Steeling My Heart

Pound for pound, my favorite Christmas gift this year was my Baking Steel. That pound for pound comment was a joke. It is heavy.

Most people have heard of a pizza stone. The Baking Steel serves the same purpose, only much better. Think of it as a pizza stone on steroids.

I’ll tell you this: even my most mediocre attempts with it have been better than any pizza I’ve ever made at home. The crust is phenomenal.

baking-steelIt is basically a slab of steel, just like the name implies. You preheat it for about an hour. You assemble your pie, and using your pizza peel you launch it onto the hot steel. About 5-6 minutes later you retrieve it and … mama mia!

I’ve watched this company grow from their facebook postings over the last several years. I couldn’t take it anymore. “This is what I want.” The flat HEAVY present under the tree was no secret.

They make griddles too, although you could use the basic product as a griddle for something like pancakes. Just nothing with too much grease.

Check them out at http://www.bakingsteel.com

I know it is expensive but your grandchildren will thank you for leaving them this awesome heirloom. It will last that long.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Hmmm, how about pizza tonight?

Check out my books: http://thefensk.com

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From Fiction to Kitchen

I call this Faux Calzone or Poor Man’s Calzone. 

I don’t know if it is because I generally write early in the morning and am usually hungry, or just because I like to eat, but food always seems to find its way into my writing.  This is one “fictional” recipe that didn’t make it into The Mossback Cafe Cookbook (it didn’t fit into the concept), but this has long been one of my standby quick and dirty meals.  I’ll start with a quote from A Curse That Bites DeepOur hero Sam needs a quick meal but only has limited ingredients.  The pantry is stocked with tidbits salvaged from a recently deceased friend, a solitary older gentleman of limited means.  He settles on a cheap frozen pizza.

Once the pizza was unwrapped and in the pan he slid it in the oven and checked his watch. After a couple of minutes he pulled it out and lifted one end.
“It’s thawed enough,” he muttered as he proceeded to fold the pizza in half. He pressed the edges lightly.
“Used to use more cheese when I was in college, but this will do,” he said as he moved the pan back into the hot oven.
After a few more minutes he gingerly flipped it to brown the other side. When the allotted time was up he brought it out and tested the top with his finger. It was crispy but not burnt.
“This actually isn’t that old,” he said. “I guess the old guy did manage to eat from time to time despite my worries.”
He moved his meal to a plate and let it cool another minute before he tried a bite.
“Not bad,” he said, “not bad at all…poor man’s calzone, just like in college!”

I found it as a way to enhance a really cheap frozen pizza.  Sure, it’s not a true calzone, it’s almost more like a pizza taco, but it certainly moves the drab frozen pizza up a notch.  I made these as an appetizer once, cutting them into strips, and people loved them.  Years ago I worked as a consultant in northern New Jersey and one day we called in an order for some pizzas.  I noted that almost everyone folded their slices in half before eating them; I guess it is a regional thing.  I still do it, too, and it was the inspiration for this idea.

Here’s what you do.  You need a cheap frozen pizza.  Totino’s will do but you can go smaller and cheaper if you want to.  Although in the clip above Sam just cooks the pizza as it is, right out of the package, and you can certainly do that, it is better if you add a little seasoning and extra cheese.  It’s frozen so you need to thaw it somewhat.  At home, I usually use the microwave for that but you can heat it for a few minutes in the oven like Sam does in the novel.  You want the crust pliable enough to fold.  I made one of these yesterday and microwaved it for about a minute and a half at fifty-percent power.

Take the partially thawed pizza and sprinkle it with some additional Italian spices if you want … or garlic powder, whatever you like.  Sprinkle some shredded cheese on half of it. I added some Parmesan too, one “to-go” packet.

Fold it over and press firmly.  It’s not going to seal like a true calzone but that’s okay.  You can still press down a little more along the edges to get close.

Bake just like the package says, but bear in mind it was partially cooked earlier.  If the package said to cook it for 10 minutes at 400, I’d do it for four, carefully flip it and do it for another four.  Your mileage may vary.  You want the crust to be crisp but not burnt or really hard.  The extra cheese should just be starting to ooze a little.

