Warm Winter Comforts

This post is all about the delicious excuses I use to keep my oven working hard when it’s super-cold outside. To be precise, it’s about oatcakes & “oven omelets.” First, the oats.

Over the years an uncounted number of people have asked for my oatcake recipe. (Uncounted not meaning it was a large number necessarily, just that I never counted them.) Despite all the requests, I never shared a recipe…because I didn’t have a recipe.

The first batch was a total experiment, plopping plain cooked oatmeal onto cookie sheets. It did not work well, but I added a bit of this & that until I came up with something like a cross between muffin & pancake batter that produced tasty but unpredictable results.

The ultimate goal was oatmeal goodness in a crunchy cracker form. The reality never came out the same way twice. Always tasty, never predictable. The sheer number of uncontrollable variables, from the temperature of the cooked oatmeal to the ambient humidity, all factored in. I don’t commit recipe unless I can reproduce the results. I couldn’t do that with oatcakes.

<cue dramatic music> Until now! Success is mine at last. Fringe benefit of the perfected oatcake recipe is that it skips the one real PITA step in the process. (making the oatmeal first.)  But before I get to that recipe, let me rhapsodize a bit about the second oven-worker I’ve recently come across: baked omelets.

They’re not true omelets because they aren’t folded, they don’t qualify as frittatas because there’s no stovetop step, and they lack crusts, so aren’t quiches. They are without doubt delicious, easy, and only improve with reheating like a casserole. And as I’m married to someone who is pre-diabetic and needs more high-protein/low carb foods on the menus, I am beyond pleased to have discovered them.

And how did that discovery happen? Well. Let me tell you. It started with the big ol’ batch of eggs I bought for Christmas baking. Two dozen, because I needed 14. A little finger counting  gets us to the 10 extra eggs I had on hand when I began seeking “oven-on” possibilities.

I immediately thought of quiche & frittatas, but they’re a lot of work (multiple steps, lots of prep bowls & pans to wash)  and I’m lazy when it comes to food. Oven omelets are the best of all lazy worlds. Below you’ll find the recipe I use.

Quantities are based on the baking dishes I use (two mini loaf bakers) but eggs are very forgiving. The original recipes I immediately changed to suit myself came from AllRecipes & Genius Kitchen. The differences between them illustrated how flexible you can be with ingredient quantities. You can successfully bump the amount up or down by several eggs as long as you approximately boost or trim down the other ingredients. So if you want to make a big batch, or a thicker result, use more. Want a batch sized for one? That’s doable too.

Oven Eggs:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • anoint baking dish(es) with non-stick spray
  • In a bowl, whisk together until slightly frothy:
    6 eggs
    1/2 c milk
    salt & pepper
    other herbs & spices of choice
  • Stir in: 1/2 to 1c cheeses
  • Add 1/2-1c of whatever other additions you want.
  • Pour mixture into baking dish(es)
  • Bake for…well, it depends.
    45 min for an 8×8 pan
    35 min for my two small loaf pans
    20-30 min for muffin tin snack-sized servings
    –or “until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean”

Side note: I like my eggs cooked to death (on the dry side) so I cook them even longer, until the edges brown.

I’ve made these with ham & shredded cheddar, Mexican style (shredded colby-jack cheese, garlic & onion powder & salsa as additions) and Mediterranean (feta, basil, thyme, paprika & arrabbiata spaghetti sauce) and both versions came out great.

And now, back to the oatcakes. Important caveat: I make mine with old-fashioned steel-cut oats. The old-fashioned or quick rolled oats work fine too, but the texture will be different.

4-12 hours before starting, put 1c dry oats & 2 c milk in a container to soak. Those’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week as long as the milk is fresh. With traditional steel-cut oats, the mixture will remain very milky. That’s okay.

When it’s time to make the oatcakes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
line baking sheets with parchment paper (or use non-stick sheets)

  • In a mixing bowl, sift together:
    1 c flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
  • add in
    the oats
    a splash of vegetable oil — up to 1/4 c.
  • Stir until very well mixed
  • Drop dollops of batter onto baking sheets. (Isn’t dollop a wonderful word?) ANYway. Leave 1/2″ or more between dollops. The batter is thin, which makes spooning it difficult. A 1/4 cup measure works well for me as a scoop.
  • Bake for ~45 minutes, or until tops are dry & edges are starting to brown.

