Warm up with a good book and a bowl of soup

Fall is my favorite season. Jeans and sweater weather. I love all the colors on the trees, from sunshine yellow to vibrant red. I love curling up with a good book (romance, of course) in front of the fire. However, autumn doesn’t seem to last too long here in the mountains. Already we have snow on the ground and ice on the roads. And wind gusts that wreak havoc on electrical and telephone lines and Internet service.
Despite the unpredictably of this time of year–or maybe because of it–November is one of my favorite months. For me, it’s a time centered around bright colors, cool temperatures and hot food.
Some of my fellow bloggers have shared a few of their family traditions and favorite autumn recipes with you. So, I’ll add one more.
Here in the Vaughn household, we love soup. There’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of goodness to help battle the dropping temperatures and any illnesses that seem to infiltrate our home this time of year. Also, we’re all busy getting ready for the holidays so time and money are at a premium. Soup is a perfect quick, easy and inexpensive dinner. One of my daughter’s favorites is Chicken Orzo Soup. Make a double-batch and you’ll have leftovers for lunches or some to freeze. This is also a great way to use turkey leftovers following Thanksgiving. Just make Turkey Orzo Soup.

8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked orzo (Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta.)
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken or turkey (cooked)
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, combine broth, thyme, salt and pepper; bring to a boil over high heat.
Add carrots and celery; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until orzo and vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in chicken or turkey; cook until heated through.
Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

Do you like soup? What’s your favorite? I’m always looking for new recipes.
Don’t forget to comment. You’ll be entered into this month’s blog giveaway, a $10 Amazon gift e-card and a copy of Letters from Home, courtesy of Bethanne Strasser.

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

New Release! from ME

Thanksgiving is just days away now.

And I have so much to be Thankful for… and let’s face it. This is blatant self-promotion. 😉

In March of this year, I received a letter from my editor, Lewis Pollak–who you can follow on Twitter HERE–that said, “hey! I really liked your story and would like to take it to the acquisitions board. blah, blah, blah.”

Whoohoo! The story went through a few great revisions, then it went through a couple smaller-type edits. It got a fun, flirty cover… 😀

I read through the final draft last week.

And here it is!! For a mere $1.99, Letters From Home is now yours. It’s for you… like an early Christmas Gift. OMG, that’s so cheesy. Tell me to shut up. Really.

Here’s what others are saying about it:

This story was well written and unfolded perfectly for the amount of pages it contained. It’s a sexy, romantic, feel-good Christmas story. I loved it!

Cheryl Sanders, Goodreads Review


Zack finally caught Lena’s gaze from across the table, and he lifted a brow as if to ask her, what is this?

Not that he didn’t enjoy spending time with the family. As a matter of fact, until the holidays had come around, there’d only been a few dinners since summer ended. School, work, and life had taken precedence.

Lena shrugged and a slight flush rose on her cheeks.

“Lena, you and me, at the pool table for a game.” When it looked like she might refuse, Zack stood and went around the table.

“I play winner.” Juan called out.

“Oh, no. I can’t. I stink at pool, Zack. You know very well how badly I play pool.”

“Come on. Smart girl like you should have no problem setting up a table and sinking a few balls. Practice, that’s all.” Zack tugged on Lena’s chair. He took her hand and was surprised to feel a slight tremble in it. He tightened his grip. “Relax, I’m not going to bite. It’s just a friendly game of billiards.”

She laughed, almost nervously. He let her hand go when they reached the little cove with a table in it. They were just hidden from view, enough to be able to talk privately, or make out. But that was just his imagination running away with him.

They both took a cue, and Zack set the table. Her silence put him on edge. Usually he knew what she was thinking, now he felt out-of-sorts. He’d asked her out on a date—hadn’t he?

She’d come with an entourage.


He looked up and found her waiting for him. He made the opening break and nodded to her. “Your turn.”

She stared at him with a blush rising on her cheeks. “Where do I start?”

He relaxed, smiled at her, then studied the table, looking for her first move. “Over here,” he started and took her arm to guide her around to where the cue ball sat. “Go for the solids. You can hit the four in, no problem. Easy peasy.”

She stood behind her cue and leaned over the table.

“No. Not like that.” Zack moved in behind her.

The idea hadn’t started out as a ploy, but now that he was here, breathing in the delicious scent of her perfume, he enjoyed the heat of her against his skin where his arms met hers. They were hip to hip. He cupped her hand in his and rested the cue stick on top of it. She fit perfectly under his arm and against his body.

He cleared his throat as lust shot straight through his bones. “Ready?”

She turned her head and eyed him suspiciously. Her gaze fell to his lips for a fraction of a second, but she turned back to the table and took her shot. The light bracelets at her wrists chimed, and the purple ball rolled into the corner pocket. “Okay.” She grinned, turning into his space. His hands went to her shoulders where they met skin, supple and smooth.

