Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago. Show all posts

Friday, June 3, 2011

Veggie Casserole

In my neverending quest to feed low-carb carnivores and high-carb vegetarians at the same dinner table, I have happened across some excellent recipes. I've also happened across some real duds. Today's offering falls right in the middle. It's not bad, but will require a bit of tweaking before I make it again.  The veggies weren't bad, but the breading was too much. Far too much. If I were to make this again, I'd halve the bread-y ingredients. Or perhaps cut it down to a third. I'll give you the recipe as I followed it, and leave you to make your own choice for how to adjust. We all have different tastes and variety (as we've seen from the myriad of recipes available on this blog) is the spice of life! 

(adapted from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook)

3 - 4 cups of vegetables, cut up. I used zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup grated cheese.

Saute veggies in olive oil until tender. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add vegetable oil, milk, egg. Mix well.

Pour veggies into buttered pan. Sprinkle with cheese. Drop small spoonfuls of batter over the cheese/veggie mixture, trying to smooth it over the top, making it even.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until top is golden and firm. Let stand for a few minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

As you can tell by the photo, there's quite a bit of bread. This was a heavy dish and we low-carb folks weren't too crazy about it. The taste was good, but the breading overwhelmed the wonderful vegetables.

But, I have to admit, I like the idea enough to give it another go. Next time, I'll eliminate the zucchini. We've discovered that we like zucchini, but we don't love it. I'll go heavier on the broccoli and cauliflower. Those are big, strong veggies that can hold their own against the powerful breading.

But it sure was pretty on the plate:

Note: Veggie daughter didn't partake of the ribeye... but you probably guessed that, didn't you?

* * *

Get ready because Tuesday is a crazy cozy day! Lots of books releasing on June 7th, including these three from Mystery Lovers' Kitchen authors:

don't forget about her giveaway

In honor of the June 7 release of A Parfait Murder (the third Mystery a la Mode), which features a story line about the Lantana Round-Up Rodeo Queen Pageant, Wendy is giving away a little cowboy couture:  a leather and rhinestone cuff, and a “rodeo queen” keychain. Eligibility:  This contest is open to everyone living in the U.S. and Canada.  One entry per person, please.
How to Enter:  Send proof of purchase of A Parfait Murder (either a receipt, or a picture of you holding the book, by e-mail to  Put the words “Parfait Giveaway” in the subject line.

Entries must be received by 5:00 PM Central Standard Time on Friday, June 17.  Wendy will randomly select one entry, announce the winner on MLK on Saturday, June 18, and contact that person via e-mail.  If she doesn't get a response within 7 days, she will draw another name. 

Elizabeth's FINGER LICKIN' DEAD (written as Riley Adams)...



And... if you're in the Chicago area this weekend, don't miss PRINTERS ROW! Also knows as the Chicago Tribune Lit Fest, it's a wonderful, fun, energetic, and exciting outdoor event. Over 100,000 people attend annually. It always rains at some point, but that never dampens anyone's spirits.

I'll be at the Mystery Writers of America tent all day tomorrow and Sunday, with two exceptions - when I'm on a panel (Murder Most Cozy) Saturday morning at the Harold Washington Library, along with J.B. Stanley (Ellery Adams), Betty Hechtman, and Joelle Charbonneau, and when I'm signing at Big Sleep Books (Saturday at 2:00).

PS - Even though it's before the actual release day, we'll have early copies of GRACE INTERRUPTED at the MWA tent!

Happy reading!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome Guest Blogger - Libby Fischer Hellmann!

A quick note from Julie ~

Chicago mystery authors are a pretty tight bunch and I'm very pleased today to be able to feature my friend Libby Fischer Hellmann here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. I've known Libby since before my first book came out and I've been constantly amazed by her willingness to volunteer, her tireless promotion on behalf of others, and - of course - her writing talent.

I blame ... er, I mean, thank ... Libby for getting me involved as an officer of the Midwest chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Seriously, I enjoyed all four years of service as veep and then president. I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.

Libby has a brand new book out, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE (it's excellent!), but I'll let her tell you more about it.

