Saturday, January 31, 2015

Depression Cake

No, it's not a cake that's feeling blue!  It's a cake that was made during the Depression and during the war without eggs, milk or butter which were either rationed or too expensive.  It's also something of a science project as you will see.  It's also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake.  No matter what you call it, we thought it was delicious!  I was going to make a cream cheese frosting for it but opted for a dusting of powdered sugar instead--fewer calories and fat!

There are variations on this theme including one that is chocolate and made with cocoa powder.  But according to my extensive research (a glance at Wikipedia), this raisin/spice version dates back to the Civil War.

On another positive note, I made the whole thing in one large saucepan!  Easy clean up.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups dark raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons water (separate from the 1 1/2 cups above)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine sugar, water, vegetable oil, raisins and spices in a pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Dissolve baking soda and salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to cooled raisin mixture.  It will foam.  If I'd paid more attention in science class I might be able to tell you why!  (I'll bet Sheila knows.)

Blend in flour and baking powder and mix well.

Grease your pan (the recipe calls for  a 9 inch square pan but it worked fine in my 8 inch square pan).  Pour in batter and bake for 30 minutes (recipe says 55 minutes but mine was done at around the 30 minute mark.  Better to check sooner than burn later...)  Cake is done when the proverbial toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don't over-bake.

Cool slightly before serving.  Cover with your favorite frosting or dust with powdered sugar.

Boil raisins, spices, oil and water in a saucepan

Add salt and baking soda mixture and it foams!

Everything mixed in one pan!

Out of the oven!

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

My new cover!! My Cranberry Cove series debuts in August.

Available for pre-order now!

Hit and Nun, the third book in my Lucille series is out now!

Only $.99

Only $.99

Friday, January 30, 2015

St. Brigid's Oat Bread

by Sheila Connolly (or maybe Síle ní Conghaile for this week)

Ah, and who would this St. Brigid be? Only the female patron saint of Ireland. Early on, she was a Celtic goddess of fertility, and over time she came to be associated with the beginning of spring, which falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. That’s when the spring lambs are being born, you’re readying your fields for planting, and you’re doing your spring cleaning (in Ireland, not Massachusetts!). Her feast day, also known as Imbolc, falls on February 1st.

My publisher wisely chose to issue the books in my County Cork series in the first week in February. May I have your blessing, St. Brigid?

I’ve read that chewy oatcakes are often given to children on St. Brigid’s Day (to strengthen their jaws). Having heard that, I went hunting for a recipe. I found two—that bore no resemblance to each other, other than the basic ingredients. They differed in cooking temperature, proportions of ingredients, and how they were shaped. So much for tradition. I improvised.

For mysterious reasons I was out of regular oatmeal, but I had a full can of Irish steel-cut oats, and I figured they would meet the “chewy” requirement. One recipe suggested soaking the oats in buttermilk overnight. I figured a few hours would do it, so I put the oats and the buttermilk together and let them sit.

Anyway, here’s the basic recipe, more or less:

3/4 cup steelcut oats (Irish, of course)
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

The oats
The soaked oats

Mix these together and set them aside for several hours or even overnight (add the extra buttermilk if all the liquid has been absorbed quickly).

The dry ingredients
3/4 cup flour
1 Tblsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tblsp butter, in small pieces

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix.

Add the butter bits and cut in until the mixture is crumbly (okay, I used my hands).

Add the oat/milk mixture and mix.

Beat the egg and add that, and mix again with a fork until the dough holds together. Form a ball and transfer it to a floured surface. Warning: this will be sticky, so feel free to add flour. Knead 20-25 times.

Pat the dough into an 8" round and transfer to the baking sheet. Score a deep cross in the top (do not cut through).

Ready to bake

Bake 23-28 minutes until brown, and a tester comes out clean. Break into quarters to serve.

I was happily surprised by the results. The bread was lighter in texture than I expected, and still had a bit of crunch from the oats. Usually the bread is served with butter and jam (I’m addicted to Irish black currant jam, which is hard to find around here), but it could also go well with soup.

This bread should be eaten quickly--it's best fresh.

I hope I’ve done St. Brigid proud. Brid agus Muire dhuit! And bless this book!

An Early Wake, third of the County Cork Mysteries, coming February 3rd.

Sure, and it's time for another trip to Ireland, isn't it?

