Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What's in a Name?

Debut of cover for book-in-progress
A duke's daughter proposes marriage to the retired colonel of the 10th Hussars

~ * ~


For me, the answer to that is: Everything. Names have power. (And that's not a fantasy allegedly perpetrated by tribal lore or certain religions.) Names have weight. Names tell us who a person is, often what a person is. For example: Mark Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, The Great Widget Company. Technically, I suppose CEO is a title, but it is also a form of Identification. Those three little words tell us something about Mark Wilson. If you introduced your character as "Mark, CEO of The Great Widget Company," he immediately loses stature. "Mark" works in the mailroom. Even "Mark Wilson" can be anybody, from basement to executive suite. But put the three sections together—Mark Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of The Great Widget Company—and you have a "somebody." 

Although it's not necessary to write out CEO, those words also add importance to Mr. Wilson's name. We see the acronym "CEO" so much we don't stop to think what it means. "Chief Executive Officer" rings a much louder bell. As for "The Great Widget Company" . . . well, firstly, I'd hope you'd choose a more auspicious name for your fictitious company. But keep in mind that the three parts of that identification add up to who (Mark Wilson), what (CEO), and where (Great Widget Company), three of the most important aspects of identifying a character well enough so readers aren't left scratching their heads about "Mark," asking who he is, what his job is, or where he's doing it. Yes, the "why" remains to be told at a later date, but in nine short words you've said enough to keep your readers with you long enough to discover the rest of Mark Wilson's story—whether he's a hero, villain, or secondary character.

Opening Paragraphs:
Get those identifications in there right up front (exception - see Action Scene below). Don't wander around with a whole slew of Dick and Jane first names and expect readers to figure out who you're talking about. Your characters' last names give them substance. And if you're writing in an historical setting, last names are a "must." First names were rare, even in the United States, until within the last sixty years or so. 

When introducing a character, go beyond names, if possible. Give us at least a hint of who these people are the moment they make an appearance in your story. "Jane Beresford's friend, Emily."  "George, Ben's partner at the law firm."  As an example of something a bit longer: ". . . Jack Phillips. She'd heard he belonged to the East Side Raiders, but that was hard to believe. He didn't have the swaggering, hardened look of a gang member."

Keep in mind that historical times were generally more formal, the men identified mostly by last names or titles, noble ladies by their titles (Lady, Mistress, Dame, Missus); female servants by first names, male servants generally by last names.

Whatever you do, do not toss out a series of first names (or even full names) and let them lie there, writhing, while your readers try to figure out who is who and what they're doing in your story. Identify, identify. Identify. Whether you're on the opening paragraphs or way over in Chapter 26. 

Opening with an Action Scene:
Your writing style needs to fit the scene - short, sharp sentences for fast action. And it's a time when you can fudge the introductions a bit. The hero or heroine may be identified by first name only, their friends and/or enemies as briefly as possible, saving full identification until a less busy moment. Just don't forget to get the info in there as soon as feasible! 

Grace note:  the above advice also applies to most stories written in first person, where full names, even first names, are more difficult to work into the opening paragraphs.

Body Copy:
After you have made sure your readers understand who your characters are, both primary and secondary, do not say, "Okay, I did it. Now I can call them Marcus and Amelie for the rest of the book. Make an effort to refer to your characters in as many different ways as you can. Keep that last name going, the person's title, position, their relation to other people, etc. For example, from my latest Regency Historical, The Lady Takes a Risk:

Hero - Marcus Rexford Trevor, Colonel, the 10th Hussars =
Colonel Trevor, Colonel, the colonel, Marcus, the earl's younger son, husband, brother-in-law

Heroine - Lady Amelie Christabel Beaumont Sherbrooke =
Lady Amelie, Amelie, daughter, the ducal daughter, wife, sister, daughter-in-law  

Secondary Characters - using Major Courtland Randolph as an example =
Major Randolph, Randolph, Courtland Randolph, the major, and (rarely) Court

Again, whatever you do, do not forget to make it clear who each person is and what their place in the story is. And if you can't justify their place in the story, get rid of them! 

Grace note: A secondary character's place may be vital to the story, or he/she might simply be there to provide color. Both are valid reasons for that character to exist. Superfluous characters include those who pop in for no reason, do not advance the story, or do not add the color, humor, etc., that adds to your readers' enjoyment. Kick them out!

