Multi-Use Cookie Dough

I am a cookie-holic. I love baking them. In fact I love it so much, I’ve had to set boundaries and rules for myself so that I don’t bake twice a day. There’s something therapeutic in the process. More often than not I find myself asking others what kind of cookie I can make them (mainly my wife, kids, and family members). More often than not they’re all different and usually not what I want to bake. I’m a selfish baker too.

So I think I’ve come up with a solution for my selfish-baking-problems: Versatile Cookie Dough! This past Sunday while everyone was sick, I decided to try out this idea. Using my cooking/baking bible (Cook’s Illustrated THE NEW BEST RECIPE Revised Edition) I found a generic recipe for a thick and gooey chocolate chip cookie and started to work the magic.


It’s really not that complex. I made a full batch of the cookie dough sans chocolate chips. Then dividing it in half I placed both in separate containers. Realizing I wanted to make more than just two cookies I decided to make more. After mixing up a half batch I placed it in a bowl and then added the defining ingredients for White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Classic Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.

***ATTENTION!! The oatmeal chocolate chip cookies did take a bit more effort on my part as I did add sour cream, spices, oats, and way too much flour causing them to end up looking like cake bites rather than cookies. I’ll probably elaborate later on this.***

Pretty much just make the following recipe as a 1.5 batch. (Or double if you want to make four kinds of cookies. I don’t know, you may be feeling spicy!)

 

The Generic Recipe:

Ingredients

3 Cups       all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp       baking soda

3/4 tsp        salt

18 tbsp        unsalted (or salted) butter – 2 1/4 sticks worth

1 1/2 cups    packed brown sugar

3/4 cups      granulated sugar

2 large         eggs and a yolk (If you can divide an egg perfectly in half, be my guest.)

3 tsp             vanilla ( I splash a bit more than I should in the dough every time.)

Add-Ins

For Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup             semi-sweet/milk chocolate chips

For White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

1 cup             white chocolate chips

1/4 cup         macadamia nuts crushed

1 tbsp            lime zest (be generous with this to get some fun flavors into the cookie)

For Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cup       dry quick oats

1 1/2 tsp        cinnamon

1/2 tsp         nutmeg

1 cup  semi-sweet/milk chocolate chips

Instructions

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and prepare your 9×13 cookie pans. I usually use our Silpat, or parchment paper, less mess.

Mix melted butter, sugars, vanilla, and eggs together in large mixing bowl. Mix until incorporated, you don’t have to cream the butter. Next add dry ingredients. I’ve been told multiple times to use separate bowls, but come on do I have to use every dish in my house?No. After adding the flour, salt, and baking soda mix them all together until dough pulls away from the sides and forms a rough ball. Divide the dough into three separate balls.

Now the fun begins with adding your specific ingredients. For Classic Chocolate Chip cookies add desired chocolate chips in (about a cup, don’t skimp) and mix with a fork, or your fingers. For Macadamia Nut mix white chocolate chips, nuts, and lime zest and mix with a fork, or your fingers.

For Oatmeal cookies you have to do things a bit different. I found that the finished cookie dough was too dry to add the oats. I added about a tablespoon of sour cream, and played around with the amount of flour  until I came out with a good consistency. Well it wasn’t that good. From what I learned you probably want to only add maybe 1/3 cup of flour to the sour cream. Make sure the dough is more sticky and wet when compared to the other two. That way when they cook, your cookie will end up a nice oatmeal cookie consistency, instead of a weird cake-bite-thingy. After all that, don’t forget to add cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate chips.

Roll dough into balls 2-3 inches in diameter, maybe a bit larger than a golf ball. Then break each ball in half and place on pan. This will give your cookies that beautiful bakery texture that you’ve always been envious of with each bakery you visit. I usually fit 13 cookies to a pan.

Now bake your cookies! The book advises you to cook each batch for 12-14 minutes. However, I never follow cooking times. Instead I set my timer for 9 minutes and then for 3 minutes more. It depends on how you like your cookies. I like mine gooey and under-baked. If you like them more crisp, go ahead and try for 13 minutes. But I don’t dare you.

