Sunday, January 4, 2015

Guest Blogger Susannah Hardy #Vasilopita #recipe



Today MLK  welcomes Susannah Hardy who writes the brand new "Greek to Me" mysteries!

Susannah Hardy:  Thank you so much for hosting me, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen authors! Can I just take a moment here to calm myself? Because I’m having a big ole fangirl moment here. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be sharing recipes with Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Lucy Burdette, Avery Aames, Sheila Connolly, Peg Cochran, and Victoria Abbott, I’d have laughed myself silly.

And yet, here I am, with a culinary mystery to call my own. FETA ATTRACTION is set in a Greek restaurant in the Thousand Islands area of Northern New York State, along the St. Lawrence River. My heroine isn’t Greek (neither am I, so I hope my research is good), but she married a Greek man and manages the family restaurant. The Bonaparte House restaurant closes for the winter, so readers won’t see today’s recipe on the fictional menu, but Georgie’s mother-in-law makes this cake every year.

Vasilopita is a cake or bread, baked with a coin inside, that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, in honor of St. Basil, for whom the dessert is named. Whoever receives the coin in his or her portion will be blessed in the coming year. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more blessings, so I see no reason not to make this easy, delicious cake any time.

Vasilopita (Greek New Year’s Cake)

1 cup butter, plus a couple of teaspoons for greasing cake pan
2 cups white sugar, plus an additional 1/4 cup
3 cups flour
6 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup warm milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash a coin (I used a shiny, golden U.S. one-dollar coin, but you can use a quarter), and wrap with aluminum foil.

Cream 1 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in flour (mixture will look crumbly). Mix in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

Now for a little science experiment: Add baking powder to warm milk, and mix into batter. Add baking soda to lemon juice (this is fun—it will foam up), and mix this into batter as well. Mix in almond extract.

Pour batter into a 10-inch cake pan that has been liberally greased with the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. I found that this recipe made too much batter for my cake pan, so I filled the 10-inch pan two-thirds full, then greased another, smaller pan and baked the remaining batter in that. Next time I would probably bake this in a 13” x 9” pan.

Poke the foil-wrapped coin down into the batter. Bake for 15 minutes.
While cake is baking, place almonds and remaining sugar into a small food processor and chop (or chop by hand). The almonds should not be a dust or paste, but should be a little chunky, like a streusel topping.  After cake has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the sugar/almond mixture over the partially baked cake and return to oven. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 20 minutes, then run a knife around the outside of the cake and it should pop right out.

Place on a pretty serving dish, almond side up, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

To serve, slice up the cake and top with whipped cream. You can never go wrong with whipped cream, right? The oldest person in the room is traditionally served first and then subsequent pieces are given out according to age, oldest to youngest. Whoever finds the coin in her/his cake is blessed.

I think this is a lovely idea, don’t you? To be entered in today's giveaway, please leave a comment with your email and describe one of your family's traditions...


Susannah Hardy thinks she has the best job in the world: making up stories and inventing recipes to go along with them. A native of northern New York, where she attended St. Lawrence University, Susannah now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.






116 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway and delicious recipe! My family tradition is that we make sure we get together as much as we can and spend quality time together. areewekidding@yahoo.com

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    1. Hi, Robyn! That's the best tradition of all, spending time with family and friends.

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    2. Hi Susannah! Thank you! Have a great day!

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  2. Ours is a Danish Christmas tradition. At the end of Christmas dinner, a dessert called Ris a l'amonde is served. It is a rice pudding lightened with sweetened whipped cream and contains slivered almonds. There is also one whole skinless almond hidden in the dessert. This is served with cherries cooked and soaked with Cherry Heering, a liqueur. The person who finds the whole almond and presents it unharmed wins a mystery Christmas gift, often sweets but can be anything. We love the flavor this dessert and there is much ribbing and grand talk of who will win. A bit of fun.

