Blog Archives

Prepping for the Week (and stuff)


First off, let me start by saying Good Morning to all you lovely people! Good morning! So often life is what we make of it and not enough of us do something as simple as smiling and saying good morning.

I was reminded of this during my morning run. I truly live in a cool freaking town. We’re an athletic town. We have a National Training Center with several Olympic athletes. We’re a triathlon destination. We have low Florida hills, lakes, and beautifully paved trails. I try to get out and run every morning after I lose drop my kids off at school. My run is on the trail around our lake. It’s pretty busy and every one–serious athlete in training or senior citizen–smiles and says good morning. It’s quite possibly the nicest way to start the day.

Anyway. Prepping for the week. I promised you guys more tips and recipes for the busy writer-mom. Here goes. This week we went light on the Sunday night prep. Nate and I are running a 5k in downtown Orlando Thursday night and the kids are off from school Friday. Here’e what our menu looks like:

Slow cooked BBQ Pork

Spaghetti and meat sauce

Beef nachos

Veggie lasagne

Publix (pre-cooked) Chicken and parmesan baked asparagus

Chicken parmesan grits

Pancake batter

All the beef for the nachos and spaghetti was browned Sunday night and portioned off for the two meals it is part of. The pork is slow cooked and divided into portions. The veggie lasagna is a one-pot, cooked, and portioned. The nachos and asparagus will be created on their respective nights. Both are incredibly easy.

In addition, I washed and portioned out fresh grapes and celery. They key for fruit and veggie consumption in our house is having it grab-and-go ready, plus on the eye-line when you open the door. They are sitting next to a bowl of plums.

For breakfast we also pre-cooked a 5 cup pot of chicken parmesan grits, which is basically grits (quick or slow) but the water is substituted with chicken broth. When the grits are down I add half a cup of half and half, three pats of butter, and a handful of grated parmesan. Once cooled, we portion it off for quick breakfasts. Nate adds smoked turkey sticks to his while I much on whatever is the kitchen after my run.

I also premade my special pancake batter for quick pancakes during the week. It’s stored in an old Ranch dressing squirt bottle, ready and waiting to be used.

Below you’ll find links to some of the recipes I used this week, plus a link to my Pinterest board, Meals I Actually Cook.

Baked Parmesan Asparagus

One-Pot Lasagna (this month we subbed the meat for zucchini and squash)

Meals I Actually Cook Pinterest Board

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One last bit of fun news! First Draught is back with all new episode tomorrow! We’ve changed the format slightly. We’ve moved to a half hour show (instead of an hour) and we’re sending you out the video and podcast links all at once. You can sign up for the newsletter here: and check out the website tomorrow (Tuesday) for this month’s show!

And don’t forget to join my Frisky Friends on Facebook!


FOOD! Chicken Meatball Pasta

Food is the cornerstone of my life. When we travel, that’s what I’m most concerned about. What new food can I try? What iconic locale can we eat it in? I celebrate each book release with a splurge of sushi and sake. No date night is complete without food. In the five love languages, they forgot food. Yeah sure, my basic language is “quality time” but really? It’s food. How we relate to it, share it, spend time with it. It’s quality time, but it isn’t quality without the food!

So when it comes to my crazy life (mom of two, wife to overworked engineer, badass writer extraordinaire) time to cook and eat is not something I’m willing to sacrifice. I hit a dark time last year when choices had to be made and cooking got sidelined. There is an art to the science of cooking. It is a perfect blend of those two things I love so much, and not being able to explore and invest in that creative process ultimately drove me slightly insane.

Therefore my goal in 2016 was to find a way to keep cooking and food in my life despite the fact that we’re in the middle of the crazy years of life. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing my favorite recipes, short cuts, tips and tricks. Some of it is a life saver for being able to eat quality home cooked food with zero time to spare, some of it is the complicated dishes I loose myself inside because I need to put my earbuds in, sip on a nice glass of good red wine (or bourbon) and tune out the world. I’ve been promising this series for a long time, so here it is, dear readers!

I’m kicking off with one of my favorites: Chicken Meatball Pasta



Aidells Italian Style Meatballs

1 cup of chicken broth

1 box of pasta (the orecchiette pictured is awesome, but we usually end up using bow ties)

2 cans of diced tomatoes

a handful of chopped spinach and fresh basil

1 cup of shredded parmesan

1 cup of shredded mozzarella

Brown the meatballs in a large pan ( I use the pan pictured below. They call it a one-pot pan because you can make all these one-pot meals in it!) Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes, scraping any bits of meatball off the pan that have been browned on.

