oklahoma, bologna and mac & cheese…

So I just returned from Oklahoma where last week I helped celebrate National Bologna Day in the town of Drumright. It’s a long story on how all that came about. Suffice it to say I like to use real locations and real food in my books whenever possible. It helps gives the fictional novels ‘flavor’, figuratively speaking. Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, OK, and their Signature Fried Bologna Sandwich played a role in the plot of my One Night with a Cowboy (Oklahoma Nights), which is what led to me being part of the celebrations last week. You can read more about all of that HERE.

But sometimes I write about home cooking in my novels, and when I do, more often than not, it’s a dish I prepare myself at home. That is true of the Mac & Cheese that the heroine makes for my hero in Midnight Ride (Midnight Cowboys). Here is that recipe and an excerpt from the book. Enjoy! Cat 

Enjoy the Mac & Cheese Excerpt from MIDNIGHT RIDE then scroll down for the recipe

Midnight Ride SALEFinally, she sat and Tyler lifted the fork full of food he’d been dying to try. Flavor assaulted his senses as the rich sharp cheddar filled his mouth. His eyes drifted closed and a low rumble of appreciation came from his throat.

He opened his eyes again to see Janie watching and smiling. “I guess you like it.”

“Oh, my God. This is the best I’ve ever eaten.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thanks, but you don’t have to flatter me, Tyler. I would have invited you to eat anyway. It’s the least I can do in exchange for all you’ve done for me.”

“Janie, there’s one thing you should know about me.” He set his fork down and leaned forward, his forearms braced on the table. “I never mess around when it comes to food. I’m not flattering you. This is amazing.”

“Thanks.” Her cheeks turned pink and he couldn’t help but smile.

“You’re welcome.” Satisfied she believed he was sincere, he picked up the fork again and dug in for another bite. “What’s the spice? It’s not jalapeno.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s a pinch of cayenne. I bought a cookbook the year I got married and I’ve been using the old recipes in it ever since. I know a lot of places use other spices and other cheeses, but I just do the same thing as I always did. Plain old sharp cheddar. Oh, and a little bit of mustard, too.”

“That’s what that other flavor is. Don’t change a thing, whatever you do. I don’t care what else other places are putting in their mac and cheese, you leave yours just as it is.”

She laughed. “Okay. Since you feel that strongly about it, I promise.”


4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Pinch cayenne pepper, salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste

9 ounces cooked macaroni (elbows or shells—whatever shape you want)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the cheese sauce, melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly as it bubbles but does not brown (about 2 minutes). Add milk, stirring as it comes to a boil and thickens. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and mustard. Lower heat and stir in shredded cheddar cheese until melted (about 2 minutes). Set aside.

To make the casserole, in a 1 ½ quart oven-proof casserole dish, put the cooked macaroni. Pour the cheese sauce over the top. Mix gently with a fork. Bake uncovered until top is golden and the sauce is bubbling (about 30 minutes).

Serves four.

Women and Food Quote


a writer’s crazy life

It’s the first day of spring and it’s snowing here in NY State, and that about sums up what this winter has been like for me–Crazy!!

I went from sunny and beautiful San Antonio last month, where I enjoyed the Wild Wicked Weekend Reader Author event, the rodeo, the Alamo, and the Riverwalk, to snowy New Jersey tomorrow for the Create Something Magical Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. And in the middle of it all I had three major deadlines and a new release in my bestselling Hot SEALs series.


Such is the life of a working writer. I’m off to ho my new release but I’ll leave you with some pictures from San Antonio and the historic and reportedly haunted Menger Hotel. Enjoy!

Cat Johnson



San Antonio Rodeo

Top to Bottom: The Alamo at night, Me at Longhorn’s Restaurant, the scenic Riverwalk, the famed Menger Hotel Bar, opening ceremony at the San Antonio Rodeo.


outlander: highland inspiration

I’ve been watching the new OUTLANDER series on the Starz network. It’s based on the books written by Diana Gabaldon, which I’m old enough to have read (and loved) when they first released fourteen years ago.

