Monday, January 13, 2014

GUEST POST: Author Kimberly Kincaid discusses "food as love"

Welcome author Kimberly Kincaid! You're our first guest on Loving Culinary and we're so happy you had time in the middle of your book tour for PUSHING THE LINE to stop by today! 

If you're not familiar with Kimberly's books, her romances are sexy, fun, and sprinkled throughout with all the details foodies enjoy and her heroines tend to be involved in the food industry. 

Kimberly, I'm turning the blog over to you. Have fun!

In my personal life and in my writing, I live by the mantra “food is love”. So it’s no great surprise that many of my character have professions in the culinary field, and that they all end up touched by food in some way. But you don’t have to be a chef or a foodie to play along. 

In my digital novella, LOVE ON THE LINE (the first in the “line” series), my hero Noah is a rough, gruff cop, a pure takeout food junkie…until he is injured on the job and must rely on a personal chef to keep him from starving. In the story, they make chicken and dumplings together, and it’s a perfect learn-your-way recipe. It’s a warm, satisfying meal, and there’s room for both creativity and a little error (it doesn’t have to be pretty to taste good!) But the beauty of it is, as Noah and chef Violet cook, they’re not just creating a way to feed their bodies, but coming up with a way to nourish themselves (and eventually, each other). And what starts out in the kitchen ends up in the heart.

This carries over through all the “line” books, although Violet is the only actual chef. In book two, DRAWING THE LINE, much of the story revolves around Mac’s Diner and its home-loving owner, Serenity (her signature dish is apple turnovers, and her hero, Jason, is a big fan!) Mac’s is a central gathering spot throughout the series, and the restaurant manager, Jules, gets her happily-ever-after with ER doctor Blake over stuffed French toast in OUTSIDE THE LINES. And just to add something sweet to the mix, candy shop Luscious appears in book four, the recently released PUSHING THE LINE, where reluctant owner Harper serves up all sorts of delectable recipes as she discovers true love with Blake’s cousin, Aaron.

Food is love, indeed!




Here's the recipe I mentioned that Violet taught Noah to make . . . who will you make it with? 
Violet Morgan’s Chicken and Dumpling Stew

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ teaspoon thyme
A pinch to ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, to taste
1 8-ounce package sliced baby Portabella mushrooms, wiped clean
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 32-ounce container chicken stock
1 pound chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into bite-sized chunks
2-3 cups mixed vegetables, such as sliced carrots, small broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, and of course, for Noah, peas. Frozen works just fine, but fresh is okay too
1 cup all-purpose baking mix (for biscuits and pancakes and the like)
1/3 cup milk
½ Tablespoon parsley 
1 teaspoon thyme 

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, until it ripples. Add onion, ½ teaspoon thyme, and nutmeg, cooking until soft and stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic. 

Cook 4-5 minutes more, until soft and fragrant. Sprinkle flour over mixture and incorporate well. Slowly add broth. Bring to a low boil, stirring often.
Add chicken and vegetables. As stew comes back to a boil, combine baking mix, milk, parsley and 1 teaspoon thyme in a bowl. Drop in level tablespoonfuls into the simmering stew and reduce heat to low.

Cover the Dutch oven and cook fifteen minutes longer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with nice crusty bread for dipping and a green salad (just don’t tell Noah there are greens!)
Serves six.
About Kimberly

Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she's not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as "The Pleather Bomber", she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book. Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Her digital “line” series is all about the hot cops and sexy chefs of Brentsville, New York. She is also thrilled to have collaborated on a Christmas anthology with Donna Kauffman and Kate Angell, titled The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, to kick off her Pine Mountain foodie series with Kensington books, to be followed by her first full-length print novel, Turn Up the Heat. Kimberly resides in northern Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters. Visit her any time at or come check her out on Facebook ( and Twitter (@kimberlykincaid). 




