Showing posts with label Krista Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Krista Davis. Show all posts

Monday, April 3, 2017

Around the kitchen table with the authors at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

LINDA: We're back at the kitchen table and you know, we're having a lot of fun doing this monthly joint blog. From your responses, it seems that most of you are enjoying it also. We certainly hope that's the case.Today, our topic is one that is especially dear to my heart, what do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

If I'm in that no-cooking frame of mind and ravenous, I opt for cheese (I usually have several varieties on hand at any given time), bread or crackers, and some wine. Ideal, tasty, easy and fast. But if I can hold off several minutes, I'll do a grilled cheese sandwich using my panini maker. As I mentioned, I always have some cheese on hand and these days, following a tip from fellow MLK Mary Jane Maffini, I slice a green apple to add to the grilled cheese. It adds a satisfying crispness and acidity to this old standby.

I will admit that it's easier to opt not to cook for those who don't have to worry about any other mouths to feed. I sometimes take it one step further, and like Lynn Johnston, the creator of that wonderful cartoon strip For Better or Worse, admits to doing now that she's on her own -- I eat, standing up at the kitchen counter. How freeing is that. And healthy, too, the standing up part.
The key phrase is: no cooking, no clean-up. Now, that's easy.

LESLIE: You mean, besides order pizza? Back when when one of the local restaurants had a take-out fridge, I picked up ribs for Mr. Right and crab cakes for me one evening, and mentioned to the chef-owner that I just didn't feel like cooking. He replied that he never felt that way -- which clearly means he had the right job!

On those nights, our go-to is usually spaghetti and meatballs. A couple of times a year, Mr. Right makes a good-sized batch of meatballs, using ground sirloin, Parmesan, Panko breadcrumbs, and red pepper flakes. He wraps them in plastic, 4-6 in a package, and tosses them all in a Zip-loc in the freezer. Heat the meatballs in the microwave, boil up some pasta, open a jar of marinara sauce and a bottle of red wine, and voila -- dinner!

But I do miss Chef Neil's crab cakes!

LUCY: Oh how I love grilled cheese--I've started adding sliced avocados, and the last time I made this, used both Swiss cheese and some fresh mozzarella. I make these in a frying pan with a little butter and olive oil--delicious! And we love crab cakes too, Leslie! And are fortunate to have a wonderful fish market in Key West that makes them to die for.

But if it's summertime, and the tomatoes are in season, my go-to no-cook recipe is chunks of tomatoes marinated with fresh mozzarella chunks, strips of fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and good olive oil. When it's time for dinner, cook the best pasta (I order from Eataly), sprinkle with parmesan, and dump on the tomatoes. Heaven, and so easy! (If you aren't worried about sodium, a few kalamata olives are a good addition too.)

SHEILA: My husband takes the easy way out: he makes Breakfast for Dinner, which is bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast or English muffins. My grandmother, who never learned to cook, settled for cereal and ice cream for supper (a real treat when my sister and I were kids!). Me, I have the most ridiculously well-stocked pantry I've ever seen, but there are days when I can't figure out what I want (well, maybe a French chef to drop in and throw together something, and of course clean up afterwards).

I'm fond of marinades and rubs, and things like fish which cook quickly, or spatchcocked chicken that I can just stick on a pan and bake for a while. But the most recent go-to meal is pasta. These days our market is carrying nice fresh ravioli and tortellini, which are easy (boil water, add pasta, drain--then fancy it up with whatever you have on hand) and taste really good.

LESLIE: Is there anyone who doesn't occasionally love breakfast for dinner? I was probably forty before I realized that when my mother made it for us as kids, it was usually because she felt a little in need of comforting herself!


The old jokes goes like this:  'Question What's the best things she makes for dinner?  Answer: Reservations. Sometimes, that's fun, but more often I don't feel going out any more than I feel like cooking. That 'don't feel like cooking thing' comes on quickly.  My favorite rescue is a quick saute with garlic, parsley, lemon and raw peeled shrimp.  From freezer to ta table takes just a few minutes. This is so easy and it feels special.

But if it's confession time and it's just us friends here, then I'll admit that sometimes I heat up a can of mushroom soup and hide the evidence.  I may also be wearing pyjamas.  Shhh.


