Monday, July 16, 2018

Baked Squash with Cheese and Panko

If you have a garden, yellow squash is probably coming in fast and thick. My friend Karen Hines recently brought me a dish of her grandmother's Baked Squash. We gobbled it up, and I asked for the recipe, which I'm sharing with you today. Karen's grandmother, Mabel Lester Furrow, baked this in the summer when squash was plentiful, and it takes Karen back to the summers of her childhood and her beloved grandmother.

The original recipe makes a huge amount so I made half of it, which is plenty to serve four people as a side dish. I also added a little bit of cheese because I happened to have it on hand. But that's entirely optional. What I love about this old-fashioned recipe is that it's healthy and light with a nice crispy topping. Don't be afraid to omit the cheese. It's delicious either way. I've listed the amounts in the original recipe in parentheses in case you're baking for a crowd. Note that the quantity of eggs remains the same, even if you make the halved recipe. The original recipe calls for baking it at 375. I was in a bit of a hurry and baked it at 400, which worked great.

I think this would be a wonderful recipe for someone who is learning to cook. It really doesn't matter how you cut the squash because it will be mashed anyway. Steaming is easy. And most of the mixing can even be done by hand.

I used one super large and one small yellow squash. The squash should be around 1 1/2 pounds in weight but I think the recipe is forgiving if you err a little bit either way.

Mabel Lester Furrow's Baked Squash

8-inch baking dish or an 8-inch pie dish

1 1/2 pounds yellow squash (3 pounds)
1/4 cup chopped onion (1/2 cup)
black pepper to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
2 eggs, beaten (2 eggs!)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt (1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup shredded Jack cheese (optional)

For the top:
4 tablespoons butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup Panko (1/2 cup cracker meal or breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (optional)

Butter the baking dish. Wash the squash, cut it up, and steam until tender. Drain off the liquid. Mash the squash. Mix with onion, pepper, eggs, sugar, salt, and Jack cheese. Pour into pan and spread out. Melt the butter and mix with Panko and Parmesan. Sprinkle lavishly over the top. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until it bubbles and the top is golden.

Steam or boil the cut squash.

Mix with onion, eggs, seasonings, and a little cheese.
Mix the Parmesan with the Panko and melted butter.
Sprinkle over the top.
Pretty enough for company!

Have you read THE DIVA COOKS UP A STORM? I'm giving away a copy today to one person who leaves a comment. Don't forget to leave your e-address so I can contact you if you win.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Welcome Author Lisa Q. Mathews with 5 Blueberry Recipes and a Great #Giveaway

A terrific author is with us today. Please welcome Lisa Q. Mathews who's sharing five wonderful blueberry recipes and a prize package giveaway that includes the second book (PERMANENTLY BOOKED) in her cozy mystery trilogy and other delicious prizes. Find out more at the end of this post. Now take it away, Lisa!



It’s steamy mid-summer, but my odd-couple sleuths Summer and Dorothy—aka the Ladies Smythe & Westin—and I have a lot on our (paper) plates. I’m working on a new book and the Ladies are working to solve a murder. And as the Goddesses of High Humidity would have it, all three of us need to whip up some tasty, quick-and-easy treats for our next book club meetings ASAP. 
Dorothy, a seventy-something widow, has fond memories of the long-ago summers she and her husband spent in a cozy Maine cabin. Now that she lives year-round at the Hibiscus Pointe Senior Living Community in Florida, those cool, pine-scented days can seem very far away. 

But she vividly remembers how much she loved filling baskets with freshly-picked, wild blueberries, and the simple but delicious recipes her mother jotted onto berry-stained cards and filed in a small wooden box. In fact, Dorothy keeps that same, faded box with the blueberry wreath painted on the lid in a place of honor on her kitchen counter. 
Dorothy’s twenty-something neighbor and co-sleuth Summer, an ex-party-girl from California who’s camping in her late grandma’s condo, doesn’t have much experience with blueberry-picking. 

But she knows those berries are full of antioxidants and Vitamin K to pack a punch in her favorite smoothie. Plus, she loves the idea of minimal cooking and maximum yum. Book club refreshments (or unexpected visitors) problem solved—and more time to solve a mystery! 


