The Food Conundrum

Finished Product (1)

The recipe I came up with for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen–shrubs!

When you write cozies, there is always the food issue. That is, do you include recipes or not?

Now, for some folks, that answer is an easy one. They’re centered around food, so of course! There’s even a great blog called Mystery Lovers Kitchen that is about mysteries and food. It features a huge array of cozy authors. They let me do a guest post in August. I made shrubs, which are discussed in Chime and Punishment. Part of the challenge is taking pictures of the process that look somewhat appetizing.

I like mysteries with food. In fact, Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series is a go to for cookie recipes for me. There’s even a cookbook, which I own and have given as gifts.  Her Highlander Cookie Bar recipe is one of my go-tos when I need to impress. (Shortbread on the bottom, brownies on top. Oh. My.)

Several of the Wickeds have series that include recipes. In my Clock Shop series, there was a natural fit if I featured recipes from the Sleeping Latte. But, then I learned some of the “rules”. The recipe needs to be original. And, since I know I try them on occasion, they need to taste good. I bake, and cook, but I couldn’t take the pressure.

For my Theater Cop series, a food tie in doesn’t really work as well. Though, I did mention cinnamon and sugar french fries with a cream cheese frosting dip that I thought sounded pretty interesting in book 2, which will be out next September. I totally made them up, so the recipe isn’t in the book.

I am writing a new series (stay tuned), and I’m not sure if I’m going to have recipes. But I do find myself mentioning food a lot, just in case. I plan to have the nieces help me develop a couple to see if I can pull it off. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, my question for you dear readers, do you like cozies with recipes? Do you try them? Trust them? Should I try and pull this off? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Cruel Winter Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to Sheila Connolly. Her fifth County Cork Mystery, Cruel Winter, is cruelwinterout!

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder. Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

To celebrate, I (Edith) decided to make one of Sheila’s many Irish recipes from her other group blog, Mystery Lover’s Kitchen. She’s over there most Fridays sharing dishes, both savory and sweet, that she has concocted. I’ve adapted the following recipe slightly, but what follows isn’t too far from her Feb 7 post of three years ago. As you can see, I didn’t have Irish whiskey, but figured I couldn’t go too far wrong with using bourbon, instead.

Irish Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 T dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
2 cups shredded cabbage
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade/canned/from a bouillon cube)
Sheila’s twist—a tablespoon or two of Irish whiskey (Edith’s substitution—an equal amount of bourbon)

irishchickingred

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and dredge the chicken pieces in it, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Tuck the garlic cloves, carrots, onions and rosemary around and between the chicken pieces. Lay the cabbage in an even layer on top and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the whiskey into the broth and pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables. Cover the contents of the Dutch oven with its oven-proof lid, or with foil (press it against the contents to make a fairly close seal), then place the pot in the oven and cook for 75 (remember, the heat is low). Peek once or twice and baste the top with the pan juices.

irishchickTo serve, place a piece of chicken on the plate and spoon the vegetables and sauce over it. I urge you to check Sheila’s original recipe for pix of the entire process and for the few ingredients I left out (because, oops, I didn’t have them in the house).

I wanted to serve the dish with new potatoes steamed and then lightly sauteed in olive oil and herbs – except somebody in my house used the last potato and didn’t put them them on the shopping list. So instead I made quick whole-wheat soda biscuits. Which went almost better with the dish than the potatoes would have.

Readers: Who has read the County Cork series up to now and can’t wait to get your hands on this one?  [Me! Me!] Anybody been to Ireland and, if so, what was your favorite meal? Your favorite Irish pub near where you live?

A Second Life

Edith here, writing from north of Boston where spring has finally arrived!

I am delighted to announce that my first Local Foods mystery, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, has been re-released in paperback. It’s a little bit unusual for a cozy mystery to come out in hardcover, but that’s what my contract with Kensington Publishing specified. My agent said libraries and collectors prefer hardcovers, so who was I to argue? TINEPaperbackCover

The contract also said that eleven months later, each book would reissue in mass-market paperback. Yes, the little ones with an affordable price and an easy heft. And it came out last week! They changed up the cover a bit, and included the recipes they forgot to include in the hardcover version. Isn’t it a nice cover?

