Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Finished, again!

Whew! The revised and now freshly re-revised YA version of Black Dog went back to my agent . . . lessee . . . about five minutes ago. A nice start to the new year! I added about 4000 words — well, more than that, but then I did a little cutting, too, which of course is harder and harder because all the obvious deadwood is long gone from this manuscript.

I did a little of this and a little of that, but mostly what I added are short flashbacks — Caitlin’s suggestion, a way of getting more into the characters’ heads and developing both plot elements and character arcs just a little more. It was a good idea, now we’ll see if Caitlin thinks the stuff I did works the way she thought it should.

Next: a few days off! I want to read Mouse and Dragon by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee. Maybe the rest of my new Diana Wynne Jones books. Maybe a couple other things. But it’d be nice to get a start on a new book before the new semester begins. Which is on the eleventh, so hey, not much time for loafing!

Well, but I have LOTS of cookies in the freezer to fuel the ol’ creative urges. You know, I figured out that I made upwards of 1800 cookies and candies between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Really. Thirty-two kinds counting the almond pastry, which is made in a long “S” shape (about 14 inches long), but since you serve it in very small slices, I’ve decided does reasonably count.

So not going to run out for a few months, I expect, even with the boxes and tins and platters I gave and will still give away.

Though the rest of my cooking had better emphasize light food for those months. Thai and Japanese and vegetarian Indian and no coconut milk, either. I don’t have to step on a scale to know that I’ve put on a few pounds. And I don’t think typing even counts as exercise, worse luck.

Okay! Off to dive into a wonderful book and enjoy a chilly evening where I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything, other than gaze admiringly at the puppies from time to time. They’re starting to show very early play behavior! All very cute. I’m thinking of naming the girl Frivolity and the boy Fiddlesticks — don’t have to decide till I register them. I could call the girl Folly, but I don’t know about calling the boy Fiddle.

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

And here is THE BEST COOKIE IN THE WORLD

Seriously. Even though there’s no chocolate, which I know seems like it’d take a cookie right out of the running. Even so, seriously, you have to try this cookie! I really think it’s a springtime cookie, but hey, try it out at Christmas, I don’t think anybody will complain!

I modified this recipe heavily, but the idea is based on a cookie from tigersandstrawberries.com — Barbara is an amazing cook.

Aphrodite Springtime Cookies

2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
14 Tbsp unsalted butter,
1 C sugar
2 eggs

Filling:

1/2 stick butter
4 oz cream cheese
8 oz powdered sugar
2 tsp rose water
2 drops red food coloring

Whisk together dry ingredients. Combine buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.

Beat butter and sugar three minutes. Beat in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

If you think that this method is much more like you are making a butter cake than a cookie, you are right! These are the most cake-like cookies you can possibly make. They work perfectly with the filling, believe me.

Now, you can drop the cookie dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, but I STRONGLY SUGGEST piping the dough, which is MUCH faster and easier and gives you a lot more control over the size of the cookies, plue ensures they come out round. Make ’em small, like a tsp each.

Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, until just barely brown around edges — you don’t want to overbake them.

Now combine the filling ingredients. Pipe the filling on half the cookies and top with the other half to make sandwich cookies.

These freeze beautifully, but because the cookies are so soft, you will find they stick to each other. Put waxed paper between layers.

If you have filling left over, ice cupcakes with it. In fact, if you make twice the filling, you’ll have enough to ice a whole layer cake! Mmmm.

When I was depressed last year after losing Adora’s only puppy from her first litter? These are the cookies I made. Then I sat down and read THE HUNGER GAMES and ate all the cookies. (Well, not all, but lots of them.) So that’s my prescription if you need a comforting evening after a hard couple of weeks: a really good dystopian story and a lot of really good cookies.

Extra note here: Adora’s two puppies this time around are doing great! Which does not stop me from eating cookies, but means I’m less inclined to eat them all myself.

Okay! Merry Christmas! See you after the holiday!

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The revision is slow . . .

But the cookies are coming along very nicely, thank you!

Here’s one if you like a not-too-sweet but very rich cookie . . . if you like fig newtons, you’ll probably like these, though they really aren’t at all similar. Except for the figs, obviously.

