Some Book News

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, just back from a lovely weekend in Maine, where I taught a class and hung out with the Maine Romance Writers…

Yarned and Dangerous Cover(And no, I don’t feel like I got enough Maine, so I’ll have to schedule a trip back there soon. For sure I didn’t eat my quota of lobster, which warrants a return in itself!)

For the first time in my relatively short career as a published author (Feta Attraction came out in January, 2015, followed by Olive and Let Die and Yarned and Dangerous last fall), one of my books has been deeply discounted! I love a bargain as much as anyone (I don’t believe I’ve ever paid full sticker price for any pair of shoes or article of clothing in my entire shopping life), so I got all tingly when I found out the ebook of Yarned and Dangerous was going on sale. It’s now $2.99 (regular price $9.99), so that’s 70% off. But it’s only for another ten days, so if you’ve been wanting to try out this new series, or if you need an ebook to take with you when you sneak away for a tiny respite from the family picnic this Memorial Day weekend, now’s a great time to pick this one up.

A Killer Kebab CoverAnd while we’re talking about books, the third installment of my Greek to Me series, A Killer Kebab, is now available for preorder. Here’s the blurb:

The Bonaparte House is closed for the season, and Georgie Nikolopatos looks forward to fixing up the Greek restaurant and historic landmark—until her renovation plans hit a fatal snag.
 
With her divorce underway, her mother-in-law returning to Greece, and the tourists gone, Georgie finally has life under control—and the Bonaparte House to herself. She quickly hires a contractor for some much-needed renovations to reopen in time for a special Greek-style Thanksgiving meal. Georgie is suspicious though when former dishwasher Russ Riley arrives with the construction crew. He still has an ax to grind with the Nikolopatos family—but is it sharp enough to kill?
 
When Georgie finds the body of her divorce lawyer amid the construction debris and Russ is quickly arrested for murder, something about the case doesn’t add up. While Georgie is no fan of Russ, even a bad egg deserves a crack at justice.

I had such fun writing this book and introducing some new characters as well as bringing back some from the first two. Georgie’s divorce lawyer is found skewered by the restaurant’s gyro spit on the floor of the gutted (ew, sorry!) ladies’ room of the Bonaparte House restaurant. But lots of people had access to the spit and to the restaurant, and lots of people had reasons to want James MacNamara, Esq., dead. And, if you’ve ever wondered about the true origins of Thousand Island dressing–if you’re anything like me, this sort of thing keeps you up at night–look no further than A Killer Kebab, which contains what I believe to be the original recipe.

Now, I’m off to prepare for my family Memorial Day celebration–I have quite a bit of food prep to do, and no commercial kitchen to do it in, like my heroine Georgie does! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend filled with great weather, friends, family, barbeque, and just the right number of potato salads.

Black Friday Stew

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, writing from her cabin high above a lake somewhere in the boondocks…

Hello, Wicked People! As my status may tell you, I’m not home in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. As long as there’s not too much snow, we travel to our cabin, where we watch the Macy’s parade (the only time we ever watch broadcast television there—not that that’s a big hardship or anything. We only get two stations.). We stay until mid-afternoon on Turkey Day, then head out to my mom’s house for a big dinner with my sisters and their families. After dinner, we break into two groups: the turkey coma victims and/or television special watchers, and the card players.

Doing the can-can-can on the deck, with the lake in the background

Doing the can-can-can on the deck, with the lake in the background

Since none of us are Black Friday shoppers, the next day everyone comes here, to Camp (yes, we think of it with a capital C). About ten years ago, I threw together a big, easy meal with the turkey leftovers, and Black Friday stew was born. We’ve been having it ever since. Today, I’m sharing the recipe with you.

 

Black Friday Stew

1 cooked turkey carcass (any size), meat picked off and refrigerated for later

1 onion

2 carrots

2 parsnips

2 stalks celery

1 bay leaf

Place turkey carcass in your largest stock pot. If you can, break up the carcass a bit so it will fit better. Add the vegetables and bay leaf. Cover most of the carcass with water, bring to a quick boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for at least three hours on medium-low heat. Allow to cool to a temperature that won’t burn you, then strain out the solids and discard. Measurements don’t have to be exact, but I usually end up with about 2 to 3 quarts of stock.

Place strained stock back into the cleaned pot and add:

2 cans of condensed cream of chicken soup, or 1 family-size can (straight from the can)

2 cans of creamed corn

1 can of drained niblets (or leftover corn from yesterday’s dinner)

Leftover gravy and mashed potatoes (if you have them)

Bring up to a slow simmer, and when the stew is hot, add about half a box of angel hair or spaghetti, broken up. Simmer until the pasta is cooked.

