Tag Archives: travel

oklahoma, bologna and mac & cheese…

So I just returned from Oklahoma where last week I helped celebrate National Bologna Day in the town of Drumright. It’s a long story on how all that came about. Suffice it to say I like to use real locations and real food in my books whenever possible. It helps gives the fictional novels ‘flavor’, figuratively speaking. Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, OK, and their Signature Fried Bologna Sandwich played a role in the plot of my One Night with a Cowboy (Oklahoma Nights), which is what led to me being part of the celebrations last week. You can read more about all of that HERE.

But sometimes I write about home cooking in my novels, and when I do, more often than not, it’s a dish I prepare myself at home. That is true of the Mac & Cheese that the heroine makes for my hero in Midnight Ride (Midnight Cowboys). Here is that recipe and an excerpt from the book. Enjoy! Cat 

Enjoy the Mac & Cheese Excerpt from MIDNIGHT RIDE then scroll down for the recipe

Midnight Ride SALEFinally, she sat and Tyler lifted the fork full of food he’d been dying to try. Flavor assaulted his senses as the rich sharp cheddar filled his mouth. His eyes drifted closed and a low rumble of appreciation came from his throat.

He opened his eyes again to see Janie watching and smiling. “I guess you like it.”

“Oh, my God. This is the best I’ve ever eaten.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thanks, but you don’t have to flatter me, Tyler. I would have invited you to eat anyway. It’s the least I can do in exchange for all you’ve done for me.”

“Janie, there’s one thing you should know about me.” He set his fork down and leaned forward, his forearms braced on the table. “I never mess around when it comes to food. I’m not flattering you. This is amazing.”

“Thanks.” Her cheeks turned pink and he couldn’t help but smile.

“You’re welcome.” Satisfied she believed he was sincere, he picked up the fork again and dug in for another bite. “What’s the spice? It’s not jalapeno.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s a pinch of cayenne. I bought a cookbook the year I got married and I’ve been using the old recipes in it ever since. I know a lot of places use other spices and other cheeses, but I just do the same thing as I always did. Plain old sharp cheddar. Oh, and a little bit of mustard, too.”

“That’s what that other flavor is. Don’t change a thing, whatever you do. I don’t care what else other places are putting in their mac and cheese, you leave yours just as it is.”

She laughed. “Okay. Since you feel that strongly about it, I promise.”

Midnight Ride Recipe: JANIE’S HOMEMADE MAC & CHEESE

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Pinch cayenne pepper, salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste

9 ounces cooked macaroni (elbows or shells—whatever shape you want)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the cheese sauce, melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly as it bubbles but does not brown (about 2 minutes). Add milk, stirring as it comes to a boil and thickens. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and mustard. Lower heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese until melted (about 2 minutes). Set aside.

To make the casserole, in a 1 ½ quart oven-proof casserole dish, put the cooked macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce over the top. Mix gently with a fork. Bake uncovered until top is golden and the sauce is bubbling (about 30 minutes).

Serves four.

Women and Food Quote

 

a writer’s crazy life

It’s the first day of spring and it’s snowing here in NY State, and that about sums up what this winter has been like for me–Crazy!!

I went from sunny and beautiful San Antonio last month, where I enjoyed the Wild Wicked Weekend Reader Author event, the rodeo, the Alamo, and the Riverwalk, to snowy New Jersey tomorrow for the Create Something Magical Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. And in the middle of it all I had three major deadlines and a new release in my bestselling Hot SEALs series.

FB-AD-SEAL-4

Such is the life of a working writer. I’m off to ho my new release but I’ll leave you with some pictures from San Antonio and the historic and reportedly haunted Menger Hotel. Enjoy!

Cat Johnson

Alamo

LonghornsRiverwalk

San Antonio Rodeo

Top to Bottom: The Alamo at night, Me at Longhorn’s Restaurant, the scenic Riverwalk, the famed Menger Hotel Bar, opening ceremony at the San Antonio Rodeo.

