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

Monday, August 7, 2017

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE: CHAOS IN THE KITCHEN #GIVEAWAY


Welcome to Around the Kitchen Table, our monthly chinwag!  We look forward to the conversation with you today (and always).  Be sure to leave a comment today and you may win this terrific Mystery Lovers Kitchen tote bag.  Be lucky and have fun!

VICTORIA ABBOTT aka Mary Jane Maffini: My husband mentioned recently (in the kindest possible way) that when I cook, it's as though there's been an explosion in the kitchen. I would have taken great offense if a) it wasn't true some of the time and b) he didn't always volunteer to do the clean up.  He added, "It's mostly when you bake."




The evidence was clear.

I do my best to be neat, line up the ingredients in the order of use and put each one away when it's been added.  But all it takes it a few extra visiting dogs or hot and cold running relatives or (shudder) CNN blaring in the background and all is lost.  Until the clean-up crew, that is.  Except for the time there was tea on the ceiling.

For some reason, my hubby and my brother are both creative but neat cooks.  Me, not so much.

Of course, we're almost always happy with the results and the kitchen does recover whether I do it or he does.  Still, I dream of a neater future.

So what about you? Or you precise and disciplined? Or more like these exploding stars? Do you pick some dishes because they don't make a mess?  Pull up a chair and share your tips and your foibles. That's what we do around the kitchen table.

Leave  a comment and you may be the winner of TOO HOT TO HANDLE: a Fiona Silk mystery in which there's lots of chaos in the kitchen.  Be very afraid! 



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From DarylMy kitchen is often a mess when I cook.  I do my best to keep it tidy but I simply can't. I stack things
The BEFORE picture!  HA!
up. I set them in the right order. And still I feel crowded. I've got the cutting board here, the mixing bowl there. I recall a lovely disaster at Thanksgiving--our first year in our new house in Los Angeles--and I wasn't comfortable with the oven and stove and the layout. It takes time to do the dance, you know?  Anyway, my stepdaughter wanted to learn to make mashed potatoes. With all 14 of the family hovering in the kitchen!!!  I got distracted. The pot of boiling milk and potatoes boiled over. What a mess! Plus I dropped a tray of stuffing on the floor. My nephew laughed his head off!  Rarely do they see me flustered, but that night - oy!



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Linda here:
 I like to think of myself as being neat, tidy and well-organized. Okay, I like to think a lot of things about myself but a lot of it isn't true--sexy, svelte, super smart...you get the picture. So, this question that Victoria poses is very disturbing. I have to 'fess up and come clean, because it's a sure thing my kitchen counters won't be after a cooking session. And don't get me started on baking because that's when the flour settles like that fine coating of dust when drywall is being erected. I actually start out on the right track. I try to pre-measure or slice and dice everything possible so those dishes can be stacked out of sight in the sink or maybe even washed and dried. It's when the nitty-gritty starts and the clock is ticking that my cleaning karma disappears. I like to believe that my problem is not enough counter space but that's not going to change, so I better change me. Start with all un-essentials cleared away; stick to the allotted space; do only one thing at a time (a biggy for me to change); and, then proceed in an orderly progression through the directions. Easy, right? So what goes wrong?




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From SheilaI'm just back from Ireland, where my kitchen is about the same size as the one I had in my first apartment a very long time ago. A stove (or cooker) and a shiny new stainless steel sink eat up about half the counter space, and a microwave claimed the corner. So I have to think very strategically about what needs to be chopped and ready to go into a dish, and I definitely have to clean up as I work, and put things away (in the teeny-tiny refrigerator). The stovetop has flat electric burners, so I have to be careful about putting anything down on them because you can't tell if they're still hot. And I still haven't figured out how recycling works over there. Yes, there is recycling--that's the good news--but in which categories? And I swear my handyman said something about tossing the biological (food) by-products out into the back yard for the local animals. I'm not sure whether he was kidding. I did make an effort to hang up as many cooking items as possible, but it's still a challenge.



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the compost pile last night after soup-making

LUCY BURDETTE: Hmmm, I bet my hub would disagree on this, as he's usually the clean-up batter--but I try to be neat! But cooking can be a lot of work, right? Especially if you're using a food processor and a chopping board and more than one pan at a time, which is usually the case. And tasting and photographing...good heavens, that's what sous-chefs are for, isn't it MJ?



