Friday, October 15, 2010

Eggplant Rigatoni

I loved Laura Alden's quick weeknight pasta recipe. I'm all for easy recipes that don't require a lot of attention.

At the farmers' market recently, I saw these wonderful eggplants and was determined to use them in a pasta sauce. But since I was short on time, I didn't want to create a complicated dish.

I've made this twice now -- easy, easy! Not the fanciest dish ever but it tastes great and is a nice warm side dish, or even a main course for a vegetarian.

I've tried it with both Japanese eggplant and regular eggplant. The Japanese eggplant was a little bit tastier. That could have been a fluke, but I'm more than willing to make it with regular eggplant as well.

The main difference is how long the eggplant needs to roast. The Japanese eggplant, roasted at 400, was ready in 30 minutes. The regular eggplant takes nearly an hour.

Eggplant Rigatoni

1/2 package rigatoni
olive oil
4 Japanese eggplants or 1 large eggplant
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a baking pan. Slice the eggplant (if Japanese, slice in half, if large eggplant, slice in four pieces). Place in pan and very lightly oil both sides. Bake for 1 hour if large eggplant or 30 minutes if Japanese eggplant, or until totally soft and almost mushy.

Meanwhile, prepare rigatoni (or the pasta of your choice) according to package.

On a low temperature, add two tablespoons olive oil to a frying pan with garlic. Saute gently. (If you're in the mood, add a teaspoon of oregano at this point.) Add the diced tomatoes. When the eggplant is cooked through, scrape it out of the peel and add to garlic mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat briefly so the flavors can mingle. Spoon over rigatoni and serve.


Coffee Drinking Cocker Spaniels and a THIRD RAIL LATTE for Victoria

Maisy Jo, Victoria's
coffee-drinking cocker spaniel.

"Hello Cleo, I am the owner of two 'coffee' (cocker) spaniels! If I walk away from my coffee cup for a second, it's gone! Thought it was because of the half-and-half, but they like it black too? I have a picture on my cell phone of the 14-yr-old Cocker drinking out of my cup. Wish you could see it! Look forward to your next Clare Cosi novel!..I have all of your books and have enjoyed all of them. Pass them on to friends, but I always make sure they are returned to me. Be well." ~ Victoria

Cleo Coyle, sucker for cute
animal pics and author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Isn't that the best note? I received it a few years ago. I wrote back to Victoria, thanking her for the kind words. I also asked her to send along any photos of her cocker spaniels drinking coffee. (As you can see...) She did! Aren't they adorable?

As I said, that was a few years ago. Since then, she and I have connected up on Facebook, where I noticed a happy change in her "status" -- she is now engaged. Congratulations, Victoria!

So what does all this have to do with today's recipe. I'll tell you! On a recent WEDNESDAY, I noticed this post on Victoria's Facebook Wall:

VICTORIA HOWARD: Ok Tuesday is here, feeling relatively refreshed, and hitting ground (yowtch!) running! Have a great day all! Make it the Best Day Ever!
(Reply) STEPHEN: Suddenly, Victoria realizes it is actually  Wednesday...and doesn't feel quite so refreshed anymore....hee...hee...

(more replies and then...)

(Reply) VICTORIA: Maybe I just need more coffee...

(Reply) CLEO COYLE: You have inspired me to create a new coffeehouse recipe: Victoria's Third Rail Latte - guaranteed to shock you into remembering what day it is. Ingredients and directions to come...

And there you have it, the inspiration for today's recipe...


Guaranteed to SHOCK you
into remembering
what day it is...

1/4 cup Cuban coffee (recipe below)
3/4 cup whole milk

Directions: Make Cuban coffee according to directions in video below (and also make note of my tips). Pour 1/4 cup of the Cuban coffee into a mug. Place 3/4 cups whole milk into a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. When milk just begins to simmer, remove. (Note: Warming the milk sweetens it nicely, but at no time should you allow it to boil or it will turn from sweet to scorched.) Pour the warmed milk into the mug with the Cuban coffee. Stir to mix flavors. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!


Dark, sweet, and luscious, Cuban Coffee is a powerful combination of an espresso-type shot combined with sugar in a very easy process that creates crema. The keys to making authentic cafecito are the right ingredients and the proper technique. To learn more about the kind of authentic Cuban coffee drinks you can order when visiting Cuban restaurant in such places as New York, LA, or "North Cuba" (aka South Florida), click here.

