Wednesday Words: Pfeffernusse #recipe

Pfeffernusse (literally translated from the German as pepper nut) is a holiday favorite in my family. While the most traditional recipes include both pepper and nuts, in modern times the recipe often consists instead of a blend of spices akin to what you’d find in pumpkin pie. My family’s recipe is in the latter category. Do a quick Internet search though and you’ll find a lot of variations.

It is often made into a flat-ish round biscuit cookie but my family roll them into balls to cook. In addition, we don’t serve them right away. Instead my mom hid them away in a cupboard to let the spices settle and the cookies harden for a week or two before eating. 

I have eaten the cookies both fresh and after some weeks of resting, and I can’t honestly tell you if they really taste better a bit more stale and crunchy or if it is simply the gemütlichkeit of childhood memories that make me prefer them that way.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. cloves
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. lemon peel

Beat eggs and sugar until thick. Add dry ingredients and blend. Chill overnight. Roll into 1 1/4 inch balls. Bakes on a greased cookie sheet at 350º F for 25 minutes. Best stored for one to two weeks.

Wednesday Words: Sugar #Cookies

Continuing on my recent theme of sharing cookie recipes from my childhood, here is a recipe my mom and I made every year. We often ended up eating at least as much of the raw dough as we baked. Even now I sometimes make this just for the dough. After all, sometimes it’s just not worth the rolling out and cookie cutting. 😉

To distinguish this from other sugar cookies, my mom called these Good Sugar Cookies.

Good Sugar Cookies

  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 t. grated orange peel
  • 1 egg
  • 4 t. milk
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder

Cream shortening, sugar, vanilla and orange peel. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Add milk and blend in dry ingredients. Divide in half. Chill one hour, roll our 1/8″ think and cut. Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 for six to eight minutes.

Wednesday Words: Sour Cream

Since this is the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S. and this holiday is centered around food, I thought I’d share one of my favorite cookie recipes. This is a classic that my family has made for a long time. According to my search on the Internet, this recipe first appeared in Family Circle some 40 years ago. I found the exact recipe my mom gave me on

The key ingredient is sour cream. I often have sour cream left over from Mexican dinners at my house, and it’s actually a wonderful ingredient for baked good to make them soft.

Sour Cream Softies

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (8 ounce carton)
  • cinnamon sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Measure flour, salt, baking powder, and soda into a sifter.
  2. Cream butter or margarine with sugar until well blended in a large bowl: beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Sift in flour mixture, adding alternately with sour cream to make a thick batter.
  4. Drop by by rounded Tablespoonfuls, 4 inches apart, on greased cookie sheets; spread into 2 inch rounds; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. [I generally don’t bother to flatten them and they come out just fine as a regular drop cookie does.]
  5. Bake in hot oven (400°F) 12 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. [Although I find 10 minutes is good enough for me, as I like them not very browned on the bottom.]
  6. Remove from cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks.

Gemma Brocato on Cooking, Writing and Making Things Sizzle

Today I’m happy to welcome Gemma Brocato to talk about one of my favorite subjects: cooking. And she’s sharing a recipe perfect for fall.

I’ve always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. I remember my first attempt at baking a cake, without any help from my mom, at the age of ten. Things went horribly wrong when I added baking powder, instead of baking soda. That darn cake rose in the middle like a volcano. My brother took a toothpick and etched the words ‘Gemma’s Disaster’ in the powdered sugar I’d sifted on top. Daunting? Oh yeah. But I thought about what I’d done wrong and worked hard to learn from my mistakes. And when I won first place in a holiday baking contest with an original recipe, you can bet the first call I made was to my brother.

Writing a book is a lot like following a recipe. You have to know when to gently fold in ingredients, add the right type of spice; when to simmer and when to bring it to a boil. When a dash of this character or a dollop of that one will create the perfect story. And you can’t be afraid mix it up by tossing a few surprise items to turn the heat up to sizzling.

By now, it’s probably obvious I enjoy cooking. No matter if it’s for company, to create new dishes, entertaining a crowd or to feed my family. I’ve spent hours with recipe books and those amazing holiday entertaining magazines from the grocery store. I love planning menus, experimenting with ingredients, taking chances with dishes that challenge me. I don’t even mind shopping; selecting the freshest, choicest food to prepare something my guests will remember. I’m delighted to share a recipe I’ve just discovered that combines some of my favorite autumn flavors—squash, apples, cranberries and cinnamon. My husband and daughter agreed to be my guinea pigs and we were all pleasantly surprised. I hope you’ll find a reason to cook up a little love in your kitchen soon.  

Butternut Cranberry Delight

  • 1 ½ lb butternut squash, cut to 1” cubes  (my daughter suggested trying this with  sweet potatoes, yum!) I used a frozen pureed squash
  • 2 baking apples, cut in ½” cubes
  • 1½ cup of cranberries (fresh or frozen) Use less if you prefer. I liked the color


  • ½ c brown sugar
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ c melted butter
  • ¼ c chopped toasted pecans (I used spicy bourbon pecans)

Preheat oven to 350. Place squash in an ungreased 9” x 13” pan and bake for 30 minutes. (Because I used pureed squash, I skipped this step.) Mix squash, cranberries and apples together. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Sprinkle sugar mixture over the top and drizzle with butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Top with pecans and serve.


