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Recipes for the Perplexed: Beginnings

I never learned to cook from my mom, and there my culinary troubles began.

I didn’t want to learn, and she didn’t want especially to teach me, I don’t think. My mother is Hungarian, and she knows all kinds of culinary magic: Chicken Paprikash, nokedli (little dumplings in broth), crepes with poppy seed filling, and túrós tészta, a pasta dish made with egg noodles, sour cream, and sugar.

The only dish I learned to make was the túrós tészta, and I will give you the recipe now, though I warn you that when my mother made this for a group of my friends once, they hated it and one kid actually threw up. I think it is absolute deliciousness, but I also don’t think it is suited to an American taste:


My Mother’s túrós tészta

1 package egg noodles

sour cream

cottage cheese

white sugar


Boil water and cook noodles according to the directions.


While still piping hot, put noodles up in a bowl. Add a dollop of cottage cheese and a dollop of sour cream to the top, and sprinkle sugar over everything. My mother would serve it just like that, and the diner would mix it up themselves. The resulting concoction is creamy, sweet as a dessert, and incredibly filling and satisfying on a winter’s night. Try it at your own risk :)

American food, she did her best, but it was a challenge. So (like many folks in that generation, immigrant kids or not) we got steak and overcooked hot dogs, and chewy spaghetti with greyish canned peas. It worked, I grew up, but it was not a gourmet experience.  I think my mother was much more intent on me getting somewhere in life using my brain and not my kitchen abilities…

She tried her best to feed us American style, though. Saucy Susan was a big thing at my house, a sweet orange glaze that went on all meat products. My mother also had a habit of adding canned pineapple sections to things and proclaiming them “Hawaiian.” She used to make Hawaiian beef tongue often, and it was enthusiastically received at home. So I gotta tell you, the culinary standards were not standard, and I didn’t do much to learn what my mother did know. I pretty much avoided the kitchen altogether.

Fast forward to my current life, where I am the mom and I have a house of kids to feed every night. I don’t make them Hungarian dishes…I tried goulash once, and it didn’t go over very well.

But what I do try to go for is that warm satisfied feeling I used to get from my mom’s noodles, or my grandma’s perfect palacsinta stuffed with poppy seeds or chestnut puree. That happy, homey feeling. My goal with this cooking stuff is to see if I can conjure that feeling on a regular basis.

Maybe not every night…maybe pizza delivery plays a bigger role in my kitchen repertoire than I want to admit LOL. And during deadlines, my menu often devolves to Deadline Chicken, pizza and eggs (see last week’s post).

But coming together to eat something made special for you, even if that something is little baby hotdogs wrapped in flaky pastry blankets, makes a person feel safe, creates a loving circle of family. Dang that is corny. But it is all so true. And sometimes it’s like the little girl I was is sitting at the table with us, as we eat little hotdogs and talk about soccer teams and trumpet practice.

And that is kind of magical right there.

Uncollected Anthology Issue 6: Enchanted Emporiums

Lang-Fear cover (1)

Fear’s Mirror

by Michele Lang

Viv Levy, owner of the Sacred Circle magic store in New York City, knows she runs a big risk in her job. All kinds of supernatural currents, including quite dangerous ones, run under, through and above the streets where regular people walk. And evil often seeks a place of power…

A mysterious stranger seeks Viv’s help in dealing with a sinister magic mirror, and another stranger arrives when all appears lost. But will Viv herself have the courage to look into Fear’s Mirror?

An urban fantasy short story set in the world of Michele Lang’s Ms. Pendragon series!

“This is simply a fantastic read….Ms. Pendragon has the best Arthur and Guinevere I have seen in years of reading everything I can find about Camelot. Merlin is completely charming, and not since Mary Stewart has Mordred received a better treatment.” – Amanda Killgore, Huntress Reviews (review of Ms. Pendragon)

It’s that time again! Another volume of Uncollected Anthology has gone live :) This month, I got to visit with Viv and friends in the world of Ms. Pendragon…it has been too long since I’ve gone there, and I want to catch up with Merlin, Gwen, Lance, Arthur and all of the people dealing with magic run amok in Camelot and NYC.