 

outlander: highland inspiration

I’ve been watching the new OUTLANDER series on the Starz network. It’s based on the books written by Diana Gabaldon, which I’m old enough to have read (and loved) when they first released fourteen years ago.

The music, the costumes, the spoken Gaelic, the sweeping landscapes and the food and drink in the show are making me remember my own trip to Scotland (which was about 20 years ago. Eep! Time flies.)

I partook of the typical Scottish fare– haggis and local beer. I loved the cheese and my first taste of a ‘scotch egg’. But I also had rabbit, pheasant, venison, and all sorts of other game while there because, for those of you who remember, this was during the “mad cow” scare and eating beef abroad was a bit frightening that year.

Battle of Culloden

Like the show’s heroine, I traveled to Inverness. I crawled through castle ruins. I visited the battlefield and memorial stones of Culloden. I even walked within a few stone circles while in the UK, but they apparently weren’t magical because aside from a tour guide no sexy highlanders appeared to whisk me away to the 1740s. The stone circle pictured in the 1996 paper snapshot below is Castlerigg Stone Circle (circa 2000 B.C.) located not in the Highlands, but in the Lake District off A66 Keswick. It contains 38 stones.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

I found a really cool blog that contains modern takes on historical recipes–the kind which might be featured in the Outlander series. Check out the Outlander Kitchen and make some dishes of your own.

 

travel: boonsboro, md

I’m just back from a fabulous weekend in the Maryland/West Virginia area where I was lucky enough to be invited to sign at the Turn the Page Bookstore in historic Boonsboro, MD with none other than the legendary queen of romance herself, Nora Roberts.

Nora Roberts Book Signing

The weekend started Friday when, after crossing the Mason-Dixon line, I entered Maryland, and drove past beautiful country, revolutionary era graveyards and houses, and Civil War battlefields and landmarks.

Shortly thereafter I checked into the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV. My room and balcony overlooked the Potomac River, the border between the two states. After a sunny drive down, it had just started to drizzle, which was fine because my room had a fireplace in it! Yes, I know, I should have taken pictures. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was too excited about the signing the following day.

Friday night I had dinner at the Domestic in Shepherdstown. They’d lured me in with their Bacon-Ranch Fries I’d seen on the online menu, but once there, I had to also order the homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Smoked Mushrooms and it was to die for!

The following morning I had breakfast at Betty’s, famous for their sausage gravy, and I have to say everything I tried from the menu was incredible, especially the biscuits. Then it was off to Boonsboro, MD where, at 930 am, the line of readers was wrapped around the corner for tickets for the signing that started at noon.

Book signing Turn the Page Bookstore

I explored the town a bit, hit the local antique shop and then it was time to go in and pre-sign the advance orders readers who couldn’t attend had placed for my books to be signed and then shipped to them, a really nice service the bookstore provides.

I estimate close to 300 readers passed through the bookstore, and every one was gracious to all of the authors, whether they were there to see one of us, or just to meet Nora. I didn’t keep count but I must have signed upwards of 50 of my books. Lucky attendees who have been waiting for book 3 in my series, Three Weeks with a Bull Rider, to release next Tuesday got a special treat because my publisher shipped it to the bookstore for the signing early. All in all it was an incredible monumental day I will never forget. I think the fact I look so good and happy in the photo, taken at the end of the nearly 5 hour signing, proves how wonderful it was. The staff and volunteers were incredibly well organized and so welcoming. They even fed us. FYI, when in Boonsboro, try the white pizza from Vesta’s. It passed even the New Yorker test.

I got to see again a couple of readers I’ve known for years, and I got to meet new ones who, thanks to my cover model Keith and my smoking hot cover on One Night with a Cowboy, were intrigued enough to give me, unknown to them, a try.

