Showing posts with label Death with All the Trimmings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death with All the Trimmings. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2017

Around Our Kitchen Table: What Do Our Characters Eat?

Summer is all but upon us, and these days that often means farmers' markets are opening up. (Most of you are probably way ahead of us in chilly Massachusetts.) It's been a delight to watch people rediscover fresh local food.

But some of us grew up with a different food focus: the joys of frozen food, mass-produced bread, TV dinners, and so on. All things designed to save time for the working mother. How can we object to that? Sadly, mothers back then sacrificed flavor and nutrition for speed.

So you can say that we have come full circle, from wholesome local food to commercially prepared fast food for the microwave, and back again.

Last month we discussed here why and how we use food in our books. I think we all agreed that eating together brings us closer to friends and family. But how do we choose those foods for our characters? Based on modern trends? Or based on what we grew up with and remember, consciously or subconsciously? What do our characters eat, and what does it tell the reader about them?

Does your protagonist like to cook? Or just can't be bothered? (Too busy solving crimes, of course.) When she cooks, is it comfort food? Is she trying to impress someone? Does she like to experiment, and fly without a parachute (er, recipe)? Or does she stick to safe familiar dishes? Or would she rather just find a restaurant? We all eat, but what we eat can help us tell a story.


SHEILA: This subject came to mind because I was editing my next book (shameless plug: A Late Frost, Orchard Mystery #11, coming in November), and my main characters have been so busy (getting married and taking a honeymoon) that they haven't had time to cook or even shop, and they're scraping the bottom of the freezer to feed themselves and whoever else drops in to talk about murder. (They do, however, drink a lot of coffee!) At one point Meg threatened to feed new husband Seth a meal made up of frozen ham, cherries and peanut butter, because that was all she could find in the house.

Early on in the series I did create an alternative: I added a local foods restaurant in my fictional town of Granford, so there's always somewhere to go if Meg and Seth need a good and creative meal. My other series characters? They're just not interested in cooking. (Now, why did I do that?) But they do enjoy eating!



LESLIE: My characters all seem to be obsessed with food, although in a future Spice Shop Mystery, we'll discover that one of the Flick Chicks is a secret crackers-and-cheese-for-dinner type. 

My Food Lovers' Village Mysteries each involve a festival, and the recipes let the readers recreate the festival food at home. Treble at the Jam Fest, #4, officially releases this week, and it's set at a jazz festival. There's a gala in the Merc's courtyard and a picnic before an outdoor concert, each featuring food I love. Erin's family gathers every Sunday at the Orchard, the family homestead, for brunch or dinner, and I've tucked in a couple of those recipes as well. Like all amateur sleuths, Erin has a busy life, and I admit, she eats a lot of festival and family leftovers! But in each book, I try to let her cook a good meal at home. In this one, it's enchiladas, a recipe I shared last week.   

And she pops into Le Panier, the French bakery, a little more often than is probably good for her, but the croissants and gossip are too tasty a combination to resist. Some of my local readers have given me heat for inventing a bakery our town doesn't actually have, but you know, I think it's a blessing, because there are no calories on the page!


LUCY: My Key West series character Hayley Snow loves her job as a food critic for the style magazine, Key Zest. She loves tasting all the flavors of the restaurants in the city, and loves telling people her opinions so they can spend their hard-earned dollars well. Here's what she says about this in DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS: 


“The part of my job that feeds my soul is writing about food. Teasing out what makes one meal good, but another magical. Discovering a new chef or a new dish and describing my find to the world—or at least to other food-addled diners who’d go out of their way for something special. For me, the cooking itself was not so much the miracle. It was all about the eating. And then choosing the words that brought that food to life on the page.”

But is she also a fabulous cook, which she learned from her mother, Janet. And by book 8, which I'm working on now, Janet has developed a catering business in Key West--meaning Hayley is often pressed into service. This new book (due out sometime in the summer 2018) takes place at a Cuban–American conference in town. I'm having so much fun deciding what they will serve. Mini Cuban sandwiches? Top secret recipe for flan? Traditional beef stew or ropas Viejas? You'll be seeing all of these recipes over the next several months, as Hayley and Janet make them!