“That wasn’t too hard at all,” she whispered. Her breath seemed caught in her throat, as if maybe, maybe she felt something too.


Friend me on FACEBOOK. Like my page on FACEBOOK. Find me on TWITTER… and for the love of God, GO BUY MY BOOK! [I said it was going to be blatant, didn’t I? ;)]

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About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Guest Post — Adele Downs


–CONTEST ALERT! — Leave a comment for author Adele Downs and be automatically entered to win a firefighter themed Christmas ornament for the holidays. USA and Canada mailing addresses please. Follow Adele’s blog tour for multiple chances to win. Weekly winners announced on Adele’s blog Saturdays through December. http://adeledowns.wordpress.com

Are you looking for a holiday baked goods recipe that’s different from the rest? Jamey Tucker and Heather Longhurst, the hero and heroine of SANTA TO THE RESCUE, decided to kick off the holidays with Margarita Cupcakes for the Appleton Fire Station firefighters. These decidedly untraditional, but delicious, cakes were such a holiday hit that Jamey and Heather decided to make them every year.

You and your family might enjoy these fun confections too. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Sauza® Tequila. Posted with permission.


Margarita Cupcakes:


2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white as room temperature

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 ¾ cups all purpose flour

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. whole milk

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

½ tsp. vanilla

Zest of 3 limes


Ingredients for the frosting:

1 stick butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tbsp. Sauza® Blue Reposado 100% Agave Tequila*

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice AND zest of 2 limes

To Make:

Preheat your oven to 350° degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with baking liners. Using an electric mixer, beat 2 sticks butter and the granulated sugar until creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs, egg white and oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a glass measuring cup, stir together the milk, 2 tbsp. lime juice and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix in one-third of the wet mixture to the butter mixture, then one-third of the dry mixture. Repeat until it is all combined, but do not over mix. Mix in the lime zest.

Fill each cupcake liner about three-quarters full with batter. (I like to use an ice cream scoop to fill the cups). Bake 25 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when gently poked. Let cool completely before icing.

While the cupcakes cool, make the icing. With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 stick butter until creamy. Beat in 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tbsp. Sauza® Blue Reposado, 2 tbsp. lime juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and lime peel and 1 teaspoon salt until smooth and creamy. Beat in the remaining 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar one-third at a time until just soft enough to spread.

Spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes. Be creative: top each cupcake with a piece of lime zest or sprinkle with sanding sugar, or put a wedge or round of lime or a lime wedge candy on top. If you want you can add a drop of green food coloring to the frosting, too.

For more Sauza® Tequila recipes, visit http://us.sauzatequila.com/


SantatotheRescueSANTA TO THE RESCUE by Adele Downs

A sweet firefighter contemporary romance novella

New Release! From Entangled Publishing



Firefighter Jamey Tucker knows three things in life to be true: An honorable man doesn’t go back on his word, a real man never hurts a woman, and lasting love isn’t a myth. He keeps that last part to himself, because he’d rather cut his heart out than admit he’ll be alone at Christmas.

When Jamey meets beautiful pediatric nurse Heather Longhurst after hearing her sing Santa Baby in a supermarket aisle, he makes her a promise he later discovers he can’t keep. Determined to find a way to make amends, Jamey uses firefighter engine-uity and Heather’s favorite song to prove he’s got Christmas spirit she can believe in all year.

Only .99! Amazon Kindle Buy Link:


Only .99! B&N Nook Buy Link:



About Adele Downs:

AdeleDownsPublicityPhotoAdele Downs writes contemporary romance inside the office of her rural Pennsylvania home. She is a former journalist, published in newspapers and magazines inside the USA, UK, and Caribbean.

Adele is an active member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter where she serves as past-president. She has written several articles for RWR magazine (Romance Writers Report), the trade journal of Romance Writers of America, and has presented workshops for writers. When she isn’t working on her current project, she can be found riding in her convertible or reading a book on the nearest beach.

Visit Adele Downs at http://adeledowns.wordpress.com

Like Adele Downs on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/authoradeledowns

Follow Adele Downs on Twitter! @Adele_Downs

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Thanksgiving Corn Souffle

2013-11-21 07.03.01Like most American families, Thanksgiving at our house revolves around traditions, family and FOOD.

Years ago, when my boys were 3 and 1, I found these adorable “shelf-sitter pilgrims” at a craft fair in San Diego…and for the last 19 years they’ve had a place of honor somewhere in my dining room. They make their appearance each year the day after Halloween and there’s just something oddly comforting in unpacking them. (I know…I’m a sentimental fool.)

Being a history girl, those pilgrims remind me year after year to give thanks for the simple joys that fill our days. Granted, some years there’s more to be thankful for than others…and this year hasn’t been an easy one in our house. Even with the hardships, there is so much to be thankful for as we look around the table.

