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Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Keira Andrews

Dec 21, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Here’s a yummy twist on the standard latke. I think Nate’s mother might initally frown upon anything but the traditional latke at Hanukkah, but these are so tasty she’d come around!

Pesto Latkes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup pasteurized egg substitute
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Peel potatoes, then grate them through the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Squeeze in small batches between your hands over the sink to remove excess moisture. Then grate onion into the bowl through the same holes in the box grater.

Stir in garlic, basil, egg substitute, cheese, oil, salt and pepper. Place a generous 1/2 cup of the potato mixture into each muffin cup, packing the mixture firmly.

Bake the latkes until lightly browned and firm, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

 

Eight Nights by Keira Andrews

Blurb:

Lucas McKenzie figures spending the holidays with his annoying roommate’s family is better than being alone on campus. The last thing he expects is to lust over Sam’s brother — or for Nate to actually want him back.

They hide their attraction during Hanukkah celebrations, but behind closed doors, Lucas and Nate can’t keep their hands (or mouths) off each other. Nate’s only looking for a bit of holiday fun, and amazing sex with a hot virgin definitely fits the bill.

Yet as the candles burn, Nate and Lucas begin to realize eight nights will never be enough.

Excerpt:

As Nate went through the steps, Lucas tried to pay attention. At one point, Nate handed him a pair of rubber-tipped tongs, and Lucas dutifully plucked out a developed photo and hung it on the line. They worked in companionable silence, and Lucas found he enjoyed watching the photographs come to life. They were all black-and-white cityscapes, and he felt a frisson of excitement, knowing he’d get a chance to finally see New York for himself in the days to come. “You took all of these?” Lucas admired the clean lines and unique angles of the photos.

Nate waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, I’m just messing around.”

“I’d like to see what you can do when you’re taking it seriously because these are amazing.”

“It’s nice of you to say so.” Nate wiped his hands on a towel and plucked a doughnut from the plate Lucas had left on the counter. “We just need to wait now before we open the door.”

Nate didn’t seem comfortable with praise, so Lucas stopped talking and took his own doughnut, relishing the sweet, fruity flavor. He couldn’t understand why Nate trivialized his talent. Lucas was no expert, but he found the photographs beautiful.

They ate in silence, and Lucas noticed a blob of jelly filling on the corner of Nate’s mouth. Before he could think, he reached out, swiping at it with his finger. Their eyes locked, and Lucas froze, his hand still at Nate’s mouth.

Oh God, what was he doing?

He stayed in place, not breathing as he and Nate stared at each other in the muted red light. Before Lucas could process what was happening, Nate’s tongue curled out and licked the jelly from his finger. A jolt of desire ran though Lucas, and he swallowed thickly, his throat suddenly dry.

Nate turned his head just a bit and sucked Lucas’s finger into his mouth.

As Lucas moaned low in his throat, Nate yanked him close, and they were kissing. Lucas’s head swam from the explosion of sensations he felt.

He was actually kissing another man.

He opened his mouth and Nate’s tongue dived in, probing and stroking as his hands ran over Lucas’s back, down to his ass.

Quiet, mild-mannered Nathaniel Kramer was grabbing his ass.

His head swimming, Lucas kissed Nate back, his body alive in a way it never had been while kissing a girl. The scratch of Nate’s stubble, his musky scent — every thing about him was so male, and any lingering doubts Lucas had about being gay melted away as he explored Nate’s mouth.

They both gasped for air, and Lucas realized that his jeans were undone as Nate sank to his knees. “What are you…?”

Buy it here.

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Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Victoria Blisse

Dec 20, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, recipes, sweet treats

 

Coconut Ice.

December is here and it’s time to think about presents. I know it can be difficult to think of meaningful presents that don’t cost the earth because let’s face it things can get expensive this time of year. Well I can tell you that this recipe always goes down a treat. Adults love it and so do kids and the best thing is it is quick and easy to make and requires no cooking at all.

Equipment:

Tin to set the coconut ice in (9×9 inch works well) if using

Wooden spoon

Large bowl

Sieve

Spatula

Ingredients:

300g desiccated coconut
300g icing sugar
400g tin of condensed milk
Optional food colouring (pink is traditional but try different colours if you’d like)

Method:

Place the condensed milk into a bowl, use a spatula to scrap out all the contents. Sieve the icing sugar into the bowl.  Beat well together then mix in the desiccated coconut. It may get a bit difficult so persevere, everything will come together in the end.

To make traditional squares of coconut ice divide the mixture into two then add a few drops of red to one half and mix it in to make it pink.

Spread the pink layer on the bottom of the tin them spread the white layer on top. At this point I suggest you score some squares into the top of the coconut ice so it is easier to cut when it is set.  Put the tin in the fridge and leave to set for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight before cutting into squares and serving or putting in pretty boxes/jars to give as presents!

You can mould the coconut ice mixture into shapes, kids love making little mice out of it. You can add chocolate buttons for ears and sweet laces for whiskers and a tail but the sky is the limit. Colour the sweet whatever colour you like and make whatever shapes you like. If you make something unusual let me know (victoria @victoriablisse. co. uk no spaces) I’m always looking for new, fun present ideas!

 

 

 

 

Always Christmas in Lincoln by Victoria Blisse

It isn’t really always Christmas in Lincoln but when Felicity gets her man it feels like it.

Felicity hates Christmas. It reminds her of a traumatic event from her childhood. She thinks the Permanent Christmas shop is tacky, with its windows full of trees and tinsel all year round and would rather it disappeared from her picturesque home town.

When she discovers that Carl, who she lusts over every time she sees him in the tea rooms, is in fact the owner of Ho, Ho, Ho! She’s not quite sure what to think. It takes a sexy meeting in the middle of a fake winter wonderland to make her realise the advantages of Christmas in the middle of summer.

As time passes, Carl and Felicity indulge in more sexy liaisons but as Christmas approaches Felicity doubts whether she is anything more than a sensual distraction for the festive shop owner and when her handsome ex, Sean, sweeps into town on a quest to win her back she finds she has a tough decision to make.

Can Carl and his Christmas cheer win over her hardened heart?

Excerpt:

He squeezed my arm and I shuddered with pleasure. We continued to talk business for a while and it was quite obvious Carl didn’t just know his stuff—he loved it. He was like a kid waiting to visit Santa.

“Yes, I’m mad,” he said. “I know that. I love Christmas.”