Lucy, I can never thank you enough for introducing me to Eataly. Whenever I go to NY, I have to stop in!  It's such a phenomenal store!  Linda, I, too, always have cheese around and gluten-free bread in the freezer. I love my panini grill!!! So that's definitely a good easy choice. I love cheese and wine and some sliced veggies or fruit as a meal. Simple. Slice it. Set the goodies on a napkin. Wash the knife. Done.  I'm all for taking whatever is in the fridge and making a smorgasbord, too.  Hardboiled egg, some lettuce with a drizzle of dressing, slices of cheese, and hopefully I have an avocado. When in doubt and out of everything in the refrigerator, scrambled eggs!  This [see picture] is a pretty pathetic looking empty refrigerator, isn't it? Guess what I ate last night?  LOL  FYI, I don't like to eat standing up. I still like a meal where I sit and listen to the news or go outside and listen to the birds or read a book. It depends on my mood.

I confess that I'm a sandwich girl when I'm being lazy. Ham, or tuna, or peanut butter and jam are what I reach for when I want a quick and easy dinner. I have been known to make omelets or German pancakes, so I guess I do breakfast for dinner sometimes, too. Not very chic, but true.

CLEO: Marc and I are sandwich fans, too, Krista. We like to do Italian cold cuts with fresh lettuce, tomato, and banana peppers piled on crusty rolls. Or we'll put slices of salami on a plate with fresh mozzarella and drizzle it all with olive oil. Hot dogs are another quickie meal for us, and we have fun tarting them up with chopped onions and relish, or a bit of leftover chili or taco meat. Marc's Danger Dogs, on the stove or on the grill, are always guilty pleasures. Fast Tex-Mex is a quesadilla with whatever cheese is on hand with salsa and sour cream. And there's always good old peanut butter with honey, jam, or bananas for a no-fuss, no cook meal. Fun post and great ideas all!

I'm getting some great ideas from you guys! Sheila, spatchcocking a chicken and baking it is not "not cooking."  Just an FYI.  If I'm going to "sort of" cook I'll do pasta with clam sauce.  Saute garlic in olive oil, throw in two cans of chopped clams, heat and eat. If you want to get real fancy, add some chopped parsley.  But "not cooking" does not include washing and chopping parsley in my opinion.  I can't do pasta sauce in a jar--just can't. Unless it's Rao's but if I'm buying that I might as well buy a steak!  The price!  If I'm really not cooking and there aren't any leftovers in the freezer, I'll make us BLTs. 

How about you? 

What do you cook when you don't feel like cooking?

Let us know in the comments below...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Around the Kitchen Table with Mystery Lovers Kitchen Authors + book #giveaway!

Every few weeks, we're having a new Around the Kitchen Table discussion. We hope you'll like getting to know us as we have a little chat!

Today, we're talking about our love affair with reading, when it began, why we write.

BUT FIRST - new RELEASES plus two GIVEAWAYS below.  
Both Sheila and Linda have new releases!!  Congrats, ladies.

And now, let's chat!


One set of my mystery bookshelves
I wasn't a reader until the 4th grade. I mean, sure, I COULD read, but I didn't like it. I was an active girl. I wanted to be outside, running, playing. I also enjoyed math and cooking. But reading? Yech. Then I got sick with the measles and I was bedridden for a week. My mother worked. My parents were divorced. Back then, latchkey was not a forbidden word. I was home alone until my mom came home at lunch to check on me. "I am so bored," I told her. So she gave me her set of Nancy Drew books (all 37 of them) and said she thought I might enjoy them. Honestly? (Ugh!) Luckily, I picked one up...and I read all 37 of them in a week. I was hooked. I tried my hand at writing one six months later. That never saw the light of day, but it was my first inspiration to become a writer. I'm so thankful!  (Sadly, I do not know what happened to that set. I would imagine they were sold along with all my comic books when my mom and sisters and I had to downsize. Sigh!)


I can't remember not being able to read (and wanting to!). The first book I remember reading on my own is Harold and the Purple Crayon, neck and neck with my battered copy of Read Me More Stories, an anthology which was given to me on my third birthday (it includes an early version of "The Runaway Bunny"). It has memorable black and white illustrations, and I added a few of my own. It wasn't long after that my mother got me a library card, and we would go pick out books every week or two. One small misunderstanding: I thought the books were mine to keep and stuck them under my bed. It took my mother a while to catch on. Clearly my passion for book-collecting started early!


Sheila, I remember my first library card, too. I did love going to the library and picking out books. Wonder why it took me so long to fall in "love" with reading. Hmm.


I'm the youngest child by 9 years, so as a kid, it seemed to me like everyone else was always reading. Naturally, I wanted to read, too. The first books I devoured were The Happy Hollisters and The Bobbsey Twins. They went to the seashore! (No seashores in Montana!) They found clues in old mailboxes and decrepit buildings! Much as I loved those books, it was probably Harriet the Spy who made me want to be a writer -- I remember sitting in my bedroom with my notebook, looking out the window, hoping something would happen "out there" that I could write about. I'm eight in this photo -- could that be Nancy Drew in my hands?

