Cranberry Orange Bread

The holidays are coming! I was in Michael’s last night to pick up yarn for a baby blanket I am crocheting for my great-niece, and their stock of Christmas decorations is already bigger than their Halloween and Thanksgiving displays.

Cranberries have been on my mind, and I want to share this delicious recipe with you.

My husband told me about Cranberry Orange Bread, which his mother used to make for Christmas morning. This recipe is close to the one she used to make; she died in 2003, and we didn’t find a recipe. I searched online, and made adjustments to a couple that I found.

It’s a very wet batter, and the resulting bread is very soft and moist. I’ve made it using cranberry-orange relish, and it’s delicious! My husband’s family has nut issues, so I always skip the walnuts, but I think they’d be a delightful addition.

Cranberry Orange Bread

2 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1 t salt (if using Kosher salt, increase to 1 1/2 t)

1 egg, well beaten
3/4 C fresh orange juice
3 T corn oil

2 C cranberries, chopped
1 T grated orange zest
1 orange, peeled, all membrane removed and sections pulled apart into small pieces
1/2 C chopped walnuts, or walnut pieces (optional)

NOTE: Optional – Substitute 2 1/4 C Cranberry-Orange Relish for chopped cranberries, orange zest, and orange pieces.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Mix only to moisten. Fold in the remaining ingredients. 

Spoon into a greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan; spread out evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Remove immediately and cool on a rack.

2013 Christmas Cranberry Bread 20131225_085501


Screenwriting Tips for Novelists

It’s all about Story.

Whether you are writing for page, stage, or screen, you want to write a compelling story that keeps the reader/viewer enthralled to the end. Screenwriters and novelists can look outside their box to see how the other guys do it, and take some tips and tricks from each other.

As a novelist, I’ve read several books on screenwriting, particularly Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need! by Blake Snyder. He died at a young age, but not before sharing his thoughts on how to write a script that sells. He also showed how to use his Beat Sheets to write a novel.

He breaks down the  three-act structure into smaller, discrete pieces that move the story from inciting incident to satisfying conclusion. He talks about using log lines, high concept, and pitches. If you can distill your story into a log line, a tag line that would go on a movie poster or novel cover, you are well on your way to breaking your story down into the elements that people subconsciously look for.

Alison McMahan is an award-winning filmmaker and award-winning novelist. A member of Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, she spoke at our meeting Saturday, October 17. She talked about “Screenwriting Tricks for Novelists” and gave Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! as one example.

Another was using Chris Soth’s Mini-Movie Method, which essentially breaks down a movie or novel into eight mini-movies, each with their own tension arc.

The takeaway for a novelist is to look at how screenwriters break down their story, and use whatever methods make sense for you to break down your novel. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking of a 50,000 word Act II, and not knowing exactly what to write. Utilizing screenwriters methods can break that huge task into smaller, easier to digest chunks that when outlined are a road map to completion.

Mini Monkey Bread

I have seen so many recipes for monkey bread over the years, and never made it. This past weekend I decided to make it for Sunday breakfast – a sweet treat to have with savory scrambled eggs with tomato and cream cheese.

I wanted to make individual mini breads, and this was my first attempt. I would cut the biscuits into eighths instead of sixths for mini monkey breads; the muffin cups could barely contain them as they swelled and baked, and in fact a couple of pieces jumped over the side of the pan and onto the floor of the oven. Ouch!

These were so tasty, and they kept jumping into my mouth throughout the day. I love the caramel that bubbled up and oozed over them.

Fast and easy, delicious and satisfying. Can you ask for anything else from simple ingredients? I don’t think so!

Mini Monkey Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 C butter, melted (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the melted butter)
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
2 cans refrigerated biscuits, 10 biscuits/can, biscuits separated and each one cut into 6 or 8 pieces

Spray a 24-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Combine the melted butter and dark brown sugar. Once the sugar fully absorbs the butter, spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons into each cup of the mini muffin tin.

Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a gallon size zip top bag; add biscuit pieces. Toss to coat.

If you’ve cut the biscuits into 6 pieces, put 5 pieces into each muffin cup. If you’ve cut them into 8 pieces, put 6 or 7 pieces into each muffin cup.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan for 1 minute before turning out onto parchment lined sheet pan. Serve warm.



National Novel Writing Month: 50,000 words in 30 days

Some of you are writers, and some of you writers will be participating in NaNo. November 1 seemed so far away two months ago, it doesn’t seem possible that it’s just over two weeks away.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) began in 1999 with 21 friends in the San Francisco Bay area. Over the years it has grown to be an international event with hundreds of thousands of writers who have the same goal: Write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. In 2013, 310,000 adults participated, and 89,500 children took part in the Young Writers Program. 

Who are these writers? Sara Gruen, Hugh Howey, and Chris Baty (the founder of NaNo), among many others. Neil Gaiman, Dave Eggers, and YA authors Rainbow Rowell and John Green are some of the authors who will or have delivered pep talks during NaNo. You can read Hugh Howey’s thoughts about what it takes to be a writer on the NaNo blog.

For mystery and romance fans, Charlaine Harris and Diana Gabaldon will be giving pep talks this year. 

If November 1 is looming large on your horizon, you can alleviate some stress by visiting the NaNo Prep page. You can sign up there for a NaNo Prep webinar that takes place Wednesday, October 14, at 4pm PST

For general information, visit the FAQ here: National Novel Writing Month Frequently Asked Questions, or ask an ML.

What’s an ML? It is a Municipal Liaison, a local NaNo participant who schedules the Kick Off Party, weekly Write Ins, and TGIO (Thank Goodness It’s Over) Party. They’re your first resource for questions posted in the Regional Forum. 

I’ve been an ML for the Vero Beach/Treasure Coast Region since 2005. Come see me in Vero Beach, Fort Pierce at IRSC or the downtown Library, in PSL at the Morningside Library, and in Palm City at the Cummings Library. If you sign up and select Florida::Treasure Coast as your region, you’ll see the calendar with all of the dates, times, and locations.

If writing a novel is on your bucket list, why not do it in November?

Let me know if you do!