Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fun 'n fruity dessert #recipe from Linda Wiken, author

The Book Club Babes are meeting tonight at my place. I'm down one dessert, and coincidentally, a blog for Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Thinking cap on, with an eye towards the clock, and great glee that it's a summery evening and we'll be out on the deck.

My usual requirements are the dessert needs to be easy and fun helps, too. So, I remembered a recipe I'd spotted on the Internet not too long ago. It could be from Epicurius, or not. I didn't copy it down but the ingredients were a cinch to remember. I did change some of them, like the fruit, and I added fresh lime juice to the yogurt, to help balance the sweetness of the watermelon.

So, here's my take on a light, easy and playful dessert that I'll go back to again and again this summer.

Please feel free to play with the amounts and with the types of fruit you use.

What you'll need:

3/4 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. diced fresh strawberries
1 starfruit
1 small lime
watermelon, sliced
green grapes for garnish

What to do:

After washing and slicing the fruit, as required, place the watermelon slices on a plate.

Then juice the small lime and add that juice to the yogurt, stirring it in thoroughly. Add dollops of the yogurt mixture to the watermelon slices, and smooth it out.
Top each slice with pieces of whatever fruit you've chosen. Add the grapes as a garnish for the plate.

Smile and serve!


It's now here --
Marinating in Murder, book #3
Recipes included!

Here's a taste of the reviews:     

Wiken’s third entry to the Dinner Club series is a clever twist on the classic whodunit… The book will have you guessing until the very end…. All in all, an intriguing read by Wiken.” – RT Reviews

"Foodies will love this book and this series. Great recipes are included as well....A fun romp of intrigue filled with foodie fun." -- Open Book Society

ROUX THE DAY,  the second  Dinner Club Mystery is available in paper and as an e-book. 
Recipes included!

TOASTING UP TROUBLE, the first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!

Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

Visit Linda at
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at

Visit Erika at 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Nancy's "La Scala" salad + #book #giveaway of French Bistro Mystery from author @DarylWoodGerber

A Deadly Éclair giveaway below!

From Daryl:

This is an intensive recipe because there are so many ingredients and so many steps, but I promise it is worth it.

So...when I moved to Los Angeles to become an actress, I worked in Beverly Hills at a thriving restaurant as a waitress and then also as a bookkeeper and then also as a short order cook. [Triple threat!] I kid you not. I was asked to cook for the early crowd.  I had to cook liver and onions I can't tell you how many times! Oy! I "chatted" about it on our last Around the Kitchen Table chat. [You know we do those the first Monday of every month, right?]

Anyway, while working at the restaurant, I met an attorney who gave me a job as a legal secretary.  I was a killer typist and I took shorthand during high school. Who knew that would  come in handy? It did. I still use it when I make notes in my manuscripts.

While I worked at the law offices, I loved walking around Beverly Hills during lunch and imagining myself dining in all the fancy restaurants. I couldn't afford them, of course, but I dreamed. When I finally won a few acting jobs that enhanced my income (as did my friend),  we decided we had to go to La Scala and have the chopped salad. It was renowned. For a very good reason.

Well, I just discovered the recipe in Food and Wine Best of the Best, Vol 15. Yes, I'm still planning to go through all my cookbooks and make the recipes that call to me. This one, by "Nancy", is based on the La Scala favorite. I love it, but like I said, it required a lot of steps. I hope you love it, too.

FYI, Nancy recommended making "ceci" from scratch.  Ceci is dressed up chickpeas, and to be honest, I couldn't really tell the difference from the cooked to regular canned (bad me), so if I were you, I'd used canned chickpeas and cut out one HUGE step.   But maybe you'll add more garlic than I did.   :)

Nancy’s Chopped Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

Half of a small red onion (halved through the core)
1 small head iceberg lettuce
1 medium head radicchio
1 pint small sweet cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem ends
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups cooked Ceci (recipe follows)
4 ounces provolone, sliced ½ inch thick and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
4 ounces Genoa salami, sliced 1/8 inch thick and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
5 peperoncini, stems cut off and discarded, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
½ cup Oregano Vinaigrette (recipe follows) plus more to taste
Juice of ½ lemon, plus more to taste
Dried oregano for sprinkling (preferably Sicilian oregano on the branch) * honestly? I did not!

Separate the layers of the onion, stack two or three layers on top and slice lengthwise 1/16 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining onion layers. Place the slices in a small bow of ice water and set them aside while you prepare the rest.  Drain  the onion and pat dry with paper towels before adding to the salad.

