Showing posts with label Leslie Budewitz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leslie Budewitz. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fresca's Tortellini Salad, from Treble at the Jam Fest

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: This pasta salad is one of the first dishes I deconstructed and made on my own, based on a salad from a long-gone deli called Pasta & Company. It had several locations in Seattle, including one on the 4th Avenue side of the building often called “the box the Space Needle came in,” where my law firm had offices. (It’s actual name was the Seattle First National Bank Building, and it was too short for the Needle, but I suspect Sea-First financed the construction, and the name stuck.)

I felt like such a city girl eating there, especially if my suit allowed me to sit on a stool in the window and watch the people!

I’ve given that space to Laurel, who runs the deli and catering company Ripe in my Seattle Spice Shop books, but I kept the recipe for Erin and Fresca in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries. Fresca makes piles of it to sell at the Merc, and in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, they take it on a picnic for the outdoor concert at the annual Jewel Bay Jazz Festival.

Imagine my surprise when I bought a different brand of tortellini recently and found a very similar salad on the package!

And even though it’s a summer favorite at our house, I also like to make a batch during Christmas week when it’s great to have something easy and different to pull out of the fridge—and because the colors make me happy.

I hope this salad makes you happy, too.

Tortellini Salad

2- 8 ounce boxes tortellini (tri-color is prettiest)
1 to 1-1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, lightly drained and chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (we like grape or cherry tomatoes, because they hold their shape and stay firm)
½ cup green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup Parmesan, shredded
1 cup hard or Genoa salami, stacked and cut in strips (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or basil
1/4 cup olive oil OR oil from the artichoke marinade
salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional: 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I like to mix red and green, but any color will be lovely.)



Cook pasta as directed; rinse with cold water, and drain, stirring to release steam and stop pasta cooking.



In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, green onions, capers, Parmesan, salami, fresh herbs, and the bell pepper if you're using it. Add the pasta and mix. Stir in the oil and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Serves 8. Keeps well.

From the cover of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 8, 2017):  

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.



Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Grilled Caprese Kabobs -- summer on a stick -- #bookgiveaway


LESLIE BUDEWITZ: We rarely repeat recipes here on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, but I can’t resist the temptation to share our recipe for the taste of summer, which I originally posted almost exactly two years ago. It’s one of my most popular posts.

The recipe—if you even want to call it that—became so popular in my own household that I ended up crediting it to Fresca, manager emeritus of the fictional Merc, and featuring it at a picnic in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, the fourth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, out this week. The recipe is in the book, but there’s no reason for you to sit there hungry and drooling while you wait for your copy.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, new this week!

It’s inspired, of course, by Caprese salads, which I am convinced are the salad the angels make when God needs a snack.

It’s a kind of magical medley that screams summer. Plus, you can grow cherry or grape tomatoes and basil on your back deck. (If you’ve figured out how to grow mozzarella balls in your garden, call me!)

We recommend two kabobs per person, as an appetizer. Both cherry and grape tomatoes work great, and the more color variety, the better! We used herbed mozzarella balls packed in oil from Costco, but plain cheese packed in water works, too. On a lark, we used a blackberry Balsamic vinegar we'd been given, and thought we were in heaven.

If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them first. You can also make mini versions, grilled or not, on appetizer-size sticks.

Kids would love making and eating these. There’s pretty much no way to mess them up. Except to not make enough.

Here’s to a tasty, happy summer, with good food, good friends, and a great book! (I have suggestions...)

Grilled Caprese Kabobs

For each kabob:

3 small tomatoes
2 fresh mozzarella balls, herbed or plain
3 fresh basil leaves
olive oil, if you’re using plain cheese
salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
a metal or bamboo skewer (if you're using bamboo, soak them first)


Heat your grill. Use a perforated grill sheet or rack, if you have one; otherwise, grill directly over the heat. (A reader told me she discovered too late that her grill was out of propane, so she broiled these in the oven, with great success!)