Afterwards I stopped into Dan’s Tap Room across the street, sampled two microbrews, and then headed back to Shepherdstown to grab some quick Chinese food in town and crash hard in my room in front of the fire and TV after the adrenaline rush of the day left me.

Next trip there I’m vowing to spend more time and visit all the interesting places I drove past, but for a whirlwind trip, I couldn’t be more pleased at how it all worked out. For those who have never been there, you must check out the quaint and historic town of Boonsboro, where Nora Roberts renovated the current Inn at Boonsboro, her husband Bruce runs the Turn the Page bookstore. Even if you can’t spend the night, spend a few hours, sample the local fare, and check out the site. Well worth the trip.

The InnTurn the Page Bookstore

 

travel: las vegas

I’m baaack…and exhausted from my nearly weeklong trip to Vegas where I once again mixed business with pleasure. I experienced the fun and excitement of the Professional Bull Riders world finals with daily events Wednesday through Sunday, which also served as research for me for my two contemporary cowboy series. While there I also attended a fundraising lunch for the not-for-profit Rider Relief Fund on Friday, I signed and gave away to donors a case of books at the RRF booth on Saturday and I had a book signing at one of the Vegas Barnes & Nobles on Sunday. I got to meet up with my readers and other PBR fans whom until now I’ve only known online. I got to meet in person the Oklahoma-based owners and crew of my marketing partner in crime, Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, which appears in all of my Oklahoma Nights romance novels. And in between it all there was the insanity that is Vegas itself.

Here are a few pictures…because we all know what happens in Vegas, no longer stays in Vegas thanks to Facebook and Twitter. 🙂

Enjoy!

Former World Champion Bull Rider Guilermi Marchi  and me

Former World Champion Bull Rider Guilermi Marchi and me (he refused to hold the book with the half naked cowboy on the cover though).

Joseph's Fine Foods

The Joseph’s Fine Foods crew flew to Vegas from Oklahoma to meet me!

Chicken on a Chain

I met one of my favorite bucking bulls, Chicken on a Chain.

PBR red white and blue

We all wore our stars and stripes for the Saturday event’s salute to the troops

The Luxor Hotel Vegas

I slept in a pyramid and saw a sphynx…

 

...and saw a gondolier on an indoor "Venice" canal at the Venetian.

…and heard a gondolier sing on an indoor “Venice” canal at the Venetian.

All in all, it was exhausting and exhilarating. I ate food that was too big, drank Jack Daniels like any good cowgirl or cowboy would, and had a great time with both old and new friends. Now, after a whirlwind spring, summer and fall, I am looking forward to NO TRAVEL for at least a few months because when all is said and done, there’s no place like home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

travel: seattle

I know I’ve been a bit MIA lately. My excuses are many. Deadlines. Edits. New releases. Taking on more writing than I have time for. Becoming obsessed with watching past seasons of Sons of Anarchy. Promo ho-ing, though I must be doing a good job of that. Since I was here last, I hit the USA Today bestseller list with two different books and the NY Times list with one.

Me (left) and Eliza Gayle (right) on a riverboat in Savannah

Me (left) and Eliza Gayle (right) on a riverboat in Savannah

And then there’s the travel… Since I last blogged here I was in Savannah, GA for a convention, and had a whirlwind weekend at the beach in Montauk, NY.

It seems as if I just got home from a trip to Seattle and in just a few days I leave for Vegas. Both of those trips are dual purpose–business and pleasure.

I have a few good pics for you from Washington State, and I hope to have even more from Las Vegas, so stayed tuned. For now, enjoy my visit to the rainy Pacific Northwest. And don’t you all dare comment how that is a myth because the week I was there yes we had some sun, but they also broke records with 6 inches of rain!

Ferry

View of the wheel and Space Needle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

Market

The Public Market sells tons of cool stuff and yes, I saw them tossing the fish

Starbucks

The first ever Starbucks. Imagine when there was only one?!

