Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tielle's Side Car

Ice half full in shaker
1 shot bourbon (let bourbon marinade with ice for a minute or two; you want a little water in there)
1/2 shot Grand Marnier
1/2 shot Frangelico
3 shots sweet and sour

Shake the hell out of it and pour through a strainer into a sugar rimmed martini glass.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Ruby's Razztini

We love this at our house! It's a festive looking drink for the holiday season with the red and green!

2 shots raspberry vodka
1/2 shot Triple Sec
2 shots cranberry juice
Splash of lime juice

Add all ingredients into drink shaker with ice. Make sure when you shake that your butt is moving in the same rhythm. This always helps to get you in the mood for a party! Drain into a martini glass and add a lime wedge on the rim. Ready to go!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Arianna's Famous Hot Chocolate

We love this when decorating the Christmas tree or as a yummy dessert substitute. If you want to get fancy, make this in a clear mug and use a peppermint stick or candy cane as a garnish. This is a huge hit at Christmas parties or after Christmas dinner.

1 envelope hot chocolate
Hot water
1 shot Bailey's Irish Cream (regular or mint)
Whipped cream
Chocolate shavings (if desired)

Empty hot chocolate envelope into mug. Add shot of Bailey's. Stir. Add hot water. Stir again. Top with whipped cream, candy cane, and chocolate shavings if desired.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cait's Creamy Irish Coffee

Your preference of black coffee, sugar to taste
Add measure of Bailey's Irish Cream
Float whipped cream on top and sprinkle with chocolate powder


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tara's Hot Buttered Rum

This recipe is yummy and easy to do, especially if you use a crockpot.

2 sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves (optional)
Pinch salt
1 bottle rum, light or dark
6 to 8 cups of water (depending on size of crockpot)

Place all ingredients in a crockpot set on high. Stir occasionally to combine the ingredients. Once butter is melted and liquid is hot, it is ready to drink. I use a soup ladle to scoop out servings and place in mugs. Sometimes I top it with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Diana's Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate

At one point my husband worked as a night watchman for a historical museum. His rounds included a small house on the property where one of the directors lived. Every night during the cold winter months, he’d stop in to make sure she was okay and she’d give him a thermos of homemade hot chocolate. Here’s her recipe. We make it every Christmas morning and give a toast to her memory.

In a 4 or 5 quart saucepan, mix 1/3 c. baking cocoa, a 1/2 c. of sugar, 4 c. of milk and a dash of salt. Add 1 tsp. of vanilla and heat. Stir continually until all ingredients are mixed and cocoa is warmed for drinking. DO NOT BOIL.

Enjoy! Makes 4 cups of hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lynn's Frozen Banana Punch

An oldie but a goodie! This makes a lot, so adjust the recipe as needed for your party.

5 bananas
2 small cans frozen lemonade
2 large cans frozen orange juice
1 large can pineapple juice
4 cups sugar
6 cups water
4 bottles ginger ale

Heat sugar and water and boil for 5 minutes. Cool. Blend bananas in blender and add juices. Blend. Add sugar syrup and blend with juices. Put in container and place in freezer until needed. Sit out about 2 hours before using. Pour ginger ale over slushy concoction and serve.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Arianna's Easiest Roast Ever

This is the easiest way to make a complete meal, impress your in-laws, and not have a lot to clean up afterwards. It makes the house smell great too.

1 pork/beef roast (get what's on sale!)
1 small bag baby carrots
1 large can whole white potatoes
1 bag pearl onions
1 envelope French Onion soup mix
1 roaster bag
1 tablespoon flour
Salt, pepper, and thyme to taste

Using the roaster bag (available at most grocery stores; Reynolds makes them), put the tablespoon of flour in the bag and shake to coat the inside.

Quarter the potatoes. Put roast, potatoes, carrots, and onions in bag. Sprinkle seasonings in the bag (to taste). Dump the envelope of French Onion soup mix into bag. Close bag. Using a knife, make 4 slits approximately 3 inches in the bag. Put bag in a pan. Bake at 350ºF for 1-2 hours depending on the size of the roast. Use a meat thermometer to check the wellness of the roast.

Sprinkle some parsley over the roast when serving.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lynn's Veggie Spread Bread

I got this recipe from my Ellora's Cave editor, who served it when she invited some of her authors to her home for dinner. I loved everything she prepared that evening, but could have made a meal just out of this. Deelish!

1 package Pillsbury crescent rolls
Broccoli florets, chopped, or bag of broccoli slaw
Green onions, small bunch chopped
Carrots, small bag grated
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
8 ounces cream cheese
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix

Flatten rolls on greased cookie sheet (small sheet, or half of regular cookie sheet); spread evenly, don't leave gaps. Bake at 350ºF 5-9 minutes until just brown; watch carefully as it burns quickly. When done, allow to cool.