Violet Morgan puts the personal in personal chef, catering to clients who want the full cooking experience rather than a culinary drop-and-dash. But when her brother’s police detective partner is injured in the line of duty and needs help during recovery, she makes an exception. Violet lost her father to the job seven years ago, and worries for her brother’s safety every day. The last thing she wants is to get up-close with her brother’s career-cop partner…again. 

For Noah Blackwell, being a detective isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a legacy. So when he’s forced to take mandatory leave and deal with the trauma amnesia keeping him from identifying his shooter, it’s as if insult and injury have joined forces— and now he’s got to deal with an unwanted caregiver on top of it. Never mind that he and Violet shared a steamy, secret kiss last New Year’s Eve. She rejects everything related to the job, and Noah’s not about to be distracted from recovering his memory and getting back to what he does best. No matter how pretty Violet is. 

Despite their differences, Violet and Noah share a surprising bond in the kitchen that grows into something neither of them expect. But as Noah heals and their feelings for each other extend from the kitchen to the bedroom, Violet knows she must make an impossible choice. She may wear her heart on her sleeve in the kitchen, but can she put love on the line? 

When Detective Jason Morgan is tasked with keeping a local restaurant owner safe as part of a make-or-break case, he rises to the challenge. The job is his first priority, and he owes it to the memory of his father, a detective killed in the line of duty, to do it at any cost. But Jason never expected Serenity Gallagher to be so beautiful, so serious...or so tough to protect. Serenity has moved from place to place at the whim of her capricious mother all her life. The last thing she wants is to leave the diner she finally calls home, even if it means being stuck with a sexy blue-eyed detective. But she’s the only witness to a horrible crime, and the man behind it wants her very, very dead. Going into protective custody means survival, no matter how much Serenity hates hiding. 

As Jason and Serenity bide their time together, they are shocked to discover they have much more in common than the surface reveals. But keeping her safe is Jason’s number one priority, no matter how much he’s drawn in by the woman beneath the witness, and Serenity’s past makes it difficult to trust. As the stakes get higher and the spark burns hotter, can Jason and Serenity draw the line? 

As an Ivy League ER doctor who eats double shifts for breakfast (and lunch…and dinner), Blake Fisher has little appetite for anything other than work. Being on the staff at Brenstville Hospital means taking care of people, a need Blake understands all too well from losing his brother to cystic fibrosis eight years ago. When he’s asked to coordinate a carnival fundraiser for the cause, he jumps at the chance to help others with the disease…until it lands him side by side with the one woman he never thought he’d see again: his ex-fiancée. 

Streetwise and rough around the edges, Jules Shaw is no stranger to earning a living through hard work. But when her job as the restaurant manager of Mac’s Diner puts her shoulder to really broad shoulder with Blake Fisher, she nearly balks. She’d rather dodge and deflect than admit the real reason she broke things off, but the catering contract for the carnival means big business for Mac’s, and feeding people is Jules’s lifeblood. 

As Blake and Jules join reluctant forces, they quickly rediscover the spark between them. But the possibility of a future together hinges on coming clean about the past, with potentially devastating consequences. Can Blake and Jules overcome their drastically different backgrounds and learn to love again, or will they always be outside the lines?


Free-spirited artist Harper McGee is happy to go wherever the wind takes her…until her flight pattern sends her back to Brentsville, New York for her beloved grandmother's funeral. Harper’s grief turns to shock, however, when she discovers her grandmother has named her sole proprietor of her candy shop, Luscious. But she has no intention of being anchored to one place, and anyway, she doesn’t know the first thing about running a kitchen or a business. Selling Luscious is the only viable option— until the shop catches fire due to old wiring. Fixing the damage requires major work, and if Harper wants to put it on the market, she needs major help. 

 Thrill-seeking firefighter Aaron Fisher has never walked away from a challenge or a friend. So when a fellow firefighter is hurt on a call and can’t complete a side job for his contracting company, Aaron’s quick to jump in. He’s done plenty of fix ‘er ups for his buddy in the past, and despite his silver spoon upbringing and his no-holds-barred attitude, swinging a hammer suits Aaron just fine. That is, until he discovers the client is the same impetuous woman he forcibly dragged from the flames of Brentsville’s local candy shop. 

