Showing posts with label Connie Archer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Connie Archer. Show all posts

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Soup Lines from guest author Connie Archer aka Connie DiMarco + book #giveaway

Please welcome guest Connie Archer, author of the Soup Lover's Mysteries and Connie DiMarco, author of the Zodiac Mysteries (one and the same person!), who gives us a soup recipe that's still right for our rather late spring.


Thanks to everyone at Mystery Lover’s Kitchen for inviting me over today! I love to scroll through this website and check out the recipes – rich pastries, fudge, casseroles heavy with cheese . . . yummm. I usually never get to blog about fancy desserts because I’ve been writing the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, so all my foodie posts inevitably revolve around soup.

And Julia, my new protagonist in the Zodiac Mysteries, is a San Francisco astrologer who doesn’t really have time to eat, or if she does, she eats on the run. She’s too busy solving crimes. Her idea of a gourmet meal is some lettuce and a chopped tomato wrapped up in a tortilla with tons of mayo and salt. If she wants to get fancy, she might add a few croutons to that wrap.

So, as I was musing over what to write for this post, I started thinking about soup, the American story of soup that’s embedded in our national consciousness -- the soup kitchens and soup lines of the Great Depression. The seeds of that economic failure had been planted years before in an era of prosperity that was unevenly distributed. Hmmm, sound familiar? Banks failed, factories locked their gates, shops were shuttered forever, and people lost their homes. Local governments couldn’t collect taxes to keep basic services going. There were no social nets in place, no Social Security, no food stamps, no nothing. Americans literally starved in the streets. 

As tough as times have been for some in recent years, most of us still have the luxury of worrying about our weight, our cholesterol, even our body mass index. I seriously doubt that anyone in that earlier era gave a hoot about any of that. They needed soup, that elixir of life, to keep body and soul together. In fact, soup has kept more people on the planet alive than any other food. A person can fill their stomach and be nourished with a bowl of hot water, bits of meat and spices and vegetables or leaves and berries and stay alive.

One popular Depression Era recipe, named after our President at the time was Hoover Stew. It was made with a 16 ounce package of some kind of pasta or macaroni, 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained, 1 package of hot dogs, chopped in small pieces, and 1 can of corn or beans, undrained. Okay, the hotdogs aren’t really that appealing, but don’t turn your nose up. It was desperation recipes like this that kept body and soul together. If you’ve had family members who saved bits of string and reminded you that if you had grown up in the Depression, you’d never waste anything, you’ll understand.

As I left the supermarket the other day, pushing my cart with a few bags of groceries, I passed a woman pushing another cart. A cart that contained all her worldly possessions. I was still reeling from the shock of a $73 grocery bill for just a few items. When I got home, I checked my receipt, certain the clerk had made a mistake. Okay, the asparagus was $3.47 and the half and half was $3.79. The kitty litter was $5.99 but surprise, surprise, the little head of cabbage was only 56 cents!

I have no idea why I picked up that head of cabbage. It’s not something I usually buy on a regular basis, but it called to me. The afternoon was cool and foggy and the idea of soup seemed very appealing, so I decided to invent my own Depression era soup recipe. 

Depression Era Cabbage Soup
A spritz of cooking spray
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed
1 head of cabbage, sliced and added to the pot.
4 cups of water
3 tbls. of dry chicken bouillon
1 peeled potato, cubed
(Optional ½ cup grated Cheddar cheese and crusty bread)

(Serves 4)

Sauté the onion and cabbage for 5 to 10 minutes, just enough to soften it. Add the water, chicken bouillon and potato. Cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, let the pot cool, then purée with an immersion blender and top each bowl with cheese and serve with crusty bakery bread. Okay, the cheese and bread aren’t exactly starvation fare, but no matter what, it was really delicious. Whole foods from the earth, loaded with vitamins, very few calories and really good. Believe it or not, this was one of the best soups I’ve made in a long time.

I thought about that woman with the shopping cart and I hoped she’d be able to find a bowl of nourishing soup somewhere. Maybe it’s time to bring back the American soup kitchen. What do you think?

