Sunday, September 4, 2016

When Food is Love: The Joy of Holiday Cooking


A warm welcome to Julia Buckley, who brings us the first Christmas recipe of the year. That must mean the holidays can't be too far behind!

Julia's latest book, CHEDDAR OFF DEAD, the second Lilah Drake Undercover Dish mystery, hits shelves on September 6 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.


Don't miss her giveaway. Leave a comment with your email address below so she can notify you if you win!


In my latest book, CHEDDAR OFF DEAD (the second in Berkley’s UNDERCOVER DISH mysteries), Lilah Drake continues her career as a secret chef while she also maintains two day jobs that involve cooking and baking. Lilah has a flair for creating food to suit her clientele, and the list of her customers is growing as the series progresses.

The book is set at Christmastime, and Lilah is working to make a variety of holiday foods, some of it for her own family.

In the excerpt below, Lilah Drake is staying at her brother’s house for protection, since a murderer may be looking for her. She is surrounded by her brother and his lovely Italian wife, Serafina, a police-appointed bodyguard named Wendy, and her sometime-boyfriend, Detective Jay Parker. (She also has the non-human support, as ever, of her loyal Labrador, Mick. In the photo below, the part of Mick is played by my own Labrador, Digby, wearing the Christmas garb that Mick must wear). This unlikely group is sharing one of Lilah’s breakfast concoctions:


“I focused on my casseroles. The key to a delicious gingerbread is getting the right molasses (I used Angelo’s Gourmet, which had earned a frown from Parker at the convenience store) and the perfect blend of spices. I did some careful measuring of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, doubling up so that I could make two versions of this particular casserole. I preheated the oven and then dipped my bread into the gingerbread concoction, laying it into glass bake ware, then drizzling it with a sprinkling of nuts and melted butter.

By the time I slid them into the oven, Serafina finally appeared, looking rumpled and sexy in a little red robe. It was official: there was no occasion in which Serafina did not look attractive. “Lilah? You’re up so early!”

“Yes. I had to get started on some food deliveries, but I’ll have breakfast for you and Cam. Is he at work?”

“No—he’s in bed. We were up late, talking and talking.”

Now it was Serafina who didn’t make eye contact, but it was clear enough what she and my brother had been doing into the wee hours. “Oh. Well, hurry up and take your shower, and I’ll make you both some coffee.”

Forty minutes later they were all at the table and being regaled with Christmas songs from Serafina’s iPod. I watched as Parker, Cam, and Serafina dug in to the still-warm gingerbread casserole. Cam slathered his with additional syrup and butter, although I had already topped the dish with fresh whipped cream. They started to eat, and I held my breath until I heard the first “Ah,” which came from Parker. He certainly was a loyalist about my food.

“Lilah, this is delicious!” Serafina said. “Such a wonderful way to start the day—warm food to warm the heart.” Her words were highlighted by Perry Como, who was singing “Home for the Holidays” in his rich, reassuring voice.”


Despite the dangers Lilah finds herself in over the course of several mysteries, she always feels cheered by the food she makes, and by the appreciative responses from the people who eat it. Food warms the heart and the stomach, and for Lilah, food is a way to show love.

With her holiday gingerbread casserole, she does just that.


Lilah’s French Toast Casserole with Gingerbread Flavor(Adapted for Christmastime)

Ingredients:

1 loaf of soft French bread (or soft rolls)
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt to taste

Streusel Topping:
(This can vary, but here’s one option)

2 sticks (one pound) butter
¼ cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Slice bread into 20 slices (or separate ten rolls) and lay out in buttered baking dish.

Blend all of the ingredients and pour them over the slices of bread, making sure that the wet mixture gets under and in between the slices, and that all of the bread is saturated.

Cover the mixture with tin foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, spread the Streusel mixture on top of the saturated, chilled bread, and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

(Gingerbread tastes delicious topped with whipped cream).

Serve with pats of butter and maple syrup.


Be ready for a delicious surprise to share with friends or family! Toby’s five children love this recipe, but adults love it, too!

Julia Buckley is a Chicago writer. Her recent titles, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER (Berkley, July 6) and CHEDDAR OFF DEAD (Berkley, Sept 6) are available in stores and on Amazon. She lives in a busy house with her husband, two sons, four cats and a big Labrador. Her European mother raised her to believe that Food is Love, and she has followed that philosophy all her life.

I hope you enjoy the recipe, or the book, or both—and Merry Christmas in September. J I will choose a winner from among the comments under this post and send them a signed copy of CHEDDAR OFF DEAD, the sequel to THE BIG CHILI.

92 comments:

  1. The book sounds wonderful and I love this French Toast recipe! EMS591@aol.com

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  2. I love French toast but have never tried one with a gingerbread topping. Thanks for the recipe and chance to win your newest book! grace dot koshida at gmail dot com

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    1. Grace, I love it, too! Sadly, I love all kinds of food. :)

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  3. This sounds like the perfect breakfast for Christmas. suefoster109 at netzeronetzero.net

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    1. When is French Toast not the perfect breakfast? :)

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  4. Sounds scrumptious! I will have to make this soon. Can't wait for the holidays. Thank you!
    angelhwk68@yahoo.com

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    1. Barbara, I can't wait, either! But they are all right around the corner. :)

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  5. This sounds like an amazing recipe for holiday brunches! Thanks for the recipe for the chance to win your new book! kimdavishb (at) gmail (dot) com

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  6. This does sound tasty.
    What size pan do you use? 13X9?

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    1. Yes! My good glass pan recently exploded--no kidding--when my husband tried to heat its contents over a stove burner. Note to all--don't put a glass pan on top of the stove and heat it with flame.

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  7. Must make this thanks for sharing!!! Parkeremma2003 at yahoo dot com

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  8. Recipe and book both sound delicious!

    kpbarnett1941[at]aol.com

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    1. Thanks, Karen. FYI, my favorite teacher in grade school was named Mrs. Barnett.

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  9. Love Christmas recipes. Cozy Mysteries are one of my favorite.
    judytucker1947@gmail.com

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  10. I always like to try a few new recipes during the holiday season---this sounds like a good one. Thanks for the contest---the cover is just darling.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I can't take credit for the cover, but I did create the doggy character, whose name is Mick.

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  11. Recipe sounds like a winner to me. Looks easy to make and sounds delicious. Thanks for the review and recipe. jmhinton@psci.net

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  12. Sounds like a great Christmas morning dish! Thanks for the contest...can't wait to read the book! 2boys4me (at) gmail (dot) com.

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! I hope you enjoy the book whenever you may read it.

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  13. My daughter-in-law is a great cook and I know she would love this recipe. Thanks!

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  14. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kim! There are some other fun recipes in the book!

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  16. My husband would love that. With the cooler weather coming soon (boo) I'll have to make it for him. pgenest57 at aol dot com

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    1. Paula, we are the yin and yang of weather. I LOVE the cooler weather and all that comes with it. But of course summer has many pleasures. :) I hope your husband enjoys it!

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  17. The recipe would be greatly enjoyed as would the book. Thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Good luck in the drawing, petite!

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    2. Yum! Sounds like a great Christmas morning breakfast dish. I am looking forward to the new book, thanks for the chance to win!
      JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. I'm excited to read this book! It would be awesome to win it!! Thanks for the chance!! lindaherold999@gmail.com

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    1. Linda, you won it on the Lynn Cahoon/Mollie Cox book launch. It's on its way to you now! :)

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  19. Love Christmas stories!! Recipe sounds yummy! I love the Santa hat on the dog!!! jawdance@yahoo.com

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    1. Who can resist putting a Santa hat on their dog at Christmas? :)

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  20. Just read The Big Chili while I was in hospital. Was so glad it came in time to take along. I can always read!!!! My favorite are culinary cozy mysteries because I love to cook. Will be trying this recipe as soon as I am well!!! Oneponychick66@hotmail.com

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  21. Yes, food is love! It's fun to bake for friends and family all year long, but even more so at the holidays. I love gingerbread and French toast so this combination is a must-try.

    Thanks for the giveaway.
    sallycootie@gmail.com

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  22. This book sounds like such a great read. The recipe sounds really good. A friend's mom used to make the best French toast. She deep fried it so that it came out like a puffed pastry.
    marlene.ezell@gmail.com

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  23. This gingerbread French toast recipe sounds incredible, and the book sounds pretty delicious, also.
    rebarger@bellsouth.net

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  24. I am heading to my brother's house for a Labor Day barbecue, but I will check in later today!

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  25. By rolls, I'm guessing you mean cooked rolls. The recipe sounds terrific. The book does, too.
    I'll have to remember that about the glass pans...mine are 50 years old. I'd hate to lose them.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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    1. Linda, this was a brand-new glass pan, so maybe they don't make them like they used to. Or maybe a chemistry teacher could explain why that happened. :)

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  26. I love Christmas mysteries. I will read them regardless of the season. I agree with other posters that the recipe sounds wonderful for a holiday breakfast but I'm looking forward to trying it sooner. dbahn (at) iw (dot)net

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    1. Have fun! I hope you'll enjoy both book and recipe.

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  27. looks awesome. -Mollie B. iemercedez@aol.com

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  28. looks like a very good book debbiesherwood50@gmail.com

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  29. looks like a very good book debbiesherwood50@gmail.com

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  30. I loved 'The Big Chili.' I've been excited about a book 2...Wow! What a recipe! There ya go, my menu for my next brunch is set.
    kat8762@aol.com

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  31. Finally a breakfast casserole without cheese, which my husband won't eat. Can't wait to try this! Gailarnold25@yahoo.com

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  32. Finally a breakfast casserole without cheese, which my husband won't eat. Can't wait to try this! Gailarnold25@yahoo.com

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  33. This recpies makes me hungry.
    ninaatmyhouse@yahoo.com

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  34. This recpies makes me hungry.
    ninaatmyhouse@yahoo.com

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  35. The recipe looks amazing. I will pass it along to hubby since he is the cook in the family. Would love the chance to read the book.
    Jhdwayne@peoplepc.com

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  36. I've never made french toast that way.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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  37. I love finding new ways to make dishes for my family so that it doesn't become humdrum. Thanks for the opportunity to enter the giveaway. robeader53@yahoo.com

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  38. I loved the Big Chili and can't wait to read Cheddar Off Dead. Thanks for the chance to win! cking78503(at)aol(dot)com.

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    1. Thanks, Chris! So glad you liked the first book.

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  39. I just love all the recipe choices listed. Thank you! Mbcncc@gmail.com

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  40. Just love the recipe and passed it to my hubby who has to do all the cooking due to myself being disabled with a nerve disease. The book sounds just wonderful and i would love to read and review it! peggy clayton ptclayton2@aol.com

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  42. The recipe looks so delicious! I can't wait to read it, hope I win. dawnsmedley69@gmail.com. Dawn Smedley

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  43. Captivating book and lovely recipe. Thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  44. Can't wait for the second in a wonderful new series! Thanks for the chance! This recipe is amazing and if you leave the bread out to get stale overnight it's even better!

    Bec
    Rlewis11797@yahoo.com

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  45. Would love to win this! This recipe is to die for.
    brichardson0056@yahoo.com

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  46. The book and recipe both sound great. Thank you for this chance! areewekidding@yahoo.com

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  47. This sounds like a great read. I haven't read this series yet and I'm looking forward to reading.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  48. Thanks to everyone for your comments! The winner of the book drawing is Kathleen Costa. Kathleen, I'll contact you for your mail info.
    Happy Labor Day, everyone!

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