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PEG COCHRAN:  I find that my mess tends to expand depending on the space available to me. In my first house, the kitchen was small and the counter space limited. But then we moved and I had a much bigger kitchen and more counter space and my mess expanded like my stomach after Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner...that one meal creates more mess than anything else I cook all year. Pots, pots, pots absolutely everywhere. Every single serving dish soaking in the sink, every kitchen utensil spread around the counter. It makes me shudder just to think about it!



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LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I'm definitely a clean-as-you-go cook. Fortunately, so is Mr. Right, since we often cook together in a small kitchen with one sink. No doubt my tendency toward kitchen tidiness came from my mother, a woman with a strong innate desire for order! Since I've been part of MLK, photographing recipes as I cook, I've returned to her habit of getting out all the ingredients before any chopping or mixing. And with the exception of the lovely farmhouse I lived in for 8 years, remodeling as I went along, I've always had a small kitchen. 

But I will admit one foible that leads to extra dishes: When a salad, a vegetable dish, or a casserole involves a lot of ingredients to be mixed together, I consistently fail to properly estimate the size of bowl needed. I might switch bowls, or pots, twice to get the right one. Happily, we share the dishwashing, too!




CLEO COYLE: We have a New York City kitchen (yep, tiny!) but we love to cook, so Marc and I learned the hard way to clean as we go. Not that a mountain of mess isn't possible on a busy day, it just leaves us with zero counter space and pots and pans piled high as the Empire State building. 


Coffeehouse Mystery #1
Click here to learn more.
Truth is, our situation inspired us to write a similar one for our characters in our first Coffeehouse Mystery, On What Grounds. Our amateur sleuth, Clare, also has a compact New York kitchen. When she attempts to fix a special dinner for her young adult daughter and the girl's new boyfriend, her ex-husband insists on "helping." The result is a little crazy and a little comical. But you have to have a sense of humor when you measure counter space by inches instead of feet. Happy cooking, everyone. May your servings be big and your mess be small! Love, Cleo




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KRISTA DAVIS: I'm so glad that I'm not the only one. But Mary Jane, I truly can't recall anything landing on the ceiling! I have a bad habit of forgetting about rice, which means it boils over. It's not so much that I forget, but I walk away to write and my mind is elsewhere. I now keep a timer on my desk to remind me that I need to check on it.

You never know who might be in the kitchen sink!
I try to be organized but somehow everything spreads. And countless other items land on my kitchen island adding to the clutter. All the vitamins and jars of dog cookies, for instance. Right now there are seven giant yellow squashes taking up a lot of real estate on the counter.

Unless it's something that needs to be rolled out (let's not even mention huge quantities of Christmas cookies—oy!), I'm least messy when baking. I learned a long time ago to put out an old dinner plate, a large spoon and a knife. That gives me a place for the paper that wraps the butter, eggshells, and all kinds of utensils that need to be washed, and keeps me from running around the kitchen for every little thing.

One of my very favorite cakes is Dobostorte. It's seven layers and a labor of love, so I don't bake it often. But those seven layers require a lot of room!


Don't forget to leave  a comment! You may be the winner of TOO HOT TO HANDLE: a Fiona Silk mystery in which there's lots of chaos in the kitchen.  Be very afraid!  
(PS remember to leave your email address so we can contact you if you win.)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's our 7th Anniversary. Enter our Photo Contest!




Mystery Lovers Kitchen is celebrating its
7th anniversary!

Can you believe it? We've passed our 7 year mark 
and we are heading into our 8th year 
of 
Mystery Lovers Kitchen. 

That's 7 years of sharing our recipes, our lives, our books and giveaways! If you do the multiplication, that's way over 2,000 recipes!

We have grown to 9 authors (10 actual people) and we write lots 
of delicious mysteries for your reading pleasure.

To celebrate, we are having a 7th Anniversary Photo Contest.

* * *


5 people will win a Mystery Lovers' Kitchen tote bag
and the 9 mysteries shown in the prize photo below - one from each of us!
Don't delay, enter today!

