Reader Appreciation!

Woot! I’m thrilled that my new writing buddy Kristina Perez passed the Reader Appreciation Award to me for my blog!

Kristina and I met during WriteOnCon, a fabulous (and free!) online conference for writers, and she’s already given me great feedback on my ms and shared the beginning of one of her intriguing mss with me. Maybe even cooler, I loved the fact that she’s jumped out of a plane! (one of the Things on her Seven Things About Me list)

On that note, Seven Not-Previously-Shared Things About Kip:

  1. I haven’t jumped out of a plane, but I took flying lessons for a while. My favorite skill was the touch-and-go, where you come in for a landing and then take off again right away. So fun!
  2. I’ve also driven a tank, flown in a helicopter, and fired some interesting weapons. ***
  3. My parents didn’t allow me to have Barbie dolls. Instead, I had the “Sunshine Family,” complete with hippie van.
  4. My idea of a fun night is to make a meal from a book, like the pommes à l’huile with fresh bread and a tall, cold beer from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and read the scene out loud to unsuspecting diners. 
  5. I would feel very uncomfortable living anywhere that required a car. I have a car, but I like to be able to get around without it.
  6. I didn’t learn to swim or speak Spanish until I was a grown-up, but I do both quite well now.
  7. ***I was in the Army! For reals. It feels like another life, though.

As outlined in the rules for this blog award, I’m now passing it on to 5 other writers whose blogs I adore.

Michelle Mason

Elodie aka @commutinggirl

Angelina Hansen

Shari Green

Bethany Smith

The full Rules of the Game (for those I’ve nominated):

1. Identify and show appreciation to the blogger who nominated you.
2. You must add the reward logo to your blog.
3. Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5-10 of your favourite bloggers for this award.
5. Inform you nominees that you nominated them.

It’s a cinch, right?

Tagged!

The fabulous Jaye Robin Brown tagged me and some of the #wipmadness crew with a new set of questions in the latest question-asking tag game passing through the interwebs: http://jayerobinbrown.blogspot.com/2012/02/tag-youre-it.html

Her five evil questions aren’t actually all that evil:

1. What is the  best meal you’ve ever eaten – what, when, and where.

Not evil, but wow, this is a hard question for a foodie! I’ve had delicious meals here in Boston (most recently a five-course tasting menu at Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square, drool), in Austria (bone marrow soup! Wienerschnitzel!), and Iceland (is it bad that we tried whale?), among other places. But hands down, some of the best foods I’ve ever tried were in Spain, and so here’s a photo of one of my favorite dishes we had last year, arroz a banda, a rice cooked in seafood broth and then served with the fish and of course aioli.

2. What is your earliest memory?

I was about three years old, and I’d wandered out into the tall weeds behind the house–well above my head–and before I knew it I was alone. I’d never been lost, and had never been completely alone. It both thrilled and terrified me, and I remember tingling with excitement. After reveling in my independence for a few minutes, I turned around and went home, feeling like I’d been forever changed.

3. If given your choice of a secret rendezvous with any fictional hottie – who would you choose?

Don’t laugh. But the love interest in my current WIP is about my favorite ever. I’d pick him over any fictional hottie right now.

4. What is your favorite joke?

OK, this question is a little evil. I guess I’m a fan of the oldie-but-goodie about the three strings who walk into a bar and end up with a frayed knot.

5. Pick three words to describe yourself (one is just too hard!)

Persistent, energetic, and open-minded

So! For the next part of the tagging, I have to hit up three other friends with five more questions. I’d love to hear answers from:

Kerri Maniscalco: http://kerrimaniscalco.com/

Elodie: http://commutinggirl.wordpress.com/

Ruth L. Steven: http://ruthlaurensteven.blogspot.com/

Without further ado, my questions:

1. Keeping with the foodie theme, what’s your signature dish? Something you make that blows people away and that you luuuuurve.

2. If you could be any fictional character, whose story would you want to live?

3.  If you won a magical trip to any destination and had to use the setting in your next novel, where would you go?

4. Your favorite five authors. Go!

5. What music are you listening to while working on your current WIP?

Ceviche

We had our first heat wave in Boston this week, so it was time to throw together one of my favorite cold dinners: ceviche.

Ceviche is a great dish because it’s so quick and easy to prepare, refreshing and delicious, and actually good for you. The only caveat: you have to do your preparations far enough in advance that your citrus has the time it needs to “cook” the seafood.  I usually prepare it in the morning to eat that night (6-8 hours later).

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of seafood (my favorite to use is sole, but flounder, tilapia, shrimp, and calamari work well too), cut into thin, small pieces
  • the juice of 7 limes and 1 lemon
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

The instructions couldn’t be simpler: just slice the seafood in small pieces, chop the vegetables and cilantro, juice your citrus fruits, then throw everything together in a big bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cook.

