When you hear St. Patrick’s Day, I doubt you think about martinis. What likely comes to mind is Irish whiskey, beer, and cider. Then maybe you think green.
But the truth remains that there is a martini for every occasion—and most certainly during an Irish-themed holiday where alcohol flows freely.
You really don’t have to be a big drinker to enjoy one green martini this St. Patrick’s Day, nor do you have to be Irish. All you have to be is creative, or just go with the flow…
Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a big drinker and I’m definitely not Irish.
And when I called Chef Johannes about creating a treat for our readers for the upcoming holiday, he said, “Michelle, I’m not a bartender. I am a chef. And just like you, I’m not Irish. Why not do a dinner recipe, maybe a special casserole—something green?” He hoped to talk me into something different to honor St. Patrick’s Day.
But it all sounded too serious. When it comes to food, the green part sounded too healthy for St. Patrick’s Day. The alternative of green food coloring would not be an option in Chef Johannes’ kitchen (or in mine). I had to turn it down.
So what do you think, casserole or martini? Martini, of course.
But don’t think I got off that easy. I had to promise the chef that next holiday, less drinking, more cooking…. (We shall see.)
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. crème de mint (green)
2 oz. Godiva white chocolate liqueur
1 oz. crème de cacao (white)
½ oz. half and half
Mix vodka, Godiva liqueur, crème de cacao liqueur, crème de mint, and half and half in a martini shaker with several ice cubes.
Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass for the traditional martini experience, or use whatever glass you have on hand.
Garnish with mint leaf on top.
FYI, this martini was tested last night at Fogo De Chao in Atlanta and was more than just approved—the next time you dine there, ask Pedro, the bartender, or Justin, the manager, for Chef Johannes’ Greeni Martini.
Happy St. Patty’s Day!
Michelle (& Chef Johannes)
It has been a few long weeks since I’ve been in the bookstore and I am still bothered by that one particular book. I tend to choose books by their cover and title, and that day was no different. I noticed the book The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and grabbed it. I turned it over, looking for the blurb and reviews. The story is about a couple who leave their baby alone in her crib while they attend a party next door, counting on a baby monitor to protect their child. They come back home to a missing baby and no leads. The setup sounds intriguing.
Although the book and the blurb were attractive, as well as the review, in the end I just couldn’t get over the fact that these parents left their baby alone—for a party. What kind of parent does that sort of thing? I was angry with the mother for being so careless. How can a mother gamble with the safety of her child to please her husband? The thought made me so angry that I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the book. I couldn’t see myself having any sympathy for the mother at any point.
Perhaps that says something about the reality of the situation. We hear of babies dying because parents forget them in a hot car in a parking lot at work. There are plenty of horror stories of negligence and tragedy in the news. I understand these horrors are very real. The question becomes do I want to read about such things? I’m afraid I’d be far too frustrated with the characters to empathize. So I’ll leave this one alone.
But what if I’m missing out on a good read. Maybe there’s some twist that makes the story amazing. It left me wondering, should I let go of my perceived morality and read the book or should I stick to my beliefs?
What kinds of things hold you back when you want to buy a book or watch a movie? Are there any moral dilemmas that are deal breakers for you? And what sort of things make you take a chance on a book?
Books are more than just a read.
I find writing and cooking to be similar in many ways. Both take creativity and passion. The process is grueling, requiring time and patience to complete revisions and edits and lots of taste tests and reviews. There are so many different palates out there, what one will love, another will hate.
The skill needed for both crafts is often underestimated. We have all written things in our lives. We often do it for work or perhaps we remember writing short stories in school. And we all cook, every day. We feed ourselves and our families. We think these are things that everyone can do. But both are crafts that get better with practice and information. In both writing and cooking I believe spice is the secret ingredient that elevates a dish or a manuscript.
Last week an old friend from Israel came to visit. She handed me a small gift, a basket containing five little bottles. “This is for you,” she said. “I thought it might come in handy while you are working on your cookbook.”
I was very excited. I couldn’t ask for a nicer, more thoughtful gift. And along with the spices, I got a story…
My friend, a certified skipper, arrived after crossing the Atlantic in a sailing yacht from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean on a 21 day excursion as part of a flotilla of 10 other yachts. While they were stopped at Grenada she quickly learned how important nutmeg is there. People call it Nutmeg Island as it’s their number one industry. I was enthralled by the history of nutmeg as countries tried to control the resource throughout centuries. It wasn’t until 1796 when the British took over the Moloccas and spread the cultivation of nutmeg to other East Indian islands and then to the Caribbean. Then they realized that Grenada had the perfect environment to grow nutmeg.
