Showing posts with label Christmas week. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas week. Show all posts

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Week: Whipped Sweet Potatoes With Pecans and Maple Syrup #giveaway #Christmasweek

By Victoria Abbott aka Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini aka Santa's Elves - with giveaways!

Are you all getting ready for the holidays?

Everyone is excited around here!  Peach is hiding, but excitedly.


We are continuing our veggie challenge even during (our fabulous and fun) Mystery Lovers Kitchen Christmas theme week here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen.  Santa is also doing a giveaway.  Make sure you read all the way. 

We may be skirting our good intentions just a bit with brown sugar and maple syrup in this sweet potato dish.  But hey, ‘tis the season.  

We did a survey elsewhere about favorite holiday veggie dishes and sweet potato dishes were very strong contenders for top spot.  We thought we’d dress them up a bit and have been experimenting all week with proportions and with and without eggs and cream. Without won. We also tried whole pecans (prettier) and chopped pecans (tastier).  We ended up liking the chopped pecans better, BUT the whole pecans looked prettier. That's what you're seeing!  But suit yourself if you're making it.
A word about proportions: the nice thing about cooking with veggies is you can increase and decrease ingredients to suit your preferences.  We might add a bit more brown sugar if using whole pecans, or we might not.  Time will tell.
The resulting dish was sweeter than we usually make our sweet potatoes, but we thought it was worth it, especially as our holiday dinners tend to be savory.  We liked that it can be made up to two days ahead too.  


Note from Santa:  even though MJ and Victoria are continuing their veggie challenge (leave a comment to get your name in the draw for the pretty platter at the end of the post), I., Santa, am offering all good little cooks and cozy readers here a chance to get an audio of The Hammett Hex!  Just leave a comment and you’ll go in the Santa hat.  And your name will also go in the ‘platter draw’. Ho. Ho. Ho.   


Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup and Pecans


4 sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
1/8 cup tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted  
Juice from half a lemon
½ teaspoons salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 pinch pepper
¾ cup chopped pecans(or whole)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
 3 tablespoons butter, melted (not a repeat – this is for the topping)

In large saucepan of boiling salted water, cover and cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 18 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Using electric beaters, immersion or your old traditional masher, beat or mash until very smooth.  

In bowl, beat together maple syrup, two tablespoons of melted butter, lemon juice, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper; beat into sweet potatoes. 

Transfer to a greased 9 x 9-inch ceramic baking dish. (If you are making ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to two days; bake for 10 minutes longer if it has been in fridge.)

Stir pecans with brown sugar; sprinkle over potatoes. Drizzle with three tablespoons of butter. Bake in 375 °F oven for about 50 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  We did bake one of our versions at 400 °F because we had something else in there and it was just fine!  It’s the holidays and we need our food flexible.

This serves six people but it would be easy to double it if you find yourself with hot and cold running relatives for the hols. Have fun and eat up!

When not fussing about Christmas, Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini write the book collector mysteries, as Victoria Abbott.  Coincidentally any or all of these books would make a great gift for someone on your list who likes cozy mysteries with a book theme.  Lovable crooks included at no extra charge.


We hope you have the best of seasons, full of fun, food, festivities and yes, vegetables.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter HERE  and please friend us on Facebook

Make sure you leave a comment for both draws.  Here's a reminder about the veggie tray!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Woof! Christmas week gifts and a #bookgiveaway for you!

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Who doesn’t love a gift you can eat?

Spice blends make great gifts – consider small jars of handmade Italian Spice blend (from Killing Thyme) or herbes de Provence (from Assault & Pepper).

We were very popular the year I discovered the Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel mix.

And no one said no when we handed over a bag of Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

Pour a cup or two in a small cellophane bag—find them in the gift wrap or housewares sections—and tie with a ribbon. Or use a ziploc and a bow.

This year’s offerings: a quartet of easy, yummy barks. (So delish, I got carried away!)