I usually serve it with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, along with a nice cold beer, mmmm. Hope this is a refreshing break on a hot summer night!

The Quiche to End All Quiche

I have to admit it: I adore quiche.

I’ve been making it for years with relative success, but I’ve fallen in love with it again after turning to Julia Child’s master recipe.

In her book THE WAY TO COOK, Julia gives recipes for several types of quiche. Spinach, Lorraine, etc.

I started with her spinach quiche, and I’ve found that I can use the basic ratio she outlines there for any veggie quiche. Well, except for one twist, with the cheese. I like a lot of cheese in my quiche. Here’s the how-to:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Get out your pillsbury dough boy pie crust and place it in a pie pan. If you can make your own crust, by all means, go for it. Julia Child has a great recipe for that too, and so does Michael Ruhlman in RATIO. I haven’t ventured there yet, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll like it and have to do it every time.
  3. Eggy mixture. This is Julia’s no-fail ratio. Beat three eggs and add enough milk to get to 1.5 cups of mixture. I mix it right in my four-cup mixing cup.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Nutmeg is that key flavor you need, like in a good bechamel.
  5. Chop your veggies, anywhere between 1/2 cup and a cup. Spinach or broccoli are good stand-bys. A recent experiment I tried came out great: parsley and shallots. Mushrooms and scallions might be my next experiment.
  6. Do a super-fast sautee of your veggies in butter. You don’t want to cook the color out of them. Even thirty seconds is enough for some veggies.  Throw them in your mixing cup or bowl with the eggy mixture.
  7. Grate about 3/4 of a cup of cheese. I like a flavorful cheese like gruyere or emmentaler. Throw about 1/2 cup of the cheese into the mixture.
  8. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and then top with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes (Julia says 35, but mine seem to need more – could be my oven, so check after 35).

It’s been coming out perfect every time for me! How does this work for you?

Horchata: a Valencian specialty

Let’s face it: most tourists who visit Spain head for Barcelona, Madrid, or Seville. These three beautiful cities have a lot to offer, including a lot of great food and drink.

But Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, is likewise a great place to visit. For starters, it’s now connected to Madrid with the high-speed AVE train, cutting the travel time down to well under two hours. It’s on the Mediterranean coast, with a compact “old city” downtown, surrounded by a huge ring of colorful neighborhoods and attractions such as the modern City of Arts and Sciences. Farther out of town you’ll find la albufera, a watery reserve where rice for the famous paella valenciana grows – and where you can spend several hours in one of the local restaurants enjoying one of the best rice dishes you’ll ever taste.

Besides paella, Valencia is known for another specialty: horchata. This sweet and milky drink is made from the chufa, or “tiger nut,” and is definitely worth trying. Tucked away in the Plaza Santa Catalina in the city center are a couple of establishments which specialize in the drink. My favorite – both for atmosphere and taste – is the Horchateria Santa Catalina. Small marble tables dot both the downstairs and upstairs, and colorful blue and white tiles decorate the walls, making it the perfect place to take a break from shopping and sightseeing.

Along with your horchata, be sure to order a plate of fartóns. Not only is the word a lot of fun to say, these soft bread sticks covered in powdered sugar are the perfect complement to your milky beverage.

¡Buen provecho!

donut shops: rated by a new englander

Here in New England, Dunkin’ Donuts has quite a monopoly. Which is – let’s face it – a pretty good thing.

You feel like you’re home when you see one on every corner. And the familiar tastes and smells do wonders to remind you of home when you stumble across one in some far-away land, like Virginia or Dubai.

So what are the other choices? What else is out there?

We all know Krispy Kreme didn’t fare too well in the Boston area. Personally, the donuts are just too sweet for me. Like a tiny bit of dough coated in an entire sugar bowl.

Honey Dew. Meh. If there’s nothing else, and I really need a fix,they can suffice.

But if you head south to Rhode Island, west out to the other end of New York State, or of course up north to Canada, you will find another wonderful, amazing donut chain that can – at times – make you cry out in delight when you see one of them from the highway.

I’m talking about Tim Horton’s, a Canadian chain that has stolen my donut-loving heart. Light, fluffy Timbits (aka Munchkins to the Dunkin’ lover in all of us), tasty sandwiches on nice baguettes, and flavorful coffee that lives up to their motto toujours frais – “always fresh.”

This morning, I drove a little over an hour to Woonsocket, Rhode Island to see if they lived up the expectations I had built up in visits to shops in Toronto, Toledo, and Rochester, and, mm-mm, did they ever.

I will always be a fan of DD, but a piece of my heart now belongs to TH.