Hungry Hearts Holiday Hop – Celebrate!

It’s that time… Or it’s almost that time. 2014 is nearly upon us and Christmas is right behind us. Let’s hope we don’t have to go through that again anytime soon! Hahaha…

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So, how do you celebrate New Year’s? Do you go to parties? Do you go find fireworks and big downtown celebrations? Do you stay home in the relative peace and quiet, safe and sound? We aren’t party people, so it’s stay at home for us. Football games, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the superstition of burying a quarter right before midnight and digging it up right after, bed, and football all day New Year’s Day. Oh yeah, we’re definitely livin’ the life!

My husband isn’t a drinker and I’m not a heavy drinker. We usually have finger foods… sausage balls, veggies and dip, chips and salsa, taco cupcakes or buffalo chicken cupcakes… There’s sometimes champagne, but for New Year’s I like Ice Wine. It’s a little a sweet, kind of bubbly, and utterly delicious.

One of my other celebratory drinks… a Kahlua Latte. I’d found the recipe on the Kahlua website, but use homemade Kahlua… I’ll be posting both of those recipes below.

First though… I want to tell y’all how much fun this 3-part blog hop has been. I have enjoyed the authors, the recipes, and new-to-me readers. I love food and I love being in the kitchen and that I’ve gotten to share with all of you my passion for it and for writing, it’s been a real treat for me.

Second…Not only will you have my recipes, you’re going to have mouthwatering dips, appetizers, and other drink recipes to choose from to add to your New Year’s celebrations! There will also be excerpts at all the stops along the way from all the hot food-loving romance authors.

So, what do you need to do? Hop around each author’s site for a new recipe, and fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter our GIVEAWAY: 3 Amazon or Barnes & Noble GIFT CARDs!

In addition to the HUNGRY HEARTS HOLIDAY HOP giveaway, Amanda Usen will be featuring Hungry Hearts authors on Writer.Chef.Romantic this week and gifting their books to lucky winners. Stay tuned to get in on the fun! If you’d like to party in real time, please join our Facebook Party December 26th – January 1st.

Facebook Party link: https://www.facebook.com/events/124060241101099/

Writer.Chef.Romantic: http://www.amandausen.wordpress.com

Third… Happy New Year!

Homemade Kahlua adapted from The Cupcake Project:

6 cups brewed coffee (I used a dark roast coffee, freshly ground)
1 pound light brown sugar (This recipe is really sweet, so if you use one pound, just know it’ll be sweet)
3 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 liter of vodka (I used Rain Organic Vodka, but you can use any kind you prefer)

While the coffee is still hot, mix in the brown sugar. The sugar will dissolve. Let the coffee/brown sugar mixture cool. Mix in the vanilla and vodka.

Serve over ice or with cream or over ice cream or as a latte…

Whipped Iced Kahlua Latte

3 parts Kahlua
1 part Vodka
1 part Milk or Cream
2 parts Chilled Coffee

Stir or shake, pour over ice, and top with whipped cream. This really is a delicious coffee drink. I do believe I’ll be having one myself for New Year’s Eve!

Now, how about an excerpt from my book, Arresting Holli…

ArrestingHolli_200x300“Everything all right?” Officer Hunky called from the kitchen.

“Just peachy. She’s doing good. Made a friend to keep her company.”

“That’s good. Did you sleep okay?”

“I think so. I don’t really remember much after the shower.” She didn’t even remember how she’d gotten into the bed. She barely remembered the grilled cheese sandwich. Did she eat it?

And where did he sleep? She knew he’d held her, but for how long? Crap. If he’d slept in the bed with her all night and she’d missed it, she was going to be really pissed.

“You okay? You’re scowling.”

Holli focused on him as he walked into the room with a tray. He really had brought her breakfast in bed. “Yeah. Only I don’t remember much from last night. I must have been really tired.”

She fluffed the pillows behind her and scooted back against the headboard. It was an odd piece. The top and sides were a dark, red wood, but the center had vertical, spiral rods made of metal.

