Macarons: A Paris Connection by Cerella Sechrist

Laduree“I do love macarons,” she admitted, “but if you’re going to eat them in Paris, it’s better to get them at Ladurée. They make the best ones.”

“So this is serious business, eating macarons.”

She nodded, keeping her expression severe. “You can’t just eat any macaron when in Paris. You have to have the real thing, the best possible kind.”

“Then it’s settled. We’re going to have to go to Ladurée.”

(Excerpt from The Paris Connection)

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One of the best parts of researching The Paris Connection was getting to drool over brightly colored photographs of delectable macarons. And as my heroine, Emma, notes in the above excerpt, when in France, the mecca for macarons is the French patisserie, Ladurée.

Since one of the categories on my blog, Literary Fare, is for the Historical Foodie, I couldn’t resist learning a little more about the macaron’s origins.

MacaronsThough decidedly a French confection, the macaron has unexpected Italian beginnings. The general consensus is that a chef of Catherine de Medici’s household introduced these almond flour delights around the time she married the Duc du Orleans (who became the King of France in 1547, as Henry II.)

Macarons have always been a cookie of simple ingredients: almond meal, sugar, and egg whites. (Which means, for those of you paying attention, that they’re gluten free!)

It was a relative of bakery owner, Louis-Ernest Ladurée, who came up with the idea to stack macarons with a creamy ganache filling in the center, giving birth to our modern variation of this popular confection.

Shortly after I finished the first draft of The Paris Connection, my sister gifted me with a box of macarons to celebrate. It contained a dozen little cookies in flavors ranging from simple deliciousness like Belgian Chocolate (Chocolat Belge) and Madagascar Black Vanilla (Vanille Noire de Madagascar) to the delectably divine like Black Currant (Cassis), Basil White Chocolate (Basilic Chocolat Blanc) and Caramel Fleur de Sel. With a slightly crunchy exterior and a sweet interior filling, macarons are a fantastic way to transport yourself to Paris in just a few bites.

And I though it was pure kismet when I opened my email two days before The Paris Connection‘s release to find an email from Martha Stewart Living, celebrating how to make the French culinary classic, the macaron, easily in your own home.

I saved the links and recipes to share:

French Macarons 101
French Macarons Basic Recipe
French Macaron Recipes

Les Petits MacaronsIf the description of some of these macarons have served to whet your appetite, stop by Facebook via the group, WritersKaboodle, tonight (Friday, March 28, 2014) at 8 pm EST where I’ll be chatting with fellow Heartwarming authors Karen Rock and Loree Lough to celebrate this month’s releases. I’ll be choosing one lucky winner to receive not only a personalized, signed copy of The Paris Connection but also a copy of the cookbook, Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, and Karen and Loree are giving away copies of their March releases as well!

And the next time you bite into a macaron, take a moment to savor your very own Paris connection. Bon appétit!

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This post first appeared on the Harlequin Heartwarming author blog.

Bon Appétit: The Paris Connection

IThe Paris Connectiont’s here! Today marks the release of my third published novel, The Paris Connection, released by Harlequin Heartwarming.

To celebrate, I’m kicking off a week-long virtual blog tour through Paris featuring two delicious food and travel-themed giveaway prize packages, multiple interviews, a feature on Edgy Inspirational Fiction, an upcoming live Twitter chat with my fellow March release authors, and many more delectable goodies!

Here’s an itinerary to get you started on your culinary journey through Paris:

Read my post on the Harlequin Heartwarming author blog about Imagining Paris while I was at Disney World’s Epcot.

Make a stop for visual inspiration at my The Paris Connection Pinterest Board so you can view my cast of characters, settings from the story, and other visual treats!

Tomorrow morning, get ready to travel through France! Stop by Amber Stokes’s Seasons of Humility blog as she serves as your tour guide for a week of interviews, articles, and reviews.

Make sure you take some time to enter the fantastic giveaways I’m offering along with the blog tour. They include two prize packages, themed for our adventures – read more about them and get information on how to enter at the end of this post.

Take a break from your travels to chat with me this Thursday, March 6, live on Twitter at 1 p.m. EST as my fellow March release authors and I answer your questions and talk about our stories. Follow me on Twitter here to make sure you don’t miss it!

Take a look at the items you could win! You can enter by following along on the blog tour this week. Remember to join the journey tomorrow at Seasons of Humility with Amber Stokes.