Thread the skewers, starting with a tomato, a basil leaf, a cheese ball, another basil leaf, and so on, until you’ve threaded three tomatoes and two cheese balls, with a leaf between each. If your basil leaves are large, fold in half. If you’re using water-packed cheese, brush with olive oil. (The sharp-eyed among you may notice that these have only two tomatoes. First draft. Three tomatoes are better.)




Lay on the grill or grill sheet and close the grill lid. Grill 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft, even a little charred, and the cheese begins to melt. Don’t let your cheese fall off! Remove from grill and place skewers on serving plate. Season with salt and pepper if you’d like and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!


Oops -- looks like I forgot to take a picture after I drizzled on the Balsamic. In too much of a hurry to eat them! I promise, you will be, too!

Got a favorite food that screams "summer!" to you?

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 8, 2017). (US and Canadian addresses only. Winner will be chosen Saturday, June 10.) 

From the cover: 

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.


Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

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.



Click to learn more.
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!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Erin's Enchiladas, from TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST - #bookgiveaway

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I always say that one of the secrets to a happy life is friends who cook well.

And nothing proves that better than my longggg friendship with Lita, whom I met during sophomore year of college. She married a man with a Hispanic mother and embraced Mexican cooking with both very strong arms. This is Lita’s recipe, which I think she based on one from America’s Test Kitchen. Admittedly, it’s a bit, oh, involved is the best word, and in TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Erin admits that she occasionally grabs a jar of sauce from the Merc’s shelves when she craves enchiladas. Granted, she and the Merc are fictional—don’t tell her I said so—so this is the recipe in those jars.

TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, the 4th Food Lovers' Village Mystery, will be out officially on June 8. Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy!

Fill the enchiladas with chicken, shredded beef, or black beans---or a combination, as described below.

This sauce freezes beautifully, and can be used in burritos, tamales, tortilla soup, or other recipes. Double it some Sunday afternoon and stick a pan of unbaked enchiladas in the freezer for a night when even reaching for a jar seems like too much.

A NOTE ABOUT CHILES: After I posted this, a few comments asked about the California and Guajillo chiles in the sauce. Both are mild, red chiles. California chiles start out green and turn red as they ripen; they are apparently sometimes called chile seco del Norte or Magdalena chiles. Guajillo chiles are the dried mirasol chile. This guide has more details and pictures, as does this site. I've noticed that naming varies and is not necessarily consistent. If you can't find dried chiles with these names, look for a red chile with a mild flavor and try combining a couple; if you like more heat, you'll have more options. Remember that cooking is an art, not a precise science, and be willing to play -- if you're not sure whether a pepper will be too hot, try a small amount, and add more later if you'd like.

Enchilada Sauce

2 ounces dried Ancho chiles
2 ounces dried Guajillo chiles
2-3 ounces dried California chiles
½ large or 1 medium white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife blade
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
½ - 1 orange, sliced, including the peel (if the peel is thick, use half of it)
4 – 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in your hands
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon masa harina (corn flour) or very finely ground corn meal
½ lime, juiced (2-3 tablespoons of juice)


Using kitchen scissors, and optional gloves, stem and seed the chiles.

Heat a large skillet on high and quickly dry roast the chiles, in batches, 1-2 minutes, to darken the skin; do not burn.

Place the peppers, onion, garlic, carrot, and orange in a large pot, and cover with the stock. Cover pot and bring to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat and let mixture sit about 30 minutes.

Ladle 2-3 cups of liquid and vegetables, about half and half, into a blender. Puree about 3 minutes and place in another pot or a non-staining bowl. Repeat with additional batches till complete.

Return sauce to pan and add the cumin, oregano, and salt. In a small bowl, make a slurry of the corn flour and about 1/4 cup of the chile puree, to prevent clumping, then add to pot and stir in. Add lime juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the seasoning.