If you're looking to order it, you'll find it here:

Amazon (print)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cheesy Pasta and Cauliflower #recipe @lucyburdette

LUCY BURDETTE: Do you have one dish that you can absolutely not resist when you see it on a menu? For me, it's macaroni and cheese:). But sometimes when I take the leftovers home, I'm scandalized the next day to see the amount of butter/oil/fat that has congealed.

So this is my attempt to make something a little healthier, but with the same cheesy goodness that always calls to me!

Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower1/2 pound cavatappi or other spiral pasta
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 Tsp French mustard
2 cups milk
14 ounces assorted cheese, shredded*
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese , shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a paste. Cook this for 2-3 minutes, add the mustard and stir well. Add the milk slowly to make a white sauce, stirring until thickened. Stir in the shredded cheeses. 

Cook the pasta until almost done, about 2 minutes less than the package recommends. Break the cauliflower into florets and steam until just soft.** Mix the pasta and the cauliflower in a large bowl and set aside. 

Add the cheese sauce to the cauliflower and pasta, stir well, and place the mixture into a buttered 9 by 13 pan. Cover with panko crumbs and bake at 350 until bubbly and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes.

*For this recipe I used 8 oz of sharp yellow cheddar, 2 oz sharp white, 1 oz good parmesan and a small leftover piece of fresh mozzarella. So don't be afraid to try what's in your fridge!

**This time I tried something even easier--I dropped the cauliflower florets into the boiling pasta for the last 3 minutes. 

Lucy writes the Key West food critic mysteries:


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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Agatha Christie Mystery Potatoes #recipe + book giveaway for AS GOUDA AS DEAD

By now, you all know I'm gearing up for the release of the next Cheese Shop Mystery #6: As Gouda As Dead. So yes, another giveaway!  If you leave a comment TODAY, as in weeks past, you'll be entered to win a Cheese Shop Mystery plus some fun swag. See details below!

* * *

My son and DIL gave me a cookbook from England called The Curious Cookbook: Viper Soup, Badger Ham, Stewed Sparrows and 100 More Historic Recipes by Peter Ross. Long title! Whew! Some fun reading inside.

Now, I can't make most of the items. Some require pheasant from the 1400s and vipers. I hate vipers!  I think it's truly meant to be a history book. But, lo and behold, I found a recipe tucked away at the end of the book that I could make.  It's simple; it's tasty. It's called

Agatha Christie’s Mystery Potatoes

I couldn't pass that up!

Here's the recipe directly from the book:
“6 good-sized potatoes, a little margarine, 4 tablespoonsful cream, 10 anchovies. Bake the potatoes in a moderate oven. Then cut them in half, remove the insides, and mash them with the margarine and cream. Chop up the anchovies and mix them in. Add pepper and salt to taste. Return mixture to the empty skins, dap on top with margarine and brown in a hot oven.”

I have to admit I tweaked the recipe.  I mean, c'mon, it's a potato, with anchovies. Admittedly, the anchovies are a wonderful touch! Tasty, salty yum!

When you add cheese (how could I not?)...heaven.

I also tweaked by using butter, not margarine!  Sorry, Dame Agatha!  And about a half tablespoon per…

For the moderate oven, I set it at 325 degrees for 1 hour. I wrapped the potatoes in foil. I always find that cooks them through. I used a Barber's Cheddar cheese to top off the potatoes. A truly wonderful addition!  


6 potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
4-6 tablespoons cream
1 jar (container) anchovies, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Wrap potatoes individually in foil. Bake potatoes in a preheated oven, at 325 F for 1 hour.  Remove and cut a slit down the middle. Press from the sides to open. Let out steam. Carefully scoop potato flesh out of the skin and put in a bowl with the butter, cream and anchovies. Stir and scoop it back into the potato skins, pushing together so the potato mounds out the top. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese and serve.

Note: hold the skins together when scooping so they don’t fall apart!


I'm giving away another CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY today, plus some swag.  Tell me what is the most exotic recipe you've ever tried or have the hankering to try. 

Leave your email so I can reach you if you win. If you don't feel like leaving an entire email, you can go cryptic and I'll try to figure it out. I am a mystery writer, after all. I will not use your email for any other purpose other than to contact the winner. I'll pick a name tomorrow morning. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me.

Good luck!

Savor the mystery!


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NEXT BOOK OUT: AS GOUDA AS DEAD, coming February, 2015
pre-order here

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Secret to Perfect Oatmeal Pancakes with #DairyFree Version by author Cleo Coyle

We're hunkered down here in New York City, along with millions more of you along the east coast, as the "Snowmaggedon" blizzard blows. How does it look outside your window? 