Warning: No matter how charmed you might be by one of your Secondary Characters, never allow him/her to overshadow your hero and heroine. If they're that good, give them their own book.
~ * ~
 I decided to challenge myself to see if I put my money where my mouth is (to use an old expression - which I love to do in my books). Below please find the opening paragraphs of several of my books. Decide for yourself if I used the names with clarity:

From my current Work in Progress, The Lady Takes a Risk (Regency Historical):

    It is not easy to be the daughter of a despot duke. For that matter, Lady Amelie Sherbrooke was forced to concede, there were likely earls, barons, tavern-keepers, farmers, soldiers, sailors, tinkers, and tailors whose daughters considered them quite as despotic as the Duke of Wentworth. Which did her no good at all. Misery might love company, but as for finding a way to prevent her betrothal to most the most pretentious, fatuous, unbearable idiot in the ton . . .  

From The Sorcerer's Bride (SyFy Adventure):

Blue Moon
    How had he gotten himself into such a fydding mess?
   Jagan Mondragon, Sorcerer Prime of the planet Psyclid, stood at a high window in the Round Tower at Veranelle—once the summer retreat of the royal family—and scowled at the glowing orb of his home planet hanging low in the night sky. A few hours ago he had been down there, witnessing without protest his betrothed’s marriage to the leader of a hopeless rebellion. His woman, smiling, turning up her face to be kissed by a fydding Reg.

From Tarleton's Wife (Regency Historical):

January 1809 - Northern Spain
    “Major! Major!” Lt. Avery Dunstan burst into his major’s room after a token scratch at the door. Slamming it shut behind him, he leaned against the door, gasping for breath. Relief lit his youthful features at the sight of Nicholas Tarleton.
    “I’ve already heard,” snapped the major who had been savoring one of his few moments of comfort and privacy since the army left Salamanca in November. “The transports have been sighted.”
    “Yes, sir!” the lieutenant agreed with enthusiasm, diverted from his mission. “And battleships. Even The Victory, they say.” His hazel eyes sparkled in a face which had softened from exhausted soldier to the eager, boyish countenance of a young man who had barely reached his majority. “It looks like we’re really going home, Major.”

From Paradise Burning (Romantic Suspense): [an "action" scene which manages to get the heroine's last name into Line 4.]


“Almost in.” Kira Malfi’s honey-warm voice pinged off a satellite, crossing thousands of miles as clearly as a call to Boston.

To Mandy Armitage, Kira was a reddish blob of body heat on her computer screen, but in her head she held a clear picture of AKA’s whipcord-fit agent, poised over a keyboard in a dilapidated warehouse on the outskirts of Lomé, Togo, her chocolate-brown skin blending smoothly into the darkness around her.

 From Tangled Destinies (Regency Gothic): [an example of an "action" opening & also "first person" - the heroine's last name does not appear until Page 4]

    As I placed the sleeping baby in her cradle, I heard the click of the latch. In spite of a frisson of alarm, I pulled the bedcovers up under little Sarah’s chin, placed a kiss on her smooth-as-silk brow, and murmured, “Good-night, little one.” Then, and only then, did I allow myself to consider why that click had sent a shiver up my spine.
    It was too early for Nurse to return from supper and a comfortable coze in the kitchen far below. My sister Emilia,  Sarah’s mother, was too weak to climb the stairs. Meg, the nursery maid, would have breezed straight in, bringing her customary cheer and competence without raising goosebumps on my arms and a chill in my soul.
    “Good evening, Lucinda.” The satisfaction in my brother-in-law’s baritone had me fisting my hands before I slowly turned to face him.
From The Art of Evil (Mystery): [another "first person" book where it takes until page 2 for a full name - but please note I said, page 2, not page 22 or 122!]

