Saturday, November 22, 2014

Brown sugar cranberry sauce with bourbon (if you dare)

By Victoria Abbott aka Mary Jane Maffini

We're all having a great time here in Mystery Lovers Kitchen in the run up to Thanksgiving, even us Canadians!  We are loving the recipes and the good mood.  And because we’ll be feeling thankful all week, we are happy to offer a giveaway – you’ll find the details at the end of our post and we'll announce the winner on Thanksgiving day!  Do come by. 

Our readers have been posting about what they can’t live without on ‘turkey’ days. It’s hard for us to choose because although we love stuffing, cranberry sauce is the one thing we can’t live without when there’s a turkey in the picture. 

We love the punchy flavor and the bright color. We like to make it at home, because it’s just so easy. In a pinch it’s just cranberries, water and sugar, but we prefer to dress that up a bit. And as we are trying to lighten our recipes without diminishing the taste, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. This is a great little recipe and you can add your own favorite flavors. 

Some of you may remember that MJ still has that bottle of bourbon from the Plumcot cake recipe this fall.  We did a test with half our cranberry sauce and a dollop of the bourbon.  We think it tastes great and is probably full of extra vitamins. What? Oh.

We think either version would be great to bring along if you are a guest for Thanksgiving. It’s not hard to make and you can whip it up a week or so ahead.  Put it in a pretty jar or in a little vintage dish that can be a hostess gift –  as this one was for us.  

We'll set our table simply now: something like this from the Chicken with Apples post.
We like the warm fall colors and the glow of candles. 

We often serve cranberry sauce in the glass turkey that was part of every Thanksgiving and Christmas table when MJ was growing up.  We won’t be giving that away! 

Take it away, cranberries …

Brown-Sugar Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar, firmly packed (or 1/3 cup regular brown sugar,.  we find the Splenda brown sugar bit sweeter)
1 12-oz. bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 tsp. freshly black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1- 2  Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves + a little more for garnish
2 to 4 Tbsp Bourbon or whisky, to suit your taste
Combine the water and the brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.
Set on the stove over high heat. Whisk to combine. Bring it up to a boil, whisking occasionally.
Add the cranberries, salt and pepper. You can add the cranberries fresh or frozen. Cook on medium until cranberries pop and mixture thickens nicely.  Add your thyme and, if you choose, your bourbon or whisky.

Cool and put in container. It will keep in the refrigerator for three or four days. Or straight into a pretty service dish.  If you’re lucky, you now get to relax! 

Victoria Abbott is the mysterious collaboration between the artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother, the mystery writer, Mary Jane Maffini.  Strangely enough, their three book collector mysteries, The Christie Curse, The Sayers Swindle and The Wolfe Widow all contain Siamese cats. Coming in September 2015 The Marsh Madness.

And now, because we’re in such a great mood, here’s our gift for you: we’ll draw from the names in the comments – make sure you leave an email address – for a copy of The Wolfe Widow, our Thanksgiving book.  

 Already have it? We’ll make a deal from one of the other Victoria Abbott books or your choice of MJ’s thirteen titles.  Check them out HERE:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Cranberry Pound Cake

by Sheila Connolly

Recently I wrote here about searching for a recipe to use with my vintage Swans Down hexagonal cake pans. I tracked down the corporate headquarters and asked if they could find a vintage recipe to match. They couldn’t, but they were quick to answer and kindly sent me a big batch of their recipes. I applaud their customer service!

Among their Thanksgiving recipes was one for Cranberry Pound Cake. Since I live in the home of Ocean Spray, I have a moral obligation to use our native cranberries, so I thought I’d share this recipe, in case you want something that isn’t apple or pumpkin pie with your holiday meal.

Swans Down Cranberry Pound Cake

3 cups sifts Swans Down cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries (chop first, then measure)
Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Sift the flour and measure. Then add the baking powder and salt, and sift again to mix.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the extra yolk one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.

Mix the vanilla and the milk. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternative with the milk, and beating on low after each addition.

Fold in the cranberries (and nuts if you’re using them).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and finish cooling on the rack.

Glaze (if you want it)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 Tblsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl combine the sugar and butter, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add more cream, one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

I'm giving away a copy of Picked to Die to someone who leaves a comment here (random drawing!) about the first Thanksgiving dish you ever cooked yourself. (I roasted my first Turkey when I was 16 because I really wanted to go with my family to my high school's Thanksgiving Day football game.) The drawing will be held on Thanksgiving Day.

Meg, Seth, Bree, Max and Lolly, and all the citizens of Granford, wish you a bountiful harvest and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Butternut Squash Pasta with Leeks and Fried Sage #Thanksgiving #recipe @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE:  Suppose you have a hankering for a side dish for the holiday that’s a little different, but keeps the spirit too? And suppose you have vegetarian guests coming who won’t share in the turkey? Here’s an unusual autumn recipe that might solve both problems. I happened to have both gorgeous sage and leeks in my garden when I first tried this, but grocery store sage will work fine too...


