Cooking From My Box: Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac)

Sorry I’m a little late with this week’s post. With the kids on spring break, I took the kids to Switzerland to visit some dear friends who have moved there (temporarily, we hope).
This week’s recipe is from Delicious, and is one of Reggie’s favorite recipes learned from her best friend Maria’s Vietnamese mother. This is also a personal favorite of mine. If you’ve never had it, I urge you to give it a try.



1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 Thai bird chiles or 1/2 serrano chile, chopped
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2/3 pound beef sirloin or flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 ripe pineapple (about 1/2 cup), cut into bite-sized slices about 1/4-inch thick (optional)
1/2 cup Asian basil leaves, cut in half
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
3 cups watercress, washed, picked over, and torn into bite-sized sprigs
1 ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges


Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chiles in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place the oyster sauce, soy sauce and beef in a medium bowl and toss to coat the meat evenly.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add the beef and quickly stir-fry it until just charred on the edges, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add to the bowl with the lime sauce.

Add the pineapple slices, if using, Asian basil and red onion to the beef mixture. Spread the watercress and tomatoes in an attractive manner on a serving platter. Arrange the beef mixture and all its juices on the watercress and serve immediately (if desired, with a warm baguette or steamed rice to soak up the juices).-Shaking-Beef-Bo-Luc-Lac-superJumbo

  • April 7, 2016

Cooking From My Box: Tyler’s Coconut Curry

This recipe is also from my first book, Delicious. When sexy PR Manager Tyler cooks this dish for Reggie’s sister, Natalie, the sparks fly. And what follows is way spicier than this curry! Enjoy!


1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce or salt to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Red Curry Paste*
1-13.5 oz can Coconut Milk or Lite Coconut Milk
1 red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or basil
2 tablespoons peeled, thinly sliced ginger
*also tastes great with A Taste of Thai Panang Curry Paste, Yellow Curry Paste or Green Curry Paste
Step 1
Slice chicken into thin strips, cutting against the grain so it will remain tender. Set aside.
Step 2
In a small bowl, mix lime juice, Fish Sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.
Step 3
In skillet over medium high heat, add Red Curry Paste with 1/2 can of the Coconut Milk. Stir frequently, until curry paste is dissolved and mixture is bubbling.
Step 4
Add remaining coconut milk, onions and bell pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
Step 5
Add the lime juice mixture and sliced chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 6
Add the cilantro and ginger. Stir and cook 1-2 minutes more or until the chicken is cooked.
Step 7
Serve over Jasmine Rice.

  • March 30, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Pork Chile Verde

This is one of my favorite stews ever, and is inspired by one of my favorite places to visit, Santa Fe New Mexico. So is it any wonder that I sent Reggie Caldwell, heroine of my first book, Delicious, to the green chile capital of the world to make this stew?
So before it it gets too warm, get out your dutch oven and enjoy this deliciousness!


Pork Chile Verde

Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 2½ hours

4 lbs. boned pork shoulder (butt), fat trimmed and cut into 2-in. cubes
2 to 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, as needed
3 onions (2 lbs. total), cut into 1⁄4-in. wedges
5 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 can (28 oz.) peeled whole tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
1½ lbs. Hatch* chiles (about 10), peeled (see tip below) and chopped; or 4 cans (7 oz. each) whole green chiles, drained and chopped
2 tbsp. chopped oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sour Cream
Shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

1. In a 6- to 8-qt. pan, combine pork with 1⁄3 cup water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is very juicy, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, and cook, stirring often, until liquid is evaporated and meat is browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Lift out meat and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium. If you have leftover rendered pork fat in the pan, discard all but 3 tbsp.; if not, add oil. Add onions, garlic, and cumin; stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
3. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pan. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and broth. Break up tomatoes with a spoon. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook 1 hour.
4. Stir in chiles and oregano. Cover and cook until pork is very tender when pierced and flavors are blended, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges, sour cream, and cheese to garnish with tortillas on the side.
Quick Tip: To peel chiles, remove stems, slice in half lengthwise, then remove ribs and seeds. Lay cut side down on a cookie sheet and broil 4 to 5 in. from heat until black and blistered, 5 to 8 minutes. Let chiles cool, then peel.
*Substitute Anaheim or Poblano chiles if needed.

  • March 24, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Homemade Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

This recipe is from my first book, Delicious, and was featured in Reggie Caldwell’s television show, Simply Delicious, USA. It was on the menu at Gianna’s Trattoria, which specialized in rustic, authentic Italian dishes.