Jemima George leads a charmed life as a personal chef and assistant to reality television’s latest darling. But that changes in a New York minute when her Aunt Caro dies under odd circumstances, bequeathing her a small restaurant. Jem plans to sell the café and continue her life in NYC, until a dramatic phone call from her cheating boyfriend convinces her to experiment with the ingredients for happiness and accept her Aunt’s legacy. Throwing herself into remodeling the restaurant with the help of the town’s delicious contractor, Jem revamps the menu and renews her faith in herself.

Jack Kerrigan considered Caro a surrogate mother and hates the idea that the café could be sold. He doesn’t need the remodeling project, but if it means Caro’s beautiful, fascinating niece will stay to run the restaurant, he’s all in. He wouldn’t mind being savory to Jem’s sweet.

Jack’s brassy ex-wife is cooking up a scheme of her own, where Jack tosses Jem like a salad and comes back to her. Fold in a creepy attorney hiding secrets of environmental mayhem, add Jem’s claustrophobia, half-pint niece and nephew twins, one mysterious lockbox, and bring to a boil–a recipe for romance.

A Lyrical Press Contemporary Romance

Excerpt From Cooking Up Love

Jem gave the dough a few last punches, then covered it with a clean dishcloth. An instant later, her phone vibrated with an incoming call. Hmm, who was calling her at damn-dark-thirty in the morning?

Viciously punching a button, she muttered under her breath. “Lying sack of sh–” She glanced up at him, reached for her glass of wine and took a very healthy swig.

He gazed at her, wondering what had gotten under her skin. Calm and collected, she was a stunning woman. Pissed off? Holy cow, she was magnificent. There was a snap of undisguised hostility in her large brown eyes. Curly hair pulled severely off her face enhanced elegant cheekbones and a wide, expressive mouth. Her yoga pants rode low across her tight abdomen and her tank top rode up as she’d kneaded the dough. He stared entranced at the intricate tattoo gracing her hip. She might be mad as blazes about something, but the only thing he could think about at the moment was how much he wanted to trace the ink with his tongue. Even if he tried to deny his attraction to her, his body didn’t lie.

He wanted her.

Shifting uncomfortably in his suddenly too-tight jeans, he asked, “Are you planning to open for breakfast this morning?”

“Huh? Oh…no. I got a phone call earlier and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

He reached across the counter and ran his fingertip under her eye, removing the lingering tears there. He dropped his hand when she shifted backward, away from him. “A phone call made you cry?”

Jem raised her glass in a salute before taking another drink. “I don’t drink wine much because I tend to get well…a bit sloppy when I do. Today was such a horrible day and it was the only adult beverage I could find. I thought, maudlin be damned! If anyone deserves a drink it’s me.”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Sure. But where should I start?” Jem glanced away, uncertainty dancing on her face. The deep breath she took lifted her t-shirt provocatively, and his pants got tighter. She squared her shoulders. “I know…let’s talk about a funeral for a dearly loved aunt, whom I was too busy to see more than twice in the last two years. The aunt I made travel to visit me, not the other way around. Did you know Caro had scheduled a visit to New York last month? She loved the city in winter, especially Central Park. But she called to cancel because she wasn’t feeling well. Said she had the flu, would I mind terribly rescheduling?” Jem drew a shaky breath, her pained brown eyes shimmering. “No worries, Aunt Caro. Call when you’re feeling better and we’ll make new plans. Except that new plans are never going to happen. Because I buried her today. So, reason number one and two my day sucked–guilt and shame. I should have cared more about Caro. It would have made a difference.”

“Jem, she knew you loved her. Sugar, she had more contact with you than any other member of your family. I was around the summer she argued with your parents. It hurt her when they refused to send you for your regular visit.” When she lifted her eyebrows, he continued. “Yeah, Caroline told me about the fight. She hated that summer. I think the only days she smiled were the days you called. We’d hear about what was going on in your life. It made her very happy that you made the effort to keep in touch with her.”

A weak smile tilted the corners of Jem’s lips.

“What else made your day suck?”

“That kiss,” she stated baldly.

Her flat statement rocked him back on his heels. That kiss didn’t make his day suck.

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 About Gemma Brocato

Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a fortune from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss even the rejections, addressed to ‘Dear Author’, were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue an avocation as a romance author.

Her gamble paid off when she was a 2012 Finalist in the prestigious Golden Pen contest for Romantic Suspense and she received contracts for her first and second book. Connect with Gemma on:

#Recipe: Portabella Mushrooms and Beets with Fresh Herbs, Balsamic and Feta

One of the best parts of summer is that I can walk into my backyard and pick fresh herbs for dinner. Tonight I made up this recipe with items I had on hand.

Portabella Mushrooms and Beets with Fresh Herbs, Balsamic and Feta

Tonight I used a mix of 2 parts oregano, 2 parts basil and 1 part lemon balm.

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Splash of water
  • 3 portabella mushrooms, washed* and cubed
  • 4 cooked beets, cubed
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • fresh herbs to taste (such as basil, oregano, parsley, lemon balm, lavender, etc.)
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta

The finished product. Yeah, I’ll admit I’m not much on taking time for presentation. And I use plates my mom bought in the 1970s.

Heat the olive oil and water in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cubed mushrooms, salt and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes or until mushrooms have about halved in size. After 10 minutes of cooking time, add chopped fresh herbs. Add balsamic and beets and cook another ten minutes, stirring often. Stir in feta and allow a few minutes for it to melt.

*You will hear some chefs and cooks say that you should not wash mushrooms because it will somehow mess up the flavor. Just know that mushrooms grow in dirt and fertilizer–not to mention the possibility of bacteria contamination. I don’t care to eat any residue, so I wash my mushrooms.