Cooking The Books – Leesa Bow

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking The Books! I’m excited because my guest is good friend and NA author Leesa Bow. You may remember that last time she visited, Leesa shared tips and recipes for cooking for hunky football players. This time she’s done a 180 degree turn and is on an entirely more feminine track. Here’s Leesa!



Cupcakes Make Me SmileLeesa Bow portrait

Thanks for having me on your blog Louise.

Admittedly, I’m a sweet tooth, which doesn’t help my hips or waistline at this time of year. When granted the liberty of cooking anything I like, it would generally lean toward a cake, slice, or some dessert over a savoury meal. Unfortunately it’s a trait I have passed onto my daughters and when the females in the household (there are five of us) are suffering a difficult ‘time of the month’ an awesome sweet dish is baked as a ‘pep me up’ reward.

Valentine cupcakesIn my book, Charming the Outback, Maddy likes to bake cupcakes to help clear her thoughts. Maddy’s signature cupcakes are topped with honeycomb and melted chocolate over chocolate cream icing. Cooking for stress release is about the end product making you smile, and enjoying the sweet reward of your labour. One thing I learned from baking and decorating cupcakes is to ignore the mess, as the dishes pile up quickly, and flour coats everything.

Recently, at my eldest daughter’s baby shower, the baby boy and girl themed cupcakes were a hit! Topped with little baby footprints, the pink and blue cupcakes put a smile on the guest’s faces.Cupcakes

For me, cupcakes are all about making people smile. Each bite of creamy icing is filled with heavenly yumminess. Not only do they look enticing, they are mouth-watering delicious, and I don’t feel as guilty eating one because they are only bite-sized. Right?

My favourite would have to be red velvet. What is yours?

Leesa Bio:

Leesa is a romance author who writes new adult romance about second chance love. Leesa also likes to writes stories with a sport theme.

Released in September Charming the Outback is the second book in the Player series.

Leesa’s next book Jardine will be released in December.















You can buy Charming the Outback from:

Amazon Aus:



Google Play:




Find Leesa at:




Outback Dining – Kangaroo: A National Symbol or Dinner?

Chef with cookbookThe outback is dotted with lonely pubs, many of them legendary. Their names drip off the tongue: Oodnadatta, Tibooburra, Innamincka, Birdsville and Tilpa. They are quirky, much-loved institutions, small oases where the long distance traveller can find companionship, fuel, cold beer and meals. There is nothing better than arriving at one after a long day’s driving along red dust roads.

I drew on several of these pubs to create the Bindundilly Hotel in Red Dirt Duchess, the place my heroine, Charlie, calls home. Red Dirt Duchess

One thing they nearly all have in common is their meals. They’re usually a straight up and down affair based around grills with chips. Even a side of fresh salad might be asking too much in some of the remotest parts. This is the sort of food I had Charlie serve to English aristocrat Jon, a man used to dining in the finest restaurants.

However there are outback pubs that are turning that often dismal dining experience on its ear. Take the Prairie Hotel at remote Parachilna in South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges. They have made a specialty of cooking wild animals: kangaroo, camel and emu

Although we know that kangaroo is a meat that’s lean and high in protein, I have to confess I find it hard to sit down to a meal of it. I have no problem with baby veal or suckling pig so it’s not the ‘cuteness’ factor that makes me squirm.

So what’s my problem?

Maybe it’s because it’s wild food but I love field mushrooms and wild greens, quandongs and saltbush. But at Parachilna it’s not about wild. They call their offerings ‘feral’.

untitledBefore you reach for the bag, Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine calls dining at the Prairie Hotel one of 20 not to be missed outback experiences.

A short trip through their menu gives us emu liver paté, smoked kangaroo, kangaroo tail ragout, camel sausage and emu fillet mignon. And to be fair, they are exquisitely prepared and served with a style more fitting a trendy inner urban restaurant.

All of this is good. Ecologists stress that eating sustainably resourced indigenous animals takes demand from farmed introduced species which are far more destructive to the habitat. I need to broaden my culinary horizons.

I’m heading out to Parachilna again in 6 weeks and I’m determined to try the tasting plate.

But what about you? What’s the most unusual wild food you’ve eaten and where was it?

You can find me here:



Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds






Google Play


Cooking The Books – Louise Reynolds + Giveaway

Chef with cookbook

Cooking breakfast for someone you love must be one of the most romantic things you can do. The hot, sweet part of the night is over and now one of you needs to provide fuel. I always like the idea of a man cooking breakfast. It’s sexy, capable and in the hands of the right person, can be very expressive.

