Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mini Strawberry Pavlovas with Lemon Cream, Strawberries and Grand Marnier

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Here in Ontario, the local strawberries are coming in!  We love that fresh, juicy and sweet taste. This is also the weekend when we’re trying to catch up on gardening and having a barbecue and family get together so I was looking for a dessert that would be light, make-ahead (mostly) and delicious. I settled on a Pavlova, that melt in the mouth combo of meringue, cream and berries.  But then I remembered past Pavlovas looking great until you tried to cut them and they exploded.  Hmm.  That’s when the decision to make the mini-Pavlovas was born.  I decided to add lemon curd to the mix to give it some zing. You can make your own lemon curd for this, but we have been on the run and living by the 20/80 rule: that is, you can often get 80 % of the benefit out of 20 % of the effort. So a jar of good-quality lemon curd it was. But go ahead and make your lemon curd from scratch if that suits you. We were not disappointed in our choice.

Because it’s a red and white dessert, it will be great for Canada Day too! 

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For Meringue:

4 extra-large egg whites with no traces of yolk, at room temperature
1 cup plus one tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

For filling
1 cup whipping cream
¾ cup good quality lemon curd (or more if lemon is your thing)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For topping

1 1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries (or berries of your choice. Perhaps strawberries and blueberries for the 4th of July!) We used mini-strawberries and they were very tasty.

2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier or 1 tablespoon granulated sugar


 Preheat oven to 225 F.


Beat the four egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla.  Slowly add sugar tablespoon by tablespoon, beating well after every addition, until stiff peaks have formed.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. . Scoop out meringue and shape into ‘bowls’.  

Bake in pre-heated oven at 225 degrees for about 50 minutes. Turn off oven and let the meringues dry for at least an hour or even overnight.  

Trim and slice strawberries. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier if you like a bit of boozy flavor. You could use Cointreau too or Triple Sec. If not, a sprinkle of granulated sugar. Let the strawberries sit until ready to serve.

Just before you are ready to serve:  whip one cup of whipping cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla to stiff peaks. 

Add ¾ cup of lemon curd. You could add more.  Fold the lemon curd through, leaving streaks.

 It doesn’t need to be thoroughly blended.  We didn’t add any extra sugar to this, but you must suit yourself.
The only tricky part of this entire exercise is to get the meringue bowls off the baking sheet. This time I used tinfoil instead of parchment paper and it was not as easy. Lesson learned and too late to take new photos!
Spoon the lemon cream mixture into the meringues.  Add the strawberries and listen to the satisfied sighs.

The Pavlovas are very refreshing and tasty.  I don’t know why it took us so long to turn them into minis.

Pretty enough to show twice, we think!

Have fun and enjoy your dessert. 

In case you don't know, Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between  me, Mary Jane Maffini, and my daughter Victoria. Together we write the book collector mysteries.   We think that reading them is like taking a lovely trip to a mysterious place where books are everything and, yes, murder happens and great meals are served and some relatives are not to be trusted. Of course, justice prevails in the end and books are loved.


We like to think our book collector mysteries are fun, easy to read and surprising too. All five titles are available in print, e-book and audio format. Don't miss out.  You can get to meet Peachy (posing below) aka Walter the Pug.  Watch out for the Siamese cats - one is good and one will get you!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pork Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

A few years ago my daughter introduced me to pulled pork, which quickly became a staple in our household. And we’ve always eaten pork chops, with or without bones. But somehow I missed the tenderloin phenomenon (despite a wealth of delicious recipes presented here on MLK)—which is kind of like the pork chop with all the outsides removed. It’s small, so it cooks quickly, and it’s a good size for two people.

I went hunting for recipes (I do that a lot), and as usual didn’t find one that was quite right. So I improvised—again. (My husband hates that. If he likes a dish, he wants a recipe, and he’s not happy when I tell him I made it up.) I did need a bit of guidance on timing, because overcooked pork tastes and chews kind of like an eraser. Don’t worry—you can cook pork to just past pink without worrying about trichinosis or whatever. If you’re worried, used a meat thermometer (but ignore the old cookbooks that tell you to cook it to 165 degrees, because by then it’s too late. The USDA recommends 145 degrees these days.)

