Simple Everyday Cooking #MFRWAuthor

It’s no secret that I love to cook. In fact, I’m planning an upcoming book with a chef-owner of a farm-to-table restaurant just because it will make me happy to write about someone who likes to cook, too. This is one of the ways writers infuse our personalities into our work — we give our characters tastes or hobbies that match ours. In Daring Sarah, the heroine discovers a love of hiking and mountains mainly because I also love that. It was so much fun to write about Sarah’s adventures that I knew I would have to feature a chef in a future book, and that chef will be as interested in simple, fresh, vivid flavors as I am.

I’m more a cook than a chef — I like simple foods, and I tend to keep a lot of the same things on hand and repeat many of the same recipes. So when the MFRW 52-week blog challenge came up with “Share a Recipe” this week, I knew the accent would be on the things I make frequently.

You can always find a jar of this condiment on the top shelf of my fridge.

carrot jalepeno

Carrot-Jalepeno Relish

2 cups jalapenos, chopped (about 10-12 peppers)
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped (about 4-6 carrots)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 onion, chopped

Put it in a pot and simmer for one hour. (How easy is that?)

We use this on salads, tacos, or mixed into rice and bean bowls — it’s sweet and hot and so, so delicious.

This is an everyday lunch for me, a recipe provided by an Egyptian friend who says fava beans are a regular feature in her family’s diet. One of the fun things about being vegetarian or vegan is that we do tend to scour other cultures’ cooking habits for the really good bean recipes. This is one of them, and it’s both filling and very low in calories.

fava salad

Fresh Fava Bean Salad

1 cup cooked fava beans
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber
Dressing: Juice of 1 lemon mixed with 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and cumin

Just mix and enjoy! You can adjust the garlic and cumin to taste — I tend to go a little heavy on the garlic.

Finally, this is my go-to recipe when I need some comfort food. I don’t know what it is about pancakes, but eating them always makes me feel warm and cozy inside.

banana pancakes

Banana Pancakes

2.5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups almond milk (or regular milk, if you eat dairy)
1 banana, mashed

Mash banana thoroughly and mix it with the milk. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix wet and dry together into a smooth batter. Cook on a nonstick skillet and serve warm. Great topped with fresh berries or other fruit. For a stronger banana flavor, use two bananas instead of one. For a special treat, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips or pecans to the batter before cooking. Yum!
Makes 12 medium pancakes.

What is your favorite “always make it” recipe?

An Unplanned Absence: I Blame the Walnut

wood chip LK

I love trail running. If you’re not familiar with this activity, it’s exactly what it sounds like. I run on a trail through parks and woods rather than a formal track, treadmill, or other similar surface. We have excellent running and biking trails in the Chicago area, over 200 miles of interconnected paths, and I’m lucky enough to live right near several. I have my pick of trails to run on, including the wood chip trail pictured above. It’s one of my favorite ways to clear my head and burn off some excess energy.

In mid-October, I was running on a cool afternoon and enjoying every breath of the autumn air.  I’d just returned from Florida the day before, and after running in their heat and sunshine, the crisp fall weather was refreshing. Everything was perfect until I came to a patch of trail that was littered with autumn debris. There was a walnut tree nearby, and my left foot caught a walnut, and I fell hard.


Have you seen walnuts right off a tree before? They don’t look like the bagged items in a grocery store! These are not the walnuts that clobbered me, but they are from the same tree. As I ran, I was picking my footsteps pretty carefully, but a walnut was hiding under some leaves and I didn’t see it. Wah!

Long story short, my right arm and hand were out of commission for several weeks, and I’m now the proud owner of several new first aid items, including a lightweight arm sling, a wrist brace, and several finger braces. Here’s hoping I never have to use them again.

It turns out that, in addition to being rather clumsy in the presence of walnuts, I am far more right-handed than I ever realized. Here’s a short list of things my left hand hated doing:

  • Getting the soup from the bowl into my mouth without dribbling half of it all over everything (tomato soup leaves stains, who knew)
  • Turning keys in door locks (which led to me being stuck outside my own home after I went out to get the mail, which in turn led me to install a new punch-pad based entry system — which I *love*, so it’s not all bad)
  • Dialing phones (which made it tricky to order the pizzas that kept me going when I couldn’t use cutlery)
  • Applying makeup (OMG, just forget it unless you want to look like a 3-yo scribbled on your face)

Oh, well. It’s mostly better now, and I’m out of the sling and able to hold a pen again. Still some healing to do, but I’m starting to ease back into my work and pick up the dropped reins. It’s good to be back!