So when Jake, my hero in Outback Bride, makes breakfast for Lara the morning after they’ve made love, I wanted it to be special. But he’s an outback guy so he doesn’t have smoked salmon, croissants or bircher muesli. He’s got bread, bacon and eggs – and his goddaughter sitting at the kitchen table. Here’s what he does with them: OutbackBride_cover

Damn, but it was a great morning. Jake took a knife and cut a ragged heart shape in the centre of a thick slice of stale bread and slipped it into the hot fat in the pan, admiring his handiwork. Today called for something beyond the usual biscuit-cutter circle, and an egg would run as easily to the edges of a heart shape.

Jessie sat at the table spooning cereal into her mouth. Every minute or so she grabbed a soggy cornflake and tried to feed it to her doll. Usually the milk dribbled across the table annoyed him, and personally he expected Barbie would rather have a double-shot skinny latte but this morning he just smiled.

The old pipes hammered with the sound of water heading to the bathroom where Lara was no doubt slicked with hot soapy water. Jake closed his eyes and offered a prayer of thanks then slid a guilty look across at Jessie.

They’d been quiet. Real quiet. It had been like fooling around as a teenager, trying not to make any noise. But that had only served to intensify the emotion. Moans had been smothered with deep kisses that had led to a lot of groaning. He’d slapped a playful hand over her mouth and she’d licked it softly then taken his fingers into her mouth one by one until she’d melted, her eyes going hazy and unfocussed. Then, when she’d started to move and the bedsprings creaked, he’d stilled her and pulled her closer. Their first time had been slow and intense. Deep.

Should he even be thinking about this stuff with a child in the room?

He’d fix those bloody springs. Soon. Better still, he’d jump on the net right after breakfast and order a new bed. King size. Well-sprung. He flipped the bread and cracked a fresh egg into the heart shape. He was an artist.

Footsteps sounded in the hall. He wanted to turn and take Lara into his arms but he kept his eyes on the pan, not wanting to look too eager.

‘Well, hey, my two favourite people.’

As good mornings went it suited Jake just fine and now he turned. Lara stood in the doorway wearing tracksuit pants and a T-shirt and towelling her hair dry before twisting the thick length into a loose coil and letting it fall over one shoulder. Her face was scrubbed and pink, her eyes sparkling.

‘Just in time. I made breakfast.’

Heart-shaped toastAnd he can cook.’ The private look she sent him ricocheted straight to his loins. Jake grabbed a plate and slid the fried toast and egg on to it, draping a little crispy bacon to the side.

Lara dropped a kiss on the top of Jessie’s head and sat in the chair next to her. Feeling slightly embarrassed, he placed the plate on the table. She looked at it, then rotated it and cocked her head to the side. Okay, so the egg white had spilled over the edges and the heart shape was a bit blurry. Finally she blushed as a small smile crept to her lips.

So what about you? What’s your favourite breakfast to serve your beloved? Or is there something you’d love to try? I have a kindle copy of Outback Bride OR a print copy of  Her Italian Aristocrat to give one commenter.

You can find me at:




Outback Bride can be purchased here:


Kobo Books



Destiny Romance

Cooking The Books – Rachael Johns

Chef with cookbookAfter a break of a few months while I ate and read my way around the US, Cooking The Books is back with a brand new swag of terrific authors talking cooking, writing and reading. And what a way to kick off, with gorgeous Rural Romance author, Rachael Johns. If you haven’t heard of Rachael or read any of her wonderful outback romances then, as the saying goes, do yourself a favour and head straight to the buy links at the end of the blog. Here’s Rach!

When the fabulous Louise invited me on her awesome Cooking The Books blog, I said yes, immediately. And then I had a little stress. Because although I used to be quite a good cook, in the last few years, I seem to have lost all talent in this department. Seriously, whatever I used to be able to cook quite well, I can now stuff up even better. IMG_2698%20-%20Copy

So… WHAT could I talk about on Cooking The Books? I could talk about how Faith the heroine from my latest book cooks for comfort and how her expertise at baking helps her win her man. I could maybe even share one of her recipes, but I’ve already shared the only one I can cook without fail on Cathryn Hein’s Friday Feast and if I shared one of the other fabulous things I said Faith could cook, I would have to take photos to show you and THAT would require me actually cooking it. And then because I was doing it for something special, it’s even more certain that I would stuff it up.

