Elizabeth John writes sweet contemporary romances and cozy romantic suspense novels. She loves dogs, the beach, and books, of course! Learn more about her and her books at her website.
In my book, Judging Joey, Madeline White rarely had a home cooked meal growing up. Her dad had his hands full taking care of her neglectful mother, so Madeline had to fend for herself unless he remembered she was too young to turn on the stove. Macaroni and cheese from a box became the closest thing to real cuisine until she moved in with her elderly aunt and uncle. Her aunt introduced her to a world filled with nutrition, recipes, and family time at the dinner table. Sadly, her aunt passed years later, and Madeline took over the kitchen duties. Uncle Mark could make toast and tea and that was all. His attempts at preparing meals became an inside joke to the two because Madeline had to beg him to let her do all the cooking after one of his ‘Tuna Surprise’ casseroles.
Madeline takes pride in her culinary talents. Just like she prepares her lesson plans for teaching her students, she preps her meals in advance too. Sometimes the meal is elaborate such as her stuffed roasted pork loin. No matter what, each morning she knows what she and her uncle will have for dinner. That is until Laura, her widowed next door neighbor, begins to frequently stop by with her famous hot chili or freshly baked apple pie to whet her uncle’s appetite. Madeline thinks their blossoming relationship is cute and appreciates the diversion from her uncomfortable reunion with Joey O’Neill. When Madeline comes home from a stressful day at work, she is thrilled to find Laura stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
All the foods cooked in this book are recipes I’ve learned from my mother. My German mother learned how to cook Italian from my father’s sister, who of course, learned from my grandmother. However, my family never said spaghetti sauce. The red paste was called gravy. When the grandchildren were born, calling spaghetti sauce gravy was confusing. The kids insisted gravy was brown. Although, my mother still calls spaghetti sauce gravy, nobody cares since her dish tastes magnifico by any name. Enjoy!
Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
1/2 cup of each: ground beef, veal, pork (All beef or a combination is fine, too.)
1 small onion, minced
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Mix together by hand. A large melon scooper will help keep the size of the mixture the same. Use hands to roll into golf-sized balls.
Coat frying pan with olive oil and allow to heat up. Brown meatballs lightly on all sides.
2-3 garlic cloves
1 can crushed tomatoes
Slice garlic. Sauté in olive oil. (Garlic can be removed before serving guests.) Add tomatoes.
Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste, plus several fresh basil leaves.
Let the sauce simmer with the meatballs and continually stir the sauce so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Be careful not to break up the meatballs. The sauce should simmer at least an hour, but the longer, the better.
Serve with al dente pasta.
Madeline White must return to her hometown to help her uncle, her only family. She gets a job teaching and sees the man who broke her heart back in high school. Then she discovers he’s the school’s Safety Officer and his nephew is her student! Madeline’s determined to clear the air with him and hopes they can be civil to one another. When she builds up the courage for a painful reunion, she is shocked that he doesn’t remember her.
Officer Joey O’Neill is committed to his job, so after the beautiful redhead accuses him of the contrary, he takes offense. When Madeline informs him they’ve met before, he insists she’s mistaken. Although his family wants him to settle down and judges his carefree bachelorhood lifestyle, it doesn’t mean he forgets the people in his life. Past or present.
Like years before, people begin to whisper about her when things go missing in the school. Joey starts to wonder if what they say is true. As the past comes back to haunt Madeline, she struggles with a secret that jeopardizes her job and hopes she can trust Joey. Has he finally out grown being a wise-cracking jock?