Let this simmer for five minutes. Sprinkle in some of parmesan and let it melt. Add the spinach and basil, stirring occasionally until everything starts too look yummy (about three to five minutes.) Add the rest of the parmesan and mix. Then top with mozzarella. Turn off the stove and let stand five minutes. Serve and devour.

Tip: add pasta in batches. When I use the orecchiette I use the whole box, but the full box of bow ties is too much.

The beauty of this recipe is that it can be as pre-made or freshly prepared as you prefer. When I’m in a hurry I use the canned tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and parmesan, and sometimes skip the spinach. But when I have the time to really cook, I shred my own parmesan, dice fresh mozzarella, dice my own fresh tomatoes, and really enjoy the process of watching all those fresh ingredients come together.

The other beauty of this recipe is that you can save it and eat it later. It is best fresh off the stove, but we’ve started cooking all our meals for the week on Sundays. It reheats beautifully and is almost just as good as it was freshly cooked.

This is my awesome one-pot pan:


The Kids Are All Right

School is back in session! This means a couple of things. Number one: I have a regular work schedule again (thank the heavens above!). Number two: I know my kiddos are in good hands for the rest of the school year. Yes, I’m happy to report three solid months of worrying who their teachers and classmates would be has resulted in good placements for both of them. (Because it is clearly a 1:1 correlation between my hours spent worrying and the results that had nothing to do with it.)

I’m busy working on TEMPT3 this week! Here is a look at the music, food, drink, and television helping me get this work done!


Music inspiration for the week comes courtesy of Imagine Dragons covering Taylor Swift’s Blank Space mashed up with Stand By Me. The singing starts around 1:30 and it is so freaking fantastic!


I’m using one of my staple go-to moves to get through the week: crock pot chicken breasts.

What is this, you ask? The simplest of hacks! I slow cook a sheet of chicken in the crockpot for about 6 hours (along with one cube of chicken bullion and 1 cup of water). When it’s done I shred the chicken and use it for: quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches, nachos, chicken tacos, Asian chicken salad, and… chicken. I typically get 1-2 dinners and up to 2 lunches out of this (depending on how much chicken I actually cook and how much we stuff into the quesadillas). Which means that I get two days worth of cooking out of one crock pot. Winner!

Side note: this freezes very well. I divide them up into quart-sized freezer bags in the amount I need for another meal and freeze! Voila! Thaw in the microwave for quick use, or pop into the fridge the night before/morning of. Easy peasy.


This week is brought to me by Smithwicks! I love this beer, but it’s not something I like to drink all the time. A six pack every few months satisfies my craving!


The Anne’s are binge-watching Sons of Anarchy! Yes, we’re a decade late to the game, but we are totally hooked! I was skeptical after the first couple of episodes, but DANG does this show hit its stride after that! Jax’s speech to Tara did me in and I’m so hooked it’s not even funny. The complexity of the characters is what sells this show. I’m excited that there are so many seasons to watch!

All right… I should probably finish writing this book! Thanks for stopping by!

Food in Fiction: a chat with Mary Chris Escobar

I absolutely love when authors include yummy things in their novels!  It makes me want to eat and drink whatever the character’s are enjoying.  This happened to me hard core while reading Mary Chris Escobar’s novella Delayed, and again while reading her novel, Neverending Beginnings.

Lasagna is featured prominently in both books, along with chili (check out Mary Chris’s favorite BEER CHILI recipe below!), craft beer (yes!), wine, and coffee.  I may have made lasagna three times since reading these books.  I also may have made chili and paid a little extra attention to my locally roasted, 1565 Artisan Coffee.

Skip watching the news or a talk show and watch us musing about food and such in books instead! (it’s like “Buying Local” but different!)  ALSO, sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win a FREE COPY of Delayed! (Did I mention how much I loved both of these books?  Well, I did and I want you to read them, too!)

*I apologize for my video and sound quality issues.  My production team have been properly chastised and the kinks have been worked out for future chats.*

Don’t forget to try Kate’s famous lasagna or that amazing-sounding Beer Chili! Be sure to stop by Mary Chris’s blog and say hi!

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