Amy Butler tote giveaway

Writing Like a Mother on the Authors in Bloom Blog Hop! April 10-19, 2013. Enter to win a Nook or Kindle, plus a $25 gift certificate AND prizes on each blog!

Local flavor permeates my forthcoming novel, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a lot of that flavor comes straight from the garden! To celebrate the return to gardening this spring and my book’s availability for pre-order on Kindle, I joined the Authors in Bloom blog hop. Participating in the hop enters you for a chance to win an e-reader of your choice (Kindle or Nook) and a $25 gift certificate for compatible ebooks! I am also giving away a beautiful Amy Butler tote for participants here at Writing Like a Mother.

Tips, recipe, and giveaways for the Authors in Bloom blog hop: Amy Butler "Sara" tote, Jane Austen pocket notebooks, chocolate mint, Summer's scones.

Tips, recipe, and giveaways for the Authors in Bloom blog hop: Amy Butler “Sara” tote, Jane Austen pocket notebooks, chocolate mint, Summer’s scones.

In My Garden

I live and set my books in Durham, North Carolina, which was just declared the South’s Tastiest Town by Southern Living Magazine. Durham has a rich, diverse, and creative local food movement, so I don’t have to go very far away in this place to find an amazing selection of local produce. But there are some things I grow in my own yard. Here are a few:

  1. Culinary herbs. I grow four types of mint, thyme, parsley, oregano, basil, chives, and sage. If you want to start gardening but don’t know where to begin, I recommend starting with herbs. The easiest to grow if you have sunlight are basil and parsley. The easiest if you have dappled shade (in a hot climate) is mint. Mint spreads all over and flourishes in part sun, contrary to the “full sun” label. It doesn’t do as well in shade, but it can take a lot less sunlight than you might think. Lemon balm, which features in my book Can’t Buy Me Love, has similar tendencies. All of the mints are pretty easy to care for, tolerate some shade, and will reward you with fragrance and flavor.
  2. Medicinal herbs. Even if you don’t use herbal medicine, it’s nice to know you could! We cultivate lamb’s ear, cat mint, geraniums, Irish moss, bee balm, dandelion, clover, and lavender, among others.
  3. Edible plants for teas. Lavender, bee balm (a.k.a. wild bergamot), mint, and roses all make pleasing aromatic tisanes or are useful for scenting other foods. You can even set aside a jar of sugar with herbs in it for a few days to flavor special teas or coffees. And of course, all of these make lovely garnishes.
  4. Tomatoes. As I said before, we have loads of local food sources here. I am in easy driving distance of three farmer’s markets, and the grocery store where I shop usually has local tomatoes as well. But there is nothing comparable to plucking your own warm tomatoes for cooking or slicing.

TIP:

Chocolate mint for tea and cooking

Chocolate mint smells like mint and chocolate, and it works well in savory cooked dishes as well as adding an unusual note when used fresh in a variety of foods or teas.

If you can grow only one edible plant, make it chocolate mint. You can sprinkle it on salads, cook it into lamb dishes, use it in place of basil, add it to mojitos for a surprise note of flavor, add it to your tea or coffee brew, or just pluck a sprig to enjoy the scent and appearance. It spreads, so it will fill out a container, it can tolerate part sun, and it’s a perennial (in my zone!).Β  (We have about a 7 month growing season here in my temperate climate, so adjust as needed for where you live.)

But what good would all those herbs be, without a nice tea to go with them? That’s why I am sharing my personal scone recipe. I will warn you that this scone recipe has been developed for and by Southerners in the United States. It is neither as hard nor as dry as the scones we ate in the UK, and it resembles the texture of your favorite Southern biscuit. I modify this scone recipe often, making it savory, gluten-free, dairy-free, and even Vegan (though that variation changes it into an entirely different base!). [The Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free version of the recipe was so hard-earned that I’m keeping it to myself for now, to be shared in the bonus material of my next book, where it features.] I have noted the recommended substitutes if you would like to make the recipe without dairy or gluten, but the photo is of the recipe as written.

Summer’s Scones

Summer Kinard's scones

Writing Like a Mother author Summer Kinard’s scone recipe.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached white flour (or “white whole wheat”)

[I used 1.5 cups white flour, .5 cup almond meal. That’s why the scones spread a bit more.]

