Showing posts with label Julia Buckley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Julia Buckley. Show all posts

Sunday, September 4, 2016

When Food is Love: The Joy of Holiday Cooking

A warm welcome to Julia Buckley, who brings us the first Christmas recipe of the year. That must mean the holidays can't be too far behind!

Julia's latest book, CHEDDAR OFF DEAD, the second Lilah Drake Undercover Dish mystery, hits shelves on September 6 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon now.

Don't miss her giveaway. Leave a comment with your email address below so she can notify you if you win!

In my latest book, CHEDDAR OFF DEAD (the second in Berkley’s UNDERCOVER DISH mysteries), Lilah Drake continues her career as a secret chef while she also maintains two day jobs that involve cooking and baking. Lilah has a flair for creating food to suit her clientele, and the list of her customers is growing as the series progresses.

The book is set at Christmastime, and Lilah is working to make a variety of holiday foods, some of it for her own family.

In the excerpt below, Lilah Drake is staying at her brother’s house for protection, since a murderer may be looking for her. She is surrounded by her brother and his lovely Italian wife, Serafina, a police-appointed bodyguard named Wendy, and her sometime-boyfriend, Detective Jay Parker. (She also has the non-human support, as ever, of her loyal Labrador, Mick. In the photo below, the part of Mick is played by my own Labrador, Digby, wearing the Christmas garb that Mick must wear). This unlikely group is sharing one of Lilah’s breakfast concoctions:

“I focused on my casseroles. The key to a delicious gingerbread is getting the right molasses (I used Angelo’s Gourmet, which had earned a frown from Parker at the convenience store) and the perfect blend of spices. I did some careful measuring of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, doubling up so that I could make two versions of this particular casserole. I preheated the oven and then dipped my bread into the gingerbread concoction, laying it into glass bake ware, then drizzling it with a sprinkling of nuts and melted butter.

By the time I slid them into the oven, Serafina finally appeared, looking rumpled and sexy in a little red robe. It was official: there was no occasion in which Serafina did not look attractive. “Lilah? You’re up so early!”

“Yes. I had to get started on some food deliveries, but I’ll have breakfast for you and Cam. Is he at work?”

“No—he’s in bed. We were up late, talking and talking.”

Now it was Serafina who didn’t make eye contact, but it was clear enough what she and my brother had been doing into the wee hours. “Oh. Well, hurry up and take your shower, and I’ll make you both some coffee.”

Forty minutes later they were all at the table and being regaled with Christmas songs from Serafina’s iPod. I watched as Parker, Cam, and Serafina dug in to the still-warm gingerbread casserole. Cam slathered his with additional syrup and butter, although I had already topped the dish with fresh whipped cream. They started to eat, and I held my breath until I heard the first “Ah,” which came from Parker. He certainly was a loyalist about my food.

“Lilah, this is delicious!” Serafina said. “Such a wonderful way to start the day—warm food to warm the heart.” Her words were highlighted by Perry Como, who was singing “Home for the Holidays” in his rich, reassuring voice.”

Despite the dangers Lilah finds herself in over the course of several mysteries, she always feels cheered by the food she makes, and by the appreciative responses from the people who eat it. Food warms the heart and the stomach, and for Lilah, food is a way to show love.

With her holiday gingerbread casserole, she does just that.

Lilah’s French Toast Casserole with Gingerbread Flavor(Adapted for Christmastime)


1 loaf of soft French bread (or soft rolls)
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt to taste

Streusel Topping:
(This can vary, but here’s one option)

2 sticks (one pound) butter
¼ cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Slice bread into 20 slices (or separate ten rolls) and lay out in buttered baking dish.

Blend all of the ingredients and pour them over the slices of bread, making sure that the wet mixture gets under and in between the slices, and that all of the bread is saturated.

Cover the mixture with tin foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, spread the Streusel mixture on top of the saturated, chilled bread, and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

(Gingerbread tastes delicious topped with whipped cream).

Serve with pats of butter and maple syrup.

Be ready for a delicious surprise to share with friends or family! Toby’s five children love this recipe, but adults love it, too!

