Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Baked Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Apples

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Looking back over my posts in the nearly two years that I’ve been part of the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen crew (thanks, friends!), I see that I don’t post many meat dishes. When I do, you’ll often see Mr. Right’s hands in the photograph. According to Mr. Right, I officially lost my title of Picky Eater about ten or twelve years ago, when we ate street tacos in Mexico for my birthday—we’d miscalculated what would be open on a Wednesday in the small undeveloped oceanfront village where we were staying, and they were the only option. Not long after, we were in France and I ordered langoustines. “You know they come with their heads on,” he said. I knew. They were delicious.

Point is, I still have a few food quirks left—no doubt we all do. One of mine, a remnant from years as a vegetarian, is that I don’t like to physically handle red meat, although I will when necessary. I recognize the contradiction—we’ve all got those, too. So when we eat red meat, it tends to be a steak or a burger Mr. Right makes. 

That’s a long way of explaining why I don’t very often post meat dishes. But this one, in my mother’s Good Housekeeping magazine, caught my eye. It’s a variation of our basic burger, which includes ground sirloin, seasoning, Panko, and Parmesan. This version substitutes zucchini for the cheese, a great way to sneak in vegetables; they keep the burgers moist and hold them together well. 

The original recipe suggests ground beef or dark turkey; we prefer ground sirloin, which is a little more expensive, but is comparatively lean and doesn’t shrink much. It also calls for shaping the meat into 4 oblong meatloaves, but you can certainly make more, smaller burgers—just keep an eye on your baking time. And while it suggested Gala or Empire apples—firm and tart-sweet—I used two of the Red Delicious the bears kindly left on our tree this year and a Gala from a friend’s orchard. I think a mix of apples is always best; use anything firm enough to not turn to mush when baked. I thought the mustard might be too strong, but it mellows beautifully in the baking. 

Baked Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Apples

(Adapted from Good Housekeeping, November 2016)

1-1/4 pounds ground beef or sirloin
1 small zucchini, grated
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 small to medium apples, cored and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
dash of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh herbs for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the beef, zucchini, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. 

Shape into four small meatloaves or six small burgers, and place on baking sheet. Brush tops with mustard.

Toss the cut apples with the rosemary, cayenne, salt, and olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet around the loaves or burgers, in a single layer.


Bake 30 minutes, or until done. Garnish the meat with fresh herbs, if you’d like.

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

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 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

Every year I bake at least one batch of spritz cookies. They have a tendency to be a little dry, so I was excited to find a recipe using cream cheese in The Best of Fine Cooking's Cookies 2014. They say the recipe has been around since the 1960's, so it may be familiar to some of you.

The texture and taste remind me a little bit of shortbread. I didn't monkey with the recipe much, except to add 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom for flavor.

They recommend shaping the dough into a log and putting it into the cookie press, but that seemed like extra work to me. I just jammed it in with an iced tea spoon (long-handled teaspoon) like I always do and it worked fine.

You can bake them plain or dress them up. I tried both ways and there's not much difference. To dress them up, brush the tops with a little egg white before baking, then sprinkle with sugar, colored sugar or little edible pearls. But beware. They have to be baked on a cold (not hot from the oven) cookie sheet. Not greased. No parchment paper. If the egg white rolls down to the baking sheet, it will glue the cookie to the sheet, making it hard to remove without breaking it. So don't go overboard with the egg white!

These would be great to make with older kids who can handle the spritz press.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
2 1/2 cups flour

1 egg white, beaten (optional)
cookie decorations like sugar, colored sugar, or edible pearls (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat for 4 to 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and cardamom. Beat to combine. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and beat.

Fit a star onto the spritz press. Spoon in the dough and press out star cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet. If decorating them, brush a bit of egg white on the tops of the cookies and sprinkle with sugar or pearls.

Bake 10-14 minutes, only until the edges begin to brown a bit. Cool on a rack.

Beat 4-5 minutes to get it fluffy.

It makes a lot of cookies!