DARYL:  Well, my two current protagonists are studies in contrasts! In my new French Bistro Mystery series, (set in Napa Valley) of course Mimi Rousseau cooks. She fell in love with food when she discovered the five mother sauces of France. In high school, she made her friends taste test everything. At 18, rather than go to college, she moved to San Francisco and became a sous-chef, then a full-fledged chef. She adores food and knows how to create simple as well as difficult dishes. Her favorite foods? Steak au poivre and créme brûlée. She also enjoys a delicious glass of chardonnay or cabernet. 

In my Cookbook Nook Mysteries, however, Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive, never really learned to cook. Her mother did it all. When Jenna moves to Crystal Cove to help her eccentric aunt open a culinary bookshop and cafe, she's game...mostly because she is a foodie. She adores food. She's been to almost every Bobby Flay restaurant. She enjoys a good barbecue. She relishes putting the "idea of a meal" together. In the first book, she starts to learn to cook (with the help of friends) by trying out five-ingredient recipes. By the third book, she graduates to ten-ingredient recipes. If she's honest, she adores fudge and cookies--in particular, wedding cookies. [That recipe is in the first book in the series.]




KRISTA: I was amused when some of the first reviews for my Domestic Diva Mysteries called Sophie Winston a caterer. While Sophie does like to cook and entertain family and friends, she's a professional event planner who hires caterers. Her clients usually tell her what they want to serve or work it out with the caterer. 

Of course, there's another diva in town—Natasha. And Natasha doesn't try to keep up with the trends, she tries to stay ahead of them! That can be problematic for me, but I subscribe to a number of trendy online newsletters about food so I can keep up with Natasha. Her ideas (hot chili pepper brownies) aren't always well received by friends and family, which irritates her no end. Everyone wants to gather around the table in Sophie's homey kitchen for comfort food like mashed potatoes and ribs. Their friend Bernie sometimes brings a special cake or appetizer from his restaurant.

In my real life, I was once an assistant manager of a huge convention hotel and the biggest perk of the job was the food. I was thoroughly spoiled. And that's how it is at the Sugar Maple Inn for Holly Miller. She does very little cooking or baking because the private kitchen has a magic refrigerator. Part of the day's leftovers go into it, so whenever she's hungry, the magic refrigerator holds special surprises, no cooking necessary. One of the other perks of her job is a chocolate croissant, hot tea, and dog and cat treats in bed first thing in the morning five days a week. On the two days when Mr. Huckle is off, she has to go all the way downstairs for her first meal of the day, usually something decadent like Eggs Benedict or pancakes with freshly picked local blackberries. It's a ruff life.

I have a new series coming out called the Pen & Ink Mysteries. By day, Florrie Fox manages Color Me Read bookstore in Georgetown, Washington D.C. By night, she creates her own intricately detailed coloring books for adults, filling the pages with objects that catch her eye. But she also loves to bake. In the first book she bakes muffins, quick bread, and a strawberry cream torte. Luckily for her, there's a romance brewing and the fellow who has his eye on her is the son of a chef. I have a feeling she'll be eating pretty well!



LINDAMy Dinner Club Mysteries are just that -- the Culinary Capers Dinner Club meets monthly, rotating houses and hosts. The host chooses the cookbook (real ones that you can pick up at your local bookstore if you like the sound of their dishes) and the main course, then the others choose a side dish from that book. My protagonist, J.J. Tanner, is the newbie to the group, having joined within the past year. Her good friend persuaded, despite the fact that J.J.'s total involvement with cooking has been enjoying the photos in the many, many cookbooks she buys. What can I say...it's a relatively inexpensive vice.
       Now that the stakes, or steaks, are raised, she has to up her game. She's getting more daring about her choices with each book but she sticks fairly close to the recipe. What she's loving is that the others are actually enjoying what she cooks! She also loves eating and experimenting with new dishes and flavors. Eating out is also high on her list of good things in life.
       I find she challenges me to get more interested in and creative about my own cooking, so that's a very big plus in my life. I guess you could say that J.J. eats with her eyes first.



Click to learn more.
CLEO: When my husband and I created the Coffeehouse Mystery series, back in 2002, we agreed that our amateur sleuth (Clare Cosi) should reflect our own backgrounds, including our love of food. Like Clare, Marc and I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in families that were big on love but short on money. We were thrifty, but we loved to cook and eat! Also like Clare, we moved from our little towns to New York City. 