Julia Buckley is a Chicago writer. Her recent titles, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER (Berkley, July 6) and CHEDDAR OFF DEAD (Berkley, Sept 6) are available in stores and on Amazon. She lives in a busy house with her husband, two sons, four cats and a big Labrador. Her European mother raised her to believe that Food is Love, and she has followed that philosophy all her life.

I hope you enjoy the recipe, or the book, or both—and Merry Christmas in September. J I will choose a winner from among the comments under this post and send them a signed copy of CHEDDAR OFF DEAD, the sequel to THE BIG CHILI.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Welcome Julia Buckley!

A very warm welcome to Julia Buckley! Julia writes the Writer's Apprentice Mysteries. What a fun idea to write a series about someone who has become the assistant to a bestselling suspense writer.

Julia is very kindly giving away a copy of A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, which debuts July 5! Leave a comment with your email address below to enter. 

Good Luck!

Hello, Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen!

Thanks for inviting me onto the blog today. I’m celebrating the release of my new mystery, A DARK AND STORMY MURDER. While this is not a culinary mystery, a lot of eating takes place in Blue Lake, the fictional Indiana town that Lena London discovers at the beginning of the novel (and which is based on THIS place that I once visited).

Blue Lake is situated somewhere between Chicago and Indianapolis, a lovely lakefront town not yet discovered by more than the most adventurous tourists.

Lena’s culinary introduction to the town begins at Wheat Grass, an elegant eatery just off of Green Glass Highway; she shares some memorable meals with other characters here, and part of the plot is linked closely to this restaurant.

She also discovers Willoughby’s, a homey little diner with a sign in the window that says “Join us for breakfast or lunch! Willoughby’s is NOT open for dinner.” This diner becomes the backdrop for some of the most important moments in the mystery.

Lena consumes all sorts of meals in the book: sweets ranging from Willoughby’s waffles to cupcakes made by Rhonda, the cook at Graham House (where she works with her employer, the famous suspense novelist Camilla Graham), to Schuler’s Ice Cream, famous in Blue Lake and sold at, among other places, Bick’s Hardware, an eccentric little store on Wentworth Avenue. (How many commas did I use in the previous sentence? I think I might have earned a comma award). She also consumes gourmet salads, delicious soup, elegant sandwiches, and much more—just a part of life and sleuthing in a lovely little resort town.

There are no recipes in the book, but one of the things on the Willoughby’s menu is a meatball sandwich. I am sharing my own super-easy recipe for meatballs here, and I don’t even need to consult a list of ingredients, because they are simple:

Willoughby’s Restaurant Meatballs (for sandwiches or sides)

1 pound ground beef

1 cup Panko bread crumbs (plain)

2 packets dried onion soup mix (Mrs. Grass preferred)

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

(optional: diced red pepper)

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients well; then roll into medium-sized, uniform balls and place in a flat baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes; remove and let cool.

You should taste one or two meatballs just to be sure they’re delicious. J Then serve on crusty white bread with your homemade or store-bought tomato sauce, OR whip up a pot of pasta and serve these meatballs with the noodles and the above-mentioned sauce.

So good!

Now, while you’re eating those meatballs, you might want to consider adding something to your TBR pile. Dean James wrote of A DARK AND STORMY MURDER, “I can’t remember when I’ve been so enthralled by a story and its characters.”

The book is an homage to Mary Stewart and her stellar suspense novels, which captivated me so much in my impressionable teen years that Stewart remains, three years after her death at age 97, my favorite writer. In a little burst of wish-fulfillment, I allowed my main character, Lena London, to live out a fantasy I would have loved: to meet her idol, suspense novelist Camilla Graham, and to live and work with her as a sort of writer’s apprentice. The two of them end up confronting a real mystery while they are plotting a fictional one, and thus begins the tale.

Summer, delicious food, and an intriguing tale: what more could we ask? (Maybe some money to spend on more books)?

I hope you’re all having a terrific summer; happy Fourth of July, happy halfway through the year, happy long summer days, happy cooking, and happy reading!!

Julia Buckley is a Chicago area mystery and suspense writer. She also teaches secondary English and journalism. She lives in the suburbs with her husband, her two sons, three cats and a black Lab named Digby,

who gets into everything but is always forgiven because he is so cute.

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address to enter to win a copy of A DARK AND STORMY MURDER!