The Bon Voyage Prize Package includes:

- a personalized, signed copy of The Paris Connection by Cerella Sechrist
- travel size body lotion, body wash, and body spray in Bath and Body Works Paris Amour scent
- set of three Marie Claire black cosmetic travel bags
- Paris-themed, lined journal to record your travel adventures
- Pierre Belvedere luggage tug in plum color
- set of three postcards from the Louvre in Paris

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The Bon Appétit Prize Package includes:

- a personalized, signed copy of The Paris Connection by Cerella Sechrist
- five flavored, imported Maxim’s de Paris French chocolates stored in a tiny tiny decorative French tin
- St. Michel Aux Graines & Chocolat (Chocolate and Grains Biscuits), imported
- Pierre Biscuiterie French Butter Cookies with Mixed Berries, Made in France
- Cream-colored, made in France, dishtowel featuring scenes of the Eiffel Tower, artists, croissants and a cup of coffee in plum colors

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Pack your bags and prepare to be swept away as we connect in Paris! Bon voyage!

SigCerella

 

Authors Dish: Lisa Lawmaster Hess

This edition of Authors Dish features my friend, Lisa Lawmaster Hess, as she promotes her debut novel, Casting the First Stone. Lisa is special to me because years ago, we discovered through our mutual agent at the time that we live in the same county! And Lisa was wonderfully sweet and supportive when my first novel debuted, so now I’m trying to return the favor. Read on to get to know her better!

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About Casting the First Stone:

Angel wants only one thing – the very thing Marita has already given Jim. Worst of all, Angel fears that Jim’s sudden desire to be a full-time father to Charli means he’s given up hope of starting a family with her.

Marita has no intention of losing custody to Jim, the man who initially abandoned them. But in the battle for Charli, Marita is almost certain she will lose. Limited resources and a questionable reputation threaten her standing as the best parent to raise her daughter.

Both women are determined to keep their families together…but at what cost?

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Quick Bites: Lisa Lawmaster Hess

Which do you prefer?

  • Angel’s food or Devil’s food? Devil’s food – though that’s probably bad form for a writer of Christian fiction! Maybe that’s why I like creating flawed characters :-)
  • Coffee or tea? Tea. Particularly Starbucks iced chai tea latte.
  • Savory or sweet? Depends on my mood. Usually sweet.
  • Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate. Always.
  • Cake or pie? Again, depends on my mood. Usually cake, but I love apple pie a la mode from time to time. If there’s no ice cream or cream topping involved, probably cake.

Authors Dish:

1555646_730716723607561_1403071473_nWhat was the key “ingredient” in your decision to become a writer?

It wasn’t key to my desire to write, but a key ingredient to my becoming a writer was going from working full time to working part time. In 1993, I changed districts, and my new district wanted to hire me to work four days a week instead of five. I took the new job, took the pay cut and followed my sister’s suggestion to write on my day off (Fridays.) I started freelancing, joined a critique group and had my writing habit well-established by the time my daughter was born. The job eventually went full time, and parenthood is not a part-time endeavor, so I don’t know if I’d ever have made the leap if I hadn’t done it when I did.

I’ve been retired for a year and a half, and I got the contract for this book six months into my (early) retirement. I really do believe God has a timetable for us and I’m grateful that this was mine.

What sort of utensils and setting do you need in order to write? (A coffeeshop atmosphere, complete silence, your kitchen table, music, etc.)

I typically write best in a quiet atmosphere, but I can be easily distracted, especially when the writing gets difficult. There’s a Starbucks about two minutes from my house where I go when I can’t concentrate at home (or just need a change of scenery), and for some reason, the ambient noise there doesn’t bother me. In fact, a good chunk of Casting the First Stone was written at Starbucks! If I write with music at home, it typically has to be instrumental (I think I’ve worn grooves in my copy of Billy Joel’s Fantasies & Delusions), but I sometimes listen to my iPod when I’m writing away from home.

My favorite place in the entire world to write is on the screened-in patio of the condo we rent in Bethany Beach each summer. I typically get a lot of short pieces (blogs, mostly) done there, and I cooked up the characters and general plot for my next novel while we were there a few summers ago.

What is the best thing you ever ate?

Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Maybe it’s because I was on my honeymoon. :-)

Casting the First StoneWhere did you “cook up” the idea for this book?