Superman

At the EMP Museum exhibit I saw Christopher Reeve’s Superman costume

Kirk

Captain James T Kirk’s chair from the bridge of the Enterprise complete with tribbles

Blair Witch

The Blair Witch Project’s witchy thingy

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s Thriller video zombie costume

Inigo Montoya's sword and the Highlander's Katana

Inigo Montoya’s sword and the Highlander’s Katana

wizard of oz

I’m told this original Cowardly Lion’s costume from the Wizard of Oz was made from real lion pelts

Sasquatch-seen often in the Pacific Northwest and a creature who scares the crap out of me FYI

And finally, here’s Sasquatch-seen often in the Pacific Northwest and a creature who scares the crap out of me, much to the amusement of my Seattle friend!

That’s it. It’s off to Vegas for me next and the Professional Bull Riders Finals. I’ll also be having a book signing at the Barnes and Noble on Sun. Oct 27th at 2, and I’ll be at the Rider Relief Fund booth in the PBR Fan Zone Sat. Oct 26th 11-2. More info on my event page.

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

Cat 

 

 

 

 

my favorite things: the beach edition

Getting ready for my annual pilgrimage to the beach in Rhode Island and I thought what a perfect time for another favorite things post–the summer beach vacation edition.

Reef Bottle Opener Flip Flops

In case you’ve doubted it before, yes, I am one cool chick to have around. I can even open your beer on the beach with my shoe with these Reef flip flops! The bottle opener is built right into the sole.

IPhoneCase

A waterproof iPhone case! And it comes in pretty pink for girls. No, I’m not going swimming with my brand spanking new iPhone, no matter what the manufacturer says, but for sand and spill protection, I think this case will do just fine. Picture it–the iPhone stashed safely in the cup holder in the arm of my folding chair. Ooops! Oh no! I spilled my drink in the cup holder! What will I do? Never fear, the phone is safe in the waterproof case. And yes, I’m guilty of stashing my phone in my boobs, and sweat happens to the best of us in the summer…so this will be good for that too! 😉

Limeritas

My new favorite summer drink in a can, perfect for the cooler when you don’t want a beer on the beach. Try a Limerita! Made by Bud, it’s literally a margarita in a can! Comes in original Lime or Strawberry. 8% alcohol.

That’s all I’ve got for you right now. What’s your favorite things for the beach?

random romance (w)riter roles

Think I sit around in my jammies all day and spin spicy sexy tales? Think again. Today I bring you random things romance writers are good at, in no particular order…

Shipping-

Should my writing career bottom out, I could probably get a job at the UPS Store because one side effect of being an author in today’s day and age is shipping stuff. Lots of stuff. Prizes to contest winners. Baskets for charity auctions. Swag to readers. Promo for giveaways. And on a side-errand, shipping things to the deployed troops (using the dreaded customs forms. UGH). I’m at the post office a lot. At least one or two times a week. So I got that skill going for me.

PromoPacking –

I travel to conventions with a 40 pound carry-on bag filled with giveaways. A ten pound laptop case filled with technology and pens/sharpies. And, last but not least, a 50 pound checked bag filled with clothes, costumes, toiletries, and the overflow promo, banners, banner stands, scissors, tape, swag, etc. That’s 100 pounds, carried by me who, when I’m at my best, weighs in at 115 lbs. It takes a lot of time and skill to get it all where it’s going, and at a minimum expense. I managed to get a case of 120 glass shotglasses to New Orleans for a comvention unscathed and for free. That’s talent. At left is the other case I ordered of the same shotglass, tucked neat and safe in my carry-on, this time headed to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO in two weeks.