In the Coffeehouse Mysteries, Clare does her best to juggle the demands of running a busy coffee shop while mothering a quirky young staff of baristas. (It's no wonder she cooks for comfort!) Clare's time in the kitchen also brings back fond memories of her beloved grandmother who taught her to cook--and I can relate to that, having learned from my mom and Aunt Mary, who were born in Italy. 


I'll just add that Marc and I get a big kick out of making food part of our mystery plotting. In our recent release, Dead Cold Brew, Clare’s Cannoli Cream Cupcakes and Mason Jar Cold Brew Coffee each played a part in the murder mystery storyline. Clare even re-creates a dish she inhales at New York's famous 21 Club, where she goes to pursue a lead--no, "The Donald" was not there that night, but we enjoyed taking our readers to that legendary restaurant, including the historic secret room inside it. There are many more foods and drinks featured throughout Dead Cold Brew, which you can see in the recipe guide here


Coffeehouse Mysteries #15 and #16
Food also played an important role in our previous Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead to the Last Drop. At one point in the book, Clare worked with her daughter, Joy, a culinary school graduate, to overhaul an entire menu at the new Washington, D.C., branch of their business. And those recipes reflect some of our favorites, including an easy "cake pan" cheesecake, adapted from a recipe that continually sold out when it was served at a New York graduate school. (Learn more in the recipe guide here.) Like our culinary sleuth, Marc and I truly enjoy researching, cooking, and (especially) eating the foods and drinks we feature in our mysteries, including our new Coffeehouse Mystery (#17), coming next year!



PEG: In my very first series, Gourmet De-Lite, Gigi Fitzgerald has a business providing gourmet diet meals to a select group of clients.  Her theory is that food can be delicious and low calorie at the same time!  She cooks the same way for herself although her culinary world is turned upside down in Iced to Death when her sister Pia, with her penchant for Twinkies and take-out pizza, arrives in town for a visit .

In my Cranberry Cove series, Monica Albertson is helping her brother on his cranberry farm by baking lots of cranberry goodies for the farm store.  She's a whiz at making light-as-a-feather muffins, delectable scones and decadent cookies.  Her cooking tends to be basic--well grilled steaks, homemade soups and roasts.

In my Farmer's Daughter series, Shelby McDonald runs a small boutique farm.  She serves fresh produce grown on the farm in the summer and her own canned and preserved items in the winter.  She's a good cook who can take a basic dish, add a distinct twist to it and take it to a new level.  

I love to cook, too, and I love that I get to write food and recipes into my books! 


We hope you enjoy the food in our books. If you've tried one of our characters' recipes, tell us about it in the comments!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dried Cherry and Candied Ginger Scones @LucyBurdette #Christmasweek






LUCY BURDETTE:  These scones would be absolutely lovely for Christmas breakfast or brunch, or really any holiday affair. They started (as my recipes sometimes do) with the craving to use a couple of ingredients I had on hand: beautiful dried Michigan cherries sent by my wonderful Uncle Don, and candied ginger bits from King Arthur flour. I didn't find a recipe that combined the two of them, but I did find a lovely cherry scone recipe that originated in the Blacksmith Inn in Wisconsin, and ended up on the Food Network

Lucy at the Christmas Parade, Key West
After some tweaks, I present it to you! (In the photos, you might notice that I pulsed the cherries into the mix ahead of the butter, which made the pieces quite small. They tasted fine, but we agreed we might like bigger pieces better. You can adjust as you see fit.)









Ingredients

2 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoon sodium-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 egg

2/3 cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup candied ginger

Egg wash, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water, beaten

Sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Pulse in the ginger pieces, followed by chunks of butter, and mix until no larger than pea-sized. Now add the cherries and pulse them until they are well distributed. Whisk together the cream, the egg, and the extracts and add this to the dry ingredients. Pulse until combined. 

Turn all of this out onto a floured surface and knead several times. 

Pat into a circle and cut into 8 pieces. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and sliced almonds. Place onto a baking sheet covered with parchment. 

Bake at 375 for 15 to 18 minutes until beginning to brown. Serve hot with butter!

Are you still looking for stocking stuffers? DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, the fifth Key West mystery might fit the bill.