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    1. That's so interesting! While I was doing my research on this cake, I found a lot of recipes from different traditions, and many of them featured something (a coin, a small stone, even a tiny doll hidden inside cakes, and the person who finds it is always blessed or considered lucky in the new year. Makes me wonder just how far back this idea goes, and it just reinforces how connected we all are no matter where our ancestors came from. Also, I'm thinking we might need that recipe--because I love cherries!

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    2. And I also love rice pudding. Win-win!

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  3. oops... forgot to add, little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  4. Welcome, Susannah, and thank you for your delightful recipe. My husband and I aren't Greek either, but Marc worked in a Greek cafe while he was in high school and remembers the joyous New Year's celebration. We’re both hoisting a glass of champagne for the success of your series.

    ~ Cleo

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    1. Well, Cleo, it seems you are determined to make me pass out from fangirlism before I've even finished my first cup of coffee this morning! Although I see you are already having champagne, which isn't a bad idea at all, LOL! Like Marc, I worked in a Greek restaurant when I was in college, which is where this idea germinated. There was never a dull moment. Thanks for hosting me today!

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  5. Every Saturday my family gets together. It really means a lot to me to see my family often.
    Moonbay7399@gmail.com

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  6. I envy you that, Candace. My family lives a few hundred miles away, so I only see them a few times a year. But my sisters and I chat a lot on Facebook. Mom hasn't embraced it yet, so we talk on the phone :)

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  7. My Mom makes her rum cake for special occassions.
    sgiden at verizon(dot)net

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    1. Mmmm, did someone say rum cake? Sounds delicious!

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  8. This sounds delicious, and I love the idea of a coin. I make my mother's and grandmothers' cookies for Christmas but don't really have a New Year's culinary tradition. Might as well start with this one! Congratulations on your new series - can't wait to read book one!

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    1. Thanks, Edith! I don't really have any New Year's special dishes either--but after reading about and making this cake, I also think this is a very nice tradition.

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  9. Don't enter me, but I want to wish you much success.

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    1. Thanks, Dru! I hope your 2015 is full of wishes come true!

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  10. I guess we really don't have any New Year's traditions, except to celebrate my Mom's birthday. My mother-in-law always made New Year's cookies, they are rather like doughnut balls with raisins and rolled in sugar after deep frying them. My sister-in-law still makes them. They are pretty good but have to be eaten almost immediately as they get tough.

    ElaineE246(at)msn(dot)com

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    1. My great-gram (who lived to be 102, so I knew her for a very long time) used to make old-fashioned donut balls that she'd roll in granulated or sometimes cinnamon sugar. She called them frycakes, and they were delicious, but as you said, you needed to eat them quickly before they toughened up. I'll bet it's a similar recipe to your family's--without the raisins, but I'll bet that's a yummy addition. And happy birthday to your mom!

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    2. Thank you! She is doing well, she's 83, so hopefully we have a few more good years since it is a ways to 102. I have a hard time keeping up with her some days...

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  11. I can't say that we really have one except that we do eat the traditional pork and sauerkraut on New Year's day for luck...I really have no idea where that came from...I guess google and I are going to be spending time together to find our, LOL. I love the cake recipe, I may have to do this, it sounds yummy. Congrats on your release!
    momzillasteel at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! My husband is of German descent so sauerkraut and pork are staples in my house, and I make homemade spaetzle (a German noodle that is boiled, then sautéed in butter with a little nutmeg) a lot because my son loves it so much. That would go perfectly with your New Year's dinner!

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  12. We don't really have a family tradition other than obligatory black eyed peas for luck.
    dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

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    1. Everybody needs and deserves more luck, so I am all for this tradition. What kind of seasonings do you use in your black-eyed peas? I don't think I've ever made them. We're more of a Yankee baked beans family but I would like to try them!

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  13. Not a New Years tradition, but we love going to the local Greek festival in the fall. The music, dancing and food - especially the baklava and loukoumades are to die for! Excited to read your book!
    lynnh555@gmail.com

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    1. Oh, Lynn, I love the Greek festivals! My favorite thing (other than the amazing food, of course) is the kids doing the traditional dances. Thanks, and I hope you like Feta Attraction!