Cut the iceberg in half through the core. Remove and discard the outer leaves and remove and discard the core. Separate the lettuce leaves, and slice them lengthwise 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Slice the radicchio the same way.

Combine the lettuce, radicchio, tomatoes, Ceci, provolone, salami, peperoncini, and onions in a large, wide bowl. Season with salt and toss to combine. Drizzle ½ cup of the vinaigrette and squeeze the lemon juice over the salad, then toss gently to coat the salad. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, lemon juice, or vinaigrette if desired.  (I liked more lemon).  Pile the salad on a large platter or divide it among plates. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top, if desired.


Per Nancy, this is a way to cook chickpeas and make them very flavorful. She made them from scratch but said I could use canned chickpeas and cut the cooking time. So that's what I did.

Here is her recipe:

1 cup chickpeas (ceci) soaked overnight (put beans in pan and cover with water that rises 2 inches above)
2 tablespoons kosher salt (I omitted since I used canned chickpeas)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (this seemed like too much so I cut down to ¼ cup)
1 large carrot, peeled and halved
1 celery rib, halved
1 dried arbol chile (I didn’t have and didn’t miss)
16 garlic cloves (Honestly? No. I used freeze-dried garlic, about 1 tablespoon – plenty)
½ yellow onion, halved

If you decide to use real beans, make sure you cook them long enough so they became soft and creamy (like canned beans).

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1 ½ inches, salt, and olive oil. Place the carrot, celery, chile, garlic, and onion in a doubled piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a closed bundle. Add the bundle to the pot with the chickpeas and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the chickpeas until they are very tender and creamy, about 2 hours, adding more water to the pot as needed but never covering them by more than and inch to an inch and a half.    [*I used canned beans and did the bundle of veggies – and cooked for 30 minutes.]

Turn off the heat and allow the chickpeas to cool in the liquid. Remove and discard the cheesecloth bundle. Drain the chickpeas. To use later, transfer the chickpeas and the liquid in an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Bring the chickpeas to room temperature and drain them before using.

OREGANO VINAIGRETTE – delicious and can be used on lots of salads!

2 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more to taste (I liked more)
2 garlic cloves, smashed (I used dehydrated, 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the vinegar, oregano, lemon juice, smashed garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine the ingredients. Set the vinaigrette aside to rest for 5 minutes to marinate the oregano. Add the olive oil in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, if desired.  Use the vinaigrette or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate it for up to three days. Bring to room temperature and whisk again before using.


I'm gearing up for the release of the trade paperback version of A DEADLY ÉCLAIR.  Raise your hand. Did any of you buy the hardcover version? Lately it's been under $16. I don't care one way or another, but I'd love to know. Hardcover seems to be for libraries and collectors.   Anyway, here's your chance to tell me...or tell me if you at least told a friend about the series.  One commenter will win a choice of hardcover, trade paperback, or e-book of A DEADLY ECLAIR.  Winner announced Saturday.

P.S.  The e-book is on sale right  now until the release of the trade paperback for $1.99 at most US stores.  $1.20 on Amazon.

Savor the mystery!

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

A SOUFFLÉ OF SUSPICION, the 2nd French Bistro Mystery, coming July 10
Can Mimi prove her chef innocent before the chef gets dusted?
Click here to order.

PRESSING THE ISSUE, the 6th Cookbook Nook Mystery.

The annual Renaissance Fair serves up a helping of crafty courtiers, 
damsels in distress, and medieval murder . . .
Click here to order.

A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the 1st in the French Bistro Mysteries, coming in trade paperback June 12.
Can Mimi clear her name before the killer turns up the heat?
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.

GIRL ON THE RUN, 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

DAY OF SECRETS, a stand-alone suspense
A mother he thought was dead. A father he never knew.
An enemy that wants them dead.
Click here to order

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

School Picnic Memories and Pittsburgh's BBQ Chipped Ham Sandwich by Cleo Coyle

Alice and Marc aka CLEO COYLE,
sharing school picnic memories.

When you were growing up, did you have a "school picnic" at the end of each school year? With Memorial Day weekend coming up, Marc and I found ourselves reminiscing about our childhood school picnics in Pittsburgh, PA. 

After spending nine months cooped up in classrooms, the school district rewarded the kids with a special day out at Kennywood, a little amusement park south of the city. 

This century-old park (founded in 1898) has several landmark wooden roller coasters that continue to attract national and international riders, including the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

Take a ride with us now in the
front seat of this landmark 
roller coaster, The Jack Rabbit.

