Hungry Hearts Holiday Hop – Thanksgiving

InTheKitchen…Well, you’re in the kitchen with me, Lissa Matthews, and a whole host of other fabulous foodie romance authors! I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be asked to join in!

This is definitely a different type of hop than what most of us are used to participating in and maybe different than what most of you may be used to hopping along to…

This hop is full of author swag which will be given away at the end of each day during the hop, holiday recipes, author spotlights, foodie romance excerpts, and a grand prize drawings for yummy gift baskets from Harry and David, which will be announced on author Amanda Usen‘s blog at the end of each hop!

As I  mentioned, this is a different type of hop. There are 3, week long hops: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year…

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To be entered for the Grand Prize, fill out the Rafflecopter giveaway form at the bottom of the post.

So, how ’bout we get on with the food. I know that’s what you’re here for… Don’t even try to deny it!

Sausage and Cheese Balls.

Yes, you read that right. I thought about giving up my Peanut Butter Pie recipe, or my Broccoli Casserole recipe, or the recipe for Apple Pie in a Pan (several recipes into one… this hasn’t been tested yet…). But Sausage and Cheese Balls are a tradition at Thanksgiving in our house. I’m usually the designated cook, that being passed down from my grandma, so how I cook it, if I cook it at all, is entirely within my discretion and power.

Of course, if things go wrong… *shudder* Luckily, nothing ever has.

I usually make 3-4 batches of Sausage and Cheese Balls, but they must last from appetizer on Thanksgiving Day, to snack times on Black Friday, and on thru game time of the Florida/Florida State football game on Saturday. It is imperative that we not run out of these savory devils.

I also, steer away from the official Jimmy Dean recipe. Nothing against it, I simply add to and take away as my taste dictates.

Sausage and Cheese Balls (the recipe is easily halved)

2 pkgs. Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage Rolls (I use the one flavored with sage, but you can use whichever makes you happy)
3-4 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese (I use sharp)
2oz Cream Cheese (for creaminess)
1-1 1/2 cups Bisquick (or other all purpose baking mix)
up to 1/4 cup Buttermilk (for moisture)

This is a messy recipe too. No mixers, food processors, blenders, or forks. Get your hands dirty, people! The only thing I use a utensil for with these, is a 1″ or 1 1/2″ cookie scoop, and that’s only for uniformity. We don’t want odd size balls. (Get your minds out of the gutters people! And that includes you *points* in the corner… I KNOW what you’re thinking…)

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Once cool, I plate them in the proper dish and we dig in.

Of course, in our house, the serving dish or dishes is just as important as the sausage balls themselves.

This is the set I use (because yes, Thanksgiving weekend is the prelude to football on Saturday):

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They basically look like meatballs, but can taste like a sausage and cheese biscuit. We mostly eat them plain, but mustard works really well as a dip.

They’re easy, messy, and delicious. We’ve been making them in our family for as long as I can remember and they’re as important in our Thanksgiving celebrations as the turkey and pies are.

This recipe has nothing to do with any of my books. It’s a personal tradition for my family and no one I’ve written in yet. But, because this is not only for delicious recipes, but for us to get our books in front of possible new readers. I write books with coffee and cakes and cookies. None, however are set around Thanksgiving. The best I can do at this point, is my latest release (which came out Wednesday). Here’s the cover and the blurb:


Once Brax traded in his suit and law degree for part ownership in his best friend’s tattoo parlor, Love and Tattoos, he never looked back. Inked from head to toe, full of business smarts, and an affinity for classical music and hard sex, he’s got life right where he wants it.

Until the woman he can’t stop craving comes home. She’s full of luscious curves, looks a little unsure of herself, and has taken to acting a little odd around him. Brax can’t help but wonder why.

The corporate advertising firm in Philadelphia that Annie buttoned up her carefree personality for has laid her off. Now, back in North Carolina, she’s trying to find her sparks again. Her career is changing direction, her sex life is nearly dead, and the one thing worth having in the midst of it all is supposedly off limits.

Brax’s cockiness and Annie’s own desire to for the tattoo artist, dares her to believe he might know her better than she thinks he does. And when he promises that he can help her find what’s missing in her life, she agrees to his little after-hours game.