See the egg white oozing onto the baking sheet? Don't do that!!!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Please Welcome Guest Toni LoTempio!

Toni LoTempio is our guest today and she's sharing a recipe for a pepper steak stir-fry and a Guinevere Capri Sandwich. I know I'm going to be making both of these very soon! Take it away Toni!

Anyone who’s read my Nick and Nora mysteries knows that my main character, Nora Charles, is somewhat of a beast in the kitchen!  Not only does she make a mean sandwich, but she’s expanded into catering and makes absolutely delicious main dishes and appetizers! (which makes her cat Nick happy, of course, as he’s always in the kitchen supervising!!!!!)
In their latest adventure, Crime and Catnip, Nora is called upon to cater a museum gala, a costume ball centering on the Arthurian Era (you all remember King Arthur, Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table, right? Sure you do!!!!).  Her buddy Chantal helped her with naming some of the delicious dishes she catered for the affair, particularly:

Morgan LeFay’s Pepper Steak Stir-Fry!
1 lb. beef top sirloin steak
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red onion, cut into squares
1 green pepper, cut into squares
1 red pepper, cut into squares

  1. Slice the steak into 1/2-inch thick slices across the grain.
  2. Whisk together soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, and ginger in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Place the steak slices into the marinade, and stir until well-coated.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, and place 1/3 of the steak strips into the hot oil. Cook and stir until the beef is well-browned, about 3 minutes, and remove the beef from the wok to a bowl. Repeat twice more, with the remaining beef, and set the cooked beef aside.
Return all the cooked beef to the hot wok, and stir in the onion. Toss the beef and onion together until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes, then stir in the green pepper. Cook and stir the mixture until the pepper has turned bright green and started to become tender, about 2 minutes, then stir everything together, and serve over rice or noodles. 

If you’re more of a sandwich type person, you might enjoy a Guinevere Capri Sandwich:


Wrap (Spinach is nice, but any kind will do)
Breaded chicken cutlets, sliced thin
Avocado, sliced thin
Fresh mozzarella
Fresh tomato slices
1 tbsp. olive oil

Place chicken cutlets on wrap, layer on tomato slices, mozzarella and onion.  Roll, then top with avocado slices and fresh arugula, drizzle olive oil right over the top of the arugula.  

Nick and Nora 3:  CRIME AND CATNIP!!!!


Nick and Nora aren’t just pussyfooting around this time as they deal with a missing person’s case and murder.

While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown. 

As Nora and her curious cat Nick pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him...

Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio is the national bestselling author of Meow If It’s Murder, the first in the Nick and Nora Mystery series. She has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Philly Cheese Steak Sliders for a Crowd #Recipe @PegCochran

Once a month we get together with friends for what we call "Saturdays at Seven."  We bring our own drink (wine, beer, soda, whatever), our own glass and either an appetizer or dessert to share.  We take turns hosting and having all that taken care of makes it easy on the hostess.

We can end up with as many as thirty people so you need an appetizer to feed a number of people.  I came upon this recipe for making Philly cheese steak sliders without the work of making them individually.  I thought they would fit the bill nicely.


1 package Hawaiian rolls
6 or more slices of provolone cheese
2 packages of Steak Umms (or similar product)
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Butter (approx 3 tablespoons)

Cut the rolls in half (if not already cut).  Separate the tops from the bottoms.  Spread the bottoms of the rolls with mayo and arrange in a large baking pan (mine was 9 x 13.)

Saute onion and pepper until soft.

Saute steak slices until cooked.  If you use Steak Umms, They will shred as you cook them.  No need to defrost--just throw them in the hot pan.

I remember my mother making us sandwiches with these maybe once but I'd forgotten (or never knew in the first place) that they came in these super thin frozen slabs!

Drain cooked steak.  Spread shredded steak over the rolls in the pan (no need to place it on each individual roll.)

Spread pepper and onion mixture over rolls.

