Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins and a Virtual Drive with Cleo Coyle

Here in the New York and New Jersey area, strawberries are a local crop. How local? Get in my car, and I'll show you (well, virtually, anyway), and during our drive, I'll point out some fun ideas for your summer vacation, or in my case, staycation!

Our trek begins in Manhattan, where we cross the 59th Street Bridge. Yes, the same span on which Simon and Garfunkel were "feelin' groovy," all those years ago. Click on the arrow in the window below to watch them sing the classic tune in Central Park. If you need a pick-me-up, this should do it.

Were you a fan of Simon and Garfunkel? 

(Waves hand madly...)

The Famous Central Park Concert

Are you "Feelin' Groovy" yet?...

Well, let's keep driving then! 

On the other side of New York's famous 59th Street Bridge 
is a forked body of land, also surrounded by water. 
This is Long Island...

Click on the map to learn more
about Long Island, New York.
Map courtesy of
Loving Long-Island.com

On the Manhattan end of Long Island sits Queens, one of New York's five boroughs and the place I (and the Mets) call home. Driving east, toward the rising sun, apartment buildings and row houses gradually give way to middle class homes. We're now leaving New York City and entering what we locals think of as "Long Island" proper.

A fun summer read,
Murder Most Frothy takes
my coffeehouse manager
and amateur sleuth,
Clare Cosi, to New York's
Hamptons, the fabled seaside
playground of the rich and
famous on the "South Fork"

of Long Island. To learn more
about this frothy culinary
murder mystery,
click here.
The roads here (almost magically) appear much cleaner and in better shape. Suburban malls sprout up and we pass familiar franchise stores, restaurants, and movie multiplexes. Most of these things will be found along the center of the Island. The picturesque waterside views (a quiet bay on the north end and the tumultuous Atlantic on the south) are peppered by exclusive communities with multimillion dollar homes. 

But fret not, Oh ye who do not manage hedge funds nor own multimedia conglomerates, because there are plenty of state parks on Long Island, too. One of my favorites is a 6.5-mile white sand playground for the public called Jones Beach, which makes it possible for even lowly writerly types (like me) to appreciate an ocean view.

If strolling through historic villages floats your boat (as it does mine), then you should be buoyed by the many quaint towns along both shorelines. 

National landmarks are worth a look, too, like Teddy Roosevelt's stunning Victorian home, Sagamore Hill (aka his "summer White House"), near the scenic town of Oyster Bay on Long Island's North Shore.

Teddy Roosevelt's Victorian home,
near Oyster Bay, Long Island.

Continue driving east and the Island takes on a much more pastoral complexion. At the end of the island, the land splits into the "North Fork" and the "South Fork," the latter is where you will find the famous Hamptons, a collection of seaside villages where rich and famous folk, especially those who live in New York City, have summer homes.

Although you will find uber-rich people out here with their yacht clubs, stables, and summer houses, you will 
also find families who've been here for many generations, along with working vineyards and farms. Touring around this area is a beautiful way to spend a day (or two or three)...

Strawberries are one of the big crops of their summer season. In fact, many of the farms feature pick-your-own strawberry patches.

I didn't pick my own today, although picking your own is a fun outing for young and old...

To visit a Strawberry Festival on Long Island 
and lick your lips at some of the ways strawberries 
can be eaten, enjoy this 2 minute video...

Okay, now you're ready for a snack, right?

Full disclosure: For today's recipe, I got my strawberries the old-fashioned way, at the grocery store, where the sign next to the stacked containers of bright red berries declared: "Buy 1, Get 1 Free!" 

Indeed, I did buy one, took home two, 
and had me a strawberry party.

Of course, I truly love Farmers' Markets,
and I'm sure most you will agree...

Nothing says summer like a stop
by a local farmer's roadside stand.

To check out New York State's 
interactive guide to its many farmers' 
markets, click here.

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

Cleo Coyle's
Shortcake Muffins 

This is one of my favorite summertime muffins. It has the taste of a strawberry shortcake but with less fat and calories, making it a lovely breakfast or coffee-break snack. If you should want to make it richer, simply replace the low fat milk with whole milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream. However you decide to bake them, I hope you eat them with summertime joy! Love...

