Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Halloween. Show all posts

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Welcome Author Bethany Blake with a Prize Package #BookGiveaway and Sweet Halloween Recipe

To learn more about
Dial Meow for Murder,
click here.
Like her amateur sleuth, author Bethany Blake also runs a pet-sitting business. We're thrilled that she's stopped by to tell us about the brand new entry in her Lucky Paws Petsitting Mysteries: Dial Meow for Murder!

Bethany is also sharing a wonderful October recipe and offering a generous giveaway package, so be sure to comment on the post with a way to contact you. 

Take it away, Bethany!

—Cleo Coyle 

🐾 🐾 🐾

Halloween is coming to quaint, pet-friendly Sylvan Creek, and that can only mean:

🐾  A one-eared, drooling
Chihuahua in a tiny clown costume;

🐾  A haunted hayride gone
horribly, horribly awry; and

🐾 The world’s cutest – angriest – black cat guarding a body in a spooky mansion.

If you’ve already “visited” Sylvan Creek by reading the first book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting series, Death by Chocolate Lab, you know that pet sitter and amateur sleuth Daphne Templeton tends to stumble into sticky situations involving pets with personality. And this Halloween is no exception. 

First, Daphne finds the town’s “professional volunteer,” Lillian Flynt, dead in a creepy, crumbling lakeside Victorian. Then Daphne and her stoic sidekick, basset hound Socrates, get stuck caring for Lillian’s prized Persian, Tinkleston, whose puffball paws hide a razor-sharp set of claws.

Daphne's stoic sidekick,
basset hound Socrates
To make matters worse, Daphne’s mother, ambitious Realtor Maeve Templeton, stands to profit from Miss Flynt’s death.

Last but not least, handsome, enigmatic Detective Jonathan Black’s ex-wife – gorgeous Elyse Hunter-Black – has arrived in town with two ghostly greyhounds. The fact that Elyse is still hyphenating her name is not lost upon Daphne’s best friend, vintage-loving Moxie Bloom. And Daphne has to agree that Elyse probably wants to get her lovely hands on more than some local real estate.

Not that Daphne sees any kind of future with Jonathan. Still, it’s all kind of confusing.

Thank goodness little Sylvan Creek is full of places to grab a soothing fall snack, whether it’s pumpkin cheesecake gelato – eaten while comparing clues with Jonathan – or sage-and-butternut squash dip, shared with hippie surfer Dylan Taggart at the historic Wolf Hollow Mill.

As for me, when I need comfort food of the sweet variety, I turn to my mother’s three-layer black-bottom pie. Recently, she was kind enough to give me the original recipe, on a yellowed card that has been tucked in a box in her kitchen since my childhood. The spicy gingersnap crust blends perfectly with a layer of bitter chocolate, mellowed by sweet vanilla and whipped cream.

In a nod to the upcoming holiday, I’m adding a seasonal twist, replacing the vanilla layer with a pumpkin mousse. I’ve also streamlined the recipe to avoid a step that calls for scalding milk and adding gelatin. (Sounds like a recipe… for disaster!) I call the revised treat Tinkleston’s Sweet & Spiced Black Cat Pie, in honor of Daphne’s latest furry family member, who tends to narrow his distinctive, orange eyes right before he pounces. Little Tinks is also a lot like the pie in terms of temperament. He’s somewhat bitter, quite snappish – but sweet at heart.

At least, Daphne and Socrates hope that’s the case! 

--Bethany Blake

🐾 🐾 🐾

Sweet & Spiced Black Cat Pie


For Crust

18 gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup melted butter

For Chocolate Layer

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp softened butter
1 cup heavy cream

For Pumpkin Layer

8 oz softened cream cheese
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup heavy cream


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Crush the cookies and combine them with the butter until moistened. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a pie plate. Bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Prepare the chocolate layer. Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand for about a minute. Slowly whisk the chocolate until melted and smooth. (This was honestly my first time making ganache. It was so easy!)

Gently pour the chocolate into the cooled crust. Starting to look good, right? Place the pie in your refrigerator for about one hour or until set. (Use the time to lick the whisk and bowl clean.)

Next, make the pumpkin layer. Using a stand mixer if you’ve got one, beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger and cloves until smooth.

Using a hand mixer or good, old-fashioned biceps, whip the cream in a separate, chilled bowl. Fold half of the cream into the pumpkin mixture. Repeat with the second half of the cream, blending until just combined. 

Carefully spread the pumpkin over the chocolate layer and smooth the top. Refrigerate for about two hours or until set and firm. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and – if you have them – little black cats before serving.

And don’t feel badly if your slices look a little… scary.

 It’s Halloween!

🎃 🎃 🎃

About the Author

Bethany Blake lives in a small, quaint town in Pennsylvania with her husband and three daughters. When she's not writing or riding horses, she's wrangling a menagerie of furry, finned and feathered family members that includes a nervous pit bull, a fearsome feline, an immortal goldfish, and an attack cardinal named Robert. Like Daphne Templeton, the heroine of her Lucky Paws Mysteries, Bethany holds a Ph.D. and operates a pet-sitting business called Barkley's Premium Pet Care.

