Killer Recipes Even a Klutz Can Cook!


Congratulations to contest winner Linda Lovely.

Cindy Sample's Hot Cha Cha Cha Chipotle CakeThere’s a nasty rumor going around that I can’t cook.  I’m not sure where this rumor started, but I’m guessing it began somewhere in my kitchen. Maybe near that burner that ignited the last time I tried to sear a salmon.


Possibly it originated in the microwave. Have you ever seen a hot dog explode? It’s quite a sight.


I’m still peeling dried sweet potato fluff off my kitchen cabinets from last Christmas. They did add a nice orange luster to the oak, though.


The cooking gene seems to have skipped a generation in my family. Fortunately, my children determined at an early age that they preferred to eat food that did not come packaged in Styrofoam cartons, so they learned to cook to avoid starving to death. My daughter particularly excels in baking any recipe that involves chocolate, while I excel in eating any recipe that involves chocolate!


When All Romance e-books asked if I wanted to be included with the hottest romance authors in town, and all I had to do was contribute a recipe to their new Passionate Cooks, I immediately said yes. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like my inability to distinguish between a TSP. and a TBSP. stop me from swapping recipes with other romance authors.


These ladies have crafted sizzling recipes with even more sizzling titles. Who could resist Sensual Sticky Buns, Date Me – Baby, Passionate Pesto Pasta, Smokin’ Hot Bourbon Beef, and my particular favorite, Sexy Stromboli.


I have no idea what Sexy Stromboli is, but I definitely want one. I’m just not sure if I want it in the kitchen or my bedroom!


My own contribution is a recipe that was not handed down from generation to generation. It was handed up from my daughter. With a slight tweak from moi. In honor of my passion for ballroom dancing, I’ve named it Hot Cha Cha Cha Chipotle Cake.


Once you’ve eaten a slice, you’ll need to cha cha off those tasty calories.

Behind the Scenes at Left Coast Crime

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a mystery convention? Shaking your head no? That was my initial response in March, 2009, when Robin Burcell asked me to co-chair LCC 2012 in Sacramento. I don’t know whether it was a lack of caffeine or too many piña coladas but I said yes, and raced off to share the good news with my agent. She immediately responded with something unprintable which boiled down to “Are you nuts?”
 
Cindy & Robin Take One for the TeamChairing a convention provides unique insights and mass quantities of emails. For instance, it took at least 250 emails before we discovered that dessert choices for a banquet should not be democratically decided by committee. This, of course, forced Robin and me to submit to a dessert tasting. A tough job, we know, but those carbs kept us fueled for weeks, and just in time to begin the huge task of preparing the program which means moving panelists around a huge matrix in order to provide the best panels for them as well as the attendees. Our program chairs, Marlyn Beebe and Elaine Yamaguchi, worked night and day, and despite a deluge of 2:00 AM emails, maintained their sense of humor.
 
Determining the price of a convention is always a challenge.  Initial registrants lucked in with an early bird fee of $150 and the price gradually increased to the 2012 rate of $225. It might surprise people to know that the meals that were included (2 breakfasts, one reception and an awards banquet) ran $168 per person. Then there are the free book bags, books, cool LCC promo items and program books.
 
You don’t need to be a math whiz to see that the bottom line for a convention can easily turn into something resembling the national debt (minus a few zeros.) Fortunately sponsors such as the MWA, the Sacramento and NorCal chapters of Sisters in Crime, and HarperCollins stepped in to share some of the expenses. A number of publishers graciously donated a truckload of books to fill the book bags to overflowing and to ensure shoulder dislocations among the weak.
 
Cindy and a Rapt AudienceI could go on and on (we all know my babbling skills are excellent) but the bottom line is that running a convention is like strategizing a military campaign. And the real bottom line is represented by the incredible group of people who were willing to put in thousands of unpaid hours to make this a wonderful event. Shout outs go to Sue Trowbridge, our webmaster; Noemi Levine, Treasurer and Fan GOH; Toby Gottfried, official book snarer; Janet Rudolph, publicity chair and master tweeter; Verna Dreisbach, who brought in ad revenue; and Vallery Feldman, who skillfully displayed the ads in the program. A personal thanks to Volunteer chairs, Pat and Larry Morin who worked through the duration of LCC, and without whose assistance, I’d be locked up in a padded cell. Stan Ulrich and Lucinda Surber not only handled awards, signs, and room monitors, but also took care of everything I forgot.
 