As an elementary school counselor, I worked a lot with children of divorce. I wrote a series of short stories to use with these kids in small group, which became my second book, Diverse Divorce.

In the process of writing that book, I cut a couple of the stories that the editor wasn’t particularly fond of. One of those became a middle grade novel that I’m continuing to work on. The mother in that story (who never appeared in the original story) was the inspiration for Marita, one of the protagonists in Casting the First Stone. Although that was my jumping off point, both the character and the story diverged greatly from there.

Are there any foods or drinks you like to munch on or sip while writing?

I typically have either a glass of Turkey Hill iced tea or an iced chai from Starbucks in front of me when I’m writing. I try to remember to drink water instead…but typically fail miserably.

Is your writing more like an entrée of satisfying and savory ingredients or a deliciously indulgent dessert?

Hmm….the subject matter is definitely substantial, but the treatment is down-to-earth. Can I go with a casserole? It’s not fancy, but it fills you up, and if I season it right, you might want to come back for seconds.

Do you have any food traditions?

Just the usual – turkey at Thanksgiving, ham for Easter and lots of cookies at Christmas. I’m from New Jersey, so the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of pork and sauerkraut for New Year’s is not a taste I’ve acquired….but as long as my husband cooks the sauerkraut, that’s what we have on New Year’s Day.

What’s your favorite food?

Dark chocolate. Oh, wait, real food? Hmm…pasta in pretty much any incarnation.

What are your comfort foods?

Homemade macaroni and cheese, Turkey Hill chocolate marshmallow ice cream and dark chocolate. Not necessarily in that order, and definitely not all at once.

If you were a cookie (or cupcake), what kind of cookie (or cupcake) would you be?

Hmm….I’m tempted to say something nutty, but that seems too obvious. Let’s go with a cupcake. Something plain and sweet, with a dash of something unexpected –  maybe cinnamon — in a fancy little cupcake paper — something bright and colorful. Nothing savory, and none of those crazy ingredients like on Cupcake Wars. Probably plain vanilla or chocolate with a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon.

The frosting would be fluffy and it would look like a five-year-old frosted it — nothing that ends in a perfect swirl, and definitely not fondant — too tidy and fancy and perfect. Maybe a cream cheese frosting? And definitely sprinkles. Chocolate sprinkles.

Do you enjoy cooking? If so, are you a “follow the recipe” kind of cook or a “pinch here, pinch there” style of cook? Is the same true in your writing? Do you plot meticulously or make up the story, adding ingredients as you go?

I do NOT enjoy cooking — I would much rather be planning, creating, teaching or writing. I love to use the Crock Pot and make casseroles because then I can keep working while dinner is doing its thing.

As for preparation, it’s definitely a pinch here and a dash there — both in cooking and writing. I am meticulous about creating my characters, but more free flowing when it comes to plot. Hmm….maybe that’s why my cooking turns out the way it does. Never a good idea to let the ingredients take the lead when there’s heat involved!

***

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is a transplanted Jersey girl who spends most of her time writing, teaching and ignoring the clutter these pursuits create. A former elementary school counselor, Lisa is the author of Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, along with many blogs and magazine articles. Lisa lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and her daughter. Casting the First Stone is her first novel.

Kids Table: Jolly Rancher Lollipops & The Great Lollipop Caper

When I first thought up the idea for the Kids Table category for Literary Fare, I began thinking of my niece, Emmy, and what sort of stories she’d like to read that would also lend themselves to kid-friendly activities, all with a foodie theme. One of the first books I stumbled upon in my search was The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall. I instantly fell in love with the tale of a sour little caper who only wanted to be loved by children, like his sweet-tempered friend, the lollipop. With adorable illustrations and eye-popping colors, this was a story begging to be paired with a family-friendly, food-oriented activity. Jolly Rancher lollipops were the easiest and most logical choice! And since I wanted to be true to the watermelon pink and green apple colors of the story, I purchased my Jolly Ranchers out of my grocery store’s bulk bin and opted only for the Watermelon and Green Apple flavors (no, a “caper” flavor would not do!)

The story is touching, and the lollipops are sweet! Give it a try – just remember that when making these with children, only the adults should be in charge of the final step of pressing the lollipop sticks into the warm candy. We don’t want any little fingers to get burned, or their temperaments will turn as sour as the caper’s in the book. See instructions below.