    There’s something about a naked man seventeen feet tall.  Even if he’s bronze and pushing one hundred.  I eat lunch with him twice a week, thanks to the machinations of my Aunt Hyacinth.  More accurately, my great-Aunt Hyacinth, the sister of my mother’s mother, and the only person in our whole extended family who’s never had to work a day in her life.
    “Go visit Aunt Hy,” my mother told me.  “Florida’s the perfect place to recuperate.”  She paused, pondering her next words, an unusual move for my mother who is seldom at a loss on any occasion.  “Your Aunt Hy has always been a bit—ah—different,” she confided.
    As if I didn’t know.
    “But, lately,” she continued, “well . . . I’d feel much better if you were down there keeping an eye on her.”
    There was more, I knew it.  After all, when had Aunt Hyacinth not been strange?
    “You know, Aurora”—I winced at my mother’s use of the name she had inflicted on me in an excessive burst of romanticism some twenty-nine years ago— “your Aunt Hy is very wealthy and has no children—”
    “Mom!” I cut her off, nearly strangling as I repressed a screech unsuitable to my proper New England upbringing.  “Aunt Hyacinth lives in a condo at the Ritz.  With a housekeeper and a maid.  Believe me, she plans to spend it all.”
    “Nonetheless,” my mother decreed, “you have several months of recovery ahead of you and Florida is the ideal place to be.  Aunt Hy tells me she’ll be delighted to have you, so you might as well start packing.  It’s the perfect solution to your problem.”
    My problem.  That’s as close as we’d ever come to talking about my problem.  My “accident.”  My probable career change.  The great red blob in the middle of the white rug that everyone pussy-foots around and no one ever mentions.  I guess I should have been grateful my parents recognized I wasn’t yet ready to face the monster in the closet.  Correction.  My particular monster refused to be relegated to a closet.  It hovered beside me every minute of every day, hissing in my ear, Screwed the pooch, didn’t you, girl?  Messed up big time.  Pay for it the rest of your life, you will, Rory . . . Ro-ry . . . Ror-r-ry . . .
    Mom may have tippy-toed around the crisis in my life, but on the subject of my visit to Aunt Hyacinth she was inexorable.  Okay, so I’d go to the land of the has-beens, the cast-offs, the seniors who alleviated boredom with endless rounds of golf and shopping while they longed to be back in the boardrooms and teeming activities of the North.
    Or so I thought, while sunk in depression in my parent’s Connecticut living room with its great bay windows overlooking Long Island Sound.  Connecticut, the land of real people—the movers and shakers, from the rich-as-sin to university intellectuals, with a few dons and capos still clinging to the good old days.  Florida, in contrast, was the end of the world.  Exile.  I’d be fallen off the edge of the map, lost in the place that used to be labeled, “There be dragons!”
    Some dragons!  White-haired seniors with quad canes or walkers, creeping along with oxygen bottles at their sides.  And Rory Travis fitting right in.  In fact, it was a good bet most of the seniors could outdistance my hobbling steps nine times out of ten.

~ * ~
Next week (probably): Bacon Bread and Beauty & the Beast

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Write a Bad Book

Caption of photo from 2014: "Evidently Florida alligators have taken up sign-making."

Python Update:

Heard on the local TV news this week (hopefully I got the facts straight): The State of Florida has come up with enough money to hire a "Python Posse": 50 hunters who will be paid minimum wage plus $50 per python & $25 for other snakes. It will be interesting to see if this approach is an improvement on the free-for-all python hunt in the Everglades, which hasn't put much of a dent into the reptile population so far.


In my final post on writing a Series, I mentioned a book I was trying to get through just so I could make notes on all the things that were wrong with it. In the end, unable to torture myself any longer, I archived the book well short of the end. The incident did, however, inspire me to come up with a list of what made that book, and a few others I've run into, so torturous to plow through. 

The Three Basic Essentials of Writing a Bad Book:

CHARACTERS. Don't tell readers who your characters are - just start talking about them - they'll catch on. Don't tell us your characters' last names or what they do, where they live. Don't show us how they think. Just chatter on, assuming we know all the things you know about them, even if you've left most of it in your head instead of putting it down on the page.

PLOT.  Plots are so bothersome - they require thought. Why bother? Just toss in any old mish-mash of ideas. And if one plot is good, three or four is even better, right? But don't bother to explain which is which, or how or why you jumped from one to another. I mean, readers like to be confused - after all, that shows you're smarter than they are. Clarity, shmerity, who needs it?

WRITING. What's hard about writing? You just sit down and do it. One sentence after another - noun, verb; noun, verb, etc. Don't forget to make every sentence declarative. No opening clauses with -ing words, right? Or, heaven forbid, a preposition. Every sentence "complete," just the way your English teacher taught in school. No fragments. No exclamations. No italics. No variety. "Tell" everything from the author's Point of View, just like a storyteller in the tales of old. 