The financial benefactor of our convention was the Sacramento Library Adult Literacy Program. Library Director Rivkah Sass provided a stirring tale of the people benefited by this wonderful program. Jean Utley’s auction committee wrapped and tied ribbons for 75 donated silent auction items. Between those items, the raffle for the beautiful quilt created by Pam Dehnke and Vallery Feldman, and excellent auctioneering by Donna Andrews and Harley Jane Kozak, almost $8,000 was raised for this program.
 
Running a convention means you’re exposed to the good, the bad and the annoying. What never ceased to amaze me was the number of volunteers who not only paid the registration fee but also worked tirelessly and cheerfully. Putting on a convention is a labor of love and these folks, and there are many, will hold a place in my heart forever.
 
Cindy and Robin Are All Smiles at the Awards BanquetI’ll always be grateful I had this opportunity to work with Robin, to make new friends, to create a congenial networking atmosphere for mystery authors and fans, and to leave everyone with wonderful memories.
 
Plus I lost 4 lbs. in 4 days running up and down those darn stairs. Heck of a fitness program!
 
Some folks say e-books will make conventions disappear but based on our 600 attendees, I disagree.
 
The bigger, burning question is whether you attend conventions and if so, what do you get out of them? And if by chance you’re interested in chairing one, please let me know. I have a bridge I’m looking to sell.
 
 

How to (Really) Woo a Woman

Some years a woman will approach Valentine’s Day with a smile and anticipation. Other years she averts her eyes from the overwhelming displays of red and pink heart-shaped items that abound. Some years she may choose to TOTALLY avoid any retail establishment during the month of February.

Not me–I’m in it for the chocolate! When I walk by those garish displays, my heart always beats faster and I begin to salivate. Seriously! Pavlov would have a field day with me. And I know I’m not alone.

Did you know that more chocolate is sold on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year? As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough for a holiday. My friends refer to me as a chocoholic, and it’s a status I wear proudly. Between the anti-oxidants and endorphin lift, I see no reason why chocolate isn’t its own required food group. In fact, it’s practically medicinal. Why else would my HDL be 120?

I’m also a chocolate purist. That means don’t mess with my chocolate. No nuts, no fruit. If you must smother something with chocolate I can tolerate a raisin or two, but as far as I’m concerned, this bean was meant to be savored in its true form. (As for those new bacon-flavored chocolate bars, I won’t even lower myself to discuss them. Pork and beans should meet in a pot, not in a candy.)

Men frequently wonder what to give the special woman in their lives for Valentine’s Day. Flowers are lovely, but their beauty and fragrance are short-lived. Diamonds are forever, but they are also expensive. Lacy lingerie? Honestly, who’s that gift really for?

So what’s the best way to woo me? I may as well admit it–I’m easy. Thrust a box of gooey chocolates in my direction, and I’m yours. Every day, as I savor a piece of joy from the box you personally chose for me, I’ll also savor your love.

On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t refuse a chocolate-covered diamond.

So gals and guys, I would love to have you share your best or worst Valentine’s gift or experience. (And if the best one wasn’t from or with your spouse or the worst one was, I promise not to tell.)

Since February is heart awareness month, I will donate $1.00 to the American Heart Association for every commenter on this blog. Comment by February 15th, and you’ll also be entered to win a $25 Godiva gift card.

Remember, dark chocolate is a heart-happy food.

MY 2011 TOP TEN NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Book WormAND THE WINNER IS: Cynthia Farrell (Comment #23)



10. I will never use the words “I should have or I could have” again. Yes, I should have bought Apple stock last year instead of apples. But I didn’t. So be it.

9. I will not spend $100 in order to save $50. No matter how great a shopping deal I can find, it is just not good arithmetic.

8. I will exercise every day. My exercise program will not consist of short jogs to and from my emergency stash of Kit Kat bars.

7. I will dance naked in the rain. (I’m just checking to see if you’re still with me.)

6. I will write every day. My grocery list will not be included in my word count.

5. I will clean out my garage. (Hmmm, I think that’s a repeat from my list in 2007, 2008 and 2009.)

4. I will not give my children unwelcome advice. (My kids are probably ROFL at this one.)

3. I will encourage my friends to take yoga classes. It’s wonderful for the body and the soul, AND I’ll actually start taking them myself.

2. I will remember to use the coupons accumulating in my junk drawer before their expiration date. (I might even clean the junk drawer!)

1. I will strive to be a better person, to appreciate the many joys in life, and to share them with my family and the wonderful friends who are such a significant part of my life.

Let me know what your # 1 resolution is for 2011. If you comment by midnight January 8th, you could win a little piece of paradise – a gift basket composed of Kona coffee, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and whatever cool things I discover when I visit the big island in a few days. It’s the perfect place to hibernate and finally finish DYING FOR A DANCE!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!