Top with as many slices of provolone cheese as you need (don't worry if the cheese overlaps some of your rolls)

Replace the tops and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cover and bake for another ten minutes.  Bake until tops are starting to brown and cheese is oozing.  Depending on your oven this may take more or less time.

Slice, serve and stand back to accept the compliments.  These were a huge hit!

If you're having a gang of friends over to help decorate the tree, these Philly cheese steaks will keep them full and happy!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Seafood Stew from The Little Kitchen

Bear with me, friends--this will be my first post from my "new" kitchen, and I'm still figuring out how it works. But mostly it does work, so now it's just getting used to it. Details like "where did I put that?" and "I can't set that down there--it's hot!"

My kitchen!

The title is kind of a pun. Yes, my kitchen is little, although bigger than my first apartment kitchen, although the appliances are smaller. But this recipe was inspired by a dish I had for lunch at An Chistin Beag, which is the Irish for The Little Kitchen. It's a small place in the center of Skibbereen, with a handful of tables, and the women who run it put out very good food. The seafood stew was on the menu when I ate there a week ago (not for the first time!).

There it was served in small bowls, which was a nice size for one person. Here at the cottage I needed to serve two people. All the ramekins I saw were tiny (about half a cup) and weren't suitable for cooking, so I opted for a midsize casserole dish, which was just right for two.

Okay, recipe: it's lovely chunks of fresh fish (I bought half a kilo at the fishmonger's in Union Hall yesterday morning--it doesn't get fresher than that) poached in milk and stock. The fish goes into the casserole, and you thicken the liquid and pour it over. Then you top the whole with mashed potatoes and some grated local cheese and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or so, and you're done!

Seafood Stew from An Chistin Beag


(Note: measurements here would make one largish casserole, or two medium ones)

mixed bits of fish (I used a mix of salmon and an unidentified white fish)--half a pound would serve two, a pound serves four nicely. The fish should be in chunks about an inch square

3 cups cooking liquid--I used a mix of milk and chicken stock (I didn't have any fish stock on hand)

half an onion

a few sprigs of parsley

more parsley, chopped
a dash of dried thyme

salt and pepper

3 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour

2-3 cups homemade mashed potatoes, fresh or left-over

1/2 cup coarsely grated cheese (I used a locally-made cheddar)


Put the fish pieces in a deep saucepan and pour the liquid over them. Toss in the half-onion and the parsley. Set over low heat and simmer until the fish is cooked but still tender.

Drain the fish in a colander, reserving the cooking liquid, pull out the half-onion and the parsley, and place in a casserole.

In another pan, melt 3 Tblsp butter, then add the flour and whisk together. Let the mixture cook over low heat to cook the flour. Then add the cooking liquid, whisking constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens. Add the chopped parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and mix. Pour the thickened liquid over the fish in the casserole.

Spoon the mashed potatoes over the fish and spread gently to cover completely. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

I made mine--no leftovers!)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, enough to heat the dish through and brown the top just a bit. Don't overdo it if you want the lovely fresh fish to be tender.

Can I stay in Ireland longer? I only just got the kitchen organized, and added the last piece of furniture yesterday, and there's still painting and patching to do, and the garden needs sorting, and...  In the spring? My police friend says the daffodils will be blooming.

I have so many new story ideas! I'll get back to work by next week. Really.


Sunset at Garryglass

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Chipotle Pepper, Corn, and Chicken Chowder #recipe @lucyburdette

LUCY BURDETTE: With December upon us, the search for a delicious low-sodium soup continues! In this case, I wanted to make a chicken, corn, chipotle combination, as John has been yearning for a corn, potato, and sausage chowder that I used to make but can't eat right now. (Most sausage is laced with sodium.)
The secret, I'm finding, is lots of other flavor...

Then I realized that I'd finished up my chipotles, so I substituted Penzey's Arizona Dreamin' spice mix, which has no salt but lots of yummy peppers among other spices. I also found no-salt added versions of corn and creamed corn--a score! We liked the cilantro garnish a lot, and also used hot pepper sauce at the table (and John, some salt!)