“Oh, no, it’s sweet,” I gasped. “It’s just… I’m not a fan of the festive season.”
“Really?”

“Really, really. It’s not Christmas, just something happened at that time of year and…well; it kind of poisoned my enjoyment of it.”

“That’s awful,” Carl sympathised. “I hope you work out some way to separate the two, because no one should miss out on the joy of Christmas.”

The silence that fell wasn’t particularly awkward. Funny how quickly a stranger can become a friend, but I was on edge because I could feel him beside me, smell his light cinnamon aftershave, and I just wanted to pounce on him and have my wicked way.

“I guess I should be going,” I sighed. “Not that I want to go out there again—it’s so cool and refreshing in here.”

“Then stay. I’d be grateful of the company while I finish putting together my North Pole.”

“Well, if you’re sure…”

“Yes, yes, stay. I could do with a second opinion on where to place my candy canes.”

“All right,” I agreed. “Can I give you a hand since I’m here anyway?”

“Well, go on then. I’m used to doing them on my own, but I’ve seen your window displays and they’re always gorgeous. Can you organise the penguins and polar bears for me?”

“Sure.” I smiled, shut the laptop and picked up a polar bear. It’s not often a person gets to say that, I suppose. We chatted amicably as we positioned and re-positioned soft toys, ornaments and gingerbread houses. I’d not felt so relaxed and happy for a long while. The loneliness had sunk into my soul and I’d barely even recognised it. As I pondered what that meant for me and my life, I miscalculated how far forward I needed to lean to place my singing, dancing penguin, and I slipped. I knocked into Carl, yelped and thankfully landed on the soft toys. Carl’s landing wasn’t quite so soft, since he ended up on top of me.
“Oh, fu—I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Carl pushed himself up, but I was still very aware of his pelvis pressing against mine. “Don’t worry, accidents happen.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll pay for anything I’ve broken, I’ll put everything back in just the place it was…”
Carl kissed me.

It was far more complex than that, but at that moment my mind went blank and I just couldn’t think. His lips were on mine. They were plump, hot and very skilled. He took my breath away with just the gentlest undulations. I wrapped my arms around him without thought; pulled him close and let out all the passion that had built up inside me. We broke apart and took ragged breaths before our lips pulled us back together again. Our eyes were open and I could see that he was holding back just a little bit, nervous about whether this was what I wanted. I was sure he’d see the same emotions in the sea of my green eyes.

It struck me as funny that two grown adults lip-locked together still seemed so hesitant. I think he felt the smile cross my lips, because he turned up the heat. He rolled to his side and pulled me over on top of him. I laughed, then groaned because I felt the significant bump rising from his crotch. I was now somewhat in control and after a moment, a very brief moment of doubt, I reached out to undo the buttons on his shirt. His fingers crept up my thighs in response.
I kissed down the outline of his jaw; he moved a hand to cup one of my buttocks. I finished unbuttoning him and he clasped me from the other side, so I was surrounded by his touch and aroused by his gentle squeezes. I continued my kiss trail down over his chest. It was a strong chest, not bursting with muscles—that does nothing for me anyway—but steely, with the kind of muscles that aren’t showy but get the job done well enough, thank you.

As I slipped lower, Carl reluctantly let go of my cotton-covered arse. His breath was ragged as, I am sure, was mine. I felt like I couldn’t quite catch my breath and I was sure that if I were a heroine in a historical romance I’d be experiencing a touch of the vapours.

The real experience waited for me within the casual trousers of the all-year-round Christmas salesman. I was relieved to find plain, black underwear without a Santa, reindeer or Christmas tree in sight, and that the significant bulge inside was all tasty, hot flesh and not a figment of my fevered imagination.

It was very surreal being surrounded by snow, even fake snow, in the middle of summer. Every time I bobbed my head up and down on his delicious dick—I swear it tasted of gingerbread and cinnamon—something different would catch my eye. The green and red- scarfed penguin lying on its side next to me or the grinning Santa on a rocking chair up on the shelf. Each had a smug smile that I was sure signalled how much they liked the show.

Buy it here.

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – RJ Scott

Dec 19, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Poor Jesse… I bet Gabriel drags him to a Christmas Shortbread making event!

Jesse’s Christmas, coming from Silver Publishing 25 December

Blurb:

For Jesse Connor, Christmas is nothing but a series of bad memories. It takes a man imbued with the spirit of Christmas to help him realize that the Christmas spirit lies in everyone–if they only know where to look.

Recipe

Jane Asher’s Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

Ingredients

175g spreadable butter

75g castor sugar

200g plain flour

25g soft brown sugar

450g tin (or squeezy bottle) condensed milk

200g milk chocolate drops

Makes 10-12 slices

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175g°C (160°C fan assisted, 350°F, gas mark 4). Grease and line a 7”x11” baking tray

2. Put 150g of the butter into a mixing bowl, together with the castor sugar. With a wooden spoon, cream together until soft .

3. Add the flour, and mix together, pressing the flour into the butter/sugar with the back of the spoon

4. Turn the mix out into the pan, pressing it evenly out with your hand to fill the pan

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes until just beginning to colour at the edges. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin

6. Put the remaining butter, brown sugar and condensed milk into a small pan.

7. Heat carefully, stirring all the time, until it begins to bubble – keep scraping right round the bottom, or it will catch and burn (although don’t worry if you do find up a few dark bits – once covered in chocolate you’ll never notice!)

8. Keep stirring until the mix thickens – this will only take a couple of minutes – then remove from the heat and, still stirring, let it cool for a few seconds, before spreading it over the shortbread base. Allow to cool

9. Melt the chocolate in a basin over hot water or in the microwave, then spread it evenly over the base.

10. Leave the chocolate to set, then divide into rectangles

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Cherie Noel

Dec 18, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Part and parcel of my holiday story is one of my favorite Christmas recipes. I wrote it into the story so I’ll give you the recipe as it occurs at the end of my story, Christmas Rum Balls. I knew I wanted to use the cookies in a Christmas story, and then when I realized how much my main character Tony loves to cook it was an easy step to get him to divulge his super secret recipe for the good of people everywhere.
Tony’s Rum Ball Recipe

Listen. First youse gotta have mixin’ bowls and bakin’ stuff.

‘Cept youse don’t gotta bake for these.

So youse can make em with the kids and old folks and people who might not remember the rules about makin’ hot stuff.

Okay.

Second, youse gotta put love into ’em. They taste better that way.