The music, the costumes, the spoken Gaelic, the sweeping landscapes and the food and drink in the show are making me remember my own trip to Scotland (which was about 20 years ago. Eep! Time flies.)

I partook of the typical Scottish fare– haggis and local beer. I loved the cheese and my first taste of a ‘scotch egg’. But I also had rabbit, pheasant, venison, and all sorts of other game while there because, for those of you who remember, this was during the “mad cow” scare and eating beef abroad was a bit frightening that year.

Battle of Culloden

Like the show’s heroine, I traveled to Inverness. I crawled through castle ruins. I visited the battlefield and memorial stones of Culloden. I even walked within a few stone circles while in the UK, but they apparently weren’t magical because aside from a tour guide no sexy highlanders appeared to whisk me away to the 1740s. The stone circle pictured in the 1996 paper snapshot below is Castlerigg Stone Circle (circa 2000 B.C.) located not in the Highlands, but in the Lake District off A66 Keswick. It contains 38 stones.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

I found a really cool blog that contains modern takes on historical recipes–the kind which might be featured in the Outlander series. Check out the Outlander Kitchen and make some dishes of your own.


memorial day 2014 bigger is better

Confession–deadlines are looming and I’m supposed to be writing. What am I doing instead? Getting distracted by an ad for, of all things, giant lawn dice, because, you know, who doesn’t need a set of those? So as long as I’m in my crazy place I figured what the hell, let’s blog about giant things to supersize your Memorial Day gatherings this weekend.

Here we go. First up, the product that started me down this path of insanity…


giant yard dice

Next, you’ve probably seen this on The Big Bang Theory, but it seems it actually exists…


Giant Jenga

And finally, what barbecue would be complete without these…



Wishing everyone a safe unofficial launch to summer 2014! And if you’re looking to fill up your eReader or beach bag with hot summer reads, I had a new release this week (hint, hint). You can check it out at my site at (shameless plug) www.CatJohnson.net.

             Cat Johnson
 NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

travel: boonsboro, md

I’m just back from a fabulous weekend in the Maryland/West Virginia area where I was lucky enough to be invited to sign at the Turn the Page Bookstore in historic Boonsboro, MD with none other than the legendary queen of romance herself, Nora Roberts.

Nora Roberts Book Signing

The weekend started Friday when, after crossing the Mason-Dixon line, I entered Maryland, and drove past beautiful country, revolutionary era graveyards and houses, and Civil War battlefields and landmarks.

Shortly thereafter I checked into the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV. My room and balcony overlooked the Potomac River, the border between the two states. After a sunny drive down, it had just started to drizzle, which was fine because my room had a fireplace in it! Yes, I know, I should have taken pictures. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was too excited about the signing the following day.

Friday night I had dinner at the Domestic in Shepherdstown. They’d lured me in with their Bacon-Ranch Fries I’d seen on the online menu, but once there, I had to also order the homemade Macaroni and Cheese with Smoked Mushrooms and it was to die for!

The following morning I had breakfast at Betty’s, famous for their sausage gravy, and I have to say everything I tried from the menu was incredible, especially the biscuits. Then it was off to Boonsboro, MD where, at 930 am, the line of readers was wrapped around the corner for tickets for the signing that started at noon.

Book signing Turn the Page Bookstore

I explored the town a bit, hit the local antique shop and then it was time to go in and pre-sign the advance orders readers who couldn’t attend had placed for my books to be signed and then shipped to them, a really nice service the bookstore provides.

I estimate close to 300 readers passed through the bookstore, and every one was gracious to all of the authors, whether they were there to see one of us, or just to meet Nora. I didn’t keep count but I must have signed upwards of 50 of my books. Lucky attendees who have been waiting for book 3 in my series, Three Weeks with a Bull Rider, to release next Tuesday got a special treat because my publisher shipped it to the bookstore for the signing early. All in all it was an incredible monumental day I will never forget. I think the fact I look so good and happy in the photo, taken at the end of the nearly 5 hour signing, proves how wonderful it was. The staff and volunteers were incredibly well organized and so welcoming. They even fed us. FYI, when in Boonsboro, try the white pizza from Vesta’s. It passed even the New Yorker test.