From LINDA: 

I hear you, Leslie. I had an older sister, 14 years older, so I grew up almost an only child. I had a wonderful fantasy life and reading fed it. We had a lot of books in the house but mainly in Swedish, so I dove into the popular kids books of the time - starting with the Golden Books, and then, The Bobbsey Twins, and Charlotte's Web. And I loved horses, so I read Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka, and all of the Black Stallion books. Then, I decided to write a novel...about a young girl, oddly enough same age as me, who lived on a ranch, and had a horse. The only mystery is why I still have it in my drawer.


Oh don't throw that away Linda--it's precious history! I'm so sorry I can't find my first short story ever--something happens to a girl and she's unhappy and so runs to the top of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, soon followed by her dream boyfriend, Micky Dolenz. That's right, Micky Dolenz of The Monkees LOL. That could be worth a lot in blackmail, don't you think?

I have loved to read as long as I can remember, and the first book I remember owning was called THE SCARY THING by Laura Bannon. My older sister and I (11 months apart), would come home from school and go to our rooms and read until dinner. Certainly Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (stolen from my younger brother) and yes, the black stallion books, and hundreds more. I thank my parents for the love of reading--they read to us every night and they themselves were always reading. The best gift ever!


I can't remember not reading, either. I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. In fact, I remember my mom shooing me out of the house to play. I took Nancy with me and read sitting on the lawn. I also had an older sibling. When I had the chicken pox (there seem to be some themes here!) my brother was going out one night. My mom gave him some money and asked him to pick up a book for me to read. I must have been around seven or eight. He brought home a collection of short stories that a seventeen-year-old-boy would like. It included Edgar Allen Poe and, most memorably, The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As you might imagine, they were a bit grisly for a kid. I read every single one of them.

And PS to Lucy—after attending a performance of The Point, I rode home on the Tube seated just in front of Micky Dolenz.

From CLEO:

Mickey Dolenz! (Krista and Lucy: Marc and I are both unabashed fans of Mickey and The Monkees!) Okay, back to the subject. I loved reading all your memories of reading! I'll just add that my own connection with books began as a newborn. No, I couldn't read at the age of 0, but... My sister, Grace, was four years old and loved the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland so much that my parents decided to name me Alice (Cleo, of course, is my pen name). My next "chapter" on books came via my Dad. Our small Western Pennsylvania town had no library, but that didn't stop my father from driving me and my sister to the Big Green Bookmobile every Wednesday evening when it pulled into the Acme parking lot. Thank goodness (and it was literally goodness) for libraries and librarians. We didn't have the money to buy, but we sure had the will to borrow, which sparked a lifelong passion for stories and a fulfilling vocation in telling them. So here's to the librarians...and all those bookmobiles that rolled into kids' imaginations with hundreds of worlds on wheels.


Victoria here! One of the fun things about being a mother-daughter team is that we read together. I always loved reading with my mom..  We still love (and share with children)  the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. Here's Frog and Toad all year, a charming and funny look at the two friends through the seasons. These books are easy to read to pre-schoolers and great fun for young readers.

 MJ: The tragedy of my early life was when our public library burned to the ground when I was seven, putting an end to my access to the 'fairy tale' books from many countries. I'd had enough time to get hooked though, and switched to MacLeod's bookstore and Hardy Boys books. Now and then, books were treasured gifts:

I still have my tattered copy of Anne of Avonlea, the follow-up to Anne of Green Gables, a gift from my fourth grade teacher. I read all Lucy Maud Montgomery's magical stories of life in PEI.

From DARYL:  MJ, I can't imagine the horror of losing a library to a fire! How horrible. But I'm jealous that you still have childhood books. I have The Jungle Book, Robinson Crusoe, Dr. Doolittle, and a few others, all of which were my grandmother's.  The bindings are very fragile! The artwork in a few is amazing!

So, delightful fans, how did your love of reading begin?


Linda and Sheila are each giving away one of their mysteries this week. 
Two commenters will win! 
So remember to leave your email so they can contact you by Friday. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE -- Our first cookbooks

LESLIE: Today, we're starting something new in the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. On the first Monday of the month, we’ll gather around the Kitchen table to chat about something on our minds—food-related, because we’re all obsessed with cooking up recipes as well as crime! Today, we’re remembering our early cookbooks. We hope you’ll join the conversation in the comments.

As a teenager, I worked at Waldenbooks, and on September 8, 1978—I dated the bookplate—I used my employee discount on The Vegetarian Epicure, Book Two. The author, Anna Thomas, traveled widely in Europe and beyond, then created vegetarian versions of favorite dishes. Opened up my little palate, I’ll guarantee you! We still adore the salad torcoloti, and I used her curry and garam masala blends as the starting point for my own, in the Spice Shop Mysteries.

