I admit it, I came to cooking and baking LATE. Baking, not too late, but cooking LATE. I always liked to bake because I like sweets. Cookies and pies were about the extent of it, but now I like to bake cakes, too. (I made that poppy seed cake with the lime glaze in the picture at right.) I don't do it that often because ... well, once you bake something, it must be eaten, and my eating audience has dwindled to about my husband and brother, and my brother is usually on a diet (one of those crazy ones where you only have 500 calories a day, so you eat a lot of canned veggies and apples. Hmmm...he always loses weight. Maybe I should try that).
I used to brag about how much I DIDN'T like to cook. But then I started writing cozy mysteries, and it's almost a given that you need to include a few recipes. So I started making stuff to test recipes and I found out that I like to tinker with recipes, too.
I had a little time on my hands of late (call it a rest between writing assignments) and I started watching Kitchen Nightmares (with Gordon Ramsey) on Youtube. In just over a week, I'd watched every one available. (Talk about binge watching.) Then I moved on to Hotel Hell. I really liked that one because I got to learn how NOT to run a B&B. And Gordon's cussing? Doesn't bother me a bit. (Hey, I worked in a machine shop for 18 months drilling holes in metal parts for the space shuttle. I've heard it all.)
Yesterday, I watched nearly a whole season of Masterchef Junior (going to watch the finale to see if Addison or Avery wins--go girl power!). What amazed me about that show was the level of skill these kids have. We're talking 8-year-olds who can whip up a serving of duck a l'Orange, bake perfect cream puffs, and cook a perfect medium rare steak, none of which I feel capable of doing. (For one think, I like my steak well done, which would cause the Chef to puke ... and I've heard him do it many times after being served nasty food. Oy, some of those walk-in fridges make you never want to visit a restaurant again).
But, I felt inspired by those kids and decided to make the recipe I've been collecting ingredients for all week.
Pasta With White Beans And Kalamata Olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces uncooked rotini pasta
1 can (about 15 ounces) navy beans
1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup spinach leaves, packed
¼ cup (1 ounce) pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup grated feta cheese
pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt and pepper flakes; set aside. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, drain the beans and tomatoes in a colander. Pour the pasta and cooking water over the beans and tomatoes. Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic mixture, olives, spinach, nuts, and basil. Gently toss; blend well. Top with the cheese.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Now, I don't like feta cheese, so I substituted Parmesan; I couldn't find pine nuts, but it tasted great without them. And fresh basil? This is winter in Western NY. Dried worked out just fine. (See what I mean about tinkering with recipes.)
I may not be a Masterchef, but I'm happy when I make a recipe that works and then goes into the dinner rotation. This one's a keeper. And, it's going into my next cookbook (with my changes, of course), "written" by my character, Brenda Stanley.
Care to share a recipe for something you've made recently?
BUT ... can you also imagine how sad it would be to live in a world without dessert?
Just think, no cakes, no pies, no cookies, no pastries, no ice cream, no cheesecake, no fruit. It's enough to make you cry! Luckily, that's not the world we live in.
You can go to the grocery store or bakery and indulge yourself and/or your family, or you can take the satisfaction of making dessert yourself.
Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook can help. Katie Bonner, of the Victoria Square Mysteries, has put together a collection of recipes for breakfast, lunch, happy hour (in the form of signature drinks), and dinner -- but most enjoyably, for teatime and dessert.
Pies, cookies, cakes -- you name it, she's made them and collected recipes from friends and fellow merchants on Victoria Square to share with readers and friends.
So maybe just for this one day -- indulge yourself. Make something wonderful for your family. Katie is glad to lend a hand!
So, what's YOUR favorite dessert?
Now here's a holiday I can get behind. I could eat Yorkshire Pudding every day of the week and NEVER get tired of it. (Had some last week as a matter of fact.) Love it, love it, love it!!!
Click this link for an English #recipe -- so you know it's good. (I use drippings when I can -- otherwise olive oil.)
Every year I plant a veggie garden. Some years we have good luck, some years ... not so much. This year Mr. L dislocated his shoulder, and so the veggie garden went in late (in mid-June). I bought plants at the garden center, stuck them in the dirt, and hoped for the best.
The tomatoes have gone absolutely bananas ... but they're only just starting to ripen. If we have a frost, they'll be toast. I bought two spindly pepper plants that did nothing until about a month ago--then they went bananas. Yesterday I picked 5 of them and there are still 5 or 6 small ones that may or may not get much bigger. I'll keep watching the weather and if it looks like a frost, I'll pick everything.
Meanwhile, it was time for Mr. L's recipe for ...
SAUSAGE-STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS
4 medium peppers, with tops cut off and seeded
1 pound seasoned sausage, like Bob Evans hot, bulk, 1 pound roll
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp. oregano
1 cup mozzarella
2 cups (1 small jar) Traditional Italian Sauce
Blanch the pepper bottoms in boiling water for 4 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC, Gas Mark 6). Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat, and then add the sausage and cook until well browned, stirring often to separate meat.
Stir the onion and oregano into the skillet and cook until the onion is tender. Now, stir in the cheese.
Arrange the pepper halves, cut-side up, in your baking tray. Spoon the sausage mixture into the pepper halves. Pour the sauce over the filled pepper halves. Halfway through baking, poke the peppers so any extra juice can leak out (makes for less soggy peppers).
Bake 40-45 minutes until the peppers are tender.
And so it's National Homemade Cookie Day! Naturally, I WANT to participate, but then I looked in the mirror and saw the size of my butt and decided I would enjoy the day "virtually" instead of actually eating any cookies. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy it vicariously.
Like working on my Lotus Bay Cookbook. (No title for it yet.)
The real question is -- why work on a project that isn't likely to bring me any money and certainly not many people will buy or read it.
BECAUSE I WANT TO!
There, I said it.
I love cookbooks, and if it was feasible, I'd do a real one -- like Susan Branch's Heart of the Home, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. I can't draw/paint like she can, and adding color photos to an ebook is prohibitively expensive. (Did you know authors get charged per download of our books?) Anyway, it's a fun project and so I putter at it.
I puttered at Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook several years ago and, quite frankly, the sales suck. I'm lucky to sell 5 or 6 a month. But I'm really proud of that little cookbook. The trade paperback edition has little black-and-white clip-art illustrations, some of which were drawn by Mr. L, like the cow to the right. (In the book, the dialog balloon over Bossy's head says "Moo!")
In Recipes To Die For, I included an anecdote to go along with each of the recipes. Surprisingly enough, it was hard. I know the characters pretty well, but I wasn't as familiar with the lesser characters, and having to come up with ideas about their personalities was more difficult than I thought it would be.
My friend Ellery Adams suggested that I start the book with Signature Drinks. Now that was fun. I had to read the entire Mr. Boston Official Bartending Guide (Mr. L collects them and we have at least 4 different editions, some of them pretty old) to find the exact drinks that would go well with the characters' personalities. Conrad Stratton's favorite drink is the Corpse Reviver. (Yes, there really is such a drink!) And Mr. Collier, from Collier's Funeral Home, drinks Zombies (maybe in hopes of keeping those not-quite-dead away from his funeral parlor). See, there's lots of fun stuff stuffed into that little book, which is why it was fun to write.
