Meatless Mondays--Mexican Lasagna

It's not that I don't love a good steak or cheeseburger every now and then, but I just feel better when I eat less meat. So, my family enjoys Meatless Mondays. Here's what we had tonight.


1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped (I actually use about four, but I love garlic)
2 tsp olive oil
1 can mexican stewed tomatoes, pureed
1 can black beans, drained
1-2 cups frozen or canned corn (I use frozen)
1 cup salsa
Shredded cheddar cheese (I use lighter fat cheese, made with 2% milk)
Corn tortilla chips (I used baked chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 8x8 pan with cooking spray (I double this recipe and use a cake size pan). Saute onion in the oil until it's translucent. Add garlic. Stir until the room fills with yummy garlic and oniony smells, then add the tomatoes, beans and corn. Cook on low until bubbly.

Sprinkle a layer of crushed tortilla chips on the bottom of the pan. Spoon a layer of the bean mixture on top. Sprinkle light coating of shredded cheese. Repeat layers of chips and beans. Top the whole thing with the salsa, then add another light layer of shredded cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes until it's all bubbly and yummy looking. Serve with a big side of non-starchy vegetables.

You'll never miss the meat. I promise!


P.S. Trying to fit in exercise to your busy schedule? This is a CXE recipe: Cook. Exercise. Eat. Put dinner in the oven. You have 35 minutes to workout while it cooks. No excuses. 

Fabulous Firsts with... MYA O'MALLEY

The first few sentences of... WHERE THERE IS LOVE 

We were just finishing up our drinks when Derek slammed me with the inevitable question. The question that has been looming on the horizon for a while now; hanging there like a branch ready to snap if the slightest breeze blows by. It was a shame, too, because I was actually having a great time with Derek, relaxing and sharing a delicious meal.

Celia’s is on the outskirts of town. It’s a dark, romantic restaurant that takes you back to an old romantic era, one where life was simple. Old wine bottles from years ago garnish the walls and add to the old world charm. Sconces with thick, white candles adorn the wall next to our table. I hear Simon, the regular fixture at Celia’s. Simon plays the piano on weekends; I find myself lost in a sobbing rendition of Chopin. Butterflies come to mind, floating, dipping, flying. I shake my head to clear my thoughts as I hear Derek speaking to me.

“What do you think?” Derek gazes at me, grasping my hand tighter, with a hopeful look in his eyes.

“Um, sorry?”

“Mia, will you move in with me?”

* * * * *


What was the first Rated R movie you ever saw? The first R-Rated movie that I watched was The Amityville Horror. I can remember being afraid to go to sleep. Several years later, I read the book and it scared me just as much. I really don’t enjoy watching horror movies, so now I pass on most of them.

What was the first romance you ever read? I don’t remember exactly which book it was, but Danielle Steel was definitely the first romance author that I read. At the time, I read one book after the other, she was one of my favorite authors. I have watched the movies of several of her books on television lately and I still enjoy her stories tremendously.

I have always loved the idea of romance, even as a young teen I can remember my aunt commenting that I seemed like a romantic at heart and that I should never change.

Tell me about the first novel you ever wrote? What ever happened to it? There’s something special about an author’s very first novel. The first novel that I ever wrote is Where There is Love. The original version is quite different than the actual novel that is now released with Solstice Publishing. My main character, Mia, struggles with a challenging past which has caused trouble in her relationships years later. Mia becomes a mentor for a student that she teaches and reevaluates her own choices in life. Will Mia open her heart to love or will she continue to repeat past mistakes? The story took me several years to write. I made some major changes in terms of characters and points of view in the story and then even after I received a contract for it, I made significant changes to the story. I love the story as it is now, but I have kept the very first original version, which I will always cherish as well.

MORE ABOUT MYA--Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters. The family also consists of two boxers; Destiny and Dolce and a ragdoll cat named Colby. Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy. She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students. 

Mya currently has two new releases: At First Sight, a contemporary romance about dating in the modern world, published by Astraea Press, and Where There is Love, a contemporary romance in which a woman struggles with past obstacles, ultimately faced with whether or not she will open her heart to love. Where There is Love is published with Solstice Publishing. Mya is excited to say that Astraea Press will be releasing her contemporary holiday paranormal romance titled If You Believe on November 25, 2014.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child. Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters. Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica. Mya is currently working on her sixth novel. 