No, really, they do.

So, here’s the list.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of Nilla wafers. Crush ’em up good. Youse gonna start out with a whole box of the suckers, but when they gets crushed? 2 ½ cup.

2 tablespoons of cocoa. (Me? I love this stuff)

1 ¼ cups icing sugar. Youse can find it in the baking aisle in the grocery store. Just ask the clerks, ’cause they always know where ta find stuff.

½ cup of Spiced Rum. Or youse can use Bourbon. But, the cookies are Rum Balls, so I think youse should use the rum. On account of that’s what they’re called.

2 tablespoons of white corn syrup. It’s the clearish kind, like Karo syrup. That’s a brand name.

1 cup of pecans or walnuts, broke up kinda good. I like the walnuts better. ‘Cause putting something called “pee can” in my food just seems wrong, youse know what I mean?

Now youse need to know how ta put it all together.

Directions:

Youse gotta mix the cocoa with 1 cup of the sugar in a special way the fancy cooks call sifting. If youse don’t have a sifter, youse can just mix them up real good. But youse might wanna think about using maybe a fine mesh colander. That could do for a sifter in a pinch.

Mix the rum and the syrup together, and then stir them into the cocoa an’ sugar mix.

Pour in the crushed up Nilla wafers (I guess any vanilla wafers would work, but I like the Nilla ones) and the nuts.

Mix everything up real good.

Make little bouncy balls or walnut size balls. Then youse can either roll them in the remaining icing sugar or leave ’em plain. I love sweets, so I put the extra sugar on.

Then youse just store them in a tin.

It’s best to make Christmas Rum Balls a little early so they have time to sit and get tastier. So make them about a week before youse wanna eat ’em.

Christmas Rum Balls  by Cherie Noel

Santa Neil in leather, elf Tony in a sock;
Watch naughty Kevin, falling like a rock.
He’s off the nice list—coal city’s straight ahead,
‘Til a miracle’s made with wrist restraints, a bow and Rum Balls in their bed.

Santa Neil and Elf Tony have a problem. Their wayward boy Kevin, fallen off the nice list and headed straight for coal-in-the-stocking-city, is hauling around a truckload of unnecessary guilt.

Together, they mix up a brand new recipe for Christmas fun, complete with Santa Neil in leather, Elf Tony in a smile and a strategically placed sock, and of course, some delicious Christmas Rum Balls. Their bring the big day early, but one question still remains…Can they entice Naughty Kevin to release his burden and open his sweet self to the Christmas spirit all around him?

Excerpt

“Neil, we’se got a problem.”

Neil looked up from the freshman Art History term papers currently causing both his red marking pen and his eyes to bleed.

Tony stood just inside the door of Neil’s home office, squarely in front of Neil’s wide oak desk, naked from the waist up. Flecks of red in various shades dotted his torso. Neil smiled. The spatters of red paint on his lover’s body were a damn sight easier to look at than the mutilations of both art and history most of this term’s freshman class routinely handed over in lieu of well written papers.

“What’s the problem Tony?”

Tony cast a worried frown over his shoulder. “Would it be okay to shut the door, do youse think, Neil? ‘Cause I don’t wanna break none of the rules, but I don’t want Kevin ta hear this part.”

Neil’s eyebrows crept toward his hairline. The open door policy was one he’d come up with. Tony seemed to be taking it quite literally today. Neil bit the inside of his cheek. Tony had come so far since his injury. Some days Neil had to remind himself that his lover had suffered a traumatic brain injury at the hands of a former boyfriend.

Tony had come into the ER on a day Kevin picked up an extra shift to cover for a friend in need, and Tony had been his last patient of the day. Kevin still held on to guilt over not doing more to help Tony that day, before the second beating happened. Everyone else, including Tony, believed the helpline numbers Kevin had given Tony during his exam had saved the big Italian’s life.

Tony had been on the phone with the helpline when Robert broke into the room Tony was hiding in and beat the big gentle man into unconsciousness. The helpline worker had heard the breaking door, and placed an immediate call to 911. Tony had gotten help as fast as was humanly possible.

Neil thought the amazing recovery Tony had made could rightly be attributed to Kevin as well. Kevin had gone beyond the call of duty when Tony ended up on his regularly worked floor. He made sure that Tony got every rehabilitative therapy offered, and when it became clear that Tony would need additional assistance once he got out, the sweet nurse had taken Tony into his own home as first a house guest, then as he recovered enough to return to his art studies, a roommate, and finally, at Tony’s insistence, as a lover.

Neil jiggled his legs.

Tony turned from the door, a crinkle marring the smooth olive expanse of his forehead. His big, melted chocolate eyes zeroed in on the marking pen Neil was tapping against the desk. Then Tony looked up. The pupils of his eyes were blown wide, turning them to dark fathomless pools. The corners of the big Italian’s mouth pinched together, a line of white ringing his lips.

Neil stilled completely in his chair.

Tony had bad days though, days where he had mini seizures or was especially forgetful, days where he clung to the “rules” Kevin had originally come up with, back when the two of them first lived together. On his difficult days, Tony sometimes treated those bloody rules like they were the only thing holding him steady, and he would even speak of feeling frightened one of his lovers would lash out at him in anger. Neil took a quick deep breath, struggling to unclench his jaw.

He hated Tony’s bad days. Neil did everything he could to make them better, and fewer. The bad days took a toll on Tony, Neil, and, most especially, Kevin.

Neil’s anger had nothing to do with Kevin, the rules, or the gentle, lumbering oaf who became a surrealistic, graceful work of art in his own right when a smile lit his face or one of his passions consumed him.

Painting.

Kevin.

And lately–Neil fought to keep his grin of delight tucked inside lest Tony misinterpret the expression–Neil himself. The smile escaped. Tony gave a faint answering smile, and Neil’s heart clenched.

Neil thought the three of them would have found each other even if Tony hadn’t needed a third partner to feel safe. The process would have likely taken longer and Neil had long since given up trying to decide if he were more happy they had found each other quickly or sad about the events leading to their finding one another. Neil leaned back in his chair, carefully placing his pen down, and addressed Tony’s question about the door.

“Sure Tony. You can shut the door.”

Tony spun around, peered into the hall cautiously, and then eased the door shut. He strode back to the desk, leaned down and spoke in a hushed voice.

“Kevin thinks Santa’s real, Neil. Santa. Do youse think maybe he’s been dippin’ into the medicine at work?”