Pork Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce
Ingredients: The Pork

one 1-1/2 pound pork tenderloin

1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole-grain mustard (brands differ—some are coarser than others, so use your favorite)
2 Tblsp olive oil

Dry the pork tenderloin and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together the mustard and olive oil. Using your hands (latex gloves in the kitchen are wonderful!) rub the mixture all over the pork. Let it sit until the pork reaches room temperature, about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the pork on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Place it in the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes (if you have a thermometer, test the internal temperature). Remove it from the oven, set it aside, and cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

Ingredients: The Sauce

4 Tblsp unsalted butter
3 Tblsp minced shallot
1/2 cup chicken broth
2-3 Tblsp Dijon mustard
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tblsp chopped fresh tarragon
   (or use dried if you can’t find fresh,
   but reduce the amount)

In a saute pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the shallot and cook slowly until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the mustard and the cream and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tarragon and taste for seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper as needed. 

To serve, slice the pork tenderloin into pieces (you can choose how thick you want it), place on a warm plate, and spoon the sauce over it. (Don’t feel guilty about all that heavy cream—the pork itself has very little fat.)

I'm between books right now. I'm working on four series (and one from each should appear in 2018), including one that's entirely new. I'm plotting/researching/writing all of them at once (it's sooo easy to get sidetracked on Google!), but you've all seen the only cover I have for any of them at the moment (A Late Frost, Orchard Mystery #11, coming November 2017).

So I'll give you a treat that I discovered while hunting for something else entirely. This is an image from a trade journal from 1889: it's my great-great-grandfather Silas A. Barton. (I have only one photograph of him, but I recognized him immediately when I opened the page.)

But there's more! My research on municipal electrification (for a coming book) revealed the interesting fact that the company for which Silas was treasurer and manager founded the gas and electric company in my current home town--and I've been writing checks to great-great-grandpa's company ever since I moved here. Small world, isn't it?

Have you readers found happy surprises when you weren't even looking? Writers, has a chance discovery changed the course of one of your books?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fun with Frittatas, #recipe by Linda Wiken, author, #cozymystery

I thought about calling it the Kitchen Sink Frittata but realized that doesn't sound very appetizing. It follows the same principle though, and much like Sheila Connolly's post last week, I've included whatever I had on hand.

Some nights, a gal just doesn't want to get too creative  :) or cook anything extravagant. Here again, I can't say, 'not cook' because this does take some prep time even though actual cooking time is minimal.

And, I do love my eggs. In my house, they're not just for breakfast! So, what to do that was more than a soft-boiled egg and toast? An omelette was an option but that takes even more steps. So, I decided to have some fun with a Frittata.

This recipe is thrown together without accurate measurements, suitable for two. So, add or subtract as suits your needs. I am a dairy-free eater, so mixed my eggs with a tiny bit of water, instead of milk.

Again, please do what suits you best.

I'd be interested in hearing what ends up in your Frittata!

What you'll need:

4 eggs
dash of water
handful of fresh spinach, chopped
3 mushrooms (because that's all I had on hand), chopped
fresh basil, chives, and rosemary, chopped
4 orange grape tomatoes  (orange and only 4 was what I had on hand)
sweet red pepper
1 garlic clove, slivered
1 c. thinly sliced Chorizo sausage
1 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
enough fresh grated Asiago cheese to cover but then melt in (again, use whatever cheese is your favorite)

What to do:

1. Heat olive oil in large frying pan. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the water.
2. Chop, slice, and sliver the veggies and herbs.
3. Saute all the ingredients, except for the eggs.

4. When the spinach has wilted and the mushrooms have that nice browned color, pour in the egg and water mixture, stirring all the while.

5. When the egg reaches a good scrambled eggs consistency, you're ready.
6. Dish onto plates and grate the cheese over top.
7. Serve with toast or as I did, some red pepper and sun-dried tomato Ciabatta bread.

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

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. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shredded Zucchini, easy side dish #recipe from @DarylWoodGerber

I love an easy meal. Especially when I'm doing revisions on a book and my mind is mush by dinner time.  (I'm working on the second French Bistro Mystery, Soufflé of Suspicion! So much fun!)  

I love an easy meal especially when it's really hot outside. And it's been hot in California. We are in triple digits this week! Yipes! 

I like an easy meal that doesn't require the oven to be on for hours. 

I like an easy meal that is light and doesn't make me feel as if "I ate the whole thing."  Remember that commercial?  (Alka Seltzer)

So here's my easy meal:

I've really been getting into white fish lately. I buy it frozen at Costco. Atlantic cod, Pacific cod (my favorite), Mahi-Mahi. They're all flavorful and cook easily. The Atlantic cod prefers to be baked. It's quite flaky. The other two can go on the grill because they are really firm fish.