Grace note: Okay, you get the idea. but since I have the horrible feeling some people might miss the irony above and not notice I'm talking about writing a BAD book, I'm going to switch to a more positive mode for the list below.

The following list is not in order of importance. (They're all important.) I'm sure I've left many vital things out. So feel free to comment with any writing faux pas you'd care to add.

1.  Lack of Identification. Every time a character is introduced, not just in the opening chapter, you need to tell readers who this person is. It might be as simple as saying "Jason, Earl of Warchester," instead of a simple "Jason," or "Kitty, Lady Mary's maid," instead of "Kitty." Don't leave important facts in your head. Give readers all they need to know to appreciate the characters you've created.

2.  Lack of Dialogue.  Back in the 19th c. authors like Dickens could get away with page after page of narration. In the 21st c., no way, no how! Readers will not plow through it. Yes, narration is important, but it needs to be enlivened with meaningful, credible, interesting dialogue. (NOT a wandering kaffeeklatch of words, cute but going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.)

3.  Lack of Narration. Not as common as lack of good dialogue, but I've read books where the dialogue went on and on, and readers never had an opportunity to know the identities of the people speaking, no idea of what thoughts were going through their minds. No idea of where they were or how they got there. No idea of what they're doing while they're talking. Well-written narration - identification, thoughts, actions, setting, etc. - is vital to a good book. And good balance between dialogue and narration is essential to every book.

4.  Introspection - too much or too little. Looking inside the heads of your main characters is a top priority. Readers don't want to be told what these people are thinking. They want you to get right inside their heads - let us see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel. But we don't want you to spend page after page in there, writing an entire book of introspection; for example, waxing eloquent on the heroine's thoughts and emotions for page after page with no dialogue, no action, no story. Let your main characters reveal their thoughts, but not ad nauseum. Keep the story moving.

5.  Repetition. Yes, there's a certain leeway when it comes to repetition. We all know how easy it is to miss key points. But if you must repeat something, try to say it in a different way. Also, watch your paragraphs for repetition of words. Just this week I was editing a book where one word appeared three times in the same paragraph. Don't do it!

6.  Lack of Credibility. If you absolutely must have a plot situation that stretches credulity, then you have to work hard at justifying it. And if you can't, change the situation to something your readers can believe. I absolutely gaped at a certain plot development in that book I couldn't finish. Yes, the author acknowledged it was unusual but did nothing to make this outrageous situation believable. It could have been done, but she simply threw it out there and went on with the story. Sorry, maybe some readers will swallow that, but if you want a build a career, get people to buy your next book . . . 

7.  Lack of Action. Readers enjoy lively dialogue, descriptive narration (as long as it isn't overdone), but after a while they also expect Action. They want the characters to actually do something. It can be a simple as attending a dance or as complex and dangerous as a car chase or a shoot-out, but action is required. Plots tend to flounder without action. (And yes, I'm aware I used "action" four time in one paragraph!)

8.  Wandering Off-topic. Hopefully you have created interesting characters and placed them in a well-thought-out plot, but there's always that temptation to wander off-topic, to write a scene you think is so funny or cute or whatever . . . but has absolutely nothing to do with moving your story forward. Think twice! If the scene reveals more of your heroine's character, if it provides a clue to the plot, etc., well then, fine. Keep it. If not, it needs to go, no matter how clever you thought it was.

9. Secondary Characters Steal the Show. This goes hand in hand with "Wandering Off-topic." Do not let your secondary characters grab the bit and run with it! Secondary characters are wonderful - they add all kinds of color to a book, but they cannot be allowed to overwhelm one or more of the main characters - even if you are planning to let one of them have his/her own book. Save all those details for their book; don't let them draw attention away from the hero, heroine, or plot of your present book.

10.  Ignore the Facts. Whether you are writing Contemporary or Historical, please don't be one of those authors who never lets facts get in the way of his/her fiction. Yes, there are some readers who don't care, but most do. Unless you're writing Alternative History, you need to get your facts straight - from actual historical events to the laws of whatever land your story takes place in. In 1810, did clothes have zippers? Did shirts have buttons? Did a young man walk up to a girl he didn't know and just say, "Hi"? Oh, and by the way, did you know a duchess is not a "lady"? And did you know marriages in Medieval times were conducted on the church steps as marriage was a bit too racy a concept for inside?? Whatever you're writing, get your facts straight!