Neil’s eyes widened. He bit back a rueful laugh.

“Tony. Er, what makes you think Kevin believes in Santa?”

Tony stood up, put his hands on his hips and cocked his head to one side.

“We was fucking in the kitchen. On account of he came in to get his dinner together for work today looking especially good. Youse know how he rolls outta bed sometimes looking like he just got done real good? Yeah, so that’s how he was looking. And he came in all slow and needing coffee and bent down over the table.”

Tony paused there. He scrunched his nose up, and patted his chest.

“I’d been paintin’ in the studio, cause if I don’t get the oil paintin’ I’m working on of the tree out back done before the leaves finish changing–well. Youse understand. The reds might not be the same next time.”

Neil nodded.

Tony scratched at his cheek.

“So, anyways, I can just stand so much. I came in to get a cuppa joe, and there he was all sleepy an’ fuckable.”

Tony shrugged, a dreamy little smile flitting across his face.

“Anyways, Neil, when we was done, he was all outta breath an’ looked even better than when we’se started, an’ I told him I knew just what I wanted from Santa.”

Tony shook his head. He waved one hand above his head.

Neil’s smile grew broader. He loved the way Tony used his hands to talk.

“Kev got this real anty look on his face, Neil. Youse know, like he was carrying somethin’ heavier than he is, like the time you and me saw the documentary ‘bout ants on Animal Planet? So then he told me I’d been real good so Santa was sure to bring me what I was wantin’. He spoke all serious like, and then he took off for the shower.”

Tony worried one corner of his bottom lip with his strong white teeth.

“I don’t think this is good, Neil. Kevin’s too old to believe in a real live actual Santa Claus.”

Neil snorted.

Kevin kept getting tangled up in worrying so much about Tony’s brain injury he treated the big Italian like a child.

A situation that did favors for none of them.

Tony continued to speak.

“Yeah, Neil, that’s just what I thought, too. It don’t make no kinda sense for a smarty like Kevin to still think Santa’s real.”

Tony’s thick black brows rose as high as they could go.

Neil fought down the desire to find Kevin and ask what the hell he was thinking. Tony was a grown man, and Kevin was needlessly worrying the shit out of him. Neil cleared his throat.

“Tony, what do you think we should do about this situation?”

Buy it here.

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Augusta Li

Dec 17, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Hi Silvia! My name is Augusta Li (Gus), author of Wisp and White Hart, part of the Dreaming of a White Christmas anthology at Silver Publishing. Among other things, Wisp and White Hart is the story of two young men, Dust and Elijah, who are estranged from their families and are all each other have. They find their way to an inn in rural Yorkshire on Christmas Eve, and decide to start their own holiday traditions, including a delicious regional meal. Elijah, a former cook, wishes he could prepare a holiday dinner for his partner. He misses cooking and baking cookies. So, in the spirit of family and tradition, here is the recipe for my grandmother’s almond cookies. Read on for an excerpt from the book!

Chinese Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (can add up to 2 more tablespoons, if desired)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/4 pound whole, blanched almonds (one for each cookie)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

 

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (162.5 degrees Celsius).
2.In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter or margarine, shortening, and sugar. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well blended. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Note: The dough will be crumbly at this point, but don’t worry – that is what it’s supposed to be like.
3. Use your fingers to form the mixture into a dough, and then form the dough into 2 rolls or logs that are 10 to 12 inches long. Wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (this will make it easier to shape the dough into circles).
4. Take a log and lightly score the dough at 3/4 inch intervals so that you have 15 pieces and cut the dough. Roll each piece into a ball and place on a lightly greased cookie tray, approximately 1 1/2 inches apart. Place an almond in the center of each cookie and press down lightly. Repeat with the remaining dough.
5. Brush each cookie lightly with beaten egg before baking. Bake for 15 minutes to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and store in a sealed container.

 

Wisp and White Heart by Augusta Li

Available December 20th from Silver Publishing

Being stranded in rural Yorkshire on Christmas Eve offers Elijah and Dust a romantic vacation from their dangerous work, until a strange man with unfathomable motives appears in need of their assistance.

Excerpt:

A waning, gibbous moon peeked from behind the thick mantle of snow clouds now and then, accentuating a jut of limestone, the crumbling ruin of a Roman wall, or just a gentle knoll or valley. Fat flakes of snow spiraled lazily down, gradually covering more and more of the Yorkshire landscape. A mottled gray sky stretched toward the horizon, making Elijah Tupper feel that the thirty year old pickup in which they rode was driving toward the edge of the world. He didn’t feel uneasy, only humbled. For the last several hours, he’d watched in wonder as the rugged beauty of the Wolds and Dales rolled past. The arched ruins of medieval abbeys and priories stood black against the luminous expanse of clouds. Stretches of woods cropped up and faded back into the moor, and waterfalls rushed down tiers of stone before foaming into plumes of white mist at the bottoms. Elijah rested his temple against the passenger window and watched the austere, monochromatic vista. Snowflakes dissolved into shimmering droplets where they hit the glass.

Beside him, Elijah’s partner Dust looked sleepily through the windshield. An old Yorkshire man in a knitted hat and leather gloves drove the truck. Mr Thomas Whipple had been kind enough to stop when he’d seen the two young men wandering through the inhospitable Dales. He had jowls like a bull dog and eyes perpetually squinted from decades of wind and sun. He was a man of few words, but had offered to give the two men a ride to the nearest village on the way to his farm. He smelled of dried alfalfa and the lanolin from his sheep. None of the three men said much as the old pickup, low on its axles due to the many sacks of grain in its bed, bounced along the rocky paths.

Though he and Dust had spent some time in London, and recently in Leeds, Elijah had never been so far north before. Beneath the snow, limestone, and chalk, Elijah felt a strong but dormant current of magic, like an underground stream. Remnants of Roman sorcery and medieval enchantment braided with the ancient power inherent in the northern land to form a mystic mélange that Elijah felt humming in his bones and teeth. He knew that Dust, a fellow magic-user, sensed the same enchantment.