Fig Shortbread Cookies

1 C butter (no substitutes)
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 C ground pecans
1 C ground dried figs
2 C flour

With a cookie this simple, each ingredient shines forth pretty brightly, which is why you should use butter and not margarine. Makes a big difference in this cookie! So cream the butter and sugar (yes, it’s only 1/4 C), then beat in the vanilla, then stir in the pecans and figs and flour.

Shape into little torpedos and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, until set but not browned.

I’d say the above are an adult-type of cookie, probably not going to be a huge hit with the kids. This following recipe will be the ones the kids will love!

Chocolate Thumbprints

1 C butter or margarine
1 1/3 C sugar
2 eggs, separated
4 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
2/3 C cocoa powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 C toasted ground walnuts or other nuts

Filling:

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Chocolate chips

Like always, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, milk, and vanilla. Combine four, cocoa and salt and beat that in. Chill at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 80 balls. Dip each into beaten egg whites and roll in ground walnuts. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Indent each cookie with the tip of your finger. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Make the filling — combine all the ingredients until smooth. Spoon or pipe a little filling into the indentations of each warm cookie. (Piping is much faster.) Place a chocolate chip in the middle of the filling and press down lightly so each chocolate chip is surrounded by a ring of white filling.

There you go! Very tasty, but definitely on the fiddly side; if you’ve got kids handy that are recruitable, that’d be a real plus for this recipe.

Now, one more, not a cookie but so good I’m throwing it in anyway!

Coconut marshmallows

3 env. unflavored gelatin
1 C cold water, divided
2 C sugar
1 C corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
1/2 tsp vanilla

Ground toasted coconut

Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 C water in a LARGE bowl and whisk quickly to break up the gelatin. Set that aside.

Combine the other 1/2 C water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a pan. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, stirring only until the mixture comes to a boil. Bring to 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer, for heaven’s sake! They’re wonderful to have even if you don’t use them all that often.)

Once the syrup has reached 240 degrees, gradually pour the hot syrup mixture into the bowl with the gelatin, while the mixer is running. Then continue beating on high for 10 minutes or so, until the mixture is white, thick, and trying hard to climb up the beaters to the mixer. Beat in the coconut and vanilla flavorings.

Pour and spread into prepared pan. The mixture will be VERY STICKY, so don’t bother trying to get ever bit of it out of the bowl. The kids can clean some of it out for you and then you can run hot water in the bowl to dissolve the rest.

Anyway, let the marshmallows sit, uncovered, in the pan, for six hours or so. Although I’ve rushed it with no ill effects, so I think four hours is enough, probably.

Lift the marshmallow mixture out of the pan with the foil, lay it upside down on a cutting board, peel off the foil, and cut it into squares with a pizza cutter sprayed with cooking spray. Roll each square as you cut it in the coconut.

Store at room temp in an airtight containger. Stores just fine for weeks, but they’re not likely to last that long.

I’ve also done this to make chocolate marshmallows: add 2/3 C cocoa powder to the gelatin before you beat in the syrup, then roll the finished marshmallows in a mixture of 1/3 cornstarch and 2/3 cocoa powder. Also very good!

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

The must-try new cookie of the season

Can’t believe I never made this before! Already making plans to make ’em again, though of course not until I start running low on cookies, which I estimate will happen about March.

Anyway!

Walnut Horns

1 C butter, no substitutes
8 oz cream cheese
3 C flour

1 Tbsp butter, melted
4 C walnuts, toasted and ground
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

Additional sugar

Now, soften the butter — about ten seconds in the microwave. Add the cream cheese and zap another ten seconds or so. You don’t want the butter melted, just softened, it makes a difference. Beat the butter and cream cheese together, beat in the flour. Chill if necessary to make the dough easier to handle (I chilled it overnight just because that was convenient).

Divide the dough into fourths (I divided it into fifths to make smaller cookies, but suit yourself).

Roll out one portion of the dough into a 12 inch circle. Spread with 1/4 of the filling. Cut into 12 even wedges (I used a pizza cutter). Roll up each wedge from the wide end toward the tip. Curve gently into a crescent shape.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25-40 minutes (depending on how big you made your cookies, right?) until slightly golden.