11.  Foolish, die-away Heroines. Barbara Cartland wrote a great many Regency-set novels, bless her heart. All with foolish little twits who get saved by the big strong hero, yay hurray. She even called Peruvian llama "sheep." And her books worked for their time, though having been to Peru twice, the "sheep" bit turned me off her books forever after. But to offer a cliché, that was then, this is now. Heroines are expected to be reasonably intelligent, competent, sometimes heroic. Yes, they can mess up, just as we all do. But they're allowed to be brave, even to the point of rescuing the hero. (Think Stephanie Plum in the long-running Janet Evanovich series or the even stronger heroines who are police officers, soldiers, etc.) 

12.  Do not edit your book. I'm done, I got it right the first time. No need to look it over - I'm a genius. I don't make mistakes. My book is perfect just the way it is. Okay, KDP, here I come! This, of course, is the kind of thinking that results in those apologetic second-time-around books "completely re-edited," etc. that appear from time to time on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing pages. Sigh. And then there are all the books where the author remains ignorant or I-don't-care about all the egregious errors in his/her book. And we, the unsuspecting reader, buy that book and suffer through it. Or more likely, "archive" it part-way through. I've been preaching on this topic since 2011, so all I'll say here is:  EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK!

~ * ~

Sorcerer's Bride is on sale 'til the end of the month - 99¢
For Amazon link, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

New-to-me Recipes

How time flies . . .

Hailey, Riley, Cassidy - 2006(?)



New-to-Me Recipes

As I've mentioned before, I am addicted to recipes. I tell myself I'm not buying another recipe magazine at the grocery check-out counter, but my resolution fails, time and time again. I save recipes from the newspaper, scribble them down from magazines in waiting rooms . . . Well, you get the idea. But I have a never-ending treasure trove to choose from when teaching the grandgirls to cook. But recently, Cassidy ended up teaching me. When asked if she wanted to make bread or scones the next day, she replied, "Empanadas." Huh? She had to be kidding - her gringa grandmother never made an empanada in her life. But with the aid of Google, Publix (grocery store), and a bit of improvisation, we made 20 empanadas, 10 bacon & cheese (the improvisation) and 10 chicken & olive (from a recipe found on the Net). The chicken & olive recipe will be found below.

Another item I'd eaten at restaurants but never made was Flatbread, but as I went through the Publix check-out, there was this magazine, "Mediterranean Recipes." Oops. And flatbreads were prominently featured. Sigh. Another challenge to be met.

As for the last recipe . . . I admit to making beef stew a time or two, but I had never made Hungarian Beef Stew, a wholly different beast. This recipe I found last week in the Orlando Sentinel, just crying to be tried. No improvisation on this one - I made it exactly to the recipe, and it was the best stew I ever tasted. Perhaps not completely authentic Hungarian Golash, but absolutely amazing. Try it for yourself & see.

        Chicken and Olive Empanadas with Chimichurri Sauce

I was fortunate enough to have all the herbs for the Chimichurri Sauce in my herb garden. But where, oh where, could I find empanada wrappers? With the help of one of Publix's famously helpful employees, I found “discos grandes” in the "International" frozen foods section (10 wrappers to a bag). There were also packages of smaller wrappers, and I think I’ve also seen empanada wrappers in the refrigerated section of the store. You will NOT, however, find them among the dry goods in the Ethnic Foods section.

Note: the following recipes are adapted from those found on the Internet.

Chimichurri Sauce:

1¼ cups lightly packed parsley leaves
1 cup lightly packed oregano leaves
½ cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
6 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil


1 pkg. chicken tenders
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
a few sprigs of parsley
1 bay leaf (dried)
1 tablespoon Crisco or vegetable oil
½ small yellow onion, diced

c. ½ cup Swiss cheese or mozzarella, shredded (optional)
Kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped *

*I used sliced olives right out of the jar


Chimichurri sauce: Combine parsley, oregano, cilantro, garlic, red pepper & c. 3/4 teaspoon salt in food processor.** Process until coarsely chopped. Add vinegar & pulse to combine. Scrape mixture into a bowl & whisk in oil & 2 tablespoons water. Set aside. Note: The sauce can be made a day ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.

