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Stuffed Peppers: The Perfect Summer Dish

July 9, 2014

I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never cared for green peppers. There’s just something about their taste and smell that doesn’t sit right with me. But when it comes to red, yellow and orange peppers? Can’t get enough! Uncooked with hummus or ranch dressing, sautéed or in soup – delicious! To celebrate my love of non-green peppers, I recently  made one of my favorite dishes – stuffed peppers.

This recipe is based on one I found in Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian cookbook. I love this recipe because it’s easy, delicious and a great summer meal when the peppers are looking especially beautiful. I don’t have a photo of the finished actual cooked stuffed peppers because, well, we ate them before I got out the camera. But looking at this photo of the beautiful peppers, you can imagine how lovely and delicious they must be!

peppers

STUFFED PEPPERS

INGREDIENTS
1/2 small onion, grated

2 Tbsp. chopped  fresh parsley

1 egg

1 Tbsp. ketchup

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/4 cup plain fired bread crumbs (I used Panko since that’s what I had)

1 lb. ground turkey

3 peppers, halved crosswise and seeded (I used an orange, red and yellow)

1 cup tomato sauce (or Marinara)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the onion, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and bread crumbs. Then mix in the ground turkey.

Once the peppers have been cut and seeded, fill each of them with the meat mixture and place in a the baking dish. Spoon tomato sauce or Marinara over the top of each pepper. I like to add a sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano cheese over the top of each pepper.

Bake uncovered until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown and the meat reaches 165-degrees; typically 45 minutes. Enjoy!

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Get Ready to Visit Grand Central Station in This New Anthology (Giveaway)

June 30, 2014

grand centralThe summer of my 15th year, my family and I embarked on trip that took us from Washington, D.C. to New York to Connecticut. Our mode of transpiration between cities was an Amtrak. We boarded the train that took us from New York City to Hartford, Connecticut (to visit family) at Grand Central Station. Although I don’t have very distinct memories of the station itself, I do remember the excitement of being at a famous place that – until then – I’d only heard about in movies and books.

Since that family vacation 23 years ago, my experience with New York’s famous Grand Central Station has been mainly from watching Law and Order episodes and listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s haunting post-9/11 ballad (you seriously need to listen to this song if you’re unfamiliar with it).

That is until I received a copy of Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion. After reading the stories, all I want to do is visit Grand Central just to soak up the ambiance.

This book is an anthology of short stories that all begin at New York’s Grand Central Terminal on the very same date, just after World War II ended. The tales were written by some of the biggest names in women’s fiction today and some of my favorite writers! Seriously, just take a look at who contributed stories:

  • Karen White, After the Rain
  • Erika RobuckHemingway’s Girl, Call me Zelda, Fallen Beauty
  • Alyson Richman, The Lost Wife
  • Jenna Blum, Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
  • Sarah Jio, Blackberry Winter
  • Pam Jenoff, The Ambassador’s Daughter
  • Amanda Hodgkinson, 22 Britannia Road
  • Melanie Benjamin, The Aviator’s Wife
  • Sarah McCoy, The Baker’s Daughter
  • Kristina McMorris, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

The book was inspired by the 100th anniversary of Grand Central last year, and the millions of people that passed through the the station. The stories range from a war bride who awaits the arrival of her GI husband at the platform, to a Holocaust survivor who works at the Oyster Bar where a customer reminds him of his late mother, and a Hollywood hopeful who anticipates her first screen test and a chance at stardom in the Kissing Room.

Grand Central is the perfect summer read. Take it along with you to the beach or pool and you can easily read a few stories in one sitting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of Grand Central to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, leave a comment telling me what’s on your summer reading list. The giveaway closes Thursday, July 3 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Grand Central to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

Author Jolina Petersheim is Back with “The Midwife”

June 23, 2014

untitled (6 of 18)Around this time last year, I welcomed Jolina Petersheim to the blog to answer some questions about her debut novel, The Outcast. I am so excited that Jolina is back with us today to talk about her latest novel, The Midwife. I am so excited that one of my favorite bloggers not only as one, but now TWO books! This is a dream for so many of us writers/bloggers, so I’m excited to support her in this exciting journey.

