Today’s Tasty Tuesday offering includes several tempting recipes for you try. Women’s fiction and romance author Virginia McCullough is here to tell you about one of her favorite stories and several related dishes to enjoy. What do you have for us, Virginia?
Welcome to the Both Sides Now Café with Virginia McCullough
The Jacks of Her Heart takes place in a small Wisconsin town named Capehart Bay and features Jack Young’s ’60s and ’70s nostalgia café, Both Sides Now, where every item on the menu is named after a ’60s or ’70s song. No wonder it’s a favorite eatery in Capehart Bay. Lorna Lindstrom, a professional organizer and lifestyle coach, loves the café and when she and her friend June meet there for lunch, they usually order their favorite “California Dreamin’” salad, with either chicken or chilled shrimp—it’s full of avocado slices and tomatoes and, of course, sprouts—alfalfa, broccoli, radish, and sunflower.
Lorna and June never pass up a chance for a “Brown Eyed Girl” bran muffin. There’s no trick to make those at home. Use your favorite bran muffin recipe and add chopped walnuts and raisins, and you instantly have your brown eyed girl.
Jack, recently divorced, and Lorna, a widow, are passing acquaintances, but they both end up in a local group that takes off on a Caribbean cruise. Everyone has a fabulous time. But wow, Lorna and Jack get so caught up in the moonlight and dancing they impulsively duck inside a tiny chapel in the Dominican Republic and walk out married!
A light-side romance, The Jacks of Her Heart sees Jack and Lorna wondering if their opposites-attract-marriage can last once they’re back home in the midst of a chilly Wisconsin spring. Jack and Lorna have a “morning after” moment and agree that a quick divorce is probably the best solution to their impulsive wedding. Their grown children sure think this marriage is a serious mistake and aren’t shy to say as much at a dinner that brings the two families together. But do these kids—in their twenties and living their own lives—have to be so bossy about it? Leading the charge is Vicky, Lorna’s newly married daughter.
Don’t get me wrong, the adult kids try to be understanding of their parents’ need for “companionship in their older years.” What? In their early fifties, Jack and Lorna stifle their laughter and, using the need to bring out dessert, the two head to the kitchen to talk things over:
“Who are these kids to tell us how to spend our older years? Vicky’s been overbearing and bossy ever since her father died, but this is ridiculous. All three of them seem poised on a cliff, ready to pounce and run our lives.”
Lorna broke away from Jack and opened the bakery box. “What do you want to do?” she asked, transferring the raspberry tart to a platter.
“Since you asked, I’d like to shoo the kids out the door.” He came up behind her and squeezed her shoulders. “Maybe we could have a little companionship.”
She glanced behind her and grinned. “Right. I’ll drag out the rocking chairs and we can watch the Weather Channel.” She shook her head. “Honestly, I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life.”
“I know one thing,” Jack said with an edge in his voice. “I don’t feel like pretending to feel bad about our so-called mistake.”
Lorna pivoted to face him. “It didn’t feel like a mistake when we said those words—our vows, I mean.”
“Spoken in front of a tall, skinny guy in a lime green suit—it matched your dress as I recall.”
“Ah, yes, that green is one of my best colors,” she said with a giggle, “but not necessarily one of his.”
“You looked beautiful, like you do now.” Jack rested his chin on the top of her head. “I don’t know about you, but I’m stubborn enough to…”
The sound of the door opening interrupted him. “Do you need more help?” Vicky asked, her face pinched in disapproval.
“We’re fine, but why don’t you put out the dessert plates from the breakfront in the dining room?”
When Vicky was out of sight, Lorna turned to Jack. “My stubborn streak is wide awake and standing at attention.”
He cupped her cheeks in his palms. “We’ve been quick to label it a mistake. But I didn’t want to take my hands off your soft skin this afternoon. Then I couldn’t wait to get back over here, even knowing our kids would treat us like criminals.” He kissed her forehead. “What do you think? Whaddya say we give this marriage a go?”
“Sometimes impulsive decisions turn out okay.” She heard the uncertainty in her voice and closed her eyes, enjoying his touch as he cradled her face. Caught in a frenzied game of tug of war, her head yelled no, no, no, but her heart begged her to say yes. Back and forth, her reason locked in a battle with her feelings.
Jack is a follow-his-gut kind of guy, while Lorna leans toward logic and reasoned decisions. They’re both stubborn, though. And maybe the kids pushed too hard for a fast breakup.
Within days of their cruise-ship wedding, Jack and Lorna find themselves involved in each other’s families in ways they never imagined. Jack is almost certain Vicky’s brand new husband is cheating, and Jack’s elderly dad needs some help—now. Turns out Jack comes with a dog, and he rescues a few more. For reasons of her own, Lorna doesn’t welcome pets, especially dogs. Uh oh. So, can this starry-eyed couple find some common ground?
I had a lot of fun with the ’60s and ’70s theme, and the book features a vintage clothing sale and Jack’s summer-long music festival, opening with a Beatles tribute band. But the most fun was naming Jack’s menu items—and you can have fun, too:
- A couple of readers have commented that they started thinking of their regular brownies as not just typical luscious dessert fare, but special “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” brownies.
- Grill flank steak for two and call it “Going to the Chapel.”
- Any smoothie made with a banana can become an instant “Mellow-Yellow Banana Smoothie.”
- Make an orange flavored muffin and call it “Here Comes the Sun.”
A couple of relatives of mine got a kick out of the “Whiter Shade of Pale” vegetable and egg white omelet and now call The Jacks of Her Heart a heart-healthy book. If you’re not familiar with egg white omelets, here’s an easy-does-it “Whiter Shade of Pale” recipe Jack’s cooks use:
Beat 4 egg whites until blended and set aside. (Use one whole egg if that “shade of pale” from all egg whites is a bit much for you.)
Assemble vegetables—up to ½ cup each of any combination of greens such as spinach and kale. Add about ¼ cup of any or all of these: diced mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, cauliflower, or broccoli. Add salt and/or other seasonings to the vegetable mix—chives are always good. Some add the raw chopped vegetables into the omelet, but I like to lightly sauté and soften them before folding them in.
Melt butter (or a vegetable oil if you prefer) in your omelet pan and continue as you would with any omelet. Add the vegetable mix when the eggs are almost done and fold the omelet. Top with crumbled feta cheese or any other grated cheese if desired.
Want to listen to Joe Cocker sing “Whiter Shade of Pale” while you enjoy your omelet? Click here for a 1978 performance.
Lorna’s mom Aggie has a favorite Both Sides Now dessert, the “Nights in White Satin Sundae.” Who can resist the easiest dessert ever—chocolate ice cream and marshmallow topping, and a dollop of whipped cream? Enjoy it with a side of the Moody Blues singing that hit live in 1968.
Hands down, the favorite lunch and dinner item on Jack’s menu is the “Forever Young Salmon Salad.” It’s fit for company, extraordinarily versatile, and takes very little time to fix. Here’s how to make this salad for two:
Two salmon fillets, 4-6 ounces each, placed skin side down in a lightly oiled baking dish.
Brush the fillets with a generous amount of sesame-ginger salad dressing—any brand. (A light teriyaki sauce is good too.) Bake the fillets at 375 for 20-30 minutes. Some people bake them at 400 for 15-20 minutes.
Fill two dinner plates with greens and cut vegetables, any amount and kind you want. (Packaged greens and precut salad vegetables are fine.)
Put the fillets, hot or chilled, on the bed of greens. Add (optional) walnuts, berries, sunflower or sesame seeds, dried cranberries or raisins, and croutons. Dress with any kind of salad dressing, including a sesame-ginger.
If you don’t care for sesame-ginger flavor, try seasoning the salmon with spicy mustard, lemon and dill, or a citrus blend. Use honey-mustard dressing or raspberry vinaigrette.
“Forever Young” is one of the most enduring songs of the ’60s and ’70s era. Here’s one of my favorite covers, Joan Baez singing the Dylan classic.
The Jacks of Her Heart was great fun to write and if I had a Both Sides Now Café near me, I’d be a regular. I hope you’ll take a trip to Capehart Bay and enjoy Jack and Lorna’s story.
About Virginia McCullough
Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia has lived in many places, from the Maine coast to the mountains of North Carolina and now Green Bay, Wisconsin. As a ghostwriter/editor/coauthor, Virginia has written over 100 nonfiction books for physicians, lawyers, business owners, professional speakers and many other individuals with information to share or a story to tell.
Virginia’s women’s fiction titles include Amber Light, Island Healing, and Greta’s Grace. She also writes for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. Girl In The Spotlight (June 2017) and Something To Treasure (January 2018) are the first two books in her Two Moon Bay Heartwarming series, with Book 3, Love, Unexpected due for release in May 2018.
Whether romance or women’s fiction, Virginia’s novels feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Virginia-McCullough/e/B001JRXBNQ/
Where to Find The Jacks of Her Heart
Thanks so much, Virginia! What great recipes!
So we learned about several new dishes to try, along with what sounds like an awesome story about an intriguing couple and town. I hope you enjoy!
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