The story captivated me. Through the excitement and appreciation, however, I felt bad that she knew more about nutmeg than I did…although I was the one who aspired to be a chef. Research was in order. I rushed to find out all I could about nutmeg and here are the five most important things to know about this spice.
Nutmeg is a great asset to any chef. It is essential to béchamel sauce and also goes well with baked or roasted fruit. Many chefs use it in custards, eggnog, punches, pasta and vegetables dishes such as creamed spinach.
Spices are powerful. It’s amazing how a tiny pinch of any spice can make all the difference in a finished dish.
What are your favorite spices and herbs?
Here it comes again, the loved—or the dreaded—Valentine’s Day. It’s on everyone’s mind.
We’ve all been taught that the only recipe for Valentine’s Day is something for two. Singles tend to believe that they are outsiders and the holiday is not meant for them. Greeting cards and jewelry store commercials make it sound as if we are all in line for Cupid’s arrow.
However, Cupid—the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection—shoots his arrows at the target of his choosing, and on his own schedule. Yet the holiday marketing targets couples for Valentine’s Day, even though some of us might not always have a date for February 14.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to offer my readers something special—something to warm everyone’s heart, whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day solo or with the one you love.
I racked my brain, trying to find a way to beat Cupid to the punch, or at least to shoot my own arrow…and if not at my readers’ hearts, then at their stomachs. I took this idea to my co-writer of my cookbook, Chef Johannes, and together we created a delicious chocolate martini made especially for you to enjoy on this Valentine’s Day, or any day.
And the best thing about this recipe…if you drink enough of these, you may even forget that it’s Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate Martini (1 Serving)
1 ounce Vanilla Vodka
1½ ounces Godiva Dark Chocolate liqueur
1½ ounces Crème de Cacao liqueur
½ ounce Grand Marnier
2 ounces Whipping Cream
4 ounces Cacao Powder for rim garnish
1 Orange for twist and wedge
Cut one orange wedge and run around the rim of martini glass. Tip: Hold the martini glass upside down to avoid orange juice from running into the glass.
Spread cacao powder evenly on a plate larger than the rim of the martini glass.
Lightly dip the rim in the chocolate powder to coat then chill the martini glass in freezer for 20-30 minutes. Tip: Glasses can be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for a few days.
Mix vanilla vodka, Godiva liqueur, Crème de Cacao liqueur, Grand Marnier and whipping cream in a martini shaker with several ice cubes.
Shake and strain into the chilled martini glass. Tip: If you don’t have a martini glass, use whatever glass you prefer.
Optional, garnish with orange twist on the rim of the glass and sprinkle drink with cacao powder using a fine sieve.
We hope our arrow hits its mark and that our chocolate martini makes your Valentine’s Day the most memorable ever.
Michelle (& Chef Johannes)
Earlier in January, I wrote a blog about my collaboration with Chef Johannes Klapdohr, and our cookbook to be released later this year. The blog reached many followers and received numerous comments. As you know, I’m very particular about taking the time to answer each of you—I take your comments very seriously.
What might surprise you is the impact that you have on my work. One of my fans commented about the desire for gluten-free recipes. I was asked if we would consider including gluten-free options in our book.
My first reaction was to inform that fan that the cookbook wouldn’t follow a gluten-free diet—or any other particular diet for that matter. I thought the cookbook was unique enough with its connection to my novel, Pinnacle Lust. I was ready to explain that Chef Johannes and I have been working on this book for several months now and we’ve designed specific recipes to follow the novel itself.
But then I got to thinking: Why not listen to my fans? If one person asks for gluten-free recipes, there must be many others out there who could benefit from it. I should not waste the suggestion.
I quickly glanced over the recipes going into the cookbook and realized that actually we have several gluten-free recipes (like our delicious creamy hummus or the irresistible stuffed grape leaves cooked in red wine that you’ll have to try!).
Taking this reader’s comment to heart, I called Chef Johannes and asked his opinion of somehow putting the two together. Could we stick to our concept and still please individuals who are seeking gluten-free recipes? You bet. Chef Johannes’ creativity, knowledge, and understanding hit me again. “Of course. It’s simple,” he said. “We won’t add or change any recipes but just point out all the recipes that are gluten free.
Johannes and I have prided ourselves on creating recipes that will cater to all palates and cuisines, and are constantly looking for ways to make this book appeal to everyone. So why not add gluten-free options? Perhaps this will help our cookbook reach more people, as gluten-free recipes are very popular right now.
I would have never considered highlighting gluten-free dietary options in the book until my fan made that request. It just goes to show that reader’s comments are highly treasured. Thank you to everyone who reads my work, and even greater thanks to those who leave comments and suggestions!