A few months later, I picked up Laurel’s Kitchen, the first cookbook to delve into the science and nutrition of vegetarian cooking. I still consult the tables of cooking times for grains and beans, and make the vegetarian chili often. Now I wish I’d sprung for the hardcover, but at the time, the 3.95 paperback was all I could manage!

Actually, the first cookbook I ever bought was probably this copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, my mother’s Christmas wish. There’s no inscription or, oddly, a publication date, but I’m guessing 1976. It lives in my kitchen now, and while I don’t use it much, it isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

One small selection of my collection
DARYL:  I will never forget my first cookbook.  I still have it. The Gourmet Cookbook, volume 1. I started cooking way back when - I mean way back. I sold pies around my neighborhood when was 7. Chocolate pudding pies with whipped creamed topping. I made dinners. I designed menus. I played "restaurant" with my sisters. In high school I became more serious about learning to cook. Not just the dishes my mother or father made - yes, my dad loved to make Crepe Suzettes and Sunday omelets and barbecue anything - but I wanted to make things that were "gourmet." With sauces and exotic flavors. I ordered The Gourmet Magazine and challenged myself to make one new recipe every month. When I realized I could "do" it, I decided to save my allowance and purchase the cookbook. It wasn't cheap! It is still a go-to cookbook for me. For so many items: biscuits, beef stew, roast beef. The book is oil-marked and milk-marked and pie filling-marked.  I wasn't a neat cook. LOL But I don't think the book cares. It knows it has been well loved.  I will forever be grateful to this cookbook for inspiring me to think bigger when it came to the kitchen.

As for cookbooks in general - they are the reason I decided to write the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. When I stepped into a culinary bookstore and drank in the wondrous array of cookbooks at my fingertips, I fell in lust. That's the moment I knew I had to immerse myself in that world for one of my mysteries.

SHEILA:  My mother was a good plain cook--meat, starch and veg, plus dessert--so I grew up knowing the basics, like how to boil water. But my mother's idea of creative cooking was to add Vermouth to whatever meat dish she was making. Her cookbook collection was kind of pitiful: it might have filled one bookshelf. I still have the copy of The Joy of Cooking that she must have gotten when she married.

That was fine, because when I was a child, I was not a courageous eater. I had to separate each of the components of my dinner and consume each of them one at a time. I hated onions and mushrooms, and I never knew what garlic was (although I was fond of artichokes and asparagus, mostly because they were fun to eat). My grandmother, who lived in Manhattan, sometimes took me and my younger sister to lunch in what must have been some nice restaurants, but I have no memories of what I ate there.

It wasn't until I discovered Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking (whose co-author Simone Beck is often forgotten) that I realized what "real" cooking could be like. It was the first cookbook I bought, as a gift to myself when I graduated from college and moved into a small apartment with a kitchen that could fit in a closet. I still say, if you have only one cookbook, get this one. The recipes may have French names, but they work. Julia had a sense of humor and would insert comments like, "this may look curdled, but don't worry--it will smooth out later." Her ingredient proportions were generous, she used herbs liberally, and when she said a dish would serve four or six people, she was right--and they were for normal people with healthy appetites.

I still have that copy, and you can tell which are my favorite recipes by how greasy the pages are. When I married, my husband adopted some of the recipes as well, and still makes them. I even bought two copies (on sale) so I'd have back-up if the first one disintegrated into shreds. I don't know if I would have fallen in love with both cooking and eating if I hadn't found Julia Child.

BTW, we named our daughter Julia. Okay, maybe not solely for The French Chef, but that first Julia was in the back of my mind. And now my daughter makes croissants for a chain of coffee shops, and is learning to bake bread in large quantities. So maybe it rubbed off.

MARY JANE MAFFINI/VICTORIA ABBOTTt  When I got married, I was able to make tuna fish sandwiches (white bread only, no crusts) and I could fry chicken, with some singeing.  My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook and so was my mother so the time had come to pull up my socks. Things did not go well with the sock pulling.

I quickly came to hate cooking but I did like to laugh and was good at that.  Eventually I turned to Peg Bracken's popular (at the time) I Hate to Cook Book, a small and hilarious volume published in 1960.  There were enough 'keepers' in those pages to save me from daily mortification. Bracken was like having a friend in the kitchen: she didn't mind a trick or two and she was always ready for a joke.   The I Hate to Cook Book is still going strong and was reissued for its 50th Anniversary: it even has a Facebook Page!