So that’s it. A couple of batches of oatcakes & eggs will keep the oven busy for half a day.  If you start a batch of fruit bread rising or peel some apples while the other things are cooking, then you can add another hour of delicious-smelling heat to the house by baking apples or breakfast rolls.

The bestest of all best things about these foods is that making them is also writing-friendly. Unlike cookies with 10 minute bake times or stovetop foods that demand constant attention, these are all about quick preps, simple cleanup, and long baking times. All that means less distraction from putting words to page.

And that’s an important thing for me.

 


I write books. Some people say they’re good. (I’m one of those people.)  You can find the books here and there, and paperbacks are available to order from any bookseller. 

 

Happy writing update

The sun will return, the Christian savior’s birthday is imminent, the harvest is in, and the new year is right around the corner.  I’m going to celebrate all that goodness with a post full of happy authoring news.

The biggest happy is a month old now, but it keeps getting better: Heartwood is no longer a draft in progress, it is finished. The ending passed Beloved Alpha Reader’s stringent quality assurance testing with two thumbs up and multiple sniffles. Huzzah!

How can it get better than that? Well. I’ve sent manuscripts to beta readers and already have some copies back, all beautifully marked up with suggestions for revisions, clarifications, and expansion. No one has spotted any huge gaffes or a need for major rewrites, so I’m still on schedule to start revisions come the new year.

That’s huge relief, since the last novel I finished (Prodigals) needed a major strip-and-rebuild. It still needs one, technically speaking, since I am not ready to tackle that project. I have identified the root problem and have some potential solutions simmering int eh back of my mind. I will do the re-write someday. Possibly after my current post-Heartwood project is done and in edits.

What current project is that? So glad you asked.  It’s a “cozy mystery meets family ghost story” novel, and it makes me very happy.

Deena Davis, newly-appointed police chief of a tiny Southern Illinois river town, solves crimes with the spectral assistance of her great-great-greatish grandfather, who was the mayor there while he was alive.

Deena is an ex-Army MP, an ex-Chicago police detective and current owner of a retired military dog named Bazel who hates phones and loves bacon.  Fletcher Davis is everything a mid-nineteenth century river town mayor should be. They are all tremendous fun to write.

So. Color me happy. I’m diving deep into this project while Heartwood rests before revision. It’s fully outlined (a new thing for me, very strange) and I’m well into writing the first chapter now.  My goal is to have build enough momentum to keep it moving forward while I start revising Heartwood too. So far, so good.

Heartwood will be ready to go into edits in February and slide onto a production schedule at the end of April.  I’m committed to that.  Stretch goal: have this new manuscript done by the end of April too.

I have writing-adjacent happy news too. Last year I agreed to help a friend prep her many amazing children’s books for print publication. A long, frustrating saga of false starts and dead ends ensued. I am most happy to announce that one book is nearly ready to proof, and more are in the hands of talented designers.  It’s getting exciting in a happy way.

Bottom line: yes, Virginia, there will be a new book in 2018. Maybe lots of them.

 

It’s going to be a weird day.

Last night my dreams were all about talking to dream friends about how weird the previous night’s dream was. Also I got calligraphy tattoos on my right shoulder blade that were designed so I can read them in my reflection.

True story. I feel a bit discombobulated.

What was on the tattoos? Signatures. Several of people I used to work with and some from famous authors. Mark Twain was one of them. It’s an idea so odd I might have to use it someday in a story.

What was the previous night’s dream? I’m glad you asked. Me and my questing buddies ( a collection of friends who bear no resemblance to anyone in real life) were carrying around cans of vegetables to throw at the invading aliens.

Tuna cans and cat food did not work. Only vegetables. Yes, even in dreams I run experiments and test hypotheses.

The aliens never chased anyone, they were more of a a random encounter threat. So mostly the dream was us going about our daily business.  We kept getting lost in the dream city (a combination of NYC, Chicago & LA that seems to stand for Urban Environment in my subconscious)

And there was an interlude where we critiqued a porn flick on a huge TV in the bar where we went to escape the aliens.