Serves a crowd (recipe is easily halved). Serve with buttered fresh-baked French bread—I use the Pillsbury kind that startles you when the tube of dough pops open. But any delicious roll or bread will do. Because what’s a few more carbs, right?

This is a very forgiving recipe. I’ve even added a bit of leftover stuffing and green bean casserole at the last minute, and it was quite tasty.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope you all had a lovely Thursday and will have a peaceful weekend. Hugs from the boondocks!

Beat the Heat with Summer Salads

All the Wickeds love summer and we all love quick and easy salads to get us out of the kitchen and back onto the beach, the lake or even back to work on our latest works-in-progress. Today we’re talking about our favorite salad recipes.

Have you got a super salad recipe to share? We’d love to hear it!

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Vaughn C. Hardacker is the randomly selected commenter who won the signed copy of Ray Daniel’s debut mystery, TERMINATED. Vaughn, please email EdithMaxwellAuthor at gmail dot com your email address, and congratulations!

Jessie: My husband makes a great Brazilian-style salad. It is fairly quick, very healthy and is delicious with grilled foods. I think it tastes even better the second day.

A small head of Napa cabbage
2 tomatoes
a bunch of scallions
a lime
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 

Thinly slice the head of cabbage, the tomatoes and the scallions. Mix gently in a large bowl. Squeeze on the juice of the lime and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Barb: My husband has made this delicious Tuna and White Bean Salad for years. The recipe is in Boiled Over, the second Maine Clambake Mystery–which also contains the recipe for the Tomato Salad shown in the photo.

Richelle’s Tuna and White Bean Salad

tuna bean saladThis is a light, fresh-tasting salad. When Richelle comes off a long road trip, she can put this dish together from items readily available in her pantry.

2 6-ounce cans light tuna packed in olive oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Drain oil from tuna and put in bowl. Flake tuna with a fork. Add onion and garlic and stir with fork. Add beans and gently fold together. Dress with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Allow flavors to marinate at room temperature for thirty minutes to an hour. If refrigerated, best to allow to come to room temperature before serving.

IMG_0182Sherry: I love Greek salad. This is about as easy as it gets. Combine cucumber, tomato, red onion, and feta cheese with romaine lettuce  — add anything else you like to it too. For the dressing whisk together lemon juice (one fresh lemon is perfect but you can add more to taste), 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon oregano. We love garlic so I usually mash a bit in too. Pour over the lettuce and serve. This amount of dressing serves one but it’s easy to double.

 

Edith: Well, dang it all. I was going to include MY go-to Greek salad – which differs from Sherry’s by having gold cherry tomatoes, NO ONION, no lettuce, no dressing but good

tomatobasilmozzarellolive oil, and has fresh oregano leaves. But since she dibbed it, how about this?

Who wouldn't want to share Prosecco with cheesemaker Luca?

Who wouldn’t want to share Prosecco with cheesemaker Luca?

Caprese Salad

Wolf Meadow Farm fresh mozarella
Large whole basil leaves
Slices of large ripe heirloom tomatoes.
(Are you dying yet?)
Layer each trio into stacks, drizzle with good olive oil and spritz of excellent balsamic, sprinkle on some sea salt, and serve with crusty bread and a glass of Prosecco. Yum.

Julie: My favorite salad this summer? Watermelon, feta cheese, olives, a tiny bit of mint (optional). So. Good.

Sherry: Edith you need to tell us about your Greek salad too — there’s always room for more Greek Salad!

Readers: What is your favorite salad?

Maple Mayhem Week: Your Favorite Maple Recipes

maplemayhemAs we all know, Maple Mayhem is released this week. We love the maple recipes Jessie includes in her books, and being New Englanders, we have a few of our own to share:

Julie: Brussel Sprouts, Bacon, and Maple Syrup. I’ll just let that sit for a bit. I first saw this recipe on Boston.com, and have tweaked it a bit over the years.

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
5 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Set oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a large rimmed baking sheet.
2. In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil, maple syrup, bacon, salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning several times, or until the Brussels sprouts are tender and caramelized and the bacon is crisp and golden. This can take up to 40 minutes.
You can also add carrots or parsnips to the mix.

Edith: Geez. I don’t use maple syrup anywhere except on top of pancakes and French toast. So here’s my favorite pancake recipe, that I got from a certain Country Store Mysteries series.

PancakesWhole Wheat Banana Walnut Pancakes

Ingredients:
2 c whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 T brown sugar
3 eggs
2 c milk or buttermilk (of any fat content)
¼ c oil
½ c finely chopped walnuts
2 bananas, thinly sliced
Butter for cooking
Greener Pastures maple syrup
Plain or vanilla yogurt, or sour cream.