2/3 cup of unrefined cane sugar

3 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

1 stick of cold pastured butter (salted or unsalted)

1 duck egg, slightly beatenΒ  (chicken eggs are fine, too)

1 cup heavy cream (may use half and half)

Splash of vanilla extract (add to cream)

Splash of almond extract (add to cream)

Half cup to 1 cup Soy-free chocolate chunks (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir to mix well. Cut in butter with a pastry blender, butter knife, or fingers. I find that it works best to cut the butter in a few times with the pastry blender, then to squeeze the butter into the flour with one’s hands, until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs and there are no large lumps of unincorporated butter remaining. Add cream, extracts, and egg to the flour mixture. Stir a few times with a fork, then add chocolate chips (or other add-ins, such as currants, raisins, candied ginger, nuts, dates, or fresh berries), and stir a few more times till flour is just moist. You only want to turn the dough about a dozen times total. It’s a wet, shaggy dough, especially if you lower the gluten content. Drop the dough by heaping forkfuls (about a handful of dough) onto an ungreased baking stone or a metal baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving at least an inch all around each. [Note that if you substituted any of the wheat flour for gluten free, the scones will spread more.] Depending on scone size, you will have 10-14 drop scones. Bake for about 12 minutes, then check for readiness. The scones should be golden brown. My current oven runs a little cool, so I usually bake my scones for 16 minutes. But check at 12! My old oven only took 12-13 minutes. Remove when the edges of all of the scones are golden brown, and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Serve warm or cold. These scones make an excellent delivery mechanism for jams, butters, and creams. They are best when shared with friends.

Notes and Variations:

  • For Gluten-free scones, use almond meal and oat flours along with the appropriate amount of xanthan gum. I do not recommend using coconut flour.
  • For Dairy-free scones, substitute coconut oil for the butter. Do not use liquid oils or vegetable shortening if you can help it. You need a natural saturated fat. If coconut oil is not available, palm oil will do. Substitute almond milk or coconut milk for the cream.
  • These scones should not be attempted in low-fat or whole wheat form. The texture will be wrong and they will taste gross. If you make them that way, I shall not claim the results!

Now for what you’ve all been waiting for…

The Giveaways!

In my novel, Can’t Buy Me Love (coming June 7, 2013!), the main character LOVES to sew, and she adores Amy Butler fabrics. [Gee, it’s like she read my mind! I love Amy Butler fabrics, too!] When the opportunity arose to join this blog hop, I knew that I wanted to share that love with you all. That’s why I’m giving away to one lucky participant, this brand new Amy Butler “Sara” tote!

Amy Butler tote giveaway

100% cotton, features contrasting fabrics inside, Amy Butler tote retail value over $60.

This tote features a side laptop pocket, two deep side pockets, and a cellphone pocket within. I did not want to mar its brand new beauty by proving it, but educated guess, it would hold a small toddler! This bag is perfect for summer travel, crochet or knitting projects, carrying your writing or reading gear to the local cafe – especially if you win the free Nook or Kindle! – or for use as a handbag.

To Enter to Win the Tote:

  • You may either “Like” my author page on Facebook (see side bar for quick link) AND leave a comment on this post saying how you would use the tote bag and that you liked my page, OR
  • You may pin one of the Can’t Buy Me Love pins from {THIS BOARD} to your Pinterest boards AND leave a comment on this post saying how you would use this tote bag and that you repinned my pins.
  • YOU WILL BE ENTERED AN ADDITIONAL TIME FOR EACH PIN OR LIKE! That means that you have up to five chances to enter, simply by liking my author page on Facebook, repinning each of the four pins, and commenting here to say how you would use the tote bag and telling me that you liked/pinned all.
  • NOTE: If you use different names/handles on Facebook and Pinterest than on your comment, specify in your comment so I can make sure to give you the number of entries you deserve.
  • You MUST enter an email address on the comment form in order to win my prize and to be entered to win the Nook or Kindle and $25 gift certificate for the Authors in Bloom blog hop! We have to be able to contact you if you win.

Bonus!

cute notebook giveaway

Repin all four pins to enter for a chance at these notebooks themed after the dances in Jane Austen’s novel!

I’m a sucker for Jane Austen novels, and this Easter season always makes me think of Darcy and Elizabeth. {sigh} So, for all of you who repin all four pins on {This Pinterest Board}, I will enter you to win a set of four mini notebooks themed after the famous dances in Jane Austen’s novels! Just make sure you note in your comment that you pinned all four pins, and I’ll enter you!

All contests run from April 10-April 19, 2013. Winners will be notified by April 21, 2013. International entries are accepted as well. Please note that I am in the U.S.A., so post may take awhile if you win!

Thanks for participating! Don’t forget to visit the other authors on the Authors in Bloom blog hop! You must participate at all of the blog hop sites in order to win the Kindle/Nook!Β  Just Click Here for the links!

For complete rules, visit the Authors in Bloom home post.