Here's how it goes:

1. Take a picture of any one OR MORE of our books (does NOT have to be one shown in the prize package below) in the following categories:
a) with a cat
b) with a dog
c) having summer fun
d) in a library
e) in a bookstore

Whose books?

Why the 9 Mystery Lovers Kitchen authors, of course.

Krista Davis * Cleo Coyle *  Leslie Budewitz  
Daryl Wood Gerber * Lucy Burdette * Linda Wiken  
Sheila Connolly * Peg Cochran* Victoria Abbott

...do what you gotta do! There's a sweet prize at stake.

2. Submit your picture via the gadget on the left.
Submission period ends midnight July 25th.

3. Share your entry (on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or else-wise,
we'll be flexible). 

We'll choose one winner in each category!

5 chances to win! Good luck!




We've posted the link for the contest in the left column
that features our cheerleading picture! 
See it?
Halfway down - below all the congratulations
to those who have won prizes in the past!

Click it!



You can read the RULES below or when you click the link and ENTER a photo, too!

Have fun!


*****

Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen’s
7th Anniversary Photo Contest
OFFICIAL RULES
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.

ELIGIBILITY: The contest is open only to legal residents of the fifty United States (including D.C.) who are at least 18 years of age or older at time of entry. Subject to all applicable federal, state, provincial, and local laws and regulations.

HOW TO ENTER: Contestant (or “Entrant”) will click on “Enter Now”. Contestant will be prompted to authenticate and to supply their contact information, as well as one photo per category, showing a book written by Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Leslie, Budewitz, Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery Aames), Lucy Burdette, Linda Wiken (Erika Chase), Sheila Connolly, Peg Cochran, or Victoria Abbott (Mary Jane Maffini) in one of the five categories:

1) with a cat
2) with a dog
3) having summer fun
4) in a library
5) in a bookstore.
a
 The Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. The Contestant is providing their information to the Sponsor and not to Facebook.

NOTE: Your photograph will be posted online into a “Gallery” and viewed by other people, who will vote for their favorites.

CONTEST TIMETABLE: The Contest will run from July 5th through July 25th.

PHOTO GUIDELINES: Photos should be in one of the following formats: ,jpg, ,gif, or ,png; and should be no less than 300dpi in resolution (suggested but not required); and should not exceed a 10 MB file size. Photo must contain a book written by Krista Davis, Cleo Coyle, Leslie, Budewitz, Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery Aames), Lucy Burdette, Linda Wiken (Erika Chase), Sheila Connolly, Peg Cochran, or Victoria Abbott (Mary Jane Maffini).

For all Entries: Entries must not be inappropriate, indecent or obscene, as determined by Sponsor in their sole discretion. Proof of submission or sending is not proof of receipt by Sponsor. Sponsor shall have the right to reject any photo submitted if it does not comply with the published guidelines. Sponsor may use any photo in any media in association with the Contest without attribution or compensation to the Contestant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible, illegible, or misdirected entries, which are void.

Limit: Each Contestant may enter one photograph in each category. Multiple participants are not permitted to share the same email address. Any attempt by any Contestant to obtain more than the stated number of photo entries by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations and logins, or any other methods will void that Contestant's entries and that Contestant may be disqualified.

Photographer/Copyright: Entries must be submitted by the original photographer. Do not submit a photo taken by someone other than you. You must be the sole owner of the copyright of any image submitted. Your submission of the photo is your guarantee that you are the author and copyright holder of the photo. In addition, by entering, Contestants represent and warrant that the entries that they submit (i) do not infringe any other person’s or entity’s rights; and (ii) have not been submitted previously in a Contest of any kind.

Ownership/Use Rights: Contestants retain the copyright to their photographs, and all rights thereto, except as follows. By entering the Contest, Contestants agree to have their submitted photograph displayed on the Sponsor’s Contest Website without any fee or other form of compensation, and agree that Sponsor may display winning photos in a photo gallery on their website, in their newsletter, blogs, press releases, and other communication channels at their discretion, and may make and retain copies of the photograph for archival purposes. Photos will be credited to the Contestant named in the entry form. In the event that ownership of any photograph submitted is contested in any manner, Sponsors may disqualify that photograph and discontinue use of the photograph.