To start the video, click the white arrow in the window below...

If you do not see the video window above, you can
"ride" the coaster on YouTube by
clicking here.

One of the great picnic foods of Pittsburgh (and a fun retro Memorial Day weekend nosh for us) is the BBQ Chipped Ham Sandwich

"What is 'Chipped' Ham?" some of you may ask. 

We're sharing our answer (and recipe) again for the start of picnic season...and in celebration of the many happy memories of your own "school picnics," a wonderful community tradition.


A Note from Cleo 

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

When Marc and I first tried to order chipped ham at a New York deli counter, we were met with blank stares. Fear not, our recipe (below) will teach you how to order it at any deli. But first some background...

The idea of "chipped choppod ham" began years ago with a chain of regional stores called Islay's, a name you might recognize as the original producer of the famous Klondike ice cream bar. 

"Boston has its Baked Beans," Islay's proclaimed. "Philly has its Cheesesteaks. Pittsburgh, Ohio, West Virginia and surrounds? We have Isaly’s Original Chipped Chopped Ham."


When you order "chipped" ham, the deli person should shave or chip the meat against the commercial meat slicer blade. This is how your razor-thin sliced ham should look...


By shaving the meat razor thin, the ham is more tender and has more flavor than if it were sliced more thickly. 

For hard-working families on tight budgets, this method of slicing ham (which is actually known as "Pittsburgh Style") is a smart way to make less expensive hams (like pressed ham) taste great. 

On the other hand, chipping ham does not have to be limited to cheaper hams. This process makes any ham, from Black Forest to baked Virginia, melt in your mouth with amazing flavor.

Now let's make that famous Pittsburgh sandwich... 

To download a copy of this
recipe that you can print,
save, or share, click here.


The Pittsburgh-Style 

BBQ Chipped Ham Sandwich 

by Cleo Coyle

Makes 4 Sandwiches


1 pound of "Chipped Ham"
(Below, you'll learn how to order this at any deli.)

½ cup (8 tablespoons) ketchup

¼ cup (4 tablespoons) BBQ sauce

4 soft hamburger buns

(optional garnish) Relish, sweet or dill


Step 1: Order the Ham - Ask 
the deli staff to shave the ham razor thin. Explain that this is known as "Pittsburgh style" and reassure them that the ham should break up into pieces as they "chip" it against their slicer blade. You might even show them the picture below...

Any ham can be used for this sandwich. We've done Black Forest and baked Virginia hams, but don't be afraid to try less expensive hams for this sandwich. That's really the point, to make an inexpensive ham taste great. The chipping does wonders for the flavor and texture.

Step 2: Make the Frizzle Fry - When you get the chipped ham home, you’re ready to create your "frizzle fry" sandwich. (Okay, from here on, it's stupidly easy. But if you never made a hot dog before, you'd need directions, right? So here goes...)

A. Heat the Chipped Ham: Place a large skillet over medium heat. Break the ham up into the pan and stir until heated through.

B. Make your Quickie Sauce: Mix the ketchup and (your favorite) BBQ sauce in a small bowl and add to the skillet. (Some people add a little mustard at this stage. We don't, but it's an option, depending on your taste.)

C. Combine Ham and Sauce: Stir and cook for a few more minutes. The chipped ham should be evenly coated with the ketchup-BBQ sauce. The ham should be steaming and sticky.

D. Pile it high: Divide the ham up onto the four hamburger buns.

Garnish: My husband eats this simple sandwich with no other garnish, but many people in Pittsburgh add sweet relish. I enjoy it with dill relish. Pickled jalapenos and banana pepper rings are delicious garnishes, too. The tart heat nicely offsets the sticky-sweet meat. So garnish as you like and…eat with chipped ham joy! 

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Alice and Marc in Central Park. 
Together we write as Cleo Coyle. 

Learn more about us here.
Friend us on facebook here.
Follow us on twitter here.
Visit our online coffeehouse here.

Our NEW Coffeehouse Mystery!

Mystery Pick of the Month! --Library Journal

Amazon * B&N

IndieBound * BAM


"A gripping and entertaining mystery"
--Library Journal (Starred Review) 
"Penetrating insights" --Kirkus Reviews 
"Sure to delight" --Publishers Weekly


This culinary mystery includes
25 delicious recipes! To get the
Free Recipe Guide, 
click here

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


...and get a free checklist of
our books in order.



Book #1 of

with a brand new book (#6)

coming this fall!

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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