Michelle (& Chef Johannes)
What reader doesn’t appreciate receiving a free book? If you’re an avid reader you’ve undoubtedly come across an author hosting a book giveaway in order to drum up excitement for their upcoming novel. Marketing companies recommend hosting these events to catch readers’ attention. Book giveaways increase an author’s likelihood of seeing a spike in sales.
These days book giveaways have become a staple in the industry—one that readers and fans have come to expect. But when writing is the primary means of making a living, these book giveaways leave me shaking my head.
Authors spend countless hours writing and revising books, and possibly thousands of dollars on editing and publishing. Nothing is free. Then everyone takes his share, leaving you with royalties that are only a small percentage of the original price of the book. The bottom line is that writing and publishing is a very expensive endeavor.
Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate book giveaways just as much as the next person, but I couldn’t agree to give away dozens of copies of my own book in numerous book giveaway events. To me, it defeats the purpose of promoting the book, maybe even devaluing the work by offering so many copies for free. This concept is also applied to contests with a cash prize or a free e-reader or iPad. I can’t help but wonder if these contests do more harm than good. It feels gimmicky, like the writer is trying to buy readers.
If nothing else, I want to be an author whose books people want to read, not one whose books they buy only in the hopes of winning a contest. After all the late nights, tough scenes, and merciless rounds of editing that went into Pinnacle Lust, I don’t want to devalue my book by making it the subject of multiple contests or giveaways. I strongly believe that I should sell the reader my book because the story is good and not just because they want to win a prize.
There are no guarantees that a book giveaway will lead to success, and it may raise some eyebrows and prompt readers to wonder that, if the book is really that good, why the author needs to give it away.
I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to work for free. Read what Amy Schumer wrote about free tickets to her shows in her book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo, or tell me if you have ever heard of Spielberg giving away free movie tickets to encourage moviegoers to see his work. And most of all, look in the mirror—do you work for free?
I like to say that I have three passions: nursing, cooking, and writing. My nursing career reached its peak, what was at the tip of my pen was finally published with my first novel, Pinnacle Lust, and now is the time to fold my third passion into the mix.
As a relatively new author, I know how difficult it is to break into a new market—I’ve been there. After spending 25 years in nursing, with a long list of accomplishments and credentials behind me, I dared to step into the competitive industry of publishing with my steamy novel, Pinnacle Lust. Yikes, there are still days when I wipe sweat from my brow.
So can you believe it? Here I go again. After two years, my dream is coming true—Pinnacle Lust unfolds into a cookbook.
Only a few months after Pinnacle Lust was published I had the thought of writing a cookbook. But with an industry saturated with cookbooks and the Internet offering endless, free recipes, I pushed the thought aside…not for long though. The idea kept nagging at me.
I knew I had to come up with a unique concept for the cookbook, as well as bring some related credibility to the project to ensure success. As soon as I created the concept I considered how to add the credentialing part—clearly I needed a professional chef.
I reached out to Chef Johannes Klapdohr, a world class and Michelin star trained chef, and the co-owner of the Library Kitchen and Bar in Sapphire, North Carolina, and prayed he would agree. What a dream that would be! Imagine the dishes and ideas we could cultivate, an author and a chef working side-by-side. Chef Johannes didn’t hesitate to say, “I’m in”. In fact, he was excited about it and entered into a partnership with me.
For the last few months, Johannes and I have been hard at work, creating, sampling, testing, and enjoying delicious dishes to share with you. We plan to design a project with a bounty of colors and tastes. While this cookbook is a companion book to the novel, Pinnacle Lust, it will have its own unique presentation. Our first priority is to create a cookbook with a variety of dishes that appeal to many palates, and range from easy-to-create to more complex dishes. Johannes and I hope that everyone will find something in this book, which we plan to publish before Thanksgiving 2017.
Check out my future blogs for more information on Chef Johannes, his background, and our collaboration—and you may even get a peak at some featured recipes.
Bon appétit! Or, as Chef Johannes would say in his native German, Guten Appetit !
On Saturday, January 14, I’ll be hitting the road.
My destination: The Lavender Cottage & Garden gift boutique in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia, only three miles outside of Helen, Georgia.
The gift shop has been one of the primary supporters of my efforts to extend help to neighboring Tennessee after fires ravaged its landscape in November of last year. Since December, my book Pinnacle Lust has been for sale at the gift shop to raise awareness for my campaign, Book A Tree for Tennessee. I’ll be driving there personally to meet with you, start meaningful conversations, and pursue my efforts for raising $25,000—all in royalties for replanting trees in the charred soils of Tennessee.