~ Cleo

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

Cleo's Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

Makes 6 standard muffins


4 - 5 ounces of ripe strawberries (This equals about 4 medium,
      or 3 large, or 8 small berries. Or about 2/3 cup when chopped.)

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup white, granulated sugar

2 tablespoons canola (or vegetable or cold-pressed virgin coconut) oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup low fat milk
(2% milk gives great results; for a richer tasting
       muffin, use whole milk, half-and-half, or cream)

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour


Step 1 - Prep oven, pan, and berries: Preheat oven to 350º F. Line six muffin cups with paper holders. To prevent muffins from sticking, lightly spray the papers with non-stick spray. Wash your strawberries and gently pat them dry with a paper towel. (It's okay if they're still damp.) Hull them (see how below) and chop them into small, uniform pieces. If you slice them over a small bowl, you'll retain more of the juices. Once chopped, the strawberries should fill 2/3 cup and no more. Sprinkle berries with 1 tablespoon of sugar, toss well, and set aside the bowl.

How to hull a strawberry: Pinch off green stem. Using a small, sharp
knife, cut around the berry's crown (or move the berry in a circular
motion against the blade). You want to remove the fibrous white,
conical-shaped core, leaving as much fruit intact as possible

Step 2 - Make batter with one bowl mixing method: Crack egg into a mixing bowl and gently beat with a whisk or fork. Add 1/4 cup sugar, oil, vanilla, milk, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, and whisk until well blended. Add chopped strawberries from Step 1. Be sure to include any strawberry juices that may have accumulated at the bottom of the strawberry bowl. Stir to blend.

Batter before flour is added.

Step 3 - Add dry ingredients: Measure flour and pour into the wet ingredients. With a spoon or spatula gently mix dry and wet ingredients to form a lumpy batter. Do not over mix at this stage, but be sure to blend the raw flour completely into your batter.

Never over mix muffin batter or you'll develop
 the gluten in the flour and your muffins
will be tough instead of

Step 4 - Bake: This batter will make 6 standard muffins so divide it up evenly among your paper-lined cups. I use the two tablespoon method, scooping up the sticky batter with one spoon and scraping it off with the other. Bake in a well preheated 350º F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes. The muffins are not done until the tops have turned golden brown (see my photos)...

Step 5 - Cooling and storing: Allow the muffins to cool for five minutes in the pan. Remove and finish cooling on a wire rack. Once they're completely cool, you can wrap them in plastic and store them in the refrigerator. A little butter, a cuppa joe, and you're set for breakfast, a coffee break, or a late-night snack.

For a free PDF of this recipe,
click here or on the image below.

Summer is here, with all its
fresh fruits and veggies, definitely a time to...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here

* * * *

Thanks to American University Magazine
in Washington, D.C.
for featuring us
in their Spring Issue...

To see the article online,
click here for the free magazine app

click here to read
the Cleo article and enjoy!


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

* * *

Once Upon a Grind:
A Coffeehouse Mystery

* A Best Book of the Year
Reviewer's Pick - King's River Life

* Top Pick! ~ RT Book Reviews 
* Fresh Pick ~ Fresh Fiction 
* A Mystery Guild Selection

* * * 

Marc and I also write
The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

Get a free title checklist, 
with mini plot summaries, 

Or learn more about the 
books and meet Jack Shepard, 
our PI ghost by clicking here.

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(Recipes, contests, videos, fun info)

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Thanks for stopping by the Kitchen! 



  1. Oooh! Strawberries! That recipe seems easy and the photos make the final product mouth-watering. Add a nice French-pressed coffee, and you have a marvelous treat while reading...Murder Most Frothy.

    1. Aw, thanks, Kathleen, and Murder Most Frothy is a fun summer read for those of you (like me) who are on a staycation. You'll take a trip with Clare to the Hamptons for the summer...solve a murder, and meet some colorful (and suspicious) characters along the way. Enjoy!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. Strawberries are my favorite fruit, and your Cleo's Strawberry Shortcake Muffins look amazing! Thank you for the recipe. :)

    1. Jen - Thank *you* for stopping by to brighten my day, and may your own summer days be bright...with low humidity!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Love the tour and the muffins too, Cleo! thanks for showing us around, and have a great summer! xo

    1. You, too, my friend! And congrats again on your terrific new Key West mystery this week, FATAL RESERVATIONS, woot!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. These look oh so delicious! Thanks for the recipe and the tour!

    1. Kim - Thank you! And don't you love strawberries in the summertime? Putting them in recipes is fun, but they're absolutely delicious simply sliced into a bowl with a dollop of whipped cream. Even better, they're good for us. So we can eat them with joy...and in good health. Cheers!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Big fan of Simon and Garfunkel here (too bad they no longer get along)! The "feelin' groovy" song used to come on every Saturday morning on the AM station my parents listened to when I was young, so I remember it well. My sister lives on Long Island, so I sort of know it as well from my visits. And I adore strawberries -- the Strawberry Festival looks like so much fun!

    The muffin recipe sounds great, and I am happy that it only makes six, as a dozen is too many for just my husband and I. I will give this one a try. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Cee Plus - I still remember the day in junior high school when my English teacher brought a Simon & Garfunkel album (yes, vinyl!) to class and we discussed their use of poetic sound techniques for the whole class! I was so happy. Best day in junior high, period. (No, not a football game or some lame date. It was that day. Yes, I was, and still am, proud to be a writing geek. Good thing, too, since you all are probably reading this as a result. Cheers for that--and I'll always be grateful to S&G for their lyrical inspiration. :))

      Waves to your sister and fellow Islander; after all, we're on the same chunk of it, I'm just on the NYC end here in Queens! And thanks so much for dropping in and brightening my day.

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  6. Another Cleo hit--NYC travel and a yummy recipe.
    Well done.
    I can imagine making the muffins with the lower fat milk, but then guilding the lily by topping them with clotted cream! Truly strawberry shortcake!

    1. Always a pleasure to see you in the Kitchen, Libby! You are a corrupting influence with your dastardly clotted cream idea...oh, all right, pass the bowl!

      xxoxo and have a delicious week!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    2. Bwaa-haa-haa!

  7. I have a basket of strawberries in my refrigerator just yearning to become shortcake muffins! And thanks for another great tour through New York - being on the other coast I haven't been there much, and I always feel like I just had a visit after one of your posts.

    1. Grandma Cootie - What a sweet comment! Waves to you across our beautiful country. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed my virtual (staycation) drive. I only wish I could pile you, and all of our wonderful readers here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, into a big, happy, sing-along bus for strawberry picking, a farmers' market stop, and (okay, twist my arm) Long Island vineyard wine-tasting hop. Maybe next summer? All we need is an action plan…and a pitcher of fresh strawberry daiquiris from Lucy Burdette! :)

      xoxoo and thanks again for stopping in…
      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Love the recipe and LOVED the tour! Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Patricia, I appreciate it!

      ~ Cleo

  9. These sound like they would be the perfect compliment to my Hugh Jackman coffee! The Kcups I found are amazing by the way. Drinking some now then going out to get some strawberries! How's Jack doing? Busy writing I hope LOL.

    1. Antonette - I'm happy to know that you enjoyed Mr. Jackman's coffee! For anyone wondering, I selected actor Hugh Jackman's "Laughing Man" coffee as one of my past coffee picks.

      Mr. Jackman is a great supporter of developing world coffee farmers, and he gives his profits to charity. His coffee is excellent, and it's worth checking out.

      I posted a short video of Hugh Jackman visiting an African coffee farm, and I also posted a link to purchase his coffee. If anyone would like to see both, then simply CLICK HERE TO SEE THE HUGH JACKMAN COFFEE VIDEO, and...

      Drink with "laughing man" joy!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Wow, what a trip! The muffins look delicious! I just finished making fresh strawberry jam! :)


  11. I feel like I just had a mini-vacation, Cleo! What a terrific post. I loved the tour and the recipe is printed out because a friend dropped in this evening a brought us a pint of local strawberries. How perfect is that



  12. My husband made these for me while I was at work this morning. After waiting 3 hours until I got home; I was finally able to have one. Amazing flavor. Our 9 year old and 1 year old loved them so much that most of them are gone now.