The challenge he lays out comes with a few strings, the suggestion of stripping, confessions, and the temptation of ink. But, they’ve never been that close, so how could she possibly lose?

Here are the Spotlight Authors for the Thanksgiving portion of the Hungry Hearts Holiday Hop. They are being hosted on Amanda Usen’s blog! :

Meg Lacey – 11/1
Gina Gordon – 11/2
Rachel Harris – 11/3
Christine Warner – 11/4
Kate Meader – 11/5
Karen Stivali – 11/6
Liz Everly – 11/7

‘); // ]]>

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In The Kitchen With…Lissa

InTheKitchenYeah, it’s me. But you know, I was thinking, we should have some guests come by specifically for kitchen days. I mean, I have several guests who are coming by over the next month or so, but none for In The Kitchen With…segments. I’m going to have to work on that.

In the meantime, you’re stuck with me. I don’t have anything new that I’ve cooked or baked  or made.

I just got back from Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together in Cincinnati and while it was a good time, the food at conferences leaves a lot to be desired. This is not the coordinator’s fault. This is… I don’t know. Maybe it’s our fault. We choose this diet or that diet, this fad or that fad. We have more medical issues and allergies. We have more choices of sugar-free, fat free, carb-free or low carb, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, nut free, etc… Conference hotels can’t handle this. A lot of restaurants can’t handle this without it being a big deal.

Even hotel restaurant changed their menu and upscaled it and that just didn’t fit with a lot of us. But then, we’re not their typical clientele.

I was witness to this with a dear friend…she’s a reader, completely self-less with her time, one of the least judgmental people I know. She’s beautiful. Doesn’t ingest chemicals or sugars or toxins into her body. She eats a certain way and has to. She’s very disciplined about it. And conference food doesn’t cut it for her. It can’t. She’s one of several hundred people, quite a few of who can’t or choose not to eat what is fixed for the masses. Because of this, a good sized handful of us eat at surrounding restaurants. (It’s good to have choices).

I watched her order dinner at a restaurant. She was good to go with their gluten-free menu, but once she started asking questions, the process became more difficult, more delicate, more intricate. Having worked in restaurants and hotels myself, I can appreciate both sides of the issue. Trying to please the majority, but still being flexible enough to take care of the minority. Sauces and bases and coatings and such are pre-made in a lot of cases. The pace of a kitchen is frantic at best. There’s not always time to make a special sauce or another batch of eggs without the things you can’t have. Some can be altered, some can’t.

They took care of her in the end, but I was completely enthralled by the process. She’s very diligent and very disciplined. She’s an amazing woman and I learned a lot about tolerance from her over the weekend. She was patient and kind and even with that, I think she scared the shit out of one of the waiters.

I remember at Authors After Dark last year, a girl needed a gluten free plate and when she asked the wait staff in the hotel for one, she was given a plate of vegetables.

There has to be some consideration, some back up plan, especially when dinners and lunches are made mandatory or schedules are so packed with activities and running from point A to point C because there’s not enough time to stop at point B.

That being said, I bring a load of snacks with me. I don’t eat white sugar, white flour but maybe a few times a month, or several other things that are common at conferences. I don’t eat out a lot either. Maybe two or three times a month at best. It messes with my stomach and I’m miserable for a week or so after. So I bring snacks and drinks and coffee and I am constantly drinking water. I eat a lot of whole grains, whole foods, and organics. So, there are ways around it all until I can get outside and go to a restaurant where there are more choices.

As much as I love food, it’s the one part of conferences I don’t enjoy having to deal with.

Needless to say, I’m glad to be home. It’s been nice being in my kitchen, eating the way I’ve become accustomed to eating. I’m glad to have my organic milk, my sprouted grain breads, my Bear Naked granola, my organic half and half, Trader Joe’s. I feel better and not near as fuzzy brained. So, yes, even I’m difficult.

I have another long weekend coming up next week of conference hotel food and eating out. I’ll have a little more than a month to get my system back in line before Authors After Dark.