I am excited to be able to offer an eight-dollar book when I go to libraries and farmers’ markets instead of the twenty-four dollar version. So if the price tag on the original version was too much for you, I hope you’ll go find it in paperback. And tell your friends and neighbors, too. My sister already reported seeing it in an Indiana Barnes and Noble!

Of course, when ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part releases on May 27, it will be in hardcover, but next PreorderVegescarfMay the whole process will repeat. And speaking of Book Two, I am offering the most gorgeous sky blue silk scarf, handpainted and signed by the artist, for every person who sends me proof of preordering ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part.

I really want the series to continue, and its fate might rest in the number of sales the week it comes out. Publishers like to see a ton of sales when the book is brand new. Preordering from your favorite indy bookstore or online outlet is the best way to ensure those kinds of numbers.

Isn’t that a beautiful scarf? See details of the contest on my web site. You have until May 27 to let me know. And if you don’t wear scarves yourself, I’ll bet you know someone who does and who deserves a really pretty present.

I’m delighted to have a second chance or two.

Readers: Have you had a chance to start over, to reinvent yourself, to reach more people? I’ll send a copy of the paperback TINE to one commenter! Make sure you leave your email address if I don’t already have it.

 

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?

Wicked Wednesday: Recipes with Maple Syrup

To celebrate Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett we are sharing recipes that call for or need to be topped with maple syrup!

Original File Name: 4126-Driscole-Pancakes-032.tif

(Picture from http://www.babble.com. Missing the yogurt, obviously!)

Edith: Cool, I’m first, so I can claim pancakes! Or at least my version of them. To me, since about 1971, pancakes are whole wheat. Preferably with either bananas and walnuts in them, or in recent decades, with a handful of hand-picked (for a while also home-grown) blueberries, either fresh or frozen, added to each. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt and the best maple syrup you can afford, and you have a Sunday morning breakfast that will sustain you for a good while. The core of the recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. I now can’t abide white pancakes!

Whole Wheat-Blueberry Pancakes

Mix 2 c whole wheat flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 T brown sugar, 1 tsp salt in a mixing bowl. Make an indent in the middle and add three eggs, then stir with a fork. Add 1/4 c vegetable oil and 2 c milk (can be non-fat). Mix with same fork or a mixer until blended. Spoon batter into a nice medium-hot skillet with a little oil in it. Add a handful of blueberries, fresh or frozen, to the middle of each pancake as soon as you have spooned it into the pan. Cook until the bubbles pop, turn, cook some more — come on, you know how to cook pancakes — and eat with yogurt and great maple syrup.

Sherry: I have had Edith’s pancakes and they are amazing! But I also love my mom’s buttermilk pancakes. They are easy to make and easier to eat! 2 eggs beaten, 2 cups buttermilk, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine beaten eggs and buttermilk. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook and drizzled with lots of hot maple syrup.

Last weekend while visiting the Boston area we stopped in the bar at the Commons at Hanscom Air Force Base. I ran into Gina Pacheco who shared this inspired use of maple syrup. She wets the rim of a beer glass with maple syrup, dips it in cinnamon and sugar, and then fills the glass with her favorite pumpkin ale! I can’t wait to try this!

Liz: Since going wheat and gluten-free, my house has gotten creative with breakfast. After a lot of experimentation and sampling, the best gluten-free French toast goes like this:
Either make your own bread (which is time consuming and messy) or find a healthy alternative. I’m lucky enough to live near a great natural store that makes their own gluten-free bread that’s perfect for French toast. Thanks, Nature’s Grocer! Then you combine one large egg, 1/4 cup of vanilla-flavored almond milk, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tablespoons butter (I use Earth Balance vegan, soy free butter). Dip the bread in the mixture and coat both sides, place in skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, making sure both sides are golden. Douse with your favorite maple syrup and enjoy!

Julie: While maple syrup is amazing for breakfast, it also works well when roasting butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half, take out the seeds and guts. Fill up the cavity with butter and maple syrup, sprinkle some nutmeg and roast for about an hour. Really delish, and makes a lot.