Directions:
1. Preheat a wide skillet or griddle to medium.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together.
3. Beat the eggs, then add the milk and oil.
4. Stir in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
5. Fold in the walnuts and bananas.
6. Melt one T of butter in the pan and spread it evenly.
7. Form pancakes of the size you like and cook until bubbles form and pop.
8. Flip the cakes and cook until done.
9. Serve with warm syrup and top with butter, yogurt, or sour cream.

pumpkin whoopie piesBarb: Did you ever have one of those situations where you are asked for something and you’re like–“Oh my gosh, I have exactly the thing right here!” Well that just happened to me. I needed a recipe with maple syrup and there’s one in Musseled Out, the third Maine Clambake Mystery, which I have just turned in to my editor. It’s a fall book, and the recipe is for Grandma Snowden’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Whoopie pies are the State Snack of Maine, where they were invented. (Unless you believe some crazy people from Pennsylvania.) So it’s Sugar Grove meets Busman’s Harbor. I smell cross-over. The recipe is long, so I put it on a separate page, with a link here.

Jessie: One of my favorite maple recipes is one that is perfect for those last minute calls you get to contribute something to a bake sale. It is quick, easy and gets rave reviews.

Maple Blondies

1 stick or 1/2 cup of butter

¾ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 large egg

½ teaspoon maple extract

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 8 x 8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a saucepan heat the butter and brown sugar over low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup, egg, and maple extract. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the contents of the saucepan. Whisk together until smooth. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 22-28 minutes.

These are meant to be soft, even a bit undercooked by most baking standards. If this is not to your liking, increase the baking time by three-minute intervals until a desired degree of firmness is achieved.

Sherry: I confess I don’t have a lot of recipes that use maple syrup. I, like Edith, usually use it on pancakes or French toast. However, I did hit on something really simple. Even  been trying to eat less carbs and The South Beach Diet has dessert recipes that call for ricotta cheese and things like mini chocolate chips, vanilla or lemon zest. I’m sure you can see where this is going. One night we didn’t have any of those things but we did have maple syrup so we tried a half cup of ricotta with a drizzle of maple syrup. It’s delicious.

Readers: Any favorite maple syrup recipes?

Wicked Wednesday-Wicked Healthy Recipes

So the new year is here and a lot of people made some resolutions a couple weeks back. But two weeks in the best laid plans, especially for those concerning eating right, can be hard to keep following. With that in mind the WIckeds are each contributing a healthy recipe to help keep things interesting. Best of luck with all your goals!

strawberry smoothieJessie: Whenever I am working on improving my diet I find I can stick to my plans best if I give myself a few treats now and then. This is one of my favorites because it feels like something much more decadent than it really is. Weighing in at about 150 calories for a 1.5 cup serving, this treat is packed with vitamin C, calcium and even a bit of fiber to make you feel extra virtuous. Here’s how to make it:

Partially defrost a cup of whole, frozen, unsweetened strawberries in the microwave. They are the right amounted of thawed out when you can squeeze them and there is a little give but the berries still feel icy. Place them in a food processor with a half cup of non-fat plain yogurt. Blend until the berries and yogurt are of an even, smooth consistency. Taste and add a small amount of sweetener if necessary. Enjoy!

Edith: I like a nice tomatoey fish-vegetable soup. Low cal and delicious, it fills you up but makes you feel like you had an entire meal. You can always add chunk of wholegrain bread on the side.

Saute a diced onion in a bit of olive oil. Add a diced green pepper and a red FishStewpepper, a diced carrot, two stalks of celery, diced, and several minced cloves of garlic. Continue to saute until the vegetables are softened. Add a can of crushed tomatoes, a bottle of clam juice, some vegetable or chicken stock, a cup of white wine and bring to a simmer. Add a couple of cups of broccoli florets, some dill, dried or fresh, or cilantro if you have it. Cut a pound or two of the skinless fish fillet of your choice into bite-sized chunks and add that. Simmer until it’s all together. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and a glug of hot pepper sauce. Top with minced green onion if you like. As you can see, it’s all approximate. And even better the second day!

arugula-beet-saladJulie: It should say something about my relationship with January that this question stumped me. Lack of light, cold, post-holiday, I gravitate towards junk. And carbs. So I have been working on portion control and eating real food. And trying to eat colors. A favorite salad for this time of year. Greens, beets, blue cheese, toasted walnuts (brings out the flavor), tomatoes, avocado. Go crazy on the greens, beets, and tomatoes, but watch the other ingredients. Add chicken or turkey if you would like. Drizzle it with olive oil, and lemon.