After nearly fifty years, I still have my original  I Hate to Cook and still make a few of the recipes. Unfortunately, in the process I began to like cooking and then was forced to invest in more ambitious and heavier cookbooks like Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I never did master the art of French cooking, but thanks to the wit of Peg Bracken I learned to find the fun in the kitchen.  I did not name my daughter Peg, but you will notice I am still hanging around with another Peg who can be very funny.

A few years back, I decided to include the battered little blue book in a box headed for Goodwill.  But at the last minute, I realized there would never be a good reason to get rid of it.  We keep our friends!

PEG: Looks like Sheila and I both learned to cook from Julia Child and Simone Beck! I got a cookbook for a wedding present (1974) called Make It Now, Bake It Later. One recipe was for a casserole that included white bread and tiny canned shrimp.  Enough said!

KRISTA: Mary Jane, that's such a cute story. I never heard of that cookbook! My first cookbooks were from a collection that my mom bought at the grocery store. They came out one at a time, and she bought one every month. She had all of Julia Child's books, but they didn't have many pictures, which was very important to me as a kid. I read cookbooks by photo, not by recipe. I looked for those old cookbooks in my mom's house the other day but I fear they're long gone so I don't even know who published them.

LINDA: I love to laugh when I cook, Mary Jane. Helps get me through some dicey situations, so to speak. My first cookbook was a gift from my sister when I got married. She knows me so well! It's Craig Claiborne's Kitchen Basics. Up to this point, I hadn't cooked often at home and my roommate, when I'd moved out, was so good, I gladly left it up to her. So, having married another good cook, I felt the challenge to up my game. Craig helped me through it all...and still does. I can never remember equivalents when it comes to measurements, so I let Craig Claiborne handle that. 

LUCY: Your stories are so much fun ladies! Sheila, my mother cooked like yours, only not well. She didn't like desserts either--her idea of a company dessert recipe was red grapes in sour cream! Cooking for 6 after working all day was a chore, and kids underfoot did not help. So I didn't learn much about cooking growing up. But I did inherit her copy of The Joy of Cooking, and I would still have it if a puppy hadn't eaten the cover off. And then some Florida roaches began to nibble the pages, and that book became history. I still love the cookbook, though, and use it as a starting point for lots of recipes. Thanks, Mom!

CLEO: Like some of you out there, I come from a tradition of a little bit of this, a pinch of that--and a whole lot of garlic! My mom and her sister (who lived with us) were born in Italy and learned to cook from the women in their family. They had 3 x 5 cards with their handwritten notes, clipped items from newspapers, and tried out recipes printed on food packaging, but there were no cookbooks that I can recall.

Dad grew his own vegetables and made his own wine. His parents were dirt poor and his mom (my grandmother) baked bread every morning for the family in an outdoor oven (again, no cookbooks). My own first memory of written recipes came from beautiful, glossy recipe cards that Mom received through the mail—probably a bonus with a magazine subscription. I remember my eyes growing wide at the incredibly beautiful cakes, cookies, pies, and other foods in that stack of cards. Somewhere in that moment, the seeds were sown to try my own hand at food photography and recipe writing. Written or unwritten, it's clear the wish for all our recipes remains the same—that we eat with joy!


And you, readers? 
Do you remember your first cookbook? 
Is it still in your collection?

Krista's book, Mission Impawsible, launches tomorrow. She's giving away a copy today! We hope everyone will join the conversation and leave comments. If you would like to enter the contest for Mission Impawsible, leave your email address in your comment, please.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year from Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

LESLIE:  Common wisdom says that the Chinese character for crisis combines "danger" and "opportunity." Mr. Right, who speaks Mandarin and practices acupuncture and Oriental medicine, tells me that this is a myth. But myths can be wonderfully useful. And so, in this noisy, chaotic time in which we live, my wish for you is the ability to see opportunity in crisis. The unplanned, the unexpected, even the unwanted can lead us---and at times, force us---to the deepest discoveries and greatest pleasures.

Thank you, dear readers, for including us and our books and recipes in your lives, this past year and in the New Year to come!

DARYL:  My wish for you in 2017, sweet readers, is that you enjoy each day as it happens. Look for the bright moments. Search for the things that make you smile.

Reach for your dreams. Sing when you can. Dance as if no one is looking. Read with an open mind and open heart.

And treasure yourselves.

SHEILA: As this last year has shown, you can never tell what's going to happen. All the more reason to treasure the good moments, whenever and wherever they happen. None of this "I'll get back to it later" nonsense. Spend time with the people you care about. If they don't get in touch with you, reach out to them.

Forget about the laundry and the car tune-up and that stack of filing, and do the things that give you pleasure. Try new things--maybe you'll be a whiz at fly-fishing or furniture refinishing and you don't even know it. And we at MLK hope that our books and our recipes fall into one or the other category!