A few tips: To make authentic Cuban coffee, you should start with the right brand. The most common Cuban-style dark roasted brands sold in America are Bustelo and Pilon. We go for Bustelo, which is sold pre-ground, in cans, or cute yellow vacuum packed bricks (as shown in pic). If you can’t locate these brands at your store, then substitute a dark roast coffee, ground very fine. OR click here to order from an online Cuban market.

While you can certainly use white, granulated sugar to make this coffee, for the real taste of Cuban, use turbinado sugar (or demerara sugar). This is a natural brown sugar made from partially refining sugar cane extract (as opposed to adding molasses to fully refined sugar, which is how most brown sugar is produced). You can find this product in supermarkets under the brand name Sugar in the Raw.

Finally, while you can brew passable Cuban coffee using double-strength coffee in a drip maker, the Moka Express stovetop method is more traditional, and much better tasting. 

Click the arrow in the window below
to watch a quick video on how to make
Cuban coffee at home...

Drink with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Roast Mortem: 
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a National Hardcover
Mystery Bestseller from...
Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime


To get more of my recipes,
win free coffee, or learn

about me and my Coffeehouse Mysteries, visit my *virtual* coffeehouse at:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Family-Pleasing Casserole—Creamy Beef Noodle


Sometimes, when life gets really busy around our house, we really treasure the little moments where we can catch our breath and sit down and talk to each other….especially around the supper table.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. :) Sometimes my teenage son will roll his eyes a little and my daughter would rather run check her emails. But they both seem really glad when we all take turns talking about our days and hashing them out. Especially when we’re busy—it just seems to help make some order out of it all.

And since I’m one of the busiest members of the family, I try to make it easy on myself with a casserole. For me, it’s just less fuss and less trouble—and I get rewarded with smiles.

Chicken is the first thing I usually reach for, but my husband and kids are fond of beef. This recipe gives a quick, easy, and low-fuss meal that’s also kid-friendly.

IMG_20101012_170133 Cheesy, Creamy Beef Noodle Casserole

2 pounds ground beef
1 chopped large onion
1 large can of whole kernel corn (drained)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use low-fat and no MSG)
1 can cream of mushroom (low fat, no MSG)
1 cup sour cream
half a package of buttery crackers
half a stick of butter, melted
6 oz. egg noodles
3 T chopped garlic
sliced mushrooms
shredded cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Cook the egg noodles, according to package directions.

Cook the ground beef with the onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and mushrooms. Drain.

Add cooked noodles, the soups, sour cream, and corn. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese (I use about a cup.) Crush the buttery crackers and mix with the melted butter, then sprinkle on top.

IMG_20101012_173256 Cook for 30 minutes at 350, uncovered.

Enjoy your time together! :)

Delicious and Suspicious (July 6 2010) Riley Adams
Pretty is as Pretty Dies –Elizabeth Spann Craig

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cupcake Love-In was off the hook!

Well, I have to say the
Cupcake Love-In at
the Hotel Valley Ho in
Scottsdale, AZ was

This is me and my bff
Sheila (one of the pals
who inspired the cupcake
bakery series) taking a
break from tasting

The event was inspiring (terrific causes),
and I was delighted to offer up a walk on
as a raffle item. I can't wait to see who

I had a great time meeting other cupcake
lovers and talking to some of the chefs
about their truly remarkable creations.
My fave was a Guinness based chocolate
cupcake and Sheila voted for the originality
of a delish cupcake that used ground popcorn
as it's flour base and was topped with a fab
caramel buttercream with homemade
caramel popcorn on top.

Truly, it was cupcakes as
far as the eye could see.
Every flavor imaginable
was represented. Phoenix's
famous Tammie Coe was
there with a lemon cheese-
cake custard cup that was
to die for! And as a murder
mystery author, I think I
can say that and mean it.

The surprise to me was to find cilantro in several of the offerings
when paired with lemon it was quite good. The other thing I had not
seen before was the chicken and waffle cupcake, which was actually
very yummy! So, anyway, I am now in the midst of a sugar crash of
mythic proportions and must finish my post before I pass out!

Oh, they even had cupcake decorating for kids.
I was, of course, partial to this chipper
fellow on the ABC Baking and Cake Decorating
Supplies store table. Big surprise, I know.

And so, since I am feeling the cupcake
love, I am going to share my
Orange Dreamsicle Cupcake
recipe with you. This particular
cupcake will be included in January's
but you get a sneak peek and a chance
to win some cupcake swag! What's life
without swag? And speaking of swag...


