Showing posts with label Peg Cochran. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peg Cochran. Show all posts

Monday, November 6, 2017

Around the Kitchen Table: Our Holiday Disasters and a #Giveaway!


With the season of feasting coming up fast, we crime-writing cooks are employing our monthly chin-wag to laugh (and cry!) about the mistakes we’ve made or the foul-ups we’ve fumbled through during the holiday season. We invite you to join our circle and share your own stories.

Leave a comment for us (with a way to contact you) and you will be entered in our random drawing to win a special prize…learn more at the end of the post. This contest is now over. See the winner announced at the end of this post. And now, let's talk Holiday Disasters!



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Cleo's disaster inspired the
last scene in Holiday Buzz.
Click to learn more.

CLEO COYLE: I was in my early twenties, on my own in New York City, and I'd been looking forward to seeing my family for Thanksgiving, but I just missed making my train. The moment was so awful, I can still see those taillights pulling away from me as I ran down the platform, dragging my luggage, ready to cry. It was Thanksgiving morning. There were no other trains that day to Western PA, and I was strapped. I couldn't afford to say "Oh, well," and buy a plane or even a bus ticket. I thought I was doomed to eating fast food alone. Thankfully, a girlfriend took pity on me and invited me to her sister's house. To this day, I feel terrible that I’d disappointed my mom and dad. But I did make the next morning’s train (after exchanging my ticket). There were plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers waiting for me in Mom’s kitchen. And, years later, that very disaster at New York's Penn Station helped inspire an important final scene in HOLIDAY BUZZ, our 12th Coffeehouse Mystery.

Years before he met me, my husband (and partner in culinary crime-writing) had his own holiday disaster. It was his first Thanksgiving in New York, and he wanted to make a feast for his friends. Marc proudly stuffed his turkey and popped it into the oven. All done! (Not quite.) Marc had failed to clean the gizzards out of the neck flap, and they were sealed in plastic. The bird looked great, but it tasted like hot, wet Styrofoam. That Thanksgiving, Marc and his friends enjoyed dinner at the local Nathan’s fast food joint, where the hot dogs were delicious. 


Click here for our doggone tasty
holiday appetizer recipe.
Which goes to show you. No matter what you're eating for dinner, if you're sharing it with people you care about, Thanksgiving can turn out to be a doggone beautiful meal. And on that note, Marc and I sincerely wish all of you a disaster-free holiday feasting season!

We're also pleased to share a fun, delicious (and insanely easy) party appetizer. Click here to get it and may you and your loved ones eat with holiday joy!


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LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Mr. Right and I are classic trailers -- his siblings are 7 and 11 years older, mine 9-1/2. As a result, we have never been allowed to host a family holiday dinner! My two sisters-in-law are absolutely lovely, but they are also older, strong-minded women who know exactly how holiday dinners are supposed to go in their houses. One has probably never forgiven me for the year my cranberry almond bundt cake (yes, I took a cake!) was more popular than her Costco pumpkin pie at Christmas dinner. My other SIL has a hard time sitting still, so she packs up the leftovers for everyone. Which is great, except for the time she packed up the mashed potatoes before I got any. And since we're usually traveling, the leftovers don't do us a lot of good. Talk about disaster!

So Mr. Right and I have created our own tradition. We join the family and have a great time. Then, sometime during the week after Christmas, we make a turkey dinner with all the mashed potatoes we want. And no one sweeps up my half-full cup of coffee when I turn my back. On the other hand, there's no one to help us with the dishes ... The only real disaster, in my book, is not finding a way to celebrate that makes you happy.


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PEG COCHRAN:  My holiday disaster is still fresh in my mind! Every Christmas I make a buche de Noel.  How elaborate it is varies--sometimes I do the meringue mushrooms, sometimes there's no time for that. Last Christmas I was working with a new oven. My old oven ran hot--unbeknownst to me, this one runs cool.  I made my cake and when I tried to turn it out of the pan to roll it, it stuck and disintegrated.  (Hubby ate it anyway.) I tried a second time.  This time I got it out of the pan (a lot of sweating was involved) but when I went to roll it, it fell apart.

So...I went with plan B.  I got out my large crystal bowl, layered the broken up cake with whipped cream and other goodies, and proudly declared it...a trifle! 