I got to see again a couple of readers I’ve known for years, and I got to meet new ones who, thanks to my cover model Keith and my smoking hot cover on One Night with a Cowboy, were intrigued enough to give me, unknown to them, a try.

Afterwards I stopped into Dan’s Tap Room across the street, sampled two microbrews, and then headed back to Shepherdstown to grab some quick Chinese food in town and crash hard in my room in front of the fire and TV after the adrenaline rush of the day left me.

Next trip there I’m vowing to spend more time and visit all the interesting places I drove past, but for a whirlwind trip, I couldn’t be more pleased at how it all worked out. For those who have never been there, you must check out the quaint and historic town of Boonsboro, where Nora Roberts renovated the current Inn at Boonsboro, her husband Bruce runs the Turn the Page bookstore. Even if you can’t spend the night, spend a few hours, sample the local fare, and check out the site. Well worth the trip.

The InnTurn the Page Bookstore


how writing is like riding a bull

I’m procrastinating finishing a book, which is nuts because I’m so close to being done, and a book in my computer makes me $0 compared to a book in the stores, but anyway…  I’m reading an article online (for research, you understand) about bull riders, and the difficulties some newcomers to the pro tour, and even veterans, have staying at the top of their game, and the more I read, the more I keep thinking, YES this is what I feel being a writer. Take the below paragraph…

“I think being a pro at something means showing up and being ready to win every weekend,” McBride said. “I think that’s what separates guys and it’s that way in any sport. It’s the guy who can show up and do it every weekend. You don’t know for sure how you stayed on him, but now the next weekend it starts all over and you have to do the exact same thing again…”

You could easily replace parts of that paragraph with writing terms and explain how it feels, at least for me, to be an author.

“…being a pro at something means showing up and being ready to [be a best seller with] every [new book]…I think that’s what separates [authors]… It’s the [author] who can show up and do it every [book]. You don’t know for sure how you [rose to the top of the best seller ranks], but now the next [new book] it starts all over and you have to do the exact same thing again…”

And then there’s this paragraph speaking about the difference expectations for rookies compared to veterans…

“A guy’s rookie year—he’s on his honeymoon,” McBride said. “Everything’s great, you’re excited to be there, there (are) no expectations for you—it’s fun.”

Again, for a rookie vs a veteran writer it would read like this…

“[An author’s first book]—he’s on his honeymoon. Everything’s great, you’re excited to be there, there are no expectations for you—it’s fun.”

I’ve seen this exact thing happen. I’ll throw something up self published under a different, brand new pen name and get all 5-star reviews that read “I wasn’t expecting much at all but wow this was well written” whereas me, as Cat and on my 48th book or so, will get reviews such as “I really liked it but it’s not her best work–3 stars”. It’s all a matter of expectations, and setting the bar high for yourself means you have to leap that much higher each time. Because of that it’s a relief, and actually fun and so much easier to write anonymously. And it makes me dread proving myself over and over again, which is not fun at all.

So there is my procrastination-inspired introspective philosophical post. Do with it what you will. I must go back to wrestling with the bull– now…on the blank page, that is. :)

Oh, by the way, as the reviews are piling in for book 3 in my Oklahoma Nights series, Three Weeks with a Bull Rider, which releases 3/25, book 1 is currently on sale for 80% off, just $1.99 for the eBook of One Night with a Cowboy at most digital retailers. Buy links and details at www.CatJohnson.net 


my favorite things: last minute gift ideas

It’s getting closer– Christmas. Are you ready? Here are a few of my favorite last minute ideas. Some require no shipping at all and 1 you can pick up at the drug store.