A few weeks before, a wealthy family in Leeds had hired the two enchanters to investigate their son’s fiancée, a beautiful North African princess. It hadn’t taken long for Elijah and Dust to realize the princess was an ifrit, a desert spirit similar to a djinn. They’d prepared spells to force the creature into its true form and bind it. They hadn’t anticipated for the young man to admit his knowledge of his beloved’s nature, nor for the epic fight that ensued during a dinner party. The two young men had defeated the ifrit and the spirits it summoned, but not without destroying the eastern wing of the family’s ancestral home. Glass and limestone had rained to the street below. The fire that started had quickly spread through the house and to the nearby buildings. Inevitably, the authorities had arrived: fire trucks, ambulances, and an army of police. Elijah and Dust, rather than answer difficult questions, fled the scene. Elijah stole an Austin-Healey Sprite and they drove it into the Dales until it ran out of gas. The snow had started right around then, and they’d continued on foot until Mr Whipple had been kind enough to stop.

They’d left their bags, with all their extra clothing and possessions, behind. Luckily, Elijah had the enchanted katana he’d acquired during his first adventure with Dust, and he knew Dust had at least a few days worth of money in his pocket. Since it was Christmas Eve, it would be some time before they could access any of their accounts.

The old pickup crested a hill and slowly descended into a valley, where around thirty small buildings stood nestled between two high, steep knolls. They huddled around the single, dirt road that ran through the village. Mr Whipple stopped in front of a white-washed structure with a thatched roof and a shingle that read The White Hart Inn and Public House.

“I’ll leave you lads off here, then,” he said in a gruff but friendly voice. Dust shook the man’s hand and offered him a few pounds, which he declined.

“Thank you so much, Mr Whipple,” Elijah said as he stepped into the snow with the brown sack of groceries he’d purchased when they’d stopped at a small market after the Sprite ran out of fuel. He’d been it carrying for miles when Mr Whipple showed them charity. “Have a Merry Christmas.”

“Same to you, lads,” the man said before he shut the passenger door and drove off, his tires leaving gray ruts in the otherwise virgin snow. When he’d gone, the village was so silent Elijah swore he could hear the fall of the flakes on the old buildings. If magic had run like rivulets beneath the rest of the landscape, beneath this small town it pooled in a vast reservoir. Elijah felt it purr and pulsate beneath his sneakers, the power tingling up his legs. He looked at the pub. An inviting light spilled from its windows of beveled, amber glass.

“This is probably the only place in town,” he said to Dust. Melting snow sparkled on Dust’s black hair and thick eyelashes, and the cold had nipped his golden cheeks dark red. Elijah squeezed Dust’s wrist. “Let’s go inside. I’m hungry.”

“Me too,” Dust agreed, opening the two dark, wooden doors and holding one for Elijah. The White Hart’s interior was warm and cheery, lit by old wall sconces and a healthy fire in the stone hearth. Dark paneling, similar to the wood of the doors, covered the walls and floor. Ivy, holly, and red tapers decorated the tables, and evergreen wreaths with red velvet bows adorned the walls. A large, L-shaped bar stood at the back of the room, though no patrons occupied the wooden stools around it. The glasses and bottles of liquor twinkled, and a savory smell drifted from the kitchens beyond. Dust inhaled deeply and smiled before he approached the elderly couple drying pint glasses together.

“Good evening,” he said, as Elijah stood a few feet back. “Are you the proprietors?”

“Aye,” said the gentleman, eying them with a bit of suspicion.

Elijah knew how they looked. Dust’s long, black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, though a few loose strands clung to his damp cheek, and his light, silver eyes looked out of place on his dark, Asian-featured face. Often people sensed Dust’s otherworldly nature and felt uncomfortable. Elijah imagined he probably looked a little rough himself, with his unruly, blond hair hanging to his shoulders beneath his heather-blue, knitted cap with the pom-pom and two days worth of stubble on his face. He remembered the elaborate sword he wore on his back. Also, their American accents marked them as outsiders. Luckily, Dust knew how to charm and manipulate people when he needed to: he’d had centuries of practice after all. If all else failed, Dust could employ a simple charm to gain the trust of the pub owners. Slipping his hat off and sticking it in his coat pocket, Elijah left Dust to it and found a table close to the fire. He observed the old tin signs that decorated the walls and the porcelain angels on the mantle as he listened half-heartedly to the exchange.

The Hart had three rooms to rent, and since there were no other guests, Elijah and Dust would have the best. The man poured two ales and gave Dust a key while his wife went to prepare some supper for her young guests. Dust brought the drinks to the table and sat down across from Elijah. He looked around at the stuffed animal heads: stags, boars, foxes, and wildcats mounted on wooden plaques. “This isn’t too bad,” he said with a smile. “It’ll be like an adventure.”

“It’s kind of romantic,” Elijah agreed, sipping the foam from his ale and looking at his partner’s face in the low, golden light. He liked the content smile on Dust’s full lips, liked that he saw it more and more lately. “At least we’re safe. Those were some bad times back in Leeds.”

“Yeah. We couldn’t have known.”

Taking another deep gulp from his glass, Elijah said, “Did we do the right thing, killing the ifrit?”

“It was self-defense by then,” Dust assured, draping his hand over Elijah’s knuckles. “She would have killed us.”

“But she loved that man, and he loved her…”

“He claimed to,” Dust corrected. “He might have been under a powerful spell.”

“Or he might not,” Elijah said. “We didn’t know for sure. People used to think you put a spell on me. It’s not impossible that they actually loved each other.”

“It’s improbable,” Dust said. “Creatures like that are masters of manipulating human emotions. I’m sure we did him a favor. We probably freed him from her thrall. I didn’t sense any authentic emotion.”

Though he nodded, Elijah recalled the young man’s grief. He couldn’t help imagining how it would feel to lose Dust. It scared him more than anything, more than death itself. He hated to think he’d caused anyone else that pain.

 

*****

 

Also check out these other books in the Ensorcelled series, featuring Elijah and Dust:

 

Epiphany- Ensorcelled #1
The Midnight Children- Ensorcelled #1.1
Wisp and White Hart- Ensorcelled #1.2

 

Thanks so much for having me, Silvia. It’s been a pleasure. I wish you and all of your readers prosperity and good fortune in the new year!

 

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Ellis Carrington

Dec 16, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Cozy up this holiday season with a couple of mugs of sweet & spicy Mexican hot cocoa, and the hot heroes of Amor Prohibido.

Simple Mexican Hot Cocoa (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons instant hot chocolate mix
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch chili powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup boiling water

 

Directions

In a large mug, mix the hot chocolate mix, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, and chili powder. Pour in the milk. Add the boiling water and stir. You may need to play with the water/milk ratio to get it just right. Enjoy!