It was a supremely weird experience, but I didn’t expect I would spend another night analyzing it in my sleep. I spend a lot of dreams talking and reading, but this was a new one.

My brain. It’s a fun place.

Midsummer Check-in

Reading

All the Single Ladies. I wanted to like this, I truly did. Alas, it rubbed me the wrong way from Chapter 1 all the way through to the conclusion. It read like it started out being one book, and turned into a different one mid-development. The narrative rolled through a pinball machine of feminism-adjacent topics without focus. “Let’s kinda talk about women’s rights in a “then & now” way, but also a little here versus there, and oh, look, SQUIRREL.”

Also, despite nods to racial diversity, economic classism and intersectionality, the window dressing didn’t ring true for me. The author makes loads of sweeping sociological generalizations based on stories from a limited sample of her friends,  studies about people like them, and also some stories about people the editor evidently insisted on including for comparison.

Yes, I’m being mean and cynical. My blog, my interpretation. Did I mention how much I wanted to love this book? Betrayal makes me bitter. This should have been a PHENOMENAL read, but instead I walked away with this impression:

“Golly-gee-whiz, single [white upper-class, educated East Coast urban] women sure have faced a lot of obstacles throughout history and up to the present day! We’ve come a long way, baby, and marriage is a bummer for lots of women now. Go, independence!”

Um. Okay?

The text is packed with statistics, summaries of statistics, thumbnail historical sketches, and anecdotes. Despite the less-than-coherent development, it’s an excellent primer on feminism & politics for someone who knows absolutely nothing of women’s contributions to history or American society. Since I do know those things from other better sources (go ahead, ask me for a list)  I know important things were glossed over, and fast lost patience with the less-than mind-blowing message.

The heavy sprinkling of sub-conclusions like “Getting married messes up important supportive women’s friendships!” and “Male partners/societial pressures force women to make choices against their own best interests as individuals and professionals!” got on my last nerve.  <deep breath> SO DISAPPOINT.

Disclaimer: I have been married more than 30 years. Women’s legal rights were still fresh enough that I had to fight for a credit card and a bank account with only my name on them. I partnered a man who understood why I kept those accounts, bought a car, and paid all utilities in my name only.  Spouseman groks the struggle, and we support each other as equals.

My experience isn’t the norm for my generation, but neither am I a unicorn. The reasons more women are staying single are a lot more varied than this book admits, and most of those reasons are deeply rooted in old system failures rather than fresh new attitudes.

ANYWAY. Grr. Onward.

Empire of Shadows. Much more my thing. History of Yellowstone region written in that chatty, “I’ll spin the yarn in the narrative and stick the scholarly citations at he end” style I love so much.

I finished my All The Grace Burrowes Novels In Print project (she’s a delight, go read her, historical romance fans) and embarked on an Julia Quinn re-read.

Silverthorn. The next Jacey Bedford fantasy. I liked it. The developments are develop-y, the characters and dialogue are fun, and the world-building is neato-keen. Nuff said.

Watching:

  • Killjoys Season 2.
  • Dark Matter Season 2.
  • Finally watched all of Expanse Season 2.
  • I caught up to Daily Show, Samantha Bee & John Oliver (on Youtube) now & then.

STILL HAVEN’T SEEN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. <many sniffles of self pity>

Spiderman: Homecoming. AKA Spiderman guest-starring Tony Stark & Happy Hogan. I loved it despite major doubts about yet another reboot. Best part? So many dialogue zingers, so many non-whitebread non-cliche characters. The plot was grounded in wonderfully-real teen problems too. Usually Peter Parker gets the Hollywood “sure, he’s a kid, but he’s super-smart, so of course he would behave logically and be taken seriously,” treatment, and I can assure you from personal experience that is not how it works. Best news of all: NOT ANOTHER ORIGIN STORY! WOOOOO!

Other Things:

I have tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers growing happily in my sorta-garden. Teeny cucumbers are popping up behind the blooms, and green tomatoes lurk inside the tomato cage.  The peppers are struggling along this year. The sage as taken over its bed, but the butter lettuce is fighting back. (Lettuce is adorable when it grows tall and bolts up pretty little flowers. Ditto radish plants. That’s a thing I learned this year.)

