Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome Shae Connor

Good morning fans.

Welcome to Michael's.

I'm happy to have Shae Connor on the blog today for a guest post. Lets see what she has to say!

Pictured Model Student Link

Those who’ve read any number of my stories, or read my blog, or met me ever, have probably figured out that I’m a bit of a foodie. I don’t mean in the sense of scoping out hoity-toity, high-end restaurants that serve you a beautiful plate with almost no food on it, or in the sense of making food like that at home. Not that I’d never do either, but for me, the type of food doesn’t matter. It can be simple and homey or dressed to kill; I don’t care, so long as it’s good.

I grew up in the Deep South, and that means I ate a lot of food that came straight off the farm or close to it. When the weather starts getting hot like it only can below the Gnat Line, produce stands pop up like summer thunderstorms on country roads, and buying tomatoes in a grocery store when you can get them off the back of a truck is sacrilege of the highest caliber. Sweet corn, peaches, greens, pole beans, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, Vidalia onions—you haven’t tasted any of them until you’ve eaten them the same day they came out of the field. Best of all is when it’s from your own backyard garden, and for many years, my dad was the vegetable grower in the family. Add in the plum and pear trees and the fig and kumquat bushes (really!) we had at various times, and I was pretty well spoiled rotten.

Being spoiled ran right through the kitchen, too. Like many children of the South, I come from a long line of good cooks. The food tables at our family reunions every year are heavy with dishes we’ve all been eating our whole lives. We’ve lost much of the oldest generation over the past couple of decades, but the torch has been picked up by the next, so we still have the same seven-layer chocolate cake and chicken and dumplings even though the recipes’ originators have moved on to the land of milk and honey.

Since I’ve grown up, I’ve wandered far beyond the borders of down-home Southern cooking (wonderful as it is). Yes, I cooked a full fried-chicken spread for nine during Dragon*Con weekend this year, but that kind of food is now only the tip of the iceberg for me. I’ve eaten all sorts of different meals in cities all over the country and into a couple of others, everything from a bagel or hot dog off a food truck to Michelin-and-Zagat-topping spreads at expense-account restaurants. I’m not a particularly picky eater—keep the beets and the hot spices away and I’ll probably be fine—and I’ve rarely had a bad meal. Boring now and then, maybe, but never bad.

With all the eating I’ve done, though, my favorite thing to do with food (get your minds out of the gutter) is cook it myself. I love the feeling of taking a bite of something delicious and knowing that I created it. I like cooking for others and knowing they enjoyed eating it. Whether it’s a comfort meal or a formal dinner, super-healthful or super-indulgent, I believe in treating food as something special, and in keeping it fun and interesting.

My love for food and cooking comes through in my writing. I write characters cooking for each other, planning meals together, going to restaurants, having picnics, grilling out… it’s all good. About the only thing I haven’t written yet is a story centered around a professional chef!

Hmmm. *makes mental note*

Some of the things I have characters make in my stories are based on real restaurants or recipes, and some are just general ideas. I love chicken marsala, which I had Aaron make for Matt in Model Student, but I’ve never made it myself. The sushi restaurant in “Chicago” is based on the place where I first had sushi, and I’ve eaten at the snack bar on the pier where John and Bryan buy treats for the kids in Sand & Water. Today’s new release, “In From the Cold,” has a side reference to the best burger ever, and that’s based on the actual best burger I’ve ever had, in a little town in Washington state on the west side of Puget Sound. (Which reminds me, I need to set a story in Dallas just so someone can go eat at Barbec’s and have beer biscuits!)

To celebrate both my rampant foodiness and my love for the holiday season (only partly because of the food), I’m going to share one of my favorite more recently discovered recipes. I came across these about six or seven years ago and fell in love. They’re a pretty simple variation on the classic “Toll House” chocolate chip cookie recipe, but they come out thick and soft instead of thin and crispy (not that there’s anything wrong with that). These have become an annual tradition, and they always go over like gangbusters. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
½ tablespoon vanilla
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (stand mixer works best), cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour and baking soda; add about ½ cup at a time into the sugar mixture, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Using spoon or spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries until evenly distributed. Form dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 8 minutes; for best results, take them out while still slightly doughy. Allow cookies to cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

(Notes: For an awesome variation, replace the chips and cranberries with 1 cup each of semisweet chocolate and butterscotch chips. Chopped nuts also make a good addition. Or just go traditional with lots of semisweets!)


Michael said...

TY for being a guest Shae!

Veronica said...

I am so making these cookies...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Michael! And Veronica, the cookies are YUMMY! :)

B Snow said...

Why would you ruin perfectly good cranberry cookies with white chocolate? ;P

Looking forward to that professional chef story someday! :)

Marguerite said...

I'm a foodie too Shae. Nice post. LOL, I heard the Southern come through loud and clear.