Be kind. Smile. Stop and smell the roses. And embrace the unexpected.

PEG: My wish for you in 2017 is that you find peace--peace with yourself (love yourself exactly as you are), peace with family and peace with friends.  Go out and cross something off your bucket list.  Do something just for you every day whether that's meditating, spending time on your yoga mat or just taking a hot bath (while reading a cozy mystery, of course!)

What we all wish is that our books have brought you pleasure, entertainment and a short escape from reality!

KRISTA: I wish each of you and your loved ones good health, and the time and ability to enjoy life. I'm going to try to walk away from all the machines and phones and cyber-madness for at least 1/2 an hour a day. Take a walk, brush your cat, play with your dog, or treat yourself to a relaxing cup of your favorite tea in pure blissful silence.

Thank you not only for being our readers, but also for being our friends.

LUCY: Ditto what my friends here on the blog have said--I had written about wishing you good health, but Blogger decided to erase me. So maybe another good one would be a sense of humor in 2017--I think we're all going to need that! Thanks for being our readers and friends!

CLEO:  Marc and I couldn’t agree more with you, Lucy, on a sense of humor for 2017...

“I do find things funny. When you see life through the eyes of someone with a good sense of humor, which my grandmother did, life is a human comedy.” --George Takei 

Likewise, our New Year's wish for all of you: laughter for your spirit, joy for your heart, and (no matter what curves life throws you) a sanity-saving sense of humor! Love, Cleo (Alice and Marc)

LINDA: My wish to you is for good health, good friends, and good reading! May the year to come bring more peaks than valleys, and more laughter than tears. Family and friends are what matter the most, so thank you so much for being such wonderful readers and friends.

Victoria Abbott aka Mary Jane and Victoria Maffini: We wish for all of you a wonderful 2017. Join us enjoying January, a month when we don't feel the need to shop, race about or live by lists.  May it be a year of curling up with good books, spending time with special friends and enjoying the things that money can't buy, like the bright flash of a cardinal against the snow.  

 Love to all our wonderful readers.    

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

What will you be enjoying?

Krista:  It's the traditional goose with potato dumplings at my house this year. Dessert will be a family favorite, my mother's yule log. I wish you all a delicious holiday filled with fun, family, and friends.

Daryl:  I'm doing Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I always do! Christmas Eve is the traditional Honeybaked ham and trimmings. I'm making a Blum's coffee cake for dessert. Plus I made traditional ginger snaps. For Christmas morning, a brunch after presents.  Eggs, homemade waffles, ham (reheated), fruit, juice. And for dinner.  My favorite. Roast beef, green beans drenched in butter, and Yorkshire pudding. I even have a gluten-free version for the pudding that is terrific. My son expects the yule log and I won't disappoint.  Now, remember, it's also the first night of Hanukkah, so to honor my husband, I've set out the menorah and I've made potato latkes already. They're in the freezer, ready to heat up and serve as appetizers! Yum! Let the festivities begin. Wishing you all a merry, merry holiday, whatever your faith, and may the new year bring you loads of love, laughter, and health! 

Linda:  We share the holiday cooking in my family.  Christmas Eve is held at my sister's; Christmas brunch at my niece's; and I host Christmas dinner. But even that is a shared event. I'm in charge of the turkey, stuffing and gravy. I love doing this because I inherit the leftovers! I also love the aroma of turkey cooking all afternoon, filling the house. My niece and her family are the bringers of the vegetables and dessert. The veggies are always a surprise and that makes it fun! But mashed potatoes are assured. The dessert will undoubtedly be a Yulelog. And my sister and brother-in-law fill in the gaps.There's always far too much to eat and we manage to do just that. But the best part is sharing the time with family members. It's also a time to remember those no longer with us and those who can't be with us. From our house to holiday wishes for a joyous family time!

LUCY: We have a funny year this time. We'll be spending Christmas Eve in Key West, including a lovely brunch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at Louie's Backyard. And then the beautiful church service that was in DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, with the real live Officer Torrence in charge! Then we'll hurtle up to Connecticut to see our kids and our new granddaughter--hurray! We've been included in the in-laws celebration so I'm not in charge of anything on Christmas Day, which is kind of nice...