JUDGING: From among all submitted entries, a Review Committee as determined by the Sponsor, will select five (5) Grand Prize winners (one photo from each aforementioned category).

PRIZES: There will be five (5) Grand Prizes awarded. Each Grand Prize package will consist of one Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen tote bag and nine paperback books. Approximate retail value (ARV) of each Grand Prize: $80.

Total ARV of all prizes to be awarded is $400.

Potential winners will be notified by an email message to the email address provided at time of entry and will have 48 hours within which to respond, after which time an alternate photo may be selected by the Judges, at the sole discretion of the Sponsor. No cash equivalent for any prize is offered, nor are they transferable to another individual. No substitution for any announced prize will be made except at the Sponsor’s sole discretion who also reserves the right to substitute any listed prize for one of equal or greater value if the designated prize should become unavailable for any reason. Winners are responsible for all taxes and fees associated with prize receipt and/or use.

WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT and LIST: Winners will be announced on/about July 26, 2017 at MysteryLoversKitchen.com .

PUBLICITY/PROMOTIONAL USE: Except where prohibited, participation in the Contest constitutes Entrant’s irrevocable consent and release to Sponsor and their agents to use, record, reproduce, publish, display, perform and translate: (1) the name, likeness, voice, quotations, opinions and biographical information of the Winners, including without limitation any photograph or recording, for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration; and (2) the name, likeness, voice and biographical information of the Winners’ child, including without limitation any photograph or recording, for any promotional purpose in any media, worldwide, and/or for any other commercial or non-commercial corporate purpose, including without limitation use on merchandise or for marketing, without attribution or further payment or compensation to the Contestant, his or her successors or assigns or any other entity.

GENERAL RULES: By entering or participating in the Contest, Contestants agree to be bound by these Official Rules. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for electronic hardware, programming or software malfunctions, or failures, or line connections, accessibility or availability, or technical failures of any kind, or unauthorized human intervention, or the incorrect or inaccurate capture of any entry or other information, or for the failure to capture any such information. Sponsor and Facebook, Inc. are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Contest; (2) technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Contest; (4) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the Contest or the processing of entries; or 5) any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from Contestant’s participation in the Contest or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. Further, if, for any reason, the Contest is not capable of running as planned by reason of infection by virus, bugs, worms, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes which, in the sole opinion of the Sponsor, may corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, Sponsors reserves the right, at their sole discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest, and select the winners for the Contest, from the entries received prior to the action taken or in other such manner as deemed fair and appropriate by Sponsors.

By participating, all Contestants hereby waive and release, and agree to hold harmless the Sponsor, Facebook, Inc., and all promotions, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, advertising and promotions agencies and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents, from and against, any and all rights, claims and causes of action whatsoever that they may have, or which may arise, against any of them for any liability for any matter, cause or thing whatsoever, including but not limited to any injury, loss, damage, whether direct, compensatory, incidental or consequential, to person, including death and property, arising in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from their acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize in the Contest, or their participation in the Contest.

SPONSOR: Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, PO Box 523, Newbern, VA 24126.

VOID WHERE PROHIBITED



This Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Inc.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Around the Kitchen Table: Family Food Traditions and #Book #Giveaway

We're sitting around our kitchen table with cups of coffee and a delicious coffee cake. Pull up a chair and join us!

Do you have food traditions in your family? 


PEG:  Our family had holiday food traditions but other “food traditions” as well.  Saturday was ALWAYS steak night.  We never had steak any other night and even now, as an adult, I often don’t think to grill a steak on any day but Saturday. 

Sundays we either had chicken (usually roasted) or, if we went to my grandmother’s, we had pasta with her fabulous pasta sauce.  Since we were Catholic, and this was before the rules changed, we had fish or a non-meat dish on Friday nights.  If my father wasn’t home for dinner, it was often tuna salad. 

I used to spend one week every summer staying with my (other) grandmother.  My first night there she always made my favorite meal—potato soup and what we called “German pancakes.”  The German pancakes were actually crepes filled with cottage cheese sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. 