1 tsp Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming, or 1 or 2 dried chipotle chiles, soaked in 2 tbsp olive oil and chopped, or 1 tsp cumin
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large box chicken stock, low sodium
5-6 small red potatoes, peeled and diced small
3-4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 

2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 can sweet corn, drained (no salt added)
1 can cream-style corn (no salt added)
Chopped cilantro, to garnish
Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a soup pan and saute the chopped red peppers, the scallions, the chipotle peppers, and the spices until the vegetables are soft. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick.Slowly stir in the box of chicken stock, stir until thick and bubbly. Add the potatoes and simmer about ten minutes. Add the chicken and both kinds of corn and heat through. (You can thin this down with some milk or a little more broth if it seems too thick.) Stir in the cheese and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with Tabasco or other hot sauce on the side.

 Lucy writes the Key West food critic mysteries.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake, gluten-free, from author @DarylWoodGerber

As a girl, I ate at Blum’s Café with my grandmother and sisters. It was our day out, buying party dresses and then going for “tea.” The restaurant was pink and situated in the Stanford Shopping Center back when there were just a few shops and not a hard-to-navigate oversized mall! Man, is it big now!

I remember how good this cake was, and I made it years ago with a recipe passed on to me by my grandmother, but that recipe has vanished! Oh, my.  So I browsed the Internet looking for the recipe when I stumbled on a Martha Stewart recipe.

Now, I didn’t make her cake. She made a bundt cake and I promise you, the Blum’s cake was not a bundt cake. It was layered. I recall 4 layers. I decided for 2 layers, and if I'd had more time, I would have made the cake itself from scratch.

Instead, I used a gluten-free Betty Crocker yellow cake mix. 

The magic is in the whipped cream frosting and the candy that pops in your mouth.

So here are those recipes. So easy!

Make the candy first. It has to cool for 30 minutes, and you'll have lots left over for snacking.

Coffee Crunch Candy


1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup strong brewed coffee (I used espresso)
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted


Line a 15 x 9 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, coffee, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil.  Cook over medium heat to just below the hard-crack stage (310 degrees on a candy thermometer.) NOTE: I put this mixture into too large a pot and had to hold the candy thermometer, so do use only a 4-quart saucepan! This takes about 10-12 minutes to get to 310 degrees. (I stirred often.)

Remove from heat for 10 seconds and then sprinkle the baking soda evenly over the sugar syrup.  Whisk until combined. This will foam up and turn light brown.  Pour immediately onto the parchment paper and spread out so it’s bubbly-flat.

In thirty minutes, tap the candy with a wooden spoon to crack into small bits.

1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup strong brewed coffee (I used espresso)
3 tablespoons refined sugar

In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Do NOT overwhip or it’ll turn into butter.  Add coffee and sugar and beaet to combine. Use immediately.



I made one 8” layer (per gluten-free mix instructions) and sliced the yellow cake in half.  I believe a regular mix using regular flower would yield 2 8”-inch rounds.

Mound half the whipped cream on the lower half (leaving an inch from the edge).  Top with the other cake and frost with the rest of the frosting, on top only.  Now mound about half of the candy on top.

If desired, you can put candy in the interior, as well. I think it would be delicious. I reserved some of the candy. I’m now going to try to make Blum’s Coffee Crunch ice cream. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


This recipe would make darling cupcakes. Make the white or yellow cake. Top with whipped cream and coffee crunch. Perfect for a tea.

Savor the mystery!
Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames
Tasty ~ Zesty ~ Dangerous!

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GRILLING THE SUBJECT, the 5th Cookbook Nook Mystery, is out!
The Wild West Extravaganza has come to Crystal Cove.
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FOR CHEDDAR OR WORSE, the 7th Cheese Shop Mystery is out!
Finally there's going to be a cheese festival in Providence!
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GIRL ON THE RUN, a stand-alone suspense is out!
When a fairytale fantasy night becomes a nightmare, 
Chessa Paxton must run for her life...but will the truth set her free? 
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