I’m part of a writer’s collective that gets together to publish to a theme. This is the last volume of the year and I had so much fun with this issue’s theme, enchanting emporiums…

Uncollected Anthology

uncollected: not collected or gathered together.

anthology: a collection of selected literary pieces.

oxymoron: a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings.

The Uncollected Anthology series is indeed an oxymoron. Sprung from the minds of six fabulous authors who love fantasy, short stories, and each other’s writing, the series’ main goal is to bring you quality urban fantasy fiction.

To find out more about the Uncollected Anthology series, please visit us at

And please check out the other stories in this volume of the Anthology series!

WYWF cover web


“What You Wish For,” Dayle A. Dermatis

Why does a two-thousand-year-old djinn own a convenience store and spice shop in Manhattan?

The world has changed, for one thing, and Wadid isn’t proud of some of the things he’s done in the past. But really, he loves that he can help the magical community—and enhance the cooking skills and palates of some of his customers.

That’s all well and good until two gunmen burst through the front door and threaten him and one of his customers. Wadid breaks his personal code and uses his darkest ability to make them go away.

Not that it matters. Because the next person who walks through the door is the last person he would wish for.




“All Hallows’ Hangover,” Annie Reed

Teddy woke up the day after Halloween with the mother of all hangovers.  The kind that comes complete with wagging tail and a lack of opposable thumbs.

Tabby owns a magic shop that carries just what Teddy needs, but Tabby’s dealing with her own brand of post-holiday hangover.  The last thing she wants in her life is another complication.

Even if this particular complication has the cutest grin and the most soulful brown eyes she’s ever seen.


Leslie Gods cover


“When Gods Hunger,” Leslie Claire Walker

Beth embraces her new, immortal life and forever job as apprentice to Malek, the serpent from the Garden of Eden cursed into human form. Neither immortality nor her magical gig changes her essential curious, risk-taking nature. In fact, the power Malek passes to her opens the door to greater risk—and more disastrous consequences.

When she takes a short cut with her new magic, she finds herself in Hell—or a hell, anyway. She comes under the watchful gaze of a new enemy—a power of Biblical proportions whose unrivaled skill at temptation threatens to trap Beth forever. Finding a way out—a way home—becomes Beth’s priority number one, but there are more lives and souls at stake than her own.

“For more than a decade now, I have adored the work of Leslie Claire Walker.”

— Kristine Kathryn Rusch




“The Sweet Shop,” Leah Cutter

Tong Yi waits for something to happen—for his brother to return from the war zone, for his boss to trust him again, for his magical training to be expanded.

Something. Anything.

Then powerful wizard Uncle Bei takes him to The Sweet Shop—a magic shop more special and strange than Tong Yi has ever imagined.

Tong Yi finally returns to the war zone as well, delivering a message to a client he’d never expected.

But he must now make a decision about the war, about his place in it, about his magical training.

And everything, everything, has a price.

“The Sweet Shop” is a sequel to “Dancing with Tong Yi” and “War on all Fronts,” both also available from Uncollected Anthology


Guest Author


TMB ebook cover lrg


“The Magic Bean,” Rebecca M. Senese

After a safe life, an inheritance affords George the chance to leap for his dream: his own coffee shop. He even finds the perfect spot: a small, rundown shop.

Soon George is planning and polishing. Every day the shop looks cleaner, feels newer. Flaws melt away.

But every night strange images haunt him and threaten his sanity.

Is George’s desire to run a coffee shop a dream or a nightmare?


