Monday, May 29, 2017

Guest Post by RavenMcAllan for a Three Course Gluten-Free Menu!

Raven McAllan is here to share with us her journey to gluten-free eating and living and the recipes for a three course gluten-free (g-f) meal. Enjoy!

Hi all, this is Raven’s gluten free menu.

Why g-f? Well let’s back track ohhh about 12 years. Dd was doing her gap year in New Zealand, and when she went for a work visa (having gone at 17, too young) , she was discovered to be anaemic, and then coeliac.

So she came home, and we discovered a new way of living. She shuddered at the pasta (cardboard), ignored the bread, and mum baked with g-f four. Believe me gluten free stuff was no way as advanced as it is now.

Dd went off to uni, and the next year, then came home for the summer, and bet me I couldn’t go g-f for two weeks.

Oh yes I can, I said and I did. And then went back onto gluten.

Ouch. Big mistake.

We now have 50% of the family g-f  and the other two when at home have no alternative.
The only gluten in our house are hubby’s gluten filled bread and pasta, nothing else.

So dear readers (if I haven’t put you all off by now) is my quick go to g-f meal. Three courses of basic goodness, all gluten free.

I must add here I’m one of those bit-of-this-dash-of-that cooks, so bear with me...

Starter: Dead easy Mushroom Soup

This is my 'oh can we drop in and there are 1,2,3,4,5 of us' starter.

Box of mushrooms any sort, chopped. Leave 3-4 in big chunks.
Knob of butter, maybe half a teaspoon of oil.
Large (okay in my house very large) pinch of herbs. Ditto of garlic.
One stock cube either chicken or veg... in water. Season to taste.
So sauté mushrooms in oil and butter until soft. Add herbs and garlic and stir,
Add stock to cover. Simmer till soft ( or as I cook on an Aga, bring to boil, put in bottom oven for 2-3 hours)
If you have one of those fab soup mushers, use it. Otherwise mash down contents. (scientific eh?)
Add a dash of cream or milk. There you go. (Image is from the Internet, I'm afraid, but you get the idea!)

Mains... Now this is easy, honestly.
G-F Meatballs in tomato sauce (home made of course)

Now like I said I sort of don’t do measurements, sorry. But mix mince, g-f oats, breadcrumbs, some onion and mushroom together with a knob of butter. Not too sloppy. Dust in g-f flour, fry gently until you know they won’t fall to bits.
Make a tomato sauce with an onion, six-ish mushrooms, a carrot, a stick of celery and peppers (which add up to half a pepper) Sauté until soft and add passata, and herbs. Pour over meatballs and warm through.  

Serve with rice or g-f pasta.

Now for my favourite pud. And for this one I do weigh stuff. Sort of.

Raven’s g-f Fruit Crumble

Whatever fruit you fancy, cooked until soft in water and a wee (I live in Scotland) bit of sugar.

Now the measured bit...

In a basin, rub together,
170g of g-f SR four
¼ teasp salt,
70g marg or butter
60g sugar (demerara or caster)
Handful of g-f oats...
Easy... Sprinkle over fruit and cook for around 25-30 mins gas mark 4-5


Love Raven

Thanks Raven! I must admit, I don't cook g-f very often, but I've had to on occasion for visiting guests and it's great to have some new ideas!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sorry for the silence!

I'm afraid I have terribly neglected my blog this week, and that is because on Tuesday, during the school run, I was hit by a car! That sounds wonderfully dramatic, but actually what happened is the wing mirror hit my hand as the car drove by and my finger was cut by my car door. So I ended up on A&E with 10 stitches in my finger and some pretty serious bruising and swelling, which kept me from writing or doing much of anything. I am starting to feel better, and I hope to get the stitches out on Tuesday. It's been an enforced rest, which sometimes is the only way I get one! And while it has been both painful and frustrating, it has made me appreciate my usual good health! So I have a photo for you, taken from Friday's dog walk, which was the first time I'd been able to get out of the house and was walking a little slowly.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Photo: Brecon Beacons