My husband and I have a few traditions other than just the steak-on-Saturday one.  Friday night is for “fun food” – like tacos, pizza, take-out Chinese, sushi, etc.  And Sunday night is usually for “comfort” food like shepherd’s pie or roast pork with mashed potatoes.   


GIVEAWAY!!

Sowed to Death comes out tomorrow!  I am giving away one copy to someone who comments below! Let us know what food traditions (if any) you follow in your family.



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LESLIE: If we messed with the menu for our annual Holiday Brunch, I suspect half our friends wouldn't come! But beyond holiday menus, we've got just a few customs. Sunday morning breakfast is nearly always baked bacon, eggs, and muffins or scones. Sometimes I bake, sometimes I defrost -- Erin's Sunday Morning Scones (from Butter Off Dead, my second Food Lovers' Village Mystery) and Krista's Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake both freeze exceptionally well! The eggs might be scrambled, an omelet, or Omelet Muffins. Pizza night isn't as predictable as it was when Mr. Right worked in another town twice a week and got home too late on Thursday to help in the kitchen. (Now that he works at home full time, his Thursday night tradition is staying up late to watch martial arts movies with the cat. Who knew cats admire both Bruce Lee and Jet Li?)

But while we might not repeat a lot of the same foods, we do traditionally cook together. Who takes the lead depends on the recipe---he handles meats and I handle baking, although he often makes his own huckleberry birthday pie! We both took the knife skills class at the community college culinary arts school, so we can share chopping duty. And we both take direction well, thank goodness!


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SHEILA: My mother was a competent cook but not a very imaginative one. Our meals were usually meat/starch/veg, with nothing as exotic as a sauce (although there was always plenty of butter!). I don't think she tried to make a homemade pasta sauce until I was in high school, and shrimp wiggle was a staple: frozen shrimp plus Campbell's frozen cream of shrimp soup, heated together and served over rice. Sunday dinners with the grandparents were always a standing rib roast with potatoes. Would you believe I've never attempted to make one myself? Of course, now you need a second mortgage to buy one.

But it wasn't that she wasn't interested in food, because she did love restaurants. Since my grandmother lived in Manhattan, those restaurants were often rather nice (which was wasted on me since until college I was a very picky eater, but at least I knew such places existed). When we were young, lunch (while shopping at the big name department stores) was often at The Women's Exchange on Fifth Avenue, a rather odd place that served such things as corned been hash patties, and had a sale room upstairs for hand-made crafts made by impoverished but genteel ladies, which accounts for the many embroidered pincushions I still have. Dinner in the city was usually at Trader Vic's, where we always had the Pu-Pu Platter. I'm not sure what heinous acts my mother thought my sister and I would commit in a nice restaurant, but I know that as an adult I took my own daughter to all and any restaurants (including a couple in Paris), and she never made a scene.



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LUCY: I think I said this before, but I believe my mother and Sheila's mother were separated at birth! The one every-week menu at our house occurred on Sunday nights, when we would eat cheese toast, baked beans from a can, and homemade potato salad on TV trays in front of the television. We loved it! And I served it to my husband, and our kids as they were growing up. 

Now my menus are all over the place, but the one thing that cannot be altered is the chocolate cake that most people want for their birthdays. Honestly, two things have changed my cooking a lot over the last few years–joining Mystery lovers kitchen (because we have to come up with new recipes all the time), and the necessity for me to eat a low-sodium diet. So nothing is set in stone these days, which is probably good for the old brain, right?


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DARYL: I can't remember any "traditions" other than Christmas, and that was steadfast: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, stringed beans with butter. I added to the tradition when I grew up by making sure we always had a yule log for dessert. However...it's summer, so let me share one of our summer traditions. We would go to Lake Tahoe for two weeks and my mother always served peaches with milk and sugar for breakfast. We adored mornings! We always had scrambled eggs. And for lunch, it was always tomato soup and grilled cheese or cracker and cheese. We barbecued at night. Always barbecued. It could be anything from ribs to burgers to steak, but we always barbecued and sat out by the barbecue having beverages and snacks and just lapping up the beautiful smells and sounds of Tahoe at night. These are some of my all-time favorite memories!