FABULOUS FIRSTS WITH... Christina Lorenzen

The first few sentences of... A HUSBAND FOR DANNA

Panting from the short dash from the church to the curb, Danna looked around wild-­eyed, spotting a limo at the curb. The fact that it wasnʹt her bridal partyʹs limousine didnʹt matter. She ran around to the driverʹs side and flung open the door. The sound of her wedding gown tearing broke the silence in the big empty car. Frustrated, she shoved away the seat belt and fumbled with the ignition key.

* * * * *


What was the first romance you ever read?
I actually started with romantic suspense novels by Phyllis Whitney and books by Victoria Holt and Kathleen Woodiwiss. My grandmother was a voracious reader and always had a stack of books from the library. I would read hers and find new authors for myself.

Tell me about the first novel you ever wrote? What ever happened to it?
The first novel I ever wrote was a YA. Actually there were 3 YAs that I wrote but it was long ago and I was a teen. Around senior year I landed a job writing for a local paper and once I saw how writing articles could pay money almost instantly, I packed up my fiction dreams and those 3 manuscripts. To this day I don’t know what happened to them. I’m thinking they’re buried in the attic of my parents’ house never to see the light of day again.

What’s the first thing you do when you start writing a new story?
Like anything else that’s new in life, starting out is the most exciting part. When I’m ready to start a new story the first thing I do is head to my local office supply store to pick out a notebook. For each novel I write I keep a novel notebook. Since I don’t do formal outlines and I’m basically a pantster, the notebook is where I jot down the beginnings of the story. I write out the basic premise, the names of the hero and heroine, the setting and other details that I know at the start. Even when I’m not writing I’m planning that book so the notebook is where I jot down insights and sudden ideas and details. I play with this notebook for quite a while. Then when the actual writing of the first draft begins I keep the notebook next to my laptop. At the end of each writing session I jot down notes about what I wrote that day. If I have concluded a chapter, I write up a summary of what happened and to whom in the notebook. The notebook is also excellent for keeping track of things like days, time, months, hair color, eye color. It’s easy to start out with a blue eyed hero and then suddenly find yourself writing “his chocolate brown eyes” chapters down the road. The notebook helps with continuity, which is vital to authors because readers do notice.


Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door to door saleswoman. Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less walking than going door to door. A Husband for Danna is Christina’s first novel. She is busy working on her next. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.

FABULOUS FIRSTS with... Allie Boniface

The first few sentences of... 

One of the 10 novels in the Passionate Kisses boxed set (see photo to left)
Just 99 cents and available now!

Sophie picked up her notepad and looked over the points she’d jotted earlier in the day. Her driver slowed the car to a crawl as rain poured down around them, dark and heavy, the thick, eggy kind of drops that thudded ominously against everything they hit and sounded as though they might turn to hail at any moment.

Reason for the murders?
Lights or voices or both?
Woman on the beach?

* * * * *


Tell me about the first novel you ever wrote? What ever happened to it?
Actually, the first novel I ever completed, back in 2007, was published by a small press under the title Lost in Paradise. It’s a story about a fresh Harvard grad whose family is embroiled in scandal, so she moves to the small town of Paradise, New Hampshire, for a summer and takes on an alias so she can escape the media circus. She moves into the upstairs apartment of a rental house…and our hero, the very sexy, single uber-bachelor of Paradise, moves in downstairs. First Ashton and Eddie become friends…they then become more…then Ashton’s secret is uncovered. Last year, I got the rights to this story back, added a couple of chapters, and re-released it as The Promise of Paradise – which also happens to be the prequel to the Hometown Heroes series! And the very sexy, single uber-bachelor Eddie is still my favorite hero to date.

Tell me about your very first kiss?
Oh, sigh. My first (real) kiss was with a guy I had an enormous crush on in high school. I was at a party and my date had deserted me to talk to his ex-girlfriend, so my crush took me home…only we didn’t go home first. We went parking. Enough said. I almost missed my curfew that night, but it was worth it!