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  14. Our holiday tradition is to eat out on Christmas day and then go to a movie. After we get back home, we open our presents.

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    1. Forgot email: scarletbegonia5858@gmail.com

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    2. For the first time this year, my husband and son and I went to a movie on Christmas and we came home and ate appetizers. No big Christmas dinner and honestly, we were just as happy :) Next year, maybe Chinese food so we can pretend we're in A Christmas Story! (It's smiling at me, LOL!)

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  15. Our family has quite a few traditions but not anything really big for New Year's except that I always cook a big roast pork with onion gravy with roasted vegetables to serve with it. But most other holidays all have a food related theme that we do almost every year. Food is a big thing in our family and it shows!!!!! :)I

    Our traditions are mostly to be together for each and every holiday which we never missed until this past Thanksgiving as my husband and I were not able to get to go on our family cruise this year due to my medical situation, so that was spent alone which was not a fun day, but hopefully we will be back on track soon. Thanksgiving is my husband's and my wedding anniversary so at Thanksgiving we have a lot of family special days like in 2013 when our daughter, son in law and all three grandchildren went with us to PA to celebrate our 50th anniversary.

    We also do a lot of Easter traditions which the kids love the most.

    As long as we are together with our daughter and her family and our son, that is a special day no matter when it is.

    Really looking forward to reading your book, Susannah. Love all food and beverage themed mysteries so much, and also cozies about animals and casinos and did I mention food and coffee and tea?? Love love love Cleo's Coffeehouse series and now you are hobnobbing with her, lucky Susannah. Wishing you much success. From the sounds of it, you won't have any problem with that.
    Sincerely,
    Cynthia B
    ceblain(AT)tmlponline(DOT)net

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    1. Oh my goodness, how blessed you are to have such a wonderful family. I'm sorry you missed your cruise, though, and I hope you are feeling better. And congratulations on your golden wedding anniversary! You are so right--I am very, very lucky and I still can't believe I'm here. Thanks for the well wishes, and I hope you like Feta Attraction!

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  16. I love Greek food so I'm looking forward to this series and all the recipes as well as the good reading.
    Thanks for the contest.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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    1. Good luck, Sue! Let me know if you try the recipe. Lots of butter, sugar, and almonds? What's not to love, LOL?

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  17. We don't really have any traditions. It's just me, my son and DIL and we all live in the same house together. They work different days/hours so we all get together whenever we can. Lucky for us, my son is a great cook and loves to cook. Baking, not so much. Nice to meet you.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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    1. Nice to meet you, too, Linda! Lucky you, you don't have to do all the cooking in your house. As for traditions, well, just being together is the best tradition there is. And living with people you love and who love you back is a special gift.

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  18. One of our traditions is that we open our gifts at midnight Christmas Eve and have stockings in the morning. Another that I hadn't thought about is that we seem to do some of our decorating the exact same way every year. Then it just feels like the holidays have arrived.

    Congratulations on the book. It sounds as if it's going to be a good series. Can't wait to read.

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    1. Thanks, Grandma! I usually decorate more or less the same way every year. It just doesn't feel like the holidays until our Star Trek ornaments and Lenox china snowman are strangely coexisting on the tree.

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  19. Sounds like a great series--no doubt I'll be addicted in no time! The cake sound delicious. Our New Year's tradition is corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots.

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    1. I hope you like it, Teresa! You must be Irish and/or a Yankee--or at least an Irish Yankee at heart--right? Corned beef and cabbage (with a sprinkle of cider vinegar) is one of my favorite meals, though I usually only make it on St. Patrick's Day.

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  20. When I was young we would have another big turkey dinner on New Year's Day at one of my grandmothers.