🐾 🐾 🐾

*Keep in touch with Bethany!

Visit her website:

Like her on Facebook  by clicking here

Follow her on Twitter by clicking here


Bonus Giveaway from Bethany!

 🎃 Halloween Haul Prize Pack

🐾 Death by Chocolate Lab

🐾 Ominous Amish Blood-Red Popcorn 

🐾 Chocolate Black Cat  

🐾 Gourmet Chocolate and Caramel Pretzels

To learn more about or purchase
Bethany's new mystery, click
on one of the links below...

Amazon  * B&N 

Thank you so much for
joining us today, Bethany!


Leave a comment on this post by Midnight, Wednesday, October 18 (Pacific Time), and you are entered to win Bethany's new book and prize package. Be sure to leave an email address, or a link to your Facebook page, or another way we can contact you if you win.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spinach Soup in Carnival Squash


Even though our daughter is long gone from the house, my husband and I still carve pumpkins to invite in all the children from the neighborhood (and beyond) on Halloween, and we hand out plenty of candy. But we’re usually slow to select and carve our pumpkins—and this year we didn’t get to it until last weekend. Off we went to our local farm stand--and then I went crazy.

I couldn't help myself!

Choosing which pumpkins to carve was easy: we prefer the traditional shape but we’ve gone over to warty ones because they’re interesting. But then at the pumpkin stand I spied a batch of crazy gourds. I picked one up and said, “It’s a swan!” And I had this immediate image of a nest of wacky multi-colored swans sitting together, so I had to buy a basket for the nest and scavenge some straw for it.

But I didn’t stop there. I stumbled upon a selection of squashes. Confession: my mother used to make acorn squash, by cutting them in half and, after removing the seeds, filling the cavity with butter and brown sugar. But despite that I hated the things—I think it was the pasty stringy texture.

But! There were some lovely striped squashes called Carnival. I looked at them and didn’t see dinner—I saw a soup bowl with dark green soup in it. Maybe with some white accents—cheese? Sour cream? So I brought home two squashes.

Then I went looking for a green soup recipe. Spinach is the obvious choice (sorrel a close second, but I couldn’t find any), and fresh spinach is easy to come by, but after that I couldn’t find just the right combination of ingredients in any available recipe. So I improvised, borrowing from at least four different recipes, old and current.

Spinach Soup in a Carnival Squash


3 Tblsp butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or, if you want a creamier soup, a combination of stock and milk or cream
1 lb fresh spinach (I know it looks like a lot, but it will cook down)
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream (you can mix it in or add it at the end as garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large deep pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and the leek. Stir the vegetables in the butter, then cover and let them “sweat” for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. (Do not let the vegetables brown.)

Pour in the liquid and simmer for a few minutes.

Buy baby spinach leaves if you can. Rinse them and dry them (a salad spinner is a good choice!). If they are large, remove the tough stems. Chop roughly.

Add the spinach to the liquid and cook over low heat until the leaves are wilted. Use a food processor or an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Stir in the crème fraiche or sour cream (or save it for garnish). Taste for seasoning. Heat through and serve (in those wonderful squashes, with the top sliced off and the seeds removed) with a tangy bread such as cheese biscuits.

Various sources suggested possible additions: a dash of cayenne, minced garlic, onion rather than green onion. If you want to make it heartier, cook a peeled potato along with the other vegetables until it is soft, and add chopped ham at the end. It’s a quick, simple basic recipe, so you can experiment!

Halloween may have come and gone, but the spirits are still with us! Here's the fifth book in the Relatively Dead series, Search for the Dead, which came out last week.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Whoooo. Who?

I wish I were this clever. I spotted these little guys on Pinterest (by Jenn Erickson) and tried to recreate them. We had a family brunch and they were (dare I say it?) a hoot! In fact, one person declared that the owls were mighty tasty!

I love several things about these.

1. You probably have everything at home.
2. They're healthier than chocolate.
3. They're very forgiving to make and quite cute.

Owl Ingredients:

yellow mustard
black olives
a slice of red pepper (optional, see instructions)
baby spinach leaves

Hard boil the eggs. Place eggs in enough water to cover them plus an inch, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat but leave the cover on and the pot on the burner. Set the timer for 18 minutes. When done, pour out the water, flush with cold water, and shock by adding ice cubes.

(Note: older eggs peel better than fresh ones. If you have farm fresh eggs, plan ahead and leave them in the fridge a couple of weeks to age first.)

Peel the eggs and slice in half. Place the yolks in a food processor with mayonnaise and mustard. Pulse until blended and taste. Add salt and adjust the mayo and mustard to your liking. Pulse again.

I used a disposable pastry bag and a large tip to fill the eggs. I would recommend using a medium tip. I tried to make the "feathers" by dragging fork tines through the filling. Don't do that! Bad idea. Fill the egg, then draw the tip down the middle and along each side. Add yellow dots for the eyes.

