Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

A note from Krista ~

January first is traditionally a time for new starts. You made some resolutions, right? I know I did.

This January first, we're going through some changes at Mystery Lover's Kitchen. It's with great sadness that we're waving so long to Jenn McKinley. She's bowing out to spend more time writing her delightful books. We're sorry to see her go, and we'll certainly miss her. Don't worry, Jenn promises to come back and visit!

On a happier note, three new regulars will be joining us on Saturdays. We're thrilled to add Wendy Lyn Watson, Sheila Connolly, and MJ Maffini to Mystery Lover's Kitchen!

Wendy Lyn Watson writes the Mystery A La Mode series about Tallulah Jones, proprietor of Dalliance, Texas’s old-fashioned ice-cream parlor. In addition, Wendy is a vegetarian, so she'll be sharing some great meat-free dishes.

Sheila Connolly writes the Orchard Mystery series, about apple orchard owner, Meg Corey. In addition, Sheila writes the Museum Mysteries, which just debuted this fall. Sheila's interest in food and history has spurred her to recreate some fascinating recipes like Emily Dickinson's Black Cake.

MJ Maffini is the author of the Camilla MacPhee mystery series, the Fiona Silk mysteries, and the Charlotte Adams mysteries. Shh, I hear there's a new series on the horizon. While MJ isn't writing culinary mysteries, she's a creative cook and tells us that the new series will include a housekeeper, Senora Panetone, whose cooking skills are phenomenal.

Mystery Lover's Kitchen is delighted that these three talented authors and cooks have agreed to join us!

Today you're getting a twofer! Jenn McKinley is leaving with a bang with her Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes. Ringing in the new is Wendy Watson with Touchdown Taco Dip!

Well, what better way to start the new year than
with cupcakes? BUTTERCREAM BUMP OFF will be released in just three days on January 4th, and I am so excited I decided to whip up a batch of Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes for Christmas and share the recipe here with you!

Sadly, this will also be my last regular post for Mystery Lover's Kitchen, so I wanted to share a special cupcake recipe and this one will be featured in DEATH BY THE DOZEN, which is due out in October 2011.

It was a hard decision to leave the kitchen. These ladies are the best, but I've signed on for another mystery series (yes, that makes four) and what with being a part time librarian and a full time mom, well, something had to give. Hey, maybe this
means the Hub will take me out to eat more often. See? There's always an upside!

Not only that, but the ladies will be inviting some truly spectacular talents to take over the Saturday slot! It's going to be terrific!

Oh, and I will be popping into the kitchen, so it really isn't goodbye but more of a I'll see you when I see you!

And now here is the recipe, which I must say, turned out AMAZING!

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 box devil's food cake mix

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp chile powder

A pinch of kosher salt

A dash of black pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup water

4 tbspn canola oil

1 disk (3.1 oz) Mexican chocolate,

ground in food processor

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a cupcake tin with paper cups.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the cake mix, cinnamon and chile powder, plus salt and pepper. Add eggs, water and oil. Stir until the mix is just combined, then add the ground chocolate stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

Ganache frosting:

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a double boiler bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Add the chocolate chips, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let sit for five minutes to cool and thicken. Holding the cupcakes upside down, dip them into the ganache until the top is coated. Allow the excess to drip off and then set aside to allow the frosting to set.

Tip: To jazz it up, I piped a little red chili pepper on top.

I used a basic buttercream frosting recipe and red food coloring!

Enjoy! It has been a pleasure blogging with all of you for the past year and a half. Good luck and good eating, everyone!


And now, Wendy Watson!

New years means lots of things to lots of people -- drunken revelry, resolutions, diets (ahem), clean slates. For me, though, January 1 means football.

It will come as a great surprise to my students--who have to put up with my half-baked and ill-conceived sports analogies on a regular basis--but I watched a lot of college ball as a child. I'm a third generation Michigan Wolverine - Go Blue! - so I didn't have a lot of choice in the matter.

For the first 28 years of my life (until the whole BCS nonsense), the Rose Bowl on January 1 was the crowning moment for the Big 10 Champ, and for 20 of those 28 years, the Rose Bowl was either the last chance to cheer on my beloved Wolverines or the last chance to boo and hiss at our arch-rival, Ohio State. So our family always spent January 1 planted in front of the television, doing terrible things to our blood pressure and our overall cardiovascular health.

As I mentioned before, I watched a lot of football, but I never exactly understood, well, the rules. The ball moved up and down the field, there was a lot of yelling of "hit him, hit him!", but the finer points were wasted on me. For me, there were two highlights to watching football. First, I could sing "Hail to the Victors" as loudly as a I wanted, and no one complained about how off-key I was. And, second, there were lots of snacks ... especially chips and dip.

So for those playing along at home, here's the math:

January 1 = Football = Vast Quantities of Chips and Dip

By the transitive property, January 1 = Dip. Isn't math grand?

Many dips graced my childhood--the ever-popular French-onion-soup-and-sour cream, the Knorr spring vegetable soup version of the same, Velveeta queso, pecan-crusted cheese balls. But no dip was so loved, and quickly devoured, as our family's take on the 7-layer taco dip.