Full disclosure here – I have never made homemade pasta and am unlikely to do so. If you are similarly disinclined, store bought gnocchi is equally delicious!


Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce07-600x400


For the Gnocchi:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup (or more) all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
Special equipment: Potato ricer or food mill

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet; spread out and cool to room temperature.
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add 1 cup flour; toss to coat. Form well in center of potato mixture. Add egg yolk, coarse salt, and nutmeg; stir with fork until mixture is evenly moistened (mixture will look shaggy). Turn mixture out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is very sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet.

Working in batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until gnocchi rise to surface of water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer gnocchi to bowl. Drizzle gnocchi with olive oil and toss to coat. DO AHEAD: Gnocchi can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

For the Gorgonzola Cream Sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
3 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 13 ounces)
Chopped fresh chives
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add Gorgonzola, whisking until melted. Spoon sauce over gnocchi. Sprinkle with chives and Parmesan, if desired; serve.

  • March 16, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Brady’s Sweet Corn Chowder

With rain FINALLY coming to California, cold, damp days have me craving soups. This chowder is ideally made from farm fresh summer corn right off the cob they way Brady McManus makes it in Fall to Pieces. However, if it’s not corn season frozen is a perfectly acceptable substitute.



1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) slab bacon (2 oz; rind discarded if necessary)

2 cups diced (1/4-inch) sweet onion (14 oz) such as Vidalia

2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

1 celery rib, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)

1/2 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold (2 small), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 lb sweet potato (1 medium), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (40 fl oz)

2 fresh thyme sprigs

3 cups corn (from about 6 ears)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced; finely chopped fresh chives


Cook bacon in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, then add onion, carrots, celery, and bell pepper to bacon fat and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add all potatoes, broth, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Add corn and cream and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add sea salt and pepper, then stir in bacon.

Enjoy with a crusty baguette!

  • March 9, 2016

Cooking From My Books: Adele’s Double Fudge Brownies with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

In this week’s installment of Cooking From My Books, I’m highlighting a decadent dessert recipe featured in Blame It On Your Heart, the first book in my Big Timber, Montana Series.
Those of you who have read books in the series know that Adele’s Cafe, a restaurant owned and run by the Tanner women, features heavily. While the restaurant has undergone a facelift and the menu has been updated, they still like to feature classics like this gooey chocolate treat. For an extra insulin spike, serve with a scoop of ice cream.


1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for buttering the baking dish
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper in a strip to line the bottom and 2 sides of the dish. Butter the paper with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter and set aside.

Place the unsweetened chocolate and 8 tablespoons butter in a medium heat-proof bowl that fits comfortably over a saucepan filled with 1 inch water. Place the double-boiler over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until the chocolate and butter are just barely melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to stir for 1 minute to cool slightly. The mixture should be warm to the touch, not hot.

Using a hand-held mixer, beat the sugar, vanilla and salt into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the eggs and yolk all at once and beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Fold in the flour and peanut butter cups with a silicone spatula until just barely combined; a few streaks are fine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack until just set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into 8 pieces.

  • March 2, 2016

Welcome to Cooking From My Books!

Way back when, when I blogged more regularly, I posted a series called “Cooking From My Box,” which featured recipes that contained ingredients that I received from both my organic produce CSA box and my organic meat CSA box (because I live in northern California and if you don’t subscribe to at least one organic food delivery service they toss you out on the streets and pelt you with oreos). Anyhoo… that obviously fell by the wayside, as did my blog.

However, it is no secret that I love to cook, and I love to eat. And you may have noticed that not only do a lot of my characters cook, some of them are even professional chefs or restaurateurs. So recently I had the brilliant idea to create a cookbook featuring all of the recipes mentioned over the years in my books.

And then I started making a list of said recipes, and realized, holy crap that a cookbook would be a monster of a project. Not undoable, but I’d like to think my readers would rather have me spending my writing hours on a new romance, not a cookbook.

And then it came to me – with the launch of my fabulous new web site, I could launch another cooking series!

Welcome to the first installment of Cooking From My Books!

Each Wednesday you can look forward to a recipe a character prepares in one of my books. Hope you enjoy!

And now, for this week’s recipe:

Tortilla Crusted Chicken Breasts
This recipe, featured in my very first novel, Delicious, was created and prepared by Reggie Caldwell, the popular host of Simply Delicious. On her show, Reggie focused on fast, easy, and family friendly dishes just like this easy chicken dish which uses crushed tortilla chips to create a crispy, flavorful crust for your chicken.