Wait one or two minutes after pulling out the tray to allow for cookies to rest. Then place on cooling rack, or plate. You should make about two dozen cookies with each unique batch. (For those of you trying to figure out the numbers like I always do that’s about 72 cookies.)

Now share the love or hoard it! It’s up to you! Feel free to post pictures of your creations here when you do! Happy baking.

-M.E. Inkowl

Sourdough Waffles

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In my family we all grew up eating waffles for breakfast on the weekends. We had this ancient-of-days waffle iron that melted the front of our toaster, or maybe that was a griddle.

It made the best, most fluffy waffles I’ve ever tasted this side of the Mississippi. They were the essence of childhood itself.

Anyway.

Waffles have always had a place in my heart more than any other bread breakfast food. It became an obsession for me to get the recipe right. When I was old enough and could be trusted with basic household appliances I would try. Over and over and over and over.

We use the basic waffle recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I’ll never forget the cookbook’s red and black criss-crossed cover, stained with water and who knows what. Yes life was complete.

That is until a few months ago. Fast forward nearly 16 years to now, when my wife and I discovered household sourdough starter kits.  (They’re amazing.) Ours, it’s name is Martha, has been growing for some time. I can’t recommend enough getting your own, it will change your life.

One day my wife came across this recipefor eggless sourdough waffles, we do eggless for dietary reasons (and a desire to not be writhing in pain afterward).

Every memory I had before that moment about waffles has been erased. Nothing can compare to the crisp, tangy, filling waffles that come from following this recipe.

The Recipe

Ingredients:

300g (1 1/2 cups) 100%  sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour*
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 to 4 tbls sugar (I only use 3)**
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup milk***
2 tbls fat (coconut oil, butter, olive oil melted)****
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional, it’s a fun flare)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your waffle iron.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, mix together the starter, sugar, apple cider vinegar, milk, melted margarine and vanilla, whisk until smooth then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix everything together gently until it all just comes together. Do not over mix, little lumps are ok, over mixing will give you tough rubbery waffles.
When your iron is ready pour batter into the pan. I usually do about a fourth or third cups worth. It depends on the size of your iron. Check that the waffle is golden on the underside and serve it immediately.

You can always serve it either your favorite topping. (Mine happens to be nutella.)

To reheat you can always toss it in the toaster for a couple of minutes.

Happy Breakfasting!

Special thanks to the Cookbookaficionado. Check out her blog for more amazing recipes!

*Whole wheat is absolutely delicious with this recipe

**For a more savory tasting waffle you can leave out the sugar and vanilla.

***We’re not exactly vegan so we used regular 2% milk

***Also used just regular olive oil here. If you like a hint of coconut flavoring I would recommend using coconut oil. I feel better about life when I do, in a tropical sort of way.wp-1478749694711.jpeg

Autumn’s Cake

“…in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, …it is never too late to find out how to do it.”
― Ruth Reichl

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“So what’s the big surprise for dessert?” Amelia looked back to the garden’s gate expectantly.

Charles smiled down at his plate. Never had he seen his mother unable to suppress her excitement over food.

“Yes please tell us Chuck! You and Vivian have been silent this entire time!” Charles’ sister Tillie leaned forward in her chair, glass in hand. All around them her children ran the table, having grown bored of adult conversation.

Around the group a light breeze drifted between flowering  stands of obedience plants and St. John’s wart. Above them the garden’s only linden tree whispered in the evening air.

“This reminds me of a time when Grandma and I were in Ireland. . .” Grandpa’s voice faded into the background as Charles’s Uncle, Greg leaned over to whisper in his ear.

“Have you looked at that last video I emailed you about my trip to Tanzania?” Charles shook his head as a fit of giggles burst from the tree above.

“Henry! Henry, get out of that tree! You’ll break your neck kid!” Tillie’s husband Sam jumped up from the table, racing into the garden trailing a line of bobbing figures.