Take it out and let it cool for at least two minutes before eating but take it easy, the filling can be hot.

That’s it, Poor Man’s Calzone, right out of the pages of my novel!  As you can see from the picture, it looks pretty good.  Simple, good, cheap.  Who am I kidding?  It was great!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find more info about his novels and his cookbook at http://thefensk.com

The Mossback … another look

This is just another fine-tuning of my Amazon blurb … I think it’s getting there.

cover-lg2a“The Mossback” made it’s first appearance in the pages of Thomas Fenske’s debut novel, THE FEVER, when owner Smidgeon Toll delivered a massive serving of Huevos Rancheros Especial to Sam, that book’s hero, and proudly exclaimed:

“There, what do you think of that?”

The description of gooey, spicy, goodness that followed spurred several readers to ask the author, “Is that a real dish?”   Now you can see for yourself!

Fiction has become kitchen.

Smidgeon will entertain you with her quirky, homespun wisdom as she shares a mini-history of the cafe along with some insight into what helps to make The Mossback a unique and delightful locale in the world of fictional eateries.

Along the way you’ll learn how to make her awesome square biscuits.  She also reveals details about the full-sized heap of bacon they serve on “THAT BLT, ” and introduces readers to other local favorites like the “Double Trouble Dog” and what has to be the “Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” you’ve ever tasted.  As an added bonus, she has agreed to share her famous Potato Salad Secret, something surprising and simple that will take even the best potato salad recipe and crank it up a notch, maybe two!

Simply put, these are all part of what would have made The Mossback Cafe famous, well, if it actually existed.

So hop out of your pickup truck and mosey on in … there just might be some breakfast tacos or enchiladas lurking in your future.

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The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is still mostly FREE … check out my website for the free venues as well as the link to Amazon where it is 99 cents.  Feel free to share one of the other sites to them using the report a lower price option.  Or if you insist, buy it but be aware that there is a kindle version available at the Smashwords link.
While you’re there, feel free to browse my other books … summer is a great time to Catch THE FEVER!

More Than A Cookbook

Just to be clear … The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It is a true companion book to my novels.  They introduce the backdrop of the place and they intoduce owner Smidgeon Toll. The books are basically stories set in Texas and so, the cookbook has a strong Southwestern influence. 

The cookbook takes that base and gives Smidgeon a chance to tell us all a little more about her background and the cafe. 

The recipes are real and the  information she shares is a valuable resource that will enhance your enjoyment of the existing novels and subsequent stories in the series. 

So, when you see the word “cookbook” —  look beyond it, and consider this to be a stepping off point.  But don’t get me wrong, the recipes are easy and accessible to even fledgling cooks.  And delicious. 

Check it out … it is only in ebook form and it is only 99 cents.  

http://thefensk.com/cook.html
Happy Enchiladas!  

Thomas Fenske

WeekendCoffeeShare

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I’d be brimming with news.  I know it’s starting to sound like a broken record but most of it is about the cookbook.  It is what’s happening this week.  At long last the book has finally completed it’s initial rollout.

For almost a month it has been available on Smashwords, but at long last it is on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.  There is a process on Smashwords that verifies the format … they came back with some formatting tweaks I needed to make before it could roll out to everything else.  Now that it has been tweaked, the rollout is complete.  All the links to the various venues can be found on my web page.

The last piece of the puzzle, Amazon, is in place, but there are a few kinks.  For one, although it is free on Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, I can’t offer it for free on Amazon, at least initially.  So it sort of a Firesign Theatre thing … “Free, Only a Dollar.”  Or ninety-nine cents to be more precise.  It should be up on Amazon for a few days.  In theory,  once Amazon notices it is free in other venues, they will price match.  We’ll see.  If you want, I think you can “report” a lower price, like on Barnes and Noble, and that should help spur them to action.

Anyway, that is what’s going on.

bookofweekIn other news, as reported last week, the cover of my second novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, won a contest last week, AuthorShout.com‘s Cover-Wars.  My stint as “book of the week” has given me a slight boost in web page views.  Today is the end … it’s been a nice run.