Slice olives. Place rounds at the top on each yellow dot for eyes. Cut slices into small bits for pupils.

Cut the red peppers in very small triangles. Place under the eyes as beaks. Note that I made one with an olive beak in case you don't happen to have a red pepper. He looks just as cute.

Cut baby spinach leaves in half and place them on the sides as wings.

Red beak or black beak?

Add spinach leaf wings.


Coming February 7th!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip #halloween food fun

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’ll confess, Halloween is not a major moo-ha-ha here in our little house in the big woods. (We've just got the one decoration, picked up years ago at a craft fair, but it's a good one!) No kidlets clamoring for costumes and candy. No Trick-or-Treaters—our community is far-flung and semi-rural, so roaming the roads is unsafe, especially as darkness falls.

But in true community fashion, the Village has a solution: for two hours on Halloween afternoon, the downtown merchants dress up, open their doors, and provide treats for big and little ones. (Needless to say, no business gets done in those hours!) Mr. Right and I occasionally make the trek into town to watch the fun—no heart can be less than glad at the sight of a three-year-old in a pink tutu and fairy wings, especially if she’s also wearing pink plaid Wellies.

My favorite Halloween treat is probably Jewel Bay Critter Crunch, my version of Harry & David’s Moose Munch, which I created for my third Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, BUTTER OFF DEAD. I've shared it here before---link above. I think I'll pop up a batch this afternoon.

But when I saw this Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip recipe in a magazine, I knew I had to make it. A great centerpiece—and too much fun. Which is, after all, what Halloween is really about, right?

You certainly can substitute other vegetables: grape tomatoes might make nice feet, and broccoli flowerets decent toes. Try cauliflowerets for hands. I used parsley for hair, but you could also use ruffled kale or the curly ends of leaf lettuce. The dip can be made with a standard blender or food processor---we use our immersion blender, fondly known as the whizzy-uppie thing.

Be sure to set out a bowl or plate of crackers and other veggies (spare ribs, anyone?), so you and your guests can nibble without destroying the table decor!

Veggie Skeleton and Brain Dip

For the skeleton:
one cucumber
one or two stalks celery
one carrot or several baby carrots
3 small to medium mushrooms
one red bell pepper
several stalks of parsley
two black olives

For the dip:
You can use any homemade or commercial dip, even plain yogurt. We used our Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing (a variation was published in ASSAULT & PEPPER), which is thick enough for a dip. And the shredded cheese and herb bits make it deliciously gruesome!

Creamy Parmesan Salad Dressing

1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced or roughly chopped
1 cup nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or Asiago
2 tablespoons olive oil, scant
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried leaves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Makes about 1-1/4 cups

Mix all ingredients in a small food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. Chill at least one hour, to let flavors meld. Adjust seasonings to your taste.

To assemble: 

Slice the cucumber and lay 6-8 rounds down the middle of your cutting board. Make sure to leave enough room for the pelvis and legs. Cut two 3-4" lengths of celery for the shoulders. Cut celery or a celery-carrot combination for the legs. Slice carrots, or use baby carrots, for the arms and feet. Add parsley for the hands and toes. Slice the mushrooms, with the stem intact, and lay them out for the pelvis. Core the pepper and slice thinly lengthwise; you may have to cut one end off your “ribs” to fit them in to the available space. Pour the dip into a small clear glass bowl and place at the head; garnish with olives for eyes and parsley hair.


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.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

#Halloween Decorated Pretzel Rods #Recipe @PegCochran

There isn't exactly a recipe for this--it's more of a craft than cooking, but it's lots of fun and kids can easily participate.  And while I used Halloween themed sprinkles, you can vary them according to the holiday--red and green for Christmas, red, white and blue for Fourth of July, green for St. Patrick's day.  You're limited by only your imagination!

Gather your supplies.  I used:

chocolate candy melts
white chocolate candy melts
pretzel rods

Melt chocolate according to directions.  I used a microwave safe mug so the chocolate would be "deep" enough.

Once melted, dip your pretzel rods in the chocolate and then press into the sprinkles coating all sides.

I found some cool sprinkles that included tiny pumpkins.

Place pretzel rods on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.

Drizzle with white chocolate.  I found this cool spoon made just for drizzling although it wasn't really necessary.  I found the white chocolate candy melts to be rather thick--next time I might try a white chocolate candy bar.

Gather the finished pretzels into a pretty glass and you have an instant centerpiece for your Halloween table!

Aren't they fun?  My grocery store even sells bags specifically for these so you can package each of them separately.  Great teacher gift at Christmas, don't you think?

 Rated a TOP PICK by RT Magazine!  Available now!

Paperback on sale at Amazon for $6.11

On her blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, gardening tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.

Working the farm is demanding but peaceful—until that peace is shattered when the minister’s wife is murdered on Shelby’s property during a fund-raiser for a local church. But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby’s good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect. Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself. As more suspects crop up, she’ll have to move fast—before someone else buys the farm. . . .