And if you’re a blogger who is interested in interviewing/featuring my upcoming release, The Paris Connection, on your blog or website, visit this link for more information. Enjoy!

SigCerella

Literary Fare | Kids Table: Jolly Rancher Lollipops & The Great Lollipop Caper

Literary Fare | Kids Table: Jolly Rancher Lollipops & The Great Lollipop Caper

Purchase The Great Lollipop Caper in hardcover or for your Kindle.

Ingredients/Tools:

Baking Sheet
Aluminum Foil
Parchment Paper
Jolly Rancher candies (2-3 per lollipop)
Lollipop sticks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then parchment paper; spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Assemble candies on tray – 2 or 3 per pop with a little bit of space in between to allow for melting.
Bake for 5-7 minutes until melted.
CAREFULLY insert lollipop sticks into warm, melted candy.
Allow to cool for approx. 30 minutes (or less, depending on temperature and little fingers!)

COMING SOON: The Paris Connection (releasing March 1, 2014) Click here to pre-order!

COMING SOON:
The Paris Connection
(releasing March 1, 2014)
Click here to pre-order!

The Paris Connection: Cover Reveal and a Hot Chocolate Recipe!

Have you ever heard of Ladurée?

It’s okay; I hadn’t either until I began researching various Paris iconography when my publisher requested I set my second book with them in this most romantic of European cities.

Ladurée is a famous Parisian patisserie, best known for their incomparable macarons. So, of course, Ladurée gains a couple of mentions in my upcoming novel, The Paris Connection. Since I don’t have ready access to their macarons, I found the next best thing to share with you all as we celebrate the release of the book’s cover: a recipe for their hot chocolate (known as chocolat chaud.) Creamy, comforting, and cocoa-indulgent, it’s the perfect way to visit Ladurée, and Paris, in the middle of winter.

At least, until The Paris Connection releases on March 1, and you can visit the city through Emma and Cole’s story! ;)

Check out another gorgeous cover from the Harlequin Heartwarming team, pre-order your copy of the book through the links on this page, and then try the recipe posted below! Bon appétit!

The Paris Connection

Ladurée Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate)
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Paris Sweets)

Ingredients:
3 cups of whole milk
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), finely chopped

Directions:
Bring the milk, water, and sugar just barely to a boil in a medium saucepan. (You don’t want to boil it and scald the milk! Working at Starbucks, I can always tell when the milk I’m steaming for a drink has been scalded – it takes on a sharper smell.)

Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate.

Here comes the secret that makes Ladurée’s chocolat chaud so velvety creamy: the chocolate mixture now needs to be blended. At Laduree, this is done with a hand blender (what I affectionately call “a boat motor.”) But lacking one of these, you can simply transfer the chocolate liquid to a regular blender and whip on high speed for one full minute. Serve immediately, while the foam is still frothy.

If not serving right away, then you can store it in your fridge for up to two days. You can drink it either cold, or warm it up again before serving. To appropriately tantalize you to try it, read how Dorie Greenspan describes Ladurée hot chocolate in her book, Paris Sweets:

“Whenever friends ask for a list of things they should do in Paris, I always tell them they must go to Ladurée for hot chocolate – it is one of the delights of being in the city. Chocolat chaud made in the Ladurée style is unabashedly rich, luxuriously thick, textbook smooth, and the kind of delicious that forces you to stop all reasonable conversation so you can sip and murmur, “Mmmmm.”

If that whet your appetite for references to Ladurée and Paris, be sure to pre-order The Paris Connection by clicking here!

SigCerella

Gentle Persuasion: Hawaiian Giveaway Packages

Well, it’s finally here! My sophomore novel, Gentle Persuasion, has released with Harlequin Heartwarming. To celebrate, I’m giving away two delectable Hawaiian-themed prize packages (since the story takes place in Hawaii!)

First up, the “Songs of Hawaii” package which contains:

- An autographed copy of Gentle Persuasion (by me! I’ll personalize your copy however you choose!)
- A Starbucks exclusive CD: “Mele O Hawaii: Songs of Hawaii” (As many of you know, I work part-time as a barista at Starbucks. When this CD popped up at our registers, I immediately purchased a copy. I was in the edits phase of Gentle Persuasion, and the music provided some terrific inspiration as I smoothed out Dane and Ophelia’s story! This CD was only available at Starbucks for a limited time. Most of my fellow baristas were glad for this since I often changed our store’s playlist to “Mele O Hawaii” as we worked.)
- Bath and Body Works Exotic Coconut Shower Gel and Body Wash (I swear, this scent really does make me think of the islands.)
- A wooden art Hawaiian bookmark in the shape of a surfboard (I picked this adorable bookmark up during my last visit to Hawaii. I had been hoping I’d be able to use it in a prize giveaway if this story ever got published! Aren’t you glad I thought that far ahead??)