applesauce-2Barb: I’m in Key West for the month and my recipes, both healthy and un, are at home. So we’ll go with this simple one for applesauce. In winter, I love to eat it warmed up. In a large, heavy pot, put one inch of apple cider. Add five pounds of apples, peeled and cored, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Cook down. Mash with a potato masher. Can also be done in a slow cooker.

pumpkin_cake_pops01Sherry: If you have a sweet tooth but want something that isn’t  fattening my favorite is pumpkin cake. All you need is a boxed spice cake mix and a 15 ounce can of pumpkin. Dump the dry cake mix in a bowl, (do not follow the cake mix directions and add the other ingredients) add the can of pumpkin and stir until well blended. Spray the bottom of a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray. Put in the mix and smooth out. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes. Voila you have a cake with fiber and Vitamin C! It is so moist and delicious it doesn’t need frosting.

Liz: Smoothies are my go-to recipe, and I love the Vitamix. I usually put a 1/4 cup of flax seeds, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, kale, berries, a banana (or avocado), some pomegranate juice, water and ice. Blend and enjoy – and it’s way healthy!

Readers: What’s your favorite healthy recipe?

Wicked Good Christmas Cookies

We are sharing some of our favorite cookie recipes.

Jessie: One of the absolute favorites in my house is a version of Mexican Wedding Cakes. They are simple, quick and shatter in a burst of buttery goodness in your mouth. IMG_20131216_170359_584I was only able to photographer one lonely cookie because the rest have all been gobbled. I felt so bad for it I had to put it out of its misery right after the photo was taken. Here’s the recipe for about two dozen cookies:

1 cup butter (please, no substitutions!), at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

additional confectioners’ sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375. Beat softened butter in a mixer until creamy. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in flour and salt. The dough will be quite stiff. Pinch off small bits of dough and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until bottoms are a golden brown but the tops are still light in color. Roll in additional confectioners’ sugar while still warm. Cool on a rack. Nothing could be nicer on a snowy day than these cookies served with a cup of strong, hot tea.

kissescookiesSherry: My favorite cookies aren’t that different than Jessie’s but they have a surprise in the middle! My mom made them every Christmas for me — Chocolate Walnut Kisses.

At medium speed of a mixer, mix:

  • 1 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla

At low speed beat in:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup very finely chopped walnuts

Shape the dough around a Hershey’s Kiss. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes until cookies are set but not brown. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes 40+. Eat a few warm!

Julie: I love cookies. But these days, I don’t have time to bake. (This weekend I will, promise.) So I am into bar cookies. And fudge. The fudge is the Never Fail Fudge from Fluff. I kid you not–makes a ton, and tastes great.

The bar cookies du jour? O’Henry bars–a throw back from when I was a kid.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter/spray a 10 x 15 pan.

Mix together 1 c. softened butter, 1 c. brown sugar, 1 c. corn syrup, 4 c. rolled oats, 1 t. vanilla. Put in pan, and bake 10-15 minutes. Don’t over bake. Cool.

Melt 1 c. chocolate chips (I use semi sweet, but milk also works. And I use more if I have them) and 3/4 c. peanut butter. Spread over the cooled bars, and refrigerate them. Cut into squares. Note: if layering, use wax paper between the layers. They are a little messy.

My granddaughter Viola and my daughter-in-law Sunny. Viola will be the 6th generation of my family (at least) to learn to make these cookies.

My granddaughter Viola and my daughter-in-law Sunny. Viola will be the 6th generation of my family (at least) to learn to make these cookies.

Barb: I make Christmas cookies every year. Same six kinds, same kinds my mom made, five of the six are cookies my grandmother made every year. Yes, I am a traditionalist, especially around Christmas.

Hazelnut Wreaths

To 2 well beaten eggs

Added creamed
½ lb butter
1 cup sugar

Then add
2 ½ cups flour
4 oz chopped hazelnuts

Form into small flat discs. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. Roll dough out one disc at a time on a flour covered surface. Cut into rings. (A smallish donut cutter is good.) Decorate with red and green pineapple “bows.” Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Edith: My quick go-to cookie is a version of Mexican Bride Cakes, but you press IMG_3129the dough out into a low flat pan. Bake once, sprinkle powdered sugar on top, cut into inch-square squares, and bingo!

But since Jessie already dibbed that one, here is my grandmother Ruth Skinner Flaherty’s English Butter Cookies taken directly from the well-used recipe card I probably IMG_3128wrote out in high school. Mysteriously crossed out is the important instruction to cut out with cookie cutters. Roll out in powdered sugar, use the cookie cutters of your choice, and then sprinkle with red or green sugars before baking. Let cool on a flattened brown paper grocery bag.

Readers: What’s your favorite holiday cookie?