Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Stir-Fried Beef and Sugar Snap Peas #recipe @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: We’ve made broccoli-beef for years, with a recipe much adapted from an old Weight Watchers cookbook. It’s easy and tasty, and quick enough for a weeknight dinner. Plus the leftovers make great lunches, a plus for a couple who both work at home.

So I didn’t necessarily need this recipe from the New York Times Food column, but it looked too wonderful to pass by. And I’ve learned to trust the NYT’s recipes, especially those created by Melissa Clark, as this was. (As usual, I’ve revised the list and instructions a bit.) Don’t be daunted by the list of ingredients – just take it step-by-step, and I think it will become a favorite in your house, too.

Clark suggests any lean cut of beef meat — flank steak, London broil, tenderloin, sirloin or skirt steak — so long as it is cut thin against the grain. We used flank steak. Because the strips are long, we cut them again; you may not need to, depending on what cut of beef you use.

Snow peas are the takeout staple, but this recipe calls for sugar snaps, which I like because of the crunch and substance – you know you’ve eaten a vegetable when you chomp into one. Clark’s version calls for thinly slicing them; we discovered that wasn’t necessary, and simply cut them into bite-sized pieces. (Costco carries 2-pound bags.)

I admit, I cocked my head at using chicken stock in a beef dish, but it does make a great sauce – soy or tamari, sesame oil, chicken broth, and sherry or Madeira.

We use Mr. Right’s ancient rice cooker, and started the rice about the time we started cooking. I estimate prep and cooking time at about twenty minutes each.

(I’m finally trying out the new camera I got for Christmas – I admit, it scares me a bit! – so forgive the slightly off-kilter pics.) The final product looks better than my shot of it!)

Stir-Fried Beef and Sugar Snap Peas

1 pound lean beef, cut into 1/4-inch strips (cut again, optional)
3 tablespoons tamari or dark soy sauce (divided use)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, more for drizzling
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
3-4 fat scallions, including the green tops (save dark portion of tops for garnish)
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 ½ tablespoons Madeira or sweet sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch (or arrowroot, if you don't use corn)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced

White rice, for serving
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Sriracha or other hot sauce, or rice wine vinegar for garnish

In a medium bowl, mix beef, 2 tablespoons tamari, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice the trimmed sugar snap peas into bite-sized pieces, about one inch. Thinly slice scallions, reserving dark green parts for garnish.

In a small bowl, mix chicken broth, Madeira or sherry, 2 tablespoons water, remaining 1 tablespoon tamari, and cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When pan is hot, stir-fry beef until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer beef and any liquid to a shallow bowl.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and when hot, add garlic and white and light green scallion parts until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas and chicken broth mixture, lower heat to medium, and cover. Let cook for 2 minutes. Transfer beef and juices to skillet and stir-fry 2 minutes. Serve over rice, and garnish with sesame oil, sesame seeds, dark parts of scallions, and hot sauce or vinegar.

Serves 4.   


(That's rice in the oat canister, not oatmeal!)

Serves 4.


From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink, 2018, available for pre-order now):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. A past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Instant Pot Whole Chicken

For a while, my Instant Pot was used. Then it found its way to my pantry and it rested there for many months. But the other night, I was running late with dinner. So instead of roasting a whole chicken, I Instant Potted it.

The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. It's just not nearly as scary as our mothers' pressure cookers were. I remember everyone joking about waiting for it to explode and shoot the contents to the ceiling. That never happened. But somehow, we were all intimidated by it.

The Instant Pot can also be used as a slow cooker and a steamer. I'm itching to try Chinese dumplings in it.

For the record, I have cooked a few whole chickens in the Instant Pot. Some recipes will advise you to first brown the chicken, which can be done in the Instant Pot. Fair warning, if you eat chicken for the crispy skin, don't pressure cook it. While the chicken meat may well be the most tender chicken I have ever eaten, the skin doesn't fair well, even if you try to brown it first.

Along those lines, don't Instant Pot the chicken if you want to make a pretty presentation. It would work great in chicken salad for instance, but it's not very pretty when it comes out of the Instant Pot.

The recipe is about as simple as it gets. Do not forget to add water! (As I did once, duh!) It will make dinner very late because your chicken will still be raw.

I like to rub mine with some barbecue style seasonings like smoked paprika, dark brown sugar, garlic powder, and salt. But the sky is the limit here. Add onion powder, pepper, celery seeds, whatever you like. The key is to mix the seasonings with some oil and spread it all over the chicken. And that's it! It's so simple!