So in the end, not a tragedy at all.  

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DARYL WOOD GERBER:  I will never forget the first Thanksgiving I was in my current home. Though I was quite used to the space on my own, moving around a lot of other people was a challenge. Well, my stepdaughter wanted to learn how to make mashed potatoes that night. Okay, fine. Not hard. But when the milk started to boil and three people converged to lower the heat or move the pot off the heat, the milk bubbled over the top, down the stove, and into the drawers below. As if that weren't enough, as I was trying to set the stuffing into the lower oven, the lip of the pan caught on the oven door, and the stuffing spilled all over the floor. Everyone was laughing except me. I like things to be perfect at holidays, but this was a major disaster. We had a lovely meal, but the clean-up was atrocious. It wasn't until the next day that I realized WHY it has been so difficult. It's narrow between the island and the stove/oven area. And there were three or four people trying to navigate the aisle. Like I said, if I'd been on my own, it would have been fine. The following Thanksgiving, I told everyone to sit at the island and have a glass of wine. Guess what? No disasters. I guess I'm like a ship in a sea lane. I want clear passage and no obstacles in my way. LOL


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LUCY BURDETTE: 
My disaster came a couple of years ago when we hosted a giant family Thanksgiving dinner. Along with the turkey and gravy I made pumpkin and chocolate cream pies. Chocolate cream pie on Thanksgiving, you say? But my husband's family loves anything chocolate. And I was happy to show off, even buying designer chocolate instead of the usual Baker's. I've made this pie a dozen times--using a recipe right out of the JOY OF COOKING. The graham cracker crust was lovely, but the chocolate pudding part looked grainy. And though I refrigerated it overnight, it never set. We served it in bowls and I was humbled. Though the mounds of whipped cream did help...(These pix are the actual offending pie--If you look closely at the full pie, you'll see the grainy texture. Why you might ask, did she stop to take a picture? Because a Mystery Lovers Kitchen blogger knows everything come in handy one day!)


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SHEILA CONNOLLY: Where to begin... I can well remember my mother and grandmother arguing over the Thanksgiving turkey every year: is it done? is it overdone? It was always one or the other, never just right. I've had better luck with turkeys than they did--I even managed to cook one in my dorm (with a tiny kitchen) and fed the other people who couldn't go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

But there was one Christmas that my sister and I were both at our mother's, along with my daughter Julie, and we volunteered to cook dinner among us. Unfortunately my mother was not a scrupulous housekeeper, and there was a bit of extra grease in the burner liners on the stove, so we created a small fire on top of the stove. We didn't panic. I said, "I will find a cover to deprive the fire of oxygen" and my daughter said, "I will get the baking soda," and we calmly extinguished it. Except then we had to do it again, because we didn't quite get rid of all the grease. (BTW, the dinner turned out fine.)



But I am very fond of what I have always called "the cake mess," Julie and I created together (I had to look long and hard for the picture). I still have no idea what went wrong with the poor thing, but somehow since Julie has has turned into a professional baker. Go figure.


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LINDA WIKEN:  I'm almost embarrassed to admit I don't have any stories about monumental disasters to share, probably because I've never been too into cooking so never tried anything too daring. Even though that part has changed -- yes, I do enjoy cooking now and in particular, tasting and trying new recipes -- I still have nothing major to report except for underdone turkey on one occasion or another. 

I also admit to not being into baking. However, at Christmas, I take on the mantle of 'Swedish Coffee Bread maker'. It's my Mom's recipe and while it tastes similar enough to hers each year, I've had some crushing results with texture. It's almost as if the oven elves give up partway through the 'rising' part, leaving me with an unlight, unfluffy result. Those years that I do succeed, I savor (pictured here). But, I will not give up trying! In fact, I'm eyeing a new mixer that might help with the kneading portion, which might, just might bring me a step closer to perfection. Fingers crossed. 



