Showing posts with label Linda Wiken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Linda Wiken. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fun with Frittatas, #recipe by Linda Wiken, author, #cozymystery

I thought about calling it the Kitchen Sink Frittata but realized that doesn't sound very appetizing. It follows the same principle though, and much like Sheila Connolly's post last week, I've included whatever I had on hand.

Some nights, a gal just doesn't want to get too creative  :) or cook anything extravagant. Here again, I can't say, 'not cook' because this does take some prep time even though actual cooking time is minimal.

And, I do love my eggs. In my house, they're not just for breakfast! So, what to do that was more than a soft-boiled egg and toast? An omelette was an option but that takes even more steps. So, I decided to have some fun with a Frittata.

This recipe is thrown together without accurate measurements, suitable for two. So, add or subtract as suits your needs. I am a dairy-free eater, so mixed my eggs with a tiny bit of water, instead of milk.

Again, please do what suits you best.

I'd be interested in hearing what ends up in your Frittata!

What you'll need:

4 eggs
dash of water
handful of fresh spinach, chopped
3 mushrooms (because that's all I had on hand), chopped
fresh basil, chives, and rosemary, chopped
4 orange grape tomatoes  (orange and only 4 was what I had on hand)
sweet red pepper
1 garlic clove, slivered
1 c. thinly sliced Chorizo sausage
1 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
enough fresh grated Asiago cheese to cover but then melt in (again, use whatever cheese is your favorite)

What to do:

1. Heat olive oil in large frying pan. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the water.
2. Chop, slice, and sliver the veggies and herbs.
3. Saute all the ingredients, except for the eggs.

4. When the spinach has wilted and the mushrooms have that nice browned color, pour in the egg and water mixture, stirring all the while.

5. When the egg reaches a good scrambled eggs consistency, you're ready.
6. Dish onto plates and grate the cheese over top.
7. Serve with toast or as I did, some red pepper and sun-dried tomato Ciabatta bread.

ROUX THE DAY, A Dinner Club Mystery is now available in paper and as an e-book. 
Recipes included!

The first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!

Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

Visit Linda at
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at

Visit Erika at 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase. 

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'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!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grilled Black Cod with White Wine, Lime, and Sriracha Sauce #recipe from Linda Wiken, author

I love Alaska Black Cod. Living inland, I buy it frozen but it never fails to turn out flaky and moist. I'm always keen to try different marinades and sauces though so this is one I tweeked from the newspaper and it's a keeper.

I will say up front that next time I'll amp up the heat by adding more Sriracha sauce or maybe add some chili flakes along with it. And, I used basil olive oil to give the flavor an extra kick. However, feel free to use a plain virgin olive oil and add whatever herbs you prefer.

Your cod filet needs to sit in the marinade for at least half-an-hour, so keep that in mind. Also, this is a recipe for one; increase the ingredients as required for more portions.

What you'll need:

1 black cod filet
3/4 tsp. fresh lime juice
3/4 tsp. white wine
3/4 tsp. basil virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. Sriracha sauce
pinch of sea salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper

What to do:

Start by squeezing lime juice then combine it with white wine, olive oil, Sriracha Sauce, salt and pepper. Place in a plastic bag along with the cod filet. Seal the bag and let the filet sit in the marinade for at least 1/2 hour.

Remove filet and discard ingredients. Place the cod filet on a piece of aluminum foil and barbecue for at least 12 min. The fish should be flaky when ready.

Serve with wedges of lime and some more of that chilled white wine.

ROUX THE DAY, A Dinner Club Mystery is now available in paper and as an e-book. 
Recipes included!

The first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!

Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

Visit Linda at
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at

Visit Erika at 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Many people probably don't know that Mother's Day was founded in Philadelphia, by Anna Marie Jarvis. Although Miss Jarvis was born in West Virginia in 1864, she left to work briefly in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then she joined her brother in Philadelphia, where she worked for a reputable life insurance company (and became their first female literary and advertising editor). Her mother joined her there in 1904, but lived only another year.

In 1908, Anna Jarvis held a memorial ceremony in West Virginia to honor her mother, as well as all mothers, and that is counted as the date of the first official observance of Mother's Day.

I wouldn't have known any of this, but I spent several years walking past the sign in Center City Philadelphia.

