Hurricane Prep

On Sunday the Sun News ran my article on hurricane pantry–things you should have on hand.
Remember, we are most at risk during Sept and Oct here on the NC coast

Girl Scout Presentation!

On Saturday, Aug 19, I read my book, Rosa and the Red Apron to a group of Girl Scouts at the Lowe’s Food in Monkey Junction in Wilmington, NC (Lowe’s obtained permission to use photo on FB) . Thank you, Alexandra , for inviting me!
It was a fun way to spend a morning.
We had such a good time! The girls enjoyed acting out the book with me as I read it. We did not have time to talk much about writing–Lowe’s had arranged a wonderful cookie decorating session for them–yummy!
I am available to speak to scout groups on writing, on cooking, on story performance and speaking! I have some dates left before the end of the year. More open in January and February!

Book Review! Small Batch Baking



175 Best Small-Batch Baking

Treats for 1 or 2

By Jill Snider

Robert Rose Press

ISBN-13: 978-0778805618

Retail : $24.95

Review by Joan Leotta

Baking is not what I am known for. The careful chemistry of ingredients, exact measurements–all of this does not jive with my little of this, little of that style of cooking. I do bake–cookies mostly, and when I do, I am careful to follow the directions no matter how much my inner spirit wants to rebel.

Cookies are one of my favorite things to make and eat (if you check out my photos you will know the truth of that!). However, now that we are a family of two, cookie making is restricted to holidays, parties and church or community functions. Even then, I am often faced with a large amount that need to be frozen. When I pull them out months later, even if frozen in small batches, I feel as though it is a chore to eat them. I prefer fresh.

Cutting a recipe for 24, 36 or more cookies into batches of 6 or nine is more than an exercise in simple math. The chemistry of the cookie requires, adjustment of certain ingredients, a smaller pan, a different baking time. Jill Snider has done all of the experiments to make sure that the recipes she has included meet those criteria. These are not oddball cookies–oh no! She has many of my holiday favorites in this book and there are others, related to them, chewy and crisp, bar cookies, min pies, mini loaves and more that are perfect for a romantic dinner, afternoon spur-of-the- moment snack (without days of required eating or gifting of leftover cookies).  My freezer is already smiling at not having to bear the burden of tiny bags of cookies that will be lost behind roasts and veggies until dried out. Many of the recipes are for things that are my personal faves–dream bars, apricot and fig pinwheels, and even pecan balls.

Author Jill Snider has decades of baking experience  in her resume, including 25 years as a test kitchen manager for a major flour maker. This Toronto, Canada resident is the author of two other cook books as well. She has recalculated cooking times and pan size. She knows how to split an egg! (several of my cookie recipes call for one egg and to halve the recipe….) Snider’s recipes are calculated so this issue is resolved.

The 175 recipes in this book–well, this means I can pick up the book and find something I want to make any time I am in the mood for something sweet–and home-made, no chemicals.

Small batch also means lower cost and fewer sugary calories to be consumed at one sitting. Such calorie avoidance, by eating fewer cookies, does not make this a health cookbook, but certainly no one can argue it is good for mental health, providing the means for a small sweet treat when the psyche needs it. This book makes a wonderful gift for anyone who has a smaller household.

With permission of the author the publisher I am printing one of the recipes from the book. Try it, But try it at your own peril, because like all delicious things, once you try one, you will want more!

Raspberry Coconut Pinwheels

Makes 8 medium or 6 larger cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Line baking sheet with parchment


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons quick oats

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup butter ,softened

1/4 cup pack brown sugar

3 Tablespoons  granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1 1/tablespoon raspberry jam


In a small bowl, whisk together flour, oats and baking soda and salt

set aside

In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together, butter, sugars, the egg and the almond extract until creamy, Add the coconut and the flour mixture.

Set aside 3 tablespoons of the dough for topping. Then drop by spoonsful onto prepared baking sheet. make an indentation in each cookie. Put the jam in the indentation and then partially cover with the reserved dough

Bake in the preheated oven, 10-14 minutes or until golden.

Let cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.


Learn about Herbs; Add Herbal Goodness to Recipes

HerbalistKitchenCover (2)Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen

By Brittany Wood Nickerson

Storey Press

ISBN 9781612126906

Suggested Retail: $24.95

It’s been a long time since I have been so excited about a cookbook! Not only is it replete with recipes I want to try, it also is full of information on herbs and how they infuse food with flavor and impact the health-factor of the dish.  My rule of thumb is that a cookbook is worth buying if you find at least six you want to try and includes tips on technique that will enhance your abilities in the kitchen. This book more than exceeds in both categories. I have already filled the book with sticky notes and pieces of paper to mark recipes and segments about specific herbs I want to re-read.

The book avoids making extreme claims for the herbs, but carefully explains their historical uses for health and the way in which they work with other elements in a recipe to provide flavor and to enhance the flavors of the prime ingredients. In no way should you construe any of the health benefits listed as a substitute for seeing a physician for health problems.

Although most herbs do not have side effects, if you have a compromised immune system, are pregnant, or have any other health condition, consult your physician before making any major commitment to a particular herb.

This afternoon, I am embarking on an experiment to make tarragon vinegar. Later this week I plan to make use of some fresh figs I was given in Nickerson’s chicken with figs recipe.

So many recipes, so little time—but so many leftover fresh herbs from supermarket packets that I will now be able to preserve in oils and vinegars. So many new ideas for pesto recipes!