Peg:  Our holiday will start on December 23 because that is the day my younger daughter is coming home from Chicago with her boyfriend.  I will probably make meatloaf (everyone loves Mom's meatloaf and it's become a December tradition to have it at least once.)  And I'll make latkes to go with it.  Christmas Eve is usually a pasta dish and this year it will be Rigatoni al Forno (baked rigatoni) with Christmas cookies for dessert.  Christmas morning is a breakfast casserole that cooks while we open presents and a homemade coffee cake that is already done and in the freezer! Christmas dinner is beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes and I'm undecided on the veggie-maybe broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce.  Desert is a chocolate mocha rolled cake with homemade mocha ice cream.  Can't wait!   Wishing you a delightful holiday!

Sheila: Our daughter will be flying in from Chicago for (count 'em) five days (think she'll be on the same flight as your daughter, Peg?). She leads a busy life! Of course we're always thrilled to see her, and to catch up on her ever-changing schedule--which these days includes writing short plays for production by a small theatre troupe (think she got my genes?). Otherwise we're still discombobulated by our recent trip to Ireland, where life seems so much calmer and simpler, even if you're running around like an idiot buying screws and lumber and furniture. The sunsets are worth it! I know back here we're having a small turkey for Christmas dinner, and I'm still debating about which stuffing recipe to use, and I'm trying to figure out a new and different way to make a steamed pudding, an old family favorite (I think it may involve two kinds of chocolate. Or maybe three.). Have a wonderful holiday surrounded by family and friends--and good food!

Leslie: We treat friends to a holiday brunch in mid December, serving pecan rolls, fruit salad, sauteed potatoes with my own version of herbes de Provence, and a frittata or omelet muffins---and lots of champagne! For Christmas itself, though, we're non-traditionalists. (Unlike Mr. Right's sweet sister, who tucks notes into her serving dishes on what goes where, and diagrams the buffet!) We're joining friends on Christmas Eve, and I'm taking a yummy salad of green beans, white beans, and cherry tomatoes tossed with pesto. I'm threatening to substitute Lucy's cherry and ginger scones for the usual pumpkin-cranberry muffins Christmas morning, but if I want something other than coal in my stocking, I'd best be careful! Christmas dinner is likely to be crab legs and a small filet---unless, of course, something else calls to us! No matter where your table falls on the traditional vs. adventure scale, we wish you the best of friends, flavors, and celebrations!

Victoria/Mary Jane: The holidays are extra busy this year because there will be a family wedding on the 30th.   We always have visitors who start arriving on Dec 23 and leave at some point.  We have a big family pot luck (with ham and turkey for about 35) on Christmas Eve, usually at MJ's daughter's (and Victoria's sister's place).  But a special part of Christmas Day is our slightly weird Italian tradition of ravioli in brodo (little meat ravioli in homemade stock with fresh ground Parmesan).  They used to be made by Victoria's grandmother and her great-aunt,  but now they are made by her friend, Luisa. Enough for the whole family. They are strangely addictive and our guests are hooked too.  Christmas Day is very relaxed and sometimes we just stay in pajamas. But as we have four dinner guests from Brazil this year, we promise to get dressed.  We'll have turkey (surely the easiest main dish to cook), MJ's mum's stuffing and gravy.  There will be sweet potato casserole, spinach souffle and potato casserole and sparkling wine.  We always make our chocolate ice cream dessert.  Bless you all: enjoy your Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate: Remember, we love all you readers. 

Click here for Cleo's Christmas
Pain Perdu Recipe 

Cleo Coyle:  We have Italian traditions, too, Mary Jane! Pain perdu on Christmas morning made from Italian panettone. And as a special treat...

We invite everyone to join us for the sights and sounds of New York's holiday season. We made a special VIDEO CHRISTMAS CARD for our friends, family, and readers and posted it to facebook. Below is a short teaser of the video in "gif" form. To see the full, two-minute version with sound, click here or on the gif below, and...

Click here to see our full two-minute
"Christmas in New York" video!

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah


Happy Holidays!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July to all our fans!! Enjoy our #recipes!


From Daryl aka Avery: I love the 4th of July. I love the history of it.  I love the thrill of fireworks. I love the beautiful aroma of a barbecue. [Perhaps that's why I put all the barbecue recipes in my upcoming book!] And I love dessert.  I shared this tart on MLK a bit ago, but it's one of my favorite desserts. There's nothing like a good colorful "pie" to bring a smile to my guests' faces.  Enjoy the flavor. Enjoy the day. Treasure your independence!   BTW, have any of you heard the music from the hit musical HAMILTON? I downloaded it and I can't stop thinking about it. I have never liked rap music, but this is incredible. It's a fabulous way to learn about the history of our nation! So clever. 