    1 medium butternut squash,
    8-12 fresh sage leaves, stems discarded
    3 medium or 2 large leeks, cleaned and finely chopped
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
    1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    1 lb rotini or penne
    1 cup chicken broth

    Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve on the side

Cut the squash open, seed it, and cut into slices. Place this on a baking pan with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Cool and peel, then process the vegetables in a food processor until smooth, along with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Keep this warm.


  While the squash is baking, sauté leeks in olive oil until  soft and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the prepared squash to the pan and simmer over low heat, about two minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and season with salt and pepper.


Cook rotini in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente.


While pasta is cooking, heat vegetable oil in an 8- to 9-inch skillet over high heat until it shimmers. Add the sage leaves and fry until crisp but still green, under 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain.


Drain the pasta and add this to the squash mixture in a large bowl, thinning with warm chicken broth if it's too thick. Decorate with a few of the fried sage leaves, and serve the others on the side with extra cheese.

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We’re so thankful to all of our readers who visit Mystery Lovers Kitchen and share our love for food, mysteries, and foodie mysteries. So we’re celebrating you, our fans and friends, by giving away a book. I’ll send out a copy of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS to one commenter. Tell me the one Thanksgiving dish you can't live without. Remember to leave your email. 

The new book is hitting bookshelves on December 2--you can preorder here. I'm utterly thrilled with the first book review, from Booklist:

Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery.

And if you haven’t settled on your Thanksgiving menu yet, visit our page chock full of Thanksgiving recipes: Savor the Season!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mushroom Soup by @DarylWoodGerber

During the fall, I love to try out new soups. I have this fabulous cookbook from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library called "Soups." That's it. Plain and simple. Soups. I've tried a number of soups in the book. The onion soup is divine. The pumpkin soup with Gruyere, delish! [I shared that recipe two years ago.]

I had a craving for mushrooms. Whenever I go out to a nice restaurant, they seem to have mushroom soup on the menu and I wish I could order it, but soups at restaurants always seem to be packed with flour (gluten). A big no-no for me. So if you're cooking at home, and you'd like something simple but decadent, go for this! It's such a pretty first course. It would also serve as a main course if you serve it with a salad.
Mushroom Soup Recipe
Ala William Sonoma Kitchen Library “Soups”

2 pounds fresh mushrooms
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
4 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (**I substituted cornstarch to make this gluten-free)
5 cups heavy cream
pinch of fresh nutmeg (I used dried spice from a jar)
salt and white pepper (I used a teaspoon each)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley (I skipped the parsley)

Set aside 4 attractive mushrooms. Finely chop the remaining mushrooms. [I used my food processor.]

In a large saucepan, warm the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and shallots, raise the heat, and sauté, stirring frequently until the vegetables cool down to a thick, dark brown paste (about 25-30 minutes). Partway through the cooking time, when the mushrooms’ liquid has evaporated, sprinkle in the flour (or cornstarch, if substituting), and then stir it in.

Add the cream and deglaze the pan by stirring and scraping to dislodge any browned bits. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, 15-20 minutes more.

In small batches, purée the soup in a food processor or a blender (I used the blender). Return the purée to the pan and heat gently, stirring in the nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. [Add more, if desired, to taste.]

Meanwhile, cut the reserved mushrooms into slices about ¼ inch thick. In a small bowl, toss them with the lemon juice. [This keeps them from turning or oxidizing.]

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the mushroom slices, chives, and parsley.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Does #Thanksgiving Taste Like? Poll #Giveaway + Perfect Turkey Gravy via Cleo Coyle

What does Christmas taste like?

That is the question my coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi asks her quirky staff of baristas at the start of Holiday Grind.
Published back in 2009,
Holiday Grind (Coffeehouse
Mystery #8)
reappeared on a
recent B& bestseller list
Read more in my facebook
post here.

Their answers define their charactersand help Clare create a menu of wildly popular Fa-la-la-la-lattes for the season.

fa-la-la-la-lattes!   > > > 

Cleo Coyle has a partner in crime-writing, her
husband, Marc Cerasini. Learn more about them
and their books here.

Now Marc and I are using
the phrase from our own book!

What does Thanksgiving taste like?


If you do not see the poll above, simply click this link
to take it 
at the PollDaddy site.


Drawing 12 Noon
Thanksgiving Day!

After you take the poll, tell Marc and me how you voted in the COMMENTS of this post (or the polldaddy comment area) and you will be entered in a random drawing to win a signed copy of ONCE UPON A GRIND, the new Coffeehouse Mystery, which Penguin is publishing in a beautiful hardcover edition this December 2nd.