I took this photo when we went for a walk last winter. It was one of those crisp, clear, cold, sunny days where everything seems like it's wonderfully sharp focus.We'd never been to the Brecon Beacons before and it felt, in an odd way, a little bit like walking on the moon--or so I imagine! The rolling fields stretched on and on with hills and mountains in the distance and pretty much nothing else about. Gorgeous in a slightly desolate way :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday Throwback: The Italian's Chosen Wife

This was my very first Harlequin Presents, written in 2007. After writing hundreds of short stories and serials for various women's magazines, I wanted to try my hand and something a bit more substantial, and I'd had a long-held dream to be published by Mills & Boon. In fact, I wrote my first manuscript for them, A Dangerous Bargain, when I was just twenty-two. Sadly it didn't go anywhere. My second manuscript, Nanny on Board, was a Golden Heart finalist, which was very exciting, although I didn't win. I wrote two more manuscripts in my early twenties before I shelved them all and moved on to short stories.

Fast forward eight years, and I decided I was ready to try again. I submitted three chapters and a synopsis for the Presents line, which was a change as I'd always submitted to the Romance line (then called Tender) before. Weirdly, when I'd started the story, the more emotional, angst-ridden Presents voice was the one that came out! Five months later I got a very positive revision letter, asking for revisions as quickly as possible because they really liked my voice. Getting that letter was so exciting, and so very affirming after months of waiting and years of rejections.

I lived, breathed, and dreamed that book for the next two weeks while I revised and finished it--because yes, I committed the cardinal sin of not finishing a book before submitting! Two weeks later I posted it along with all my hopes, telling myself not even to think of expecting an answer for at least 12 weeks. (They'd said it could be 16 weeks before I got a reply.)

Then, just two weeks later, I was staring at my inbox wishing I'd hear something, when I decided to hit refresh--even though I'd hit refresh seconds before. And would you believe, a new email popped up--from an editor at Mils & Boon. They wanted more revisions, but once again it was very positive, and she asked if she could ring.

The next few days were frantic as I had phone calls, made revisions, and waited to hear from the senior editor--all incidentally while my husband was away and unable to be reached! Then, on February 9, 2007, I got the official call.

Getting published by Harlequin quite literally changed my life, not least financially. I had a career, an income, and the validation of my books in the shops. A lot has changed since then in the publishing industry, seismic shifts that I don't think anyone could have predicted. I still write for Harlequin, in addition to five other publishers at various times. I've writtten 48 romances for Harlequin Presents (I think--I tend to lose count but I know I'm in the high forties) as well as 20+ books for other publishers. It's been a crazy, amazing ride, and I'm so grateful to be able to do this for a living. And so glad for this book, which will always hold a special place in my heart. You can read more about it  here.

Incidentally, this is my favourite of all my Presents cover. The hero and heroine look almost exactly as I pictured them, the sensuality is understated (as it is in my books), and there is a lovely elegance to the scene. I'm giving away one paperback copy of this Presents to anyone who comments below or responds to me on Twitter with their favourite romance of all time.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Writing: Spotlight on Julie Ryan

I'm so pleased to welcome Julie Ryan to my blog today, with her book Jenna's Journey, which sounds really interesting! I've written about a multigenenerational story about a woman heading to Greece when her marriage fails myself, so maybe it's a fantasy of women... to just take off! I've certainly entertained the thought on occasion ;) Enjoy this blurb and extract; buy links are at the bottom.

       Jenna's Journey

Leaving town, heading to the Greek Isles without telling husband or friends, is heady medicine for a failing marriage. Seduced by Grecian sun and sky, Jenna innocently buys an ancient urn that tangles her into the web of a criminal world more sinister than she ever imagined. Romance is always afoot in the Greek Isles and Jenna gets a large helping with the seductive Nikos. Family is important in Greece, and Nikos helps Jenna learn all the richness it brings, and pass it on to the next generation.
Twenty-five years later, Allie takes this same journey. A little time travel, a big “what if” dream, a fated meeting with a taxi driver and a sprinkle of paranormal intrigue intertwine in a story that spans the lives of a mother and daughter. Twisty as the streets in a Greek island village, full of unexpected characters found on a faraway vacation, Jenna’s Journey will keep you turning pages far into the night.