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    1. I'm certainly glad somebody mentioned turkey! We usually have turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas when we have our family get-togethers at my mom's. I will have to post my Black Friday Stew recipe on my website. It's a great way to use up turkey leftovers.

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  21. No real family tradition but I like to have a bowl of Clam Chowder with a couple of croutons tossed in for good measure.
    rjprazak6@gmail.com

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    1. You can never go wrong with clam chowder, I always say. Do you like New England, Rhode Island, or Manhattan style? I'm a NE fan, myself.

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  22. I grew up with greens, black eyed peas, and fried hog jowl for New Years. I would love to start this series bits definitely needed. suefoster109@netzero.net. By the way hog jowl is kind of a cross between bacon and ham. I ate as little of those things while growing up as I possibly could. Maybe that's why I'm not rich now.

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    1. I have never tried hog jowl but if it's like bacon or ham, it has to be good! BTW, we never had those things on New Year's either, growing up. I'll settle for good health and good friends, which makes life feel abundant!

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  23. my husband said we usually drink champagne on New Years Eve. We drank it last night. Probably had our typical glass of red wine instead.

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    1. Champagne--very nice! Red wine is also delicious and good for your heart, right? Funny story--when my son was 4 and in preschool, they had a mother's day project where the kids dictated things about their moms to the teacher. Mine had the following entry: "My mom drinks coffee and red wine. Nothing else." The teacher handed it to me and told me that I was not the only mom to get a similar statement, LOL!

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  24. When I was growing up, we had pickled herring before midnight New Year's Eve and then, after midnight, the first thing we ate was lentil soup with knockwurst.

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    1. Mmmm. I haven't had pickled herring in ages--so delicious with sour cream, thin-sliced onions, and fresh dill. And lentil soup--you are making me decidedly hungry!

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  25. We had international finger food night, the table would be covered in food and you just pick all night long . It was fun, the kids loved it too :)

    debbiec1313@yahoo.com

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    1. I love to make a meal of just appetizers. We did that this Christmas and I didn't miss the big meal at all.

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  26. I like the idea of going by age.
    I might add other coins (not too many or the poor cake won't be able to rise), smaller ones, so more people can have the prospect of extra good fortune.

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    1. That's a really good idea, Libby. Good fortune for everyone!

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  27. my family tradition (on both sides of my family) is to eat, eat, & eat some more!!!!

    thank you for the giveaway & good luck on your new series!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

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    1. Ha! Yup, that's a really nice tradition, cyn! Have an amazing 2015!

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  28. I love greek foods! Can't wait to read this one!

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    1. Me too, Jill. What's your favorite? I hope you like Feta Attraction!

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  29. The only tradition we have on New Year's is to make sure black eyed peas are on the menu. My kids hate them, but I still make them every year. Your cake sounds wonderful.

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    1. Now you are all making me want to try some black eyed peas! Maybe your kids would like them better if they were followed up by cake, just sayin', LOL!

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  30. This looks like the start to a wonderful series. When our girls were young, we had the New Year's Eve tradition of going to a movie then coming home and opening up the cedar chest to look at their special baby clothes and other mementos of their baby years and of our wedding. It was always a special time. rencw@verizon.net

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    1. Oh, you are bringing tears to my eyes! What a lovely thing to do!

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  31. Potato dumplings and sauerkraut are one family tradition. dbahn@iw.net

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    1. Sounds delicious and very Old World. Add some ham or a nice German sausage or Polish Kielbasa, and you are all set!

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  32. The recipe sounds fabulous! I can't wait to try it! I also am looking forward to reading your book. Sounds like a delicious who-dunnit!

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    1. Thanks, Lulu! Let me know how it comes out, and I hope you like Feta Attraction. It's my first novel, ever. First one I ever wrote as well as being the first one published. I'm on a brand new adventure and I love it!

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  33. New Year's dinner is ham, black-eyed peas, cabbage and cornbread...... I'm saving this cake recipe. :)
    afarage(at)earthlink.net

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    1. Good luck, Alicia! More black-eyed peas. I'm putting that on the shopping list immediately.