Anyway, over the summer, I've been puttering on two cookbooks; one for Lotus Bay (and features food that you'd find in a B&B, because that's what Kathy intends to open), and the other for the Jeff Resnick series. That would be mostly Brenda's recipes. It wasn't something I planned, but I noticed that in my books, she make a LOT of soup, so it will feature more soup and dinner recipes.
Okay, so if you've read either of those series, what other recipes to do think Kathy and Brenda should include in their cookbooks?
P.S. I've made all the Booktown Recipes available to readers on my website. Go to the site, look under the Angelica's Recipes drop-down menu, and you can find them from every book in the series. Just click this link.
I must be doing something REALLY wrong when it comes to my book trailer videos and uploading them to Youtube. After two years, the one for A Crafty Killing has EIGHT views. Book Clubbed has over 400, but most of them have less than 100.
One of my readers makes videos of her Dollar Tree hauls, which is how I got started watching them. There are literally HUNDREDS of Dollar Tree Haul videos out there and some of them get THOUSANDS of views. I didn't know this until I subscribed to one Lady's channel because she had a cooking video. (I LOVE cooking videos and watch a lot of them -- usually when I'm supposed to be writing.)
I try to get in and out of the Dollar Tree as fast as possible (because you can drop money like crazy for stuff you really don't need.) I mostly buy padded envelopes, cheaters, and batteries. When my Mum was alive, I'd buy her Ginger Snaps (if they had them--they go FAST. But then Wegmans started carrying them again, so now I can easily get MY ginger snap fix.)
So, what do you think the fascination is with the Dollar Tree?
P.S. If you want to see the Crafty Killing video (which Ellery Adams and I made together) click this link.
You can take just about every cake recipe on the planet and make it into a cupcake (or fairy cake, as they call them in the UK--and doesn't that sound enchanting. Wouldn't you just LOVE to eat a fairy cake? Makes you think of fireflies and magic, doesn't it?).
All you have to do is bake the cupcakes at the same temperature called for in the cake recipe, but reduce the baking time by 1/3 to 1/2 the cake's timing (usually 15-20 minutes). Insert a toothpick in the center of the cupcake. If it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.
Here's my favorite spice cake recipe. Why not turn it into cupcakes?
¼ cup (115 grams) butter or ½ cup (1dL) shortening
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (1 dL) dark-brown sugar, packed
½ cup (1 dL) milk
½ cup (1 dL) molasses
2 ¼ cup (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC, Gas Mark 4). Grease or put paper cups in muffin tins. Cream the butter or shortening and slowly add the two sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then add the milk and molasses, beating thoroughly. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients and add to the wet mixture, beating until well blended. Pour the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.
Frost with your favorite cream cheese or butter cream frosting. Also tastes great with Maple or Caramel frosting.
Did you notice I'm putting ingredients into grams? I would like my recipes to work for readers and friends around the world. Is this helpful? Let me know -- because I'm working on two new cookbooks and want to make them as reader friendly as possible.
And remember ...
I love to bake, but I seldom do it. Why? Calories.
I've been reading Susan Branch's Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams. It's a memoir of how she became the unique and famous cookbook author that she is. (I won't admit to you how many times I've read it since it came out in April, either--but it's more than five.)
This book speaks to me on so many levels; as an author, as someone who struggled to become an author (although Suan's book was accepted on her second try--and she never had to go through the whole struggle of finding an agent and 11 years of rejection. And she didn't start at a small press, she went straight to the top). Am I jealous? A little green with envy, but it doesn't pay to be jealous. Everybody has their journey and that's what makes their talent singular.
We have other things in common. We both drink a LOT of tea. We both bought tiny houses as single women, when not many women were doing that. (Although I bought my first house at age 24; she was 34.) She was writing from an early age (her diaries--which is why she is such a good memoirist), and I always had my secret stories, but didn't start writing them down until I was 17. She made people happy through her cooking. I made me happy through baking.
She's sprinkled recipes throughout the book, (Hey, she's primarily a cookbook author, and her recipes are good.) I'm a cookbook author, too (though not nearly as successful). I used to hate to cook, but always enjoyed baking. These days, I'm cooking more (and finally enjoying the process), but not baking as much.
I live in fear of the scale. As you get older, it's so much harder to lose weight. I recently went on a diet and lost six pounds. For our anniversary, Mr. L bought us a cake (and it wasn't THAT big a cake). She shared it, 50/50. I gained 6 pounds and he didn't gain an ounce.
I'm back on the diet.
But today I'm going to bake zucchini bread. My container garden plant gave me two tiny zucchinis and I bought two more at the Public Market. I'm going to allow myself one slice, and then freeze the rest. Mr. L will enjoy it for breakfast in the coming weeks. But you know, I'm getting tired of only having one slice. I feel so demoralized by having to deny myself things I like because of the power of that damned scale.
The fact is, most of my family are diabetics and I'm not. And I want to keep it that way. So I'll just have my one slice. And I'll keep writing about food and eating vicariously. That's the only way I'm going to keep from packing on the pounds.
Have you struggled in this way?
P.S. Here's my zucchini bread recipe (made with unsweetened applesauce for less calories--of course, adding the nuts kind of cancels that out--except walnuts are very healthy. (Yes, they are!)
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cup granulated sugar
(or 1 brown sugar + 1 granulated sugar)
2 cups grated zucchini squash
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC, Gas Mark 4). Combine the eggs, applesauce, and sugar until well blended. Stir in the zucchini and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda; stir into zucchini mixture. Stir in chopped nuts. Bake in 2 well-greased loaf pans for 1 hour.
Yield: 28 slices
Okay, I admit it. I don’t like fruit. You were expecting me to say vegetables, right? I LOVE vegetables. But I don’t think I could choose a favorite. It would be easier for me to choose a veggie I don’t like. On the top of that list would be eggplant. *Shudder* I can’t actually think of another vegetable I loathe. I’m not particularly fond of turnips, but I could eat them (especially in stew--even just a wonderful Veggie stew.
I like to make soup and yesterday made a great pot of turkey neck/veggie soup. Yum-yum. I just threw in every vegetable I had in the fridge, including an onion, a leek, a few carrots, part of a cabbage, garlic, frozen green beans from my garden, and a can of stewed tomatoes. OMG it was good. I froze most of it but I’ll be having soup again for lunch today.
What’s your favorite veggie?
Doesn't everybody love fudge? I rarely eat it though because of the calorie count. The first time I made fudge, I was about 13 and didn't know what a candy thermometer was. We didn't have one, so I winged it. I didn't end up with fudge, I ended up with chocolate-flavored SAND. I felt like Betty Crocker had failed me.
Here's a recipe for peanut butter fudge that doesn't need a candy thermometer and tastes pretty darn good.
1/2 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and milk. Bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Pour over the confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth; pour into an 8x8 inch pan. Chill until firm and cut into 1-inch squares.
Yield: 64 pieces
Back in March, one of my readers posted a video blog (vlog) talking about making fried rice. I knew back then that I would HAVE to make the "recipe" for myself some-when soon. But first I had to have the main ingredients on hand to do it.