Summer loves these blueberry-lemon oatmeal cookies—with added chocolate chips—for breakfast and late-night snacks!

Serves 2 dozen

Prep Time: 30 mins. 
Cooking Time: 10-12 mins at 350° 


¼ cup soft butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup sugar 
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1½ cups old-fashioned oats 
Sprinkle of cinnamon
1 cup blueberries
Chocolate chips or chopped walnuts (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (for easy blueberry clean-up!) 

In large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon zest on Medium until smooth. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt until combined, then mix in oats with wooden spoon. Add chopped walnuts or chocolate chips, if desired. Carefully fold in blueberries. 

Use cookie or ice cream scoop to form and drop cookies onto lined cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with back of scoop. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Let stand on sheets for a minute or two, then transfer to wire rack for cooling. 


Dorothy brings this classic, refreshing beverage to the pool in a Thermos to share with Summer and their adorable 6-year-old friend, Juliette-Margot. (At cocktail hour, the Ladies sometimes add a little vodka to theirs.)

Serves 6-8

Prep Time: 20 mins. 


½ cup sugar
1 cup blueberries 
¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ lemon (sliced)
Mint leaves or springs 
Water (total 7-8 cups)

INSTRUCTIONS: To make a blueberry simple syrup, stir sugar and 1 cup water together in saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Stir in blueberries and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 3-4 minutes, until blueberries pop.

Strain blueberry mixture and discard skins. Allow liquid to cool.
In large pitcher, whisk together blueberry syrup, lemon juice and 6-7 cups water. Chill in refrigerator.

Serve over ice. Add a few more blueberries, lemon slices, and mint to each glass, for a festive touch!


Need a morning or late-afternoon pick-me-up? The Ladies have the perfect answer, especially if you have a lot of reading to do! (If you prefer, though, you can substitute decaffeinated tea bags.)


1 16-oz package frozen blueberries 
½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4-6 cups of water
3 large tea bags 
¾ cup sugar
Lemon slices and mint leaves or sprigs

INSTRUCTIONS: Bring frozen blueberries and lemon juice to a boil in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and pour through a strainer. (Dorothy suggests doing this over the sink.) Discard skins and rinse saucepan.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in same saucepan. Add tea bags and steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, stir in sugar and blueberry syrup. Pour into pitcher, add more water to fill. Cover and chill. Serve with ice and garnish with lemons and mint.


This was Summer’s favorite side dish back in LA. It’s so fast and easy, you may have time to catch some rays (or a murderer) before book club!


1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups diced cucumbers
3 cups diced watermelon
½ lime, juiced
Pepper and pinch of sea salt to taste
Mint leaves 

INSTRUCTIONS: Mix together the watermelon and cucumber. Drizzle with lime juice and stir. Carefully fold in blueberries. Add pepper to taste (if you’re not eating til later, wait to add the salt). Garnish with mint, stick in the fridge, and hit the beach!



The Ladies and I found we still had plenty of blueberries left over, even after making so many book club treats. Dorothy went back to her mother’s old recipe box for this one—try it over pancakes, yogurt, toast, graham crackers, bananas, in smoothies and, of course, over ice cream for a perfect sundae. (Stir into slightly-melted, classic vanilla and, presto! Designer-blueberry ice cream.)


3 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. corn starch dissolved into 3 Tbsp. water
½ tsp. vanilla

INSTRUCTIONS: Place 2 cups of the blueberries in saucepan. Cover with water; add sugar and vanilla. Heat over medium-high until mixture comes to a low boil and blueberries start to pop.

Add dissolved cornstarch to saucepan and bring mixture to rolling boil. Turn down heat and simmer on low for about 2 minutes, until sauce reaches desired thickness. (If it gets too thick, add water, a tablespoon or two at a time.)
Remove from heat and add remaining blueberries. Stir gently. May be served warm or cold. 

Lisa Q. Mathews was a lifeguard, a competitive figure skater, and a Nancy Drew editor before starting to write her own mysteries. She was also an executive editor at Random House Children’s Books and penned kids’ series such as Mary-Kate and Ashley and The Lizzie McGuire Mysteries. Like her odd-couple co-sleuths in The Ladies Smythe & Westin series from Carina Press/Harlequin, Lisa loves swimming, rich desserts, romantic comedies, and above all a good mystery!