He set the tray across her lap. Yeah, she wanted to cry. Scrambled eggs, bacon, toast with a little bit of jelly on the side, and hot chocolate. With marshmallows. And they looked like the real ones, not the round ones in the bag from the grocery store. She’d only had the square ones a few times in her life.

The way they melted across the top of the chocolate, the steam that rose up from the cup… She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had hot chocolate that wasn’t instant.

“It’s not going to bite you,” he said softly, climbing into the bed from the other side.

“No, I know, it’s just… Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I figured I owed you.”

“Well, it certainly wasn’t the way I’d intended to spend my vacation, but you’ve more than made up for it with a warm place to stay that isn’t concrete and you’ve provided me with access to a warm shower.”

He sat on the other side of the bed, finishing off a piece of bacon. “I know, but you haven’t had much in the way of decent food either. That’s another thing I can and am happy to do.”

“You’re a bachelor. You’re supposed to be eating frozen pizzas and fast food, not fixing gourmet breakfast for damsels in distress.”

Michael laughed and the sound traveled warmly from her chest to her belly. Just like his voice when he talked, she loved when he laughed. It was comforting, friendly.

“Is that what you are? A damsel in distress? Nice. Perhaps I’ll try to rescue you. As for the food…” He snagged a piece of bacon off her plate, “I can’t very well eat junk and preservatives and then expect to run the marathon in the spring.”

Holli glanced over at him as she picked up a piece of bacon as well and took a small bite. Slightly sweet, caramelized, crunchy. Sugar? “Marathon? And did you put something on this bacon?”

“Brown sugar,” he confirmed. “The marathon is something I’ve been training for, for about seven months or so.”

He could cook. He was a cop who put his life on the line every day. He was a genuine person. He was training for a marathon. She couldn’t have been more impressed with him or more in lust. The man oozed dedication and confidence, and like a moth to a flame, she was addicted. “I’ve never done anything at all like that. Takes serious commitment, I imagine.”

“It does. I haven’t had fast food in so long I’m not sure I’d like it anymore, and I never developed a taste for frozen pizza. I prefer the piping hot delivery kind once in a while, though.”

His wink was sexy, and he was absolutely the hottest, sweetest, kindest man she’d met in a really, really long time. Too damn bad she was going to be leaving him in a few days.

She picked up her fork and took a bite of the eggs. “Oh my God.” She covered her mouth when she spoke, then chewed and swallowed before taking another bite. “These are… What’s in them?”

“A secret.”

“What do I have to do to get that secret? They’re delicious. So smooth and creamy and…herbs? Cheese? Garlic?”

“Very good. It’s from a local farm that makes a lot of artisan cheese.”

“I don’t cook, but maybe you’d give me their information before I leave.”

“Or you could come back to visit when it thaws outside, and I can take you.”

She stopped with the fork halfway to her mouth and turned her head toward him. He was serious. The look on his face ? in his eyes ? told her so, and she didn’t know what to say in response. She wanted to say yes. She wanted to say she’d just stay until the spring, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t say anything at all, so she just nodded and took the fork between her lips, used her teeth to pull the eggs off into her mouth, and looked down at her plate.

“I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have said that.”

Holli shook her head and swallowed. “No, it’s just…”

“I know.”

She picked up the hot chocolate and took a small sip. She took another sip. And another. Holy God. “Okay. I’m staying. If you’ll make this for me to drink every morning, I’m staying.”

“Like it, do you?” His tone of voice was nothing less than self-satisfied.

“No. I’m in love with it. I’m loving it a lot more than coffee at the moment, and I never say that. I’m so addicted to coffee.”

“Yes, I kind of figured that when you didn’t make a face drinking the coffee at the station.”

She smiled a little sheepishly. Her need for java embarrassed her, though she wasn’t sure why. She didn’t want to need it, but sometimes it was the only thing that hit the spot. “If it’s caffeine and hot, I’ll drink it.”

“No sodas?”

“No, but I think your hot chocolate trumps coffee.” She took another sip. “Mmm. Yeah, definitely trumps it.”

“My mother’s recipe. And to confess, there’s a teaspoon of espresso powder in it. That’s what gives it that rich, dark flavor.”