Well, that happened this week. Mr. L and I bought a very nice pork roast last week, but we knew we couldn't eat it right away, so off to the freezer it did go.
We come from families who used to have a big Sunday dinners, so we waited it for Sunday and roasted it. But since I knew we'd have a TON of leftovers,and I remembered Loremil's fried rice recipe, I decided to make a big pot of basmati rice the same day. You see, fried rice "comes good" when the rice has been made the day before.
So, I tossed a cup of rice into two cups of water, brought it to a roiling boil, and let it sit there for three full minutes. Then I turned off the burner, covered the pot, and let it sit for about 45 minutes. (You don't even need to let it sit that long--30 minutes usually does it, but I had other stuff to do.)
Once the rice cooled a bit, I put it in the fridge and forgot about it ... until the next day.
Loremil’s Fried Rice
1 cup basmati rice, cooked and set aside for a day
3 eggs, beaten well
1 large carrot, diced (optional)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Steak seasoning or garlic-pepper seasoning
White pepper (optional)
½ cup diced ham or pork
1½-2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup frozen peas (peas and carrot, or mixed vegetables)
Put day-old cooked (basmati) rice in a big mixing bowl and break up. (Wet your hands before breaking it up or use a spoon.)
Whisk the eggs and cook them in a fry pan with a little vegetable oil. Season with the garlic salt, steak seasoning, and white pepper. When the eggs are half done, turn them over. When thoroughly cooked, cut up into strips or snip with cooking shears.
In another fry pan, add a little vegetable oil and brown the pork or ham until crispy. Add the carrots, onions, and garlic. Stir, but don’t let them burn. Add seasoning to taste. Let the vegetables cook until the onions are translucent but still a little hard.
Add the rice and more seasoning to taste.
Combine the rice, the vegetables, and the eggs. Add the soy sauce. Add the frozen peas and stir.
Lower the heat. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Then raise temp to med-high for 5-6 minutes to brown and crisp everything up.
Serve as a main or side dish.
For cheese lovers, like my character Angelica Miles, the happy day has finally arrived! National Moldy Cheese Day! (She can hardly curb her excitement!)
And to celebrate, here's a recipe for blue cheese dressing.
¾ cup sour cream
1/3 cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Season with the mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the blue cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.
Yield: 2 ½ cups
Today is National Taco Day ... and my character Angelica Miles of the Booktown Mysteries is celebrating with her own recipe. It's from the fourth book in the series, Chapter & Hearse.
Here's the recipe.
3 cups coarsely chopped or shredded (pulled) simmered chicken
1 onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ to 2 teaspoon chili powder (according to taste)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
8 oz. water
12 corn (or flour) 8 or 9 inch tortillas (or taco shells)
1 cup lettuce cut into strips
1 tomato, chopped
¾ cup grated or shredded Cheddar cheese
Your favorite bottled salsa
In a large skillet, mix together the chicken, onion, green pepper, salt, pepper, chili powder, tomato sauce and water. Cook covered over low heat for about 15 minutes. Cook, uncovered for five to ten minutes, until excess liquid is gone. Oven heat the tortillas and fill the lower 3/4 with chicken mixture and the remainder with the tomatoes, cheese and lettuce. Top as needed with a spoonful of the salsa.
That's the beauty of National Pancake Day -- you can eat them any time of the day or night. (Especially if there's an IHOP nearby.)
Pancakes have a number of aliases, too. Like flapjacks, griddle cakes, hotcakes, crepes, blintz ... they all sound yummy to me.
Wanna drop a few pounds fast? Homemade egg drop soup for lunch. It's got 4 (maybe 5 if you want to add some pepper) ingredients.
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup seasoned (I use Nakano) rice vinegar (more to taste)
1 egg (whisked)
scallions (chopped -- mostly for garnish)
Once the chicken broth and vinegar are hot, slowly add the egg. It will look like filaments. Add the scallions. You're done. Eat!
I had a load of fun putting together y little cookbook RECIPES TO DIE FOR: A Victoria Square Cookbook together. The odd thing is, most of the recipes are ones I really do use over and over again. (It's kind of nice to have them all in one place.)
It's springtime and for me that means fresh rhubarb. What an odd vegetable. I never thought about it as a vegetable, since the only thing I use it for is desserts and chutney, but it really is a veggie, and the leaves are very, very poisonous. (If you value your liver, never, EVER eat them.) But the stalks are just fine to eat--and EXTEMELY tart! We've got rhubarb up the wazoo and I've been even tossing it in my green smoothies. (Yes, VERY TART indeed.)
Mr. L is partial to rhubarb crisp. Here's my favorite recipe
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
½ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. In mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, and cinnamon; mix together until crumbly. Press half of the brown sugar and oats mixture into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Top with the sliced rhubarb. In a saucepan combine 1 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, and the 1 cup of water and vanilla. Cook together until the liquid is clear, then pour over the rhubarb. Top the rhubarb with remaining crumb mixture and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm, and if desired, with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
Yield: 4-6 servings.
While working on Stealing the Moon & Stars, a Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino novel, recently released from Camel Press, we needed to research a gourmet dish for a dinner hosted by our culinary-challenged heroine. Chicken Cordon Bleu was the winner.
It’s a dish that originated in Switzerland in the 1940’s. There are dozens of ways to prepare it. All versions include a cutlet--either chicken or veal; cheese--Swiss, Muenster or Gruyere; and pork--ham or prosciutto. You can panfry, deep fry or bake it. It’s tasty by itself, but divine served with a creamy sauce.
We stirred and stirred, until our wrists gave out. Fruitless. The sauce was lumpier than an old mattress and about as appetizing. Not to be foiled, we tried again. Our next effort came out perfectly because that time we used canned white sauce, not from scratch. Below, you’ll find our recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu modified for those with little time and even less cooking skill. See what you think.
Also, take a look at how PI Jordan Welsh dealt with the dish when she invited her foodie family to dinner.
Excerpt: Stealing the Moon & Stars (Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino, Scottsdale PIs, are hired to find out who’s stealing the from the Moon & Stars Children’s Foundation. Foundation employees are suspected, but just as the pieces start falling into place, Jordan discovers a hidden agenda that puts her in the crosshairs of a crime lord. Who can she trust? Everyone has a dangerous secret, and the bodies are piling up. Even her partner, Eddie Marino, has a dark and mysterious past. The two have landed in a hornet’s nest—nothing to do but stir it up.)
The doorbell rang at three. She opened the front door to Gabe Penner, a family friend and sometimes client, also the owner and head chef at Gabriel’s Bistro in Paradise Valley. He carried two large insulated bags, one in each hand.
“Here I come to save the day…” he sang in his lilting voice, a fair imitation of Andy Kaufman.
“Gabe.” He always made her smile.
She swung the door open wide and he came in, set down the bags, and bowed. “Your order, Miss Welsh.”
“Get in here, you nut. We’ve only got an hour before everyone arrives, and I have a jillion things left to do.”