Connie Archer was born and grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod and skiing in Vermont. As a schoolgirl, she spent several years wading through Caesar’s Gallic War journals and the twelve books of the Aeneid. During her summers she performed in a children’s theater troupe that traveled the suburbs of Boston, mounting productions in parks and children’s hospitals. After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat named Basil.

You can reach Connie at: @SnowflakeVT


Connie has agreed to give away one of her books. Leave a comment with your email!  
She'll be picking a winner tomorrow.

A Clue in the Stew

The village of Snowflake, Vermont is buzzing with excitement. Hilary Stone, the famous author of Murder Comes Calling, is planning a visit. Even the discovery of the body of an unidentified woman strangled in the woods hasn’t dampened the spirits of Snowflake’s avid mystery fans -- that is, until the villagers learn the murder mimics the popular novel. Could the killer be a deranged fan hoping for attention? Or is a copycat killer on the loose?

The Madness of Mercury

Astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought her chosen profession would bring danger into her life, but her outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, makes her the target of San Francisco’s recently-arrived cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The followers of the power hungry preacher will stop at nothing to quell the voices of those who would stand in his way and Julia’s at the top of his list. She’s willing to bet the charismatic Reverend is a Mercury-ruled individual, and she knows all too well that Mercury wasn’t just the messenger of the gods, he was a trickster and a liar as well.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Welcome our guest, Connie Archer!

Connie Archer is the author of A Soup Lover's Mystery. Connie grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod, and skiing in Vermont. As a girl, she spent several years wading through Caesar’s Gallic War journals and the twelve books of the Aeneid. After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a cat named Basil.

* * *

From Connie: A very special thank you to the authors of Mystery Lovers Kitchen for inviting me over today and giving me a chance to talk about my favorite soup.  Well . . . I have a lot of favorites, but frankly, there is one that has become an obsession – a holy grail of soup, if you will. 

There’s a small lunch place that I go to occasionally, mostly because they have great soups.  They rotate their choices on a daily basis, but one soup has become so popular, that it’s now offered every day of the week. 

That soup is my favorite and it’s become an obsession because I’ve been trying to re-create it at home for the past few years.  Have I come close?  Yes.  Close.  But not exactly the same.  Granted, I’ve come up with some soups that are almost the same, but not quite.  What is this fabulous soup, you may ask? 

Well, it’s called “Chicken Tortilla.”  I’ve ordered tortilla soup in other restaurants and discovered there are great differences.  And this one wouldn’t be considered an authentic Mexican tortilla soup, at least from what I’ve read, but I’m not overly concerned with authentic. 

This holy grail of soups, is a thick tomato-based soup with small bits of chicken, carrot and corn.  You’d think it would be easy to whip it up in the kitchen, wouldn’t you?  Here’s a picture of it. 

I get hungry just looking at it.  My lunch place serves it with cheddar cheese on top and a bag of little crunchy tortilla strips.  (I try to be good and forego the cheese --- ooops, sorry, Avery!) 

Recently, in complete frustration, I broke down and asked begged Albert at the counter for the recipe.  He and Arnold know me pretty well by now.  In fact, as soon as I walk in, they don’t even ask for my order.  My soup is waiting for me at the cash register. 

Albert shook his head. “No dice.” 

“Why?” I asked.

He leaned over the counter.  “I’ll tell you a secret.  It’s my favorite soup, too.” Sheepishly, he admitted he had asked the cook for the recipe and the cook refused him. 

“No!” I exclaimed. 

Albert nodded sadly.  “I told him I work for the company.  I don’t understand why he won’t share the recipe.” 

(See . . . I wasn’t crazy.  This IS a great soup!) 

So – here’s my latest attempt to re-create Chicken Tortilla Soup. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 tbl. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon
1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 carrots, chopped very fine
1/2 cup corn (frozen or canned)
1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbl. maple syrup or brown sugar
dash of cayenne pepper
3 tbls. cornstarch dissolved in small amount of water

Saute the garlic and onion in butter, add chicken broth to the pot.  Add chicken cubes, cumin, chopped carrots and corn and simmer for 5 minutes or so until the carrots are soft.  