And I've got lots of other ideas on my Pinterest board, Mystery Books as Stocking Stuffers.








Thursday, September 17, 2015

Peach Pie #recipe for #BookClubWeek @LucyBurdette #giveaway

Aren't my friends good sports?


This is a pie for peach season--I think any book club would be happy to devour it while discussing a Key West mystery! More on the discussion in a bit, but first the recipe... 

I wait every year for the peaches in Connecticut. I buy mine at Bishops farm markets, a bushel at a time. You can also slice the peaches and add the sugar, and then freeze them in a 6 cup quantity. When you are ready to make the pie (when you're feeling sad that peach season is over,) warm the peach mixture over a low flame and then add the rest of the ingredients and proceed as written. 

This recipe is based on one I found in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook. I always use my father's pie crust because it's so easy. And I adjusted some of the flavorings, deleting the nutmeg and increasing cinnamon. I also added a quarter cup slivered almonds to the topping.


Ingredients for the filling

Six cups ripe peaches, sliced
Three-quarter cup sugar +1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon salt
One half teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 cup cornstarch

Peel and slice the peaches. Stir the sugar and salt into the bowl. Let this sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch with the almond extract, lemon juice, melted butter, and cold water. Stir until smooth. Stir this mixture into the peaches.



While the peaches marinate, make your crust. 


I recommend this easy version of my father's crust.
 
 Then on to the topping!

 
Topping ingredients

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground in food processor
1/2 cup rolled oats, whole
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
One half stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
 

 Pulse together all the topping ingredients in the food processor until crumbly.

Spread the topping over the pie. Place the pie on a baking sheet. Lay one sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top. Bake at 375 for 50 to 60 minutes. Bake until the crust and topping are golden. I took the foil off for the last 10 minutes, going for that extra crunch

Let the pie sit for four hours at room temperature before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired. (Everyone did, even the chocoholics.)


Now, hmmm, which book to choose for the discussion? My friends and I had a very interesting chat about tarot card reading over pieces of this pie. Did we believe in tarot or horoscopes? How far should a friend go to protect another friend's confidence? (You'll remember that Hayley Snow's dear friend Lorenzo is a tarot card reader. Only he seems to have lost the ability to see his own future in FATAL RESERVATIONS.) Here's more on that book, a blog about the evolution of Lorenzo, and some of the recent reviews.

But if your book club meets around the holidays, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS would be a perfect choice--Christmas in Key West!

Near Valentine's Day? Try MURDER WITH GANACHE.

And here are book discussion questions for TOPPED CHEF, DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, and AN APPETITE FOR MURDER, which would be good choices for any time of year!

Leave a comment about which book you'd choose--I'll be giving away a signed copy to one lucky commenter!

And you can follow Lucy on Facebook,

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and Instagram!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shrimp Creole #Recipe @LucyBurdette


LUCY BURDETTE: Because the Key West pink shrimp are so outstanding down here, I am always looking for a chance to use them. Years ago, I used to make a version of shrimp creole, but that recipe is long gone. Here's a version that is not too time-consuming, can be made ahead, and serves 6-8 dinner guests happily. Or six, with leftovers for the next day.

Ingredients:

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined (we figured on about 6 per person)

1- 16 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes in sauce
2 medium onions, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped (or 3 small as I used)
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper
2-3 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup chicken stock 

3 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. oil


Cooked white rice




In a large pot, heat the flour and oil and stir over low heat for 10-15 minutes. (This is called a roux--be patient and make sure you don't burn it or the dish will be  ruined.)


Add the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper, celery, and creole seasoning and sauté for another 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add the stock and sugar; bring to a boil stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to med-low, and simmer for another 20 minutes, continuing to stir.



Just before you are ready to serve, add the shrimp and simmer for about 2 to 5 minutes stirring frequently. The shrimp should be bright pink but not rubbery. 

 

Serve over rice with a green vegetable or salad.

As with most soups and stews, it helps the flavors to deepen if you make the sauce a day ahead and let it sit in the refrigerator. (Or even the morning you'll serve it.)

 
 (That is my brother-in-law's gorgeous home-grown bok choi on the side.)


And this is what I served for dessert: best ever Southern Caramel Cake. Mmmmmm.....