Take it away, Libby ~

I consider cooking a creative sport, and, unfortunately, one at which I don’t excel. Most of my creative energy goes to writing, but I do envy those of you who can cook, invent recipes, and write mysteries at the same time. I can’t. Now that both my kids have flown the coop, I don’t cook often. In fact, when I had to cook every night, I remember asking my sister for a list of side dishes, beyond an obligatory can of LeSueur peas and salad.

That isn’t to say that over the years I haven’t stolen – er-- developed a few dishes that I cook well and often. I have a very fancy Cornish Hen recipe on a bed of spinach with a cranberry glaze and cous-cous, and if you beg, I’ll give you the recipe. I also have a recipe, allegedly from Bon Appetit, for the best Caponata you’ve ever put in your mouth.

But in the spirit of keeping it real, and, more important, easy, I’d like to share one of my favorite dishes that you can literally throw together in minutes for family or guests.

Chicken Marsala

¼ cup flour for coating

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp oregano

2 Tbs butter

2 Tbs olive oil

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

½ cup Marsala wine

¼ cup cooking sherry

Chicken pieces (up to 8)

Combine spices and flour. Coat chicken on both sides.

Melt butter and olive oil in fry pan. Brown chicken on both sides. Add mushrooms, liquids. Simmer on stovetop 15 mins or to taste

Serve with pasta or whatever

Speaking of Chicken…

There just happens to be a significant scene in SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE that involves cooking fried chicken. For those of you who don’t know, STNOF is my 7th novel and first stand-alone thriller. It’s set mostly in the present but the middle section goes back to the late Sixties, when 6 activists lived together in Chicago’s Old Town. One of the young women is from a wealthy family and has never cooked before, so the other young woman is teaching her how to fry chicken, and, at the same time, raise her political consciousness.

Here’s the excerpt…

The chicken crackled, sending a hearty aroma through the apartment. Alix was draining a few pieces on paper towels when Rain said, “Alix, we need to talk.”

“About what?”

Rain turned from the stove. “Have you ever wondered why we’re the ones always cooking and cleaning, and the guys don’t...”

“That’s just the way it is.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve been organizing down at The Seed.”

“Organizing what?”

“A women’s caucus. We do all the grunt work. But men make the decisions and take the credit. That has to change.”

Alix reached for the spatula. “What does a women’s caucus do?”

“It will start to raise consciousness that women are just as oppressed as—the blacks, say—and need to be liberated.”

“Oh, come on, Rain. Black people and women are equally oppressed?”

“Come on, you. Who’s in the kitchen frying chicken? Do you see any of the men helping? We aren’t much more than cooks to them. Or wombs.”

“You can’t change biology.”

“Biology gave us brains as well as vaginas. We are half the population. Have you ever thought what the world would be like if women had an equal voice? We need to create our own power base.”

After a pause Alix said, “I don’t know, Rain. You know I’m not political.”

Rain’s glasses reflected the light, making them sparkle. “This isn’t politics. It’s survival.”

“I just don’t know. Between Billy, and the jewelry, and Dar . . . ”

From the living room, Billy coughed again. Alix stiffened.

Rain turned back to the frying pan. “Oh, never mind. You’re hopeless.”

Btw, that really happened. I hope it resonated with you. And thanks, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen for having me!


Someone is trying to kill Lila Hilliard. During the Christmas holidays she returns from running errands to find her family home in flames, her father and brother trapped inside. Later, she is attacked by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. . . and the threats don't end there. As Lila desperately tries to piece together who is after her and why, she uncovers information about her father's past in Chicago during the volatile days of the late 1960s . . . information he never shared with her, but now threatens to destroy her. Part thriller, part historical novel, and part love story, Set the Night on Fire paints an unforgettable portrait of Chicago during a turbulent time: the riots at the Democratic Convention . . . the struggle for power between the Black Panthers and SDS . . . and a group of young idealists who tried to change the world.


