Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Say cheese for Grilled Cheese with Fresh Strawberry Jam

From Daryl aka Avery:  It's national grilled cheese month. Who thinks up these things? Do we care? It is, and so it's time to celebrate!!!!  I shared a number of grilled cheese recipes in March because INHERIT THE WORD, the second in the Cookbook Nook mysteries, was all about a Grill Fest, featuring, ta-da, grilled cheese! There are a number of recipes in the book. Check them out.
In the meantime, this one is new for me. I made strawberry jam over the weekend and thought, hmmm, Charlotte (the protagonist in the Cheese Shop mysteries) loves jam and cheese on toast for breakfast. I love cheese with a tad of jam on a cheese platter. So...the combo has to make a great grilled cheese, right? 

It does. This was so good it melted in my mouth. I likened it to French toast, spread with jam instead of syrup. Oh, yum! And it was so filling, I didn't need dinner. Well, not much dinner. LOL

This jam will be featured in an ice cream recipe in June. Strawberries (at least in California) are in season for a long time. Lucky us! I adore them. And, for me, there's nothing better than finding a place for strawberries in every aspect of a meal.

Say cheese!

For the Grilled Cheese:


4 slices bread
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons cream cheese
4 tablespoons strawberry jam (see recipe below)
6-8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (or your favorite white cheese)


Butter each slice of bread on one side. Spread the cream cheese on the other side of the bread.  [Note: The cream cheese is on the inside of the sandwich; the butter side is the outside.]

To assemble: Top two slices of bread, cream cheese side up, with cheese. Spread with jam. Add more cheese. Set the other slice of bread on top of the sandwich and press slightly.

If cooking on a stovetop: Heat a large skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Set the sandwiches on the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip the sandwiches, using a spatula, and cook another 2-4 minutes. You can compress the sandwich with the spatula. Turn the sandwich one more time. Press down with the spatula, and remove from the pan. Let cool about 2-3 minutes, and serve.

If cooking on a panini or sandwich maker: Set the sandwich on the griddle and slowly lower the top. Cook for a total of 4 minutes. Remove from the griddle and let cool 2-3 minutes, then serve. Beware, the insides might ooze out the sides. If the lid is too heavy, you might want to consider resorting to the stovetop method.

For the Strawberry Jam:


3 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice


Hull, rinse, and chop strawberries to small sizes. Measure 3 cups.

Mix strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in 8-quart saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then raise the temperature and bring the mixture to a full boil. Pay attention because sugar CAN boil up and over the pot. Not fun! If necessary, spoon off the pink foam that rises to the top.

Boil, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until a candy thermometer reads 220 degrees.

Remove from heat. Cool and refrigerate.  


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

10 Minute Ham and Cheese Pastry Pockets by Cleo Coyle #Baking up #Leftovers

Got leftovers? Here's a great use for them.
It takes only 10 minutes to assemble these quick
and easy pastry pockets. Slip them in the oven
and you've got a fast, hot lunch or tasty snack.

Many cultures have some form of pastry pocket or another in their culinary heritage from the Cornish pasty to the Spanish empanada and Haitian Creole pate

This is my favorite way to make a pastry pocket fastThe folks at Pillsbury invented it, and I'm using their buttermilk "Grands" large refrigerator biscuits for the recipe today. You can use any brand, but these are very good. Marc, my husband (and partner in crime-writing) also likes their "Southern Style" Grands.

As for your fillings, they can be a combination of almost any type of leftovers. After this busy holiday week, I suspect many of you have them!

Scratch Pastry? 
We've got that...

If you prefer to make your own pie crust from scratch, then check out my recipe for Blueberry Hand Pies by clicking hereI use yogurt in my hand pie crust for a nice flavor. The dough is also sturdy enough to hold up to being stuffed and baked. One note: if you're using this recipe for a savory filling, like today's ham and cheese, simply leave out that little bit of sugar in my ingredient list. 

Culinary mystery author
Cleo Coyle writes The
Coffeehouse Mysteries
Learn more by
clicking here.

And now...

Your mission, should you
choose to accept it, is to open
the fridge and find those leftovers...

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

1. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Next dice up your ham and shred some sharp cheddar cheese. (Marc and I like sharp because it stands up to the ham and brings lots of flavor.)

2. Lightly coat a length of aluminum foil with a non-stick cooking spray. In my photo, you see Pam, but any neutral-tasting spray will work fine.

3. Open your can of large refrigerator biscuits. In my recipe today I'm using Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk biscuits (8 large biscuits in each container).

4. Tease apart each large, thick biscuit into two thin layers. Each layer will serve as a dough disc to flatten and fill. (In other words, 8 large biscuits will give you 16 pastry pockets.)

5. Use a juice glass to roll out the biscuit layers into flat, even circles. (No rolling pin needed, huzzah!)

6. Place a small dab of mustard in the center of each dough circle. Use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly over the entire surface, as shown below. 

Marc and I like deli mustard for our pastry pockets (our favorite brand is whole grained Boar's Head). You might prefer honey mustard or a Dijon mustard. If you don't like mustard on your ham and cheese, use a condiment you do like or just go naked.

7. Now fill the pastry with your diced ham and shredded cheese combo (or whatever leftovers you've prepared).

8. Fold over the dough circle to form the pastry pocket (as you see in my photos below). Use your fingers to fold over and press the edges closed. Use fork tines to press down and secure.

9. Lightly brush the tops of the pastry with an egg wash (an egg that's been whisked well and thinned out with just a few drops of water). 

10. Create a steam vent by using a pair of sharp kitchen shears, as shown below. Snip the top of the pocket pastry in one or two places.

11. Carefully slide the aluminum foil from your counter to a baking pan and bake in a well-preheated 350 degree F. oven for 15 to 18 minutes, and...

Click here for
free recipe PDF.

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the book's
Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

* * * 

Coffeehouse Mystery
Free Title Checklist
(with mini plot summaries)

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

* * * 

Haunted Bookshop
Free Title Checklist, 

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.

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