Here in Queens, the storm's intensity has been on and off, and last evening we had a whiteout rush hour. I snapped the photo below at a busy intersection about a block from our home.

(Photo by Cleo Coyle)

A fun, little FYI...
A local New York television station featured my
news-weather photo above. (An OMG moment.)
To see the video clip, click here and visit my
facebook page (please feel free to friend me).

With a day of snow-shoveling ahead of us, Marc and I are happy to start the morning with a stack of warm, fluffy oatmeal pancakes. As a whole grain, oatmeal brings great nutrition and fiber to this lovely stack of cakes, along with a hearty, slightly nutty, and absolutely delicious flavor. But beware...

Not all oatmeal pancake recipes are created equal, and I've tried enough of them to know. The one below is my own recipe, and it has a few tricks to give you great results (that is, tender and fluffy flapjacks instead of rubbery disks). 

I've also included a dairy-free variation for my friends out there who aren't able to consume dairy products. And I promise you, the dairy-free version is every bit as good as the standard, dairy version.

Now let's get cookin'...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.

Cleo Coyle’s
Oatmeal Pancakes 

A diner near my home in Queens serves fantastic oatmeal pancakes. While they didn't give me their recipe, they did mention soaking their oats in milk, and (after some experimenting), I knew this was the secret to getting great results. 

True, other recipes out there instruct you to simply mix the batter and cook (or even use a food processor, which will grind the oats and over-work the batter), but I knew what I wanted in an oatmeal pancake, and those recipes didn't produce it for me. 

Since I knew what was possible, given the diner's delicious cakes, I set to work playing with my own version of the recipe until I created something very close. Follow the steps and you should have the same results. I sincerely hope so, then we can with joy!

~ Cleo, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Click here for free
recipe PDF.

To download this recipe in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here

Makes about 6 pancakes 
(4- to 5-inches in diameter)


1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant)
3/4 cup whole or 2% cow's milk
      (*or dairy-free milk) mixed with…
1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey (I love using local raw honey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/8 tsp. table salt)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil (*see dairy-free note below)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour (all-purpose white,
               or white whole wheat, or spelt flour)

Directions: Soak the oats in the milk (that you have already mixed with the lemon or vinegar) for about 15 minutes, no longer. You’re watching for the oats to plump up and the mixture to thicken (see my photo below). Whisk in all the other ingredients except the flour. Be sure the mixture is well blended. Now stir in the flour until it is completely incorporated, but do not over-mix. Allow this mixture to sit for 5 minutes. It will thicken up into a nice batter. Grease a non-stick pan or griddle with butter, oil, or coat with non-stick spray. Ladle on the batter, forming cakes of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. See cooking tip below.

*Dairy-free variation: Replace cow’s milk with almond milk (or another nut milk) or soy milk and because these milks are lower in fat than cow’s milk, increase the vegetable oil by 1 teaspoon.

After 15 minutes, the oats will plump up and
the mixture will thicken. Don't skip this step
because it's one secret to getting great results.

Local, raw honey is delicious in this batter.
You can also substitute white or brown sugar
in the same amount.

After the flour goes in, allow the batter
to sit for just five more minutes before cooking,
another secret to getting the best results.

Cooking tip: Oatmeal pancake batter cooks a little differently than standard pancake batter. Watch for the edges to appear cooked and crinkles to form across the cake surface with a few bubbles (you will not see as many bubbles as you would in a standard pancake). When you flip the cake should be golden brown. Cook until golden brown on the other side and serve warm.
Click here for free
recipe PDF, and...

Stay cozy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here

* * *

Once Upon a Grind:
A Coffeehouse Mystery

* A Best Book of the Year
Reviewer's Pick -
King's River Life

* Top Pick! ~ RT Book Reviews

* Fresh Pick ~ Fresh Fiction

* A Mystery Guild Selection

Delicious recipes are also featured in my 14th 
culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind, including...

* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev 
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
* "Fryer Tuck's" Ale-Battered Onion Rings
* Poor Man's Caviar 
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaways

...and many more recipes, including
a guide to reading coffee grinds...

See the book's
Recipe Guide (free PDF)

* * * 

Marc and I also write
The Haunted Bookshop

Get a free title checklist,
with mini plot summaries, 

by clicking here. 

Or learn more about the
books and meet Jack Shepard,
our PI ghost 
by clicking here. 

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(Recipes, contests, videos, fun info)

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