Lucy writes the Key West food critic mysteries:

 DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is here now!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gingerbread Roll-up Cake #Christmas #Recipe @LucyBurdette

 


LUCY BURDETTE: Merry Christmas and Happy All Holidays everyone! It's not that easy to come up with a holiday treat that isn't an old standby. But I started to think about my favorite gingerbread recipe which I found many years ago in Moosewood's Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook. Three things made it special: fresh ginger, molasses, and honey.

Could I transform this into a rolled cake stuffed with cinnamon-scented whipped cream that would appear fancier than gingerbread and fit for a holiday table? Taste testers said I did--here's the new recipe: 




Ingredients for the Cake:

4 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1-2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar

Whipped cream filling:

1 pint heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp sugar, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon


Grease a 15 X 10 inch baking pan, then line it with parchment paper; butter the paper and set aside.

Saute the grated ginger in the butter. Cool.

Let eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Separate the whites from the yolks.

With your stand mixer or mixer, beat egg yolks on high speed until thickened, about 3 minutes.


Beat in molasses, honey, vanilla, and butter. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mustard and cinnamon,) and beat these until well combined.

In a small bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium speed. Add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue beating on high until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into yolk mixture.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake in a 375 pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Prepare a clean dish towel by sprinkling powdered sugar over it.
 






Turn the cake onto the towel, peel off the parchment, and roll the cake up in the towel. 

(You are rolling the towel right in with the cake--which I found fun and amazing...) 
Cool completely.

In a mixing bowel or cuisinart, combine the cream and vanilla and beat. When this begins to thicken, add cinnamon and sugar to taste, then beat until thick. 


Unroll cake and spread the filling to within 1/2 inch from the edges.












Roll up the cake again. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
 

Serve the cake slices with dollops of leftover whipped cream—or in the case of my family, with ice cream AND whipped cream. (ALWAYS ice cream, and preferably chocolate:).







Merry Christmas and hope you'll find a copy of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS under your tree!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Many Layers of Baklava #recipe @LucyBurdette



LUCY BURDETTE: Our daughter and son-in-law visited Turkey this fall and look at what they brought back to us: samples of one of my favorite desserts, baklava. Isn't that the best gift ever? Those tasty nuggets inspired me to try making it--again.

Quite a few years ago, I was asked to help our son's elementary school class make baklava. (They must have been studying food from various countries around the world.) Though I've always been a fan of this pastry, I had never had the nerve to try making it myself. Believe me, if a group of schoolkids could make it, anyone can:). The only problem we had was discovering occasional brush bristles in the finished pastry--this I blame on poor quality pastry brushes and intense paint strokes...

Ingredients 

1 pound package of phyllo dough, thawed overnight, then brought to room temperature

1 pound walnuts or mixture of pistachios and walnuts (I used 1/3 salted pistachios and 2/3 walnuts)


1/2 cup sugar


1 teaspoon cinnamon


3 sticks unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces honey




Chop the walnuts and pistachios finely in a food processor and then add the sugar and cinnamon and pulse to combine these.  Set this aside.

Remove the phyllo dough from the package and unroll it on a clean counter. Butter a 13 x 9" baking dish and layer in 8 of the phyllo sheets, one at a time, buttering each sheet with a pastry brush dipped in the melted butter.

As you work, cover the remaining sheets of phyllo with a damp towel so they don't dry out. (Don't sweat any little tears--they won't show up in the end.)
 
Pour 1 cup of the nut mixture over the eight layers of phyllo and spread this evenly to the edges. Continue to layer eight more sheets of dough, painting each with melted butter. 


Spread another cup of the nut mixture over the top. Repeat the layers and the nut mixture until all the nuts are used, ending with phyllo. 

With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shapes. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until golden. 



Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle honey over the dough until it does not absorb any further. To the left is the honeyed pastry before it has soaked in. (I used a full one pound jar of local honey.) Then sprinkle with some ground up pistachios if you like that look. (I did.)











Let cool and sit for six hours or overnight, then serve at room temperature, well wrapped. Oh the agony of waiting! But it's worth it. My guests told me this was the best baklava they had ever eaten. My hub and I had to agree. 

These little squares could make a splendid addition to a Christmas cookie platter!


Question:  How is a good mystery like a piece of baklava? 

Answer: Many layers!


 DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is here in time for Christmas stockings! 


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