Do you have a need for some cool
cupcake swag? I know, who doesn't?
Then simply send me an email with
your idea for a title for my next
cupcake bakery mystery (#4)!
Get your name in the
acknowledgments of the
book and score some "sweet"
swag if your title is picked!
I'll be holding two contests for
Oct and Nov to promote the release
of Buttercream Bump Off!

And now for the recipe...

Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes: An orange cupcake topped
with vanilla buttercream and
garnished with a candied orange peel
(sadly, I didn't have any for the picture).


1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 large eggs, separated and

whites beaten until stiff

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 stick of butter, softened

Candied orange peels (for garnish)


Preheat oven to 350. Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks, zest and orange extract in a large mixing bowl. Cream these ingredients together thoroughly. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients 1/3 at a time alternately with the orange juice. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon batter into cupcake liners until 1/2 full.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 18.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

2-3 tablespoons milk (or whipping cream)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a large bowl, cream butter and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl often. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. For best results, keep icing in refrigerator when not in use. This icing can be stored up to 2 weeks. Rewhip before using. Makes 3 cups of icing.

Whew! Sorry, I know it was a long post -- I had a lot to share;-) Check the
previous post to see the winner of Kathy Borich's Appetite for Murder!

Jenn McKinlay ~
Sprinkle With Murder ~
Buttercream Bump Off
also writing as:
Lucy Lawrence ~ Stuck on Murder ~ Cut to the Corpse

And the winner is...

Barb Shelton!

Barb wins Kathy Borich's
personalized copy of
Appetite for Murder:
A Mystery Lover's Cookbook
Congratulations, Barb!

Kathy will be in touch as to how you
want your copy personalized.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Julie's Fish Delish!

Wow, it's great to be back! I missed everyone here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen during my sabbatical. Thank you, Sheila Connolly, for stepping in for me and thank you all for making Sheila feel welcome. I was lucky enough to read her new release, Fundraising the Dead, while it was in production and I think Sheila's got another hit on her hands with Nell Pratt.

As for me, I found out that my next Manor House Mystery will come out in June, 2011 under the title Grace Interrupted. Berkley came up with that one and I really like it. I'm still being far behind schedule writing the next White House Chef Mystery, but I intend to meet my deadlines one way or another. On top of all the other book-related busy-ness going on, I got my galleys for Buffalo West Wing (comes out in January) and those are due back to Berkley as we speak. Almost done... about two more chapters to proof and then I can turn them in. Nothing like waiting to the last minute, huh?

While I was out, I did manage to take a lovely trip with my husband and I *know* I'll be sharing tidbits, pictures, and food stories about that trip in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, however, I want to share a brand-new recipe. Just came up with it. You may remember that last March my husband and I headed down to Disney with two of our daughters. One of my favorite things about vacation is the food and we were able to visit a couple of Disney restaurants we hadn't tried before. One of them, in Epcot, is the Coral Reef restaurant where Robyn ordered the trout. I had a taste and... Holey Moley! Was it fabulous! Although my dinner was great, hers was spectacular. To this day she says it was the best meal she's ever had.

She tried recreating the dish here at home, but didn't have too much luck. I listened to how she'd prepared it, and decided to try again myself. Instead of trout, however, I substituted tilapia. Why? Well, because I had it on hand.

But the bigger question is - does it measure up?

I think it does. Robyn thinks it does. My husband who doesn't care for fish asked for seconds - twice. Whether it exactly matches the flavors of Disney's creation, I can't say. But this is one recipe we will use again and again. It's pretty darned fabulous. And easy.

Julie's Fish Delish

5 or 6 Tilapia filets
Olive Oil
6 (or so) cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano (My brother-in-law, Mitch, gave me fresh-dried from his garden)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Small handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I prefer grape tomatoes)
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained (Italian white kidney beans)
Handful of washed, dried arugula

Drop a couple of glugs of olive oil (I didn't measure, exactly) into a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 3 - 4 of the minced garlic cloves and heat until they're golden. Add the chopped onion. Also heat until golden.

Now, add the tilapia filets and cook over medium, turning carefully and repeatedly until these are gently cooked, but not cooked through. You can put the burner on low and cover if you like. Just keep an eye on them and don't overcook.

Ready a baking dish and preheat oven to 300. I used a cookie sheet lined with foil turned up at the sides and it worked fine. The tilapias don't take up a lot of room and I thought they'd be lost in a 9 x 13 pan.

