Showing posts with label Cat in the Stacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cat in the Stacks. Show all posts

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lazy Man’s Vegetable Meatball Soup from Dean (Miranda) James

Our guest author today is Dean James. Many of you know Dean well. He's been kind enough to guest post for us a few times already. To see Dean's past guest posts and recipes, for Country Fried Steak and Lemon Ice Box Pie, click here and here.

As you may have guessed from those recipes, Dean is a Southerner, a seventh-generation Mississippian, long transplanted to Texas. He writes under his own name as well as other pseudonyms, including the New York Times best-selling Miranda James. Please help me welcome Dean back to our Kitchen. ~ Cleo

When the weather turns cold and rainy, I get this craving for soup. Usually vegetable soup. 

When I was in graduate school eons ago, one of my aunts canned vegetable soup mix for me. It was wonderful, with veggies fresh out of the garden: string beans, butter beans, Crowder peas, corn, tomatoes, and sometimes potatoes. (Never okra because I don’t like okra, no how, no way.) I’d take one of these quart jars, get some ground beef and make meatballs of it, then add them and some of the juice from the meatballs to my crockpot along with the soup mix, and I’d have lunch and dinner for a couple of days. 

For a graduate student in the humanities on a limited budget, this was some really fine eatin’, let me tell you.

My aunt no longer has a garden and doesn’t can vegetables, so when I get a craving for vegetable soup now, I do it the lazy man’s way....

Lazy Man’s Vegetable Meatball Soup

Buy a bag of seasoned meatballs out of the freezer section at the grocery store, 15-ounce cans of vegetables from the veggie aisle, and some chicken broth. Dump it all in the two-gallon crockpot, add black pepper, and let it cook on high for about 3 hours. Lots of good eating from that.

In case you’re wondering what veggies I buy, here’s the list:

2 cans of diced tomatoes (usually with spices added, like basil and garlic)

1 can of corn

1 can of Purple Hull peas

1 can of string beans

1 can of diced potatoes

My series character, Charlie Harris, is lucky enough to have a housekeeper who cooks most of his meals. If he wants vegetable soup, then Azalea Berry will make it from fresh veggies, unlike me. Charlie and his sidekick Diesel, the Maine Coon cat, have a new adventure, The Silence of the Library, which came out January 28th.

* * * * * * * * * * 

To learn more about 
Dean/Miranda James and
his NY Times best-selling
Cat in the Stacks mysteries,
drop by his web site

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food for the Soul

Please welcome guest blogger Dean (Miranda) James to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

In my “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries the amateur sleuth Charlie Harris is fortunate to have a housekeeper, Azalea Berry, who not only keeps his house in great shape but also cooks wonderful Southern food. Azalea intimidates Charlie a bit – she intimidates most people a bit, actually – and she doesn’t seem all that fond of Diesel, Charlie’s Maine Coon cat and constant companion. Despite this one defect, however, Charlie accords Azalea considerable respect.

The only downside to Azalea’s cooking, Charlie discovers, is the tendency for his waistline to expand. Old-fashioned Southern cooking isn’t precisely cholesterol-conscious or “lite” anything. If it were it wouldn’t taste so darn wonderful.

In the latest book in the series, Out of Circulation, Azalea plays a bigger role than she has in previous books. She’s a murder suspect, and that complicates everything, since it’s her own daughter, Kanesha Berry, who is the official homicide investigator in Athena, Mississippi, where the series is set. Once again Kanesha has to accept help from Charlie, because they both know Azalea wouldn’t have committed murder – no matter how much she despised the victim.

Azalea’s Can’t-Fail Country Fried Steak with Gravy

1 tenderized round steak (per person, or cut into smaller portions if desired)
2 beaten eggs
1/8 cup milk (2 tablespoons)
salt/pepper/garlic powder

3 tablespoons flour


Season meat, cut into serving size.  Place a cup or so of flour into one shallow bowl and mix in salt, garlic and pepper to taste.  (Note: for a spicier taste, use a touch of cayenne).  In a second bowl beat the 2 eggs and add milk.  Mix them together.  Dip meat in flour, then in egg mixture, then in flour a second time.  Shake off any excess flour.  Fry in cast iron pan with about 1/4 to 2 inch of  heated oil.  (Note: make sure the pan is hot enough to fry but not too hot to burn the oil.)  Cook until meat is done and coating is a deep golden brown.

Next you make the milk gravy by using 3 tablespoons of the grease used to fry the steak and add 3 tablespoons of flour, mix well and add milk to the consistency of gravy you like.

Add some homemade biscuits, green beans and iced tea, and you have a great Southern meal.


Dean (aka Miranda) James is the New York Times Bestselling author of the "Cat in the Stacks" series. He is a medical librarian by day and kills people for fun and profit in his so-called "spare" time. He has two cats, way too many books, and wishes he could play bridge more often.