One other caution, though, if you're thinking of buying an Instant Pot. The cooking is fast. But it's not as instantaneous as the name would lead you to believe. There's always a brief heat up time, and then after the cooking, you need to wait for it to cool off before you open it.

I read somewhere not to use the manual (and quicker) steam release when cooking meat because it won't be as tender and juicy. It will dry it out. I don't know if that's true, but it only takes 15 minutes for it to naturally decompress. Not counting the warm up time, it takes 25 minutes to cook the chicken, and 15 minutes for decompression. No matter how you look at it, that's still faster than roasting a whole chicken.

HINT: There will be juices at the bottom. They will help you make delicious homemade chicken soup. Recipe coming soon.

Instant Pot Whole Chicken

1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil  (add more if rub is too dry)
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 chicken

Place the trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add 1/2 cup of water. In a small bowl combine olive oil, dark brown sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder.

Remove giblets and neck from chicken. Rinse and pat dry. Rub chicken with oil mixture all over. Place chicken on top of trivet. Place lid on top and close the steam vent.

Pressure cook for 25 minutes. Wait for steam vent to decompress, approximately 15 minutes.

The chicken.

Mix spices with olive oil.

Rub with spices.

Reserve juices for soup!

Not pretty, but so tender!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Olive Oil Orange and GInger Guilty Pleasures, #recipe, guest Kelly Lane

 We're delighted to have as our guest today Kelly Lane, author of the OLIVE GROVE MYSTERY series. This delightful series is set on an olive plantation in Southern Georgia and if you're an olive oil fiend, like I am, you'll love all those details, along with the  fun, smart mysteries. And of course, recipes are included!

Kelly is kindly giving away a signed copy of her latest book, DIPPED TO DEATH. Be sure to leave a comment at the end of the blog. - Linda

For years, I’ve enjoyed following Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen ... and now I’m here! I’m thrilled to be a guest in the kitchen. Thank you for the invite. Here’s the story and recipe for one of my favorite after-work treats.

The Story
These days, when I’m not banging away at my keyboard — DIPPED TO DEATH, book three in Berkley Prime Crime’s Olive Grove Mystery series was released earlier this month — I work with five-, six- and seven-year-old kids in the local primary school. And, let’s face it, after hour upon hour of non-stop pandemonium in classrooms filled with clamoring kids, untied sneakers, runny noses, and glue stick-covered everything, when I finally make my escape home, I want to enjoy a treat. That’s when I fix myself a strong cup of hot tea to relax, along with a crunchy snack to munch away my stress.

I always crave something sweet and satisfying, with the crunch of biscotti. The piquancy of a gingersnap. And the chunky richness of shortbread. Plus, I’m wanting a treat that features olive oil.

That’s because while writing the OLIVE GROVE MYSTERY series, I’ve had to come up with all sorts of olive oil-based recipes, for savory and sweet dishes. And, wouldn’t you know it? Rethinking my “regular recipes,” transforming them into “olive oil recipes,” has been a life-changing endeavor. Now that I’ve started, I can’t stop reinventing all my dishes!

There are so many health benefits to olive oil, and the distinctively mild, fruity, and floral flavor of fresh olive oil is divine, especially in desserts and sweet dishes. So, I figured I’d create my own afterschool treat with olive oil. Something not-too-sweet, combining the mellow, sweet nuttiness of olive oil with the spicy kick of gingersnaps, the crunch of biscotti, and the thick, richness of shortbread. 

My Olive Oil Orange and Ginger Guilty Pleasures (yes, I know … it’s a mouthful!) are rich, crisp, and crunchy, yet not overly sweet. The recipe is relatively simple and the ingredients are inexpensive. Plus, one can make the dough for these treats into individual cookies, bars, or wedges. And you can vary the thickness, depending on your preference.

Just to demonstrate, recently, I split a batch and made the treats two different ways. I pressed one half of the dough into an 8” round cake pan, then, just after baking I sliced the round into wedges. Also, I rolled out the second half of the dough until it was a bit thinner than the dough in the round pan. Then I pressed cookie cutters into the flattened dough. Using a spatula, I carefully placed the cookie shapes on a jelly roll pan. Then I baked both versions in the oven at the same time, taking out the flatter cookies a few minutes earlier than the round pan.

Notes on the Olive Oil 
For a sweet recipe, look for a mild or buttery extra virgin olive oil, such as an Arbequina variety. If you don’t want to splurge on an oil from an olive oil producer or specialty shop, two olive oils that are relatively easy to find in the United States are the Mild and Buttery EVOO from California Olive Ranch, and Trader Joe’s California Estate EVOO. They are both staples in my kitchen.