 

About Amor Prohibido:

Jacob Freehan has no job, no man, and no motivation. In pain both from ending a long-term abusive relationship and a severe back injury, he escapes to the sunny seaside town of Puerto Morelos for a little yoga, a little R&R, and possibly a place to quietly end his own life.

Pakal is a centuries-old immortal Mayan spirit guide who has been charged with getting Jacob on the path toward healing. Romantic involvement with a spirit charge is strictly forbidden, and it has never been a problem…until now. Pakal sees something special in Jacob, but failure to keep a rapidly growing attraction at bay could result in Jacob losing his life and Pakal being condemned to the Underworld forever…

Excerpt:

“Uh, yeah. Hi. Pakal, right?” As if he didn’t remember. Just like he remembered the hills and valleys of the large man’s muscular arms, the golden glow of the sun as it shimmered on his chest. The strong grip with which the man had shaken Jacob’s hand. He had, in fact, remembered it the night before in his dreams, and again that morning in the shower.

Pakal nodded and grasped Jacob’s injured leg without any pause to request permission. “Let me look at this,” he murmured.

Ah, damn. Pakal’s hands were warm, firm, and alarmingly reassuring as they massaged the muscles around Jacob’s aching knee. And then…there was that strange pulse again, strongest at the points where Pakal’s hand touched Jacob’s skin.

Though it had been a little startling at first, the sensation wasn’t at all unpleasant. It reminded Jacob of walking into a large dance club and feeling his body throb along with the bass line of his favorite music. He had an inexplicable urge to place a hand over Pakal’s bare chest, to see if it was the larger man’s heartbeat that Jacob’s body was vibing with.

Amor Prohibido is available from Amber Allure and Amazon. Also check out Goodreads for Ellis’s free short story, Yes, Sir. Find out more at EllisCarrington.com, Ellis’s author page on Facebook, or on Twitter @MMbyEllis.

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Deep Dark Chocolate Truffles

Dec 15, 2011 Filed under: book release, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats Tags: , , , , ,

I adore David Lebovitz. He’s a witty writer and a creative genius with baked goods. So it’s no surprise that when I imagine the truffles that Ben makes in One Kiss, I’m imagining something very similar to this recipe from Daivd Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate.

Deep Dark Chocolate Truffles

3/4 cup heavy cream

8-10 oz bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate, chopped

1-3 tsp cognac or another liqueur you enjoy

Coating

4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Stir in liqueur and transfer to a bowl. Let stand for two hours or until firm or chill in the fridge until firm and then allow it to warm slightly before using.

Use a melon baller to scoop the mixture into 3/4 in balls. Dip it in warm water before scooping to make scooping easier (You can use a soup spoon if you don’t have a melon baller.) Once all the mixture is scooped, roll the balls in your hands to smooth them.

Chill until firm.

Melt the 4oz of chocolate in a double boiler or very carefully in the microwave. Spread cocoa powder on a pie plate.

Now prepare to get a bit messy. (I like using my hands to make food. It adds to the sensual experience :))  Spread some of the melted chocolate in the palm of one hand. Roll one of the balls in the chocolate, keeping your other hand clean. Then drop the ball in the pie plate. Repeat until the pie plate is getting full. Then shake cocoa over the truffles on the plate. Shake them in a strainer to remove excess cocoa.

Serve them immediately or refrigerate for up to 10 days. Truffles make wonderful gifts as Ben knows well in One Kiss.

One Kiss by Silvia Violet

Jake Sanders comes home for Christmas after a dreary semester filled with sleepless nights and a cheating boyfriend. Finding a new man is the last thing on his mind until he discovers that Ben Swinburne now owns the bakery where they both once worked.

Five years ago, Jake and Ben shared a single kiss, and Jake has never forgotten the way Ben’s lips felt against his. When Ben catches Jake under the mistletoe, passion ignites between them.

This time around, Ben wants more than one kiss, but Jake isn’t sure he’s ready for another relationship. Can Jake move past his pain and open his heart, or will he miss out on a second chance with the man of his dreams?

For an excerpt and a sugar cookie recipe, click here.

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – AJ Llewellyn

Dec 14, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, m/m, recipes, sweet treats

Mele Kalikimaka By A. J.  Llewellyn

This is the first Christmas in several years where I am not spending it in Hawaii but I will still be having a Hawaiian Christmas. The first Christmas ever celebrated in the islands was in 1786 in Waimea Bay, on the island of Kauai. The crew of the Queen Charlotte all missed their families and their traditional foods, but improvised. They ate Hawaiian pig instead of goose and coconut milk with their rum.

Christmastime in Hawaii has always been about making strangers feel welcome and for those without their families to have a place to celebrate the holidays. What I love about the expression Mele Kalikimaka is that everybody says it to each other. It means, roughly translated, Happy Songs. And who doesn’t love happy songs?

My Christmases there have always been amazing and this year, my Hawaiian family and friends are coming to me!

We will eat Happy Cakes, ambrosia and all kinds of yummy things but my favorite Hawaiian Christmas recipe is for Hawaiian Reindeer Snacks. I discovered this recipe when I played Santa a few years ago for my niece and nephew. We made this recipe because they insisted that reindeer get bored with carrots. I am inclined to agree and ahem, whoever plays Santa gets to enjoy these yummy morsels!

Hawaiian Reindeer Snacks

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2/3 cup honey

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 cups regular oats, uncooked

1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts

1-1/2 cups candied pineapple chopped into small pieces

Combine peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated (do not allow it to boil). Stir in vanilla. Spread oats in a lightly greased 15z10x1 inch jellyroll pan. Pour peanut butter mixture over oats; stir to coat evenly. Bake at 300 F for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in macadamia nuts. Turn oven off and let cool in oven 1-1/2 hours with door closed, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; stir in candied pineapple pieces. Cut into pieces. Mmm!

My book, Christmas in Flip Flops, coming to Amber Allure on December 18 is set in Honolulu and reflects this type of tradition since the main character is away from his family thanks to his new job in Honolulu…

Blurb:
It’s twelve days ’til Christmas and Devon Callahan is a dental hygienist with a very big problem…make that two. He’s been unemployed for months and now a thief’s stolen his cell phone. Tracking the guy through Mobile Me, he’s got a cyber lead on his purloined phone, but he’s also hot on the trail of a mysterious new job…what’s a guy almost maxed out on his credit cards to do?

He goes to his interview and discovers he could soon be gainfully employed. The catch is he’d have to fly to sunny Waikiki within twenty-four hours to start work at Schofield Barracks, caring for the health of thousands of US service men and women stationed in the islands.