Mulch has been laid down, and more weed death has been sprayed. Call me Godzilla, stomper of weeds. Transplanting of wayward perennials will occur soon.

I have baked in the new oven, and it works. Blueberries are ripe, and I have socked away sour baking cherries this year too. Scones will definitely keep happening.

That’s all the news outside writing-world. In writing land…I’m getting there. I’m achieving a regular working schedule for the first time in months, and the progress is there on the pages of Heartwood. To ensure the regular butt-in-seat part, I am posting one of my older novels up to Wattpad (link: https://www.wattpad.com/story/110555072-downrigger) as a serial, two to three chapters a week.

That’s all from this neck of the woods for now. Ta until later.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. 

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! Here be direct links to the published stories that have escaped the confines of Amazon. 

Extraordinary books2read.com/u/4N19e6
Powerhouse books2read.com/u/3kZ1VW
Nightmares books2read.com/u/3yPExv
Lockdown books2read.com/u/3GM2Xn

Summer Reading Adventure on Wattpad!

Update 9/12/2017 This book is COMPLETE. You can read the whole story from beginning to The End without interruption if you like. Enjoy!


I am posting a serial novel on the Wattpad website this summer. The book title is Downrigger, it’s a cyberpunky, dystopian-ish science-fiction thriller, and you can read it for free as I post and polish it chapter by chapter. More details on that at the bottom of this post, quick link right here: https://www.wattpad.com/story/110555072-downrigger

Why am I doing a Wattpad book? That’s a story by itself and the reason for this post.

It starts with the quotation Art is never finished, only abandoned. That pithy remark is attributed to everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci and Picasso to W. H. Auden. I can’t source it definitively, but I do like it.  In this case this book that will never be finished, but it’s done enough to share.

Downrigger has been around long enough to legally buy and drink alcohol. Heck, it’s old enough that it wouldn’t get charged an exorbitant premium for auto insurance.  It’s been revised and re-written and updated, and it’s more than ready to meet readers.

Why offer it on Wattpad? Why not sell it?  Welp, to be blunt it’s a worthy and wonderful read, but it isn’t the right shape, size, or type of book I can sell.

Sure, I could make it commercially viable. I could force its adorable, sprawly epic mass through a formal editing and proofing process and turn out a heck of a thrilling novel…or two…or most likely three…but that would take a lot of time and creative energy I want need to devote to newer, shinier projects that excite me more. Not to mention money. Editing etc would cost money, and money is a thing.

Why not let it sit in a drawer until the time is right? Because if it stays on my hard drive, it will tug at my attention and demand I play with it, and I cannot afford that distraction. (see above, re: newer, exciting projects)

Also, I think now is the time.  Wattpad is a good open forum for free reading (you do NOT need to be a member to read as long as you bookmark the link to the book. Here’s that link again:  https://www.wattpad.com/story/110555072-downrigger


Book blurb & cover:

A soldier without a memory.  A secret government project pushing the frontiers of neurology and psychiatry. A nation rebuilding from the ashes of revolution, still torn by social and political strife, in a future where the boundaries between technology and society are blurring.

Doug Berman is a murderer, or so everyone tells him. He paid for his crime by forfeiting his past and starting over. Now he’s a file clerk for an isolated scientific community dedicated to psychiatric research and treatment, and he makes installments on his debt to society one dull, drudgery-filled day at a time.

When he’s offered the chance to play tour guide to the community’s newest group of clients and volunteer test subjects, he jumps at the chance for a little extra pay and a big break in routine.
But within seconds of meeting his first volunteer he suspects he’s made the second biggest mistake of his life.

Michael “Hook” Martinez doesn’t know his own full name, where he is, or how he got there, but he’s certain of one thing: his enemies want him to fail in his mission. Now, if only he can figure out what that mission is before someone gets killed…

This story takes place shortly after the Restoration of the United States, after the fiery violence of the Revision Years died down but before the chip rot plagues began.

downrigger6.png

 

Happy summer reading, all.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. 

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! Here be direct links to the published stories that have escaped the confines of Amazon. 

Extraordinary books2read.com/u/4N19e6
Powerhouse books2read.com/u/3kZ1VW
Nightmares books2read.com/u/3yPExv
Lockdown books2read.com/u/3GM2Xn