Congratulations to Savannah Miller. You are the winner of WHAT A GIRL WANTS by Selena Robins!
Not to be confused with The Italian Crack Pot, as I had accidentally typed crack pot, but decided to proofread one more time before submitting this blog post. Although, I’ve met my share of crack pots during my life and yes, some of them may have been Italian, but it would totally change the theme of this post.
The Crock Pot is a writer’s best friend. It’s like having a chef in the kitchen after you’ve instructed it what to do.
I’m going to share an Italian crock pot recipe (below), but first wanted to chat how learning how to cook at a very young age from my mom is similar to my writing journey. When I say a young—young, as in by the time one can stand on her own without tumbling over, one must know how to make homemade pasta and tomato sauce.
It was during these cooking sessions with my mom that she would tell me stories about her childhood and of course impart her wisdom about life. At the time, as most of us do, I didn’t appreciate the stories until I was much older. My mom was a natural storyteller, she was also extremely funny, but she didn’t know it.
I love comedy and my family members (especially the females) are hilarious. It was during these cooking sessions with both my mom and sister where we would let loose, and enjoy our mom’s unique sense of humor. It’s no wonder the kitchen is my favorite room in the house, brings back a lot of fond and fun memories.
Saturday morning cooking lessons were not like those home-economics classes. No note taking, no recipe books (goodness, Italian mamma’s pride themselves on cooking without instructions).
We’d ask our mom, “How much salt and pepper do we put in this? Don’t we have a measuring spoon for the olive oil?”
Mom: “Measure? How much? What you asking me these questions for? You reading those recipe books again? Like I told you, cook with your eyes, feel, taste, listen to your mamma and also to the sizzle in the pan.” She’d point a finger to her head and say, “Use your imagination. It’s not going to be perfect first time, but it will when you trust your instincts.”
My mom’s creativity in the kitchen kept a family of seven well fed on a limited budget.
As you can imagine most of our training dishes were akin to a science project, however, with all the trials and errors and really paying attention to her basic instructions about cooking with passion, love and using our senses, slowly but surely, my sister and I did turn out some great dishes. (To this day, I still think I make a better sauce and pizza than my sister. I’m sure if you ask her, she’ll say hers is better. Typical sisters, but I still say my way is better.)
My school lunches were packed with homemade bread, roasted red pepper, zucchini and eggplant sandwiches, with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese (which she also made at home) and homemade cookies. My school mates would look at my lunch and ask, “what the heck are you eating?” I did trade my lunch one day, for the more popular peanut-butter and jam sandwich and a couple of Oreo cookies. I liked them and the girl I traded my offerings with didn’t like my lunch; so she traded the Italian feast with the boy next to her. He loved it and asked if I could bring extra the next day.
How is similar to my writing journey? That it’s okay not to follow a trend and to stick to my own individual style, some will question it, some may try it and like it, some may try it and not like it (maybe even pass it on to someone else) and that’s okay.
The main thing my mom taught me while we baked and cooked together was to add a lot of love into cooking. She emphasized how important it was to cook with passion, to use all my senses, touch, taste, sight and smell (and hear too, for the fire alarm that is, when I had accidentally burned a pot or two in my learning process).
This too can be applied to my writing journey, as I create characters, dialogue and plots that will give the reader not only a visual experience of what’s happening, but hopefully they can taste what the characters are tasting, smell the scents of the scenery, close their eyes and hear the voices (not the ones in our heads, that’s another story), but the tone of the characters, and most importantly, feel the passion I (and other writer’s) have put into creating a wonderful story to draw you into a comical, suspenseful, mysterious and romantic world.
Here’s a recipe to warm your bones (if you live in a colder climate, still tasty if you live in the tropics as well). Let the Crock Pot do the cooking, while you’re writing, reading or just hanging out with family and friends.
Crock Pot Italian Sausage Soup
3 TBSP olive oil
2 pounds Italian sausage (sweet or mild, your choice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium Vidalia (or any other sweet onion), chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans tomatoes
1 ½ cups dry red wine (not cooking wine, if it’s good enough to drink, then it’s what you cook with)
6 cups beef broth
3 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
3 TBSP fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 yellow zucchini, thinly sliced
1 green zucchini, thinly sliced
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 package of frozen spinach (defrost and squeeze the liquid out)
salt & pepper to taste
Package of pasta (16 oz. your choice of pasta)
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
In a large pot, add olive oil and heat, add sausage and cook over medium heat until brown.
Remove from heat, pat with paper towel and cut into slices.
Add garlic and onion until tender (about 2 – 3 minutes).
Heat up your crock pot to low and add: sausages, onions, garlic and stir in the rest of all the ingredients.
Cover, and cook on Low for 6 hours.
When soup is done you’re ready to make the pasta to add to the soup. (Tip: soup tastes better when you make it a day ahead and warm it up on the stove, but it’s also delicious the same day as well).
Cook Pasta al dente (according to package directions).
Drain water and add pasta to the soup, simmer for a few minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle in bowls and add cheese if desired.
Readers, do you have a favorite memory of cooking or reading with your mother? Comment and win a copy of Selena’s book WHAT A GIRL WANTS.
About Selena Robins: Genre-defying, witty, humorous, suspenseful, romantic and sexy— words used to describe Selena’s novels. A self professed foodie and chocolate guru, she loves to dance with her dog, sing into her hairbrush and write in her PJ’s. In love with her family, friends, books, laughter, hockey, lively discussions and red wine (sometimes all at the same time). Selena is a dragon slayer who enjoys reading and writing sassy heroines and hot heroes (the ones your mamma warned you about, but secretly wished she’d dated a few in her life).