Fourth of July Fruit Tart

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  We live outside a small village in NW Montana, much like the town in my Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, where 4th of July weekend seems to mark the real start of summer. Village shops and restaurants boom, every seat in the Playhouse is sold, and concerts in the park fill the air. But the heart of the celebration is the annual parade, a true small-town spectacle. We only have one street that goes all the way through town, and people line both sides of it to watch the hour-long parade. Businesses create floats, drill teams march, pipers pipe, and the big dogs pad through town. Got a vintage car? Bring it down and roll through town! Hosting a family reunion? Make a sign, borrow an old truck, and throw the kids in back and get in line! The owners of the nearby guest lodge and dude ranch bring up the rear with their antique fire engine, guests perched on top throwing candy to the crowd, and firing up the hoses -- which I think we'll all appreciate this year!

The early heat has ripened the famous Flathead Cherries early, so we're heading to some friends' home to pick a few before the birds get them. And then, time for cherry pie!

Classic Cherry Pie

Sheila Connolly: In my neighborhood (near Cape Cod in Massachusetts), the Fourth of July is the real beginning of summer. It's also the time of year when the two bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal take two hours to cross from Thursday through Monday (if you were thinking of just stopping by). 

And it's a great time to barbecue. The summer vegetables are in the farmers markets, and it's too hot to stay in the kitchen to cook, so break out the grill! I went hunting for one of my all-time favorite recipes, Spatchcocked Chicken, which first appeared here five years ago. Wow, we've survived that long! And we still love to cook. And write. Often both at once.

The recipe is simple (and you don't really have to perform surgery on your chicken--you can just as easily use pieces.) and healthy and tastes good. I'm still making it--a lot!

Spatchcocked Chicken

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Birthday, USA!

Cleo Coyle: The older I get, the greater the debt I see that we owe to those who sacrificed for what we now enjoy. To those who signed the Declaration of Independence on this day 240 years ago…to those who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor…to those who lost their lives fighting for our right to breathe free…we remember you, we thank you, and we toast you on this Independence Day.

To help you along with that toast, I'm happy to share two refreshing drink recipes. My Virgin Sangria and Virgin Mojitos can be served to children and non-drinkers, but very easily spiked for those who want to turn it into an adult beverage. May you drink with joy and enjoy our national holiday!

For my Virgin Sangria recipe, click here

For my Virgin Mojito recipe, click here.

Here's to you, USA!

Krista Davis: The weekend of the 4th is the time to keep entertaining easy. After all, even the cooks want to join in the fun, whether it's boating, swimming, or hiking. So I'm sharing a quick dessert that's bite-size, no-bake, and can easily be eaten with fingers. My quick blueberry and lemon tarts. Using pre-made shells saves so much time but they're still pretty and festive.

Blueberry and Lemon Tarts

Wherever you are this weekend, stay safe and take a moment to appreciate all the freedoms we have in this wonderful country.

Happy Fourth of July!

Celebrating National Days!

Linda: This is my take on a fun way to celebrate any national day. I started with the basics, for my somewhat restrictive needs: gluten free scones, Coconut whipping cream (in an aerosol can), and raspberries! Like I said, the basics. I am a Canadian, so for July 1st, Canada Day, it was complete -- red and white. For July 4th, Independence Day, I added blueberries and a little extra red in the form of watermelon. Red, white and blue! Enjoy the dessert and enjoy the celebration!


We love a party and we've just finished celebrating Canada Day and here it is the Glorious Fourth. It's worth celebrating these wonderful days. We Canadians and Americans are all so lucky to live in prosperous democracies with rights, educational possibilities, freedom of movement, access to bookstores, libraries and online sources of reading and so much more, including, of course, wonderful food. No wonder we have so much fun here at Mystery Lovers Kitchen. And now back by popular demand is one of our favorite summer desserts Ice cream torte surprise which first showed up here on the 4th of July, 2010, when I was a guest author. 

Ice cream torte surprise 
Enjoy it and Have a Happy 4th of July!

Peg Cochran: Dear friends of ours, who have since retired to North Carolina, hosted a 4th of July party every year called "Nothing but Dawgs." They supplied the hot dogs, brats, drinks and dessert, and the guests brought side dishes to share. Jim is a party planner extraordinaire and we had games where we divided up into teams. One year it was "Who's Your Daddy" and all the questions revolved around our country's presidents. I have to say that the 4th of July hasn't been the same since they moved!

Welcome to the Nothing
but Dawgs Fourth of July Party!

A favorite recipe of ours for any patriotic holiday is Strawberry Sponge Cake. Instead of shortcake, I make a large sponge cake, smother it in whipped cream and top with berries--strawberries and blueberries for a red, white and blue theme!

Another favorite is homemade macaroni salad. The store bought stuff is fun but loaded with sugar so we prefer to make our own. It's great at a BBQ or picnic.

Happy 4th everyone! 

We're blessed to live in such a great country!