Serves 4


1 pound chicken breast tenders

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 large eggs

2 garlic cloves, pressed

Vegetable cooking spray

2 cups crushed tortilla chips

For added flavor brine the chicken in a solution of 2 quarts water, and 2 tablespoons each salt and sugar for 1 hour before cooking.


1. Preheat oven to 425°. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Stir together 1/3 cup flour and next 3 ingredients.

3. Whisk eggs just until foamy, and stir in pressed garlic.

4. Place a wire rack coated with cooking spray in a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.

5. Dredge chicken tenders in flour mixture, shaking off excess; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in crushed tortilla chips. Lightly coat chicken on each side with cooking spray; arrange chicken on wire rack.

6. Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and done, turning once after 12 minutes.

  • February 25, 2016

Bucking the Cookie Trend

This is the time of year when lovely homemade sweet treats start to pile up on my counter… and my waistline. Fortunately I don’t have the world’s biggest sweet tooth so I manage to moderate my intake (just don’t let me near the cheese platter).

Thinking that most people are getting tons of cookies, bark, brittle, toffee, etc., last year I decided to start my own holiday treat tradition.

It’s even better than cookies.

What could be better than cookies?

Holiday nuts!

Specifically, these nuts:

The Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts

Picture of The Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts Recipe

They are beyond easy to make (just watch your nuts carefully in the oven – last year there was a lot of nut scorching going on Chez Alden) and are a lovely mix of sweet and savory, providing a nice contrast to all the sugar you’ll no doubt be consuming in the next few weeks.

And while the recipe says to serve them warm, right away (which, I can attest from the furtive handfuls I’ve scarfed before setting them aside to cool, is awesome), they are also delicious room temperature. I make a huge batch and let them cool before dividing them into little gift bags.

Also, I limited my nuts to almonds, cashews, pecans, and macadamias, because really, who wants to waste the calories on peanuts and Brazil nuts?

Here is the recipe, courtesy of the Food Network


2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.

Today I made 2 quadruple (yes, you read that right) batches and as soon as my goodie bags arrive from Amazon, I will package them up and distribute them to my friends like the happy little Christmas elf that I am.
Do you have a favorite homemade holiday gift (food or otherwise) you like to share?  Post it here and one random commenter will receive a copy of Monica McCarty’s new e-book original novella THE KNIGHT:
AND Veronica Wolff’s new e-book original novella DARK CRAVING:!
Post your comments by midnight PST Friday December 13.


  • December 10, 2013

Do We Always Need to Intervene?

I don’t usually write about parenting topics on this blog, but some recent goings on at my son’s school had me thinking. I heard about some “girl drama” between 2 third grade girls who have been super tight since preschool. I decided to ask my son, who is friendly with both girls and pretty socially attuned, for his take on what happened.

Here’s how he put it (names changed to protect the not so innocent): “Shannon and Jennifer were doing something and Michelle wanted to do something different. So they were arguing, and Shannon said she and Jennifer didn’t want to play with her and Michelle wasn’t their friend anymore.”

I felt hurt for Michelle – no one likes to feel left out, and to have your bestie push you aside like that would be crushing. However, all in all it sounds like pretty standard stuff – I certainly went through that and much worse when I was in elementary school.

But the next thing I heard was that the girls involved, plus a few more girls in their friend circle, were all pulled into a meeting with the principal and the school counselor.  They talked it out (or as my friend’s daughter, one of the girls not involved in the incident, but pulled into the meeting, “They were like, and this happened and this happened, and blah, blah, blah, and say sorry and now they’re friends again).

Does it make me a total jerk that I think pulling all the girls into a meeting with the principal is a little overkill? I get it, schools need to intervene in the case of true bullying, but when does a school yard spat cross the line into actual bullying?

Are we truly helping our children by intervening on their behalf whenever they have a negative social interaction? Don’t they need to learn everyone won’t be nice to you all the time, some kids can be jerks, and sometimes, yes, even the person you thought was your best friend will turn on you. It’s part of life, and it’s part of growing up.

Or am I just mean and old school (and possibly secretly resentful that I was always just told to get over it and ignore the mean girls when they turned their sites on me)?

I’m interested in your thoughts.


  • December 6, 2013

Today’s workout

For the longest time all I wanted to do was run. To be honest, if my 40+ body could tolerate it I would be logging at least 6 miles nearly every day. But alas, circumstances have conspired such that I am forced to diversify. So now in addition to running, I do boot camp 3 days a week. Not only is it fun to exercise with others, given I spend all my work time alone, our coach gives us fun workouts like this:


Do this as many times as you can in 20 minutes. 🙂

  • November 19, 2013