Monday, April 21, 2014

Duck Breast with Mushroom Sauce

I feel a little bit guilty eating duck breast because I love watching the ducks around here. Along with the Canadian geese, they provide loads of entertainment. There's quite a bit of quacking and honking going on this mating season.

We love duck, though, and I was thrilled when I found duck breast at Fresh Market. I have roasted a lot of ducks but wasn't quite sure what to do with just a breast. It was a good thing I checked some recipes. This is a quick dish! Not counting the sauce, start to finish, it takes about fifteen minutes. It would be a fabulous dinner party dish or a romantic dinner for two.

If you're not a saucy kind of person, I think you could make this so easily without a sauce. Think steak. Nice with a sauce but not really necessary. If you hate mushrooms, duck lends itself very well to fruity sauces as well.

I served this with rice. One duck breast will feed someone with a fairly good appetite. Maybe not a professional football player. Two duck breasts could probably serve three light eaters. I have to say that the pictures don't do it justice. It makes a very pretty presentation on a plate. The meat came out soft and juicy. We'll be having it again, for certain. It might just become my favorite go-to dish for birthday celebrations.

Duck Breast with Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot minced (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon marjoram
2 garlic cloves minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
salt & pepper

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pan and add butter. When the butter has melted add the shallots and marjoram. When the shallots begin to soften, add the mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the mushrooms soften, then add the chicken broth and simmer without a lid. Salt and pepper to taste. *See below.


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 duck breasts
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe pan. Salt and pepper the meat. Score the duck skin and fat in a diamond pattern. Sear the duck, skin side down, for seven minutes. Flip the meat over and place the pan in the oven to roast it, uncovered, for six minutes. Remove from oven, place on carving board, and let rest before carving.

If you are not making the sauce, save the fat from the duck pan to fry potatoes later that week.

* If you are making the sauce, leave two tablespoons of the duck fat in the pan, and add the mushroom mixture. Combine and serve with the duck.

The duck breast.

Score it.

So tender!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Guest Judith Arnold and her Death-by-Chocolate Cookies

Please welcome Judith Arnold (also know as Barbara Keiler) to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! I met Judith a decade ago, when I took my first baby steps into writing by joining the local chapter of Romance Writers of America. If you think I'm prolific, Judith has me trumped several times over. I'm happy to say that now she's come over to the dark side with her first mystery, Dead Ball. And you can tell she's a smart woman: she's luring us in with chocolate!

by Judith Arnold

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Spring! I’m so grateful to Sheila Connolly for inviting me to hang out with the talented author-chefs in the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.

Although I’ve written more than ninety romance and women’s fiction novels, I’m a rookie when it comes to mysteries. My debut mystery, Dead Ball, is out now. The first book in the “Still Kicking” mystery series, Dead Ball has as its heroine Lainie Lovett, a middle-aged widow with two children teetering on the edge of adulthood, a job she loves teaching fourth grade, and a passion for playing soccer. Her life gets absurdly complicated when she sees the husband of one of her teammates canoodling with a woman who’s not his wife—and he subsequently turns up dead. Lainie doesn’t do too much cooking in Dead Ball, although at one point, in a spasm of maternal sentiment, she bakes a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Her daughter Karen, who has moved back home after graduating from college and discovering that her degree in classics has rendered her virtually unemployable, finds that cooking is good therapy when she has romantic troubles. At one point, infuriated by her boyfriend, she vents her rage by flattening raw chicken breasts with a mallet from Lainie’s tool box. In the second book of the “Still Kicking” series, Karen tackles more challenging recipes, including butterfly shrimp and tacos from scratch.

That book is currently sitting on my editor’s desk. I’ve just gotten started writing the third book in the series, in which the murder weapon has something to do with chocolate—which is why I’ve decided to share my recipe for Death-By-Chocolate Cookies.

I should add here that I am better at writing than at baking. But these cookies are blessedly simple to make. The only difficult thing about them is trying to limit your consumption of them. And really, if you’re going to be killed by something, it might as well be chocolate. At least you’ll die with a smile on your face! 