“No worries.” He picked up the bags and headed straight for the kitchen. “It will only take a few minutes to show you how to reheat like a pro.”
“You’ve saved my bacon on more than one occasion.”
“Har dee har.” He began to unpack the bags on the counter. “Very funny.”
A dozen containers came out of the bags. Gabe assembled them into an elegant meal so quickly you’d have thought he learned to cook at Hogwarts.
“On the menu tonight is Chicken Cordon Bleu with white wine sauce, baby red potatoes sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and onion, steamed asparagus, and a spinach salad with poppy seed dressing. I brought fresh baked herb bread from the Bistro and honey butter. There’s cheesecake if anyone has room after all the other food.”
Gabe talked while he worked, navigating the kitchen as if every move had been choreographed in advance.
“Zester.” With one-word commands, he sent Jordan scurrying around the kitchen to find this pan or that utensil, some of which she didn’t even know she had.
“Zester?” She wrinkled her nose. “What the heck is a zester?” She peered into the pan on the burner. “So tell me what you’re doing there, kind sir.”
“I’m making a roux.”
“You can make those? I thought they came in a can.”
Gabe spoke over his shoulder. “Equal parts clarified butter and flour. Whisk, whisk, whisk until thickened, add a splash or two of white wine.” He splashed first and then drank from the open bottle. “Broth. Seasoning. You’ll spoon this over the Cordon Bleu the last ten minutes.”
Gabe put together a gorgeous salad of spinach, toasted almonds, and orange zest and gave her strict instructions not to toss in the dressing until just before mealtime.
After providing further details as to how she should finish off everything else, he spread his arms. “Voilà. Your gourmet meal. If you do exactly as I’ve told you, I don’t think even you can screw it up, my sweet.”
Chicken Cordon Bleu, Quick & Easy
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices thin, sweet ham
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1 can White Sauce or made from mix (Knorr’s/McCormick, etc.)
splash (or two or three or more) white wine – we used Chardonnay
juice squeezed from ½ a fresh lemon
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Lay out the pounded chicken breasts on a clean surface. Place a slice of ham on each piece, then one slice of cheese. Roll the chicken up around the cheese and ham, and secure with toothpicks. Dip each roll in melted butter, then roll in bread crumbs. Place in a shallow baking dish. For those with an aversion to post-dinner cleanup, a sheet of aluminum foil lining the pan is a bonus.
Bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is browned and juices run clear.
While the chicken is baking, heat the canned sauce, add lemon juice and wine to taste, and drink the rest of the wine. Voila, Chicken Cordon Bleu a la Jean and Sally, Time Deprived Authors
Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens are the co-authors of Stealing the Moon & Stars, the first Jordan Welsh and Eddie Marino Novel from Camel Press. The two Arizona writers began working together when they figured out two heads are better (and faster) than one. "We work together side-by-side, word-by-word, literally finishing each others’ sentences. Laughter and sarcasm abound during writing sessions, with an odd disagreement here and there that may or may not involve the occasional right cross or karate/ninja move. Partners in crime have never had it so good." Their hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, home of the rich and famous as well as the calculating and criminal, is the perfect setting for this series. The detective team in their novels, Jordan Welsh, maverick heiress, and Eddie Marino, a graduate from the school of hard knocks, are ideally suited to the Scottsdale lifestyle and to each other.
By guest blogger Patricia Burroughs
Wait, you think British food sucks. Really?
I have to ask this in the most polite way possible. Have you ever even been to the British Isles? This is one of my pet peeves, and if you’ve been there and can still say it sucks, well you know your own taste buds, and I respect that. But I love British food. I could eat pub grub daily and happily, just for starters!
I have to assume you never ate fish and chips in Great Britain, where even the worst fish and chips make our American versions pale in comparison. And you certainly never had any at the pub in Polperro where we not only had fried haddock--crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside, with lashings of malt vinegar. It was all so perfect it brought tears to our eyes. Surprisingly to us as first-time pub-goers, it was served with a side dish of steamed and buttered broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, all fresh from local gardens. In a pub. Local fish, local veg, local ale. And this is typical, not unusual, of pub grub.
I also have to assume you never sat in a tea room in Devon and ate dense but flaky scones, hot and dripping with melting clotted cream and sweet strawberry jam made from local strawberries.
Evidently you haven’t enjoyed the bliss of steak-and-ale pie with rich brown gravy, tender beef, delicious flaky crust, and yes, those ubiquitous fresh veg from local gardens. And yes, this is at the local pub with walls two feet thick and low ceilings and a history that goes back four centuries.
Certainly I must assume you haven’t had slices of rare roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or lamb stew with thick crusty bread, or Cornish pasties of every description from savoury to sweet.
And we haven’t even touched the full monty, the Full English [or Welsh, or Scottish, or Cornish] breakfast. Regional variations exist. Oat porridge and oat cakes in Scotland, for example. Beans aren’t present everywhere, but when they are, they are a tastier addition than you might expect. Grilled tomato and mushrooms, bacon cut from the loin instead of the streaks, black currant preserves or strawberry jam or orange marmalade, are all fairly standard along with eggs, and don’t forget the milk and butter that are richer than any you’ve had Stateside.
You couldn’t have had any of these things and still believe that British food is inferior, and that makes me very sad for you, because you haven’t had some of the most delicious food on this round globe of ours.
The odd thing about choosing to write on this subject is that it doesn’t play in easily to the book I’m here to flog, a dark epic fantasy with romance and Young Adult crossover appeal. I haven’t spent a lot of words writing about food in This Crumbling Pageant, but the words I’ve written were written from a place of deep respect and longing to be there eating alongside my characters.
When the memory of cheese sets Persephone’s mouth to watering, I know the flavor and texture of that cheese, superior to any I’ve had elsewhere. When she bites into an apple and tastes those tart juices, I remember them, and the wickedly strong apple scrumpy they create.
And when she and the villain have declared an uneasy truce….
The long-fingered hand holding out a rustic earthenware mug of ale should have surprised her. She should be alarmed that he had caught her unaware. She remembered not trusting anything he might offer her. Now, she took it as politely—not desperately, no, she refused to let desperation show—as if it were tea and he the queen. “My most gracious thanks,” she murmured before drinking deeply and gratefully.
I know exactly how delicious that ale is, even if I wasn’t starving when it was offered me.
I’ve made myself hungry and there is not a British pub within a nine hour flight of Dallas. Oh, well, more research is necessary for the Fury Triad. I’ll find a way to get my fix soon!
Award-winning screenwriter and best selling novelist Patricia Burroughs (aka Pooks) is a Nicholl Fellow and a proud member of Book View Café. Pooks loves dogs, books, movies, and American football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.
Oops! Missed a week. There's lots going on while I gear up for a BIG new project, finish up Booktown #9, and start a brand new series, while working on other shorter projects. Whew! I'm pooped! But never too pooped for teatime!
On of my favorite albums is called EVERY SONG TELLS A STORY by Randy Bachman (he of Guess Who and Bachman, Turner, Overdrive fame). He performs all his hits, but tells a story about how the song came to be written. I love it. I never tire of hearing the stories. Likewise, all my teacups have a story.
