Delicious Scenes for a Novel

My Vision Board for The Cake Therapist

I enjoy writing cookbooks ever since my first one about Kansas City restaurant recipes was published in 1995 (I was in second grade). My cookbooks have been nominated for awards (IACP, James Beard, ForeWord) and won them (IACP and ForeWord). Some have become bestsellers. 

You can see all the cookbooks on my amazon author page.

I have a method for starting cookbooks, one that I call "The Box Method." Brilliant, no? 

I gather recipe ideas for a new book and put them in a plastic storage box along with photos. I brainstorm on a title for the book and from that comes the theme, then the recipe list, and then the chapters.

But a novel is different.

When my kids were little, I wrote a novel called Hadley's Dower about the story behind a mysterious antique. The story went back and forth in time. I wrote this in the days before Microsoft Word became the software of choice and you had to print everything out on paper, package it, and ship it to prospective agents. 

Of course, that took forever. My life changed. I moved three times. I put Hadley's Dower away in the proverbial desk drawer along with my dream to write a novel. I had to make a living.

A few years ago, still writing cookbooks, I decided to take that dream out and dust it off.

To help me focus, gather ideas, and spark my imagination, I created a vision board. I used a long piece of poster board, magazine clippings, photographs, postcards, and other visual elements like rainbow ribbon and a fanciful "Hand of Fatima" golden clip.  My vision board is not fancy, as you can see.

But it has been powerful.

My debut novel, The Cake Therapist, has become real.

Martha Beck, a life coach extraordinaire and Oprah Magazine columnist, has her own great take on creating a Vision Board --for whatever you want to set your sights on for the future. (Just don't let her catch you putting up photos of a new car, a guy with six-pack abs, or a new phone. Go big or go home.)

She recommends "regularly picturing delights that don’t yet exist, emotionally detaching from them, and jumping into action when it’s time to help the miracles occur. I’m barely learning this," she says, "to be (in T.S. Eliot’s words) 'still and still moving.' But in the moments I get it right, every step I take seems to be matched by a universal mystery, which obligingly, incredibly, creates what I can’t."

Amen, Sister.

Here's a flavor hint for a story line in The Cake Therapist. If you want the recipe--and it's yummy-- go this blog post . Sample a virtual cookie, then pre-order The Cake Therapist!

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies: Days 10, 11, 12

The New Cookie Plate for a New Year

Gluten-free Chocolate Christmas Crinkle Cookie by Jennifer Peters of Vancouver’s NextJen Gluten Free (
Gluten-free Chocolate Christmas Crinkle Cookie 
by Jennifer Peters of Vancouver’s NextJen Gluten Free (

This year, make a resolution to create a much more interesting cookie plate. 

When you order the cookie plate, restaurants might serve the cookies on ho-hum, doily-dressed plates, maybe with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of milk for a nostalgic dessert.

But why not make the cookie plate artful, visually appealing as Vancouver baker Jennifer Peters has done?

You'll need a little bit of Plate Paint, your cookies, and a scattering of little bits to add color and texture.  Peters used cookie crumbs, tiny pieces of fresh orange, and chopped pistachios. Simply put the Plate Paint in a squeeze bottle and squeeze out a pattern on a white plate. Arrange the cookies around the squiggles, then scatter the crumbs, orange segments, and pistachios.

And while you're at it, look for more great ideas and playfully delicious recipes in Bake Happy, which you can pre-order right now!

Plate Paint
Adapted from the upcoming Bake Happy, which will be out in May 2015.
I wanted a thick, viscous, translucent “paint” made with fruit juice in order to create dots, squiggles, zigzags, or spirals to plated desserts. So, I went into the kitchen and played around a little bit. 

The happy result is this Plate Paint, which is edible, colorful, easy, vegan, gluten-free, and very shapeable at room temperature. Use any type of colorful bottled fruit juice (cherry, cranberry, kiwi, mango, papaya, or pomegranate). You can also try frozen Goya “fruta" concentrates (pink passionfruit, deeper pink guava, or blackberry).
Makes about 2/3 cup (150 ml)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup (250 ml) colorful bottled fruit juice or frozen fruit juice concentrate, thawed
Spoon the cornstarch into a small jar with a lid. Add the fruit juice, secure the lid, and shake to blend. Pour the juice mixture into a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and whisk it constantly until the juice begins to boil and turns from a lighter opaque color to a darker, more transparent one. Keep whisking until the “paint” begins to thicken slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool to room temperature. Use the paint right away or store it in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Let the paint come to room temperature before using.

Plate Paint dotted around a meringue with fruit compote.
 Paint Your Plate
Add a playful or colorful dimension to a slice of pie, a meringue, a brownie, or any other dessert by embellishing the plate with fun, edible color..
To make a dot, let about 1/2 teaspoon of Plate Paint drip off a small spoon, held just above the plate.
To make a squiggle, spoon 1 tablespoon of Plate Paint at the 12 o’clock point on the plate. Use the back of a teaspoon to press down into the paint and zigzag down to the 6 o’clock point on the plate.

To make a zigzag, pour the paint into a plastic squeeze bottle and secure the top. Make sure the opening is at least 1/4 inch in diameter. Turn the bottle upside down and squeeze a zigzag onto each plate.