Death-By-Chocolate Cookies:

1 package (8 oz.) semisweet baking chocolate
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts 

Microwave the baking chocolate on high for 2 minutes, melting the chocolate into a thick liquid. Stir until smooth. Blend in the brown sugar, softened butter, eggs and vanilla. Then slowly add the flour, baking powder, chocolate chips and walnuts. Mix thoroughly. Drop onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350° for 12-13 minutes, until cookies look puffed and set. Cool and store in a tight container. 

As you can see from the photo, they aren’t the prettiest cookies you’ll ever bake. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes it’s on the tongue of the chocolate-lover. Enjoy!

USA Today bestselling author Judith Arnold has won awards and recognition from Publishers Weekly, Romance Writers of America, RT Magazine, EPIC (the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition), and New England Chapter-RWA. Married and a mother of two sons, Judith lives near Boston in a house with four guitars, three pianos, a violin, an electric keyboard, a balalaika, a kazoo, and a set of bongo drums. She stays connected with friends and fans via her website < >,
Twitter <>,
and her newsletter <>.

Dead Ball Blurb:  

Lainie Lovett’s got to solve this murder—her soccer team's schedule depends on it!  

Who pulled the trigger of the nail gun that killed her teammate’s husband, construction tycoon Arthur Cavanagh? His widow, who'd sworn to kill him if he ever cheated on her? His hostile teenage son, who felt neglected by his father? His sexy foreman, who'd regularly fought with him? The angry environmentalists, protesting his latest development? Or the blond mystery woman who'd been seen with him the night of his death? Lainie needs to find the culprit or the bumbling local police will charge her with the murder. It doesn’t take long before she’s up to her shin guards in trouble.

Dead Ball has been selected as a Monthly Deal by Amazon. For the month of April, the Kindle edition is priced at only $1.99.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cooking With Kids--Chocolate Pudding Cake

From Peg Cochran

My four-year-old granddaughter recently had a "sleepover" at Grandma and Pop-Pop's house.  She loves to help me in the kitchen (even emptying the dishwasher!  Go figure) so I wanted to have a baking project for us to do together.  This cake is super easy, and she was able to help with most of the steps.  And even though it's called chocolate pudding cake, it's sophisticated enough for company.  When baked, you have a delicious, chewy, almost brownie-like cake with what is more chocolate sauce than pudding.  It is delicious with ice cream, and you can spoon the "pudding" over the ice cream.  It's somewhat like those volcano cakes but without all that work.

I used Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa powder in this, and I think it made it better than when I've used the milk chocolate version.  I suppose you could splurge and get a tin of one of those really high-end cocoa powders because I think you will want to make this a lot!  Served in a pretty glass, it would be the perfect end to a dinner party.  

The batter for the cake part is much thicker than a typical cake batter.  Even thicker than brownie batter.  The directions said to smooth it in the pan with an offset spatula, but we ended up using our hands to pat it into place.  I don't know if that was a result of our using Splenda instead of sugar in the cake or not.  It certainly didn't detract from the deliciousness of the final product!


3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups HOT water

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees


Whisk together the sugar flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Stir in milk, butter and vanilla (hint: don't use the whisk to stir it because it will all stick to it--trust me.)

"Pour" (???) the batter into an ungreased 9" square baking pan.  (It will not come close to pouring--it will fall out of the mixing bowl in a clump.)  Level it with an offset spatula (use your hands to pat it into place in the pan.)

Whisk together the sugars and cocoa and sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Pour the hot water on top but DO NOT STIR!

Bake approximately 30 minutes (my oven runs hot and yours may differ). It should look like an undercooked brownie with delicious chocolate sauce bubbling up on top.  Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes (if your husband and/or grandchildren can wait that long).  Serve by spooning the "sauce" over the cake.  A scoop of ice cream is really the icing on the cake (pun intended.)  

PS We also made "campfire stew" together and she had a blast.  It's a very kid-friendly dish.  Recipe here.  

Bon appétit!