Ladies, did your mother teach you to cook? Did you cook a meal as a treat for her? Or did you cook side by side in the kitchen?

SHEILA CONNOLLY: I give great credit to my mother for introducing me to fresh vegetables in my childhood (at a time when frozen vegetables were becoming popular). I thought artichokes and asparagus were wonderful things, and you could even eat them with your fingers. I wasn't as enthusiastic about avocados. I was cooking simple meals before my teens, but the first full meal I remember cooking for my mother was Thanksgiving 1967--I'd watched her cook a turkey for plenty of years by then.

LESLIE: Sheila, what a great picture of you and your mother! Mine was not much of a cook. I realize now that my father's schedule played a role -- he was a traveling salesman, gone from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, meaning dinner Friday was always some version of a casserole, what she with her Minnesota upbringing called "hot dish." Ground beef, onions, macaroni, a can of tomato soup -- you get the idea. 

But boy, could she bake. My father once told me "If you want to learn to make cake, watch your Aunt Peggy. But for pie, watch your mother." And he was right. (That's her cookbook and rolling pin, now at home in my kitchen.)

At Christmas, following her German heritage, she baked literally a dozen varieties of cookies, taking gift plates all over town. I just finished writing the 5th Food Lovers' Village Mystery, set at Christmas, and it was great fun to channel her when Erin and her friends hold a cookie exchange. (Mr. Right enjoyed testing a few Christmas cookie recipes in April, too!)

DARYL:  Sheila, my mother learned to cook after college. I remember finding letters from her to her grandmother (still have them) boasting that she'd learned to make meat loaf and green jello with fruit inside. [Her meat loaf was great; the jello...I'll pass!]  After that, however, she became a whiz. She was very bright. She could follow a recipe. She had just never learned to cook as a girl because her mother did it all. I fashioned my character Jenna, in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, after my mother (as far as that trait was concerned). I'm sharing a photo of my mother and my sister, at Christmas. My mom loved to entertain guests, and Christmas was her favorite time. She set out ham and cheese and crackers and then threw together some terrific appetizers. No one went home disappointed. Did she teach me to cook? A bit. I make a mean spaghetti that is her recipe and a great margarita!  LOL. But honestly I learned to cook when my parents divorced, and Mom went to work, and someone had to get food on the table. I became quite good at steak and mac-n-cheese. I could throw together a salad. And I made chocolate chip cream pies to sell to the neighborhood. Happy mother's day to all. May you love them fully if they are still alive; may you remember them fondly if they have passed on, as mine has. 

MARY JANE aka Victoria Abbott  I love these stories of your mothers and your early cooking. Until I was married, I could only make tuna sandwiches and coffee.  My mother was a gifted cook and I wish I had a picture of her in the kitchen, but then she wouldn't have been wearing one of her glam hats. Here we are on Mothers' Day, a million years ago.

 My mother-in-law and Victoria's other grandmother, a girl from the mountains in the north of Italy, went on to become  brilliant in the kitchen and once cooked a meal for the Queen. 

When they would visit us at the same time, they could get into the kitchen and cook AT each other, competitively.  I would just hide out on the sofa reading (and worrying about shrapnel) and enjoy the results.  Victoria and I channeled her Maffini grandmother (who is still alive at 95) and her auntie into our Signora Panetone character. "Eat! What's the matter? You don't like it.  Many of the recipes from both sides are still family favorites.  Mothers' Day always makes me happy/sad.  I hope you all enjoy the day with the mums who are still with you and the happy memories of the ones who aren't.

LUCY: They cooked a meal for the queen?? Wow, MJ, my mother's cooking wouldn't have made it past the back gate LOL. To be fair, it was the 50's, and Mom worked full time and raised four kids. She loved to eat, and made sure we all got fed, but she didn't love to cook. We were all about cans of vegetables, roasts, and potatoes. And Leslie, the same casserole recipe that your mother used! She had some high points in her repertoire, usually involving a great buffet of little sandwiches, fruit, and cookies. And she went all out for Christmas cookies too.

 My hat's off to all these mothers who raised amazing daughters!

