Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cooking As a Family Affair || Gemma Brocato || COOKING UP LOVE

Cooking Up Love

Author: Gemma Brocato
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Lyrical Press
ISBN-10: 1616504277
ISBN-13: 978-16165-4272

Cooking As a Family Affair

I recently got to spend a weekend with my mother and sisters to celebrate my mom’s birthday. The weekend was jam packed with mani/pedis, lunches, art fairs and painting (there was wine involved with our trip to the Brush Bar - don’t judge, it was in the name of fun). 

But maybe the most fun thing was the cooking competition we had; Ready, Steady, Cook! My mom picked three ingredients we had to use to make a meal. She challenged us with salmon, fresh ginger and spinach. My sisters and I split into two teams and brainstormed dishes. 

While we were brainstorming our menus, it occurred to me that I’d followed a recipe while writing my book, Cooking Up Love. I knew what ingredients I had to cook with (like my mom naming her three ingredients), I just had to decide what to fold in to improve the flavor of the story. And when to deviate from the recipe, so my characters got to add their own brand of spice. I had to know the how to balance the flavor of my words with the idiosyncrasies of my characters. I love to cook and I love to write romance, so it made mix my two passions together.

But, getting back to the Ready, Steady, Cook! dinner war we had. We declared anything in the pantry fair game and after each team made a list we hopped in the car for a grocery run. I’d known we were doing the meal, so I made each of us an apron to wear while cooking and to keep as a memento of the evening. (I created an iron-on transfer featuring my book cover. I know—it was a shameless plug for me, but what can I say?)

When we returned from the grocery, we got busy and created awesome food and lasting memories. My father and brother joined us for the evening to help judge the winner of this friendly competition. We feasted on salmon mousse piped onto cucumber slices, two types of spinach salads, Parmesan Potatoes Florentine, Sesame green beans, Asian grilled salmon, Honey-Ginger grilled salmon and ginger ice cream with carrot cake. At the end of the meal, Dad, Mom and my brother declared themselves the winners…because not only did they get to spend time with us girls, they were fed like royalty.

I’m happy share my favorite recipe from that night (although I’m still dreaming about the ginger ice cream). Everyone at the table agreed, this potato dish has a great chance of making an appearance at Christmas dinner (and that’s huge in our family). 

I hope you’ll find a reason to cook up a little love in your kitchen soon.

Parmesan Potatoes Florentine
Mashed potatoes and chopped spinach are baked with sour cream, butter and chives, and shredded Cheddar cheese is melted on top.
2 Packages of Idahoan Instant Potatoes, Roasted Garlic Style
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons chopped green onions
Italian Seasoning to taste.
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.
Prepare Potatoes in microwave.
In a large bowl combine mashed potatoes, spinach, sour cream, butter, green onions, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese. Spoon into prepared dish.
Bake for 15 minutes. You can top with shaved parmesan cheese and bake 5 minutes longer if you wish.

In order to make this even more festive you could add pimentos or roasted red peppers so your dish is read and green.

Jemima George leads a charmed life as a personal chef and assistant to reality television’s latest darling. But that changes in a New York minute when her Aunt Caro dies under odd circumstances, bequeathing her a small restaurant. Jem plans to sell the café and continue her life in NYC, until a dramatic phone call from her cheating boyfriend convinces her to experiment with the ingredients for happiness and accept her Aunt’s legacy. Throwing herself into remodeling the restaurant with the help of the town’s delicious contractor, Jem revamps the menu and renews her faith in herself.

Jack Kerrigan considered Caro a surrogate mother and hates the idea that the café could be sold. He doesn’t need the remodeling project, but if it means Caro’s beautiful, fascinating niece will stay to run the restaurant, he’s all in. He wouldn’t mind being savory to Jem’s sweet.

Jack’s brassy ex-wife is cooking up a scheme of her own, where Jack tosses Jem like a salad and comes back to her. Fold in a creepy attorney hiding secrets of environmental mayhem, add Jem’s claustrophobia, half-pint niece and nephew twins, one mysterious lockbox, and bring to a boil--a recipe for romance.

A Lyrical Press Contemporary Romance

Excerpt From Cooking Up Love

When he’d heard the ominous click of the lock, he’d known they had a problem.

Jack continued massaging her hand, but didn’t attempt to close the distance between them, processing her words. Her chest heaved as she struggled to control her breathing. “Humor me here. I’m trying to help. Let’s say you find yourself unexpectedly in a close space, like now. Do you have…I don’t know…coping behaviors or mechanisms you can pull out of your claustrophobia bag of tricks to help you?”

“Imagining a wide-open space sometimes helps,” she muttered through clenched teeth. She sucked in a ragged breath. “Picturing a beach works best. I vacationed once at Blue Bay Beach, on Mauritius. It was lovely there, peaceful and serene.”

“Alright, you take a trip to the beach in your mind while I see if I can get the door off the hinges. That’s right,” he whispered soothingly. “Just close your eyes and picture the clear blue sea and endless sky.”

Jack gently stroked Jem’s cheek and released her cold hand.