"A tremendous book - sweeping but intimate, elegiac but urgent, subtle but intense. This story really does set the night on fire." --Lee Child

"A brilliantly-paced thriller, transitioning seamlessly from modern-day Chicago to the late '60s. First-rate characterization...Best to start early in the day, as it is easy to stay up all night reading it." --Foreword Magazine

"RT Top Pick for December: "Electric... a marvelous novel."
--RT Book Reviews

Set the Night on Fire is a compelling story of love, truth and redemption. This will be a break-out novel for this talented writer. Highly recommended." --Sheldon Siegel, NYTImes bestselling author of Perfect Alibi

"A top-rate thriller that taps into the antiwar protests of the 1960s... A jazzy fusion of past and present, Hellman's insightful, politically charged whodunit explores a fascinating period in American history."
Publishers Weekly

(There are an additional 20 reviews on Amazon)


Libby Fischer Hellmann is the award-winning author of four Ellie Foreman mysteries and two Georgia Davis mystery-thrillers, as well as the two volume short story collection, Nice Girl Does Noir. She also edited the highly praised crime fiction anthology, Chicago Blues. She has lived in the Chicago area for over thirty years. Set the Night on Fire is her first stand-alone novel. More at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Recipe for Fancy Fun

I promised you something special this week, remember?

This past weekend was my daughter's Prom Weekend and it was spectacular. I've posted boatloads of pictures on Facebook, so please be sure to stop by and take a peek.

In the meantime, however, I want to share a little of the fun with you. Don't worry, I've included a recipe too. But, as always, there's a story behind it. And there's a blast from my own prom past at the very end...

First we start with Friday night. Pictures at our house. I didn't count the number of kids, but I heard we had 27 all together. Add in parents, sibs, grandparents, neighbors and friends, and there were a whole lotta people here!

At right: The group in rainbow order.

Fortunately, the rain held off and we were able to take a few shots outside. We probably should have tried to do rainbow order again, but it didn't matter. Aren't they all gorgeous?

The kids decided to forego the traditional limo (there were just too many of them and they didn't like the idea of splitting up) and decided to rent a trolley instead.

(That's my daughter, and her friend) The prom was held at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. What a wonderful place for a party. I wonder what the fish were thinking?

This is one of my favorite pictures:

The trolley dropped them all back off here at about 2:00 AM. Boys went home and the girls stayed here for a sleepover. The boys were supposed to rejoin them here for breakfast Saturday morning before the group took off for new activities, but we only got 2 takers. You think maybe the boys decided to sleep in?

Altogether we had about 14 kids for breakfast (see, you knew I would bring food into play in this post, right?). We served bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, fruit, bagels, pancakes, muffins, and toast. I had planned to serve the spinach quiche too (this prom is for my veggie daughter, after all) but we really had *so* much food, and we were getting a bit busy preparing it all that I decided to forego the quiche for one day. We had it for breakfast Sunday instead. Yum!!

This recipe is from Eggsecutive Orders and if you enjoy quiche, you'll be sure to like this one. Although not difficult to prepare, it is a bit time-consuming (another reason why we decided not to serve it Saturday), and I found that pouring the 4 egg mixture over the top was just too much. I think 2 eggs would have been enough. But maybe I just didn't buy a deep enough deep dish pie crust. As alway, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

In the spirit of fancy ... whether it be for prom or for any celebration that inspires you to create a fun and delicious breakfast, you'll want to keep this quiche recipe handy!

Spinach Quiche

½ cup butter

3 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely minced

1 small onion, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped

1 pint fresh mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

4 ounces herbed feta cheese, crumbled

8 ounces good-quality Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste

¼ tsp ground black pepper

1 deep dish pie crust, unbaked

4 eggs

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onion. Stir gently and cook until onion is soft and slightly browned on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir until warmed through and reduced, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, feta cheese, and half of the Cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Place mixture into unbaked pie shell.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until blended, add milk, whisk to combine well. Pour into pie shell over vegetable mixture.

Place filled pie shell on cookie sheet to keep it from overflowing.

