Let’s talk about appetizers on this Tasty Tuesday, shall we? With all the parties of the holiday season, this might be one you’d enjoy to contribute. Romance author Lynn Crandall is here to share her story Nutcracker Sweet and a recipe for meatballs and sausages. Take it away, Lynn!
I’m happy to be on Betty Bolte’s Tasty Tuesday to share a little bit about my new release, Nutcracker Sweet, and a recipe mentioned in the story. Thank you, Betty!
My mom was making chocolate Christmas cookies and gathering all the family around the kitchen table to stretch out a blob of hot candy into a platter of peanut brittle. It was a tradition, and one in which we all bonded together.
We were not unique. When the holidays come around, many of us celebrate with family traditions. According to Amy Griswold, Family Life Educator at the University of Illinois County Extension, traditions are part of the fabric of family.
Research shows that these traditions are important in building strong family relationships between generations,” Griswold wrote on the Extension’s website. “Traditions are stories, beliefs, rituals, and customs that are passed from one generation to the next. Keeping traditions for the holidays as well as the ordinary days help teach children the things their family values. These traditions help fill the individual’s need to belong. Being a part of the special things our family does, helps us to have that sense of belonging.”
In my story, Nutcracker Sweet, Noël Hartley is facing the holiday season burdened with sorrow over her sister’s death. Family holiday traditions, including attending a performance of the Nutcracker ballet each Christmas with her older sister, Reggie, are painful reminders that her sister is no longer around and her family is falling apart. Her parents have left town, her younger brother and sister are looking to her to hold the family together, and on top of everything, the firefighter Jonah Grant, the man who didn’t save Reggie from the fire, keeps trying to make pathways into her life. Ugghh.
Rather than trying to ignore Christmas, Noël plans a holiday get-together for the three of them, and turns to traditional foods to help create a sense of belonging. Her contribution to the festivities is a zingy cheddar cheese ball. Her sister, Brie, supplies the peppermint mocha coffees, and her brother, Oliver, brings the hot meatballs and sausages in a family-favorite, tangy sauce. Unexpected guest, Jonah, adds his homemade apricot liqueur eggnog and a whole lot more than Noël expects.
Here’s the blurb:
A year after her sister’s death, Noël Hartley is haunted by memories of Christmas past. All around, life is going on, including all the happy celebrations of Christmas. Noël is having nothing of it, or the firefighter who failed to save her sister Regina from the deadly fire.
Firefighter Jonah Grant is going through the motions of working and living his life. The night he fought a fire in Regina Hartley’s house replays over and over, but always ends the same. He went into a fire to save her, but came out without her.
A wall of pain keeps Noël and Jonah apart and alone in their suffering, though in mid-size Cranberry Cove they’re finding it challenging to avoid one another. But when a stalker puts Noël’s life in danger, Jonah has to find a way to prevent another tragedy and prove to her that their futures rely on facing the past.
Here’s an excerpt from Nutcracker Sweet:
“Excuse me, could you help me get that box of crackers on the top shelf?”
The female voice sounded familiar and Jonah looked up, ready to assist. His heart stopped. Please floor, open up and swallow me now.
It was Noël Hartley, standing two feet away and asking for help. She blinked, twice, and swayed a tiny bit. It was a very quiet sound, but he heard her gasp.
“I’m sorry.” The words just fell out. “I mean, sure.” He couldn’t move.
She held his gaze, silently, for a full, frozen minute. “Hi, Jonah. Do you mind?” She pointed to a box of seven grain, sea salt crackers. “Please?”
He grabbed the box and handed it to her, his arms were heavy logs. “Just one box?”
She slanted her head, and his pulse sped up. Cute was not a strong enough word to assign to her face. Cad.
“No, two would be better.”
He gave her another box and paused, their eyes meeting again. His mouth went dry. Words, where were his words? Nerves rattled in his head. “I came in to get something for dinner, but I don’t know…” He let the sentence drop and twisted as though searching for something to buy.
She chuckled lightly, and it steadied his rambling thoughts. “Me too. I have to pick up things for a meal, anyway.” She chewed on her lip, drawing his attention to them.
His heart ached for her. The apologies he had made to Noël and her family just after the fire were the last words he’d spoken about the tragedy with them. His words had been so inadequate that thinking of them now he felt his skin blanch. He lifted his gaze and found Noël searching his face.
“Jonah.” Her expression got very somber. “I don’t hold any hard feelings for you. Don’t feel uncomfortable for what happened.” She dropped her gaze, but not before he saw her eyes reveal her pain. Then her expression perked up. “It’s been almost a year. I’m fine. I hope you are too. Now, I need to finish my shopping. Good luck with finding your dinner.”
So we’re going to gloss over everything wrong. She was not fine, and that crunched his heart. But he wouldn’t press, not here, not in the grocery store. “Thanks. I’ll find something.”
She pushed her cart away from him, but he stood watching her retreat, helpless in her despair. He couldn’t just go on as he’d been over the months since the fire. Noël had graciously let him off the hook, but the truth was in her eyes. It had pierced his soul and he couldn’t continue as though nothing had happened but he didn’t yet know what to do either.
Now for the recipe Oliver made for Brie and Noël.
Meatballs and Sausages in Tangy Sauce
1 pound ground beef
1 16 ounce bottle Catalina dressing
1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice
1 package cocktail sausages
Shape ground beef into small meatballs and brown on all sides.
When meatballs are done, pour full bottle of Catalina dressing and entire can of pineapple chunks with juice in a crockpot. Stir, and add meatballs and sausages to the crockpot mixture. Stir again.
Cook over low heat in crockpot until meatballs are done, about two or three hours, depending on your crockpot.
Keep mixture warm in pot to serve.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as an appetizer for any kind of gathering this holiday or any time you throw a party. Check out Nutcracker Sweet to read how I used the dish in the story.
May your holiday season be full of peace, love, and joy!
Lynn Crandall lives in the Midwest and writes in the company of her cat. She has been a reader and a writer all her life. Her background is in journalism, but whether writing a magazine or newspaper story or creating a romance, she loves the power stories hold to transport, inspire, and uplift. In her romances, she focuses on vulnerable, embraceable characters who don’t back down. She hopes that readers discover, over and over, stories of ordinary people who face ordinary life challenges and are transformed by extraordinary love.
Facebook Author Page https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrandallAuthor/?ref=settings
That’s an easy and tasty appetizer, isn’t it? The story sounds tempting as well. Do you have a favorite pitch-in dish you take to gatherings?
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