Another Thanksgiving staple in our house is the Corn Souffle. This was a recipe my small boys gobbled up at a friend’s house the same year the pilgrims came to live with us and has had a place on our holiday table every year since. It’s definitely not a low-cal veggie dish, and that’s probably why all three of my kids love it, but hey, it’s a holiday…indulge!

Corn Souffle

4 12 oz. cans of corn – drained

1 Cup butter

3/4 Cup sugar

2 Tbs flour

2/3 Cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk!)

4 eggs – well beaten

3 tsp baking powder

Heat butter and sugar in a saucepan until melted. Blend in flour and remove from heat. Gradually whisk in milk, add beaten eggs and baking powder. Mix well. Fold in corn. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 uncovered for approximately 40 minutes – should be golden brown on the top. Let settle a few minutes before serving.

*Can be made early in the day and warmed before serving.

What’s the one dish is always on your Thanksgiving table?


About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Make Your Own Traditions with Love

Without getting maudlin or delving too deep, let’s just say my family holiday traditions as a child ran more along the lines of a good Hank Williams, Jr. song. Holidays were just heartbreak all dressed up.

When you meet the right person to share your life with, they make you want to be a better person. Once it happened to me, I realized I could keep blaming the past for the fact that I didn’t like holidays, or I could put on my big girl panties and change it. So every year I forced myself to take the steps to make it better. Reach out. Take a risk. Offer to host a holiday meal. Have a holiday party. Invite everyone to my home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Together we’ve begun to make new traditions and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And I’ve learned it’s okay if they don’t. Those that work will continue.SONY DSC

Between us we have lots of adult kids and a couple grandkids, and due to divorces they’ve had more holidays like mine than happy ones like my partners. So this is the tradition we’ve created. We’ve been doing it for the past several years and now the kids plan for it, look forward to it and best of all pay their own way to come to it. So we kind of figure it must mean something to them too.

We choose a weekend sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That way the actual holidays are free for the other parent/families and we don’t put the kids in the position of going to multiple houses or having to choose. At least one of every person’s favorite foods shows up on the menu at some point during the weekend. We have a reverse scavenger hunt for charity, and while we do get gifts for the little ones, the only gifts we buy adults are small gag gifts for our white elephant gift exchange, which always seems to engender much laughter and mayhem. All of us are in agreement that spending the cash to be together for the weekend is gift enough since we’re spread all over the country.

Honestly, these days I look forward to the holidays. I can’t wait to see everyone. And I’ve finally figured out the whole feed-you-to-death thing. It’s because cooking the food, serving it, enjoying it together is a labor of love. I’ve learned it’s not about the getting, it’s about the giving. About the love you share freely, whether it’s returned or not. I’m still learning. But, I do know it makes my heart happy to share. And if there’s one thing a romance writer knows about, its love, in all its many forms.

So do you love holiday traditions or would you be just fine without them?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Family Traditions and Values – It’s what makes you special.

It’s November! And Thanksgiving is coming soon and then Black Friday hits, and before you know it, Christmas is here and New Year’s will be around the corner… Pretty scary, right? But to me, they’re just holidays that I’ve grown up with and learned to enjoy and appreciate, but technically, I really don’t celebrate them… (Don’t gasp at me!)

For me, I have to say I was pretty lucky to grow up with Asian parents and then I had my American parents, which consisted of my older sister and older brother. They enjoyed making sure we learned about the American culture and celebrating American holidays since we do live in America. As I got older and went through grade school and middle school, I didn’t really understand why I was so different from the other kids. I wanted to be like everyone else, except I had different responsibilities and higher expectations for being my parent’s kid. IMG_0707

Growing up, I never really thought much of traditions. I just got excited that my parents didn’t have to work on holidays, and we got to eat good! They’d cook noodles and rice or put together a hot pot, which consists of savory broth that you cook your vegetables and meat in and eat each morsel as it’s done. All our holidays and family times centered around food (which probably explains why I need a personal trainer or nutritionist to control my relationship with food).

Sundays were our big family dinner days. My parents loved to cook and had taken their passion in food and made it a career by opening their own restaurant when I was nine. And I’ll admit, I took it for granted. Now that it’s been years since I’ve lived home, I hadn’t realized how much love and appreciation of food is ingrained in my culture and values.

Each year, we would go visit our ancestor’s graves and pay our respects. We’ll spend time together to watch Asian dramas, listen to Asian music and have debates on Asian history.

I thank my parents for giving me everything they have, for teaching me of our ways and what makes me special and different from everyone else. I’m culturally well-rounded and speak a different language, which may be more than what most people were given. What they’ve given me and taught me is great, in that I wish and I hope I’ll have the chance to pass down their traditions and values to the next generation. Traditions should never die as it makes a family more unique and special from others.

What are some of your family traditions and values?


About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

  • Our LATEST Buzz!

    The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series were released in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous was released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, A PROPOSAL & PUMPKIN PIE is on sale for .99 through Thanksgiving.