Friday, October 20, 2017

Butter Tarts from Canada

This past weekend I attended the Bouchercon mystery writers conference in Toronto, Canada. I was told that this year the conference attracted 1,700-plus writers, readers and fans, and we were all kept very busy with panels and parties and meetings and just plain talking.

View from my hotel window
I had never been to Canada before, and I confess I did no research about Toronto, other than figuring out where it was in the country. I had no idea what the city had to offer (and not a lot of time to explore it). But one thing I hadn’t expected was to find so much great food!

Yes, I had to try poutine (I had a variety with lobster, but I’m not a convert to poutine yet), and I had an amazing dish with octopus (unexpected!), but most important, I found a new dessert: butter tarts. Apparently this is one of Canada’s favorites desserts, but I’d never heard of it. Still, how can you go wrong with a dessert that has butter in its name?

I looked up recipes. Lots of recipes. They’re all different. But it boils down to a small pie crust shell filled with gooey sweet stuff, both made with lots of butter. Apparently there is some controversy over whether the gooey middle should be firm or runny. My version came out runny, but you can dunk the crust into it. If you’re pie-crust challenged (as I am), I give you permission to buy frozen mini-tart shells if you can find them—making the filling is easy.

Canadian Butter Tarts


2-1/2 cups pastry flour
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (cold and cut in cubes)
1/2 cup butter (cold and cut in cubes)
ice water as needed to hold dough together

In a food processor pulse the butter and shortening with the flour, sugar and salt, until pieces are pea-sized.

Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and pulse between, until the dough just holds together. (Do not overmix).

Shape into two rounds, about 1" thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the dough and cut into 4-inch rounds. Fit into 3-inch muffin cups (no greasing necessary), and put the muffin tins back in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling. 

This amount of dough should make enough to fill 12 standard muffin cups. The crust will be about 1/4-inch thick and rise just a bit over the top edge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while you make the filling.


1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants, nuts, or chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. 

Fill the lined cups about 2/3 full.

Ready to bake

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges of the crust begin to brown and the filling has puffed up a bit (it will sink back again as it cools).


Cool on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tins.

Gooey! (And delicious)
Oh, that's right--there's another book of mine coming out in a few weeks (November 7th, to be precise): A Late Frost, the eleventh in the Orchard Mystery series. Maybe Meg and Seth thought winter would be peaceful--nothing that needed doing in Meg's orchard, and most people don't want to start house renovation project in the middle of winter, so Seth's business was quiet. 

But of course that didn't last: town newcomer Monica Whitman is found dead the evening after Granford's new winter festival that she helped to plan, and nobody knew her well enough to guess why. It should be no surprise that Meg ends up involved in trying to figure out what happened--she remembers what it was like to be the new kid in Granford.

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Matcha Muffins Recipe by Gigi Pandian

Please welcome guest author Gigi Pandian with a recipe and giveaway for 8 book-themed recipe cards! Gigi’s fifth Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, The Ninja’s Illusion, came out earlier this month. Welcome Gigi!

DON'T FORGET to leave a comment below for a chance to win a set of 8 book-themed recipe cards!

GIGI PANDIAN: One of my favorite things about traveling is that it can be a culinary adventure as much as a cultural one. All of my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries take historian Jaya Jones from her university in San Francisco to a different foreign destination—so far Scotland, India, France, Italy, and now Japan. I got to visit Japan last year while researching the book, and here’s a recipe inspired by the flavors of Japan.

I began learning how to cook after a cancer diagnosis left me with food restrictions. I didn’t want to give up eating wonderfully, so I took classes to learn how to recreate my favorite dishes, plus plenty of new ones. This is one of my new favorite recipes—

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one in my household who holds this opinion, so the muffins tend to disappear all too quickly!

Matcha Muffins
Green Tea adds a unique flavor to these honey-sweetened muffins.

Dry Ingredients
·      1/2 cup all-purpose flour
·      1/2 cup oat flour (if you don’t have oat flour, use 1 cup of all-purpose flour instead of the split)
·      1 tsp baking powder
·      2 tsp matcha (powdered green tea)
·      1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
·      3/4 cup coconut milk
·      1/4 cup honey
·      1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
·      1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 400ºF, and line a muffin tin with 9 cupcake liners. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another. Stir dry mixture into wet, careful not to over-mix. Scoop into muffin tin, filling only about halfway since they’ll rise. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

THE NINJA’S ILLUSION: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

Historian Jaya Jones travels to Japan in hopes of solving the mystery of a trading ship that disappeared over 200 years ago—until she’s blown off course and must sacrifice her quest to save the life of her best friend. A travel-themed cozy that’s perfect for fans of Elizabeth Peters.

