Showing posts with label Laura Alden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laura Alden. Show all posts

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Welcome guest, author Laurie Cass!

Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. She and her husband live on a lake in northwest lower Michigan. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing.

Laurie is offering a giveaway - see below and leave a comment!

Take it away, Laurie!


In the fall of 2013, my husband and I, for the first time ever, traveled to the great state of Louisiana. Our destination was not New Orleans, but Baton Rouge, because the reason for the traveling was to attend the American Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference.

The trip was research for the bookmobile cat books, but it was also a vacation. We stayed at a Hilton in a room with a Mississippi River view, and had a great time touring the capitol building, area museums, and trying a different restaurant for every meal.

One particular dinner, however, we didn’t go to a restaurant at all, because down the street from the hotel was the city’s annual Jambalaya Jam, an event sponsored by the local United Way. We bought our $10 tickets and received wrist bands that allowed us to roam and sample jambalaya from forty-odd competing teams. (I think we made it through seven.)

We had a great time talking to folks and listening to live music and headed home determined to try our hand at making jambalaya. The following is the result, non-spicy because that’s the way the female half of this partnership prefers it.

Jambalaya – Non-Spicy
3 slices         Bacon
1 lb.              Raw pork loin, cut into cubes
1 lb.              Mild smoked sausage, diced or sliced into 1/4” rounds
1/4 lb.           Shrimp - peeled and diced
1/4 cup         Water
2 cups          Onion, chopped
1 cup            Green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup         Celery, chopped
1 TB.            Garlic, minced
1 qt.              Beef stock or broth
3 cups          Water, heated
1/4 cup         Green onion, sliced
1/2 teas.        Thyme, dried
1/2 teas.        Basil, dried
1/2 teas.        Parsley dried, plus extra for garnish if desired
4 cups          Rice, long grain
For table       Bottled hot sauce

Slice bacon into a 6 quart Dutch oven and cook until fat is rendered. Add cubed pork and cook over medium high heat in the drippings, stirring regularly, until meat is heavily browned and browned bits have formed in the bottom of the pot. In a separate pan, cook the shrimp in a tablespoon or so of oil.

To the Dutch oven, add the sausage and shrimp, cook and stir for 3 minutes, then add the 1/4 cup of water a little at a time, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. This will add both flavor and color to your jambalaya.

Add onion, bell pepper and celery, cook and stir for 4 minutes; add the garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the beef stock, bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add the 3 cups of hot water, green onion, Cajun seasoning, thyme, basil, parsley and rice; stir well.

Cover, transfer pot to the oven, baking at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove, let stand covered until ready to serve, or for at least 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving. Spoon loosely into a serving platter if desired, but do not pack down. Garnish with parsley, serve with a side salad or green vegetable, and pass a bottle of hot sauce at the table.

Note:  We freeze the leftovers in individual plastic zip bags with about 12 ounces of jambalaya in each. When reheating, we’ll add a quarter cup or so of chicken broth to keep it moist. Yum!

I’ll be giving away a copy of the latest release in the Bookmobile Cat Series, Cat With A Clue. And, as an added bonus, I’ll include a copy of Murder at the PTA, the first book in my other mystery series, written under the pen name Laura Alden.


Facebook link

Cat with a Clue
Released August 2, 2016

Early one morning while shelving books in the library, Minnie stumbles upon a dead body. Authorities identify the woman as an out-of-towner visiting Chilson for her great-aunt’s funeral. What she was doing in the library after hours is anyone’s guess . . . but Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie are determined to save the library’s reputation and catch a killer.

As rumors about the victim circulate through Chilson, the police are in a bind over a streak of baffling break-ins. Luckily, Minnie and Eddie are traveling the county in their bookmobile, and they'll stop at nothing to find the spineless killer before the final page is turned on someone else.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Welcome our guest, Laurie Cass!!!

Please welcome author Laurie Cass!

Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laurie and her husband share their house with two cats, the inestimable Eddie, and the adorably cute Sinii. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing. Laurie also writes the PTA Mystery Series under the name Laura Alden.