Also, when baking with olive oil, ahead of time, I freeze or chill the oil until it is at least the consistency of softened butter or margarine. This only takes an hour or two in the freezer. Once I’ve gotten the consistency I want, I remove the oil from the freezer and keep it in chilled in the refrigerator, taking it out only when I’m ready to use it. The same method works for basic pastry dough: I replace shortening or butter with chilled olive oil. To chill the oil for this particular recipe, I used a clean, empty, glass container from Oui French style yogurt; it held exactly ¾ cup of oil.

Notes on the Dough
Like basic pastry dough, this dough should be kept cool and handled as little as possible. I’d almost describe it as “fragile.” Resist the temptation to overwork it (take a deep breath and back away)! When pressing it into a disk, it’s better left crumbly and messy rather than uniform in consistency. Also, the dough gets better the longer it’s chilled; between 30 minutes and 3 hours is ideal.

And that’s it!

Thanks so much for inviting me to share. I hope you give my Guilty Pleasures a try. Better still, I hope you find the time to relax and enjoy them as much as I do.

Oh … did I mention that these treats are heavenly with a big glass of milk before bed?



¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (a mild or buttery variety)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest (about 1 large orange)
1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden ginger stir-in paste or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional: chopped sugared ginger bits (I use sweet ginger bits from Penzeys Spices)

In Advance

Chill ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil in freezer until it is the consistency of softened butter. Transfer to refrigerator until ready to use.


In a food processor (or bowl, using a pastry cutter or two knives) pulse/combine together flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Add olive oil, a small scoop or chunk at a time, while pulsing/cutting. Add vanilla and ginger. Pulse/combine until mixture is in fine crumbs.

Pulse/combine again until crumbs begin to come together. Dough should remain crumbly. Do not over process.

Remove dough from processor/bowl. Press together and flatten into a disk on plastic wrap. Do not over-handle dough. Wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better … three hours or more, if you can).

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

For individually baked treats: Roll chilled dough to no less than ¼” thickness onto floured surface. Cut dough with a cookie cutter, or into squares, wedges, or bars with a knife. Transfer to cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. For pan-baked treats: Place dough into round 8” or 9” cake pan. Press flat to fill pan.

Bake in 300-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Do not over-bake. Remove.

Optional: When just out of oven, sprinkle with ginger bits.

For individually baked treats: Let cookies rest 5-10 minutes on sheet/pan. For pan-baked treats: Let pan rest 5-10 minutes on a wire rack, then, while still warm, cut baked dough into wedges. I’ve had success cutting wedges inside the pan, and also, I’ve removed the entire round before slicing wedges. To avoid crumbling, slice while round is warm and soft.

Transfer treats to wire rack and let cool completely.

Finishing Note:

When cookies are completely cool, they may be dipped or glazed with dark chocolate, a couple pinches of sea salt, and olive oil. Or use dark chocolate, salt, and paraffin wax (paraffin gives the chocolate a glossy finish and remains firm at room temperature). Or, for a sweeter version, try drizzling an orange glaze made from orange zest, orange juice, and confectioner’s sugar. The cookies pictured here are dipped in warm chocolate, olive oil and sea salt. The chocolate is sprinkled with sweet ginger pieces.

Kelly Lane lives on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition to her work as editor and “slush pile reader” for a prominent literary agent, she has penned as a copywriter, journalist, and worked as a business writer, editor, and public relations consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Set on an olive plantation in Southern Georgia, ONE FOOT IN THE GROVE, COLD PRESSED MURDER, and DIPPED TO DEATH are the three books in Kelly Lane’s OLIVE GROVE MYSTERY series published by Berkley Prime Crime. Each book includes original recipes inspired by dishes in the story.

Visit Kelly Lane:
Twitter: @KellyLaneWrites
Facebook: fb.me/KellyLaneWrites
Instagram: @kellylanewrites


To win a copy of Kelly Lane's newest book, DIPPED TO DEATH,  just leave a comment along with your email address. A random draw will be made on Monday,  6 PM EDT.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Peruvian Beef Saltado #Recipe @PegCochran

There are numerous recipes for the Peruvian dish Beef Saltado on the internet.  This one is supposed to be lower calorie than most.  The dish is usually served with French fries although I did baked potatoes instead.

It's an interesting combination of flavors that illustrate the cultural heritage of Peru and the influence of the many Chinese who live there.

Of course I made a few tweaks in the prep.

1 lb. sirloin, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 tomato cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. olive oil (I used more like 1 tablespoon)
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat.  Season beef with salt, pepper and cumin (I added the cumin to the sauce instead.)