Isn't this ivy cup a beauty? I'm very fond of ivy ... but not growing in my yard. The former owners decided to use ivy as a ground cover around the inground pool. It not only spread around the pool, but took hold in the front yard--taking up a gigantic area near the garage. But it also turns out that ivy is a great place for mice to live. Eradicating the ivy has been a challenge, especially since it has taken over a portion of our neighbor's yard. They seem content to leave it there, while we constantly rip it out--and it just keeps creeping back. So, now instead of the mice living in our yard, they live next door and visit. We've been able to keep them out of the house, but they're still out there (quite a few of them drown in the pool every summer. And you know it isn't going to be me emptying those skimmers).
This lovey cup is the big brother to one my mother gave me (same pattern, just half size). If I'm not mistaken (and believe me, she will correct me if I'm wrong), my mother received her cup from a woman who taught her to hook rugs. "Marge" has been gone many years now, but when I pass her house, I always think of that little teacup. When I saw this one at a yard sale, I knew it needed to keep the other cup company.
Another of my yard-sale finds. I almost didn't buy it because there's a hairline crack in the cup, but during the past few years I feel kinship to the cup. Nobody's perfect, why should a teacup be perfect too? Its perfection lies in the pattern and the graceful handle. I think it's perfectly fine.
Have you got a story to share about a teacup?
Because I'm basically lazy, I'm updating the recipes on my Lorna Barrett website at a rate of once a week. Maybe people will keep showing up to get the next one, maybe they won't. (I'm not seeing a huge influx of hits, so it's undoubtedly the latter.)
In MURDER IS BINDING, Angelica makes homemade meat sauce. Well, there's always a little bit of me (okay, sometimes a LOT of me) in my books, and there's always a story behind every favorite recipe.
When I was growing up, my mother made sauce from scratch. So, the first time I invited my boyfriend over and made him a homecooked meal, I decided to make my sauce from scratch, too. We always had spareribs, meatballs, and sausage in the sauce we ate growing up. I never cared for the pasta--just the sauce (and LOTS of Italian bread plastered with butter).
I decided to impress this boyfriend (now known as Mr. L) by making homemade lasagna WITH my mother's homemade sauce. I spent the ENTIRE DAY in the kitchen. The house smelled HEAVENLY. (Formerly) Mr. S showed up, and when I brought out this GIGANTIC lasagna, he ate ONE TINY PIECE. I offered to send a big chunk of it home with him (hey, he had three teenagers at home) and he said, "No, thank you."
Let me tell you, Mr. S lost a helluva lot of points that night. In retrospect, he says he was a fool to turn down the leftovers, but his excuse was he didn't want to look grabby. My mother, father, and I ate that lasagna for a week. (Damn fine it was, too.)
Anyway, long story short(er), the recipe this week is my mom's homemade sauce. You're going to love it.
Want your own Foodie Friday mug? Get one here!
As I've mentioned before, I'm trying to eat more "scratch" food, and one of my favorite foods is soup. I've been making 16 Bean Soup for a few years now, and I love it. Here's the basic recipe (from the back of the Goya bean package):
6 cups water
1 lb. Goya 16 Bean Soup Mix
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 packet Goya Ham Concentrate
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
Soak and drain beans. In a large saucepan, combine beans and remaining ingredients with 6 cups water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beans are tender. The package says serves 8-10, but I usually get about 11 one cup servings out of it.
Number of Servings: 11
Of course, I have to do things differently. Who has time to stand over the stove to make sure the soup doesn't burn? I make mine in my crock pot (on high) and cook it for between 6-8 hours. Instead of the ham concentrate, I use smoked ham hocks or--even better--the ham bone after our Easter feast. (That's the best!) Of course, it does tend to resemble sludge when some of the beans break down, but I've found cutting it with chicken or vegetable broth not only stretches the soup, but makes it more palatable.
(This picture was taken just after I tossed everything in to cook.)
What's on your menu this week?
And the winner of the Foodie Friday mug is Melissa S. from Amsterdam, NY!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Want your own Foodie Friday mug? You can get one here!
As you know, I am crazy mad for bone china teacups -- so much so that I "rescue" them and try to find new, loving homes for them. That's what Teacup Tuesday is all about. I regift what was probably a gift from someone else and the happy cycle continues. The cups are once-again admired, appreciated, and hopefully used and enjoyed.
But here's a problem I've run into more than once ... people enter my contests and don't always give me complete information. Several weeks ago, Sharon S. won the bone china mug. YAY!
However, Sharon never signed up for my newsletter so I don't have any information on her, just her email address from when she entered the contest. I've contacted her via email twice, and left messages on Facebook for her to no avail. Sharon's loss will be someone else's gain, and that someone else is Cindy H. from Council Bluffs, IA.
I've had a lot of fun with my character Pixie Poe in the Booktown Mysteries. As it happens, there's a scene in Book Clubbed (that will be debut in July) where Angelica holds a tea party at Haven't Got a Clue ... and Pixie and Mr. Everett can only stand there and watch the festivities with mouths watering. If you've read the latest Booktown Books, you know that Pixie only dresses in vintage clothes. If she went to a tea party, she'd wear something stunning like this dress.
Which leads me to this week's discussion topic: What would you wear to afternoon tea?
To enter, you need to answer the question and supply your SNAIL MAIL ADDRESS. (When you enter the contest, you agree to be added to my mailing list (if you aren't already there). Send your entry to Lorna @ LornaBarrett.com (close up those spaces).
By the way, I'd love to hear from past winners. Are you enjoying your cups? Did you enjoy your Boneyard tea? Email me and share your stories on Teacup Tuesday!
Be sure to drop by next week when my good friend Mary Jane Maffini (who also writes with her daughter as Victoria Abbott) joins us to tell us about her teacup collection! We'll announce the winner of the floral teacup on April 15th (since it's tax day, it may make someone's day!).
The contest is still on and the giveaway is a Foodie Friday mug. Wouldn't you like to pour your coffee (tea, or cocoa) into this mug every Friday morning when you read the latest Foodie Friday blog post? You can ... by submitting a recipe idea for Angelica to make while she and Tricia talk in Booktown #9, which I am calling A FATAL CHAPTER. Here's what the sisters are saying in this snippet:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I change my toast,” Angelica said, raising her glass once again. “Rest in peace, Pete.” She took a healthy slug. “But there’s more, isn’t there?”
Tricia nodded. “Pete may not have died of natural causes.”
Angelica raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Tricia took a sip of her martini. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever really like them.
She hadn’t told Angelica what Pete had muttered before losing consciousness, but she’d have to tell Grant Baker when he came to talk to her—and he would. Not that what Pete had said made sense. He’d died with his secret and now no one would never know what it meant.
Angelica tasted the [whatever], declared it done, and enlisted Tricia to set the table. She did so on autopilot but had no appetite. She’d been wounded to learn Angelica’s secret and now shocked to hear of Pete’s death.
She wasn’t sure she would take any more shocks that day.
Last week, I asked readers to tell me about the kinds of teas they like to drink--bags or loose. Whoa! Lots of opinions there!