Take it away, Laurie/Laura:

* * *
From Laurie:

You know how it goes. There’s a church dinner or a family get-together or an office event or a neighborhood party and you’re called upon to bring a dish to pass. There’s no getting out of it; something must be concocted. This broccoli salad is one of the two recipes I’ve sweet-talked out of a friend and it’s now a standard potluck contribution (the other is bite-sized sausage-cheese balls, in our house also known as the Moist Balls of Fun). 

Warning: if you want to have any salad for your own family the next night, 
you’d better put some aside. There is rarely any left!


Broccoli Salad

2-3 large bunches of broccoli, cut into small, bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups, chopped)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 lb. crumbled bacon
1/2 cup onion (optional - personally, I never put it in)
Add salted sunflower seeds to taste

Dressing - add just before serving
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
2 T. vinegar  

Mix broccoli, golden raisins, bacon, optional onion, and sunflower seeds. Just before serving, add the dressing about 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the desired amount of goo-iness. Be careful not to overgoo.
This version has onion!

Make-ahead tip:  cook the bacon in advance, then freeze. And don’t thaw the bacon before cutting the strips into crumbly bits; it cuts up easy-peasy when still frozen.

Bacon cooking tip:  bake the bacon. Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. Place a wire rack on top of the parchment paper, lay bacon strips individually across the rack, then cook in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees until desired doneness is achieved, 20 to 30 minutes. Longer if you’re using thick-sliced bacon.

What's not to love about bacon??! 

Note from Daryl (who invited Laurie) - um, where's the recipe for the Moist Balls of Fun???!!!  :)  Thank you for joining us!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Welcome, Laura Alden!

I have had the pleasure of knowing Laura Alden for a few years. I knew her wonderful humor would appear in her books, but I was blown away by the touching relationships she paints with her words. Laura lives on a lake in Michigan with her husband and two cats, which, she says, means she spends "winters and summers falling down on skis."

I confess that I had to try this! We loved it. So quick and easy, but delicious and a wonderful way to get fish into our diet without being boring. The photos are from my attempt at making it. My apologies to Laura!

Welcome, Laura!

When Krista asked me to guest here on MLK, my first thought was, “Oh, how kind of her to ask!” My second thought was, “Oh, dear. My cooking/baking skills are pathetic!” But when she assured me that a fast/easy/minimal-ingredient-recipe was perfectly acceptable, I had a third thought; “Buck up, buttercup. You can do this.”

So here’s the dinner my husband and I cooked the other night. It’s going to be an odd recipe, because this is one of the few things I make up as I go, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

Fish and Guacamole Tacos

Ingredients: Fish, guacamole, and tortillas.

And that’s it. Thanks for asking me to guest post! :)

…Okay, there’s a little more to it than that, but not much. Here’s a slightly more detailed list of ingredients for a dinner for two:

About 10 oz. tuna steaks
Little bit of oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1 avocado
2-4 teas. onion, finely chopped
1-2 teas. garlic, finely chopped
1-2 Tb. cilantro, finely chopped
1 teas. lemon juice
Shake of salt

4-6 tortillas of either corn or flour (use whatever size diameter you have handy)
Little bit of olive oil (depending on warming method)

First, make the guacamole. Slice the avocado, remove out the pit, and scrape the yummy goodness onto a plate. Smush it up with a fork, then start adding the goodies. Depending on the size of the avocado, its freshness, its ripeness, and way the planets are aligned, the desired amounts of onion, garlic, and cilantro will vary. I start on the low end of the scale and keep adding until things taste Baby Bear right. It’s an individual thing, so don’t think my amounts as set in stone. By the way, it is possible to add too much cilantro. Did that once, won’t do it again.

[Note: cooks who don’t have a spouse who abhors tomatoes can add small bits of tomatoes to the guacamole.] Part of the fun of making guacamole is getting to taste test. I recommend warming up a few tortilla chips in the toaster oven for the job.

Once the guac is done, it’s time to cook the fish. Salt and pepper both sides of the tuna to taste, brush a small amount of oil on a grill pan (or frying pan) and cook 2-3 minutes on a side to desired doneness. Slice the tuna into strips.

[Note: though tuna is outstanding for this dish, we’ve used salmon happily enough, although we bake the salmon instead of using the grill pan. And I’m sure most any kind of fish would work just fine, although a thinner cut of a less-firm fish will flake apart when slicing. Which isn’t a problem; you just end up with fish flakes instead of fish slices.]