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you’d buy?
A plane ticket to London! I love to travel, and have been to some fantastic places both in the United States and abroad, but one place that’s still on my bucket list is London, England. I mean, when you’re an English teacher and a writer like I am, you practically have British roots in your blood. I’m dying to visit the home of Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen, among others.

More about Allie: Allie was born and raised in a tiny community in upstate New York, which probably explains her fascination with the magic of small town life. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Rochester in New York and a M.A. in English Literature from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since 1997, she has enjoyed life in the northern NYC suburbs, where she lives with her husband and teaches English and Education to high school students. In her spare time, she and her husband love to travel.

Allie writes sensual contemporary romance, reads in all genres and loves chatting with other readers and writers about any topic under the sun. You can find her around the Web, at writers' conferences, giving workshops, swapping stories, and generally chatting about romance writing. Allie loves stories set in small towns and is a firm believer in the power of love and the emotions that connect us all!

You can find Allie online here:
Twitter: @AllieBoniface1 

FABULOUS FIRSTS with... Jessi Gage

The first few sentences of... RECKLESS

One of the 10 novels in the new boxed set, 
PASSIONATE KISSES, just 99 cents! (see the cover to the left)

Cami rang Mr. Johansen’s doorbell for the third time. Through the screen door, she heard him turn up the TV. For the third time.

Stifling a chuckle, she squinted through the dusty screen. The angle of the August sun made it impossible to see much of anything in the shag-carpeted living room beyond.

Passionate Kisses boxed set is available now!

* * * * *


Who was your first love?

Kirk Cameron. I mean look at that face! I was smitten with
him in Growing Pains. Thinking I was all sly, I even joined his sister Candace’s fan club, hoping that maybe, somehow it would result in a chance meeting with Kirk. I know, I know. Stupid. But that’s teenage logic for you!

What’s the first thing you do after you wake up in the morning (other than using the restroom LOL)?
Right now it’s summer vacation for my kindergartener, and I’m letting her and her 3yo brother go to bed a bit later than usual. Because I’m not setting the alarm to drive my girl to school, it’s usually one of my kids that wakes me up. I’m not going to lie; hugging my kids first thing in the morning is pretty sweet. Talk about starting the day off right!

What’s the first thing you do when you start reading a new book? (ie: read the back cover blurb again or the inside front cover, the acknowledgments, the last page, etc)

My Kindle always starts me out on the first page of the book, but I always, always go back to look at the cover. A great cover is just such an integral part of the reading experience
for me. Some of my favorite covers feature emotion. Whether it’s tenderness, passion, angst, trepidation… I love emotional covers. Here's one of my favorites right now:

More about Jessi: Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she's sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.

You can find her online here:

FABULOUS FIRSTS with...Kylie Gilmore

The first few sentences of... 
One of the 10 novels in the new boxed set, 
PASSIONATE KISSES, just 99 cents! (see the cover to the left)

Ryan O’Hare sat at the swank bar of the Four Seasons Hotel New York, the beer in front of him untouched, as he kept an eye on his mark. The short, bald man in a suit at the other end of the bar hadn’t ordered yet, and his eyes nervously scanned the lobby. Ryan’s phone vibrated. He glanced at the number, his younger brother Travis. Not now. I’m waiting for the money shot.

Available now at the following ebook retailers:

All Romance eBooks:
Google Play:


What was the first romance you ever read?
Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and The Flower. I was 15 and it was eye-opening indeed! I still love that book and was lucky enough to get to meet Kathleen at a romance writers conference. She was so inspiring and happy to answer the newbie questions I asked. I swear I’ll return the favor someday to another newbie in need of direction!

What’s the first thing you do when you start writing a new story? 
First I’m looking around for character pictures to inspire me. Next is a playlist matched to the mood of the story. And, finally, I make a storyboard blocking out the scenes on Post-It notes. Then comes the hard part…writing the first draft. Give me revisions any day.

What’s the first thing you do when you start reading a new book? (ie: read the back cover blurb again or the inside front cover, the acknowledgments, the last page, etc)
I’m all about the back cover blurb, then I read the first page. If those are good, I’ll read the whole thing. Note to self: make sure your cover blurb and first page grab the reader. Honestly, I can spend a week on that blurb and work the most on the first chapter. So, so important.

