Welcome to my Friday bonus feature called Karen’s Killer Fixin’s **Author Special**!! Today, in lieu of one of my own recipes, I’m going to introduce you to a new author who will share one of her favorite recipes. Not only will you and I occasionally learn how to make something new and delicious, but we’ll get a chance to check out some wonderful authors. Introducing author, STEPHANIE OSBORN, and her favorite recipe for AGENT ECHO’S COTTAGE PIE!!
ALPHA & OMEGA
Division One Book 1
BY STEPHANIE OSBORN
Dr. Megan McAllister was already a pretty unusual human — NASA astronaut, professional astronomer, polymath — when she encountered the man in the black Suit that night in west Texas. What Division One Agent Echo didn’t know, when he recruited her to the Agency, was that she was even more special.
But he’d find out, soon enough.
“I don’t get it,” said Romeo from his seat in the training observation room. “Y’all didn’t put ME through all this testing crap. Creativity testing and obstacle courses and puzzles an’ junk. I know we’re shorthanded an’ all, but…what gives? It’d be way simpler an’ quicker to just put her through the old testing.”
“We’re getting ready to start up a new department,” answered Fox, across the small conference table from Romeo; next to the younger agent sat his new partner, India. “Echo’s already agreed to head it up, while you were laid up with the leg. Good to see you off the crutches, by the way.”
“Damn good to be off ‘em. Still hobblin’ around a little, but that’ll go away eventually; ‘s why I’m keepin’ a cane handy for a while. So tell me about this new department. If you can, yet.”
“I can. It’ll be a kind of combination SWAT team and commando unit. Teams from this department will take the point whenever we have the really dangerous situations—the interstellar terrorists, the galactic invasions, things like that. We think, with her background, she may have what it takes to make it in this department. We sure as hell can’t send her back where she came from. She seems intrigued by the idea, at least. And no family complications to worry about. Single, only child, birth family gone in a car accident.”
“But, Fox, what if she can’t hang?”
“I don’t know yet, Romeo. We’ll cross that bridge—”
“We won’t have to,” interrupted Echo, coming into the testing observation room and moving past the table around which the others were seated, directly to the observing window. “She’ll make it.”
“But how do you know?” asked Romeo. “‘Got a feeling’?”
“Yup. Same one I had about you, junior.”
“WELL, the lady’ll hang, then.” Romeo sat back in his chair, satisfied.
“Damn,” muttered India.
Echo shot her a hard look, then returned his attention to the observation window overlooking the course.
“Have we started yet?”
“No,” Fox answered. “We’re still getting set up. And we were waiting for you.”
“I’m here. Let’s get rolling.”
“Done.” Fox hit a button on an adjacent control console.
Romeo, Echo, and India watched as the observation window, as well as a hooded monitor on the command console, showed several aliens of various types entering the obstacle course. Romeo gasped as he recognized a Betelgeusian giant arachnoid, possessing, by his estimate, a good fourteen- or fifteen-foot leg span—accompanied by several Division One agents sporting flamethrowers, lasers, blasters, and disintegrator rifles, entering the course. Two heavily-armed guards in black armor moved into position at the entrance. Romeo and India noticed then, with a shock, that they were FACING the course, as if the concern was from something inside.
“Hope she’s not afraid of spiders,” Echo remarked offhandedly.
“Hope she’s not afraid of death,” Romeo murmured to India. “Shit.”
* * *
Megan came into the observation room just then. She was wearing black workout leggings and sports-bra top, but the rest of her attire was somewhat odd: menswear-style black lace-up dress shoes, a black tie, a dress leather belt, and a pair of the special goggles-cum-sunglasses strapped to one hip. An unusual device, like a large plastic bangle bracelet, was fastened around her right ankle. Sensors attached to her head and torso connected to a small transmitter pack on her back. Echo met her and led her to the command console.
“All right, Megan,” Fox began, waving a hand at the view in the monitor, which now only depicted a door and two guards, “this is the obstacle course. When you go through that door,” he pointed to the image of the guarded door on the monitor, “you will enter the first of a series of six rooms, each of which has various…impediments…to your progress. Your objective is simply to reach the exit of room six as quickly as possible. The tracking device on your ankle will enable us to monitor your progress. You may make use of anything on your person, as well as anything you find along the course. In addition, you may select from one—and only one—of the items on this side table.”
Megan eyed the monitor display in detail before Fox led her over to the table. On it was an eclectic collection of items: a Phillips-head screwdriver, a small glass bottle, a pair of wire cutters, a coil of rope, a pen knife, a jar of cheese spread, a pocket-sized Winchester & Tesla Mark II death ray, a packet of facial tissues, and a chocolate bar.
Megan was in no rush. She scanned the table carefully, considering, as the four Division One agents watched. She looked herself up and down, fingering the items she already carried. Echo watched as she flipped over the tie and checked to see what was on the label. He smiled inwardly, pleased as he followed her mental processes, realizing he understood how she thought. Finally she reached out, picked up the pen knife, and clipped it to the belt at her waist.