Recipes for the Perplexed: Deadline Chicken (Nano special)

***Note: this essay and recipe first appeared in the wonderful collection Cooking Up Stories, published by Lucky Bat Books and edited by the delightful Louisa Swann and Dayle Dermatis. If you like writing, cooking, or both, check out the whole collection***

I made a whole chicken yesterday, and the burnt little things are carrots...
I made a whole chicken yesterday, and the burnt little things are carrots…

(In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I offer for your procrastinating pleasure a short meditation on family, eating, and the things that matter…plus a bonus recipe that actually rocks. If you are writing a novel this month, try this recipe. It might save your life!)

In days of yore (like, when I was in my 20s) when any kind of deadline loomed, my food choices quickly devolved to, in order: (1) delivery pizza; (2) hard boiled eggs; (3) chocolate and (4) nothing. Though this sad diet kept me more or less alive when chasing a deadline, the headaches, dizziness, etc did not do much to help me to hit my target.

Then I started having kids (I have three hungry, growing boys now) and the above strategy no longer worked. No matter how heinous the deadline, those little guys had to get something good to eat or a mutiny would soon be on my hands! The pizza worked once or twice, but after that…oh my.

The following recipe emerged in the midst of my desperation. It was 2008, and I had a two-week old baby at home when I got my edits for my first NY published novel.

I had two weeks to edit the whole kahuna. No brain cells, certainly no time to cook a lasagna and throw it in the freezer for just such an emergency. A houseful of hungry guys. AND my husband worked long and hard hours, so he did his best to bring groceries in but wasn’t around to help any more than that.

This chicken dish is amazing. I have made it while bleary-eyed, feverish AND nursing a baby at the same time…and it came out fine. I originally named it Coma Chicken for truly many a time I *was* nearly in a coma when I made this, and it comes out great even if you are barely alive when you cook it.

My dear husband begged me to change the name, because he hated the thought of me being in a coma even as a joke, and it messed with his appetite, which is a real crime considering the tastiness of this dish. So I happily re-named it Deadline Chicken. Now when this dish appears on the table, there’s an added benefit — my little guys know that a deadline is looming once again, and they know to back away slowly once the dishes are done.  What’s not to love!

And now, my friends, I give to you my secret, easy recipe for Deadline Chicken!


1 three pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 baking sheet


Kosher salt

Garlic powder


Dried rosemary (or fresh thyme if you have some)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (traditional chicken temp is 350 but I like the crispiness when I cook it a little hotter than that)
  2. While oven is firing up, put chicken pieces on the baking/cookie sheet. Do not oil the sheet — you are dry roasting this bird. If the chicken is damp for any reason, pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Sprinkle spices over the pieces, and use a heavy hand. Simple salt and pepper would be enough, I guess, but I enjoy these four: kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika (for lovely golden color) and dried rosemary.
  4. When oven is at the right temperature, pop the sheet with the chicken into the oven. Middle or lower-middle rack is good. Set your timer for 50 minutes.
  5. When your timer goes off, take out the chicken, put it on a serving plate. That’s it!

Every time I have cooked this dish, the pieces come out crispy and flavorful, with moist, juicy chicken inside.

  1. OPTIONAL: for added nutritional goodness, once you’ve thrown in the chicken, get another baking sheet and cover it with some nice roasting vegetables. Here are some suggestions:

*cauliflower, cut up and sprinkled lightly with sea salt and olive oil

*onions, carrots, and celery, cut up with a little salt. If you dry roast these they get all crunchy and sweet and yummy

*some sweet potatoes, scrubbed and as is

*acorn or butternut squash, cut in half with maybe some oil or butter if you want (I do it plain)

Throw in the vegetables once you’re done cutting them up and let them cook at the same time as the chicken.  When the chicken is done so are the veggies. (The potatoes might take a wee bit more time, so if you have big potatoes throw them in as the oven is warming up.)

And that’s all there is to it. If this dish doesn’t work for you, please write to me and let me know what happened because I am a primitive cook and this recipe has never failed me. Enjoy!



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