Add crushed tomatoes, maple syrup (or brown sugar), cilantro, and dash of cayenne.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Then mix the cornstarch and water together until dissolved and add to the pot, turn up the heat and stir until the broth is thick. 

Serve with grated cheddar cheese and tortilla strips. 
Serves 4

If you’re inclined to try it yourself, I’d love to hear about it!  Enjoy!

Connie Archer is the author of A Spoonful of Murder (, A Broth of Betrayal ( and just released, A Roux of Revenge ( 

When a band of travelers arrives in the village of Snowflake, Vermont and a dead stranger is found by the side of the road, the past returns with a vengeance.  Long kept secrets will be revealed, lost loves will be found and the lives of many in the village will be irrevocably altered. 

You can visit Connie at
Twitter:  @SnowflakeVT

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Welcome our guest, Connie Archer

Please welcome our guest author 
Connie Archer! 

Connie is the national bestselling author of A Spoonful of Murder, the first in the soup lover’s mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime.  A Broth of Betrayal was just released on April 2, 2013.  Connie was born and raised in New England.  She now lives with her family on the other coast. Visit her website and blog at 
Twitter:  @snowflakeVT

 * * *
Thanks so much to the authors of Mystery Lover’s Kitchen for inviting me to their blog.  I’m thrilled to be a contributor, but I have a confession to make.  When I was a young newlywed, I was completely hopeless in the kitchen.  For one thing, my mother, for all her virtues, had no interest in the domestic arts.  In her defense, it was an era of prepackaged frozen vegetables that one dipped into boiling water to heat.  To make matters worse, my Dad believed in eating only unadulterated beef – roasts, steaks, hamburgers, sans breadcrumbs or any additives that might lighten up all that mammal flesh.  On my own as a college student, I ate anything and everything that was quick, cheap, instant and preferably free. 

When I say I was hopeless, I’m not exaggerating.  I hadn’t a clue what uncooked spinach looked like and if the supermarket hadn’t placed its signs just so, I was lost.  I knew spinach was dark green and mushy, but I could just as easily have purchased parsley by mistake.  Besides, raw spinach looks nothing like the stuff in those plastic pouches.  I was flummoxed by parsnips and leeks.  What the heck are those things?  I’ve never seen them before!

So when I found myself at home all day with an infant, I figured it was high time to give cooking a try.  After all, somebody in the family had to do it.  I bought a cookbook and summoning my courage, embarked on my first attempt -- beef stew.  Sounds simple, right?  Not for me.  When the list of ingredients called for a bay leaf (What in heaven’s name is a bay leaf?) and Worcestershire sauce, believe me, I needed help. 

As the years went by, I can humbly say, I eventually became a fairly decent cook, but even so, the concept of soup still eluded me.  I was sure making soup had to be the most difficult and esoteric accomplishment.  Then somewhere along the way, maybe by reading that cookbook (hello!), it finally dawned on me that nothing could be simpler – as simple in fact as chopping up whatever might be in the vegetable drawer and adding broth or meat and spices.  I was off and running.  From that point on, I couldn’t stop.  Each concoction produced a new and unique bowl that I tested (ad nauseum) on my family.  Now, of course, I love making soups and inventing new recipes. 

Then, through a series of twists and turns, I found myself writing a mystery series about a soup shop with an expert and creative chef to whom I could attribute some of my more successful experiments.  When I told one of my daughters about the series, she said, “Mom, that is so perfect!  You are the soup lady.” 

In deference to the season, not to mention the flu season, here’s one of my favorites -- a simple soup, but loaded with vitamin C and guaranteed to alleviate, if not cure, cold and flu symptoms. 

Tomato Basil Soup

1 tbl. vegetable oil
½ onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ to 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon
1 tbl. brown sugar
fresh basil (10-12 leaves)
1 tbl. grated orange peel
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in vegetable oil for a few minutes until softened. 

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the pot with the chicken broth. 

Add the orange zest and brown sugar.  Stir and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes until the ingredients are cooked.  Puree the mixture with a wand or in a blender.  Add 10 to 12 freshly torn basil leaves to the pot.  Simmer a few more minutes, add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and garnish each bowl with a fresh basil leaf.

Serves 4.