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VICTORIA aka MJ: I love hearing about everyone's traditions and am not above stealing ideas. Peaches with milk and sugar? Mmmm. If there's a family get together in winter, there will almost always be lasagna (which my mother-in-law always made and now my daughter and granddaughter also make as do we) but this is summertime, so it's a grilling tradition in the warm months. Although there's an out of town wedding this year, four generations usually gather at MJ's house for Canada Day. We use our big green egg, which is a type of smoker and everyone thinks that's fun. The tradition, aside from 'boys' around the grill, is that everyone brings a salad. The family favorites are bean salad, lentil salad and potato salad. I can't imagine a get together without them. Now, coming in my next post, there will be an awesome new broccoli salad, from Victoria's sister. 

Despite the fact that it has rained throughout the last four gatherings, we stubbornly continue to grill, peering at the rain through the windows. Like in Roberta's family, there is an expectation of chocolate cake, which we make with mocha buttercream icing or whipping cream with Kahlua. Sometimes it's layer cake and sometimes babycakes. Same one-bowl recipe though. We swear by buttermilk and cocoa.


Have a fabulous 4th of July and a great summer! We hope you all enjoy your family favorites. Come by and share what they are.

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CLEO: I grew up in a big Italian family with so many food traditions I'd quickly run out of space listing them here, so I'll limit today's memories to this season! And summer was all about my dad's garden...

During the Depression, my father's father kept his large family fed by working a small farm from which they sold produce. Every spring, my dad helped plant 2,000 tomato plants for his family, so he had no problem tending the 100 tomato plants that he sowed for our own little family. Fresh spaghetti sauce was always part of that yield, and for those of you who've made sauce from fresh tomatoes, you know the very smell of the sauce cooking is like nothing else on earth--and the taste has an amazing vibrancy that you simply cannot get from canned tomatoes or jarred sauces. Sadly, I lost my dad four years ago this week. He went into the hospital right after Father's Day and never came out again. Now every summer, I make this delicious Meatless Italian Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes. The heavenly smell that fills my house always brings back those sweet memories of my father, his garden, and my childhood home.


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KRISTA: Wow, Cleo! I can't imagine 100 tomato plants, much less 2000!

In my family, we always have a traditional Christmas goose with German potato dumplings and a yule log for dessert. The yule log was often requested as a birthday cake, so my mom called it a Lincoln Log, which made it appropriate any time of year.

When I lived in Northern Virginia, just across the river from Washington, DC, it was a tradition to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the Virginia side of the Potomac river near the Pentagon. People bring radios and everyone tunes in to the broadcast that is synchronized with the fireworks. It's always wonderful! (For anyone planning to go, be sure to park your car headed in the direction you need to go when you leave. Saves a lot of time getting out of there.) Everyone goes early to claim a great spot so we always brought a picnic dinner. It became a tradition for me to bring Barley Corn Salad. For some reason, it's very popular with men and I actually got annual requests for it. There was also the year I made my own salsa and burned my hands in the process. Ouch! Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. 

Oh, and every New Year's Eve, I make cheese and beef fondue for my friends. It's the perfect leisurely meal to linger over while catching up.




LINDA:   I like your New Year's tradition, Krista! My foodie memories from childhood aren't too exciting for the everyday fare. My Mom did the basics and although it was good, there was no flare. Except at Christmas! She went all out with traditional Swedish dishes, some I've tried to re-create (not as successfully) and others, I just long for. 

Christmas Eve always, always featured Lutefisk, the infamous white fish that's been re-hydrated in lye. Yes, lye. I remember the weeks-long process. That was served with a white sauce, perhaps to mask the taste, boiled potatoes and a veggie, also boiled. It took many years before I actually started looking forward to the Lutefisk. My sister still shudders at the thought. 

And, of course, there was tons of baking -- pepperkakka (ginger cookies), sugar cookies shaped as an 'S' (for years I thought it was because that was what our last name started with -- turns out, not so), cookies with jelly centers, and my favorite, Swedish Coffee Bread. That's the one I faithfully try to make every year. Sometimes, it doesn't turn out so well, but all times, it brings back those wonderful memories.


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Do you have food traditions in your family? 
Share with us in the comments below!


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.



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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!