VICTORIA ABBOTT/MARY JANE MAFFINI:

I love this topic and all your tragic tales of disasters, but I hardly know where to begin!  Our disasters so often happen at Christmas, the focal point of the year for the Maffini girls. Take for instance the Christmas many years  ago when we had an ice storm. The fully stuffed 25 pound turkey was roasting away in the oven on Christmas Day when the electricity went off!  Much later it had not returned and my hubby and my brother were busily bailing out the basement. Brother is still complaining thirty years later.  Luckily Victoria's sister, Virginia, was newly married and had an apartment in a different part of town and she had power!  She was also willing to save the day.  Because NOTHING may ever interfere with Christmas turkey, I drove the turkey over to her, skidding over the icy roads to her so it could finish cooking. Later on (still without power at home) we all squeezed into her little flat to enjoy it at the end of an exhausting day.  It was not the first or the last time that Virginia saved the day and it was a grand Christmas dinner in the end.



The next year, Christmas was perfect, BUT as we approached our New Year's Day Open House the wall oven died and so did the microwave.  As the first guest sat down on the newly reupholstered sofa (inherited from MJ's mom), the back leg collapsed.  Ah, the best laid plans!  

I could go on, but I'll give you all a break.



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KRISTA DAVIS:

Like MJ, my most memorable disaster was losing electricity on Christmas. Fortunately, it was early enough in the day that nothing was in the oven yet. We just shoved the entire celebration to the following day.

Because I cook for my dogs, and I used to have four to feed, I have roasted a lot of turkeys. It's sort of a no-brainer for me. Last Thanksgiving, I calculated the times carefully and all was well until the guests arrived and I peeked at the turkey. It was raw! Oh no! As far as I can tell, I must have accidentally turned the oven off when I took the turkey out to flip it over. Sigh. It tasted wonderful, which prompted a conversation about whether turning the heat off in the middle of roasting might be the best way to roast a turkey!

But the worst of all was really more of a faux pas. It still makes me shudder today. I was invited to the home of my boyfriend's parents for passover seder. Between his mother and sisters, it was determined that I should bring two pies as my contribution. Being of the clan of the cake, it was slightly out of my comfort zone, but I very carefully made the pie crusts and prepared two pies for the dinner. We packed them up and joined his rather large and noisy family for a lovely dinner. I'd had plenty of Jewish friends, but hadn't given any thought to foods that might be forbidden . . .

As my boyfriend's father took a bite of my pie, complete with the whipped cream I had dutifully brought along, I saw him lean over to his wife and ask very quietly, "Is this real cream?" 

His wife said, equally quietly, "I think so." 

The father shrugged and kept eating. In fact, the pies and cream were snarfed up and no one ever said a word to me that wasn't complimentary, which just goes to show what lovely people they were. It was years before I realized that the cream was probably frowned upon as not appropriate because one doesn't serve dairy and meat in the same passover meal. Oy vey!



🍸 🎄  🎅  🎃  🎠  ⛄ 🎇



GIVEAWAY!



Now it's your turn! Leave a comment on this post, telling us about your own holiday disaster or you can simply comment on ours, and you will be entered in our in our special giveaway of a Mystery Lovers' Kitchen tote bag...






You will also win these
wonderful new book
releases 
to fill it! 

 * Krista Davis' *
Not a Creature was Purring 

* Daryl Wood Gerber's *
A Deadly Eclair 

* Sheila Connolly's A Late Frost
and the new trade reprint of 



👇

LEAVE A COMMENT TO ENTER...

Tell us about your own
holiday disaster or
comment on ours...



Be sure to include an email
address where we can
contact you.

Good luck and may your 

upcoming holidays be disaster-free!


This contest is now over.
The winner is...

Nora-Adrienne!

Congratulations, Nora!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms & Orzo #Recipe @PegCochran

I love dinners in a skillet, don't you?  This makes a one pan meal--add a green salad if you like to round it out.  It was very tasty and the tiny bit of cream gave it a decadent mouth feel that was lovely.

Ingredients

4 to 6 chicken thighs (boneless or with bone)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (cremini, baby bella, etc.)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup uncooked orzo
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
2 cups fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated for topping

 Dry chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Heat olive oil in skillet or dutch oven.  When hot, sear chicken on each side until lightly golden.

Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Reduce heat and add garlic.  Saute for a minute then add orzo and saute for two minutes.

Add mushrooms and saute until golden.

Add chicken stock and cream and place chicken pieces on top.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and orzo has absorbed most of the liquid.

