Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bookish Rambling from the South

There’s no disputing the fact that we are all born with DNA, and the instant we make our appearance in this world, we’re affected by the environment. There are some psychological experts who believe that our personalities are formed by the time we’re four years old. I’m not sure about that, but it sounds right.

You are You 

We are who we are who we are … Why do some people fight it? Are they ashamed or embarrassed by some part of themselves that will reveal a hidden secret that will make them seem less than desirable if people ever find out?

In my opinion, that’s just silly. It doesn’t change anything, and if someone thinks less of you for any part of you, that’s their problem, not yours.

Even though my dad was in the Air Force and I’ve moved all over—from Alaska to Hawaii and Japan to a bunch of places in between—deep down, I’m a southern woman since both of my parents were from Mississippi. I grew up saying, “y’all,” without thinking there was anything different about that. And I like a sushi appetizer before chowing down on fried chicken and turnip greens.

As an author, I enjoy writing stories set in the South because I can relate to the culture, the relationships, and the food. (I mean, it’s always about food, right?) I like to show that everyone has the same feelings and needs, regardless of where they come from.

Old Insecurities 

Something I've learned over the years is that everyone has insecurities. While some people may project an image of total self-confidence, somewhere beneath that veneer is a real person who has the same issues we all have. They might be concerned about what you think, wonder if they're actually as good as people think they are, or worry that people will think they're a fraud. That's normal.

My 3-book Class Reunion series has characters from all walks of southern life, and when they come back to this fictional town of Piney Point, Mississippi, for their 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year reunions, they resort to some of their old behavior until they realize a few things about themselves and their classmates. Some of them take a little longer, but they all eventually see the world through a more mature and developed viewpoint. I think the takeaway from this series is that everyone has insecurities, even those who seem to have all the confidence in the world.


Messed Up Family (Gotta Love 'Em)

Now I’m working on a 3-book Family Reunion series set in another fictional southern town—Pinewood, Mississippi. The people in these stories come from farming roots, and they find their way through life the best way they know how. Some start out as poor rednecks, strike oil, and become rich rednecks. Others work hard and find a way to accomplish their goals. All of this is done with southern sensibilities and of course plenty of food. I’ll let y’all know when these books are available. It should be sometime in 2017.

Friday, January 13, 2017

E.L.F. Cosmetics - Best Customer Service Ever!

Several weeks ago, after watching Jessica Braun’s video on YouTube—the one where she talked about her favorite E.L.F. Cosmetics products—I placed an order for some things that I thought I would like. They were running a great sale, so I expected a long wait. This morning I finally got an email from them stating that my order was being shipped today … and then a few hours later, I got an email that the entire amount of money I paid was being refunded.

That confused me, so I called to find out if there was a mix-up. There wasn’t. The customer service person said that they’re sending me the product for free to thank me for waiting so long.

I’ve received good customer service before but never like this. I’m stunned by the fact that I’ll still be getting the products I know I’ll enjoy, and I’m not having to pay a dime for them. Even at full price, E.L.F. isn’t expensive.

As soon as I receive the products, I’ll try them out and let y’all know my thoughts. You can pretty much count on a favorable review because I’ll be smiling as I apply them. And I’m sure I’ll be placing many more orders with them in the future.


Have you ever had great customer service?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

5 Things to do with Leftover Rotisserie Chicken

Not only is the deli at the grocery store a busy homemaker’s best friend, it can save time and money in the long run. If you are careful, you can stretch the rotisserie chicken to cover more than one meal and make it seem like a different dish each time you serve it.

After the first meal from the chicken, remove the remaining meat from the bone and either plan meals for the next couple of days or put it in freezer-safe bags for the future. You can even boil the bones and make nutritious chicken bone broth that provides extra protein, calcium, and collagen.

White Bean Chicken Chili 

One of my favorite things to do with leftover rotisserie chicken is to make white bean chicken chili. There are hundreds—maybe even thousands of recipes—online, so if you don’t like this one, do a search and find one that suits your family’s taste. This one uses prepared ingredients, so it’s super quick and easy.
Getting ready to dig in! Yum!


Ingredients:
  • 1 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 bag frozen seasoning mix (onions and a variety of peppers)
  • 3 cans white kidney beans
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. Drain the kidney beans.
  2. Remove 1 cup and put in a separate bowl.
  3. In a large soup pot, combine remaining beans, chopped chicken, seasoning mix, broth and salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. While the mixture is boiling, add 1/2 cup water to the bowl of beans and mash with a potato masher.
  5. Pour the mashed beans into the pot. This will thicken the broth.
  6. Put the lid on the soup and turn down the heat. Simmer for at least an hour.
  7. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers. 

Chicken Salad 

Whether you want to make sandwiches or use this as a base to a dinner salad, chicken salad is another of my favorites.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional—chopped nuts, raisins, grapes, or seeds

Directions:
  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Chill until ready to serve.
  3. Serve on bread for a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce for a salad. Garnish with tomatoes, avocados, or anything else you like. 

Cajun Chicken and Rice Casserole

Here’s a one-dish meal that will be a hit with those who enjoy an extra dose of zing to their taste buds. Add more or less of the spices, according to what you like.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped chicken
  • 2/3 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning


Directions:
  1. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cover the bottom of the dish with uncooked rice.
  3. Layer the chicken over the rice and sprinkle the peas and carrots evenly around the dish.
  4. Mix the Cajun seasoning into the chicken broth and pour over the chicken, rice, and vegetables.
  5. Cover and bake at 350 F for approximately 35-40 minutes.

Chicken Enchiladas

You can make this with regular flour tortillas or do what I do and use corn tortillas if you need or want to serve a gluten-free meal. Remember that corn tortillas tend to crumble, so you’ll need to be extra careful when rolling the mixture into them. One trick to make it easier is to place a wet paper towel between several of them and microwave them on a plate for 30 seconds before using them.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded chicken
  • 1 large or 2 small cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional—chopped spinach and sautéed onions


Directions:
  1. Spray nonstick cooking spray in the bottom of a casserole dish or baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with 1/4 of the enchilada sauce.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine chicken and optional ingredients. Add 1/4 of the enchilada sauce to moisten the mixture.
  3. Spoon a line of chicken mixture into the tortillas and roll.
  4. Line up the rolled tortillas in the baking dish.
  5. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all of the rolled up tortillas.
  6. Cover and bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the cover and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Chicken Noodle Soup 

I always use gluten-free noodles and sauces. My favorite noodles are rice or quinoa based, but you can use whatever you have in your pantry.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped or shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup shredded or chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 package of noodles (I use gluten-free)
  • Dash of Worcestershire or soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions:
  1. Combine all ingredients except noodles in a large soup pot.
  2. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  3. Add noodles and continue to simmer until the noodles are done (al dente).
  4. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.
Now it's your turn. What do you do with leftover rotisserie chicken?