These coordinators for these conferences to the best they can, work with the best information they have. They can’t and the hotels can’t please us all with all our different issues. And yes, it’s an inconvenience to bring coolers of food and stuff, but if it works in the long run and allows for a more enjoyable time with readers, then it’s worth it.

(Of course, the Cincinnati Marriott in Westchester did have ice cream on the menu, by the pint, and I was able to buy ice cream for one of my very favorite friends and authors, Amanda Usen… That right there, was worth everything else.)



In the Kitchen with… Amanda Usen

You Can Have My Mini Offset Spatula

When you pry it out of my freakishly strong, heat-resistant fingers! Or you can leave a comment on this post and Lissa will put your name in the hat to win one for your very own. J

Welcome to the kitchen! It’s always been one of my favorite places to be, even before I met my husband in culinary school. Since then, I’ve done more baking than cooking and I always have a mini offset spatula close at hand. Anything you can do with a butter knife or a spoon, you can do better with a mini offset: frost cupcakes, mix color into icing, spread melted chocolate on a crust, fix decorating mistakes, spread batter in a pan, etc. At the moment, I have four in my toolbox and one in my purse. You never know when a baking emergency might crop up!

I often have baking emergencies, although they usually take the form of needing something impressive and fast for a function that I forgot to write down on the calendar. When this happens, I usually make brownies. Serious brownies. Hardcore brownies. Brownies that inspire the NEED for a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Sometimes both. My brownies can be whipped up in an hour, including baking time, but I never feel like I’ve “lamed out” when I make them. This recipe offers two excellent opportunities to use your mini offset spatula: when you spread them in the pan and when you frost them. Bonus! J


Decadent Brownies

Soooo good, they are worth every calorie. Every. Single. One.

Oven temperature: 325

Pan: 13X9

Bake time: 40 minutes


2 sticks unsalted butter

18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 ½  cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

a serious pinch of salt

Optional: 1 cup nuts or dried fruit

Also optional: Powdered sugar, store-bought frosting


Spray your pan with pan-spray or, if you want to cut them beautifully, line the pan with parchment, making sure the parchment extends over opposing edges by at least 2 inches.

In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolates with the butter.

Stir in the sugar.

Stir in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the vanilla.

Then add the flour.

Mix vigorously for one minute.

Scrape into the pan. Smooth the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, until they feel set in the center.

Let cool. If you used parchment, pull them out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into portions.

Easy Finish: sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

The Extra Mile: Frost these bad boys with store-bought chocolate fudge frosting or make chocolate ganache and glaze them. It makes cutting the brownies a hair more challenging, but in the best possible way.

Never Let Them See You Sweat: Pipe a rosette of frosting on top of each brownie and garnish with anything that strikes your fancy. I’ve use gummi candies, pieces of candy bars, bouncy balls and chocolate covered coffee beans. Yum!

What’s your favorite last minute dessert? Or do you have a kitchen tool you can’t live without? What is it? I’m always looking for great recipes and useful gadgets! Leave us a comment and Lissa will pick one lucky winner of a mini offset spatula. Happy baking!

Scrumptious Blurb

Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he’s going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he’s denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky-as-all-get-out superstar chef. But there’s no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?


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About Amanda Usen

Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own scrumptious husband. Visit her at if you’d like to chat about romance, writing or recipes.


Tell me. Tell me all the yummy titles you’ve been reading lately, and tell me what you’re reading them on if you’re reading digital.

Myself, I’m reading a few different things right now…

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Scrumptious by Amanda Usen

Guarding Morgan by RJ Scott

They’re all different voices, different types of books, different tones… And well, you knew I would have to be reading an m/m…grins.

So, what are you reading right now and would you recommend it to a friend?


Spring Fling Blog Hop Winner!

It’s time to announce a winner of the 3 books: Scrumptious by Amanda Usen, Serendipity by Carly Phillips, and The Look of Love by Bella Andre! YAY!!!

Her name is Savannah! Congratulations…

Thanks to everyone who commented and played along. I’ve enjoyed reading all the responses and am truly grateful for all that have visited my blog during this and all the other hops I’ve participated in.

Savannah, we will be in touch later today!


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