“Oh yes! I remember that old pub! They had the best outdoor seating.” Grandma held her hands up to the sky, finger’s spread wide. “They had their place perched on the top of a crest, just before the sea. The sun was right there, just burning away as it went over the Atlantic.”

“Charlie, how is your work? When am I going to see it?” Charles smiled at his father’s impatience. “Soon dad, soon.”

Voices grew within the garden. Twisting into one another as time slowly stopped. Charles looked down the long table drinking in the moment.

“Oh Look! here she comes!”

“Yes! Yay! Oh my word! Would you look at that?”

“What is it? What is it?”

Charles turned around to see his wife kick the gate closed behind her, cheeks flushing with pride. She had that satisfied smile on, the one he knew well. It meant that minds were about to be blown.

Vivian spoke softly, “It’s-”

“Shhh quiet you all! The woman’s speaking!” Grandpa hollered.

Vivian blushed and tried again, “It’s called Caramel Apple Spice Cake. Enjoy!”

She set down the cake with a flourish. The evening sky caught drizzled caramel sinking into a rich crust. Dishes clinked and napkins rustled as forks were passed around.

“Oh I can’t wait!” Squealed Tillie.

“Mommy! Mommy what is it? Can I have some too?” Several children flocked around the edge of the table, right next to the cake.

“No come sit down first! Where are you manners? Owen get over here! Sit down!”

“Oh let me look at it! Just look at that!” Grandma twittered.

Uncle Greg looked down at his plate, “Did you use gala apples or fuji?”

“Oh hush up and try it Greg!” Amelia smiled, a sizable fork-full hovering before her mouth. She slipped the piece into her mouth and then froze. Her eyes went wide as a sigh of ecstacy rose in her throat.

Grandma raised her hands to the sky, mouth working quickly around a piece of cake. “Oh my . . .”

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” Tillie sat back in her seat as around her her children impatiently pawed at her chair. She closed her eyes as caramel filled her senses.

Around the table silence grew. Crickets sang in the garden as above them the yellowing Lindon leaves spoke in the air.

Vivian leaned into Charles shoulder, “I think they like it.”

Charles chuckled as Grandpa reached across with his fork and dug into the cake. He winked at Vivian as the plate slowly shifted onto his side of the table.

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Recipe:

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Lunch Time Tacos

I’m sorry Leslie, but you’re not cutting it.

The knife slid through each pepper with an assassins precision. A

You don’t take the feedback we’ve given you.

Words continued to ring within her ears as cilantro burst from the plastic produce bag. She ripped the faded blue rubber band from around their thin stalks and thrust them under the ice cold water.

Dark hair flying, Leslie spun around to the fry pan crackling on her old gas stove top. Two milk white tortillas turned to gold as deft fingers flipped them over.

You don’t make improvements when given the opportunity.

Hands flew over a large block of cheese, cut on a slant to the world around it. They landed in the sizzling pan, melting into the flat bread.

She was crying. Tears streamed down from her eyes, but the rest of her moved as if nothing were amiss.

We feel that you lack the skill set to be the kind of person suited for this program.

A sob escaped her as she stirred pork deeper into tomato paste, cumin, and, chili powder. Her arms moved, covering the meat in an exquisite amber red liquid.

Reaching into a cupboard she pulled out a plain white dish. She clicked off the stovetop and tossed the tortillas onto the plate. With a gentle swipe, she spread a thin layer of sour cream across the cheese.

For these reasons, we have decided to cut you from the project.

Meat, cooked into a tender combination of herb and protein followed. A toss of red pepper fell across the plate, followed by a final scattering of cilantro leaves.

Goodluck.

With trembling legs she collapsed onto a bench and devoured the tacos. Leslie closed her eyes and breathed in the aroma. And for that moment, that instant she didn’t care.  Not that sauce dripped down her wrists. Not that more than just napkins surrounded her. Not carrying that her entire world was collapsing down around her head.img_20161109_210343.jpg

                                                                                                                                      

Inspiration for this story comes from a recipe my wife found for sourdough tortillas. You can visit the site here. As for the experience, lets just say I can be a bit of an emotional eater.

As the recipe goes, here’s the ingredients and my process:

Ingredients:

1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp fat (ghee, butter, lard, or coconut oil work best)
1/4 cup sourdough starter
approx. 1/2 cup warm water

Directions

I mixed both flours, salt, and baking powder together in a medium sized glass bowl, then cubed up my butter and used a fork to toss it all together. I always use a fork, but if you have a food processor it will make the whole task of mixing move a lot faster. I like to sit and think about life while I mix ingredients together. I think using coconut butter instead of regular butter would be superb with this specific recipe.

After the dry ingredients were mixed well with the fat I added the sourdough starter and warm water. With the water you  want it to be about the temperature of a warm shower. If you’re mixing by hand it will take a minute for the starter to get completely incorporated into the dough. When it’s all combined it should form itself into a nice dome of dough.

While the recipe does say you can make this a day in advance, I found that after letting the dough rest 2-3 hours on the countertop, in the warmth of the kitchen, it worked just as well. Otherwise feel free to set it in the fridge to rest for at least 4 hours or over night and then pull it out to use. makes sure its warmed up for about an hour before hand. (This is why I just left it out, less time constraints.)

To cook them place a non-stick pan on your stove top, set to hot and get ready to fry up some grub. Divide dough into six equal rounds. Then using a floured surface roll out dough to desired thickness (you want them thin, don’t ask just do).

Cook until golden brown on both sides. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Growing up, my mother made the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were huge. Each one had to be the size of a grown man’s hand. And they were always soft, even when the outside layer crackled when you bit into it.

As an adult I’ve still got this childhood obsession with this cookie. I’ve gone through quite a few recipes, and they always turn out to be a bit more like nothing the cookies she made. That is until I pulled out my old standby: Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. In there is a classic recipe for that so coveted oatmeal cookies. If you follow it, you’ll find yourself owner of some wonderful cookies. But not the cookies.

So I played around with it. I don’t use eggs in my cookies so I played around with flax-seed, less liquified butter, and varying types of chocolate chips.

In the end I created something that roughly equates to my perfect cookie memories.

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Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened (not totally melted, it makes the cookie spread out too much)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (not optional, you have to)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (not optional, you can throw in a dash of cloves if you’re feeling spicy)
2 tbs of flax-seed/ 6 tbs of water mixed (or 2 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats

1 cup of chocolate chips

Now when it comes to chocolate, I love to have it balance out the sweetness of the cookie with a rich dark flavor. I use about a half cup of semi-sweet and a half cup of dark chocolate chips. Then I throw in a few more handfuls just to be safe.

*Important* To make these chocolate chip cookies, don’t forget to add the chocolate chips! I use a blend of semi sweet and dark chocolate flavors. I’m a kind of dark individual and really enjoy my chocolate to give me more than just fluff.

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. (It never fails that I forget this step and have to sit and watch the oven heat up.) Prep a 9×13 cookie sheet with parchment paper, silpat.

Cream butter and sugar until it’s fluffy. You’ll know when. Then add flax-seed mixture and vanilla to the bowl, mixing it until all combined. For me the best results come from mixing all the ingredients together with a large fork, or wooden spoon. But if you don’t want to work out your arm please use an appropriate hand or standing mixer.

Next add in dry ingredients, baking powder/soda, spices, and flour (you can just dump them into the same bowl, cut down on dishes). I wait to add the oats until everything comes together, seems to put less stress on your tools*. Add chocolate chips to desired level of goodness and mix until combined.

A trick I learned from America’s Test Kitchen for bakery worthy cookies is this: Ball up dough to double the size of what you would normally do and then break the ball in half. Place both parts with broken side up. I usually fill a 9×13 cookie sheet with a baker’s dozen. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes and enjoy some beautiful cookies. This recipe should yeild about 48 cookies, depending on the size you like them to be . . . or how much cookie dough you eat.

*If you have a mixer, please please please please change the whisk paddles to cookie paddles. You and your bank account will thank you later.*

 

A Tart, and then some . . .

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“I can’t stop looking at it.” She said, the tart laying innocent and neat at the edge of the table.

“You make me sick, you realize this, right?” Abbey looked on. Disgust and admiration mixing in her face. She picked at a nail and eyed her roommates creation.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made it.” Melanie looked into their closet kitchen. It was a mess. Bitting her lip she shifted towards the kitchen door, blocking the view from her friend.

Abbey flipped back her bangs, and tried to look into the kitchen. “This was your first time making it, wasn’t it.”

Guilt burned in Melanie’s stomach. “I . . . yes it was.”

Nodding her head, Abbey shrugged her shoulders her anger bubbling over. “Of course.”

“Look I know I made a mess, and I know you just went shopping for all that fruit. I just didn’t want it to go to waste-”

Abbey held up a hand, as she stepped towards the table. “How do you do it? How do you do everything so perfect like this?” She waved a hand at the tart. It’s glaze caught in the sunlight and gleamed with seduction.

“Um . . .” Melanie didn’t know what to say. She never knew what to say in the face of confrontation.

“No just stop for a minute, don’t even talk. How do you come in here, into my life and turn it upside down? Do you have any idea how many guys I’ve brought over, expecting them to pay attention to me? And all they can look at is . . is . . that?” Abbey bent over the tart and picked off a glistening black berry.

Melanie blinked back tears, blindsided. All she could think was: Well none of the guys you ever brought here were ever impressive.

Abbey continued her tirade. “How do you even do this? It looks like glass. No wonder I can’t compare with you. You’re like Julia Child meets Wonder Woman and they decided to become best friends in the same body!”

She shook the berry at Melanie.

“I bet this tastes like heaven too. Here let me try.” Before Melanie could say anything her friend threw the berry into her mouth.

“Yup, it does. It does-” Abbey stopped, and held a hand up to her mouth.

The room fell silent.

Melanie stood there, staring like an owl caught out in daylight. She watched as her roommate chewed on the fruit. Watched as the muscles of her face worked with an almost reverent movement.

“Err . . .  Abbey?” She stepped over to the counter. Abbey didn’t move, except for her jaw. Tears broke and ran down her cheeks. “Abbey, I’m really really sorry. I actually have no idea what else to say. I’m sorry, I-I-I don’t mean to do any of that-”

She fell silent, her shoulders frozen in a shrug, hands held out before her. Abbey sniffed. And looked up from the tart.

Abbey’s voice was small. “Can . . . Can I have some more?”

“I’m sorry what?”

Abbey’s face flushed, and she pointed at the tart. “This is really really good. Can I have some more?”

Melanie stared at her for a second longer, then disappeared into the kitchen. Abbey eyed the tart as she heard the fridge open and close. A moment later Melanie stepped out with two forks, two cups, and small jug of milk.

Abbey sniffed some more as her friend filled up both cups and proffered a utensil. Melanie felt the tension leave her body as she watched her friend dig into the tart.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you.” Said Abbey.

Melanie smiled as she took in a mouthful of tart. She closed her eyes. Buttery crust melted on her tongue. She felt her jaw ache as starbursts of fruit juice burgeoned across her taste buds.

“It’s okay.”

The two continued to eat in a comfortable silence.

 

 

An Apology From November

Hello all. I wish I could say I was wrapped up in writing a spellbinding novel to be published at the end of the month, but I’m not. Instead I’m figuring out just how challenging it is to stretch your abilities and talents into a different activity.

Ever feel like the winds of inspiration have abandoned your sails? You’re left with this hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach as you look at a blank computer screen. And it only gets more hollow the longer it takes to post anything this month.

The lazy part of my brain just want’s to skip this month’s food writing challenge altogether and dive back into scary stories. But where would the challenge be there? So if you are out there reading this, and wondering where I’ve gone to know this: I’m somewhere, trying to write something. Maybe even sweating a little as I do it.

So here, have a picture of the last harvest from my garden.

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November does not feel like it’s usual self this year. Clipping wild tomato bushes back, I couldn’t help but look up at the empty azure sky and think:

Where’s the clouds? Where’s the snow?

“Dad, dad! Look at me! I’m picking tomatoes!” My son gave me a wide smile as he pulled an entire clump of green and orange cherry tomatoes. He tossed them into a large bowl resting on unfrozen grass.

“Great job kid! Can you grab these over here?” With a determined swagger he all but launched himself onto what remained of the bush.

Crouching down I yanked a small tomato stump from the soil. Clods of dry soil spilled over my feet as I shook twisting roots free. I felt a small hand pat my back as my other son fished around the bowl for a juicy red treat.

“Happy! Happy!” He said, tomato seeds and juice dripping from his mouth.

There we all were, in shorts and T-shirts soaking in the plentiful vitamin D.

Instead I was sweating, and wiping dirt across my forehead.

Shouldn’t I be shoveling snow? Shouldn’t there be a snowman in the yard? I looked at the trowel in my hand. At least shouldn’t I have cracked knuckles?

Yup, this definitely wasn’t November.

Grapes

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Light played through metal links as I walked along the fence. Above my small frame towered a wall of wide leaves. Vines grew thick and gnarled around the ground. I reached a hand and touched rough wood.

“Michael!” Beyond a sea of grass, my mother’s voice echoed from the porch. I turn my head, blinded by the sun.

Something soft brushed my tiny hand. I thrust my fist under a shifting leaf, touching a cluster of something new. Pulling back a vine I find my hand cradling a tangle of emerald spheres.

Wet, my hand is wet.

“Michael! Where are you?”

Sweetness pervades the air around me, and I can’t help but pull tender fruit from its home. I giggle as some of the sphere’s burst between my pudgy fingertips. And then I’m bring it all to my mouth, under my nose.

It doesn’t give at first when I bite, but then it does. Skin breaking between my teeth I feel flesh of the fruit explode in my mouth. Tangy sweet juice made my jaw ache.

Someone’s running through the grass now, yelling. “Michael don’t you be eating Grandpa’s grapes!”

. . .

Even as an adult I can still remember the smell of my grandparent’s back yard. I remember being a foot taller than their grass. Even as a toddler, I helped my grandfather pick grapes for my grandmother to juice.

Now it all takes place in my in-laws backyard. Except it’s me calling for my son, George, because he’s eaten half the bush.

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Cherry Enticement

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Sunlight streaming through rustling branches

Age old bark curling beneath youthful finger tips

Juice erupting between teeth, crimson upon lip

Pure, unadulterated tastes of summer.

My mother had the same bowl of cherries for almost 13 years. Always they sat on the counter next to the phone, innocent as sin. Their color never wavered, ripeness never spoiled. Year after year they sat, waiting to be devoured, yet were never consumed.

That is until my friend laid tempted eyes upon them. Though lightly covered with dust, they held her spellbound.

“Oh my gosh cherries! At this time of year?” We all jumped at her sudden exclamation. She all but ran to the counter.

“Um, What?” I said eyebrows raised, ” I didn’t even know we had cherries?”

“Yeah they’re right here.” She was already reaching across the counter, hand grasping a succulent treat.

Up the cherry flew into her open mouth as realization dawned upon me.

“Wait no!” I said, too late.

She bit down, waiting for a tender explosion of cherry liquor to fill her mouth. It never happened.

CRACK! Went the cherry.

 

 

November on The Ink Owl

Time to switch gears this month. I’ll be resuming my three stories: The Grave Dancer, Greenwood, and Life. Also I’ll be adding a few new pieces about something that is always near and dear to me . . . And my stomach.

This month will be about food! So get ready for some entertaining stories surrounding tasty food, good company, and expanding waist lines.

Happy reading.

-M.E. Inkowl