bake for at least 45 min.

Ten steps.  I swear it takes longer to read these instructions than to make once you get the hang of it.


  • when it comes to choose abrand of “Let’s go vegetarian because too lazy to fry up ground meat and then have to wash the fry pan) crumbles, we’re partial to Morningstar Farms chipotle black bean. Really, any ground meat substitute will do.
  • Making mashed taters takes me zero time because we have an on-demand hot water maker. (Best. Gadget. EVER.) Anyway, if you have to boil water, you might want to start it when you preheat the oven. To save time. Because that’s what this is about.
  • Like most casseroles, this is excellent/even better after a cool & a second bake. So it’s perfect for make-ahead meal too.

Why no picture? I don’t take good foodie photos. When I attempt casserole imagery  the photo ends up looking like something pre-eaten. I don’t find that appealing. VERY NOT.

Traveling through Time & Space: Cleveland Concoction 2018

This week in Cleveland: ME!

March 9 through March 11, at Cleveland Concoction, a fabulous fan-run, volunteer-run convention for all things Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Gaming, Filk and fun. Here’s the official site: About Cleveland ConCoction

I’ll be there. My books will be there. SEANAN McGUIRE WILL BE THERE (So I am told)  Lots of awesome authors, gamers, readers, and SFF fans of all kinds will be there. I’ll be participating in some panel discussions that should be fabulous. Check out my schedule below:

  • Friday 2:00 PM Stories About Coming up with Characters. Sometimes we deliberately and painstakingly craft our characters, sometimes even excruciatingly pulling out our creativity… and then, other times, the characters drop in on us in the oddest way!
  • Saturday 11:00 AM Author Showcase (Session 2) Listen to your favorite authors read excerpts from released and soon to be released works. Find your next great read. Ask questions, and discover the new worlds
  • Saturday 12:00 PM Autographing (Session 2) – Author Alley Meet and talk with your favorite authors and rising stars. Purchase books and have them signed. 
  • Saturday 10:00 PM NSFW 2.0 Sex, violence, strong language; writers discuss their own personal limits on controversial subjects.
  • 11:00 AM What’s in a Genre?Science Fantasy, Slipstream, Speculative Fiction – let’s get down and unclassifiable and explore what we mean when we define a story’s genre.

What’s in a name?

Naming books is not my favorite activity. I would rather write another hundred thousand words of narrative than pick the two to five words that will capture its essence on the cover.  Anyone who has seen the initial working titles for most of my work would agree that creating names is not my strong suit.  (two examples of too many: “Carl Finally Gets Some Action” and “Dusty’s Story”)

The shortcoming affects more than writing. We had a cat we called “Kitten” all sixteen years of his life because that’s the best name I could come up with. (We told the vet to list him as Alexander Batwing Spook, but none of those monikers ever stuck for day-to-day use.)

Anyway. Titles. On rare occasions the proper one just comes to me with the concept attached. (Rough Passages felt right for the series the instant it popped into mind, f’rex.)  I wish the process worked like that all the time, but no. It’s usually a long, excruciating research project involving weeks of brainstorming, muttered curses, disappointing reactions from Beloved Alpha Reader, and lots of check-searches to avoid use of an accidentally offensive, clichéd, or market-saturated phrase.

And sometimes when I’m brainstorming I come up with titles that speak to me…but neither fit my work-in progress perfectly nor immediately inspire stories to go along with them.

I keep coming back to this list I posted a couple of weeks ago. I am still searching for a better title than Heartwood for the upcoming Rough Passages novel. For your amusement, here’s a second look at the sad options I’ve collected so far:

  • All The Days In Darkness
  • Chase the Whirlwind
  • In the House of Mourning
  • A Crackling of Thorns
  • The Heart Is a Trap
  • A Handful of Tranquility
  • What Wise Hearts Know
  • Sagging Rafters, Leaking Souls
  • Like Clouds After Rain, The Days of Trouble Come

And these sound like a fantasy trilogy to me, tho’ I have zero idea what kind. Something dark & epic maybe.

  • Break the Golden Bowl
  • Cut the Silver Cord
  • A Wheel Broken At the Well

That’s all for now. Why post all this (again)? Because I felt like sharing and this topi is on my mind?  Yup, It is that simple. It also means I am less likely to lose the list if ever I decide to use any of them. Yes, I can irrevocably delete things by accident. I have witnesses.

If by chance you think any of these would make a great title for a book about a woman facing the exposure of her dark past and the loss of her new life when she gains a phenomenal superpower…well. Let me know.