The Enchiladas

8 - 8 inch corn tortillas
oil
sauce
1 pound beef (stew meat), slow cooked until it can be shredded with a fork, OR 1 pound chicken breast, cooked and shredded, OR 1 pound black beans, cooked (or a 16 ounce can)
2 ounces diced green chiles, fresh or canned
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
10-12 green onions, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
sour cream (optional)
fresh tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly oil the tortillas on each side and warm them in the oven to prevent cracking—you can warm them while the oven is preheating.

Mix your beef, chicken, or beans with the green chiles, and if you’d like, a few green onions and cilantro.

Pour ½ cup (about a ladleful) of sauce in the bottom of a 9X13 baking pan. Place a warmed tortilla on a plate. In the center, place about 1/4 cup filling and a tablespoon of cheese. Roll up tightly and place in the baking dish.

Ladle more sauce over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle with cheddar. Bake about 15 minutes, until cheese melts. Serve with chopped onions and cilantro, and optional sour cream and tomatoes.

Unbaked enchiladas freeze beautifully, in the pan. To serve, thaw and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and the cheese is melted.

Makes 8 enchiladas.



















Does your BFF have a favorite recipe you adore???

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 8, 2017). (US and Canadian addresses only; winner will be chosen Thurs, June 1.)


From the cover:   

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.



Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stuffed Zucchini Boats


LESLIE BUDEWITZ: “Boats, boats, messing around with boats.”

Okay, so these aren’t the kind of boats Toad in WIND IN THE WILLOWS had in mind, but they’ve been on my mind and plate lately, and I think they’re so yummy that you might want to put them on yours, too.

Although I almost never think of zucchini without remembering the Zucchini Look Alike Contest held at the Custer County Fair in Hardin, Montana. One year, the winner looked like Richard Nixon.

I am not making this up.

I didn’t make this recipe up, either, but as I’ve said before, I find it nearly impossible to make a recipe as originally written. This one started in Good Housekeeping, and as is common in magazine style, it was written in narrative form rather than as a list of ingredients followed by instructions. I hate that, though I understand it takes less space. Alas, I am not Queen of the World. (Thank Heavens. It would be tiring. But I might get to spend more time messing around with boats and other such things.)

This version includes sausage, but you could skip it and still be happy. Doesn't look like I've ever posted my Italian herb blend recipe---it's in KILLING THYME---though any blend or combination of Italian herbs you have on hand will do. These are wonderful alongside a short sturdy pasta, like rotilli, fusilli, or penne.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

4 small zucchini
4-6 ounces Italian sausage (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
parsley, chopped


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a 13X9 inch baking dish.


Cut the zucchini in half and remove the seeds. Carefully scrape out the innards, chop and set aside.


In a large skillet, cook the sausage and drain if necessary, then add olive oil, onion, zucchini, salt, and herbs. Cook until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes.


Spread the marinara sauce in the baking dish, and arrange the zucchini shells on top. Fill with the sausage mixture. Top with cheese and spoon a little of the tomato sauce on top.


Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley.



Serve with salad, a short sturdy pasta such as rotilli, fusilli, or penne, and a glass of whatever appeals to you. 


From the cover of TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #4 (Midnight Ink, June 8, 2017):  

Erin Murphy, manager of Murphy’s Mercantile (aka the Merc), is tuning up for Jewel Bay’s annual Jazz Festival. Between keeping the Merc’s shelves stocked with Montana’s tastiest local fare and hosting the festival’s kick-off concert, Erin has her hands full.

Discord erupts when jazz guitarist Gerry Martin is found dead on the rocks above the Jewel River. The one-time international sensation had fallen out of sync with festival organizers, students, and performers. Was his death an accident?or did someone even the score?

Despite the warning signs to not get involved, Erin investigates. And when the killer attacks, she orchestrates her efforts into one last crescendo, hoping to avoid a deadly finale.



Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The past president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.