While baking, chop veggies and set aside.

Mix mayo, cream cheese and dry dressing mix until smooth. Spread on cooled bread base. Top with veggies, then sprinkle with cheese; pat down. Refrigerate for several hours.

Note: does not keep well. Use in a couple of days or gets soggy.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rock Buns

This is my grandmother's recipe and I'm not sure how far back it goes before that. She gave it to my mum, who gave it to me. These warm spicy buns with mixed fruit are a perfect winter treat.
Who doesn't love some spicy, rock-hard buns? ;)

Rock Buns
8oz self raising flour
3oz margerine
3oz castor sugar
3oz mixed dried fruit
1 medium egg
1 level teaspoon of mixed spice
2 1/2 oz milk

Put flour, egg, margerine and mixed spice into blender. Mix till crumbed.
Pour into a baking bowl and mix in fruit.
Add milk and egg and mix lightly into a fairly rough dough (do not over mix)
Using a fork, deposit onto greased baking tray in small rock-like heaps
Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar
Bake at 220C near top of oven for 15mins

Remove from oven and allow few minutes for buns to set (should be crisp on outside)
Serve warm with or without butter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diana's Dip for Triskets

My husband's aunt (What can I say? My husband knows how to find people who make great food!) gave me this recipe years ago and I serve it at our annual Christmas party. I didn't make it one year and boy, did I hear about it! Everyone likes this and looks forward to it. And the best part is, it's easy!

Aunt Jo's Dip for Triskets

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise

Mix together in an oven-proof bowl. Bake at 350ºF until top is golden brown. Serve as a dip with Triskets.

Add more onion if you like it onion-y; add more cheese if you prefer a cheesy-ier dip.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Tara's $300 Chocolate Cake

This was one of my mother's favorites. For those who like to actually bake a cake from scratch, you're gonna love it.

Mix 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of sugar in a bowl and set aside. In a pan, boil the following ingredients for 1 minute as you continually stir:

1 cup water
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup oil
4 tablespoons cocoa

Add the mixture to flour and sugar and beat until mixed, then add and mix well:

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda

Once mixed well, pour into greased and floured cake pans or a 13x9x2 oblong baking pan and insert into a pre-heated oven at 350ºF. Bake for 30 minutes or until done.


Bring to a boil 2 tablespoons milk, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1/2 stick butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, then add 1/2 box of 10X powdered sugar. Mix well and spread on warm cake.

If you like, sprinkle chopped nuts of your choice (I like pecans) on top.

This goes great with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a slice of the cake. Yummy.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ruby's Christmas Cutouts

This recipe is soooooo fantastic. One of my grandma's. Okay, here's the story and every time I eat one of these I think of her, bless her heart -- she's now passed. When I was little, she would make these and store them in gallon glass jars in her front porch, which wasn't heated. It was always -20 around Christmas, but my sister and I would sneak into the porch. And since it was the front porch and our boots were at the back door, we'd have to stand on books so the bottoms of our feet wouldn't freeze! We'd shove frozen cookies in as fast as we could before we were caught! To this day, I make these cookies and always toss some in the freezer so I can eat them that way!

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Start with mixer. Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Add orange juice. Add flour, soda, salt, vanilla and rind. Knead with hands a bit, then wrap in plastic wrap and leave in fridge overnight. When you roll these out, just take a bit at a time and roll on heavily floured surface and roll thin! Keep the rest in the fridge until needed.

Bake 10-11 minutes (watch closely!).


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Truest Gift

I’ve come to realize that the truest gift is time. In this fast-paced world we have little to no time. Twenty-four hours in the day seems to slip by without much thought as to where it went. If you actually sit and consider the concept of time, we have one hundred sixty-eight hours a week, twenty-one thousand twenty-four hours in a year and we still don’t have enough time.

The reason I discuss this issue with time, for the first Christmas in twenty years, my son will not be home for the holidays. It is with great pride and a heavy heart I have to accept the fact he has chosen a dangerous path in life. By the time you read this, my son will have left for boot camp. He joined the Navy and has been selected to train for the SEALS program. For the past year, he has already been training in a SEALS pre-boot camp program here in New Jersey. He is in the best shape of his young life, but still the training he has yet to face will be strenuous and test both his physical and mental strengths and abilities.

I worry that I have not done enough to prepare him for the events he may face. As parents, we did our best to teach him right from wrong. We were there each time he stumbled. We tended to his needs and gave him the most valuable things we could provide—love, guidance, and a sense of honor and respect. But was it enough to help him in this next chapter of his life.