While we are talking maple syrup, can I just say that using the real thing matters? I use grade B for cooking, and only have the real thing in the house. More expensive, but a little goes a long way, and it makes such a difference.

Barb: While researching my second Maine Clambake Mystery, Boiled Over, I was looking for camp-style recipes for authentic Mi’kmaq dishes. One of the recipes is for Baked Camp Beans.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from the book.

“My God, these are delicious. They taste a something like New England baked beans.”

“And who do you think invented those?” Phil smiled at me. “All the tribes in Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick cooked beans mixed with maple syrup and bear fat in clay pots buried with hot coals.”

I loved that! In the Americas our cuisine is such a happy melding of heritages. The melting pot literally is a pot.

Jessie:  All these ideas sounds delicious! Maple syrup is a great substitute for honey. I recommend it in a sort of teriyaki glaze. I mix together soy sauce, some sweet rice wine, maple syrup, ginger and garlic. I pour it over chicken pieces and let it marinate for a couple of hours then grill or broil it.

Readers: What’s your favorite maple syrup recipe? And have you bought Jessie’s book yet?

Wicked Wednesday- Do you have a favorite summer food?

Jessie: I love, love, love watermelon salad. cut.watermelon.slice02It’s fast, cool and mostly healthy. It is a great way to salvage a disappointing melon. You know, the mealy, flavorless type that woos you at the grocer with its heft and satisfying thump when tapped just so! Here’s how you do it:

Take a watermelon and chunk it up into bite sized pieces. Don’t worry about being too neat, just be thoughtful about the size of the average human mouth. Place in a bowl big enough to stir things round without too much inconvenience.Get a hold of somewhere between 5-10 stems of mint. It needs to be fresh but the variety doesn’t really matter. Strip off the leaves and cut into thin ribbons. I prefer to use kitchen shears for this task. Mix into the melon chunks. Now squeeze the juice out of a lime and add it to the melon. Add a couple of good sized spoonfuls of rum. Stir it all up. Give a taste and decide if you need more lime juice or more rum. If the flavors are still flat, or if the color of the melon is still a bit peaked, you do. Slosh on more of whichever or both. Stir again. Sample again. Serve to enthusiastic applause. If you have leftovers, which you probably won’t, this is great frozen or pureed and then frozen and served like a granita.

Sherry: For me it is tomatoes. Our yard has too much shade to grow our own. I love going to the farmers market on Saturday morning and buying fresh from the field tomatoes. Red all the way through and they smell so wonderful. You can’t find anything like them in the grocery store. I think I could live on tomato, avocado and bacon sandwiches all summer long!

Liz: Blackberries. When I was a kid, we lived on a street with only three houses. Most of the land around us was woods and swamp. There was an area behind my house where wild blackberries grew. I remember it was such a treat to be allowed out there, picking all the juicy berries off the trees. I ate most of them before we got them back to the house to wash.

Sadly, when they developed the rest of the street, the blackberry bushes were torn down. The fruit has just never tasted the same. I love blackberries any way I can get them, but there’s just something about those wild grown, hand picked ones that will always be special. Or maybe it’s the memories that go with those berries.

Julie: Tomatoes are right up there. My friend Tom had a great recipe–take a loaf of French bread, and split it. Put pesto on both sides, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozarella. Wrap it up in foil, and throw it on the grill. Yum.

My other favorite are blueberries. I love love love fresh blueberries. Perfect balance of tart and sweet, I eat them out of the box. Can’t wait till they start rolling in.

Edith: Fresh local peaches. I grew up in southern California with both a yellow peach and a white peach tree in my yard. I think they are heavenly, especially the white peaches.

And really, any home grown vegetable that you pick in the sun and stand right there to eat it: a slim green bean, a gold cherry tomato, a crisp leaf of lettuce, a snap pea, a long crunchy cucumber. More heaven!

Readers: what’s your favorite summer food? Do you have a favorite summer recipe? And to a lucky commenter, a copy of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, which is all about locally grown summer foods! Be sure to check the blog tomorrow for the name of today’s giveaway winner.