Anyway, once they're mostly done, remove the filets to your baking dish (don't discard the flavored oil in the frying pan - we'll use that in a minute) and top the filets with butter. I like butter so I used about three tbsp, maybe even a bit more. Dot butter atop fish and place in oven.

Head back to your frying pan. Add the rest of the minced garlic and maybe a little more olive oil, if you think it needs it. Get that garlic nice and hot, then add the drained cannellini beans. Cover and allow to simmer until the beans are soft and a little smooshy. Add the halved tomatoes, cover and allow the flavors to blend.

(NOTE: when I experimented I only used one can of beans, hence the picture isn't quite accurate. I doubled the recipe above to account for two cans.)

Check your filets in the oven. Cooked through? Hot enough? Great!

Rip up the arugula. Add it to the frying pan, warm it for a few minutes then spoon out the mixture onto your dinner plates. Top the mixture with a tilapia filet and serve.

Truly delicious! I can't wait to make this one again.
Experimenting is always fun. Especially when things turn out this well.

Have fun, and enjoy!

Grace Under Pressure, first in the Manor House Mystery series
Buffalo West Wing, fourth in the White House Chef series (coming January, 2011)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Long Quiche Goodbye winner

And the winner of a signed copy of The Long Quiche Goodbye is...

Nurse Judy!!!!

Contact me (Avery) at the following email with your snail mail address so I can send you your prize. woodgerb (at) averyaames (dot) com.

For all of you who didn't win (and can't afford to buy a copy), I hope you'll go to your local library and request the book. Many libraries have it in stock. We love librarians!!!

And remember, next week, we have our Halloween contest event. Every day, Monday to Saturday.

Do you love breakfast?

In honor of the writers' conference that I'll be attending this coming week, Bouchercon, I'd like to offer a free copy of The Long Quiche Goodbye to one of today's commenters. All you have to do is tell me what your favorite breakfast is and promise you'll tell one other person about the book.

And lest I week, we're having a fun Halloween-themed contest week. Yep, a week before so the fun little goodies we offer as daily prizes can get to winners before the end of the month. So tune in every day!

Ah, Breakfast!

I adore it. I can eat it in the morning, at lunch, and at dinner. We're not talking cereal. We're talking eggs. Scrambled, fried, omelets, frittatas. Add veggies and cheese and it's a well-balanced meal.

I will be traveling a lot in the next few weeks to a wedding, a conference, and a vacation (hear me jumping up and down with ecstasy over that one??), so breakfast is one of my staples. Easy to get on the road. Easy on the digestion. So tasty if you just add a little of this and a little of that.

Here's a quickie recipe that I'm squeezing in between flights.

Hope you enjoy.


(serves one)

3 eggs

¼ cup sweet Vidalia onions, sliced thin

1 tablespoon butter

2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

½ teaspoon each, salt and pepper


Prepare: Whip the eggs in a mixing bowl.

Slice the onions.

Grate the cheese.

Heat butter in small 7-9 inch skillet. Saute onions on medium high for about 5 minutes, until tender. Turn up the heat. Pour the eggs onto the hot onions. Let sit for one minute, then start to stir with a spatula, scraping from the bottom and turning the eggs up and over the onions, so eggs and onions are incorproated. Sprinkle with seasonings. At the last, add the cheese and stir in without overcooking.

Serve piping hot.

By the way, in this picture there's a slice of corn bread. But this meal would also taste great with a cheddar cheese biscuit. Here's a link to another blog posted last year with that recipe.
* * *

If you'd like to know more about The Long Quiche Goodbye and want to download a few other recipes from me (on recipe cards), click on this link to my website: Avery Aames. I've posted recipes in the "morsels" section. There's lots of other fun stuff, as well. And sign up for the fan club to get in on the next contest...coming soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Welcome Kathy Borich!

A while back, when I was looking into the food connection with mysteries, I stumbled across a charming book, which led me to the equally charming author of said book. Without further ado, please welcome our guest Kathy Borich!

Kathy is the author of Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook, a tantalizing slant on cooking and crime, where readers relive their favorite classic detective fiction and then whip up the food that (solved the crime or) caught the culprit.

With her book you are off to England for a supper with Sherlock Holmes, morning tea with Miss Marple, or a pub crawl with Chief Inspector Morse.