Author bio

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romantic thrillers set in the Greek Isles. 
Jenna's Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far and it promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles. Pandora's Prophecy and Sophia's Secret make up the rest of the trilogy.


As she stepped off the plane, a rush of excitement and anticipation flooded over her. She wondered if her mother had felt the same when she arrived in Greece almost twenty-five years ago. She knew that there must have been many changes during that time. Instead of flying direct to the island, her mother would have had to fly to Athens first, and then taken a boat to the island as direct flights to the island had only started up a couple of years ago. She stood in line waiting to clear customs, feeling guilty even though she had nothing to hide. Just walking through the green channel, she could sense hidden eyes watching her every move. This automatically made her act suspiciously, and then breathing a sigh of relief, she was through and out into the bright Greek sunshine. Squinting to read the address on the scrap of paper, she hailed a taxi and the driver sped off towards the hotel.
“Hi, I am Leo,” the taxi driver said, introducing himself in fluent English.
“Allie,” she replied.
She’d been anxious about being ripped off or taken on a wild goose chase, but there was no need to worry. Leo seemed to be the exception to her stereotyped image of Greek drivers. Although he drove fast, he negotiated the roads with great skill. Driving up narrow tracks, he tooted his horn to let any other drivers know he was coming.
She wanted to ask him about the austerity measures that had recently been imposed on them in order to meet their euro-deficit obligations. She had been quite shocked at the effects that the cutbacks had had on ordinary people. Last year, the government had introduced a kind of surtax cunningly collected through the electricity bill. If you refused to pay or couldn’t pay, you were cut off—simple! People had struggled to keep warm through the winter, as many couldn’t afford oil any more. The news had shown piles of rubbish in the streets thanks to the refuse collectors going on strike because they hadn’t been paid. Allie remembered seeing pictures of Piraeus on the news with garbage heaped as high as cars. She wanted to ask Leo more about how ordinary people had coped, but when she pressed him for more details, he shrugged and smiled.
“Greece is not only Athens, you know. Here, sure, life is tough, but we survive. Maybe we spend a little less, complain a little more, but life is good. You are in the most beautiful place in the world. If you have the sun and the sea and a few vegetables—what more do you need?”
Looking round at the idyllic scenery of the island, Allie thought that this was a far cry indeed from the sensationalist pictures of Athens that she’d seen on the TV. They finally pulled up in front of a traditional-looking but freshly painted hotel. Allie took the well-thumbed photo from her bag for comparison. Whilst the land round had all been eaten up by new developments, the hotel itself looked remarkably similar to the photo. It had been extended at the side, but there was no doubt that this was the place. Maybe now she would get the answers that she’d been waiting for all this time? She wanted answers that her mother couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t, give her.
“Here we are,” said Leo, taking her holdall from her and escorting her up some stone steps. Allie added a few euros to the fare, partly in relief at having got here in one piece, and also because Leo had been so charming. She knew from the guidebook she’d read on the plane that it wasn’t necessary to tip, but Leo accepted gracefully, handing her a card with his number on it in case she needed his services again. If what he’d told her was true, Allie guessed that meant his family could eat that night.
She walked up to the reception desk and, seeing no one about, rang the bell. She was quite surprised by the interior. Whilst the hotel looked traditional on the outside, the inside had been renovated in a very contemporary style. She was sure it was the right place, but she really didn’t know where to start to get the answers she’d come all this way for. She was in the middle of reading the notice above the desk which advertised free Wi-Fi access for hotel residents when a man in his late forties, or he could be early fifties—Allie wasn’t much good at telling people’s ages—came out of a room at the back. His skin was lightly tanned and he was wearing a light-blue chambray shirt, which set his tan off perfectly. He must have been good-looking in his youth, thought Allie.
The man stopped in his stride and she watched the colour fade from his face in disbelief.
“My God, it can’t be,” he whispered.
“You must be Nick,” replied Allie. “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”

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