The Midwife is the story about a mother who risks everything to save a child not genetically hers. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a story about the ethical, moral and emotional issues surrounding a topic we don’t hear too much about, surrogacy. Just like The Outcast, The Midwife kept me turning the pages until I quickly finished the story. Welcome back, Jolina!

1. How did you decide to write about surrogacy?

My dear friend in college discussed using a gestational surrogate in the future because she would be unable to carry a child of her own due to the medication she was taking for a heart transplant.

This made me contemplate all of the many obstacles in surrogacy that everyone involved would have to overcome:

What if the surrogate became attached to the child? What if, God forbid, something happened to one of the parents, or if there was a chromosomal abnormality, and the parents decided they did not want the child any longer?

All of these disparate ideas coalesced into the concept for The Midwife once I gave birth to a child of my own. I knew that even if I was of no relation to the child, if my body had sustained her for nine months, she would still be my daughter, even if we shared no genetic connection.

From there, the story went on to expound upon the heights and depths a mother will go to protect that child, and what is the definition of motherhood: genetics or love.

978-1-4143-7935-72. Children have played a big role in both your books. Why is that?

Probably just because motherhood is what I can relate to in this stage of my life. I met my agent when I was twelve weeks pregnant with my daughter, and at that point I had 25,000 words written on The Outcast. I knew I had a narrow window of time in which to craft the story before her birth, so I just sat down and wrote up to eight hours on the weekdays. I signed a two-book deal with my publisher when my daughter was twelve weeks old, so I immediately starting working on the first draft of The Midwife. Both stories revolve around motherhood and the extent a mother will go to protect her child.

3. You wrote The Outcast before your daughter was born. You wrote The Midwife as a mother (and now you’re pregnant with your second child). How do you think your writing and/or writing process has changed since motherhood?

Well, the most notable difference is that I can’t write for eight hours a day like I did before my daughter was born. Over the past twenty-seven months, she has trained me to write during her naptimes and whenever there’s a spare moment. It wasn’t always easy in the beginning, because her sleep schedule was sporadic for the first ten months, but that was when my husband, mother-in-law, or sister-in-law would come over and watch her so I could write at a coffee shop or even just on the front porch.

I am not as nervous about juggling writing and a newborn after our second child’s birth in September, because I now know what to expect. Still, it will probably be difficult fitting writing time in for a while, but I doubt I will mind when I am kissing all of those sweet little fingers and toes!

Beyond the process change, though, I know that motherhood has expanded my heart in ways I never imagined. Placing myself in the midwife, Rhoda Mummau’s shoes, envisioning being separated from my child with no way of getting her back, was very emotionally taxing—and yet I feel that I could not have written the story with much credibility if I had not become a mother beforehand.

Their-daughter-and-your-daughter---The-Midwife4. What are you working on next?

I just turned in the first installment in a series that revolves around the Anabaptist (Mennonite/Amish) belief of Pacifism, or non-resistance. This means that no one will take up arms to defend themselves, even if this means giving up their lives. However, when a cataclysmic event takes the 21st century back to the Stone Age, and the foundation of civilization crumbles, the Old Order Mennonite community of Mt. Hebron in Montana must come face to face with their corporate beliefs and decide if those beliefs of non-resistance are their personal beliefs because they are just or because they have never come up against anything which caused them to resist them.

5. What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer from the time I was seven or eight years old, so getting to work from home and be with my daughter is truly a dream come true. Also, though I love being with my daughter, I know that if I didn’t have this daily creative outlet and goal, I would have a difficult time remaining content at home. Plus, I just love bringing stories to life—seeing the characters take on dimensions I never imagined for them when I first drew their outline in my mind. Readers then identifying with these characters—and saying that these stories actually change their lives—touches me to an incredible extent. I am so grateful for my job, for it is more than just a job or a creative outlet, it is my lifeline.

*****

Are you ready to read The Midwife? By entering this Rafflecopter giveaway, you can win a copy of Jolina’s latest novel (or The Outcast), a $25 Starbucks gift card, and an authentic Amish wall hanging. Simply enter this Rafflecopter giveaway and all those awesome treats can be yours! 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Midwife to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

 

Hello Summer!