Wearing Grandma's glasses (upside down!) to read the recipe

Dough is very stiff so you will have to put some elbow grease into mixing it.

It's probably easier to pat mixture into pan and smooth out.

Don't forget to lick the spoon! Note she has tucked the glasses into her shirt like
Grandma does!

Sprinkle sugars on top then pour the hot water over all but do not mix.

Bubbly, gooey and delicious!

Serve with a scoop of ice cream if desired.

Out now for all e-readers!

Stop by my web site for a visit or my Facebook Page or chat with me on twitter @pegcochran.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pasta with Smoked Salmon

by Sheila Connolly

I love smoked salmon. There’s nothing that tastes quite like it. Of course, I can’t afford it most of the time, but now and then I indulge in a package of kind of tag ends (what's left after all those tidy slices you put on your canapés along with a sprig of dill and a few capers). Tastes just as good and it’s less expensive. 

So there was this day when I didn’t feel like cooking anything elaborate, so I started rummaging in my fridge…  Oh, joy, smoked salmon shreds. And some nice chives. And cream cheese. And behold, a pasta dish was born. 

This is a no-brainer, and can be made for as little as one person, or expanded to feed many (well, I haven’t quite tested the upper limits).  

For each serving for two people: 

1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped or diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 half-inch bunch fresh chives, chopped however fine you like them
4 oz. cream cheese (note: I use the real stuff, but you could use the lo-fat version; the same goes for the cream)
Pepper (you won’t need to add salt because the salmon is salty)
Lemon juice if you want to sharpen the flavor a bit

Boil large quantities of water.  Add salt. Cook whichever pasta you fancy according to package directions. 

Chop the salmon and the chives.  In a shallow pan over low heat, melt the cream cheese together with the cream until liquid. Do not boil. 

Add the salmon and heat through (you do not need to cook it!). At the last minute add the fresh chives and pepper, and taste for seasoning. 

Drain your pasta, then put back in the pan or in a bowl and toss with the salmon sauce until blended. Serve immediately. 

Fast, tasty and pretty too! I suppose if you were in a fancy mood and happened to have some of those capers in the fridge too, you could toss them in for a bit of tartness.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sauteed Yellowtail Snapper with Pineapple-Avocado Salsa @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE: I've met so many interesting people in Key West this winter, one of them being Chef Norman Van Aken.We had several hours together at a local artisan fair so I had the chance to ask him about his life as a chef and buy some signed copies of his new cookbook, MY KEY WEST KITCHEN

This was very lucky timing, as I was finishing DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, which stars a chef in a new Key West restaurant. Nothing is more helpful than hearing wonderful details from someone who's been in exactly that position.

I'm not a huge fish eater, but as we do live on an island, it seemed a crime not to try to prepare my favorite, yellowtail snapper. And besides, this gave me the chance to experiment with one of my fictional chef's signature dishes. 


1 lb yellowtail snapper filets
1 egg with splash of milk
Panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

1/2 Pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed
1 Avocado, cubed

1/2 lime
2 Tbsp olive oil
dash of chili powder or to taste

Salad greens


Prepare the salsa by cubing the pineapple and the avocado. In a small bowl, squeeze the lime and whisk together with the olive oil and chili powder. (As you can see in the picture, I'd planned to include mango, but it didn't feel ripe enough by show time.) Add the dressing to the fruit and mix gently. Set this aside.

Whisk the egg with a splash of milk and put this in a flat bowl. Salt and pepper the fish filets and dunk them in the egg, then in the panko crumbs. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and one of olive oil in a skillet to medium high, and saute the filets until cooked through and golden brown. (Time will depend on how thick the fish is.)

Serve the fish with a wedge of lime, the pineapple salsa, and a tossed green salad. 

 I suspect Chef Van Aken's version would be even better, but my husband pronounced it delicious!

MURDER WITH GANACHE, the fourth Key West mystery, is in stores now!
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And Pinterest.

PS: Mary Mannella was selected as the winner of Liz Mugavero's book giveaway this past Sunday. Mary, please email Liz.Mugavero at gmail dot com to claim your prize!

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