The more time Harper and Aaron spend at Luscious, the hotter their attraction burns, daring them both to shed their tough outer layers to reveal the tender desires beneath. But when a buyer makes Harper the offer of a lifetime, she must choose between roots and wings. Can two people who live in the moment learn to see past the moment, or will Aaron and Harper always live their lives pushing the line? 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter comfort food, part two

Well, Winter Storm Hercules was a kind demigod and only delivered a portion of the predicted snowfall in the Hudson Valley, but he brought with him a chill that is felt deep to the bones with temperatures falling far below zero tonight.

So this was the absolutely perfect day to serve a soup that seems to call for weather like this - split pea soup. To me, split pea soup is something that unless the temperatures dip lower than freezing, I find I usually don't have a desire to partake in it. (I know I must be in the minority as it is on menus all year long, but for me, it symbolizes winter comfort.) I began my preparations yesterday using - you guessed it - my slow cooker. This is actually the perfect way to prepare this soup that seems to call for time to meld flavors together slowly.

The first step was to heat the slow cooker on high for a few minutes adding about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.

While that was heating, I chopped one medium onion and five cloves of garlic very finely. Once the oil was ready, I popped the onions and garlic in and stirred this mixture.

The second step was to add the spices to the mixture as it cooked down. I'm fairly eclectic about seasonings usually, but for split pea soup I usually err on the side of tradition - and keep the spices quite mild. I added paprika of course (there is very little this Hungarian girl will not add paprika to). About a teaspoon and a half of Kosher salt and another teaspoon of celery salt. Then I sprinkled everything with my winter favorite - Bell's seasonings that's still packaged in that fabulous paper box. I love both the spice and the way it appears. A true win win situation. The final spice was a dash of Herbes de Provence, my other standby in the spice cupboard.

Onto step three: while the onions and garlic continued to meld their flavors together with the spices, I sliced three rather large carrots into pretty thin circles then added them to the mix and stirred well. I then walked away for about 30 minutes and let the slow cooker do its stuff. That's why I love this kitchen appliance so much and can't believe what a snob I was when I was first given one 13 years ago. I think my comment was, "A crock pot? You know what you're full of! You're implying I can't cook, right?" And the conversation and relationship devolved from there. I've eaten my words, quite literally, since then and found that my slow cooker and I have a perfect understanding!

Step four adds immensely to the flavor profile of the soup, but feel free to omit if you're a vegan or vegetarian. Yes, I finely cube about five slices of smoked ham and add it to the mixture. This smoky flavor I find is what really gives this soup its character and really adds the oomph to the aromas that permeate the house while it is cooking. I use a pre-sliced smoked ham (perfect for sandwiches too), but you could use leftovers from ham that you prepared for dinner, etc. If that were in my refrigerator, I would have done so too.

When everything begins to glisten and the onions and garlic become transparent, you know you're on your way to a great basis for the soup. I walked away once again once the ham was added to the mixture (after stirring it in) and left it to simmer in the slow cooker for another 20 - 30 minutes. By this time my cats were doing a little dance as was my golden retriever as the scent of the ham mixed with all the vegetables was simply enticing - both to them and to me!

Step five is almost the last of the necessary preparation for this hearty winter dish. I added two pounds of dried split peas. You can find these loose usually in health food stores or simply buy them in bags in the grocery store. If bought there, I usually find the Goya brand in this area, but any will do well. Once the peas are added, stir well, and stir again so they become integrated with all the other goodness in the cooker!

The final step is to add the broth and water. I usually use about about a quart of chicken broth that I've either prepare ahead of time (I usually have some in the refrigerator) or one of the prepared versions that are available (I like to use the paper carton of organic chicken broth to cut down on preservatives, etc, that might be found in more commercial broths). Then I fill the slow cooker almost to the top with water, cover, and set it on low to cook throughout the day (if this is the morning) or overnight. Once everything has melded together and the peas are totally soft (no I don't blend this, but sometimes it looks like I might have), I add about a tablespoon of cider vinegar (I use Bragg's). I'm not sure why I started to do this, but have found it aids the digestion of this soup and adds something to the flavor overall. 