And who hasn’t secretly longed to heed the summons and go with Holmes into Victorian London’s foggy night air, vanishing into a waiting carriage, the snap of the whip and echoing hoof beats piercing the darkness?

Kathy spent twenty-two years luring reluctant readers to the joys of literature by spicing up the dry pages with authentic cuisine in her English classroom. She is a past president of Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime, and has given many Mystery Cooking Classes featuring the recipes found in her book. Currently Kathy has taken that interest to new area, the ultimate cinema cuisine connection, with her website,
which features movie reviews for film-loving foodies. Her reviews of current, classic, and crime films feature a signature recipe for each movie.

Kathy credits her love of cooking to her Italian/French grandmother, “who raised me among the powdered lace of drying pasta and the warm earth of a backyard tomato garden.”

Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook is also available through There is a link at her Different Drummer film review website where you can also download a sample.,

Today’s recipe:

What a pleasure to be a guest on your scrumptious blog. Thank you for inviting me.

Since it was really Agatha Christie who inspired me to write this book – I always felt a sudden urge to brew up a good pot of tea after reading about Miss Marple – I toyed with some of her favorites, -- Seed cake, Treacle Tart, and that inevitable English dessert, Trifle, jazzed up with fresh raspberries and sherry drizzle. But you’ll have to get my book to see those, since…

I am opting for a more contemporary author, Martha Grimes, who some people think is better than all three grand dames of British mystery, Christie, Allingham, and Sayers. And she is a Yankee to boot!

Martha Grimes takes us on a literary pub-crawl with her books titled after pubs with irresistible names like the Dirty Duck, the Old Contemptibles, and the Horse You Came in On. This recipe is from The Lamorna Wink, a twisted tale about a vanishing lady on the Cornwall Coast. But it is the meringues made by the missing aunt that hold the clue.

Plus, our recipe for the Sabayon Custard has the same Italian/French roots as my grandmother.

Here is the lead in and the recipe:

Martha Grimes
Meringue Mysteries
A pub crawl with Melrose Plant

A sheet of meringues, lightweight and sweet, sits in the oven, but Aunt Chris is nowhere to be found. Her nephew Johnny enlists Melrose Plant to help him find this vanishing lady. Their search takes them to forlorn rocky outcroppings, a past tainted by pornography, snuff films, and innocent children drowning in the cold sea.

Let’s whip up some delightful Meringues with Strawberries and Sabayon Custard, just like Aunt Chris used to make. But don’t taste them before you whet your appetite with Roquefort-Baked Avocados, and dine on Cod “that might have leapt from the water into the pan” Smothered in Cucumber Sauce.

Meringues with Strawberries and Sabayon Custard


6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Dash salt
1 cup sugar

Have egg whites at room temperature. Add vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat till frothy. Gradually add sugar, a small amount at a time, beating till very stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved.

Cover cookie sheet with plain parchment paper. Drop shapely dollops of meringue onto the prepared baking sheet with a soup spoon. Bake in very slow oven (275 degrees) for 1 hour. Turn off heat and let dry in oven with the door closed about 1 hour.

Sabayon Custard

Aunt Chris's recipe for this light and delectable custard has its roots not in France, as one might suspect from its name, but in Renaissance Italy. In 1533 Catherine de' Medici became the bride of Henry II of France and brought as part of her dowry a team of exquisite Florentine cooks. Zabaglione, a hot, foamy custard, was steeped in the sweet, fortified Marsala wine of Sicily. Sabayon is the French translation of this delicious dowry. We will follow Aunt Chris's variation and use Madeira wine, but not quite "so much, you could get drunk off it," as Johnny remembers.

6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons Madeira
(You can substitute Marsala or sweet sherry, if you like)

Place egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and beat with a rotary or electric beater. Gradually add the sugar and beat until foamy. Place over 1 inch of simmering water. Add wine (traditionally, half an eggshellful of wine per yolk). Beat until mixture triples and is very thick and hot.

To serve cold, pour hot custard into a bowl. Set in a larger bowl of ice and beat vigorously until cold and thick. Chill until ready to serve.


1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled.
(If they are especially large, you may want to halve or quarter them)

Now just follow Johnny's instructions. Pile strawberries on a meringue and pour the hot or spoon the chilled custard over them.

For more about Kathy's book,
you can visit her website:

To win an autographed copy of
Kathy's book, leave a comment and
a lucky winner will be chosen
at random!

Good luck!!!

Thanks so much for joining
us today, Kathy! This was
delightful and inspiring!