Devon is thrilled to be part of such an important post, but what’s his boyfriend, Manco, going to say? His movie producer lover is expecting his entire family to visit from Peru. Will he see the sunny side of Christmas in flip flops…or will Devon be feasting on dinner for one?

Excerpt:
…It was after seven by the time he got home. He heard music playing in the apartment as soon as he opened the door. He stood for a moment in the darkness, listening for voices. He could hear Manco’s soft laughter and his heart almost sank. Who was making him laugh like that?

He switched on a couple of lamps and progressed toward the bedroom. The door was ajar and he could hear Manco talking, but his words were obscured by the sexy, growly voice of Garou, one of their favorite artists to make love to.

Oh, my God. He’s brought somebody to our house! What the fuck?

He pushed open the door and found his lover on the bed naked, his cock hard as he stroked himself, dictating into a small, pocket recorder.

Manco looked up, smiled and switched off the recorder, crawling across the bed to him.

“Where have you been? I’m going crazy without you. Damn…” His fingers reached for Devon’s face. “Do those scratches sting?”

Devon felt himself scuttle forward, his hips naturally jutting toward his lover’s face. Manco buried his face in Devon’s crotch. To Devon’s dismay, Manco began to cry.

No…not cry. Howl.

“What’s wrong?” Devon dropped to his knees, taking his lover’s face in his hands, kissing the tears that flooded Manco’s beautiful face. “Baby, please…tell me what happened.”

Manco only grew more hysterical. Tears were not his thing. Never. The last time he’d seen Manco cry was when his grandmother died. He could still bust up at the mere mention of her name, but this…this seemed like a new trauma…

Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Aloha oe, AJ
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Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Selena Illyria

Dec 13, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, paranormal, sweet treats

Happy Holidays!

Thank you to Silvia Violet for allowing me to take part in this fun event. I bring to you one of my favorite recipes of the season. (Warning: This is very addictive). I got this recipe from my mom and love to make it myself.

Pecan Roll Recipe
½ Pound Butter
6 Tablespoons Confectionary Sugar (10X)
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Cups Pecans- Chopped Fine
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Cold Water

Cream butter and sugar together. Add the rest and mix.
Take a teaspoon of batter and shape like a date.
Put on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake at 250 for 4-60 minutes until golden brown.
Makes approximately 60 cookies.
Store in Tupperware or cookie tines. I use wax paper between rows.
Roll in confectionary sugar before serving. (Optional) Or you can melt chocolate and drizzle over cookies and then serve.
Recipe can be doubled.

I know I have to include these cookies in a book. I really do. Instead for my Christmas story, I fixated on chocolate cupcake with mint and white chocolate ganache filling and vanilla-mint icing.

White Hot Christmas: Holiday Paws by Selena Illyria

Blurb:
After dealing with the flu and missing her flight to spend the holidays with her family, Nessa thought she’d be alone for Christmas. When her mate Ben shows up at her door with the intention of giving her a holiday she won’t soon forget, she knows this Christmas will definitely be the best yet.

Excerpt:

She was going to focus on them, and what it meant to be a mated couple.

First, they would connect physically and then talk. She felt they needed to get the sex out the way before any progress could be made. Talking wouldn’t have any effect if they were both thinking about fucking or satisfying the need that had started an hour or so ago when Ben had shown up with cupcakes. They were a good start.

With a sigh, she dug a fork into the cupcake. “Perhaps it’s time I really show him that I’m committed to him, rather than the other way around,” she said to no one.

Finishing her cupcake, she took her mug of hot chocolate into her. When she entered she found it set up for romance; candles were lit and soft music playing. She found him in the bathroom with the water running in the shower.

“You shower and relax. I’ll go get my bag.” Not waiting for answer, he left her alone.

With nothing else to do but follow his direction, she stripped and got into the shower, allowing the water to run over her. She was thankful she’d gotten her hair straightened so there wouldn’t be a huge curly, tangled mess, and it would be very easy to dry.

The thought of Ben pampering her by drying her hair, sent liquid warmth through her belly. Ben always wanted to do things for her and pamper her in any way she would let him. He was her mate after all. Ben should be allowed to be involved in some of her more personal rituals and intimate moments — not all of them, but some.

The warm water sluiced over her body, chasing away some of the alcoholic haze and clearing her thoughts. She could say, in all honesty, that she appreciated him not taking advantage of her in her tipsy state. Even though she was very willing, it meant a lot that he wanted her in a clear state of mind when they did have sex again.

As she washed her body, ripples of heat slid along her skin. Desire flared hot, raising goose bumps. Moaning, she cupped her breasts and gave them a squeeze before moving to pinch and roll her thick nipples between her fingers. Electric shocks shot straight to her pussy. Her inner muscles quivered as the throbbing of her clit became more demanding.

She didn’t want to come by her own ministrations. Nessa wanted Ben’s hands her body and to feel him skin to skin. She wanted to feel the glide of his cock against the cleft of her ass, teasing her with his touch before he slid the shaft between her thighs to taunt the aching bundle of her nerves and then sink into her needy sheath.

Moaning, she slipped a hand between her legs and flicked her clit. She thrummed the bud over and over again, setting off sparks deep in her vagina. Rocking back on her heels, she rested her bottom against the wall and slid down the wall to sit in her tub.

Stroking and pinching her clit and massaging her breast, she brought herself closer to the edge while tingles raced along her legs and up and down her spine. Over and over again she brought herself to the edge but kept pulled back. Nessa wanted to wait for Ben.

A small creak of the door hinge alerted her to her mate’s arrival. A frisson of heat sliced down her spine to hum in her pussy. Her stomach muscles clenched as her heart pounded against her ribcage. Now she would get what she wanted. She was in a fog of desire and a need to connect with Ben physically.

Buy it here.

Learn more about Selena Illyria at her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Holiday Recipe Extravaganza – Johnny Miles

Dec 12, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger, holiday, Holiday Recipe Extravaganza, recipes

Being first generation American I had an interesting, and sometimes difficult, time of straddling two worlds. It seemed the different cultures were always clashing and juxtaposed at odd moments of my life. This couldn’t have been any more evident than at Christmas.  While I faced cold weather, snow, and the prospect of meeting red-suited jolly old Saint Nick himself, my mom reminisced about cutting grass and leaving it under the bed — along with a bowl of water — for the camels and the Three Wise Men. In exchange, they’d leave presents of thanks under the bed; not unlike the Tooth Fairy I suppose. Of course, I don’t remember if my mom said she actually left anything for Balthazar, Melchor and Gaspar. Who knows? It was a long trip. Maybe they were supposed to eat the grass, too.