Roll warm cookies in additional sugar.

Now, this is a pastry type of cookie and not a cookie type of cookie, right? These are sinfully rich and delicious, but in my opinion, although you can freeze them, they will lose a little in quality if you do, unlike a more cakey or shortbread type of cookie. Too bad! Worth making anyway!

I found the pastry easy to handle, so these were really no trouble at all to make. And they look very distinctive and pretty on the platter amid all the other cookies!

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

Cookies are very distracting . . .

. . . not just when they’re sitting there tempting you to skip supper and just pig out on sugar, but you know what? Making cookies is more fun than revising a manuscript, too! At least right now! At least this scene!

Aargh, what a day, just had to FORCE myself to sit down and work on this one scene. Not like it was exactly hard, just so not in the mood to work on it. Good thing I don’t depend on, you know, being in the MOOD.

Meanwhile! Here is a totally fantastic cookie that is somehow more than the sum of its parts.

Chocolaty Double Crunchers

1/2 C butter or margarine
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C quick oats
1/2 C flaked coconut
1 C crushed cornflakes — whirl ’em in a food processor, you don’t want powdered cornflakes, but you want ’em more crushed than you can easily do by rolling a rolling pin over them or whatever.

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C powdered sugar
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in. Shape into balls smaller than seems reasonable . . . like about a tsp or so . . . and set on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten with a glass dipped in flour. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely on racks.

Now, soften the cream cheese and chocolate chips in the microwave, stir until smooth, then add the powdered sugar.

Make sandwich cookies. Like many sandwich cookies, these are best after they have had time for the cookie to absorb a little moisture from the filling. They freeze perfectly and, in fact, are very tasty right out of the freezer — no need to thaw, imho.

These don’t look especially fancy, but they’re very very good. The cornflakes are key, don’t substitute plain oatmeal cookies. Well, unless you really want to, I guess.

Now, here’s a much fancier cookie that will definitely make everybody’s top ten list! They’re fiddly and you might want to recruit some helpful child if you have one handy.

Caramel Pecan Treasures

1 C butter (no substitutes)
3/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

30 caramels, cut in half and each half flattened as flat as possible. I suggest leaning on each half hard with the flat of a chef’s knife. I also suggest delegating this part if possible.

6 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 Tbsp shortening
60 pecan halfs. Halves? Whatever.

Now: as always, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour and baking powder and stir that in. Roll into 60 balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten slightly with a glass dipped in flour. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until slightly golden.

Quickly place caramel halves on each cookie while cookie is still as warm as possible.

Melt the chocolate with the shortening. I suggest you do this in the microwave, but if you love your double boiler, suit yourself. Drizzle or pipe or spread a little chocolate over each cookie. Top each cookie with a pecan half before the chocolate sets.

If you have willing help, you might want to double this recipe, because you will love it but it IS a pain in the neck, all those dratted caramels, I mean, honestly.

Also! Puppy update! Yep, still cute! In fact, very much in the cute sluglike stage because their eyes aren’t open yet. You know, a puppy this age? The brainwaves are the same whether it’s asleep or awake, isn’t that an entertaining little bit of trivia?

But the little boy rolled on his back today and yawned and stretched and waved his feet in the air and, okay, I have to say, major cute moment there.

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

Once more into the breach! Plus, cookies.

Okay, NOW I’m working on revising BLACK DOG. Actually I think it’s going pretty well and won’t take too long, though possibly I’m asking for trouble to sound optimistic.

I’m adding flashbacks and personal memories of the past, but so far very short ones. Though doing this is forcing me to figure out a more detailed past scene, which then has ramifications every single time somebody thinks about the past.

So I see a complete read through would once more be a good idea when I think I’m done. If I can stand it.

Then to be nice to Caitlin, I really should mark the important changes in red so she can see what I’ve done a little more easily.

Still, it’s going okay. So far.

Meanwhile! Watching puppies grow. They’re just about 12 oz today, which means they did just about double their weight in ten days like good little puppies are supposed to. They are quite fat, actually. I need to add another picture to my other website. Tomorrow, if I get to it.