For the book lover…

The perfect stocking stuffer for the lady who loves to read, this class red nail polish’s official color name is “I Red a Good Book” and it’s available on the Wet n’ Wild display rack at the CVS in my area for $1.99 or on Amazon.com 

"Red a Good Book" Nail polish

 Also from Amazon, the gift for those who have everything and it’s something I am now addicted to, Amazon Prime. Yes, it costs $79 a year, but listen to what you get. Unlimited streaming of all the TV Shows and movies they have available, both on your computer or on the tablet app. I had been paying $100 a year for Netflix streaming. And there’s more (and this has been key for my Christmas shopping)…free 2-day shipping with no minimum purchase on Prime eligible items.

For the couch potato…

Next, know someone who loves gadgets and television? Check out Chromecast. If their TV is moderately modern and has an HDMI port, you can plug this $35 device into it, install the app on your tablet, smartphone and/or computer and stream from the device to the television. Now there are limitations. You can stream from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora and HBOGo, but not from AmazonPrimeVideo (which is what I use). But with the Chrome browser extension, I can put anything that’s on my computer browser on the television. Not perfect, but for the price, not bad. Works with Android, iOS, Chrome for Mac, and Chrome for Windows. (NOTE: the Roku 3 streaming device will play Amazon Instant Video but is a bit pricier at $88)

And the perfect gift to go with the Chromecast could be a gift subscription to Netflix ($7.99 a month) or Hulu Plus (also $7.99 / month)

And when all else fails, there’s always my go to last minute gift, available at your local liquor store :)

Have a merry!!


my favorite things: christmas gifts 2013

It’s kind of disturbing that Christmas is a mere three weeks away. There’s no time to wait. Love it or hate it, it’s time to shop for those gifts! Here are my favorite gift giving ideas for Christmas 2013. The best part? You can get them all without leaving the house.


Wicked Witch Bookmark

An Etsy find, I’m giving these fun bookmarks this year along with a copy of the Wizard of Oz


Hand Grenade Paperweight

I own one for myself but what man wouldn’t appreciate such a unique desk accessory?!


Joe Boxer Kmart Christmas Ad

Young, old, male, female, many on my list will get Joe Boxer PJs in support of the daring and controversial choice KMart made in airing my favorite ad this season! Watch it on YouTube.

Happy shopping!

Cat Johnson

travel: las vegas

I’m baaack…and exhausted from my nearly weeklong trip to Vegas where I once again mixed business with pleasure. I experienced the fun and excitement of the Professional Bull Riders world finals with daily events Wednesday through Sunday, which also served as research for me for my two contemporary cowboy series. While there I also attended a fundraising lunch for the not-for-profit Rider Relief Fund on Friday, I signed and gave away to donors a case of books at the RRF booth on Saturday and I had a book signing at one of the Vegas Barnes & Nobles on Sunday. I got to meet up with my readers and other PBR fans whom until now I’ve only known online. I got to meet in person the Oklahoma-based owners and crew of my marketing partner in crime, Joseph’s Fine Foods in Drumright, which appears in all of my Oklahoma Nights romance novels. And in between it all there was the insanity that is Vegas itself.

Here are a few pictures…because we all know what happens in Vegas, no longer stays in Vegas thanks to Facebook and Twitter. :)


Former World Champion Bull Rider Guilermi Marchi  and me

Former World Champion Bull Rider Guilermi Marchi and me (he refused to hold the book with the half naked cowboy on the cover though).

Joseph's Fine Foods

The Joseph’s Fine Foods crew flew to Vegas from Oklahoma to meet me!

Chicken on a Chain

I met one of my favorite bucking bulls, Chicken on a Chain.

PBR red white and blue

We all wore our stars and stripes for the Saturday event’s salute to the troops

The Luxor Hotel Vegas

I slept in a pyramid and saw a sphynx…


...and saw a gondolier on an indoor "Venice" canal at the Venetian.

…and heard a gondolier sing on an indoor “Venice” canal at the Venetian.

All in all, it was exhausting and exhilarating. I ate food that was too big, drank Jack Daniels like any good cowgirl or cowboy would, and had a great time with both old and new friends. Now, after a whirlwind spring, summer and fall, I am looking forward to NO TRAVEL for at least a few months because when all is said and done, there’s no place like home.