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  34. Happy 2015! I'd love to win your new book to start the year out right!

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    1. Happy 2015 to you too, Karlene. So far, my year has been amazing!

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  35. Family Tradition we eat fish every Friday.

    xzjh04@ gmail.com

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    1. I'm a big fan of fish and shellfish meals, but I usually make seafood on Tuesdays. Don't ask me why!

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  36. It looks scrumptious, Susannah. I can't wait to try it. Good luck with your release.

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    1. Thanks, Marian! I have a feeling you're a pretty good cook, too.

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  37. That cake looks and sounds fantastic! I grew up 3000 miles away, and we had lots of traditions growing up. A pastry called Alligator (do they have that out here? I've never seen it) was my favorite. We had brunches for family gatherings--a lot--and we always had chili rellenos. Now that I'm the magic maker, we don't have quite so many traditions because I always like to try new things, BUT we do have prime rib for Christmas every year. I think I've only managed to get the Yorkshire pudding right once, though, so if anyone has a tip for that, I'd sure love it. Counting down till release day--so excited for you!

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    1. Born and bred on the East Coast, I have no idea what Alligator is, but now I would really like to know! You can never go wrong with a big hunk of beef. I've never tried making Yorkshire pudding, so can't help you there. I hear there's an awesome romance called You Really Got Me coming out from Berkley on Tuesday too--one I'm really looking forward to!

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    2. This is an Alligator. Yum! http://www.viktorbenes.com/famous_alligator_pastry.html

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  38. Sounds yummy. Thanks for the recipe. And thanks for the great read.

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    1. Hi, Kathye! Hope you enjoy Feta, and I hope all is well out there where it's warm.

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  39. Great recipe. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It's really delicious--like a rich almond pound cake, and the crunchy almond-sugar topping is yummy. The Greeks know a thing or two about food.

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  40. Our only tradition for New Year's Day is black Eyed peas. I don't like them but I make everyone eat them. This year i tried something different. I rinsed them and mixed them with rote tomatoes and a little italian dressing and served it like a dip. It was yummy.
    I can't wait to read this book!!!
    kpowers784@yahoo.com

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    1. Ooh, I'm a big fan of disguising unliked foods as something else. I'll bet that dip was really good!

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  41. Hi Susannah, thanks for sharing the recipe (sounds delish!) and I love all the traditions being shared too. For those who haven't had a chance to read FETA ATTRACTION, I can tell you it's FABULOUS! and I can't wait for book 2.

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    1. Thanks Gail! There are some big surprises in store for my heroine in book 2--she's going to get a pretty big meatball dropped in her lap, LOL!

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  42. Our family tradition is you must eat green peas on New Years Day to ensure money in the coming year! I think the original tradition was supposed to be black eyed peas but I guess my family changed it since we don't eat the others.

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    1. OK, confession time. There are very few foods I won't eat but green peas are one of them. Can't stand 'em, no matter how they're cooked. But I'm okay with chickpeas, and I've eaten black-eyed peas (though not prepared them myself). I wonder if I could eat something else green to get that money flowing...

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  43. That recipe sounds wonderful. Our family tradition is to have biscuits and gravy breakfast together at Christmas but none for New Years

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    1. Sounds delicious! You can't go wrong with gravy, LOL!

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  44. Sounds wonderful - the cake, tradition, & the book. Definitely want to read it!!

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    1. Thanks, Linda! I hope you enjoy all three and have a wonderful New Year.

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  45. Welcome to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, Susannah. Your new series sounds wonderful. I look forward to redading it,

    I love this cake with the coin for good luck. I always have a New Years Eve get together with old college rommates. Everyone stays overnight and the next day, spinach, pork, and black-eyed peas are always on the menu for good luck in the new year.

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    1. Thanks for having me today, Krista, and I would be honored if you read my book. How lovely that you get together with friends and have a traditional meal. Old friends and a New Year is the perfect combination!