Having done several book signing events before, I am no stranger to the process, and get excited each time I’m able to fit one into my schedule. But signing books and meeting readers at the Lavender Cottage & Garden will be a unique experience—one taking place in a cozy shop nestled in the wintery Georgia mountains.
I invite each of you to take a scenic drive into the mountains of Georgia and come see me, say hello, and purchase a signed copy of Pinnacle Lust to help support my Book A Tree for Tennessee effort.
Pinnacle Lust Book Signing
Saturday, January 14, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Lavender Cottage & Garden
53 Highway 255 N., Sautee Nacoochee, GA 30571
If participating in Book A Tree for Tennessee has been on your to-do list, now’s your chance to make it happen!
Grab a friend, take a drive, and come say hello. I’ll see you there!
If you’re like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed with all the things that must be done. It seems as if there aren’t enough hours in a day to get to it all. You’re constantly scrambling to keep up, and are always seeking ways to streamline tasks so you can get to your next project that much faster.
Believe me, I know the struggle. As an author, my online presence is crucial. It is my livelihood and how I connect with my ever-important readers. That means I absolutely must keep up with my social media profiles, managing my website, and creating regular blog posts to keep readers like you engaged and coming back for more.
If I fail to engage with my audience, I lose their interest, which means I lose their following, and, worst of all, the number of readers for my series Pinnacle Lust will plummet. I’d be an author writing for nobody.
But between responding to comments on social media, answering e-mails, and working on writing book 2 of the Pinnacle Lust series and other books, it’s not always easy to keep up managing my professional life.
In general, writing consumes a lot of time—it’s a process. You come up with an idea, you put your thoughts together, you tailor it, you edit it, you re-edit it, you massage it… you probably finesse it once more. And then hopefully you publish it. This holds true for simple posts on Facebook, blogging, and of course writing a book.
I love any writing and enjoy the other aspects that blogging brings. It’s a great marketing tool and a fantastic opportunity to interact with readers—but, it takes a lot of time. This of course takes time away from doing what I really need to do—write books. In fact, in 2016, blogging has kept me from making enough progress on completing and publishing the next book in the Pinnacle series. And I think you deserve better, my dear reader.
So, here is my New Year’s resolution for 2017. I will spend more time writing my next two books and less time blogging.
I think this promise will be beneficial for all of us. What do you think of my plan?
Christmas is over, Hanukkah is in full swing, and the New Year is fast approaching. Whether you celebrated Kwanzaa, Christmas, Hanukkah, or the pop-culture holiday Chrismukkah, giving gifts is most likely still on your mind.
And yes, there is always someone who you still need to buy for—or, if you are like me, when you see a gift you know exactly who it will fit.
As this is the time for gift giving. Remember that your purchase of my book, Pinnacle Lust, this season will be a double gift. Not only will it enrich the holidays with its story of the resilience of the human spirit, it will also help to bring a different kind of resilience to the charred landscape of Tennessee. At the end of November, fires swept through the area of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, destroying over 700 homes and buildings, over 18,000 acres and killing 14 people. Although the flames were extinguished earlier this month, the pain and horror of what happened there lives on among the charred rubble. Possessions can be recouped and lives rebuilt, but the landscape of Tennessee will be marred by this event for decades to come.
I have extended efforts to help restore the landscape that has been destroyed by the Sevier County wildfires. From November 23, 2016 through January 30, 2017 I will be donating 100% of my royalties to efforts to restore trees to the landscape in Tennessee. My goal is $25,000 and I will be disappointed if I don’t reach it.
Many people have helped to bring awareness to my efforts. I extend a heartfelt thank-you to all the bookstores that are selling my book, in particular Bookmiser in Roswell, GA and Once and Again Books in Marietta, GA. A special thanks to The Lavender Cottage & Garden gift shop in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia, 5 miles outside of Helen, which is also selling copies of my book to help with the relief efforts, and of course to Scott Lorenz, President of Westwind Communications, with his help in sharing my posts and giving me guidance and direction.
Mostly, I am thankful for each and every one of you who has supported me in this goal. I know that my target of raising $25,000 is just a drop in the bucket compared to what disaster relief organizations raise, but I feel compelled to help bring relief in whatever way I can. I hope you’ll stand beside me as I strive to reach my goal.
Now is the best time of all to make a difference. With every purchase of my book Pinnacle Lust, you help to replant trees that will restore the landscape ravaged by fire. This holiday season open your heart to those in need. Buy a book, give it as a gift, and know that the proceeds will help restore trees to the smoldering mountainous landscape in Tennessee. Pinnacle Lust is one feel-good present you need to buy this holiday season.