featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Mary Vine is a contemporary romance author who has also published an historical novella and a romantic mystery. She also owns a publishing company and besides self-publishing some of her own works, she’s published two children’s books by author Velma Parker. Learn more about Mary and her books at her website. 

As an author, I have learned that meals in a story can be the setting for conversation that moves the story along, whether it is at a restaurant or a home cooked meal. I think many of us as readers want to know what the characters are cooking and/or eating.

In my twenties and thirties I loved cooking and having friends over for dinner. Weekly, I used to bake whole wheat bread and slice it up for my family’s toast and sandwiches. Nearly every other day, I’d bake some kind of dessert for my skinny self, but shared with others. Since then, the demands of a job and the dream of being a writer would keep me from having any spare thoughts, or energy, for making anything but ordinary meals.  I believed those days of putting a recipe together with joy had vanished some time ago, along with my fabulous metabolism.

With years comes wisdom, I’ve heard, not to mention a freezer and a little more money to stock the shelves. Isn’t it funny how you can put something in the appliance and forget about it the very next week? After you go shopping again, the desired meal-to-be will be buried by other items you have to have and other things you have to remember. So, as the years passed, my main cooking goal was to simply look inside the freezer with new eyes, month by month, and save myself money by eating the contents for lunch or dinner. This is a tricky task despite the fact that to be able to empty a few shelves brings about a feeling of great accomplishment.

Now, years later, I’m in love again. What happened, you say? I retired from my day job. The satisfying return to the kitchen didn’t happen all at once, it took a few months, but I found that just under the surface of my subconscious lied an ability only needing to be stirred up again. Newfound sparks of renewed energy brought it forward.

The desire has come back with other benefits, too. I used to rarely veer off a recipe, not wishing to waste ingredients if my attempt at change failed. Now after I look into the freezer, I might grab a portion of meat, cook it in the crockpot and use the leftovers to invent some new dish, or have several choices of potato recipes as a side dish. I believe a great accomplishment as well.

I still have the desire to eat lots of sweets, but with the years I’ve also learned the bounds of my metabolism and how to work with it, of course some days are better than others. I’ve heard eating vegetarian meals can help, so I give you one my heroine Maya presented to a neighbor in my first published book, Maya’s Gold.

In Maya’s Gold, Maya filled a casserole dish with burritos and took them over to her neighbor, Alice. This is the recipe I was thinking about when I wrote this section of the story.

Maya Valentine’s Burrito Recipe
Makes 12 burritos.

(Burritos, Old El Paso Sun Country Mexican Cookbook)
12 8-inch flour tortillas
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 16-ounce cans Old El Paso Refried Beans
1 large tomato, chopped
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut in 12 wedges
Old El Paso Taco Sauce

Wrap stack of tortillas tightly in foil; heat in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Cook onion in hot oil until tender but not brown. Add refried beans; cook and stir till heated through.

Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture onto each tortilla near one edge. Top with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and avocado wedge. Fold edge nearest filling up and over filling just until mixture is covered. Fold in two sides, envelope fashion, then roll up. Arrange on baking sheet; bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Pass around the taco sauce.

Maya’s Gold
All famous mystery author Stanton Black wanted was to leave the flashbulbs of Hollywood behind. Hiding out in the wilds of northeast Oregon seemed like the perfect way to get over an attempt on his life while researching his work.

Special education teacher, Maya Valentine was no tour guide. After the death of her parents, Maya has come home for the summer only to have an ailing friend talk her into escorting Stanton around the area. As a pattern of crime around her leads to mystery, her relationship with Stanton turns to thoughts of romance. A romance too impossible to consider.

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