Judy D. from Getzville, NY said, "My favorite tea is Mint Brook Meadow’s Peppermint and Spearmint caffeine free Herbal tea. I came across this tea last Spring when I was shopping at Miller’s bulk barn located on Route 104 near Medina, NY. It is a very relaxing tea and is great if you have a slight upset stomach. I enjoy sipping the tea when I am reading, especially a great mystery book! Enjoy!"
Mare F. from Winsted, CT said, "I grew up with both loose and bags...leaves at my grandmother's and bags at home. My father even brought a jar of "instant tea" into the house but my grandmother shamed him so that it disappeared soon after. Tasted awful! Until the past few years I stuck with bags for convenience sake, but I find myself ordering more 'I'm at home and settling in' routine each afternoon. I've two cups with china strainers in them and then tea balls at home."
Ruth N. from Dixon, CA said: My oldest son and shared many a cup of tea. I lost him five years ago and I'm the only tea drinker left in the family. Down to a small pot instead of a big pot but lots of memories of our chats over a pot of tea. I use both loose tea and tea bags, my son always wanted tea bags like his Grandma from Scotland shared with him. I've branched out and try different loose teas.
Debbie C. Cottonwood, AZ said: "At the moment, my favorite method of brewing tea is by teabag because there is a wide variety of places that I can buy them here in town. However, we've just had the cutest little tea shop open up in Old Town that sells it loose, so I've been itching to try that method as well. I made a brief venture in while I was waiting for my daughter to come dancing down the street with her ballet troop, decked out in one of her costumes for the Nutcracker for our town's Christmas parade. What can I say, it was love at first sight. However, I knew I'd have to ease my husband into moving a larger stash of tea into the house. Last time I brought home six new boxes and he just rolled his eyes at me. Good thing he loves me. Honestly, I think I just grew accustomed to drinking tea from a teabag from the time I was little. We would heat the water up in my grandma's old teakettle and then pour the water into a what would now be considered a vintage brown drip McCoy teapot that already had a few bags in it waiting to be steeped. Those were precious days sitting in my grandma's kitchen, sipping on tea while crunching on cookies. It reminds me to make the most of the time I have with my family. But, that doesn't mean I can't be adventurous and try other methods."
Mary P. from Australia said: "I use both loose leaf & tea bags. I have some very fussy family members who insist upon "real" tea. I generally just add the loose leaf to the pot - no infuser at all. The fun part is reading the tea leaves afterwards. (I'm still waiting for the tall, dark, handsome stranger to appear.)"
Antonette N. from Carol Stream, IL said: "I also love tea and try lots of different ones. On vacation I try to find a local tea - or at least one that 'feels' like the location. Current favorites are White Blueberry by Adagio Tea and Pomegranite Green Tea by Republic of Tea."
Vanessa P. from Seahurst, WA said: "I too have had many teas that I found only once or received as a gift and then could not find again... my solution is to go see Vicki at my local tea shop; Cascadia Herb'n Tea! She has actually created blends for me!"
Brenda T. from Howard City, MI winds the tea for one pot and teabagholder. She said: "I usually use a tea bag, not because I think it is the best way to make tea it is just a convenient way for me to make my tea. Such a pretty little tea set! Would love to win and share with my grand daughters!"
Tracy R. from Paducah, KY winds the free tea sample from Latteda.com. She said: "To be honest, I have never had tea from loose tea leaves. I am a huge coffee drinker, but I am starting to enjoy tea more. I have a terrible cold now, so I am having a hot cup of tea that is from the Boston Tea Company. My hubby, Jeff, got me a trio of tea tins for Christmas. Right now I am enjoying Jasmine Green from this trio. This is the first time I have had it, and I really like it. I will have to try the loose tea and see which I prefer. I love Teacup Tuesdays!"
P.S. I still haven't heard from last week's winner (Sharon S), although I e-mailed her. If she doesn't get back to my before next Monday, we'll be giving the bone china mug to another reader.
Okay .. are you old school and boil your tea water in a kettle ... or heat it in the microwave? Confess all!
Coming up with the recipes for the Booktown Mysteries is sometimes a challenge. You have to take a lot of different things into consideration. If the story is set in winter, it's easier because cold weather means you can use comfort foods.
Comfort foods mean different things to different people. Mr. L loves toasted cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Me? Not so much. For me, comfort food is TOAST (and I eat it dry, without butter). I like sweet foods. (Cake. YES!) He likes salty foods.
Here we are at the second day of spring, and I'm writing a book that's set in August. I've forgotten what summer foods are. Rather deliberately, I must admit. Especially since I'm trying to lose weight, and summer foods are very fatty. Well, for me, at least. I like cold salads made with LOTS of mayonaise. Hots, hamburgers.
So far I've only chosen one recipes for the next Booktown Mystery. Tricia remembers how much she enjoyed her Grandma Miles' Snickerdoodle cookies. For the other foods, I've said things like, "Angelica stirred the [FOOD]."
So ... let's have a contest. Suggest a recipe that Angelica can make for dinner. No junk food. Something summery, something healthy, something DELICIOUS!
The prize? A Foodie Friday Mug. It's VERY NICE! (I'm tempted to keep it myself.)
The thing is ... I've been having giveaways on Teacup Tuesday and been trying to chase people down to send them the prizes. No more. To enter, you need to send me your recipe and supply your SNAIL MAIL ADDRESS. And if you enter the contest, you agree to be added to my mailing list (if you aren't already there.) Send your entry in before April 1st. The winner will be announced on April 4th.
So, send your recipe suggestion (you don't have to send the recipe itself, just tell me what you think Tricia and Angelica should have for dinner), and you might win the Foodie Friday Mug. Runners up will receive an envelope full of my bookmarks, and you'll be mentioned in the acknowledgements of Booktown #9. (I'm calling it A Fatal Chapter, but who knows what the publisher will want to call it.)
Send your entry to: Contest @ LornaBarrett (dot) com. (Close up the spaces!)
Last week the topic was recipes and I'm rather disappointed to say that there were only two entries on that account, and both were WONDERFUL. But we did have two prizes (a lovely teacup and a free sample of Boneyard tea from Latteda.com) that will be rewarded.
As runner up, we have Strawberry Soup, from Jenny Ellis She wins the free tea sample from Latteda. She said: "This may seem a little strange since it's a cold item but ever since I had it at a tea house in my hometown I adore it. It's chilled strawberry soup. Also since her recipe was printed in the local newspaper, I have occasionally made the soup myself. I've already checked to see what ingredients I already own so once it starts to get warm outside I can make the soup myself. She also makes a chilled pumpkin soup that is yummy in the fall."
1 pound frozen strawberries with juice (if any) mostly thawed
3/4 cup powdered sugar (not necessary to sift)
1/3 cup grenadine
1/2 cup imitation vanilla
2 cups (1 pint) sour cream
3 cups half and half
In a large blender, add the ingredients in the order listed above. Blend on high (or puree) for about 15 seconds until no chunks of berries remain. At this point, you may divide this in half and freeze part for later. Add approximately 1½ cups half and half to each batch. Blend well. Makes about 20 to 24 servings total. Note: if using fresh berries, cut in half, add 1/3 cup sugar, shake well to make juicy before doing soup.