When the fish is cooking, it’s time to warm the tortillas. We use two different warming methods. My husband prefers the oven version; place tortillas under the broiler on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, with one side of the tortilla brushed with a little olive oil and heat until just before they start burning. I find this a little chewy, so I warm my tortillas in the microwave.

Put a happy heap of guacamole onto a tortilla, top with fish, roll it up, and eat! If we’re really hungry, we’ll make a double batch of guacamole so we can have some as a sort of a second course with a bowl of warmed tortilla chips.

If you want to go to extremes, try making your own tortillas. Amazingly good stuff. And if you want to go to ridiculous extremes, cut some of those home-made tortillas up and fry them to make your own tortilla chips.

Laura Alden grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laura and her husband share their house with two very strange cats. When Laura isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing. Laura’s debut novel, “Murder at the PTA” was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Her fourth book, “Curse of the PTA,” was released in April 2013.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Was the Best Meal You Ever Ate?

Instead of one guest blogger, today a number of our friends are chiming in about memorable meals.

Courtesy of Lorna Barrett
Afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, Canada.  It was perfect.  The food was perfect, the tea was hot, and the ambiance was sublime.  I can't wait to go back.

Tea sandwiches (cucumber and goat cheese (forgot which kind), salmon sandwiches, egg salad, and ham with mango chutney).  The BEST scones in the world.  The raisins had been soaked in jasmine tea.  And incredible chocolate desserts and tarts.  Yum!

Hands down, the best meal ever was at a company Christmas party. This wasn't any old Christmas party; this particular party was held at my husband's (former) employer's home. This gentleman happened to be good
friends with one of the top chefs in the area and the chef came to the house and cooked the best food I've ever eaten in my life. We ate on china and drank out of wine glasses he brought in, and were served by waitstaff handpicked for the occasion. An amazing meal.

Restaurant Jean-Georges at 1 Central Park West, New York City. Unbelievably delicious!

I’ve bitten off my share of the Big Apple, enjoyed amazing meals in Paris, Rome, London, New Orleans, and San Francisco, but none of the noshes I’ve nibbled have compared to my late aunt Mary’s Thanksgiving dinner. Born in Italy, she brought her love of food to America, along with her giant bread board and fluted pastry wheel, and every November, she helped us all celebrate out blessings by serving foods from both lands. Mary’s incomparable Italian wedding zuppa with homemade mini-meatballs; her hand-rolled gnocchi; and her fragrant stuffing with Italian chestnuts joined a thirty-five pound turkey and it’s more familiar trimmings of mashed potatoes, gravy, and buttered green beans to make a meal I long to enjoy again. I can recreate these dishes, but they will never be quite the same as when my beloved aunt made them with her own two hands. As far as restaurant meals go, I've enjoyed so many that it's nearly impossible to narrow the field. Among the most memorable, however, was a dinner I savored one spring in Anchorage, Alaska, when Simon and Seafort’s kitchen served me the best dang salmon I ever tasted.

Always the best meal ever was at my grandmother's house on Christmas and I still serve it today to my family.  It's roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and string beans (sliced then by the end of a potato peeler) cooked in salt/butter water.  Apple pie with ice cream or icebox sugar cookies for dessert.  Granted, I have to make everything gluten-free for me now, but I still serve the family "the meal" and everyone looks forward to it.  Yum.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

There have been so to choose?  I think I'd have to nominate my first dinner in Paris:  boeuf bourgignon, followed by tarte Tatin for dessert, in a small bistro on the Left Bank (no, I'm not making this up).  I was a very conservative eater until my early twenties, and French food changed all that, fast.

I knew my palate had finally grown up when I found myself enjoying a country pate with whole-grain mustard and cornichons--and I had refused to eat liver, mustard or pickles at all up until then.