You will also win this fun custom-designed mug with a favorite saying of the octogenarian owner of our coffeehouse (Clare's beloved boss and former mother-in-law) Madame...

"Survive everything. And do it with style."

~ Madame in 
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

As for me, my voting on the poll
had to include cranberry sauce!

Get my favorite recipe for Cranberry Sauce
(and Pecan Pie Bars) in my 
Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter
going out this week. (Sign up 

For my husband, Marc,
Thanksgiving would not be 

Thanksgiving without turkey GRAVY!

And that's the subject of
our recipe post today...

The Mystery of Perfect Gravy

When used correctly
(and Marc and I will show you how),
this secret ingredient will let you
serve smooth, velvety gravy to
your guests instead of a lumpy
turkey glue. And this method
(used by restaurants)
will give you enough gravy
to serve a crowd!
Anyone who's thickened gravy using the traditional method (aka, flour) knows that if you use too little, your gravy will be weak and thin, and if you use too much, your gravy will transform into a lump of gelatinous glue as soon as it begins to cool.

To solve this dilemma, celebrity chef Alton Brown recently reminded us what restaurants do to make the perfect Turkey Day gravy. Because this gravy is made with stock, you can make plenty of it--and it will be a smooth, velvety gravy.

So what is the secret ingredient? It’s potato starch! And, no, it's not used for thickening; it’s there to prevent clumping!

The potato starch will stop the flour from congealing, so you’ll be able to serve your guests a rich, smooth, lump-free gravy and not a ball of turkey-flavored glue!

Better still, you can divide the preparation by making the turkey stock the day before, and finishing the gravy right before the Thanksgiving Day meal.

Marc and I guarantee that your guests will (pun intended) gobble this gravy up!

How to Make Perfect Turkey Gravy 

(and enough to feed a crowd!)

Makes 3 cups of gravy! Woo-hoo!

To download this recipe in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here and enjoy! ~ Cleo
Click here for the
downloadable recipe PDF:
How to Make Perfect
Turkey Gravy.

Ingredients and directions adapted by
culinary mystery author Cleo Coyle
from a recipe by celebrity chef Alton Brown


For the Turkey Stock (this will yield 3 cups):

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 turkey neck saved from the bird
1 bag of turkey giblets, saved from the bird
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 large carrot, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
¼  teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

For the Final Turkey Gravy:

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼  teaspoon ground black pepper

Step 1 - Make the fresh turkey stock: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Cut the neck in half and sauté for 6 minutes or until browned. Add the giblets, the quartered onion, carrot, and celery, along with the kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 or six minutes. Add the 6 cups water and stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and the peppercorns. Cover and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, cooking for about 1 minute. Now uncover the pot, reduce heat to low and slowly simmer the stock for 90 minutes, until the stock reduces by half, to 3 cupsStrain the stock through a mesh strainer and let everything cool. Discard all solids. You can make the gravy now or refrigerate this stock for several hours or days.

Step 2 - Turn the stock into velvety gravy: Begin by placing 2 (of those 3) cups of your freshly-made turkey stock into a saucepan over medium heat. The remaining 1 cup of stock will be used to create your gravy. Here's how to do it...

Measure out ½ cup of your reserved stock and whisk in 1 tablespoon of flour until it completely dissolves and no lumps remain. You have just created a slurry. Gradually whisk this flour slurry into the 2 cups of stock warming in your saucepan. As you continue to whisk, bring the liquid to a boil and cook for 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Now remove the pot from the burner and allow it to cool off a bit.

*WARNING NOTE FOR NEXT STEP: If the temperature is too high in the next step, the properties that make potato starch so useful are lost, so it is important to simmernot boil—the gravy once the potato starch slurry is added.

*Step 3 - Add the Secret Ingredient: Make a second slurry using that final 1/2 cup of your reserved, cooled stock and the 1 tablespoon of potato starch. (Make sure the potato starch dissolves into the slurry and no lumps remain.) On a low heat, whisk the potato starch slurry into the saucepan of gravy, along with the salt and pepper. While gently stirring, simmer but do not boil the gravy for about 5 minutes, it will begin to thicken. Continue to simmering until it reaches the thickness that you prefer.

Serve immediately or reserve in a gravy bowl or thermos until needed.
To store longer, place in fridge, in a covered container for up to 3 days.

For more Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas, 
including great tips on cooking your turkey,
be sure to visit our Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog
"Savor the Season" Page by clicking here!

Click here for the
downloadable recipe PDF:
How to Make Perfect
Turkey Gravy, and...

Eat with (Thanksgiving-

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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December 2nd!

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against "Sleeping Beauty," opens
secret doors (uptown and down),
and investigates a cold case that's
been unsolved since the Cold War.

A Wicked Good
Murder Mystery

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