Showing posts with label Jim Lavene. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Lavene. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The sweetest, hottest peppers in the world!

I try to keep up with new cozy mystery series. So when I saw this dramatic and eye-catching cover, I knew we had to invite the author to be a guest at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. After all, firemen are known for their cooking skills and creativity in the kitchen. But who was this mysterious JJ Cook? No clue to the author's gender there. I got a mighty good laugh out of it when I tracked down the elusive author. It's our old friends Joyce and Jim Lavene. Gee, I can't imagine where the JJ came from! And now, here's Joyce, er JJ!

My new mystery series, the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries, begins with That Old Flame of Mine - out now!

In the story, the tiny town of Sweet Pepper, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains is crazy about everything pepper. They have a giant hot pepper on their water tower and a three-day hot pepper festival that showcases a recipe contest with various ways to eat peppers from chocolate-covered to pepper enhanced cakes and pies. Every food can be made with hot peppers - the wilder, the better.

Their pepper of choice is the Tennessee Teardrop. The pepper is about mid-way on the Scoville Scale which charts how hot a pepper is. This means if you like really hot food, this will seem mild to you. If you don’t like hot food, it will seem hot. Always taste a very small amount of pepper before committing to a mouthful!

The people of Sweet Pepper have been growing and eating hot peppers for more than a hundred years. For them, the Teardrop is perfect. Their slogan - we grow the hottest, sweetest peppers in the world!

When my heroine, Stella Griffin, comes to Sweet Pepper from Chicago, she’s a little put off by pepper-eating and the tiny town.

She’s used to having everything available 24/7, and that includes a fire department with professionals, not volunteers. But Stella learns fast about everything but grits, and she even enters a recipe in the Sweet Pepper Festival.

She’s a sweet-eater, so candied hot peppers appeal to her. She even volunteers to judge the coveted chocolate-covered pepper recipe contest!

Stella’s cardamom candied peppers

Slice some mild or medium hot peppers, width-wise. Be sure you know what type they are and that they are the right heat for you.

Make a syrup from one cup of water, one cup of sugar (or sugar alternative works too). Add two teaspoons of cardamom and stir. Put this in a double boiler on low heat for about twenty minutes.

When the syrup thickens, add the pepper ‘coins’ and let them stay in the syrup for about five minutes. Be sure they are coated on both sides.

Drain the syrup from the peppers and put them flat on a baking tray. Cook on low heat (about 200 degrees) for about twenty minutes, or until crispy.

The peppers will be very sweet with a ‘bite’ of heat as you taste them. They’re very good on vanilla ice cream as a garnish but I know people who use bits of them in cookies and brownies too. Get creative!

If you find that you’ve swallowed a pepper that’s too hot for you, drink milk or eat ice cream. It’s the best way to lose the burn. Don’t drink soda or water. It will make it worse!

Firefighters and food

Stella has been a firefighter for ten years. She has experienced all sorts of strange foods made by her fellow team members.

I always wanted to be a firefighter but when I was sixteen, I got the bad news – no women firefighters. I had many people in my family who served the City of Chicago and very nice memories of spending time at my grandfather’s station house there.

Now women can serve too and I’m sure the food has improved with that addition.

My great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my uncle always said the worst food they ever ate at the station house was stew because you never knew what might have gone into it!

About That Old Flame of Mine

Set in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, J. J. Cook’s thrilling new mystery series features Fire Chief Stella Griffin, who solves crime with the help of her predecessor, who just happens to be a ghost...

Joyce Lavene writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction with her husband/partner, Jim. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Herb Crusted Eggplant

A very warm welcome to Joyce and Jim Lavene, a husband and wife bestselling mystery writing team. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley and Charter Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family, their cat, Quincy, and their rescue dog, Rudi. They enjoy photography, watercolor, gardening and long drives.

Their next mystery is Buried By Buttercups, a Peggy Lee Mystery.

And now -- Joyce!

I come from a proud family of Southern gardeners and cooks. My mother was from Charleston, South Carolina and she grew up going out to the farm to pick produce when she was young.

She and her mother, along with her brothers and sisters, spent whole days picking tomatoes, green peppers, corn, and eggplant. They were very poor and this provided them with some spending money - also fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even when my mother could afford to buy her own produce, she grew everything she could. Her yard was filled with fruit trees and vegetables. It was important to her that she ate as much fresh food as she could.

She rubbed off on me, I guess. When I grew up, I became a Master Gardener and enjoyed growing fresh food too. I put as much of that information as I could into the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries.

Peggy Lee is a botanist who specializes in botanical poisons. She owns a small garden shop in Charlotte, North Carolina and helps the police solve mysteries with her knowledge. Her next book is Buried By Buttercups, out in October 2012.

Peggy loves herbs and spices. I think she’d enjoy this recipe.

Making Herb Crusted Eggplant

I know a lot of people don’t like eggplant. I’m a vegetarian and I’m always looking for new ways to make vegetables. I think you’ll find that you don’t have to ‘like’ eggplant to enjoy this.

You’ll need one eggplant. Cut off the top and bottom then thinly peel off the purple skin. Cut the eggplant into thick slices, about one quarter inch.

You’ll also need about a quarter cup of olive oil, one and a half cups of plain, dry breadcrumbs, five tablespoons of fresh, chopped, basil, two tablespoons of fresh parsley and two tablespoons fresh rosemary, one teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste.

Mix breadcrumb/herb mixture in a bowl. Use the olive oil to coat the eggplant slices then put each side of the slices into the breading mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until eggplant is tender and crust is brown.

These make delicious sandwiches or a great side dish with pasta or potatoes. One eggplant serves about four people.
Thanks for having me here!


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Visit Joyce and Jim at, .
Twitter: @authorJLavene and Google Plus.