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And the second opportunity to win is the “Turquoise Shores” package which contains:

- An autographed copy of Gentle Persuasion (again, by me! I’ll personalize your copy however you choose!)
- A hanging pocket organizer in soft peachy salmon colors with a turquoise banana leaf design (This is another item I picked up during my last trip to Hawaii!)
- A turquoise, genuine leather cell phone case with embossed hibiscus, palm tree, and beach shack design including handle strap. (This one I picked up in one of Hawaii’s ABC stores – if you’ve ever visited Hawaii, you know the ones I’m talking about! They’re on every corner and cater to tourists.)
- Bath and Body Works 14.5 oz jar candle in Coconut Leaves scent (another yummy smell to transport you to the islands!)

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So by now you’re asking, how do I win one of these lovely prize packages? I’m glad you asked. :)

HOW TO ENTER AND WIN ONE OF THE PRIZES

I’m giving plenty of opportunities to enter. You can do any or all of the following:

ENTRY OPTION #1:
Post the following update on Facebook or tweet to Twitter (post to both Facebook AND Twitter, and you get FIVE ENTRIES! Post to only one, and you get TWO ENTRIES.):
_________________________________________________________
I’m keeping warm this winter by visiting Hawaii in @CerellaSechrist novel Gentle Persuasion: literaryfare.com #HarlequinHeartwarming
_________________________________________________________

ENTRY OPTION #2:
Sign up to follow the Literary Fare blog by email and get FIVE ENTRIES. (Note: You MUST make sure you confirm your subscription through the confirmation email that will be sent to your inbox!)

ENTRY OPTION #3:
Subscribe to my quarterly author newsletter, “The Cerella Life” and receive ANOTHER FIVE ENTRIES. (Note: You MUST make sure you confirm your subscription through the confirmation email that will be sent to your inbox!)

ENTRY OPTION #4:
I’ll award FIVE ENTRIES if you pin this image to Pinterest and tag me in it @cerellasechrist

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The Fine Print

The contest will run throughout the month of December. I’ll be drawing the winner on or about January 2, 2014 and will announce the winners on Facebook and Twitter, as well as contacting them privately. Have a warm and wonderful holiday season and be sure to check back here for more posts in 2014!

SigCerella

Gentle Persuasion Cover Reveal!

Well, here it is. Almost four years after the debut of my first published novel, I’m absolutely giddy to reveal the cover to the next book I have coming out in print (releasing this December.) I was thrilled to become part of Harlequin’s Heartwarming line, in small part because their covers are always so gorgeous. And their efforts for Gentle Persuasion did not disappoint in the least. I absolutely LOVE the cover. Scroll down, take a moment to savor it, and then read the back cover synopsis. After that, you can feel free to click on the links to pre-order your copy! With romance, a tropical setting and lots of references to coffee, I promise it’s going to be the perfect pick-me-up winter read!

Gentle Persuasion Cover

Landing reclusive marketing genius Dane Montgomery would be the coup of Ophelia Reid’s executive recruiting career—and her ticket to her dream job in Paris. It would also be practically impossible. With Dane firmly entrenched in his idyllic Hawaiian coffee plantation, and his intolerance of headhunters, luring him back to the New York rat race is a long shot.

If Ophelia fails, she sacrifices her dream. And if she succeeds, Dane sacrifices his. Neither can afford to give in—or give up. But spending a week with Dane, exploring the island…and their growing attraction… may weaken Ophelia’s resolve. And Dane’s starting to see that New York has one thing Hawaii doesn’t— Ophelia Reid. Too bad she’s moving to Paris!

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Pre-order Gentle Persuasion now either for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or in Mass Market Paperback or eBook from Harlequin.com

And be sure to join me on Facebook, Twitter, sign up for my quarterly newsletter, The Cerella Life, or subscribe to this blog, Literary Fare, for updates!