Have a happy Easter Weekend.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  More info on his books can be found at http://thefensk.com

First Review!

cover-lg2aI was pleased to get the first review of The Mossback Cafe Cookbook today.  I’m still waiting to clear up some technical issues before uploading the book to Amazon, so this review is on Smashwords.  It is also my first review on Smashwords!

I just had to share it …

The review is by Laura Rittenhouse, a fellow writer.  I’m honored.  Be sure to look her up on Smashwords and Amazon!

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“I’ve read the front of the book and then, being held hostage to my sweet tooth, flipped to the back – the dessert section. I baked the coffee cake and my only complaint is I shared too much of it with appreciative friends. Next time I make it I’ll make sure I’m alone 🙂

There are a lot of recipes in here that I’ll try in the coming weeks – it is really a good cook book. But what pushed this to 5 stars for me was the fact that it’s a really fun companion to The Fever (which I’ve read) and, apparently, A curse That Bites Deep (which I haven’t – yet). This little cook book makes the novels seem almost like reading about friends.”

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To read the original review and download your own copy of this free cookbook, go to:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/712183

You can also get ebooks of THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP from Smashwords.  The novels are also available in paper and from other outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. More information on all of my books can be found at http://thefensk.com

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the WeekEndCoffeeShare

img_6284If we were having coffee today I’d have to break the news.

You’d say, “It’s not the freaking cookbook again, is it?”

I’d smirk, and say, “I’m afraid so.”

The first thing I’d say is that I’m embarrassed.  Ever since I got this idea, I’ve been hammering away at it.  I recruited family members, friends, and acquaintances to give me feedback.  Most have read my novels.  I wrote my novels.  Finally this week, I was ready to take a big leap and upload this thing to Amazon. I had second thoughts about the title.  I loaded up my first book and did a quick search. Ack!!

Okay, I admit it.  In the novels, I never called the restaurant The Mossback Inn.  Never.  Not once.  Always Cafe.  Nobody noticed.  Especially me.  As big a problem as it now seems to me, it probably doesn’t matter.  Still, I could have sworn I did that search earlier, but obviously, I didn’t.  So I considered my options.  Although I’ve marketed it informally for a couple of weeks, I still considered it in beta mode, that is, in computer terms, a high-level test.  If I still need to make changes, now would be the time.  Thank heavens I hadn’t uploaded it.

One option was just to ignore it, or add a paragraph in the forward about how it was originally called The Mossback Inn.  That was a viable possibility.  The other option was to just bite the bullet, make the changes to Cafe, and continue on as before.  There really weren’t that many changes needed in the cookbook.  There were quite a few on the website.  I needed to change the cover, but once again, that is not a major change.  I decided to check out one thing before I made the decision. I Googled it.

I found a minor wrinkle.  There is a Mossback Cafe in Kingston Washington.  I checked out their web page.  It looks like a charming place, using locally sourced foods.  Farm to fork, I think they called it.  Heck, I’d like to eat there.  There is no way my cookbook impacts that place.  But I wrote them anyway, just to be on the up-and-up.  The owner wrote me back, somewhat amused by it all, but he agreed, my cookbook would be fine as The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, saying they more call their place just Mossback anyway.  He even commented on a few of the recipes and invited me up sometime.  Awesome.  You can check them out here:  http://mossbackcafe.com — like I said, it looks like a really nice place

cafe-coverSo, today, I’m launching an extended beta test with the rebranded title.  The Mossback Cafe Cookbook.  I think “Cafe” will likely play better in social media.  What do you think?  The rest of the cookbook is exactly the same.

Feel free to download a copy.  There are files for epub (good for Nook, iBooks, Kobo),  mobi (kindle), or pdf (just about everything will open pdf … hey, you could read it at work!).

Check it out and report back.  It’s a small book, but it is packed with good recipes.  And it gives a glimpse into one of the major characters of the books.  No spoilers, you have to read the books to find out more.  It’s a fun book to browse and hopefully a few who look at it will be enticed to check out the novels …

 

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find out more about his writing (including the cookbook) at http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee DST Remorse

newmossbackcover2If we were having coffee today I would no doubt be complaining about Daylight Savings Time.  Yes, I hate it.  I mostly hate it for a week or so when the clocks go forward.  After that things sort of settle out.  My feelings, though,  go more toward why is it even necessary?