So instead of sharing a recipe today, I’m going to talk about my love of recipe books. I’ve had to resist buying more over the last few years because we now live in a very small house and shelf space is rare but I LOVE looking at those coffee table recipe books. I love DREAMING about being a fabulous cook – and yes, mostly I want to bake sweet things.

For the purpose of this blog and so it didn’t go on for pages and pages, I have forced myself to choose my top three recipe books to share with you. In my cooking days (before the non-cooking curse was cast on me) I actually made many of the recipes in these books.


Isn’t the title simply divine? Last year I gave this book to my then publisher as a wedding present as we both share a love of sweet things. I have made a number of things in this book but my faves are the chocolate dishes. I can highly recommend the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake. The Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins are also to-die-for!!

A CLOSE SECOND – Donna Hay’s MODERN CLASSICS 1 & 2 (1 is mains, 2 is desserts, so you can probably guess which one is my favourite)!

But I deserve a fair hearing here – I’ve actually made the recipes in number 1 more. For anyone not talented at cooking mains (i.e. me), this book has the simplest dinner dishes ever. The Thai Red Beef Curry page is splattered with curry in my book and I’ve made the basic short crust pastry for a million pies. Yes, I DO make my own pastry thank you very much. From scratch! N.B. This was before I misplaced my ability to cook. The last few times I’ve tried the pastry I managed to stuff it up too!

LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST – The Australian Women’s Weekly WICKED cookbook.

Oh my… my mouth is watering just thinking about this book and I may have to try my cooking luck at making the Cherry Ripe Chocolate Cake again very, very soon. I have made this cake and it’s not too hard AND it’s delicious, but I must also share a snippet about this book and cake. Years ago, I did work experience (during uni) at Cleo Magazine and I can’t remember why but for some reason the cooking people from The AWW brought down this cake to us after they’d baked it for a photo shoot. I decided that very day I needed that book. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a cake I like more since and that is saying something! This book might currently be out of print, but luckily this recipe is available here .

So, that is my Cooking The Books post! I hope you don’t think I’ve cheated sharing my fave recipe books (I DID give you a recipe), but I’d love to hear what your favourite recipe books are. Is there a recipe book you cannot live without? One that I simply MUST add to my collection?

Louise – Thanks, Rach. What a question! I adore cookbooks, from my ratty old collection of Elizabeth David paperbacks (ED, by the way, managed to influence a whole generation of English diners and cooks without benefit of a single glossy photo) right through to my latest acquisition, Bouchon by Thomas Keller. I could bang on for hours about cookbooks but what about you? What is the most used, food-splattered book in your collection?

Website –

Facebook –

Twitter –


Outback-dreams-bookpageOUTBACK DREAMS

Harlequin Australia, 1st October 2013


Faith and Monty are both looking for love…but they’re looking in the wrong direction.

Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. She wants to get her hands dirty on the family farm. She wants to prove to herself that she’s done something worthwhile with her life. And she wants to find a man…??

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. Now he finally has the deposit. But there’s still something missing…??

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges…

Monty and Faith are both ready to find a life partner and settle down, but have they both been looking in all the wrong places?

To-buy links:




Google Play


Cooking the Books – Alissa Callen

Chef with cookbookThis week’s guest is debut author, Alissa Callen, who shares a heartwarming story about using food in a very unusual and creative way. Her recipes took me straight back to childhood and the simple pleasure to be had from cramming one’s mouth full of things almost totally comprised of sugar and butter.

Not only is Alissa a talented writer with – wait for it – two releases out simultaneously (see the bottom of the post), but she’s an especially nice person. Welcome, Alissa!

imageThanks so much Louise for having me on your scrumptious blog. What Love Sounds Like is a story filled with self-discovery, romance and sugar-loaded foods starting with the sound ‘c’. Mia Windsor, an outback speech pathologist, uses food as a fun way for orphaned four-year-old Tilly to practice her clear ‘c’ talking. Whether it be eating pop corn to discover where the back of the throat ‘c’ sound comes from or using fruit loops to make the sound correctly, food is a vital ingredient of Tilly’s speech therapy. But in What Love Sounds Like food also serves a symbolic purpose.