Travel –

Related to packing but also a bit different, I have become an expert solo traveler. I know to wear no belt, and no shoes with laces. I’ve got my photo ID and boarding pass out, my shoes off, my laptop out, my jacket off and my 3-0z liquids in a clear quart sized ziplock long before I reach the TSA scanners. The agents recognize my vast travel talent and bump me to the expert traveler lane at Laguardia Airport. Expertise has its privileges. I’ve figured out how to send my bags through the scanner in the fewest number of bins and so my most valuable items (wallet, electronics) go through as I walk through so they’re not hanging out unprotected at the end of the conveyor belt while I’m still back on the other side of the scanner. Any jobs out there for professional flyer? I’m your girl!

Promo Ho-ing –

Though on a resume I’d probably have to write Promotions and Marketing or something equally boring. I am an expert at what vendors are best for which promo. Who has free shipping. Who has no set up charges. Whose customer service is the best, and whose sucks. The dirty little secret of being an author today is that writing the book is only step one, promoting it is what they don’t tell you you’ll be spending considerable time and money on. If you’re not a natural ho, this can be challenging.

I was going to list Professional Bum but didn’t because I’m not sure that’s a thing, but I have crafted daytime outfits to write in during the day that are as comfortable as PJs but still look presentable should a deliveryman come to the door.

So there you go. My random skill set that will hopefully keep me off the streets should the world stop loving romance. Let’s all hope that never happens, shall we?

bologna, hushpuppies and smoke sauce, oh my

I’ve traveled enough, you’d think I’d cease to be amazed at how vastly different the culinary offerings are within my own country. Without going very far from home, twenty minutes or less, I can get Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, German, Greek and French cuisine, even Texas barbecue.

What I don’t know where to find in my little corner of New York are hush puppies, or grits, or fried okra, or collard greens, or a fried bologna sandwich.

Keep Calm and Eat BolognaWhat the layman might not realize is that as a writer I have to remember these regional differences while writing stories set in other parts of thecountry. I must remember it’s pop, not soda. It’s a hero or a hoagie, not a wedge or a sub. It’s sweet tea, rather than iced tea. And I have to remember that when my characters stop for a quick lunch in Oklahoma, they’re not going to see the same menu with the same choices I’d see here in NY. And that is why I used for my research the menu of an actual restaurant in Oklahoma for my characters’ date in ONE NIGHT WITH A COWBOY.

That menu from Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, Oklahoma was my first exposure to the existence of a fried bologna sandwich, jalapeno hush puppies and smoke sauce. I wrote it into my book, based a sex scene around it, and even included it in my marketing, because it seems smoked bologna is sexy!

Now, all I have to do is get there and get some!!

city sidewalks, busy sidewalks

The city most famous for its giant Christmas tree, skating rink and holiday windows has now brought Christmas to Broadway in a huge way. Three shows, on limited runs for the holiday season, bring three of my personal favorite Christmas stories to life. A Christmas Story, Elf, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas–all a must-watch for me, usually more than once, every single year.

It’s no secret I don’t love the sunless, godless city of Manhattan, but for Christmas I will venture down. There’s something magical about New York during the holidays. The shops all decked out, inside and out in greens, bows and lights. Though my friends like to drive in and valet the car at the theater, I prefer taking the train into Grand Central. That way you can walk past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the amazing window display at Sak’s, past Radio City Music Hall and the big tree and ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, on your way to Times Square and Broadway.

You have to do the city on foot so you don’t miss a thing. None of the little gems sparkling in the window of Cartier or Tiffany’s. Or the aroma of the nuts roasting in the vendors’ carts. The sounds of the bells on the carriage horses in the streets and the park. Or the thrill of haggling with a street vendor over the purchase of a scarf. Yes, it’s cold. The wind whips through those concrete canyons like nowhere else, but it’s all part of the experience to bundle up and have a cold, red nose. It makes you even more appreciative to duck into a restaurant and enjoy a hot meal and glass of red wine.

This is the city at its best that even a die-hard suburbanite like me can appreciate, and if you’re in town, don’t you dare miss it.

Cat

A Christmas Story on Broadway

Elf the Broadway Musical

Grinch the Musical