I don’t buy most of the arguments.  I frankly don’t see where it saves energy in this day and age.  What it mostly does, is give people more play time in the evening.  And since there is still the same amount of daylight no matter how you slice it, gradually increasing until the Summer Solstice, then decreasing until the Winter Solstice, all in all, I guess it doesn’t much matter.

I still have three favorite observations about DST.  One, the popular slogan is invalid.  Spring Forward and Fall Back sounds fine enough, but it has always seemed to me to be backward — it doesn’t make practical sense.  If I fall, I almost invariably fall forward, or at least to the side.  Ah, but if something startles me, I’m entirely likely to spring back.  You see?

The other two observation have to do with the intent and the implications.  I understand the concept of  “who needs sunlight at 5AM?”.  Sadly, we can’t change the way days progress.  What DST switches show us is the true arbitrary nature of time.  It’s arbitrary!  Admit it.  For all our dependence on it, we are dependent on something totally arbitrary.  So, to my way of thinking, when it was arbitrarily set up originally, it was made just a bit askew.  More on this after I make the second observation.

In the US, “STANDARD TIME” is now barely over four months of the year.  MOST of the year is that special designation of Daylight Savings Time.  What the heck?  How is that “Standard?” And people wonder why the aliens are so hesitant to make contact with us.

So my arbitrary solution is this:  Let’s just choose to buck up and change to a new standard time in the fall … Fall Back (ugh) not an hour, but a half-hour.  And then just leave it there.  We’ll sort of have the best of both worlds.  It is probably how it should have been set up in the first place.  It’s not as crazy as you might think … there are half hour time zones in some areas and the world goes on.

In more important matters, we’re likely to have another cup while I mention the cookbook I told you about a few weeks back.  I have a pretty good version of it available NOW, free for the asking.

Just send an email to mossbackinn@yahoo.com and tell me what version you need, mobi (for Kindle), epub (for Nook, Kobo, or iBooks), or pdf (for everything, really, including downloading it and reading it at work).  It’s really a load of fun, a companion book to my two novels, full of Tex-Mex and Southwestern dishes and some just down home good comfort food too.  Like I said, it’s FREE!  “Smidgeon Toll” is a character in both books and by character, I mean she IS a character.  You’ll like her.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Find out more:  http://www.thefensk.com

It’s coming soon!!!!

mossbackcove

It’s slowly coming together. What? Why, THE MOSSBACK INN COOKBOOK! What is it? Well, what I’ve tried to do is create a 1980s look in a cookbook, based on a fictional eatery that figures largely in my Traces of Treasure novel series. Hey, I collect cookbooks I know what it’s supposed to look like. […]

via Coming Soon! — TCC-GUY

Weekend Coffee Cookbook

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today, I’d have to talk about the cookbook.

What cookbook?

Well, it’s this way:  I saw somebody else had a cookbook based on their book series.  I was downright gobsmacked.  I’m a cookbook collector, I’ve created a couple of cookbooks before, my novel series Traces of Treasure has a small country cafe as a central locale, and I’m just slapping myself in the forehead for not thinking of this before.

Sure, I’m being derivative.  So, who isn’t?  As a collector I have to tell you, everybody and their dog has put out a cookbook.  Everybody is being derivative.

So, I’m cobbling one together.  I actually have the concept pretty well nailed down, I’ve got the recipes copied and (mostly) formatted.  Formatting, that’s the key.  Takes time.  And I need to find some more royalty free art to sort of jazz it up.  I’ve got a little, just need a little more.  Then finalize things and it will be ready to go.

If you’re interested, I suggest you sign up to my mailing list.  You can find a link for that on my web page.  That will be part of the promotional part of this, to get the mailing list moving along.  Anyway, I think it is an awesome cookbook.  Since the novels are set in  West Texas there are lots of Southwestern recipes and just a little bit of fun too.  It’s written as if the fictional proprietress of the little cafe has put it together.  She’s a lot of fun.

Keep tuned!


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find out more information about his books and subscribe to his mailing list at:
http://thefensk.com