Gorgonzola stuffed gnocchi in a hole in the wall restaurant in Florence, Italy with tiramisu and espresso for dessert. Oh, and the carafe of house wine (red) that went with was delightful, too. Sigh...Jenn

I don't think I've ever had a bad meal in Paris. But I couldn't possibly narrow it down to ONE best meal, no matter if it's in the US, Europe, or wherever I've been. I've been fortunate over the years to travel widely and enjoy it and have dined well so many times I've lost count. Calories be damned. :)

Some of the best meals I've ever eaten, I cooked. (My grandfather was a chef and my grandmother was a baker). Because of my health problems, I don't cook much anymore but a few of my faves are the Chicken Fricasse (sp?) from McCall's Cooking School made with cream and topped with herbed biscuits (McCall's Cooking School is 3 huge 3 ring binders of  recipes I collected back in the 70s. I am missing some of them as it was one of those "recipes of the month deals" and I quit collecting too early--grrr). I also have the family recipe for Sauerbraten, red cabbage and German potato salad, finished off with strudel. These recipes were handed down from my grandfather (born in Germany). We often have it on Christmas as it a pretty labor intensive meal and I can get some help in the "German" kitchen from my grown kids. That's probably my favorite.

Now it's your turn!  What was the best meal you ever had and where was it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

PTA Driving You Crazy? Meet Laura Alden!

Welcome Laura Alden! Longtime Guppy and member of SinC, Laura's first book, MURDER AT THE PTA debuts October 5th! It's available for pre-order through bookstores and on-line sellers now.

My first reaction when Krista asked if I’d write a guest post for this blog was, “Sure, I’d be honored!” My subsequent thought was, “Ahk! I haven’t cooked in months. What on earth am I going to write about?”

With a full-time job, a book coming out in October, and another book due at the publisher’s on November 15th, the most cooking I’ve done since spring is choosing what toppings I want on the take-out pizza. (Usually mushrooms and onions, though I occasionally take a walk on the wild side and order mushrooms and olives.)

In the dim and distant past, my husband and I worked together in the kitchen for almost every meal. We’d both taste test, get in each other’s way, and generally have a good time. If I peer ahead into the not-so-distant future – say November 16th – I’m thinking this will happen again. Hooray!

But until then, most of our meals are being selected on two criteria: one, does the recipe require less than seven ingredients, and two, do we actually have those ingredients in the house?

Here’s one of our standard weeknight meals. Fast, easy, and, if you add a nice salad, fairly healthy.

Asiago Pasta

16 oz. angel hair pasta

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

Dash of salt

1-1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated

In a large pot, start heating water. At this point we turn the oven to a very low temperature and start heating a big bowl into which the pasta will eventually be dumped. If we remember we’ll also heat individual pasta bowls.

Melt the butter either on the cook top or in your microwave. (If melting in the microwave, be careful!) Grate the cheese.

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and sauté the garlic until almost golden. This doesn’t take very long, so be careful. Warning: if you happen to turn away to do something else while cooking the garlic, say to let a cat in, and the garlic burns, toss it out and start over. Burned garlic will ruin dinner, but if you work it right the whole thing can be blamed on one of the cats.

Cook the pasta. Drain it and put it into the heated bowl. Add the butter and a dash of salt. Add the heated olive oil and garlic. Mix well, but gently. Serve individual portions, sprinkle with Asiago cheese, and put on the table straight away.

Note: when we cook this entire recipe for the two of us I end up with Asiago Pasta for lunch three days in a row. Bonus!


P.S. My debut mystery, Murder at the PTA, has a release date of October 5. After writing fairly seriously for 12 years, I’m a teensy bit excited about this. Here’s a short description:

As the owner of a children’s bookshop in the quaint town of Rynwood, Wisconsin, and a divorced mother of two, Beth Kennedy has a full plate. So when her best friend, Marina, asks her to become the secretary for Tarver Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association, Beth can think of better ways to occupy what little free time she has. But after some arm twisting (Marina's favorite activity), Beth agrees to come on board.

The course of PTA meetings never did run smooth, but when Tarver’s unpopular principal turns up dead, Beth realizes that making bake-sales wheat free and funding class trips weren’t the only things on the agenda. Then the local gossip blog, WisconSINS, starts fanning the flames of speculation, and it seems like everyone’s a suspect - especially certain members of the PTA. Beth knows she must race to find a killer before he teaches another fatal lesson. All too quickly, she discovers that murder is anything but elementary.