Also! Onward with the promised cookies!

These are something of a pain, but well worth it once a year, if you want to splurge on macadamias:

Chocolate Macadamia Meltaways:

1 C butter (no substitutes)
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
7 oz macadamia, finely chopped.

1 C semisweet cocolate chips
1/2 C. additional coarsely-chopped macadamias

Cream the butter and sugar in the standard fashion; beat in vanilla; gradually add flour; stir in nuts. Dough will be stiff.

Melt chocolate chips and stir in coarsely-chopped nuts. Drop by 1/2 tsp on waxed-paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill 20 minutes.

Now, count the dabs of filling. Divide the dough into that many little balls (each will be about a tsp of dough). Shape a piece of dough around each little dab of filling and roll into a ball between your palms. This is a fiddly little job and you will find it’s hard to roll the cookies quite into balls because the chocolate dabs will be flat on one side. Do the best you can; they’ll be fine.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar to coat. Serve to gasps of admiration from all your friends and relatives.

There! After that, you deserve a casual easy cookie that isn’t the least bit fiddly. Try this popular little item:

Snow Bites

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C butter
3/4 C margarine

(the original recipe called for those proportions, but I’ve used all butter and all margarine and the thing that matters is the cream cheese, you can vary the other two)

2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
5 C flour
2 C dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips or whatever floats your boat

Cream the cream cheese, butter, and margarine. Beat in sugar. Beat in egg, salt, and vanilla. Gradually stir in flour. Stir in cranberries or chocolate chips or whatever.

Drop onto parchment-lined baking sheets or else roll into balls and place on cookie sheets, if you want a slightly fancier presentation.

Bake at 350 degres of 12-14 minutes, until slightly golden on bottom but still quite white on top.

There you go, everybody will love these, I promise!

Place cookies

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Blog / The Best Cookies In The World

The most amazing cookie recipe in the world

I make tons of fancy cookies for Christmas, and lots of them are in the running for BEST IN THE WORLD. I thought I’d post my personal picks for top ten and let other people try ’em. The one I think is the VERY BEST, I’ll post tenth. If I know where the original recipe came from, I’ll say so, if not, then I have no idea.

So! Onward, to make your name as a cookie goddess!

Caramel Swirls

1 C butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 C brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp maple flavoring
2 3/4 C flour

30 caramels
6 oz cream cheese

Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and maple flavoring. (This is the ONLY recipe I like maple in, so if you’re not a big maple fan, try it anyway.) Stir in the floor. Wrap dough in plastic and chill three hours or longer.

Meanwhile, peel all those caramels. This would be a good job for a compliant child, if you have one handy. Melt the caramels with the remaining cream cheese (I do this in the microwave).

Now, divide the dough in half. Place half on a large sheet of waxed paper and cover with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll out into a sizable rectangle. Um, about 18″ by maybe 10″? Not paper thin, you know, but thin-ish.

Spread half the caramel filling over the rolled-out dough, going all the way to the edges.

Roll up like a jelly-roll, using the waxed paper to help manipulate the roll. Finish by letting the roll sort of spill off the waxed paper onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap up roll of cookie dough and place on cookie sheet in the freezer.

Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and filling.

Freeze until good and firm, at least a couple of hours or for as long as is convenient. A month is fine.

Unwrap and slice into 1/4 inch cookies. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets at 350 degrees for about 12 to 14 minutes. Serve to universal acclaim.

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Wow, my life is so difficult . . .

You have no idea. First I spend an hour reading ON THE EDGE by Ilona Andrews, while sitting in the puppy room so that Adora won’t get lonely. Then when she is clearly settled, I go in the kitchen and bake cookies. After that, it’s time for all the dogs to go for a walk in our unseasonably warm weather. Then time to sit on the couch and read for a while, so that the other girls don’t think I’ve rejected them.

It’s pretty tough, you bet.