I believe our lives are giant books. The beginning starts at the first chapter, birth. We enjoy the childhood years, learning and growing. We struggle through the teenage years, which provide our chapters with angst, and some ridiculous fodder to sit back and laugh at when we are older. Each phase toward adulthood, each plot twist builds the story of our lives until we reach those dreaded two words, the end. What we choose to do with our lives is up to each of us. It can be a grand adventure or a sad tale, but it all boils down to that fleeting aspect of time.

You see, I blinked and my son grew up.

I sit here thinking of all the holidays I had with him. The wonderful memories of watching him grow and I can only hope he has the right stuff to reach the goal he has set. Time is a precious commodity. It has no monetary value, no price you can attach to it because it is priceless. It is the one thing in life you can’t take back.

The holidays tend to make most of us a bit melancholy and his leaving at this time of the year is not easy for me. Who am I kidding? His leaving at any time of the year would not be easy for me. He is my first-born and I will miss him as he journeys into this new, adventuress chapter in his life. I can only hope that his time here at home will be a treasured memory he takes with him that will help him succeed in his future.

The greatest gift anyone can give is the gift of time. Use this holiday season to reach out to friends, family and loved-ones to gather them together and share a few hours of that sacred commodity of time. It slips past so fast that in a blink of an eye the kids are grown and you sit there wondering where did the time go.

In the spirit of the holidays, please don’t forget to reach out to those who serve to protect our great country. Remember the wonderful people in the military. It doesn’t take much effort to say thank you. Over the years, I’ve been sending care packages to different service personal around the world. If you’d like to send a care package to someone in the military, please contact Kim Adams at She will gladly provide you with an address of a deserving individual, who’d love to hear from you.

During this holiday season, take a moment of time and enjoy the peace and love of family. Please share with me a fond holiday memory and I’ll enter you for a chance to win a signed copy of either Cursed Laird or Double Dilemma. I will be choosing a winner at random.


Tara Nina

PS, I don't normally share pictures of my family. The one above is a favorite from Thanksgiving a couple of years back. My son Robert is on the right, my husband Bob is in the middle and my daughter Casey is on the left and of course I'm the goof on the bottom. :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hello! Real Woman Here!

Hello, Real Woman Here!
I recently had the lovely experience of shopping for an outfit for my husband’s company Christmas party. It was just oh so delightful. . . NOT!

First, let me say, I am over 40 and have borne three children, and am not exactly in shape. Unless you count round as a shape, in which case, I’m all set. I’m not obese, but I’m no super model , nor are the majority of women with whom I come into contact. In fact, if you look up the statistics (like I did) you’ll find:

Despite what the fashion industry thinks, the average clothing size in the United States is not a svelte 8 for women and a 40 regular for men. The average women's size is 14, the size at which "plus-sized" clothing begins. (Netscape Home and Living)

And...the fashion industry assumes these standard measurements for a woman: 35-inch bust, a 27-inch waist, and 37.5-inch hip. In the real world, women ages 36 to 45 actually average:
White: 41-34-43
Black: 43-37-46
Hispanic: 42.5-36-44
Asian: 41-35-43
(Netscape Home and Living)

Now, if that is the case, why did it take me 15 stores to find a top that didn’t either make me look like I was a sausage or a balloon? If it didn’t squeeze me at the waist and bust, it bloused out like a tent. Neither of which was attractive, let me assure you.

I wasted two days searching for an appropriate shirt before I finally found one at a Plus size store in the mall. (Torrid, and they were wonderful. I give them full props!) As I went from one store to another in a vain attempt to find something flattering, I got more and more frustrated. The clothes all seemed geared towards people who had no bust or hips or figure flaws to hide. I can understand marketing to the younger crowd, but I teach high school and I know the majority of my students aren’t stick skinny either.

So, if indeed the majority of women do not measure 35-27-37, why then do so many stores carry clothes that won’t fit an average size woman? I know the reason most designers use super skinny models is because the clothes hang better when you don’t have to worry about hips and breasts getting in the way of the drape, BUT THAT IS NOT REALITY. Where are the designers who use their creativity to design clothes for the average woman? Just because I don’t measure up to an unrealistic standard, does that mean I can’t wear fashionable clothes that make me look and feel attractive?

It is a constant irritation to me that the image of women we see on magazine covers and in movies has very little relation to the women we see around us every day. It is also extremely annoying to me that I buy into that image and fight a constant battle with my self-image and self-esteem. I’ve worked very hard with my daughters to define beauty as “healthy” not “thin” and hope they will listen to me instead of the constant media barrage that surrounds them on a regular basis.

So this holiday season, as you beat yourself up for having that cup of calorie laden egg nog or vow to lose weight for your New Year’s Resolution, consider instead finding a healthy balance and loving yourself just the way you are. It’s the best gift you can ever get.