Add beef and cook until browned on both sides.  (Next time I will remove the meat while I cook the veggies so it doesn't overcook.)  

Add garlic, onion and peppers and cook until veggies are soft.  (I would add the meat back in when the veggies are done.)

Stir in vinegar and soy sauce and cook for two minutes.  Add tomatoes and cilantro and cook two more minutes. 

COMING SOON: Berried at Sea, Book #4 in the Cranberry Cove Series!! Cover reveal on my Facebook page this week so be sure to "like" my page. Berried at Sea will be released before the end of the month. (PS the cover is GORGEOUS!)

Barnes & Noble 

Pre-Order Now! Coming June 2018

Barnes and Noble


Barnes & Noble

A Park Avenue princess discovers the dark side of 1930s New York when a debutante ball turns deadly in this gripping historical mystery for readers of Victoria Thompson, Anne Perry, and Karen Odden.

Manhattan, 1939. Tired of being trapped in the gilded cage of her family’s expectations, Elizabeth Adams has done what no self-respecting socialite would think to do: She’s gotten herself a job. Although Elizabeth’s dream is to one day see her photographs on the front page of the Daily Trumpet, for now she’s working her way up as the newsroom’s gal Friday.

But fetching coffee isn’t exactly her idea of fun, so when veteran reporter Ralph Kaminsky needs a photographer to fill in for a last-minute assignment, Elizabeth jumps at the chance. At the Waldorf Hotel, Elizabeth is tasked with tracking down the season’s “It girl,” Gloria DeWitt, who will be making her society debut. Working her own connections to New York’s upper crust, Elizabeth manages to land an exclusive interview with Gloria.

Then Gloria’s stepmother is shot dead in a Waldorf bathroom, placing Elizabeth at the scene of a headline-worthy scandal: “Murder of a Society Dame.” Now Elizabeth will have to get the scoop on the killer before her good name gets dragged through the gossip columns—or worse. . . .

Praise for Peg Cocrhan

“Cochran has a truly entertaining writing style that is filled with humor, mystery, fun, and intrigue.”—Open Book Society

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pea and Asparagus Soup

A few months ago I attended an event at the New England Mobile Bookfair in Newton Highlands (Massachusetts), where a good number of mystery writers and fans gathered to check out new books (and party). Three of the authors, Ryan Conroy and Todd and Jen Heberlein, hailed from Volante Farms in Needham, and arrived with copies of their new book, the Volante Farms Cookbook: A Century of Growing. The Volante family, immigrants from Italy, founded the farm in 1917 and now the fourth generation carries on the tradition of growing produce for local markets.

I didn’t get around to delving into the book until recently. As I write this, we in southern Massachusetts are in the midst of our third nor’easter in two weeks, despite the fact that the calendar says March, and I wanted something that announced “spring!”. Luckily the cookbook is arranged seasonally, and one of the first recipes is for Pea and Asparagus Soup. I wish I could tell you that I had found new peas and asparagus in our market, but it’s still a wee bit early for both—but I did have the asparagus. And there are some lovely and unexpected flavors that brighten the soup.

Our most recent snow (March 13th)



2 shallots, chopped
1 pounds peas (fresh if you have them)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tblsp salted butter
2 lbs. asparagus trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup crème fraiche
1 Tblsp chopped tarragon (again, fresh if you have it)
1 tsp grated lemon zest


Shallots, chopped
Chop the shallots.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute briefly until soft.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the asparagus, peas and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, and remove from heat.

Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender (if you don’t have one, use a traditional blender or a food processor, if all the liquid will fit--if not, do it in a couple of batches). (Note: asparagus, even fresh and new, is a bit stringy, so you may have to clean your blades a time or two, whatever you use. The soup with never be a smooth puree, but the veggies add a little texture.) Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Combine the crème fraiche, tarragon and lemon zest. Pour the soup into individual bowls and top with a dollop of the crème mixture.

Serve with an interesting bread. And welcome to Spring!

I just realized that among all the books I'm in the midst of writing, they cover almost all the seasons. I just finished the next Relatively Dead book (still nameless), which takes place in November. Coming next is Murder in the Mansion, the start of a new series that is set in Maryland, and there it's early summer. There will be a new Orchard Mystery in the Fall, set in early spring when the annual apple cycle begins. A Christmas novella will of course be set around Christmas. 

Do you think it would be easier if I wrote these is some sort of calendar order? Sometimes it's hard to remember that a character should put on a coat before walking out the door, or that school is out for the summer.