“What about the marshmallows?” If he said he made them himself, she was going to marry him. A girl didn’t pass up a man who could make his own marshmallows.

“A candy shop here in town.”

Not a deal breaker. Officer Hunky was just about as perfect as perfect could be before she’d found out he could cook and make his mama’s hot chocolate. She’d never wanted a man more.

“What’s that look?” Had his voice gotten deeper? And what was that buzzing in her ears? “Holli?”

She shook her head and put the mug down. “Will you please take the tray away?” That didn’t even sound like her voice. It was totally different and far sexier than she ever remembered her voice being. It was throaty and a little rough, and her southern accent was stronger. Who the hell was she?

“Sure. What’s wrong?”

He looked so alarmed, and she didn’t want him to be. She didn’t want him to be concerned. She wanted him to be as turned on as she was right at that moment.

He picked up the tray and placed it on the floor, and then she was on him. The second he sat back, she crawled over him.

The kiss was instantly arousing, much like it had been last night in the kitchen. She wanted to climb up and down his body, then do it again. She slid her hands through the soft hairs on his chest, flicked her nails over his stiff nipples, memorized the solid strength of his shoulders before coasting over his flat abs to his hips.

He shuddered, and his belly fluttered under her touch. She felt it through the skin of her hands and fingers and in the kiss they shared. His tongue stroked and stabbed harder into her mouth, his lips matching hers for urgency and that undeniable inability to get enough. His groan answered her moan, and he flipped her over, sliding on top of her.

His hazel eyes were dark now, almost brown, with slight flecks of green when he lifted his head to look at her. “Who are you kissing now?”

Huh? “What do you mean?”

“Are you kissing me, Michael, or are you kissing him, Officer Hunky?”

The slight smile was the first clue to her lust-hazed brain that he was teasing her. Embarrassment filled her, but she refused to lower her gaze. “How did you know?”

He nipped at her nose. “You murmured it in your sleep last night when you curled up against me.”

At least she hadn’t imagined it. “You stayed all night in bed with me?”

“I did. I hadn’t meant to, but I fell asleep and…”

“You hadn’t meant to? Does that mean you don’t ?”

“No, it doesn’t mean that. It simply means that my intentions were to sleep on the couch so I wouldn’t disturb you.”

“No disturbing. I evidently didn’t even know you were with me. The tension from the last few days must have kicked my ass harder than I thought.” She turned her head on the pillow and closed her eyes. Damn. In bed with the hottest man north of the Mason-Dixon, and she hadn’t even realized it.

He tucked her chin between his thumb and forefinger, bringing her face back to him. “You didn’t answer me, Holli.”

“About what?”

“Who were you kissing?”

She answered with a smile. “You’re Michael, Officer Hunky. One and the same, though honestly, Michael is a bit more serious and kind and caretaking. Officer Hunky, he’s the one I want to be naked with, play with.”

Michael laughed. “I don’t think anyone has ever referred to me as Officer Hunky before. I kind of like it. Maybe I’ll officially change my name.”

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks

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Have a blessed, wonderful, and safe New Year’s celebration.

~lissa

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:

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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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New Release – Love & Tattoos

LissaLogoYellow_reasonably_smallIt’s Halloween. And I’m being a bit of a scrooge, I’m afraid. I have candy, which my daughter made me buy (yes, made. have YOU ever dealt with a teenage girl? if so, you know what i’m talking about…). But, I’m not feeling much in the answer the door, hand out candy, answer the door, hand out candy… Rinse, and repeat.

Told ya, Scrooge.

I do, on the other hand, have something I am willing to share with you. A new release. Some of you know about it. Some of you don’t. Either way, here’s the blurb, the cover, an excerpt, and buy links…

 

Love&Tattoos_wlogo_200x300_300dpiOnce 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?

Excerpt:

“You really should’ve let me take you back to my place tonight.” Brax leaned heavily on the refrigerator door in their closet sized break room. Not the walk-in size either. No, this was nothing more than a bi-fold closet with a fridge, a microwave, and a set of free standing cabinets

“Why’s that?”