To learn more about Lisa and her books, please visit her website at:

You can also join Lisa at: 

Facebook  *   Twitter * Chicks on the Case (cozy-mystery group blog)


To learn more or buy,
click here.

Permanently Booked 

by Lisa Q. Mathews

The final chapter…?

Semi-reformed party girl Summer Smythe is finally feeling at home at the Hibiscus Pointe retirement community. All that’s left to do is replace her late grandma’s massive book collection with a big-screen TV. Donating them to the on-site library is the perfect solution—until she finds the librarian buried in books. Literally.

Summer and her sleuthing partner, longtime resident Dorothy Westin, can’t imagine who would want to kill poor, dedicated Lorella. Soon they’re on the case…and the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club is the perfect cover for their investigation.

A murdered librarian is headline news in South Florida, and even outsiders, including an oddball professor and a pair of dueling authors, are eager to join the once-dull group. But one menacing member has Dorothy and Summer bookmarked for the morgue. If the Ladies Smythe and Westin don’t nab the killer fast, the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club may be reading their own obituaries next…

PERMANENTLY BOOKED, CARDIAC ARREST and the Ladies’ most recent case, FASHIONABLY LATE, are available wherever e-books are sold. And don’t forget to mark your engagement calendar for October 1, 2018, when the paperback edition of PERMANENTLY BOOKED officially pubs (you can pre-order here)! 



An e-book copy of PERMANENTLY BOOKED (if preferred, print copy available to winner late August) with matching mug and spoon set and a tin of blueberry green tea. Available to US and Canadian readers. Good luck!

TO ENTER: Leave a comment for Lisa with an
email address or way to reach you if you are 
selected to win! Good luck and thanks to
Lisa for her generous giveaway!

Drawing for winner will take place
after 12 Midnight, Wed. July 18


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Szechuan Tofu #AuthorDenise Swanson recipe

My husband and I live in the boondocks so when we’re hungry for Asian food, we have to make it ourselves. Since we’re going through all the trouble to create dishes from our favorite Chinese restaurant, I decided to see if I could make it fit my food philosophy—HIT—Healthy, Inexpensive, Tasty. This Szechuan Tofu is one of my results.

12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4-in. cubes
2 teaspoons cornstarch for sauce plus an additional amount to sprinkle on tofu
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup unsalted vegetable stock, divided
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups thinly diagonally sliced celery
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted ketchup
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Cube tofu and pat it dry with paper towels. Spread it out on a cutting board and sprinkle cornstarch on each side. 

Turn oven to warm.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and add tofu. Cook for 6 minutes or until golden and crisp, flipping them over after 3 minutes. Remove tofu to a plate with a slotted spoon and put in oven’s warming drawer.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup stock in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup stock, soy sauce, vinegar, and hoisin.

Add cauliflower to remaining oil in pan and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add celery and garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add ketchup and pepper and cook 1 minute, stirring to coat. Add stock mixture to pan and bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until liquid is slightly thickened. Add cooked tofu and toss. Top with green onions and serve with pot stickers.

Interested in my books?

Right when Dani thinks she's hit a dead-end in her career, she unexpectedly inherits an enormous old house in a quaint college town. This gives her the perfect opportunity to pursue her true passion―cooking! So Dani opens Chef-to-Go, preparing delicious, ready-made meals for hungry students attending the nearby university, as well as providing personal chef services and catering events for the local community. To help support her new business, she opens her home to a few students, renting them rooms and becoming almost like a big sister figure in their lives.

But just as Dani is relishing her sweet new life, the friend of one of her boarders is murdered, and Dani becomes one of the primary suspects! She'll have to scramble to clear her name and save her business before the killer reappears―perhaps to silence the new chef forever.
Pre-Order Now! Coming September 2018

The chips are down in Scumble River

School psychologist Skye Denison-Boyd had hoped that her maternity leave would be at least a little relaxing, but when she and her husband, Wally, meet with the priest to discuss their newborn twins' christening, an explosion at the nearby bowling alley rocks the rectory. And although the business was closed at the time of the blast, there's a body inside.