Most people believe in the power of vitamins to help the immune system—why not get vitamins and stimulate your body’s natural healing powers directly from food and the herbs used to flavor them?

“Connect to the healing power in your foods”, is the advice on the back of the book. Certainly, her guidance in the use of herbs will enhance the quality of each dish so that each one works with the body to increase your health.

At the very least you will enjoy tastier meals and have a better understanding of how to use herbs in your cooking. At best you will enjoy improved health.



Cake Decorating Taken to New Heights!

gravity cakes

Gravity Cakes

By Jakki Friedman and Francesca Librae

Robert Rose Press

ISBN: 978-0778805496

Suggested Retail: $24.95


Review by Joan Leotta


The authors of this book note that “gravity cakes” (which might be better called, cakes that defy gravity) are popular now in most of Europe and will soon be the next “big thing” on our shores.  No wonder! These cakes are so much fun! As you can see by the cover, the design of the cake gives the illusion that something is being poured out onto the cake. Others make it look as though a piece is being taken out. This book presents 45 cakes ideas with gravity-defying designs. The inspiration of r this book is said to be the friendship of the co-authors. Jakki Freidman is a professional baker and Francesca Librae is an international reporter now residing in party-central city of New Orleans. The pair bring baking expertise and spectacular ideas to cake design.
You can use their delicious cake recipes as the basis for the designs, or simply follow the directions on a box cake mix for the prime material. Best of all, the introduction to the book carefully explains the process so well,  each design is explained and accompanied by step by step photos, so that once you have tried the techniques, using a couple of their patterns you will be able to create your own designs. The co-authors have a Facebook page, where they post pictures of their newest creations and encourage you to send in photos of your designs to share with the community.

If you have children, if you love to entertain, if you simply like to put beautiful things, amazing things on your dinner table, well then, this is the book for you.

Have fun!


Measurements are given in both Metric and US styles.gravity cakes

Book Review! Vegans Take Note!

cover aquafabulousAquafabulous

100 Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba

By Rebecca Coleman

Robert Rose Publications

ISBN 978-0-7788-0564-9

Suggested Retail $19.95


Review by Joan Leotta


This is a book all vegans will want to have on their shelves, especially vegans who want to bake.

Making eggless meringue with bean juice and how to “bind” mixes without the addition of eggs. May not sound appealing on the face of it, but truly, Agquafaba is a godsend to those who want to make dishes that in the non-vegan world, use eggs.

As such, committed vegans have a strong ally in the form of the book Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman published by Robert Rose Press.—- A luscious looking photo of a cake slathered in meringue graces the aqua blue cover of this book, which according to its press release, “has blown open the world of vegan baking. Things that were once considered impossible, are now possible and the options are endless.”


As I have come to expect from any book published by Robert Rose,  the first pages of this volume describe the element in question and tell us the why and how of it. The rest of the book is devoted to a stellar collection of recipes ranging from breakfast to desserts. Her baked goods selection includes such delights as French macaroons, strawberry shortcake and donuts


The recipe portion is a wonderful exercise in exploring the use of this ingredient—new to me, but oh so useful to vegans everywhere. Of course, it is no surprise that someone with Coleman’s credentials has created such delightful recipes with easy-to-follow direction and helpful hints. Coleman is a Vancouver BC food blogger and the author of a foodie blog, “Cooking by Laptop” that focuses on recipes and her love of cooking. In addition she loves to travel, enjoys eating baked goods (especially donuts) herself.


If you know any vegans, steer them toward this book or purchase it for them as a gift. They will thank you for it—if you are lucky, they will thank you with one of the baked goods she mentions.


Here is a sample of one of the recipes in the book


S’Mores Cups (from Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman. Used with permission of the publisher)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get out a 6-cup muffin pan, lined with paper liners


1-cup vegan graham cracker crumbs

¼-cup vegan butter alternative, melted

½ cup chopped 70 percent bittersweet (dark) vegan chocolate

3 TBSP unsweetened non-diary milk

¼-cup aquafaba

2 TBSP granulated sugar

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp vanilla bean seeds


In a small bowl, stir together, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to combine. Place two tablespoons of the crumb mix in the bottom of each muffin cup, then pack down with a glass. Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a wire rack/

Fill a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. IN a heatproof metal bowl, combine chocolate and non-diary milk. Set metal bowl on saucepan so that it fits tightly and does not touch the water below. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth. You want the ganache to be smooth, glossy, and fairly runny, not thick and lumpy. If it is too thick, add a bit more milk. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of melted  chocolate over each graham cracker base, then shake pan to spread it around so that it forms an even layer. Transfer to freezer for at least 30 minutes.

In a mixer bowl, combine aquafaba, sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla seeds. Set mixer speed to low and beat for two minutes. Turn up speed to medium and beat for two minutes. Set to highest speed and beat mixture until fluffy and peaks form, about four to six minutes. It will have a similar texture to marshmallow  fluff.

Spoon as much fluff as possible into each muffin cup, then return to fridge for at least thirty more minutes or overnight. You may have leftover fluff.

Just before serving, pop cups out of muffin tins, peeling back the paper liners. Use torch to toast the tops if desired, and serve.



a little mystery

Annual Meeting, my flash fiction mystery runs in Kings River Life on June 3!

Purposeful use of lower case to emphasize how “little” the mystery is. I wrote a flash fiction mystery for a class, revised it, sent it out and Lori Ham has picked it up in King River. It will run, as I noted, in the June 3 issue. Thank you, Lori!