Linda:  I'm sensing a bit of a trend here. I don't think my Mom enjoyed cooking although I never asked her. She just made sure we were fed when we needed to be. Sunday after church it was always a roast with mashed potatoes and canned green peas. Most weeknight meals included the necessary potatoes, veggie, often canned cream corn or for a treat -- niblets, and some meat. Unless there was fish. My Dad loved to fish and growing up on the B.C. coast, there were plenty of salmon in those days to oblige him.

Where Mom really shined was Christmas. She'd bake amazing-smelling Swedish cookies and breads in preparation and then on Christmas Eve, our meal would be potatoes, peas, and a Scandinavian delicacy (depending on who you ask -- don't ask my sister!) called Lutefisk. I remember it all with fondness.

I've grown into cooking over the last few years, much as my character, J.J. Tanner has. Although I think she's better at it!

Here's to all our Mom's be they with us in person or in memory. We cherish them. 

Krista: Like Roberta, I'm very interested in hearing the story about cooking for the Queen!

Food and cooking were a very big deal in my family. I remember my father telling my mother that I would never learn to cook if she didn't start teaching me. My mom was a devoted follower of Julia Child and bought all her cookbooks. I didn't start cooking much, though, until I lived on my own.

Someone once said to me that my house was like the United Nations because celebrations
were full of friends from all over the world. My mom and her friends cooked and baked and took great pride in their dishes. They were truly the original domestic divas.

I am very blessed to still have my mom with me. These days I do the cooking and baking, and she seems pretty happy about that. 

To all the moms who are with us, and those whom we remember with such love, Happy Mother's Day!

Peg:  Such fun hearing these stories about your mothers!  My father was very much a meat and salad sort of person (no potatoes even--I think he invented the low carb diet)  but he did love the dishes my mother made that came from her mother--goulash, chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage (my grandmother was Hungarian.) Dessert was something we only had on special occasions so she didn't do much baking.  



If you have a favorite memory of your mother
we'd love to hear it!

Leave us a comment and we'll choose a winner
(by random number generator)
of two Mystery Lovers' Kitchen recipe packets--
one for you and one for your mother
(or to give as a gift in her memory).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Black Rice Coconut Milk Pudding with Diced Papaya #recipe by Linda Wiken, Author, #cozymystery

My Mom was a great one with rice pudding. It was a very frequent dessert in our house. Nowadays, since I avoid milk products, it’s the last thing I’d think of making. Until I found this recipe using Coconut milk in one of my favorite magazines, Food and Drink.

I think it turned out deliciously great and I'll definitely be making it again. Although I think next time, just to change it up a bit, I’ll try almond milk. I may even go for a different fruit, too. Just for fun.

It’s very easy to make and it tastes good hot or cold. I cut the recipe in half to serve two butI found even this amount can easily make four happy eaters.

What you’ll need:

¾ c. black rice
1 ¼ c. coconut milk
1 ½ c. water
2 tbsp. coconut sugar
2 tbsp. dried blueberries
1/3 c. diced papaya
1 tsp. lime juice
¼ tsp. chili flakes
Pinch of salt

What to do:

If you’re using a packaged black rice, follow the instructions using the ingredients above. Cooking time will vary but is between one hour and one hour 20 minutes. If you’re using bulk black rice, be sure to rinse it first.

In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, add black rice, coconut milk, water, sugar, dried blueberries and salt. Keep it uncovered while you bring it to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for the amount of time mentioned above. You’ll want the rice to be tender and most of the liquid absorbed. While waiting, dice the papaya into bite size pieces, add the lime juice, and sprinkle with chili flakes, if you’ve decided to use them.

Dish the rice into individual bowls and top with the papaya mixture. 

The recipe called for Thai basil leaves as a garnish but I used the regular basil growing, at a slow pace, in a pot. It would be fun to play with a number of different garnish and fruit mixtures. Enjoy!

ROUX THE DAY, A Dinner Club Mystery is now available in paper and as an e-book. 
Recipes included!

The first in the Dinner Club Mysteries is available at your favorite bookstore and on-line, as a paperback and as an e-book.  
Recipes included!

Writing as Erika Chase -- the Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery series are available on-line or at your favorite bookstore.

Visit Linda at
Love to hear from you at my Facebook author page and
on Twitter  @LWiken  
Also appearing at

Visit Erika at 
 at my Facebook author page
and on Twitter  @erika_chase.