Place into preheated oven. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes. Top quiche with remaining Cheddar cheese. Return to oven and bake for and additional 30 to 40 minutes. Quiche is done when the eggs are set and firm in the center.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Now... just for giggles, I'm including a pic from my prom oh-so-many years ago. My date's name was Iver and we went to his prom at St. Ignatius College Prep and to my prom at Maria High School. That was about the extent of our "dating" but I have fond memories of both events. He was a very nice young man.

How proms have changed. Back then I curled my own hair, used a little bit more mascara, and wore a dress I purchased on sale at Wieboldts. (Are they even in business anymore?) These days, it's so much more of an event. To be honest, as much work as it was to get the house set up for all the people, and to make breakfast for a dozen-plus kids, I really enjoyed every minute of the weekend. But I have to admit, I really loved the quiet of Sunday. And having that quiche all to ourselves was a nice treat!

But now it's time for me to turn the tables on you. Did you go to prom? Jump into the comments and share your fun (or horror) stories!


PS - I'm running the May contest (below) - I hope you take a look and consider entering!


Julie's May Contest!

Julie’s first book in the Manor of Murder Mystery series, Grace Under Pressure, debuts June 1st! To help launch the book and to celebrate its release, she's running a very special contest: Pre-order Grace Under Pressure any time before May 31, 2010, and you're eligible to win a $25 gift certificate from Mystery Lovers Bookshop! (and if you've already pre-ordered, you just need to let Julie know!) No receipts required. Just email Julie at with the date that you pre-ordered and the name of the bookstore you ordered it from, and your name goes in! (Please put "CONTEST" in the subject header. Thanks!)

Here are a few helpful links to get you started:Mystery Lovers Bookshop (free shipping on book orders over $10!) - Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore (my local bookstore - autographing available) - Barnes & Noble -

Speaking of contests... we have a winner for Riley's April contest! Congratulations to Stacy from Louisville! You've won the Williams-Sonoma’s Ultimate Grilling Rub Collection. We hope you enjoy it and thanks so much for entering the contest. We'll be emailing you soon with more information. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Joyeux Noel

Contest Update...

Before I get started, I'd like to remind everyone that we will be announcing the newest winner in our Williams-Sonoma gift card contest very soon. Carol won the first week, and Rebecca won the second week. Who will be our lucky reader this week? Stay tuned to find out! ;-) And don't forget to leave a comment below (or via e-mail if the comment-leaving doesn't work) to be entered into this week's drawing for a $25 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card!

Best of luck!

In a bit of a departure from the norm here, rather than share a recipe with you, I'd like to share an experience and ask for your help.

The "headline" for this post is

Joyeux Noel

As you know, this is French for Merry Christmas. No, I'm not starting my cookie baking early ;-) But I am celebrating.

After being married for ::ahem:: years, gift-giving becomes difficult. What do you give your spouse during traditional celebrations that you haven't already given a hundred times? My husband put it succinctly when he told me: "You're so hard to buy for because you're not much of a flower or jewelry girl. You're a food girl." He's totally right. Take me out for a stellar dinner, and I'm in heaven. I love going out. And although the food is a major consideration, it's all about the experience.

So, for Christmas 2008 we decided to forgo the same-old, same-old, and decided that our gift to one another would be to try out a *new* restaurant every month. We have our favorites, of course (stories for another time), but we intended to stretch ourselves and seek out places we never knew existed. We alternate months and my husband picked his six choices right at the start. I decided to choose my six one at a time. This has been loads of fun! Every month we find ourselves at a brand new restaurant, clinking our glasses together and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

This past Saturday, August 15th, was my month and after seeing Julie and Julia during the week, I was inspired to seek out French cuisine.

Marche restaurant is on Randolph Street in an area of Chicago known as the West Loop. Back when I was going to college in Chicago, I would have taken great pains to avoid this area but now I can't wait to get back there to try out some of the other nifty places I spotted. The neighborhood is vibrant, exciting, and up-and-coming, helped in no small part, I'm sure, by the presence of Oprah's Harpo studios, just a few steps away.

This is the view looking east on Randolph.