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  46. The tradition of the coin in the cake reminds me of the cake they serve during Mardi Gras. It always has coins or tokens inside. I am looking forward to this new series. It sounds wonderful. I have had my copy pre-ordered for months! Happy Reading everyone! Doodlesink@hotmail.com

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    1. Thanks so much, Kristina! I have always wanted to go to Mardi Gras some year--and not just for the cake!

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  47. We didn't have any New Years traditions that I can recall. We just took it easy at home.
    dotkel50 at comcast dot net

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    1. Taking it easy sounds like a pretty good tradition, Dotty!

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  48. The cake looks delicious. Whether it contains a coin or not, every piece must be lucky because it tastes So Good. :) FETA ATTRACTION is a fun book. I can't wait for others to discover it, too.

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    1. Thanks, Rhonda! It is a very yummy cake. And I'm so glad you liked Feta!

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  49. What a terrific recipe and a great thought for the year. Thanks!

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  50. For New Year's, one side dish we have is boiled cabbage with a silver coin in it and whoever gets the coin is blessed.

    Your book sounds great as does the recipe. Thank you for the contest!

    woodrumbetty@gmail.com

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    1. This is so interesting! I've never heard of cabbage with a coin. It makes me wonder how far we'd have to go back to find the people who invented this tradition.

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  51. Thanks for the great recipe and idea to add to next year's New Year's meal. My family stays up till midnight and we all have a small bowl of black eyed peas and greens with some cornbread. Then we eat them again the next morning. This year I made New Year Soup with the remnants of it and that will now be added to our tradition. Would love to win a copy of your book. Sadly I was going to read this and review it for The Open Book Society, but the publisher has not sent the book to the higher ups. Any who, I cant not imagine how exciting it is to be on the page with these awesome authors. email address kayt18@comcast.net

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    1. New Year Soup--yum, and what a great way to use leftovers. I'm sorry you didn't get the book to review :( But maybe you'll win this contest! And yes, it's exciting, an honor, and a huge privilege to be here with some of my favorite authors. I have read books by every single one of them and learned so much about what makes a cozy mystery you just can't put down!

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    2. Either way I am looking forward to your series. So I will be reading it and I am sure you have what it takes to write a cozy I cant put down.

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  52. Our family really doesn't have any New Year traditions. If hubby remembers (he's the cook), he'll open a can of black-eyed peas for me to eat, but other than that - nada.
    I like staying up until after midnight on New Year's Eve, but I'm a night-owl anyway, so that's not hard to do.
    This year, hubby did fix corned beef, carrots, and cabbage - but on Saturday, not on New Year's Day. He opted for ribs on the grill instead.

    donna {dot} durnell {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

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    1. Sounds like your husband is a keeper, Donna!

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    2. Sounds like your husband is a keeper, Donna!

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  53. Champagne is always a NY tradition.

    gibsonbk at hiwaay dot net

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    1. Absolutely, bookwomen! Love the bubbly stuff!

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  54. our new years tradition is to make my grandmothers homemade spaghetti sauce.its really good
    mekachew69@gmail.com

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    1. Ooh, homemade spaghetti sauce sounds good. I like making it when my garden is overflowing with tomatoes in the summer, but it's a lot of work!

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  55. New year's tradition In our family was to eat homemade black eyed peas . We would make them while we watched the Rose parade together.and would each discuss our hopes for the new year as a family. .wonderful new series am very excited to see future books in the series.

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  56. Well we started a new tradition for New Years ... instead of the old black eyed peas etc., (which I hated) we now eat seafood and it was delightful. dcgirl919@hotmail.com

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  57. What a lovely tradition! I hope all your New Year's dreams come true!

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  58. No New Year's traditions in my family, but I've enjoyed reading everyone's on here.

    tcuevas@iccable.com

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  59. The cake sounds wonderful! Our New Year's tradition is eating pork & sauerkraut. Yum! lkleback@hotmail.com

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