Echo raised an eyebrow in carefully-hidden surprise and looked at Fox, who returned his gaze unemotionally. Romeo and India watched the whole scene in amazement.
“Ready, then?” Fox asked Megan.
“As I’ll ever be.”
“All right. Follow me.”
As Fox led Megan out, Echo turned to the console, put on a headset, and began entering commands. Romeo and India walked up to the observation window, and Echo hit a button. Blast shutters on the window began to close.
“Sorry, kids. Can’t watch this one; you’ll have to go through this yourselves soon enough.”
“Oh, joy,” India muttered.
“You can monitor her progress on this schematic.” Echo hit another sequence of commands, and a panel opened on the wall. It showed the layout of six variously-shaped, interconnected rooms, a number on each room.
“How are you gonna evaluate her if you can’t see what she’s doing?” Romeo asked him, as he and India sat back down at the table, across from the schematic.
“I didn’t say Fox and I couldn’t watch. I’ve been through it. You haven’t. Yet.”
Fox re-entered the room. “She’s ready, Echo.”
“All right, then.” Echo handed Fox another headset, then keyed the microphone switch. “Megan? GO!”
Stephanie Osborn, aka the Interstellar Woman of Mystery, former rocket scientist and author of acclaimed science fiction mysteries, goes back to the urban legend of the unique group of men and women who show up at UFO sightings, alien abductions, etc. and make the evidence…disappear…to craft her vision of the universe we don’t know about—the universe containing a galactic civilization and government, of which Earth is a provisional member. Her new series, Division One, chronicles this universe through the eyes of recruit Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, as they handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.
Division One books, in order:
- Alpha & Omega
- A Small Medium At Large
- A Very UnCONventional Christmas
- Tour de Force
- Trojan Horse
- Texas Rangers
- Definition & Alignment
Phantoms (book 8 – October 2018)
Head Games (book 9 – Winter 2019)
Break, Break Houston (book 10 – Spring 2019)
with more planned.
I also hope to release the adjuncts to the series, The Division One Agents Handbook and The Division One Cookbook. Can’t promise on those yet.
Links to Stephanie’s website, blog, books, etc.
Available in print and ebook: bit.ly/DivOnebk1
I hope you enjoy the recipe Stephanie is sharing today on Karen’s Killer Fixin’s. Happy Eating!
P.S. We’re at 386 recipes and counting with this posting. Hope you find some recipes you like. If this is your first visit, please check out past blogs for more Killer Fixin’s. In the right hand column menu, you can even look up past recipes by type. i.e. Desserts, Breads, Beef, Chicken, Soups, Author Specials, etc.
**Please note that this recipe is copyrighted and will likely be included in a series adjunct, The Division One Cookbook.
AGENT ECHO’S COTTAGE PIE
[Makes 2-4 cottage pies]
- • 3T cooking oil (whatever’s handy)
- • 3lb ground beef (chopped-up steak leftovers work good, too)
- • 1 Vidalia onion, chopped
- • 3 medium carrots, sliced
- • 1 package button mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
- • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- • 3T flour
- • 1T tomato paste
- • 3-3.5 cups beef stock
- • about a half-cup of red wine (Meg likes shiraz; sometimes I use a whole cup, but you gotta cut back on the stock, or it’s too runny)
- • 4T Worcestershire sauce
- • 2 bay leaves
- • dried or fresh thyme to taste, preferably whole sprigs so I can take ’em out later
- • salt & pepper to taste
- • 4-5lb potatoes, cubed
- • 1 cup milk
- • 2T butter
- • about 1.5-2 cups grated sharp cheese (sharp cheddar works fine, but Meg loves Cheshire when I can get it)
Heat 1T oil in a large saucepan and fry the meat until browned. Put the rest of the oil into the pan, add the vegetables and cook on low until soft, about 20 mins. Add garlic, flour and tomato sauce. Increase the heat and cook for a few mins, then return the beef to the pan. Add wine, and boil to reduce it slightly. Add stock, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 mins. By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat. Check it after a half-hour, and adjust heat to thicken gravy if necessary. Season well, then discard the bay leaves and thyme stalks. Let it cool, otherwise, the potatoes sink in and make a mess later. Still tastes good, though.
In another large saucepan, cover the potatoes in salted cold water, bring to boil and simmer until fork-tender. Drain ’em, then let ’em sit for a few mins. Mash with milk, butter, and three-quarters of the cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Dump the meat and veg mix into baking dishes. Spoon the potatoes over it, top with cheese, and cook at 450F for about half an hour, checking for brownness. A couple minutes under the broiler gives it a nice gold top.
Makes 2 large or 4 small cottage pies. Freeze extras, uncooked, for later.
(For Meg: Make sure they’re cool before you try to freeze ’em. Best to thaw ’em before baking; takes less time. If you go straight from freezer to oven, either heat at 350F for about an hour and a half, then kick it back up to 450F for 20min, or flip the oven over to the Gargarun setting and cook at 450 for 30min. You gotta watch it, though; that Gargarun setting will overcook it fast, and you’ll have a big charcoal briquette. Fox doesn’t like it when the smoke alarms go off.)
Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!