“[A] highly entertaining, fast-paced fifth outing for spunky historian Jaya Jones…As usual, Pandian dishes up authentic history and cultural tidbits along with a first-class mystery. She also adds just the right light touch of romance.” 
—Publishers Weekly


USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and a gargoyle who watches over the backyard vegetable garden. Gigi's writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series and the Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi's fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and shortlisted for Agatha and Macavity awards.

Learn more about Gigi at, sign up for her newsletter at, and find her on Facebook:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cauliflower au Gratin #recipe from @DarylWoodGerber

From  Daryl aka Avery:

As I continue to make recipes with a French theme, I simply had to make one that is a favorite of mine--cauliflower au gratin. Actually, anything au gratin is a favorite of mine. That is not a holdover from writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries. I have always loved cheese: mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers with cheese, broccoli smothered in a cheese sauce. Comfort food.

This au gratin recipe utilizes a French sauce that is divine.

What is a French sauce?

While writing the first French Bistro Mystery, A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, I had to find out the answer. Why? Because I wanted my protagonist Mimi Rousseau to fall in love with cooking at an early age. What made that happen? When her mother taught her how to make the five mother sauces of France. These are basic sauces that get the ball rolling. What particularly won Mimi over was when she learned that a chef could add a variety of ingredients to the sauces and transform them into entirely different sauces. Creativity matters to Mimi.

As you probably know, a sauce is essentially a liquid plus some sort of thickening agent plus other flavoring ingredients. 

Each of the five mother sauces of France is made with a different liquid as well as a different thickening agent — although three are thickened with roux.  [Roux is flour and fat cooked together to thicken sauces.]   In each case, the roux is cooked for different amounts of time to make a sauce lighter or darker in color.

Here are the names of the 5 basic sauces:
  • Béchamel = milk, flour, butter  (easiest to make)
  • Velouté = white stock with roux (flour and butter)
  • Espagnole = brown stock with roux
  • Hollandaise = butter and eggs (no flour)
  • Tomate Sauce = tomatoes, stock, vegetables, ham bone (also no flour necessary)

As mentioned above, if you "add" something to a sauce, it can become a different sauce. For example,  chicken velouté is made with chicken stock; veal velouté is made with veal stock, and so on.  But get this! If you add cream to the chicken velouté sauce, it becomes the "supreme sauce," while if you add cream and egg yolks to the veal velouté, it comes Allemende sauce. Fun, right?

So...take a look at this cauliflower au gratin recipe, and you'll notice it's basically a béchamel sauce that we add cheese to...which makes it a Mornay sauce.

Too much education? Okay, I'm done. Enjoy!

If you want to learn more, in simple terms, I love this site. It has great info and beautiful pictures:  The Spruce

Cauliflower au gratin

Regular and Gluten-free versions
(serves 6-8)

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter + 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons flour (FOR GLUTEN-FREE, use sweet rice flour OR cornstarch)
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated, divided
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper, as needed (I recommend ½ teaspoon each)
1/2 cup regular bread crumbs (FOR GLUTEN-FREE, use GF panko)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Trim the cauliflower. Set aside.

Place a six-quart pot filled with 2-3 inches of water on a medium heat. Bring it to boil, add a dash of salt and drop the chopped cauliflower into it. Blanch the florets till they have softened, about 2-3 minutes. Strain them in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside for later use.

Next, pre-pour the milk. Set aside. Now, place a non-stick pan on the heat. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in it and add flour (or gluten-free substitute). Turn the heat down and keep stirring. You want to avoid any lumps. When the flour (or GF substitute) smells “toasted”, pour in the milk and keep stirring to avoid lumps. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the white sauce thickens and gets glossy.

Take the white sauce off the heat and add 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper.

Pour half the white sauce into a glass or ceramic oven-safe baking dish (equivalent of 9” x 13”) and top with the blanched cauliflower florets. Pour the remaining white sauce over the cauliflower florets.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese and bread crumbs (or GF panko crumbs) and sprinkle all over the cauliflower.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle all over the breadcrumbs (or GF panko crumbs). Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until the top is crusty and golden. Take the dish out, allow it to cool only slightly and serve warm.

Savor the mystery!

Friend Daryl and Avery on Facebook
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Plus check out my website.

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.