June 18, 2014

Well, it’s happened! Sophie is no longer a kindergartner. It’s hard to believe she’ll be a 1st grader in the fall. But before I start crying about how she’s growing up, I’m going to enjoy the next few months of SUMMER!

kinder

I feel like shouting from the rooftops a la Olaf in FrozenIt’s summer! Sleeping in, leisurely days, fun activities, outdoors, camps … so much to look forward to this summer! We just posted our Summer 2014 List (sorry it’s hard to read). Here’s a look at what we have planned.

summer 2014 list

A few notes on things we’re doing:

  • Summer Journal – We bought a journal from Michael’s Arts and Crafts in which Sophie is writing down everything we do each day.
  • Summer Reading Program/Chapter Books – We just started Beezus and Ramona; it’s so fun sharing these childhood favorites with Sophie. If you’re not in San Diego, check your local library for their summer reading program. Barnes & Noble and Potterybarn Kids also offers reading programs.
  • Owl Drawings – I got this idea from Meg at Whatever. I’m not super artsy, but I’m willing to give this a try.

If you’re local – or planning to visit San Diego - you have to check out this list of 25 free (or nearly free) things to do this summer. There are so many great ideas.

I love that we do the summer list each year. It helps when we don’t have a formal activity planned for the day. I can’t believe this is our fifth summer doing this!

Do you make a summer bucket list? What do you have planned while school is out?

And Then There Were Two

June 5, 2014

I didn’t expect to write a post like this so soon. Two months after losing Romeo, our little Bippy cat left us. This nearly 4-year-old cat was born on the side of our house and was a character all his own. I am devastated he is gone.

Bipp was the sweetest and most loving cat. He would cuddle on my lap while watching TV and sleep on top of my printer when I worked. He would so patiently let Sophie drag him around the house and never once protested. In many ways, he was a lot like Romeo. He also had a big personality and could be found resting in boxes, Sophie’s doll cradle, open Trader Joe’s bags, and in the booster seat in the car. He was also very vocal for a cat. I’m pretty sure he thought he was talking with us most of the time.

But Bipp had a wanderlust side that made him leave the backyard and had a tendency to cross the street right in front of our house. That danger, coupled with ridiculously fast drivers on our residential street, led to poor Bipp’s demise.

Bipp disappeared one day a few weeks ago and obviously didn’t come home. It wasn’t until after Sophie and I left flyers in our neighbors’ mailboxes four days later that two kind neighbors told us what happened to him (they actually saw the act and the driver who didn’t even stop). I am very grateful for our neighbors who cared enough to let us know about Bipp, and also for them making sure his remains were taken care of. It would have been unimaginable for Sophie and me to return home and see him there. As hard as it is to imagine, I am also very glad he didn’t suffer.

I’ve come to learn he had quite a little life outside our house. The neighbor across the street called Bipp a great cat, and he welcomed him into his yard because he solved their years-old rat problem. This man, a practicing Buddhist, told us that Bipp had good karma and “nothing is forever.” Another neighbor mentioned how her elderly parents loved it when he came into their yard and were asking why the cat doesn’t visit anymore. It makes me smile to know that Bipp had become a neighborhood fixture.

Losing Romeo was very sad, but the loss of Bipp really hit me hard. Perhaps it was so close in time to Romeo’s death that it brought back all the sorrow. Even though we still have Casey and Tess, the house feels so lonely without the two boys. I have an empty feeling inside that wasn’t there before. It was heartbreaking seeing Tess (his mama cat) stare out every window all day long, and check his usual spots in the house for him. I know she misses him too.

When Sophie asked why Bipp had to die, I suggested to her that maybe Romeo was lonely and needed a friend (Bipp could often be found snuggling next to Romeo). Of course I have no way of knowing if that’s true. But it makes me feel better thinking that may be the case.

There’s a spot at the end of our upstairs hallway near Sophie’s room and my office where Romeo used to sleep. The once-white wall is now a darker shade (from where Romeo’s body pressed against it), which I will probably never paint. When Romeo died, Bipp started sleeping against the wall in that very spot. And now that he is gone, I often find Tess resting there. I’ve never been one to believe in ghosts or supernatural things. But I do think this is a sacred spot, and I like to believe they are all relaxing there together.

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