**Original said 1½ teaspoons salt. Also, in my mini processor I chopped the ingredients separately, mixing them later.

Filling: Put rack in upper third of oven, preheat to 425°. Place chicken in a large sauce pan. Add chicken broth, parsley & bay leaf. Cover and simmer on medium-high about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat into large pieces (I used a fork). You should have about 2 cups. Place in a medium bowl. Reserve ½ cup broth.

Wipe out saucepan; heat it over medium heat, add Crisco. When melted, add the onion, season with salt, stirring until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Stir in flour. Whisk in the ½ cup broth and let it bubble and thicken, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, add chicken and olives; mix. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes.

Empanadas: Place a small bowl of cool water by your work surface. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Working with 1 wrapper at a time and keeping the rest covered, brush a little water on one edge of the wrapper. Put 2 tablespoons* of filling in the center of the wrapper & fold in half. Use your fingers to press out the air, making a border of about ½ inch around the filling. Press with a fork to seal edges. Transfer to the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining wrappers & filling.

Grace note: if using shredded cheese (not in original recipe), sprinkle it on the flatbread before adding the chicken mix.

*Probably for smaller empanadas than the “discos grandes” Cassidy and I used. Our bacon & Swiss cheese empanadas were "thin." The chicken & olive recipe, however, made 10 fat empanadas.

Egg wash (optional) : In a small bowl, whisk one egg; add ½ cup water. Whisk together. Brush egg wash on top of empanadas.

Bake empanadas until golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Serve warm with chimichurri sauce.

Grace note: other empanada recipes can be found on the Internet, including one called, Spanish Beef Empanadas with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.


Grace note:  You can find recipes for Flatbread dough on the Internet, but most of us are too busy. I recommend buying pre-made flatbread from your local grocery or, as I prefer, Naan bread. Both are perfectly sized for individual servings. Flatbread toppings are as many as your imagination will allow. I've copied two of those I most enjoyed below.

Smoked Salmon (Lox) and Chard Flatbread

2 Tbspn. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. rainbow (or red) Swiss chard, stems removed & chopped
½ cup golden raisins
1 5.2 oz. pkg. semisoft cheese with garlic & fine herbs
4 oz. smoked salmon, broken into pieces
2 Tbsp. purchased balsamic glaze*

2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts**
Ready-made flatbread or Naan

*found in the vinegar section of larger supermarkets
**I did not bother to toast the nuts

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion & garlic; cook & stir 3 minutes. Gradually add chopped chard stems; cook 10 minutes or just until tender, stirring occasionally. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until wilted before adding next batch. Add raisins; cook 5 minutes or until chard is tender, stirring occasionally.

Warm purchased flatbread in microwave. Spread cheese over flatbread. Top with salmon & chard mixture. Drizzle with balsamic glaze; sprinkle with pine nuts.


Pesto-Prosciutto Flatbread
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
3 Tbsp. dried tomato pesto
4 oz. provolone cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup baby arugula
Ready-made flatbread or Naan  

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium heat. Add prosciutto. Cook, stirring occasionally until brown & crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Spread pesto over dough. Sprinkle with prosciutto and cheese. 
Sprinkle cornmeal on sheet pan, top with flatbread. Bake c. 6-8 minutes until flatbread is heated and cheese melted. While flatbread is in oven, whisk together 1 remaining Tbspn. olive oil and lemon juice. Add arugula, toss to coat. Top flatbread with arugula mix. 

Hungarian Beef Stew

Sorry, no photo available - frankly, it doesn't look like much, but the taste is marvelous. And so very easy, except patience is required for the time needed to cut up the veggies!

1¼ pounds beef stew cubes*
1 lb. fresh carrots, sliced or in small chunks
2 med. onions, thinly sliced
3 cups thinly sliced cabbage
½ cup dry red wine
1½ cups water
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 envelope dry onion-mushroom soup mix
1 Tbspn. paprika
1 tspn. caraway seed
1 cup reduced fat sour cream

*My current Publix provides perfect bite-size beef cubes with little fat. This isn't always true. You may need to buy enough to cut cubes smaller & trim the fat.

In a 4-qt or larger slow cooker, combine all ingredients except sour cream. Mix well. Cover & cook on Low for 8 hours. Turn off cooker; stir in sour cream & serve.

Suggest you have a loaf of crusty bakery bread or perhaps cheese biscuits on hand to serve with the stew.


Sorcerer's Bride is on sale this month - 99¢. For a link to Amazon, click here.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.