For all the differences I observed, there were just as many similarities. The one thing that was the same was how the holiday revolved around food. In fact, some of my favorite memories are food-related.

The irony is that, as a boy, I wanted a typical American household. I wanted the Normal Rockwell Thanksgivings and Christmases, the stuff I’d see on television. Little did I know.

As I write this, I’m having a small epiphany. I think my upbringing has strongly affected my writing! Because of my struggles with straddling two very different worlds, I tend to have big cultural gaps and differences with my characters. In “Casa Rodrigo” we have Alonso and Arbol, a Spanish slave owner in love with one of his slaves. In “Lauderdale Hearts” we have Blake and Ricky, a caucasian advertising/marketing exec falling for a Latin masseur. And in “Learning To Samba” we have Brian and João, an American romance novelist who learns to love again with a Brazilian.

My latest story, “Christmas Baby” is probably the only piece that doesn’t have a big cultural difference in it. But in a way, it’s probably because the differences here are much subtler. This was a bit of a stray for me as it was my first foray outside of the m/m genre and takes place Christmas of 1957. But I think sometimes it’s good to try new things.

And speaking of new things, if you’d like to try one of my all-time favorites from when I was a kid, check out tostones. They’re a crunchy side-dish made from green, unripened plantains that are surprisingly simple to make. Cubans make them from the same plantain but once it’s ripened to the point where it looks like you should throw them out. Please note that this isn’t the type of thing you eat if you have problems with deep-fried or salty foods, or dieting.

You start off with green plantains. The ones shown here are already starting to ripen and that’s okay. Just know it’s best to get them when they’re completely green. On average, you want about one plantain per person, unless you’re a complete piggy like me and want an entire plateful just for yourself.

In a large frying pan, pour about ¼” worth of oil and turn up the heat. Vegetable oil is fine, or even canola oil. I’ve also been known to use olive oil. Keep the burner on medium as it will work nicely and you don’t splatter. However, note that in order for the plantain to absorb as little oil as possible, the oil should be bubbling.

While the oil is getting hot, cut off the ends of the plantain then score the skin so you can peel them. Once peeled, cut the plantain into diagonal pieces about ½” thick. By this time the oil should be nice and hot.

Using a spatula, or long fork — or whatever else you feel comfortable with that won’t squish the plantain — place the cut pieces of plantain into the hot oil until they’ve browned a bit. Flip the individual pieces over and brown the the other side. Once they’ve reached a nice golden color (this should only take about a minute or two), pull the plantain out.

Now, here’s the tricky part. My mom used to use paper bags to help absorb excess oil. However, we have this plastic contraption (I’ve also seen them made of wood) called a tostonera. Whatever you use, you want to make sure you flatten the plantain so the individual piece is about ¼” thick. Once you’ve squished the plantain, place it back into the frying pain and brown both sides for another couple of minutes.


As you pull the tostones out, make sure you have a large plate nearby covered with a paper towels to absorb excess grease. Trust me when I say that, no matter how hot that oil is, the plantain is still going to absorb it.

Once you’re all done and the flattened, golden brown tostones are out, they’ll be nice and crunchy. Season to taste by sprinkling with salt or crushed sea salt, and garlic powder if you wish. My mom sometimes uses minced garlic in the oil. But no matter what you sprinkle on them, these crunchy little treats will be tasty.

Happy Holidays everyone. Enjoy!

Christmas Baby by Johnny Miles

Description:
It’s Christmas Eve morning, 1957, and John wakes up to find his parents are missing. When he realizes they never came home from a holiday party they attended the night before, John calls his estranged uncle, a man he barely remembers and hasn’t seen in nearly 14 years. Together, they face a life-changing tragedy and John discovers a family secret that’s been tucked away like the Christmas presents hidden in his parent’s coat closet.

Excerpt:
I was five when my brother died. I never knew him. He enlisted in the war in ’42. Three years later, there was a knock at the front door. I remember because I was the one that opened it, stretching so I could reach the doorknob.

Behind me, Mom called out in that tone mothers seem to have that can make you feel two inches tall and make you want to wet your pants all at the same time.

“Young man! What did I tell you about opening the door without asking who it is first?”

Not that it would have mattered. Most times it was a neighbor; another housewife coming to borrow a cup of sugar, a couple of extra eggs, a cup of coffee. Usually, though, they came for what my Dad called womanspeak. And some gossip.

I remember looking up at the man I did not recognize. The sun was behind him and his face was in shadow. All I could make out was a huge flash of white teeth. He wore a uniform like a policeman’s, only without all the shiny buttons and badges.

“Hello, little fella. Is your Mommy home?”

But he could see for himself she was a few steps behind me. I remember her hand on ­my shoulder, gently pulling me away from the door and nudging me back towards the living room where I was trying, in vain, to put my brother’s Lionel trains together. I can still feel the cold metal tracks in my hands as I tried to insert one end into the other.

I could hear the hushed voices of my Mom and the Western Union man. The sound of her purse as she popped it open. I knew without looking that she was rummaging through it. Then the pocket book snapped shut.

There was a “Thank you, Ma’am.”

And the man was gone.

My Mom walked into the living room very slowly, looking at the envelope in her hand. As she sat at the end of the sofa, the end closest to my Dad’s chair, she flipped the envelope over and pulled out a piece of folded paper.

“What’s that Mommy?” I asked.

But she never answered. I saw her lips move as she read. Then I saw her clutch at her throat. She gave a little sound like a choke, or a gasp. Perhaps both. She then looked out the window and bit her lower lip as large, fat tears streaked down her cheeks.

“Mommy?” I remember like it was yesterday, as if I had just watched the movie myself; except that I was in it. She scooped me up in her arms as I approached and she just squeezed me. Very hard. I didn’t understand why she was crying, but I understood that in that moment, she needed me.

My parents never really talked much about Billy. At least, not to me. But I could hear them sometimes, talking to one another. Late at night. My room was on the other side of what eventually became the shrine of a boy I grew to know only in pictures, the trophies, ribbons and pins he won at school.

And my Mom sobbing in his room long after my Dad had gone to bed.

Buy it here.



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