As police chief, Wally is inevitably drawn into the investigation, which seems to indicate that foul play is afoot again in Scumble River, and Skye can't help but do a bit of her own sleuthing. But the clues come fast and furious, ranging from an odd new stranger in town to animosity toward the gambling machines that had recently been installed at the bowling alley, and Skye finds herself wondering if this could be the puzzle that stumps her for good.

New York Times bestselling author Denise Swanson has penned another hit for cozy fans with Die Me a River, the latest installment in her beloved Welcome Back to Scumble River mystery series.


Enjoy the occasional romance?

Take one smoking-hot top chef who thinks food should be a sensual adventure, add a venture capitalist who has struggled with her weight since she was a teenager, and mix well. Is this a recipe that sizzles, or is he just another craving she must resist?

* * *

Deanna Sloan has worked too hard, dieting herself from a chubby teenager to a sleek businesswoman, to give in to her hunger now. Enduring four years as the target of her high school classmates’ cruelty taught her that only three things matter—power, money, and looks.

Leaving her small town behind, shedding the excess pounds, and obtaining a job with a six-figure salary are all steps in the right direction. However, in order to keep on target, she needs to outshine the other twenty venture capitalist associates at her new firm, maintain her weight loss, and be prepared to double-cross anyone who gets in her way. Walk in the park, right?

Wrong! Her first assignment is an investment appraisal of one of Chicago’s top chefs. Nico Thorne has come to her firm for the seed money to open his own restaurant. He is smoking hot and just a glimpse of his navy blue eyes in a photo clouds Deanna’s brain and dampens her panties. Will the flesh-and-blood man make her dissolve into a puddle of mindless lust that will derail her fast track to success?

Like Deanna, Nico’s past drives his present choices. He hates his father for using his mother’s social status to further his career, then abandoning her. As a teenager, Nico’s anger at his father resulted in a hair-trigger temper and a vow never to fall in love. Although Nico may have learned to control his demons, he still avoids women who even hint at wanting anything deeper than a few nights of uncommitted fun.

That is until he sees Deanna. Her cinnamon curls and soft green eyes totally captivate him. As they spend more and more time together, Nico’s determination to keep their relationship casual dissolves and he realizes that she might be his amore mio. But will he be able to convince Deanna that he’s the one for her?

Deanna fights her attraction to Nico, fearful that giving in will mean the loss of both her figure and her job. Can Nico overcome a lifetime of distrust? Can Deanna embrace life—imperfections and all?

Publisher’s warning: This book contains sensual consummated love scenes.

Series description:

First in Denise Swanson’s new Delicious contemporary romance series. All books are complete with no cliffhangers and a guaranteed HEA!

Catch up with me on 


Friday, July 13, 2018

Almond Bars

Recently a friend and I were having lunch at a restaurant somewhere and we each had a brownie for dessert. My friend told me she had a dynamite recipe for a brownie that included almond flour and some almond flavoring, and she later emailed it to me.

But afterwards I started thinking, why just part almond? Why not eliminate the chocolate altogether?

Yes, I know that's blasphemy. But I have to make a confession: I don’t really like chocolate.

The thing is, I’ve been allergic to chocolate since early childhood. Oh, of course I’ve eaten it. It doesn’t making blow up like a balloon or turn funny colors. It only makes me sneeze, and my eyes get red, and so on.

Funny footnote: when I was pregnant with my daughter, if I ate anything chocolate, she would get hiccups (which felt really weird). I have no idea why, and she didn’t do it with any other food.

I decided to go hunting for an all-almond bar cookie that was kind of a faux brownie. And they do exist! I found several recipes and muddled them together. And I really wanted to use almond flour, so I swapped that for half of the regular flour the recipes usually called for.

Almond Bar Cookies 
(should I call them Beigies? Tannies? I think Blondies is already taken)


1/2 cup (about 5 oz.) packed almond paste (not marzipan!), crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, separated
1 tsp almond extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, or a mix of regular flour and almond flour


In a food processor, pulse the almond paste until it is broken up into small bits. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue to pulse until the mixture is finely ground (about 1 minute).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan, then line it with foil (let it overlap on two opposing sides, to make your bars easy to remove from the pan). Then butter the foil.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the rest of the sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy (3-6 minutes, depending on your mixer). Add the almond mixture, the egg yolk and the almond extract and beat until well mixed (about 2 minutes). 

Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour and beat until combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan with a spatula. Beat the egg white in a small bowl then brush it over the batter.

Bake until the top is golden, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for about an hour. Lift the bars out of the pan (see where the foil comes in handy?) and place it on a cutting board and cut into squares. 

In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit I checked MLK’s large archive of recipes for other versions of almond cookies, and I did find some (including two that I contributed). But this is the only one I’ve seen that uses almond paste and comes in bar form rather than as a cookie.

And for a bit of good news: Murder at the Mansion, the first book of my new Victorian Village Mysteries, was released on June 26th by Minotaur Books. On July 3rd my editor emailed me to say "we are reprinting 1000 copies of MURDER AT THE MANSION! But then one of our accounts came back with a bigger reorder than we expected, so it's looking like we'll be going into a third printing soon, not even two weeks after pub!"

I am so grateful to all my readers who gave it a try! (Don't mind the red letters--I'm still celebrating.)

And! Murder at the Mansion is ranked #15 on the Pub Alley Fiction Mystery Bestseller list!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fresh Green Salad with Avocado and Buffalo Mozarella, recipe from Linda Wiken, #author

If it's as hot where you are as it is here, then tonight demands a light green salad for dinner. It's now my go-turn on too hot days. There are so many ways you can play around to get something a bit unusual and you don't have to turn anything on, except perhaps a small food processor or hand mixer. Then just add some slices of something cold, like the smoked ham I got at the deli, and you're all set with little or no fuss.

I'm at the point where I'm considering keeping the salad the same and just toying around with different dressings, or maybe changing up some of  the summer veggies that get added. It's a limitless recipe, in that case, and who doesn't like salad?

For this one I used purple lettuce leaves as the base although it would taste just as great with a spring salad mix. Fresh green peas go with everything, I figure, and I can hardly wait until they appear on the produce shelves each summer. Well, they're here at last! And, asparagus. Such an elegant, tasty veggie no matter how you prepare it.

What the recipe, which I found at Add a Pinch, suggested was to toss those greens together with an avocado, yogurt dressing -- homemade, I might add. But I always prefer serving the dressing at the side. So, that's what I did. You do what you prefer.

Here's to a healthy, tasty, light and colorful summer of eating.

 (serves 4 but I cut it in half for my own use. I'm giving you the original proportions)

What you'll need for the dressing:

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. whole-milk yogurt
1 avocado
2 tsp. fennel seeds (originally called for poppy seeds)
4 mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 jalapeno, diced

 What to do to make the dressing:

In a small blender, place the olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, avocado, fennel seeds, mint leaves, and jalapeno. Blend until smooth. (This is where I set it aside but the original recipe called for adding 1/4 c. water. I liked it thick.)

For the salad:

1/2 c. fresh peas
8 spears asparagus, trimmed and shaved with a veggie peeler
1 head purple lettuce, torn
1 avocado
1 ball fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (it called for burrata)

How to make the salad:

In a bowl, mix the peas, asparagus and lettuce leaves. If you're going to pre-add the dressing, this is where you do it and mix it up.

To plate the salad, start with a bed of lettuce and peas, top with the asparagus, add the avocado slices around the edge; top with a portion of the Buffalo Mozzarella; add the dressing to the side; and, garnish with fresh mint leaves.


It's now here --
Marinating in Murder, book #3
Recipes included!

Here's a taste of the reviews:     

Wiken’s third entry to the Dinner Club series is a clever twist on the classic whodunit… The book will have you guessing until the very end…. All in all, an intriguing read by Wiken.” – RT Reviews

"Foodies will love this book and this series. Great recipes are included as well....A fun romp of intrigue filled with foodie fun." -- Open Book Society

ROUX THE DAY,  the second  Dinner Club Mystery is available in paper and as an e-book. 
Recipes included!

TOASTING UP TROUBLE, the first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!

Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

Visit Linda at
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at

Visit Erika at 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase.