Showing posts with label #giveaway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #giveaway. Show all posts

Friday, March 17, 2017

Guest Fran Stewart

Please welcome Fran Stewart to MLK. She writes about a Scottish-themed shop in Vermont, and though it's Saint Patrick's Day today, we won't hold it against her. She's giving us a recipe that is both easy and fun. Plus a giveaway!




Why would anyone wonder why I write not one, but TWO mystery series with a protagonist who either can’t or doesn’t like to cook? Isn’t it obvious?

Peggy Winn in the ScotShop series likes to eat the leftovers from her friend Karaline’s restaurant. Biscuit, the librarian in the Biscuit McKee series, cooks three things – soups, bread, and cookies. Anything else is the responsibility of Bob, her ever-patient husband.

Those two characters just about sum me up. I can’t imagine how much trouble I’d have writing a series if I had to come up with recipes for each book.

That said, I do have a recipe for you, but you’ll have to improvise a lot, since it’s based to a large extent on what was in my cupboard one particular day.

I loved the moment I discovered crockpots. I can throw a whole bunch of ingredients in there in the morning, let it simmer all day long, and have a number of meals to chomp on (like about five of them – supper this evening, lunch and supper for the next two days).

I can hear you asking – “What!!!! Eat the same thing three days in a row?!!!!”

Well, yes. Food is not a high priority for me (as I’m sure you already figured out). If you don’t want to duplicate menus, feel free to freeze meal-sized batches for later.

Now, I do admit that sometimes the crazy combinations I put together end up being, shall we say, less than satisfying. Since I hardly ever cook for company, though, I don’t have to worry about it. I’m someone who can make a complete meal out of fresh homemade bread and creamy butter, along with hunks of cheese and good strong tea. Throw in some soup (even if it tastes a little weird), and the meal is even better.


So, here’s the way my throw-together soup happens:
1. Crockpot, dribbled with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to keep things from sticking.

2. Layer the bottom with a cup of rice (preferably brown) uncooked.

3. Dump an entire undrained can of Italian-cut green beans on top of the rice.

4. Add an undrained can of light red kidney beans (You can use the dark red, but they turn the rice sort of muddy looking. Not too appetizing unless you’re eating by candlelight.) If you’d rather, you can soak dried kidney beans overnight and add them during this step.

5. Chop up a smallish dill pickle and add it on top of the kidney beans. Why, you ask? Why not?

6. Sprinkle with a generous amount of pepper. At this point, I usually throw in some sort of herb or spice. The last soup I put together had a couple of teaspoons of mustard seed. I’ve also been known to add a little cumin and a fair amount of ginger.

7. Chop up some chicken (cooked or uncooked) or fresh salmon and layer the pieces over the rice and such. If you don’t want to chop, four to six drumsticks work just fine.

8. Add another layer of rice – if you make it wild rice, it’ll add a nutty consistency that’s delicious – and one more can of green beans. You could use the French-cut beans, but they’re a little harder to eat without dribbling. Once I used a can of each, and it just looked messy, so now I stick to the stubby Italian-cut version.

8. Top with four or five pieces of pickled okra, sliced thinly.

9. Add enough water to make it sort of soupy.

Cook on high from 4 to 6 hours (or on low overnight). You may need to add more water halfway through.

I almost never add salt – but you might want to in step #6 if you’re a “salty” kind of person.

That’s it. Simple. Quick. Tasty (we hope).


Fran will be giving away one copy of her book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment!


About the book:

The annual Highland Festival in Hamelin, Vermont, means caber tossing, sword dancing, and just a spot of murder...

Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customer’s family names to their clan plaid.

Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer—because another death would really blow... 






Find A Wee Homicide in the Hotel at:

Amazon
AmazonSmile
iBooks
Books a Million
Books a Million


About Fran:

Hoping to be judged on her writing ability and not on her cooking ability, Fran is the national best-selling author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series (seven books so far) and the ScotShop mystery trilogy; as well as a standalone mystery A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT; and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, written to help emerging writers use the English language more effectively. She lives and writes quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.





Thursday, February 23, 2017

Roasted French Beans, Mushrooms, and Onions with Panko #recipe by Linda Wiken, author, @LWiken



There aren't many vegetables I don't like, although there are some that I feel need to be dressed up before presenting at a meal.

Cauliflower is one, green beans is another. No offence meant to green bean or cauliflower lovers!

But the great news is that it's so easy these days to do just that. Even just roasting these veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper is so easy and transforms the taste.

But I found a recipe that sounded just right, although it added a few more steps to the roasting process. This is a recipe for guests, I decided. And, of course, I played around with it, because that's what we do. I'm not sure where it originated but my guess might be online at  Bon Appetit, one of my favorite sources.

I've switched out the green beans for French beans-- love the shape and size. The choice of onion was new, too, as were the mushrooms and cheese. I'm thinking this would work great for cauliflower, too!


What you need: (to serve four)

1 1/2 lbs. French beans
6 shallots, sliced into rings
8 oz. mushrooms
8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 c. Panko
1/2 tsp. each freshly chopped rosemary, bay, sage, and tarragon
1/2 c. grated Asiago cheese
1 lemon, zest and juice







 
What to do:

Preheat over to 425 F.  Place French beans, mushrooms and onions in a large bowl and toss them with 3 tbsp. olive oil.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and arrange the French beans mixture on them. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and browned, approx. 30 to 35 min.

Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat.  Add Panko and herbs, stirring constantly until golden brown, about  3 min. Remove from heat and stir in Asiago and lemon zest.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the roasted vegetables and top with the Panko mixture.

Enjoy!


Book 2 in the Dinner Club Mysteries,  ROUX THE DAY, is coming on March 7th!
To pre-order, please check your favorite bookstore website.


The first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!



Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

             
Visit Linda at www.lindakwiken.com
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at www.killercharacters.com
                                                                               


Visit Erika at www.erikachase.com 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase. 






Sunday, December 18, 2016

Behind the Scenes with Shawn Reilly Simmons

We here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen are excited to welcome guest Shawn Reilly Simmons, who's giving us a sneak peek into cooking for the stars!




Thanks to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and Sheila Connolly in particular for inviting me over to share today!



Like many of the authors who regularly contribute to this blog, I write culinary mysteries that are inspired by my time working in a kitchen. Where my experience deviates a bit is the last cooking job I had was working as part of the crew on a movie set. That "kitchen" was really a couple of trucks and tents, constantly on the move, setting up wherever principal filming was taking place on any particular day over a four month period.

My Red Carpet Catering mysteries take place behind the scenes on movie sets, and are told from the point of view of Penelope Sutherland, chef-owner of a theatrical catering crew. There are three books so far: Murder on a Silver Platter, Murder on the Half Shell, and Murder on a Designer Diet. I'm happy to report I've been signed on for three more, all published by Henery Press.


The days cooking on a movie set are long, and most of the work takes place outside. That can be nice on a pretty day, but can be challenging when it's raining or when you're chopping vegetables in sub-freezing temps in a cold tent. Those kinds of days it's good to be assigned to the grill in the mobile kitchen. But that's exactly where you don't want to be during the hottest days of summer. That's when the tent feels much nicer.

Our team cooked for roughly three hundred cast and crew, all of whom came to eat twice a day for either breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner. We cooked, prepped, cleaned, broke down, set up, and drove to different spots in Washington DC during the times in between. A typical shift was at least twelve hours, but more often ended up around sixteen, most of them on our feet.

Movie stars, and the people who work on the movies they star in, don't expect burgers and fries when they call dinner break. We prepared restaurant-quality food including roast salmon, prime rib, fresh vegetables and pasta, not to mention a massive salad bar that rivals any I've seen in a restaurant. But the most important thing was we had to have it ready on time, every time. Films are shot on a schedule with lots of people on the clock. You never want to be the one holding up production.

The catering crew accommodated special meal requests for those who adhered to special diets or had allergies. We threw a few parties for the cast and crew on Friday nights when the week was a wrap, and a long week of work was done. Overall my time as an on set caterer was fun, exhausting, educational, and rewarding. And it was definitely a unique experience I'll never forget.

And now I know how to throw a giant dinner party--even though I've never had the occasion since to cook for hundreds of people. Maybe someday...

In my most recent book, Murder on a Designer Diet, Penelope and her team serve s'mores after a particularly rough night on the set. Because it's awfully cold outside in real life, even too cold for an outdoor fire for me, here's an easy way to bring s'mores inside and give them a holiday twist.


Red Carpet Catering Holiday S'mores Bars

Ingredients:

A dozen graham crackers (smashed)
A stick (1/2C) melted & cooled butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups marshmallows (20 or so of the big ones)
3/4 cups dark chocolate chips
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
6 candy canes, smashed! (keep pieces relatively uniform, no large, jagged pieces-use a Ziploc to control the scattering of candy dust)



Preheat oven to 400F. Line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang for easy removal after baking.

Smash (I love smashing things) graham crackers in a Ziploc bag, pour into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in butter and brown sugar until well mixed, then press mixture into the bottom of your lined pan to form the crust.



Bake in the preheated oven until crust is lightly browned, about 6 minutes--don't let it get too dark!




Remove pan from oven and let cool a few minutes. Cover crust evenly with the dark chocolate chips. 




Layer marshmallows on top. Cover again with white chocolate chips, and your smashed candy canes. (Like you're making the world's sweetest lasagna!)

Pop it back in the oven until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are browned, 3-4 minutes depending on your oven. (Don't let it get too dark, again!)



Let s'mores rest in pan on a baking rack until cool, about 30 minutes (seriously, it will be like sweet lava in there, so be careful).

When it's totally cooled, pop your pan into the refrigerator until set, about 45 minutes. Remove and cut into squares. 




You can make this the day before and cover tightly with film if you're heading to a pot luck party.

I like to pair my s'mores with Knobby Chocolate (almond) Milk: 2C Almond Milk, 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips melted over low heat, then add a shot of Knob Creek (or your favorite bourbon) after you pull it off the stove. Happy Holidays!

And there's a holiday giveaway! 
I'll give a copy of Murder on a Designer Diet along with some holiday treats--peppermint bark & holiday tea. Just leave a comment below.



Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of the Red Carpet Catering mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer. Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and the Crime Writers' Association in the UK. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, and is an editor at Level Best Books, publisher of crime fiction anthologies including the Best New England Crime Stories. 

For more details, see http://www.shawnreillysimmons.com/




Friday, December 16, 2016

Irish Porter Cake

Porter cake is traditionally served around St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, or so say a lot of recipes. But when I was visiting Eileen Connolly—the Connolly who gave her name to Connolly’s of Leap, the model for Sullivan’s Pub in my books—I walked into her kitchen while she was baking a batch of loaves to give as Christmas gifts to friends. The room smelled wonderful, and she shared a warm loaf with me. What could be better? Sitting in the “real” pub with a hot-from-the-oven cake and a cuppa tea and talking with a friend about the business so I could write about it later? Perfect.



She wouldn’t part with the recipe, but her secret is to marinate the various raisins in Guinness overnight.

A lot of recipes call for candied fruit, which you’d find in a fruitcake. I can’t stand the stuff—and Eileen didn’t include any (maybe we’re related after all?)

The result is a soft, rich, dark cake, which if you warm it up a bit goes well with some butter. It’s not quite a fruit cake (everybody’s not-favorite loaf).


Irish Porter Cake (thank you, Eileen!)

Ingredients:


1-1/3 cups currants
2 cups raisins
2 cups golden raisins
1 bottle Guinness (assuming you don’t have a keg handy)

Soaking
Everything else

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup soft dark brown sugar

4 cups flour
spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg) – at least a couple of teaspoons of each
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
grated rind of one lemon
3 eggs, beaten together


Instructions:

Mix the currants, raisins and sultanas with the Guinness in a large bowl and let soak overnight.

On the day of baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drain the raisin mix well. Grease whatever pan(s) you're using (see below) and line with parchment paper.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.



Sift together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda and lemon rind. Gradually add the mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the eggs.




Mix the raisin mix into the batter by hand. Note: this will be stiff!



Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 9" round cake pan, or 2 4 x 8-inch loaf pans (easier to give as gifts).



Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer comes out clean (start checking after an hour, but it may be a bit longer). Cool for 20 minutes in the pan before turning it out on a wire rack.



The cake’s flavor improves with age if you let it sit for a couple of days. Wrap with foil while still warm to keep moist.

And share with friends!



And now for the giveaway! I’d send you a loaf of the cake, but I don’t think it would survive the trip (besides, I’d have to admit to our nice post office employee that it’s perishable, right?). So instead I’m offering this very useful small jar to keep whatever you like it (pennies for your next holiday fund? spices? lost buttons?). Oh, all right, it's for cat treats--I'm just a bit biased, with three of the critters.




PLUS a copy of the latest of any of my series: A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mysteries), Seeds of Deception (Orchard Mysteries) or Dead End Street (Museum Mysteries), in print or e-format. 









It was the lovely spicy smell of the porter cake that drew me into Eileen’s kitchen (and kept me there for an hour or more). What smell of baking means “holiday” to you? (Or if nobody in your house bakes, is there another scent that reaches you?) Leave a comment and I’ll draw a winner.

And happy holidays to you all! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Buried in a Bog Cheesecake for #Halloween

Ah, that lovely season when the dead rise again! You probably know of my fondness for graveyards, not to mention my obsession with my dear departed ancestors (“You have how many names in your family tree?” Actually, as of this week it’s 13,165, not including the Irish side.)

But sometimes it’s hard to find appropriate recipes for Halloween. In the past I’ve offered you black pasta (hand-imported from Italy!) and black garlic, and even spider cookies crawling out of a pumpkin one year. This year I realized I had overlooked one very obvious choice: the bog dead!



A few years ago my daughter gave me a set of skull baking molds (she knows me well). But I seldom feel the urge to make skull muffins or cupcakes. What else could I do . . .  And then I had this idea for skulls emerging from a pool of peat (aka a bog). Don’t worry: the skulls are shortbread, and the peat is dark chocolate cheesecake.

(If you’re faint of heart, you could make pumpkin cookies instead and scatter them over the nice field of cheesecake earth.)

The Skulls:

I used the basic shortbread recipe from my post last week and pressed the dough into the molds, filling them only part way (you could also use sugar-cookie dough). Then I baked them. It’s all right if they brown a little—a skull marinating in peat for a few centuries should be a bit discolored.

The Crust:

This will not show, but you will need it if you plan to eat this concoction (silly question) This recipe fits a 9-inch pan, but I doubled it for a 9x13” pan (I wanted to fit more skulls in).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pan with cooking spray.

9 oz. chocolate wafer cookies (crunchy ones, not chewy ones)
2 Tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted

In a food processor, grind the cookies to fine crumbs, then blend in the sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and blend. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until set (about 10 minutes), then cool.





The Cheesecake:

I searched through recipes and picked the deepest, darkest one I could find.


12 oz. (2 bags) bittersweet chocolate (if bars, chop)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs



Melt the chocolate (microwave works well, or in a double boiler—slowly!), stirring steadily until the chocolate is melted. Let cool to lukewarm.



In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and cocoa powder together (no lumps!). In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes), then add the sugar/cocoa powder mixture. Beat well, scraping down the bowl. Blend in the eggs, one at a time. Finally mix in the lukewarm chocolate and stir.

Let me tell you, this stuff is delicious! I was tempted to eat it straight from the bowl.

Building your Bog:



Take your pan with the cookie layer and arrange the skulls on that—you can use as many as you want, and distribute them in whatever pattern pleases you—all lined up or randomly.

Pour in the filling carefully around the skulls. Actually, I had to use a pastry bag—the batter was a bit too thick to pour. But this is supposed to be peat, so it doesn’t have to be tidy. The layer doesn’t have to be too deep—you want the skulls to look like they’re emerging from the murk, ever so slowly. If you’re feeling creative, you can sprinkle some left-over crumbs around the skull to make the bog look more authentic.

This is a very large peat bog in Shannonbridge,
Ireland. It provides fuel for a nearby electric
generating station.  I had to stop and check it out.

Bake until the center is just set (that is, still a little wiggly), rotating the pan in the oven once during cooking. The exact timing will depend on how large your pan is and how deep the cheesecake layer is. Start checking after 30-40 minutes. It’s  not the end of the world if it’s baked a bit too long—the cheesecake will be more brownie-like in texture rather than creamy, but it will still taste good.




If you’re really into it, go wild with more decorations—maybe black sprinkles or some hints of green (bogs are growing things, you know). I did draw the line at adding a few (clean) chicken wing bones for effect, though. Maybe it would look good if you served it in the light of flickering candles.

Refrigerate your bog cheesecake overnight before you try to cut it (if you can wait that long!).
 
Savor it after the manic sugar-fueled trick-or-treaters have retreated for the night.

Oh, and a giveaway bonus: a pumpkin that will last more than a couple of weeks (It's cloth.)


And if you've never read Buried in a Bog (the first book of my County Cork Mystery Series), I'll throw that in too.

Here's a picture of the bog it's based on:

My great-great-grandfather's bog down the hill
from Knockskagh in West Cork. The peat is
under the brown grass.
Just leave a spooky comment and I'll draw one name for the pumpkin (hmm, I could draw a name out of a pumpkin . . .)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!



Sunday, October 2, 2016

Kathy Aaron's Chocolate Truffles

Join us here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen in welcoming guest Kathy Aarons, author of the Chocolate Covered Mysteries, who brings us a very special treat today: a chocolate truffle recipe!

Chocolate Truffles by the Expert

People think that writing the Chocolate Covered Mystery series means that I know how to make truffles. I certainly didn’t know how at the beginning, but I (kind of) do now.

Luckily for me (and the readers), the recipes are provided by a real chocolatier -- Isabella Knack, owner of Dallmann’s Fine Chocolates in San Diego, California. She creates gorgeous works of art that taste amazing.

Unfortunately, I just have to test all of the recipes in the books. I have no choice – it’s in my contract! Even after all of my testing, my truffles end up being little ugly lumps, but they are still delicious.

This recipe – Irish Cream Ganache - is in Behind Chocolate Bars, the third book in the Chocolate Covered Mystery series. I took photos as Isabella made them in her work kitchen. The recipe is a little different at the end – she put the ganache in beautifully air-brushed chocolate instead of premade chocolate molds. But the end result of both is sheer delight.


Irish Cream Ganache (yields 100 pieces)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup glucose syrup
1-3/4 cups dark chocolate
4 tsp. butter (softened)
2 TB Irish Cream

Premade chocolate molds – available at candy shop and online

Preparation:

A. Combine the heavy cream and glucose syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil.




B. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes.



C. Using a spatula, stir the mixture in small circles of the bowl until it emulsifies.



D. Stir the soft butter into the ganache until it’s incorporated.

E. Add the liqueur, stirring until the mixture is homogeneous.

F. Pipe into premade chocolate molds. 



G. Chill

H. Serve




And if that's not enough sweet goodness, Kathy is offering a giveaway! Leave a comment here (with your email) and you can choose from any of the books in the series: 
Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, Truffled to Death, or Behind Chocolate Bars. (If you live in the continental United States, you can choose either print or ebook format; if you're outside, only the ebook format) 


BEHIND CHOCOLATE BARS


DOUBLE, DOUBLE-BOIL, AND TROUBLE…

Best friends and business partners Michelle and Erica have a monstrous to-do list as they prepare for the annual West Riverdale Halloween Festival. Their shop, Chocolates and Chapters, will have a booth at the event, where Michelle will serve spooky delights while Erica displays an assortment of spine-chilling books. Thank goodness the teenagers from Erica’s comic-book club are chipping in to help. But one of their volunteers winds up in trouble after a woman’s body is found in an abandoned house—with the teen’s superhero key ring close by.

The teen swears he didn’t do it, but he’s obviously hiding something—leaving Michelle and Erica with a witch’s cauldron of questions. Soon they discover that the dead woman was tricking a whole bunch of people out of more than just treats. Now these two friends must go door-to-door if they hope to unmask a killer…


Kathy Aarons is the author of the nationally bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series by Berkley Prime Crime. Research for the series was such a hardship: sampling chocolate, making chocolate, sampling more chocolate, and hanging out in bookstores.

She began writing when her youngest daughter attended school five days a week and pursued publishing more seriously when her oldest daughter went off to college. Now an empty-nester, she continues to advocate for arts education for youth, serving as president of the board of directors for Playwrights Project (http://playwrightsproject.org/), advising and teaching for the Middle School Writing Series, and volunteering for the CCA Writers’ Conference (http://ccawritersconference2016.weebly.com/), the only free writing conference for high school students in the country.

She’s also president of Partners in Crime – the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national mystery writers’ organization (http://www.sistersincrimesd.org/ ).

You can follow Kathy on Facebook or Twitter or visit her at: www.kathyaarons.com.