More about Kylie: Kylie Gilmore was lucky enough to discover romance novels at a young age as they were strewn all over the house (thanks, Mom!). She writes quirky, tender romance with a solid dose of humor. Her Clover Park series
features the O’Hare brothers, three guys you’d definitely have a drink with and maybe a little more.

Kylie lives in New York with her family, two cats, and a nutso dog. When she’s not writing, wrangling kids, or dutifully taking notes at writing conferences, you can find her flexing her muscles all the way to the high cabinet for her secret chocolate stash.

You can find her online here:

FABULOUS FIRSTS with...Sydney Holmes

The first few lines of...AWAKENING
One of the 10 novels in the new boxed set, 
PASSIONATE KISSES, just 99 cents! (see the cover to the left)

Jack London’s is crowded and we all squeeze into a table
near the back. We’re far from the bar, but close to the bathroom, so I guess it works out.

Carrie, Joanne, Willow, and I are here with Sophia to celebrate her 24th birthday. We all met at Stanford; Joanne, Sophia, and I were starry-eyed freshmen and Carrie and Willow were sophomore roommates giving us the lowdown on college life. Even back then, Sophia was a cute, whip smart, blonde with an athletic body. Not much has changed over the years.

Available now as part of the 
Passionate Kisses boxed set, just 99 cents!!!

All Romance eBooks:
Google Play:

* * * * *


What was the first Rated R movie you ever saw?

The first movie I ever saw in a theater was actually an R rated movie called Silent Scream – a horror flick from back in the eighties. It was terrible. I don’t remember much, but girls in their underwear wandering around at night and then getting slashed to bits. Ugh, I couldn’t believe it , and it took years before I could go back to the theatre.


What’s the first thing you do after you wake up in the morning (other than using the restroom LOL)?

I usually wake up to a hot steamy cup of coffee that my husband brings me. Even though these days I’m off of caffeine, I still need that first cup to function. And yes, I’m that lucky; my husband is so awesome he brings me coffee in bed every morning!

What was the first meal you made for your significant other?

I had just moved into this tiny apartment, I think they called it a studio. I wanted to impress him with my domestic skills (Um, for the record I don’t have any of those.) Not wanting to over reach, I made burritos thinking that was safe enough, I mean what could go wrong with burritos? The cheese wasn’t melting fast enough and I was getting anxious so I put the oven on broil. The next thing I know flames are licking out the oven doors. He reached in – with an oven mitt - and pulled out the pan; both burritos had flames shooting out of them! Dinner’s ready honey!!

More about Sydney:

Sydney Holmes writes contemporary romance with an erotic flair, or as she likes to say, “Hot and spicy romance that keeps you up at night!” She believes there is nothing more exciting than reading a hot, sexy story about two people searching for themselves and getting lost in each other. Sydney found her HEA with her wonderful husband and they now have two amazing children. She graduated from The George Washington University with a BS in Political Science and holds a Master’s Degree in Education. She lives near the ocean in California and travels as often as she can.

You can find her online here:

FABULOUS FIRSTS with...Victoria Barbour

The first few sentences of...
One of the 10 novels in the new boxed set, 
PASSIONATE KISSES, just 99 cents! (see the cover to the left)

Asher Corbin turned side on and sized himself up in the cheval mirror. This was a good look for him. The black jacket fit like a glove, as did the dove grey waistcoat. The cut of the pants was tight, even by today's skinny jeans standard. And the high boots were simply wicked.

Available now at Amazon!

* * * * *


What was the first romance you ever read?
Wow. That’s hard. I was digging into my grandmother’s romance novels from a pretty early age. But I think the first one I can remember is “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor. I loved that book. The grittiness. The plague. The desperation of Amber to become something. Her willful use of her sexuality to try and change her lot in life. Her heartbreak. The King and the court. His little King Charles Cavalier Spaniels. I remember so much of that book even though it’s been years since I’ve read it.