Photo – Gabrielle Battiestel

Corporate-cynic, Kade Reid adheres to a single edict, money is as important as breathing. To a man denied a childhood, who had share portfolios instead of toys, food is purely for sustenance and not to be savoured. When he enters the drawing room of historic Berrilea and sees his ward, Tilly, dressed in a mini chef’s hat and apron ready for her first speech therapy lesson he is far from happy. But slowly he is drawn into Mia and Tilly’s world of popcorn, ice-cream and chocolate chip cookies. When he brings home gelato from a Sydney business trip and initiates a picnic by the river, the tubs of gelato symbolize that he is embracing his feelings as well as his taste-buds.

Food is also symbolic for Mia Windsor. It is through food that she communicates the emotions that she refuses to acknowledge. To protect against abandonment she shrink-wraps herself in professionalism and stifles all yearnings for love or a family. But through cooking with Tilly and making Kade the birthday cake he’d never had, Mia reveals she is far from detached.

So, food, on all levels, is an integral component of What Love Sounds Like. Food helps Tilly master the ‘c’ sound. Food links Kade to the childhood he’d never had. And for Mia, food proves that beneath her crisp professionalism she’s as sweet as the caramel popcorn an unimpressed Kade must try.

Now for the yummy part … recipes of the sugary delights that appear in What Love Sounds Like.

Ⓒ Agg - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ Agg – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Caramel Popcorn


Popped corn (in machine, microwave or saucepan)

75g butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 ½ cup golden syrup

2 tsp hundreds and thousands sprinkles (optional)


Grease a cooking tray and spread out cooked popcorn.

On stove heat butter, sugar and golden syrup until smooth, then boil for 5 mins without stirring.

Pour over popcorn and carefully turn popcorn to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sprinkles and allow to cool. Break into chunks.

Ⓒ ljansempoi - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ ljansempoi – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ice cream


200 ml condensed milk

500 ml thickened cream

1 tsp vanilla

Treats – sprinkles, lollies, crushed up chocolate biscuits etc or pieces of fruit.


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric beater until thick and stiff. Stir through any treats or fruit. Put into container, cover with cling firm and freeze until solid.


Ⓒ Cenorman - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ Cenorman – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Lemonade Scones


4 cups self raising flour

300 ml cream

1 can (375ml) lemonade

sultanas (optional)


Gently mix all ingredients until just combined. Can roll out on floured board and cut out or just spoon onto greased cooking tray in clumps.

Cook in 225 degrees C oven (205 for fan-forced) until pale golden. Enjoy.

Thank you, Alissa. Mia sounds just gorgeous and I can’t wait to read What Love Sounds Like.

What Love Sounds Like is available from Escape Publishing

image-1Beneath Outback Skies is available from Random House as a launch title from their Random Romance list.

And Alissa Callen can be contacted via her website or face book . (

Cooking The Books – A weekly stirfry of cooking and writing


They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so is it any wonder that when we write about love we often write about food as well? At its most elemental, the provision of food demonstrates that we can nurture and sustain, qualities we also look for in a partner.

But it goes beyond that. Survival is one thing but cooking – applying heat and natural salts and acids to raw ingredients and combining them to create a meal – is about love and friendship, sharing and creativity.

I’m going to be dedicating Wednesdays on my blog to Cooking The Books. I want to explore the books I love and the food in them.

But like a big, old-fashioned progressive dinner, I don’t want to do it alone.

I’d love you to contribute by talking about the food in your latest book. Is it an Arabian desert repast served by men in funny trousers or a Regency banquet served by, well, men in funny trousers?

The books don’t need to be traditional romances. Who could forget the stunning meal in Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast and the electrifying effect it had on isolated people starved of love and good food?

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking classic Nora Roberts. In Born In Ice, Brianna cooked up a storm in her Irish b&b and captured the heart of writer Grayson. In Dance On Air, Nell’s muffins and cinnamon rolls had Sheriff Zachary Todd on her doorstep every day. And who can forget the gorgeous Cameron Quinn falling for fiery Anna and her Italian red sauce in the Chesapeake Bay series?

And another of my favourites, Shirley Jump’s The Bachelor Preferred Pastry even provides cheekily named recipes as chapter headings.

So what about you? I’m going to kick it off on Tuesday 16th January by talking about a dish featured in Her Italian Aristocrat. But I’d love you to apron up, grab a whisk (or pen) and tell me about the food in your latest book or in a book you love. If you want to supply a recipe, so much the better.

Please contact me to book a spot on Cooking The Books.

Bon appétit and happy reading!