The restaurant is spacious and airy. Upside-down umbrellas (parapluie) dot the tall ceiling, while masks, mirrors, and Harlequin characters decorate the walls. The tables are on several different levels and the service is cheerful and attentive. But wow - the food. We split two appetizers: their "beautiful soup of the day," a tomato-gorgonzola-olive oil-basil-chive concoction which took my breath away; and a Voul-au-vent des Champignons - a puff pastry with mushrooms. "What is that flavor?" I kept asking my husband. We tried to decide which of the two we liked better, but could not. This was *exquisite* food.

Next came the entrees. Having just seen Julie and Julia, I'd intended to order Boeuf Borguignone, but alas it wasn't on the menu. I opted for Coq au Vin. The chicken was very good (maybe a tad dry), but my husband's Braised pork shoulder over cabbage was beyond description. I wish I would have ordered that. Maybe next time ;-)

For dessert we shared a chocolate trio (flourless chocolate cake, orange ice cream in a crispy chocolate shell, and chocolate-raspberry mousse) and decided that -- clearly -- of the 8 restaurants we've visited so far this year, Marche is our new favorite.

That's me after dinner, taking my leftover Coq au Vin home. There was nothing left of anything else ;-)

See that contented look on my face? It masks the determination I'm now experiencing in my desire to recreate the tomato bisque and the mushroom appetizers at home.

Here's where I need your help.

I'll bet many of you out there have made one or both of these appetizers. If you have, and if you know of similar recipes, please, please share! I can tell from all the great comments and e-mails we receive that we have an amazing group of foodies out there and I hope to draw on this vast collection of knowledge.

Sure I can call the restaurant and ask. But isn't this way more fun?

I plan to start experimenting soon -- any and all help will be appreciated. If you like, leave a comment below to direct me to a link (this will enter you in our contest, natch), or just e-mail me directly at JulieHyzy (at) AOL (dot) com or via my website

Thanks so much!!


Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime.

Sign up for Julie’s newsletter on her website at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White House Worthy Rice

Like Avery, I attempt to recreate restaurant treasures at home when I discover something particularly special. Not long ago, I took my daughter and her boyfriend to lunch at Bandera, a club-like restaurant in Chicago that can be easily missed if you don’t know it’s there. On the second floor of its north Michigan Avenue location, it is accessed via escalator immediately inside the street-level doors, and boasts great views of the bustling street below.

The menu had changed since I’d last been there. Lots of new and exciting offerings. But that day I decided to have the restaurant’s specialty—broasted chicken. Not a particularly exciting choice, but it smelled divine. The waitress informed me that they were testing out a new rice, and that the side dish on the menu was no longer available. I’m not usually much of a rice girl, but because my chicken choice was safe, I decided to be adventurous with my side. “Sounds great,” I told her. Am I glad I did. The chicken was fabulous, but the rice was superb.

I couldn’t wait to try making this at home, but I had no idea where to start. Then I remembered something from my White House research. One of the early menus prepared by our current White House chef, Cristeta Comerford (the real chef, not my fictional Ollie), included Basmati rice. At the time I had no idea what that was, but the name stuck with me.

Grown in India and Pakistan, Basmati’s name translates to “fragrant one,” or “the soft rice.” I chose baby Basmati which I found at my local grocery store, and went to work, trying my best to recreate the combination of flavors I had so thoroughly enjoyed. I'd like to think this side dish is similar to the one served in the White House.

Like Avery and her artichokes (yum!), I think I’ve gotten pretty close.

(But the White House has much fancier serving bowls!)

Cilantro Rice

2 cups water
1 T olive oil
1 cup baby basmati rice

1 pinch cumin seeds, crushed
1 t parsley
1 T chives, chopped
1 ½ T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp salt
3 T butter

Bring water and olive oil to a boil. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Set timer for 8 minutes. While rice is simmering, combine cumin, parsley, chives, and cilantro in a small bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg, like you’re making scrambled eggs. When the timer goes off, stir the egg into the rice, making sure it’s well combined. Add herb mixture, stir well, and cover. Set timer for 5 minutes. When time’s up add salt and butter, stir, and cook for an additional minute or two. Transfer to bowl and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Thanks! Hope you enjoy!

Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime. Check out Julie’s website at