I've always been a fan of zucchini. There are so many good vitamins in zucchini. And you can add so many sauces and such to zucchini to change up the flavors. It almost works like pasta, when you think about it. Zucchini enjoys spices, too.  I use a variety of Penzey's spices on my zucchini. Sometimes I go simple with basil or oregano.  Occasionally I'll cook it with nutmeg. Oh, yes, nutmeg. It really brings out an exotic flavor!  Try it.

And now...back to my regularly scheduled program. Revisions.  Deadlines are looming. Ack! 

Zucchini side dish 

Serves 2

2-3 zucchini, rinsed and sliced  (A mixture of yellow and green zucchini is best for color!)
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Penzey’s Parisien spice (or spice of your desire, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme or a mixture)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded

Chop the zucchini with a food chopper so it’s small chunks. The smaller the better.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add in the zucchini, the spice, the salt and pepper. Stir for 3-4 minutes, allowing the zucchini to brown.

Remove from heat and plate. Top each portion with sour cream and Parmesan cheese.

So easy!

I made this with white fish. (Atlantic Cod). I get the cod at Costco in the freezer section.

White Fish Baked

Serves 2

2 portions of fish
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Chopped olives or parsley as garnish, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To bake, wrap the fish in foil, drizzle with oil, and add salt and pepper. Seal the foil and set the fish in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set the white fish on the plate.  Add a tablespoon of chopped olives or parsley for garnish (and color – cod can be so bland looking).

Add the zucchini side dish.

Savor the mystery!

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A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the 1st in the French Bistro Mysteries, is coming November 2017. Can Mimi clear her name before the killer turns up the heat? Click here to order.

GRILLING THE SUBJECT, the 5th Cookbook Nook Mystery, is out!
The Wild West Extravaganza has come to Crystal Cove.
Click here to order.

FOR CHEDDAR OR WORSE, the 7th Cheese Shop Mystery is out!
Finally there's going to be a cheese festival in Providence!
Click to order.

a stand-alone suspense
When a fairytale fantasy night becomes a nightmare, 
Chessa Paxton must run for her life...but will the truth set her free? 
Click to order


my new stand-alone suspense
A mother he thought was dead. A father he never knew. 
An enemy that wants them dead.
Click here to order.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fresca's Tortellini Salad, from Treble at the Jam Fest

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: This pasta salad is one of the first dishes I deconstructed and made on my own, based on a salad from a long-gone deli called Pasta & Company. It had several locations in Seattle, including one on the 4th Avenue side of the building often called “the box the Space Needle came in,” where my law firm had offices. (It’s actual name was the Seattle First National Bank Building, and it was too short for the Needle, but I suspect Sea-First financed the construction, and the name stuck.)

I felt like such a city girl eating there, especially if my suit allowed me to sit on a stool in the window and watch the people!

I’ve given that space to Laurel, who runs the deli and catering company Ripe in my Seattle Spice Shop books, but I kept the recipe for Erin and Fresca in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries. Fresca makes piles of it to sell at the Merc, and in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, they take it on a picnic for the outdoor concert at the annual Jewel Bay Jazz Festival.

Imagine my surprise when I bought a different brand of tortellini recently and found a very similar salad on the package!

And even though it’s a summer favorite at our house, I also like to make a batch during Christmas week when it’s great to have something easy and different to pull out of the fridge—and because the colors make me happy.

I hope this salad makes you happy, too.

Tortellini Salad

2- 8 ounce boxes tortellini (tri-color is prettiest)
1 to 1-1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, lightly drained and chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (we like grape or cherry tomatoes, because they hold their shape and stay firm)
½ cup green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup Parmesan, shredded
1 cup hard or Genoa salami, stacked and cut in strips (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or basil
1/4 cup olive oil OR oil from the artichoke marinade
salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional: 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I like to mix red and green, but any color will be lovely.)

Cook pasta as directed; rinse with cold water, and drain, stirring to release steam and stop pasta cooking.

In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, green onions, capers, Parmesan, salami, fresh herbs, and the bell pepper if you're using it. Add the pasta and mix. Stir in the oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 8. Keeps well.

From the cover of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 8, 2017):  

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.

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. The 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.

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