She wrapped her freed arm over the other clutched against her middle. Long, silky eyelashes swept downward, toward the pale skin under her eyes. He sensed, rather than saw her mental attempt to sketch a calming beach scene behind closed eyelids. Her effort to control the panic--drawing shallow, shuddering breaths in and raggedly releasing them--moved him. He didn’t suffer with claustrophobia, but even a blind man could recognize a huge source of anxiety for Jem.

He recognized the refrain to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. Great choice. The sight of Jem swaying to the music entranced him. Oh, yeah. Every little thing was gonna be alright. Her breath still hitched, she was extremely pale and her long, slender fingers clenched convulsively in the folds of the soft gray dress. But she was trying.

He turned toward the door to study the hinges, fishing in his jeans for a utility knife. Dammit, he’d taken it out this morning at a job site and stuck it in his jacket with his cell phone. The one he’d left on the table on the other side of the locked door. Frustrated, he slapped his hand against the sturdy wooden door.

Jem stopped humming at the sharp noise and her breathing sped up again. She clutched the neckline of her dress, pulling it away from her throat, each short gasp labored. The agony in her creased brow made him move to her side, frantically thinking of a way to help her.

She jumped as he grasped her shoulders and pulled her toward his chest.

“Making it worse here,” she gritted out between tense lips.

Jem’s breath stopped. With her eyes riveted to his, she wrestled to break free of the constriction. Her soft breasts rose and fell against his chest, spearing heat down his spine. God, he felt like a dog. This woman was struggling to work through a reaction to a small space and he was turned on by her body rubbing against his.

Desperate to distract her from the panic gripping her, he lowered his mouth.

The first tentative brush against her lips confirmed his suspicion about how kissable she was. His eyes nearly rolled back in his head as he caressed the soft sweetness. The tension gripping her shoulders eased as his mouth moved on hers.

Other than the rapid rise of her chest, she stilled in his arms.

He deepened the kiss, licking along the lush seam. Her sunny, citrusy scent teased his nose. He breathed deeply and gathered her closer.

The moment his arms tightened, she stiffened and jerked away.

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About Gemma Brocato

Gemma's favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a 'round tuit,' and a fortune from a fortune cookie that said she was a lover of words; some day she'd write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss even the rejections, addressed to 'Dear Author', were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy. Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue an avocation as a romance author.

Her gamble paid off when she was a 2012 Finalist in the prestigious Golden Pen contest for Romantic Suspense and she received contracts for her first and second book.

Connect with Gemma on Facebook,, Twitter, @gemmabrocato or on the web at


  1. Hi Melissa. Thanks for having me on today. Now I've reread my recipe and I'm hungry for those potatoes. Maybe some of your readers would like to post their favorite recipes.

    1. Gemma, Welcome! And your recipe is making me hungry. I'll have to dig around later and see if I can find one of my favorite recipes to share. :)

  2. Oooh, that recipe sounds fab, Gemma! I love it when my whole family gets together - we spend most of it in the kitchen and it's always a silly, fun time.

    1. I've always thought of the kitchen as the heart of the house. Some of my best memories come from time spent there. Thanks for stopping by, Kristina.

  3. My mom and I have a Christmas tradition of baking sugar cookies and decorating them with frosting and sprinkles. Hers are artistic masterpieces compared to the gloppy monstrosities I create. What is that, Amy? A clown? No, a wreath! What do clowns have to do with Christmas? LOL! And like your family, my dad is the winner since the lion's share of the cookies end up in his stomach. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love your tradition, Amy. I can rock some awesome Christmas cookies, but sugars ones? No way. Nothing can top my mother-in-law's recipe and I gave up trying long ago. I guess as far as that's concerned I'll just stick to writing. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Now I'm hungry for those potatoes...and the Honey-Ginger Grilled Salmon! Best grilled salmon ever! I'm the lucky sis married to Gemma's brother!
    We had a delicious, loving weekend of so much fun! Here is the easy recipe you all will love too!
    1 T. fresh grated ginger
    1 t. garlic powder
    1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce
    1/3 c. orange juice
    1/4 c. honey
    1 green onion chopped
    1 - 1 1/2 lbs. salmon filet

    Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag, mix well. Add salmon, seal and turn bag gently to distribute marinade. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. Preheat outdoor grill for medium heat and lightly oil grate. Remove salmon from bag and discard marinade. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes per inch of thickness, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork! DELICIOUS!

    1. Linda, thanks for stopping by and sharing this recipe. I agree that it was a whole lot of delecious. And incredibly easy.

  5. There is something so memorable and traditional about women cooking in a kitchen together - the chatter, the laughter, the steamed up windows, the glasses of wine, stems powdered by flour. Okay, that is my imagination, because I am a horrible cook. My mum and sisters always give me the easiest dish to make for our holidays. Thanksgiving, I have green bean caserole and bread rolls. You think I couldn't mess that up? Oh I could... and have. So jealous of people with the flare and imagination to cook!

  6. Cd, you have an awesome imagination. I didn't cook a lot of fancy dishes when the kids were little. And I still occasionally hear "you don't have to make that again anytime soon." This year, try the potato dish I shared. It's easy and oh so yummy. Thanks for stopping by.