What was your first date with your significant other? 
I love our first date. I met my husband at a party on campus. I was a mature student who was taking university very seriously. He came to the party with a friend. For about two weeks he tried to get me to go out with him but it was exam time so I wouldn’t. During that time I was working the night shift at my parent’s restaurant which doesn’t close until 3 am. He called me at work and asked me out that night. I told him I didn’t get off until 3. He didn’t care. “I’ll stay awake,” he said. As luck would have it, I got delayed and wasn’t able to meet him until closer to 4 am. We met at a local 24 hour coffee shop. He had hot chocolate and I had coffee, of course. We talked and talked and talked.  When we left the coffee shop we talked more outside, sitting on a picnic table in the cold Newfoundland dark you can only feel in April. I still remember the neon green sign of the local hardward store shining down. Finally as it neared 7, I told him I had to go home. I was doing Easter bunny duty for my cousins who were staying with us. The entire drive home we chatting on our cell phones and I recall sitting in the driveway till almost 8, still talking. It was sweet and romantic and as I walked into the house, instead of feeling like I was doing the walk of shame (which I’d done plenty of in my life) I felt as if I’d met someone who was real, and kind, and totally worth talking to for hours on end for the rest of my life.

Who was your first grade teacher? Any funny/interesting memories? 
My first grade teacher was a lovely woman named Rosemary Ryan. I remember being terrified of her at first. She had a very minor physical disability. But she was sweet and encouraging. My best memory of her was when she brought in a newspaper and asked how many kids knew what this was. (Oh, I should say for the record that I went to an all-girls school so there were no naughty boys around to hamper our intellectual development. But there were plenty of naughty girls!) Anyway, as she explains to the class what a news paper is –this was 1981- some kids admit to looking at the comics. Myself and my friend admit to reading the paper. Miss Ryan didn’t believe us and had us come up in front of the class and read a bit of the paper, thus proving that we could indeed read at a higher level than she gave us credit for. I think it was after that that my reading assignments also got more difficult.

More about Victoria: Victoria lives on the island of Newfoundland, and is fiercely proud of her home. She can imagine no better setting for her Heart’s Ease series of contemporary romances, and hopes that her readers will one day come to witness Newfoundland and Labrador's rustic beauty for themselves. 

She was born in St. John's, and raised above her family's fish and chips restaurant. She has traveled and lived in other parts of Canada, but chose to make her home where her heart has long resided. Victoria has a degree in History from Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a minor in Newfoundland Studies. The only thing that stands between her and a Master's degree in History from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia is her thesis. She has a background in broadcast journalism, advertising, and marketing. She is a proud member of both the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and their affiliate chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada (RWAC). 

Victoria counts herself lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive family, and thanks her husband daily for his unerring faith in her, and for being a wonderful father to their infant son.

You can find Victoria online here:
Twitter: @vickibarabour

FABULOUS FIRSTS with...Liz Kelly

The first few sentences of...GOOD COP
One of the 10 novels in the new boxed set, 
PASSIONATE KISSES, just 99 cents! (see the cover to the left)

Brooks Bennett ran a hand through his short copper curls and blew out a long breath as he studied his surroundings. Their favorite college haunt seemed smaller and dingier,
though the same stale smells of cooking grease and spilled beer lingered. They’d celebrated their College World Series win right here almost seven years ago. Seven years. Fucking A.

Available now as part of the 
Just 99 cents for TEN full-length novels

* * * * *


 Who was your first love? Jack Lynch. We were 13 and it was a summer romance. He walked me home. Slow danced with me. Held hands. So romantic. (Still great friends to this day.)

What was the first romance you ever read? The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was in 10th grade when Carla Christiansen leaned over during English class and whispered, “I’m reading a book. It has sex in it.” I went home that night and told my mother we need to get that book. She had heard of it too so she sent my father to the bookstore on his way home from work to get both The Flame and The Flower along with The Wolf and The Dove. And he did! (He’s also my biggest fan.) Ooooh, they were so good, I was hooked on romance for the rest of my life!

What was your first date with your significant other? “Disco Dance” party in college. Had to dress up and it was a sorority function so I had to ask him to it. Turned out well!

More about Liz

Growing up every summer in a place where dancing and romancing are literally part of its theme song, Liz Kelly can't help but be a romantic at heart. A graduate of Wake Forest University, where she met her golf-addicted
husband, (who is now sporting dark glasses everywhere he goes) Liz is a mother of two sons (also sporting dark glasses) and a miniature Labradoodle. They live in the Fountain of Youth, a.k.a. Naples, FL where dancing and romancing continues on ad infinitum.

You can learn even more about Liz on her website: