Just for Nice by H.M. Shepherd – Guest Blog

Long and Short Reviews welcomes H. M. Shepherd as she visits with us to celebrate today’s release of her debut novel Just for Nice.

Top Five Recipes

1. Pizzelles

We used to go to my grandmother’s every Christmas to bake cookies with her and my aunts. I hated going for a variety of reasons, one of which was the iron fist my grandmother used to control her kitchen. I always envied my grandfather, who was left to sit in a corner and make pizzelles for hours on end without being bothered by anyone else. We eventually stopped going to these baking days, but not before I got the recipe my grandfather had originally been given by his Abruzzese mother. It was meant to feed nine children, six step-children, and a legion of grandchildren, so, you know. Adjust accordingly.

● 12 eggs
● 6 cups flour
● 5 cups sugar
● 4 1/2 cups oil
● 3 tbps anise extract
● Zest of 2 lemons

Mix well and press in a pizzelle iron according to instructions.

2. Italian Wedding Soup

My late uncle wrote this up from memory when I complained that I had never been given my grandfather’s soup recipe (same grandfather as above, but since this is a little more involved we never did get around to writing it down). It’s presented here as it was given to me, lax measurements and all, because that’s how this family rolls.

● Whole frying chicken
● Chicken bouillon
● 1 head of escarole
● 1 large onion, diced
● 1 clove garlic, diced
● Celery, diced
● Tiny meatballs
● Ground pepper to taste
● Pastina/orzo
● 2 eggs
● 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
● 1/4 cup milk

To make stock, boil chicken in 2 gallons of water; add bouillon cubes. Once cooked, remove the chicken and cut up as much as you want for the soup. Saute meatballs, onions, and garlic; add to soup with pieces of chicken. Clean and boil escarole. Add as much pastina as you’d like. Let soup boil uncovered until reduced by half. Beat eggs, mix in Parmesan and milk. Add this mixture to soup as you stir.

3. No-Knead Skillet Bread

This is not, in fact, an old family recipe; I found it on Pinterest. But it’s awesome for when you need a side, and it can be customized however you’d like.

● 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
● 2 cups lukewarm water
● 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
● 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
● Olive oil
● Rosemary
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Combine yeast and warm water in a large bowl or pitcher. Using a wooden spoon add in 1 cup of the flour and then the salt and mix until combined. Stir in the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid that is not shut completely. Allow to rise for 1 hour. Do not punch down the dough. Lightly oil the bottom of a cast iron skillet (a 10′′ or 12′′ skillet works well). Sprinkle a good amount of flour on top of the dough and then cover hands with flour. Take all of the dough and shape into a disc (it will be sticky). Place in the skillet, cover loosely with a towel, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400oF. Drizzle a little more oil over the top of the bread, and slash the dough with a knife creating an X. Sprinkle with coarse salt and rosemary leaves. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the top is a deep brown color.

4. Hot Dog Sauce

I have no idea whether or not this is true, but family lore says that my great-uncle got the recipe for Yocco’s hot dog sauce from the owner’s girlfriend, with whom he was having an affair (presumably this was before he met my great-aunt, who was ex-military and a feminist before it was cool). This recipe admittedly tastes pretty damn close, but I don’t think it’s anything someone couldn’t have figured out on their own. Still, I like the story.

● 1 lb ground beef
● Grease from 3 or 4 slices of bacon
● Salt
● Pepper
● 1/2 cup chopped onion
● Chili powder

Brown ground beef in bacon grease. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in onions and chili powder. Cover with water and let simmer for one hour.

5. Apple Dumplings

Because at least one recipe from the author of a story set in Pennsylvania Dutch Country should be Pennsylvania Dutch. This is one of my Dad’s favorite desserts, though when I make it I generally end up using puff pastry. Cheating? Maybe, but pie dough is a pain in the ass to get right and I don’t have the patience for it.

● 6 medium Pennsylvania baking apples
● 2 cups all-purpose flour
● 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
● 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
● 3/4 cup sugar
● 1/2 tsp salt
● 2/3 cup shortening
● 1/2 cup milk
● 1 tbsp cinnamon
● 2 cups packed brown sugar
● 2 cups water
● 1/4 cup butter
● 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pare and core apples, leaving whole. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening until particles are about the size of small peas. Sprinkle milk over mixture and press together lightly, working dough only enough to hold together. Roll dough on floured surface as for pastry and cut into 6 squares; place an apple on each. Fill cavity in apple with sugar and cinnamon. Pat dough around apples, covering completely. Fasten edges securely on top of apple. Place dumplings 1″ apart in greased baking pan. Combine brown sugar, water and spice. Cook minutes; remove from heat and add butter. Pour over dumplings. Bake at 375°F for 35 to 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Serve hot with whole milk, cream, or ice cream.

Nick Caratelli flees the city in an attempt to escape a broken relationship and a career he never wanted. He plans to set up a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—despite the fact he has no experience in renovating the old building. Luckily his handsome neighbor Sam approaches him with a curious proposal: he’ll help with the restoration in exchange for Nick babysitting his niece.

As they work to have the bed-and-breakfast open for business by summer’s end, their lives become interwoven without them even trying. Before he knows it, Nick is recovering from his loss and taking his place in the unconventional family that seems determined to form. But for Nick and Sam to be together in all the ways they desire, they’ll have to realize all the arguments against romance exist only in their heads….

About the Author: H. M. Shepherd is a twentysomething paralegal living in Berks County, Pennsylvania, with both parents, two dogs, a baby sister who should stop growing up, and a brother who similarly failed to launch. Contrary to the Millennial stereotype, however, she does not live in the basement—a blessing considering the size of the spiders down there. She crochets as a hobby, cooks when she can, and reads as though it were her vocation. She is also an amateur genealogist and spends entirely too much time squinting at old census records and church documents. A little spacey, she once managed to forget that her car needed an oil change until it stopped running, and regularly has milk-in-the-cupboard-cereal-in-the-fridge moments. While she is an avid writer, Just for Nice is her first and so far only professional publication.


Buy the book at Dreamspinnner Press.

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