Now it's ready to serve. I usually toast some rolls or baguettes to accompany it. Today my neighbors enjoyed a bowl after plowing my driveway out. Instant hospitality and warmth - you can't ask more from food than that!

Enjoy and stay warm during this oh so cold winter evening!

*Remember this recipe is geared to a five quart slow cooker, you'll need to amend this recipe to the size you're working with at home.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Comfort food during a winter storm, part one

As Winter Storm Hercules sweeps into the Northeast, the urge to create warm, safe, and comforting locations for friends, family, and four-legged kin is compelling. Do you find cold and snow to trigger the same compulsions too?

I began pondering what might be the most satisfying meal to have tonight and tomorrow (particularly if the power were to go out during the storm). I remembered that I had made some Winter Chili just before New Year's that probably had aged well. Plus my neighbors loved the chili and they'll be helping me plow and shovel out, if we get the expected 12-16" this Greek demi-god bearing gifts delivers.

As I surveyed the contents of the pantry and the refrigerator, I realized that I could easily prepare some split pea soup for tomorrow. So game plan in place, I began to prepare for the  storm. Without trepidation!

I love my new slow cooker. It's a 5 quart oval shaped one - that, quite frankly, was on sale at Wal-Mart for $16.00. (Who could resist that and it was a Christmas present I got to choose myself!) So far, the few things I've prepared in it, like yesterday's Hoppin' John, have been really successful. But since I'm a Virgo, I'll keep testing it for a while (well, that's what I tell myself I'm doing).

So, while I prep the split pea soup (recipe and photos will be posted tomorrow), I also pulled out the Winter Chili and began to imagine how to dress it for company!

This chili is a real crowd pleaser and again, another recipe that finds it best home prepared in the slow cooker. Here's the lowdown to create it yourself if you're so moved.

Emsy's Winter Chili, slow cooker comfort goodness

Steps 1 & 2: 2-3 cups of dry red kidney beans, 2 cups of white (small) navy beans - soak overnight in about 10 cups of water, then drain and rinse in the morning. Put the beans in your slow cooker, cover with water so that the water is approximately 2-3 inches above the beans, cook on high for about 3-4 hours till almost soft, drain (reserve about a cup or two of cooking water, discard the rest).

Now the fun begins!

Step 3: Pour some olive oil in the slow cooker along with one thinly sliced onion and 5-7 cloves of garlic. Make sure the heat is on high and let this cook for about 20-30 minutes. Add the spices. I use about 3-4 tablespoons of chili powder, 3-4 tablespoons of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of celery salt, 1 teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of cocoa powder, a dash of Herbes de Provence, a dash or two of Kosher salt (to taste), and some crushed red pepper. Stir the spices into the oil/onion/garlic mixture until combined and the aroma tickles your nose.

Step 4: Using1-2 pounds of stew meat, slice the chunks into bite size pieces and stir into the hot oil/onion/garlic/spice mix. Then add about 1-2 pounds of ground sirloin (hamburger) and stir well. I then add about 1/2 - 1 cup of texturized vegetable protein to the mix in the slow cooker and stir really well. Keep slow cooker on high and put the cover back on.

Step 5: I love to add carrots to chili as I think they add both a little sweetness as well as crunch. I love to slice them into 1/4 inch wide slivers about an inch or two long. Once I've sliced about 3 carrots, I add those to the meat mixture in the slow cooker and stir some more. Let this cook for about 10-15 minutes on high.

Step 6: Once all those ingredients have begun to meld together in the slow cooker,  I add a bottle of beer (I used a wheat beer), 1 - 2 cans of diced tomatoes (depending on how large your slow cooker is and how much you like tomato in your chili), the beans, and the reserved water. At this point I'll also throw in some chopped fresh cilantro and parsley (or dried if I don't have fresh on hand). Stir this mixture well and reduce the heat to low.