“There’s nothing to eat in here.”

“Nothing at all?” she asked, peering under his arm.

“Nope.”

Annie backed up and opened the cabinet doors “Nothing in here, either. This is sad. Who’s the designated stock person in the shop?”

“We don’t have one.” He slammed the refrigerator shut and braced his back against it. “Jamie’s is closed too.”

“Wait.” Annie bounced on the balls of her feet and clapped her hands together in rapid succession. “Do we have more water bottles?”

“Yes.” Brax’s tone was wary at best. Annie understood. She did seem a little too excited.

“Grab a couple. Do you know how to pick a lock?”

“Breaking and entering? Okay. Who are you and what have you done with my staid and stand-offish Annie?”

“Yep. Joe’s desk.” Annie fairly skipped into the office. “Joe always keeps a package of cookies in the back of the bottom draw.” She stopped and faced him. “What do you mean staid and stand-offish? I have not been that way with you tonight.”

“Not since you had to get naked. And what do you mean by Joe always keeps cookies in his desk drawer? I’ve never seen them.”

“I know. They’re behind the hanging files. He about killed me the first time I found them.”

“What if he ate them all?”

Annie shook her head. “He never does that. He always makes sure there’s a full package.”

“Okay.” Brax wagged his finger in her face, but pulled it back when she made to bite it. “If we get in trouble for it…”

“I know. I know. I’ll blame it on you.” She barely made it out of swatting range.

She had her shirt and panties back on and he had his pants on and for some reason they hadn’t left. He hadn’t pushed about taking her to his place and she hadn’t invited him to hers. It was fun in the tattoo shop in the middle of the night. It was familiar, but not. It was like being somewhere they shouldn’t be, but not for any reason she could think of.

He knelt on the floor at her feet, with two metal files; one that looked like a pick, and one that looked like it had a flat blade at the end. She wasn’t paying as much attention to the illegal activity of lock picking as she was to the man committing the act. She stared to her heart’s content at his body. “Did Joe do the wings on your shoulders?” she asked, tracing the edges with her fingertips. He was warm to the touch and small freckles dotted his skin.

One wing was white, spread over his right shoulder. The other was black with red tips, spread over his left shoulder. Annie had admired them all night, since he first took his shirt off, she’d just been distracted by other pieces of his ink, other parts of him.

His hands stilled and he lowered his head to let her explore. Ink stood out and he had so much of it. He wasn’t afraid to be who he was. He never had been. His bosses told him to keep his tattoos covered, her bosses never had that chance. She never let her guard down long enough for them to see her. Maybe that had been a good thing. Maybe not.

“They’re beautiful. Who designed them?”

“I did. Joe did the ink.”

Annie opened her palm over the black wing and spread her fingers, the ends just touching the edge of the red tips. Her hand looked small and fragile against the dark shading. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I hadn’t either. Angel’s wings didn’t seem to fit me. I looked through hundreds of drawings and images and photos of other tattoos. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I drew it. Took me several weeks to get it right. Good, and evil.”

“Which side were you listening to tonight?”

“Both.”

“They were in agreement?”

Brax looked up and captured her gaze. “The good side said go with my heart. The evil side said go with my baser instincts. I did both.”

If she could’ve melted into the floor, she would have. Brax would be her undoing before the sun rose. “Cookies,” she said. “My evil side is saying cookies.”

Brax shook his head. “My evil side is saying forget the cookies and eat the girl.”

“After cookies,” she promised.

“After cookies,” he grudgingly repeated.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance eBooks

If you’ve picked it up already, thank you. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll be tempted enough to do so… I would appreciate any reviews you care to leave. 

 

The Cupcake Cowboy will be available in November… There’s a Facebook page that has been created for the series. If you haven’t yet, please give it a Like!

 

And, if you are in the Charlotte, NC area, author Selena Blake and I will be meeting up and would love it if you could join us:

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And one more thing… Starting tomorrow, I will be participating in the following blog hop! It’s going to be loads of fun…

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~lissa