About chocolate: We're fans of Scharffen Berger, even since its acquisition by a conglomerate. It's no longer available locally, so once or twice a year, I order online.

Keep in mind that flavors may differ if your berries are sweetened with added sugar—common with commercial varieties of dried cranberries. Those sweetened with fruit juice are usually labeled “naturally sweetened.”

I’ve never hesitated to melt chocolate directly on the stove in a small, heavy pan, but it must be watched and stirred frequently; remove from the heat before the melting is finished and stir to complete the process. Other cooks use a double boiler or the microwave. I was gratified to see that Mark Bittman, author of the aptly named How to Cook Everything, says melting chocolate is easy, and recommends the saucepan method, with the microwave as an alternative.

Be aware that white chocolate scorches easily; the microwave works best. Use the real thing, not the chunks sold as candy coating. White chocolate can clump; the trick of adding oil helps ensure smoothness.

Recipes often say to refrigerate to cool. To me, that gives the chocolate a fragility and a bitterness I don’t care for. And if the chocolate is melted with butter, it can separate. Then again, I live in a cold climate and tend to make barks and fudge only in the holiday season, so I can get away with cooling the pans—which doesn’t take long anyway—in the laundry room! (Mr. Right called it my Bark-o-Lounger.)

If you share these treats—and I hope you will—be prepared for the sound effects from your friends. “Oh, yum!” will quickly be followed by “woof, woof!”

Leave a comment below, with your email address, for a chance to win a signed copy of GUILTY AS CINNAMON or KILLING THYME, the second and third books in my Spice Shop Mysteries!  

White Chocolate Berry Bark

The original recipe called for dried blueberries, which I couldn’t find; a mix of golden raisins and naturally sweetened dried cranberries made a perfect substitute!

8 ounces white chocolate 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces (about 1 cup) dried blueberries or a mix of golden raisins and naturally sweetened dried

Line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir together the fruit, breaking apart any clumps.

Melt the white chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe bowl, starting with 45 seconds; stir thoroughly to distribute the heat and melt any clumps. Cook again for 15 seconds if necessary.

Stir in the fruit and spread on the parchment. Cool until hard and break apart.

Makes about 3 cups.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Almonds and Dried Berries

1/3 cup almonds, chopped, or a mix of sliced, slivered, and chopped almonds
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup dried blueberries or naturally sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix or chop almonds; toast for 10 minutes. Cool slightly. 

Melt the chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the almonds and berries. Scrape onto parchment; spread and cool.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups bark.

Mocha Bark

The original recipe called for all milk chocolate; we didn’t have enough, so I blended in semi-sweet. I think it could easily be made with all semi-sweet, or a mix of semi and bittersweet; the coffee might make an all bittersweet version too bitter.

6 ounces milk chocolate, or a mixture, melted

1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate and stir in the coffee crystals or powder. Spread on to the parchment and cool. Break apart.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Rum Raisin Toffee Bark

The rum adds flavor; all the alcohol burns off. I used my food processor to chop the chocolate. I used half Thompson raisins (the standard variety) and half golden raisins, for a great flavor and color combo.

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
4 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate chopped fine
10 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
½ cup water
½ cup white rum
1/4 cup honey
2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325. Line a 10-15 inch jelly roll pan (with sides) with parchment paper.

Chop the chocolate and set aside.

In a 2 or 3 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, water, run, and honey. Bring to a boil, then use a candy thermometer and cook to 220 degrees. This will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in the raisins and bring to 225 degrees, the soft thread stage.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and pour chocolate on top. Use a spatula to mix chocolate into fruit. Cool until hardened and cut into squares.

Makes about 3 cups bark.

What's your favorite holiday candy? Leave a comment below with your email address for a chance to win a signed copy of GUILTY AS CINNAMON or KILLING THYME! Winner's choice. Giveaway closes midnight Saturday, December 10. (US and Canadian addresses only, please.) 

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.