That's it. Let it simmer for about 8-10 hours on low and your chili will be ready for friends and family to descend. It's great for wintry days like today, football games, parties, and just to have on hand as a quick comfort food that can be reheated easily in the microwave.

I like to serve it with a bit of pizzaz and friends and their children find it fun to create the toppings they like to see. I'll put out bowls of sour cream (some with horseradish mixed in), pickled jalapeños, shredded cheese, tomato and tomatillo salsas, and olives. It's fun to see which combinations are chosen.

Cornbread makes a great accompaniment as does some kale salad. I'll share those recipes later.

I hope you all are either some place the snow isn't flying, or, if you're like me in snow belt territory, that you're staying warm and safe at home.

Happy Winter Storm Hercules, this second day of January 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year Foodies!

Hoppin' John in the new slow cooker simmering away...
This is the year for new beginnings, I've decided. Whether these are personal, professional, or just things never attempted - this is the year to do it!

So, in light of that, for this New Year's Day celebration - this dyed-in-the-wool Northerner prepared Hoppin' John, a Southern tradition featuring black-eyed peas.

For those like me, who've never had it, but have heard tell of this Low Country favorite, it assumes some magical qualities. In all the books and articles I've read recently about New Year's celebrations, Hoppin' John featured in some of them.

So, trying new things, I decided to gather recipes from all over - Google, cookbooks, friends on Facebook - and then make one my own. (Yes, I tweak and play with everything!)

For Christmas I was gifted with a new slow cooker as my elder one of twelve plus years finally gave up the ghost. So, why not make Hoppin' John in the slow cooker? (And then he wouldn't be able to jump too far, right?)

Since the main ingredient is black-eyed peas, I purchased a one pound bag of dried peas (Goya, if you're curious) and then soaked them in water till they tripled in size (about ten plus hours). My next step was to chop very finely approximately three slices of bacon and get that slow cooker sizzling on high. Once the bacon went in, so did a finely chopped onion and seven small cloves of garlic. I seasoned it with about a teaspoon of salt, a dash of Bell's seasoning (I love this mixture-it's really not just for Thanksgiving), and some paprika (I'm Hungarian, paprika finds it's way in everything!). While that simmered, I drained and rinsed the peas; opened a can of diced tomatoes; chopped some pickled jalepenos slices (about 10-15); five roasted red peppers; and three slices of ham. Once the onions were clear, I added the peas, peppers, ham, and tomatoes in along with a quart of chicken stock and a cup of dry rice. Stirred it once or twice, turned it to low, and let it simmer overnight.

Ah, the aroma that greeted me this morning 1 January 2014 was remarkable. As I made my way into the kitchen, I almost convinced myself that my Hudson Valley house had been transplanted to the Carolinas or Louisiana . . . it just smelled Southern and filled with down home comfort.

After letting the Hoppin' John simmer a little longer with some stirring action going on, I added chopped kale to the mix and turned the slow cooker down to "warm." (This is a really great new feature my old one did not have.) While all that goodness was melding together, I prepared some hot & sweet cornbread (I use a little honey, some red pepper flakes, and some dried cranberries to add a little extra to the recipe.)

Oh my, when that cornbread came out of the oven, not only were friends lining up for this New Year's dish, but so were all my four-legged friends. Not only did they go back for seconds, but third servings were seen as bowls were filled and cornbread sliced.

I do have a little left over, but not as much as I anticipated. But that's what I like to see. Food, to me, is a way to serve a little comfort. Friendship and love are as much part of the ingredient list as anything I mentioned earlier. So what a fabulous start to the New Year!

I do hope you'll join me on the adventure that this New Year offers. I'll be posting musings (like this one), reviews of cook books, interviews with authors, reviews of fiction and non-fiction about culinary topics (I love a good culinary romance, don't you?), and just a little bit of everything here at Loving Culinary.

Thank you for dropping by and Happy New Year!