Kayla Drake

Three quotes from very different books #MFRWauthor

Today on our blog hop, we’re talking about favorite quotes from books. I have a collection! I keep them in a little journal with a ribbon marker and elastic band closure. The journal was made by Peter Pauper Press, and it’s about my favorite blank book. The paper quality is delicious! Much thicker than other brands, and there’s no bleeding if you use felt pens. (I’m an office supply junkie. Goes hand in hand with being a writer!) So I can write all my favorite snippets on these archival pages and never worry about bleeding or fading.

In any case, many of my favorite book quotes end up being either about writing or about romance or about motivation. Sometimes about more than one! Here are just a few.

“But the lines were enough. She had only to utter them. They created the character in spite of her.”

~ from My Antonia by Willa Cather, one of my absolute favorite books

I love that quote because it reminds me not to stress out too hard about the characters as I write them. If I’ve done my groundwork and I know who these people are, then I can write them as they are. The lines are enough, and I have only to write them.

“Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.'”

~ from The Talmud

I have lots of angels, people who have taught me things, opened up to me, given me a boost when I needed it. Even when things are tough, there are angels whispering to us. We all have our angels! Look around you — you’ll spot yours!

“[I]n any fiction, no matter how ambitious its scope or profound its theme, there was only ever room for three players. Between warring kings, a peacemaker; between adoring spouses, a seducer or a child. Between twins, the spirit of the womb. Between lovers, Death.”

~ from Imajica by Clive Barker

This is an important reminder that what comes between characters is the engine that drives the story. I first read this book on an airplane, and I remember being so struck by the first paragraph (which develops this idea in detail), that over and over during the flight, I turned back to re-read it. It just made me keep thinking about the way that even abstractions can come between characters and keep them from connecting as we would like them to. But if everything was smooth and happy, where would the story be? We read because we want to see people jump over their hurdles.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

I’m the top October blogger at!

Here’s something fun!


Look at those pretty pink stones! I admit to being a girly girl and liking pink a little more than I should. In fact, if you ever see me in person, chances are I’ll be wearing pink or red, my favorites! So this lovely virtual necklace coordinates perfectly with the real me.

Thank you so much to the Romance Lives Forever blog for inviting me to visit them. And thank you for naming me the top October blogger!


Daring Sarah is now on pre-order sale for only 99 cents!

Guys, guys, guys! I’m so excited! Daring Sarah is up for pre-order on Amazon for only 99 cents! 

This book is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. Sarah really spoke to me as a character. Her heartbreak was so powerful at the beginning of the book, and I just wanted to keep writing and keep writing so that she could have the happy ending she deserved. It was my job — my duty! — to help her come out of her shell of widow’s grief and open up to life again. After you read it, you can tell me whether I got the job done!

DS ebook cover

The benches at the zoo

In Teacher’s Pet, one pivotal scene takes place on a bench at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a free municipal zoo in Lincoln Park, right across Lake Shore Drive from North Avenue Beach. It’s a nice little zoo, and on any pleasant day, you can spot plenty of nannies with their charges wandering between school groups and tourists.

The scene at the zoo starts at the seal exhibit, a popular spot in the center of the zoo. From there, Audrey, Cole, and a couple of surprise visitors move to a nearby bench. As I was writing the scene, I kept thinking about all the benches scattered throughout this zoo that would serve the purposes of this scene. There are long rows of slat benches near the smaller African animals.

zoo bench one

There is a sunny matching slat bench on a pavilion overlooking the waterfowl gardens — I’m a big fan of the flamingoes!zoo flamingo

But some of my favorite benches are near the farm animals and petting zoo — giant slabs of rock that aren’t very cozy, but the kids can’t resist them!

zoo bench 3

So now, when you read that scene, you can see the bench where Audrey has an important conversation with the surprise visitors!