And the winner of the floral teacup is Lorie Mink, for her recipe for ... Starbucks Lemon Loaf. She said: "I really enjoy the Starbucks Lemon Loaf with tea. I found a copycat recipe through Facebook, but am unsure of who shared it as I only copied the recipe and not the name of the person who shared it. However, a Google search showed there are several versions of this recipe. I love a good lemon cake and as I am not that proficient as a cook, found this recipe easy to follow. I made it the first time for a couple of friends and we enjoyed it with English Breakfast tea. I have since made it for a work potluck and even substituted the flour with a gluten free all purpose flour so my husband (who is gluten intolerant) could enjoy it too. It is fast becoming one of my specialties and there is nothing I like better
than a slice of this with a good cup of tea."
Starbucks Lemon loaf
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup graulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup confectioner's sugar; plus 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons milk (I used 2% milk)
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Use a mixer to blend together the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Add the oil and mix well. Pour the batter into a well- greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into center of the cake comes out clean. Make the lemon icing by combining all the icing ingredients in a small bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. When the loaf is cool, remove it from pan and frost the top with the icing. Let the icing set up before slicing.
What is your favorite tea blend? Orange pekoe? Earl Grey (hot or cold)? Send your preference and explain why to contest @ lornabarrett.com (close up those spaces) and you might win the lovely rose bone-china mug at the right! Entries will be taken until Monday March 17th.
Don't forget, you'll also be in the running for a free tea sample from Latte Da -- two chances to win!
Believe it or not, a few years ago when I asked my publisher if I could write a Booktown Cookbook I was told no. They wouldn't know how to market it. (Huh? What's with that? They're a book company!!!) Anyway, they've seen the light and now they're going to do a cookbook filled with recipes from various cozy mystery series, which will be out in September.
(AND GUESS WHO WAS NOT INVITED TO PARTIPATE???
That would be me.)
Of course, that disinterest didn't stop me from writing a cookbook, either. Only I wrote one for my Victoria Square series. (Recipes To Die For.)
I admit it: until recently I've haven't been as interested in cooking as I am in baking. But lately I've taken a much BIGGER interest in preparing food from scratch simply because I want to know what is in my food, and processed food is just not good for people. It's full of sugar and salt we don't need if we want to stay healthy. (And you know what, it's FUN!)
I'm trying to integrate legumes and pulses into my diet. (Lentils are pulses.) I also happen to love Indian food, so earlier this week I made curried lentils (also known as dahl). OMG -- it was sooo GOOD! Indian food looks scary to prepare because it seems like there are a million ingredients (mostly spices), but I decided I wanted to eat dahl and make it myself.
Here's an easy recipe. I didn't have any garlic cloves or ginger, so I substituted with a teaspoon each of the powdered stuff.
1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cups water or vegetable broth
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoon tomato paste
scallions, chopped (Optional as garnish)
In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are very tender.
Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook for 10-12 minutes more, or until the mixture is the desired temperature and consistency. Serve hot on rice.
Yum! (You better believe I'll be making this on a a regular basis.)
What's your favorite ethnic food?
I'm trying to get away from processed food. I'm eating more grains, more veggies (which I love), and limiting what I eat that comes out of a can, box, or bottle. The latest? Homemade (low-fat) ranch dressing. The recipe calls for fresh herbs, but I've made it with dried and it's still pretty tasty.
3/4 cup fat free sour cream
3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1-2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 cups 1% low fat buttermilk
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine the sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, chives, salt, and cracked pepper. Mix well. Stir in the white balsamic vinegar; then buttermilk. Adjust the seasonings to taste, adding another tablespoon of balsamic vinegar if desired. The flavors will become bolder over time.
Do you have a favorite homemade salad dressing?
Today's teacup is a from my from my set of "good" china. I used it just last week. Every Valentine's Day, Mr. L and I have an afternoon tea. It's called Silver Maple by Royal Albert.
Last week on the blogger version of this blog, Loveamystery asked for a good scone recipe. Here's one I like and I included it in my cookbook, Recipes To Die For.
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, cold
¾ cup milk
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped*
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold water
¼ raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350º. Sift the dry ingredients together. Using a pastry blender (or a fork), cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Beat the milk and egg together. Pour into the dry ingredients, stirring until a dough forms. Add the chopped nuts, combining well. You can use an ice cream scoop to form the scones and place them on an aluminum (or parchment paper) lined baking sheet, or pat the dough into a circle and score with a knife.* Beat the egg yolk with the cold water. Using a pastry brush, glaze each scone with this mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold. (Hot is better! *You can substitute pecans or any other nut you prefer. Pistachios make an interesting scone.)
Yield: 10-12 scones.
(*BTW, I use a scone pan that makes perfect wedge-shaped scones.)
Here's what this year's tea looked like. (And no, we weren't able to eat it all. We love leftovers!)
~~ And now for the giveaway! ~~
How can you win it? By sending an email to me at contest at LornaBarrett dot com and sharing a tea time memory you wouldn't mind sharing (I won't use last names) with everyone on the blog. I'll pick a name at random.
Recently my doctor put me on statins. I do not like them. They have side effects. I repeat: I do not like them. But, I want to live a long hand happy life, and if I want to get off of them, it means lifestyle changes. I'll find out in a few weeks what's going on with the cholesterol thing, but I've been actively working to integrate more fiber into my life. Fiber gets RID of cholesterol.
I drink a (often disgusting) fiber-rich smoothie for breakfast almost every morning. (Okay, once a month I have a bagel. So hit me with a wet noodle.) It contains spinach, cuke, celery, apple, carrot, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and protein powder, plus a generous shake of cinnamon (which is the only thing that makes it palatable).
I do a lot of digging on the Internet and, as I knew, dried beans are rich in fiber. One smoothie recipe said to add them. So guess what's going into today's smoothie? I soaked the beans yesterday, and decided halfway through that, whoa! That's a lot of beans! So we decided to take 3/4 of the beans and bake them. (The other 1/4 went into the baby crock pot for the smoothie.)
Mr. L's mother used to make THE best lima beans, but she was a "toss this in" kind of cook who never had a recipe. So Mr. L got a recipe from his sister. I knew it wasn't the one his mother made, because her beans were white, and sister's beans use molasses--but the directions are kinda spotty.
They turned out pretty well. I skipped the brown sugar, as I'm trying to cut down on sweets, but I think it would have made them taste just like Grandma Brown's Baked Beans, which is what we were going for.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound bag dried beans (navy or lima) soaked for 8 hours or overnight1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
3 tablespoons molasses
brown suger (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 300F. Place the onions on the bottom of a casserole dish. Add the soaked beans. Mix the salt, mustard, and molasses in a cup measure; fill the cup with hot water and stir until mixed. Pour over the beans and gently mix. Pour more water over the beans until covered. Bake for 6-8 hours, stirring every so often, and covering with more water until the last hour of baking. (You can add the brown sugar at any point.)
(Oh, and we're just going to have fake it to figure out how Mr. L's mother made her beans. Makes me feel kinda like a mad scientist!)