The beauty of this dip is
  1. it takes about 10 minutes to make (before photo taken at 10:52, after photo at 11:00);
  2. it's pretty;
  3. it's delicious;
  4. you can get just about every ingredient at the corner 7-11;
  5. it has protein and veg in it, so you can rationalize eating the whole pan yourself; and
  6. while I have no firsthand experience (riiiight....), I've heard it's excellent hangover food.
So if you're spending today watching football or simply huddling at home trying to recover from last night's overindulgence, take 10 to whip up some of this dip.

Touchdown Taco Dip

1 15-oz container sour cream (light is fine)
1 can refried beans (fat free is fine)
1 packet of taco seasoning (1/4 c., if you buy in bulk)
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 c. jarred salsa or picante
small can chopped black olives (optional)

Spread the beans in the bottom of a 7 x 11 or 9 x 13 pan. Mix the sour cream with the taco seasoning. Spread that over the beans. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with salsa/picante. Dot with black olives.

If you're really feeling festive, you could spread a layer of purchased guacamole between the beans and the sour cream. Or throw a handful of actual diced tomatoes on top. Go crazy!


Happy New Year from all of us to all our friends who make Mystery Lover's Kitchen such a special and fun place!


  1. I like to do happy things first, so first, a big welcome to Wendy, Sheila, and MJ!!!!!

    Jenn, I'm so sorry to see you going, even if it's "see you later" rather than "goodbye". You will be missed. Four series, I don't even know how you do it. Best of luck in the new year with all your endeavors.

  2. That's what I like, simple ingredients, simple preparation and simply delicious to eat.

    Jenn, sorry to see you go, but look forward to seeing you stop by in the future. Looking forward to hearing about your 4th series.

    Wendy, Sheila and MJ...WELCOME!

    Happy New Year!

  3. Jenn, we're going to miss you around here! Hope you come back and visit lots. Have a lot of fun writing!

    I love Jenn's recipe--I agree with Dru, it pulls in ingredients I love and it's easy to make!

    The touchdown taco recipe (and your equation for Jan 1--ha!!) sounds fantastic. May have to pull that together for the big game we're watching this afternoon.

    Welcome Wendy, Sheila, and MJ!

  4. Oh, Jenn, October is so far away to wait for Death by the Dozen! I just finished Buttercream Bumpoff and loved it! Slated for review on 1/11/11. Safe to say it's getting a high rating from me!

  5. Jenn - you will be missed and we're already looking forward to your guest blogs! Mmm... these cupcakes look awesome. Chocolate. Perfect.

    Wendy, Sheila, MJ - WELCOME!! Looking forward to enjoying your company in the kitchen!

    Wendy - great dip recipe. This is exactly the sort of last minute appetizer I need when I've forgotten I promised to bring a dish! Looks fabulous. Thank you!!

  6. Jen, so sorry to see you go but wish you much happiness and success in 2011.

    Welcome to Wendy, Sheila and MJ. Looking forward to all of your posts this year.

    Happy New Year ladies of Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. May it be a wonderful year for everyone.

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Jenn - you will be missed. Good luck with all those series (I don't know how you do it!). Thank you for all the yummy recipes - including this one - WOW!

    Welcome to Wendy, Sheila and MJ (Senora Panetone?! love it!!).

  8. I'm delighted to be joining this group, because I love talking and writing about food (and eating it, of course).

    Jenn, you will be missed, and we'll all visit you in the asylum when writing four (!) series pushes you over the edge.

    And I just happen to be looking for a good chocolate cupcake recipe, because my daughter gave me a set of skull cupcake pans for Christmas, and I'm thinking, ooh, dark chocolate cupcake, deceptive white frosting, and a real surprise when you bite into them. I'll keep you all posted!

  9. Happy New Year, everyone. Just dropping in to welcome our three wonderful, new crime-writing cooks: Wendy, Sheila, and MJ. To Wendy: That dip looks just about perfect for game day, but I’m going to need a little I Scream to go with it! To Jenn: This is not goodbye, only so long for now. BIG congrats on the pub of Buttercream Bump Off, and I’m looking forward to your guest posts here in the future with the launch of your brand new series. Wishing everyone the very best for 2011.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Jenn, you will sooooo be missed. But I'm happy to be on board ...

    And sorry to join the party a little late today. For the first time in a decade, Mr. Wendy and I actually managed to ring in the new year -- at a party, no less. As we were leaving, I tried to collect the almost clean dish of taco dip, and someone actually reached out to stop me. It's embarrassingly easy to make, but strangely addictive.

    Oh, and Mexican chocolate cupcakes? Jenn, did I mention you will be missed???

  11. Wendy, Sheila and MJ welcome to the kitchen. I look forward to the recipes and talk.

    Jenn you will be missed, but congratulations on a new series I will be watching for it.

    Hope everyone has a great 2011 and good things coming your way.

    The World of Book Reviews

  12. Jenn, you'll really be missed. But I'm so glad to hear you'll be dropping by the kitchen on occasion with more delicious recipes, like these spicy-chocolatey treats. Good luck to you, always!

    Big welcome hugs to our newest writer "chefs" Wendy, Sheila & MJ, from another cozy fan of your books!

    Happy New Year!

  13. Jenn, come back for a visit when you catch your breath for a minute!

    Thanks for joining us, MJ, Sheila, and Wendy! I look forward to lots of fun and delicious blogs.

    ~ Krista

  14. Oh, I am going to miss you all so much.
    But I will visit frequently to get my MLK
    fix. You are an extraordinary group of gals,
    but I know you're in good hands with our newbies!

    Rock on my friends,