I finished the revision of MOUNTAIN! At least for now. Sent it off to my agent. That’s why I’m taking a couple of days to read for fun. Then it’ll be time to re-read the most recent comments over BLACK DOG and then I can revise that, possibly before Christmas if there’s not too much to do. I mean, I’ve got hours and hours of supervising puppies still to go, so that means hours and hours to work more or less uninterrupted on my laptop, too.

And yes, the puppies are doing fine! They just ticked over nine oz each this morning. Still smaller at six days than some newborns I’ve had, but they look great: plump and quiet and contented. I now am waking up only two or three times a night to rescue a cheeping puppy who accidentally crawled behind mom and got lost, or whatever. They should be less and less trouble and worry for the next few weeks . . . then of course more and more trouble as they hit housetraining age!

I hear the picture on the other site didn’t load? What’s up with that? Anyway, I’ll go try it again . . .

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Puppies!

Yes, we do have puppies. Whew!

The section (Friday) went well; unfortunately there was a long-dead puppy in one horn of the uterus (did you know dogs have a uterus shaped like a “Y”?) (Is this two much information for the average person?), and that compromised the uterine environment so that the other puppy in that horn died, probably only a day or so before the section.

Yes, this is sad, but not nearly as sad as losing a puppy after weeks spent trying to save him, which happened with Adora’s last litter. That was the only living puppy in the litter and I lost him and it was dreadful.

So this is okay, because there were two perfectly fine puppies in the other horn: a beautifully marked blenheim boy and a much-hoped-for ruby girl. So at least all this effort wasn’t for nothing!

The babies got off to a fairly slow start, what with the mom’s milk not really coming in for a couple of days. They weighed just a hair over six oz at birth (small but acceptable for a Cavalier puppy) and gradually lost half an oz each. But I supplemented by tube-feeding small amounts of milk replacer, and although still small, they are both doing well now. Again, whew!

It’s hard and often impossible to load a picture to this website from this slow connection, but for some reason it’s much easier to load pictures to my OTHER website, so if you’re curious, you can go over to

www.anaracavaliers.com

and click on the “Puppy” page, and if the update yesterday worked, then there should be a very nice picture of the new infants.

Adora’s maternal instincts came in fairly fast, given it was a section, which is why I can leave her long enough to type this — though I’ve dashed upstairs to check on her twice so far.

And! Now that she is taking care of the puppies, and the puppies are quiet and contented, I am finally able to get back to the . . . sigh . . . revision of MOUNTAIN. Surely I will have it finished by Friday? (I keep SAYING that!)

After that, the revision of BLACK DOG.

After THAT, since I am still paralyzed with indecision about what to work on . . . I kind of think I will write fifty to a hundred pages of EACH of the FOUR books I have in mind and then see what I want to do from there. Because why make a decision today when I can put it off till next summer, right?

I’m going to start with the one I feel least inclined to work on and go from there. That’ll make sure I actually do start all of ’em.

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Tomorrow is Dec 9th . . .

. . . and you know what that means? Not that Christmas is a mere 15 days away. (Well, that, too, I guess.)

No, the important thing is, it means my beautiful Adora will be having a c-section (because for several good reasons I feel that letting her have her puppies naturally presents a significant risk).

Dora's first Best of Breed win

And that means that posts will be light to nonexistent for about a week, as the only computer connected to the internet is the desktop downstairs in the study, and the puppy room is upstairs, and for that whole week I will not be leaving the puppies unsupervised for more than a few minutes at a time.

Plus, all I have at home is dial-up. I know, right? But that’s the cost — honestly, almost the only real cost — of living out in the middle of nowhere.

On the plus side, since I’ll be stuck in the puppy room 24/7, will I ever have a lot of time to focus on finishing the revision of MOUNTAIN! And then it turns out that my agent had several useful suggestions for yet more revisions to BLACK DOG. Which I am trying to appreciate, but you know, I was hoping she would declare it was perfect as-is.

It really feels sometimes like this has been The Year of Constant Nonstop Revision. I have to remind myself that actually I did write MOUNTAIN this year. Seems like so long ago. I am SO READY to stop revising stuff and write something new!

But as for tomorrow . . . wish me and my Dora luck, please! Live healthy fat thriving RUBY female puppies would be the best Christmas present ever.

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