Oh, how I love cake. It used to be that cookies were my favorite dessert/sweet, but not anymore. Mind you, I will not turn down an oatmeal cookie (or chocolate chip, peanute butter, snickerdoodles, molasses ... well, you get the drift).
Once upon a time, I even took a cake decorating course. It did not go well. Oh, the cakes tasted fine, and I think once or twice I might actually have made an icing rose that sort of (kind of) resembled a flower. But that was years ago.
These days, I stick to mostly unfrosted cakes. If not, I always make my own frosting, because those tubs of stuff from the supermarket are LOADED with Trans Fats, which are really, REALLY bad for you. (And you HAVE to look at the ingredients to see it, too--they're not going to advertise the fact next to the dough boy.)
One thing that's bad about cake (one?) is a double layer or bundt cake makes a lot, and we're just two (not so tiny) people. That's why I love this recipe. It's just right!
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
2¼ cups cake flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons lemon zest
4 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour one 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then mix in the lemon peel, poppy seeds and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, In a saucepan over low heat; cook 3/4 cup white sugar and the lemon juice until stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to just warm or to room temperature.
Remove the cake from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack-place a cookie sheet underneath this rack. Prick the top of the cake several times with a toothpick. Brush the top of the cake with the warm or room temperature syrup, allowing lots of the syrup to run down and soak into the sides and bottom of the cake. Cool slightly in the pan before removing the cake to the wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, wrap the cake in foil or plastic freezer wrap and let the cake rest at least one day before serving to your guests.
What are you baking up for your sweetheart on this Valentine's Day?
It seems like I have a bunch of different "reader' audiences. Not everyone reads all my books. Not everyone reads my blog posts. Not everyone sees my Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter posts. That's a lot of people to juggle.
Something fun I do on my Lorraine Facebook Author Page is share pictures of teacups. I have a fascination with English tea and the beautiful china that goes with it. So I thought for a while I'd share some pictures of my teacup collection. (Don't get bored, guys--afternoon tea is full of wonderful goodies.)
Unfortunately, I no longer have the first teacup from my collection, which my mother gave to me. The cleaning lady broke it and my heart. But this is one of the cups from a set that my grandmother gave me (when I was much too young to appreciate it). I think it's gorgeous. Sadly, not many of the cups survived the trip from England to the US and I have far more plates and saucers than cups. Since they're all hand-painted (and slightly different), there's no way to replace those broken cups. I have seen duplicates of the cup the cleaning lady broke -- however not since she broke it (a year ago). If I ever see it again, I'll certainly buy it for sentimental reasons.
I am such a sucker for brown transferware; I have loads of pieces of it (all mismatched, all unique, all beautiful). I admired this cup in an antique shop and my mother bought it for me. Isn't it lovely?
This is my oldest teacup celebrating Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It was a Christmas gift from Mr. L. We'd seen it in an antique shop in Centralia, Washington. I think I stared at the price tag as much as the cup. It was too rich for my blood. Unbeknownst to me, upon our return home, Mr. L called the shop and bought the cup. It was the favorite gift that Christmas!
These are just a few of the cups in my collection.
I must admit, I am also a teacup hoarder. I buy them at yard sales to make sure they are loved, and then I find them new homes. Would there be interest in a teacup giveaway?
Let's talk about it!
Meanwhile, let's make Teacup Tuesday a regular post for a while and see what comes of it. Maybe I could share some tea recipes, too. Would you like that? Let me know.
I love to bake. I've been telling Mr. L for weeks, "I feel like baking." Well, today's the day, and I'm going to make my favorite carrot cake. This cake is GOOD. In fact, it's so good, I don't even put cream cheese frosting on it. Just dust it with a little confectioner's sugar. I like to pretend that it's good for me because it has a veggie in it, but the truth is -- it's decadent! It's not a cake I bake often because it is so rich, but once in a while it's fun to indulge.
Try it -- you'll like it!
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (can substitute unsweetened applesauce)
2 cups sugar
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice—drained
2 cups grated carrots
1 1/3 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Spray a Bundt pan with pan spray. Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat oil, sugar and eggs at medium speed until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and nuts. Pour into the Bundt pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and completely cool on rack before frosting.
What's your most favorite cake in the entire world??? (Share recipes???)
There's something really comforting about comfort food. (No kidding, huh?) I know it's still winter, but I'm hankering for spring. That's a lie, I want to jump right over spring and skid right into summer.
This recipe is something my aunt made one summer Sunday: cracker salad. OMG, is it good? (It is, take my word.) It doesn't take a lot of ingredients, it's easy, and it tastes great. How can you miss?
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1 large tomato, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
In a medium size bowl, coarsely crush the crackers with your hands - you should have big cracker pieces. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and serve immediately. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. (Don't let this dish sit, or the crackers become mushy. Don't worry, it won't last long enough for leftovers.)
What recipe says summer to you?
Ground Hog Day is coming fast -- and with it the BIG GAME. (Notice that you're not supposed to say the S***r Bowl anymore without paying the NFL a BIG fee. They, who are deemed NON-PROFIT despite the gazillion bucks they make off of anything even remotely related to football...but I digress.)
Anyway, it just so happens that sun-dried tomato dip is my character Jeff Resnick's favorite dip (as mentioned in Cheated By Death. Funny how it also happens to be one of MY favorite dips as well. Hmm...sheer coincidence, eh?)
So, on the BIG DAY, Jeff, Richard, Brenda, and Maggie will no doubt be dipping their Wegmans rippled potato chips and assorted veggies into this wonderful dip. You could make it, too! (It's pretty easy.)
1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped (about ½ cup)
1 tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
¼ - ½ tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce
2 green onions, sliced
Asparagus spears, carrots, celery, and other assorted fresh vegetables, crackers. or potato chips
In a food processor bowl or blender container, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Cover and process or blend until almost smooth. Add the green onions. Cover and process or blend until the onion is coarsely chopped. Cover and refrigerate.
Remove the dip from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. If desired, stir in a little milk to make it of dipping consistency, and garnish with green onion tops. Serve with vegetables, crackers, or chips.
Makes 2 cups.
What will you be making on the day of THE BIG GAME?
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a lover of pie. Fruit pie that is. But meat pie? Now that's a different kind of pie. My aunt makes the world's best steak and mushroom pie. I make a pretty mean chicken pie. But here's one you probably haven't tried: sausage pie.
OMG -- it's soooooo good. I found this recipe via Taste of Home magazine and adapted it by adding an onion. I love it, and I bet you will, too.
4 Italian sausage links, casings removed, halved and cut into 1/2-in pieces
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 small yellow tomato, cut into chunks
1 cut thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup thinly sliced yellow summer squash
1/2 cup julienned green pepper
1/2 cup julienned sweet red pepper
1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing mix
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomatoes, squash, peppers, salad dressing mix, garlic powder and fennel seed. Cook and stir for 10 minutes; drain. Cool for 10 minutes.
Line a 9-in. pie plate with bottom pastry; trim even with edge. Fill with the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie; place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in top.
Bake at 375F for 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Yield: 6-8 servings.
What are you having for supper tonight?