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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cooking hints (with a little guilt) for writers

Please welcome guest blogger Marilyn Larew, a writer who knows about running out of time, guilt,and shortcuts.

You’ve all heard of writer’s block. How many of you have heard of writer’s guilt? Writing is a long lonely road with few rewards unless you hit the New York Times best seller list, but we write not really because we want to. In some strange way, we write because we have to.

The guilt comes when you try to find the time to do it. All writers have chores that have to be done – cleaning the house, doing the dishes and laundry, fixing the car or the plumbing, spending time with your family and friends – and somewhere in there you have to find time to write. If you’re a writer who has a job outside the home and/or children, you have it particularly hard, because by the time you finish dinner, you can barely focus your eyes, much less write.

So you choose your poison. You can write one day or several days and do the housework for a while and write for a week. You can write for a while and do the other stuff for a week. The first leaves both jobs incomplete, and the second means you may have to read the last two chapters of your book to get started again.

In either case, you have to cook. Writing or cleaning, you can grab something out of the freezer, or you can wing it. I have a couple of recipes that I use when I’m too tired to think. Bear in mind that I’m a “put a handful of onion in and stir” kind of cook.

Quick and Dirty Spaghetti

Take a pound of ground beef or enough frozen meat balls (guilt) to feed your family; there are two of us, so I use ten meatballs, or a pound of sweet Italian sausage, or chicken legs and thighs. Sauté whatever it is. Add about a third of a large onion and a clove of garlic, if you like garlic. Keep cooking until the onion becomes translucent. Add a jar of pasta sauce (more guilt). All of this can probably be done in the time it takes to heat a couple of quarts of water and cook the spaghetti. Serve with a green salad, Italian bread, and a dusting of Parmesan cheese.

Four-Day Roasted Chicken

This takes longer, but the result is worth it. Take one roasting chicken, about five pounds, or a whole fryer, which will be about two-and-a-half to three pounds. If you use a fryer, it won’t be Four-Day Chicken. Wash it and put it in a roasting pan. Pour a cup or so of white wine over it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, garlic powder if you like, and mesquite powder or tarragon or any other herb or spice that you like, and put it in a preheated 350° oven for an hour and a half or so. You can put potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage in around it if you like and you will have pot-roasted chicken.

Remove the chicken to a platter and make gravy with flour or corn starch and serve.

A five-pound chicken will last us four days. The first, obviously, straight out of the oven. Day two, cold, sliced chicken.  Day three, chicken and something—noodles, rice, over mashed potatoes (store-bought, more guilt).  Day four is soup with the carcass. My daughter’s mother-in-law once threw away a perfectly good turkey carcass, and Marie was shocked. Anyway, simmer the carcass for maybe ten minutes to soften the meat still on the bones, take the bones from the broth, cool until you can handle them, and take the meat off. Add the meat, any leftover chicken, some chicken bouillon or leftover chicken gravy, and whatever—mixed vegetables (frozen, guilt), noodles, rice, barley. Cook until whatever you have added is done, and check for seasoning. It may need more salt. Serve with a green salad and Italian or French bread.

If you have a small chicken or a large family, the chicken will not last as long, of course, but it will get you well down the week. If you get sick of chicken before you use it up, remove the meat from the bones and freeze the meat and the bones in separate packages. You’ll have a quick dinner on days when you don’t want to think very hard

If you get really desperate, there’s the old standby. Send your husband out of pizza or Chinese. If you’re lucky enough live in range, call out.

This, of course, places a larger burden of guilt on you. No pain, no gain.

In the meantime, you have been thinking of what you are going to write next, and you will leave the housework behind and sink into your chair with a sigh relief and no guilt.

Good eating and good writing.
Marilynn Larew grew up on the move, going to fourteen schools, two of them in foreign countries, before she graduated from high school. She collected three more schools before earning a Ph.D. After teaching history in the University of Maryland system, she settled down in southern Pennsylvania with her husband and cat to write thrillers that take place in foreign climes. She really does cook from recipes and collects cookbooks from around the world. She is especially fond of Asian and Mediterranean cuisines.

"Missing in Morocco"
CIA analyst Lee Carruthers resists an order to go to Morocco to find Alicia Harmon, who monitors human trafficking in Fez for the agency, until a shocking revelation turns Lee’s life upside down and makes it vital for her to find Alicia. In Fez, Lee discovers that Alicia has been asking quite openly if slave trade revenue is financing an Al Qaeda affiliate in the desert south of Morocco.
Lee follows Alicia's trail to the Moroccan-Algerian border and, pursuing a lead, visits the camel races at Merzouga, where she’s kidnapped and dumped  in the desert. Men carrying AK-47s save her from dying of thirst only to propel her into a different kind of jeopardy.

"Missing in Morocco" is a work in progress. Visit to read an excerpt.


  1. Gosh, Marilynn, I didn't know I should feel guilty about frozen vegetables. I mean, I have to cook them! Thanks for the recipes--they look easy and good! I like the salad from the previous post, too, Judy.

  2. Great post ladies, and thanks so much for the recipes, especially the spaghetti! My kids will love it and anything that's simple cause lord knows, with 4 kids, i never have time lol.

  3. Marilyn, I felt the same guilt when I first started writing. Funny thing was, as I developed my short-cuts for meals, I accumulated enough recipes that I had a cookbook. Hence my Hasty Tasty Meals cookbooks were born. I've recently finished the fourth in the series and spend as much time writing about cooking as cooking up murders and romance LOL.

    My Hasty Tasty Meals are healthful but I use frozen ingredients and rotisserie chickens, too. The convenience items to avoid IMO are the boxes and mixes (You know what I mean. Those salt-laden "helpers.")

  4. Thanks for the recipes, Marilyn. Since living alone, I don't cook a lot, and when I do, I cook enough to last at least 3 or 4 days. Since I have a small flock of hens, once a week I make an omelet. They're quick and easy to make. I add spinach,or zuchini, or cherry tomatoes, or mushrooms or some combination and usually with cheese, and serve with a salad.

  5. Gloria, I live alone too and love to make myself scrambled eggs (never can turn out an omelet) with tomato, scallions, and smoked salmon. Yum!