Add spinach and cook until slightly wilted and orzo is tender.

Top with grated Parmesan if desired.

 
Sear chicken in hot oil
Saute chopped garlic



Saute mushrooms
Saute orzo

Nestle chicken on top
Add spinach

Enjoy!




The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon.

But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Follow me on Facebook to learn about upcoming giveaways! 

 




 


Monday, October 30, 2017

#Halloween #Pumpkin Cookies #Recipe @PegCochran

And Halloween week at Mystery Lovers Kitchen continues!  I made these delicious pumpkin cookies and alas, they are already all gone!  I'm not sure whether it was me or the recipe, but the cookies puffed up nicely and were almost more like "mini pumpkin cakes" than a hard, crunchy cookie.  In an attempt to keep hubby healthy, I substituted Splenda for both sugars although I did make the glaze with real sugar.  I also substituted pumpkin pie spice (I made my own) for the individual spices.  I used two teaspoons so feel free to substitute if you have some on hand already mixed.


COOKIE DOUGH

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt



GLAZE

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2-2 cups confectioners' sugar



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.


Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.


Mix flour mixture into butter and sugar mixture.



Drop by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Place three inches apart.

* Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.

Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  Cool completely before applying glaze.






For Glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat butter and brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly.
Cook, stirring, for one minute or until slightly thickened.

Beat in the milk.

Blend in confectioner's sugar until glaze is smooth and spreadable. 

Spread glaze over cookies using a brush or drizzle from a spoon.

Warm glaze if it hardens.






* My cookies took longer to bake but my oven runs cool so check yours frequently and bake longer if necessary.

 I had some pumpkin leftover so I mixed it with one egg and enough whole wheat flour to make a dough and made cookies for my dog.  Those are also already gone!








The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon.

But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Follow me on Facebook to learn about upcoming giveaways! 

 




 





Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rosemary and Lemon Chicken #Recipe @PegCochran

This is one of those easy yet tasty and delicious one-pan dinners.  I found making it on a cookie sheet worked perfectly.  This is also open to interpretation--don't like rosemary?  Use thyme instead.  Don't want to use chicken thighs?  Go with breasts.  Lots of room for improvisation depending on what your family likes and what's in your pantry and refrigerator.

Ingredients

Chicken pieces--about four pieces but you can increase as needed
1 onion cut into wedges
4 red potatoes quartered or cut in eighths if large
1 lemon sliced
1 - 2 tsps. minced garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary (or less if they are huge--mine were like tree branches!)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Combine onion, lemon, garlic, rosemary and olive oil in a bowl.  Add chicken and potatoes wedges and toss well to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread out on cookie sheet and cook until potatoes are done and chicken reaches 165 degrees.

Slice lemons


Quarter onion



Spread on cookie sheet


Bake at 450 degrees


 


The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon.

But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Follow me on Facebook to learn about upcoming giveaways! 

 




 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#InstantPot Pork Loin Roast with Apples and Sauerkraut

I got an Instant Pot for my birthday!  My daughter has one and loves it.  It is a bit daunting at first, but I was determined to try out the pressure cooking mode.  I had a small pork loin roast in the freezer I wanted to use so I went searching for recipes.  I found one on Dr. Kelly Ann's site--it seems to be a Paleo recipe site but since my diets never last longer than a day, I'm not sure what a Paleo diet is!

It probably took me longer to cook this the first time around because I was constantly referencing the directions.  But it came out great in the end and I only burned my finger once!

The ratio of sauerkraut/applesauce to pork roast was a little off, but my roast was smaller than the one called for.  It was still good and hubby had the leftovers for lunch and proclaimed them "even better."

Ingredients:


  • 2 to 3 pound pork loin roast
  • ½ teaspoon Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt (a little precious--I'm sure plain salt would certainly do as well)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pasture-raised butter or ghee (I used olive oil which worked fine)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken bone broth (I used canned chicken broth)  
  • 4 to 6 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (I used the yummy craft beer sauerkraut I found) 
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
 
  Directions


Season the roast with salt and pepper.  First use the saute function on your Instant Pot.  Heat the olive oil (or butter) and brown roast on all sides.


 Chop apples


 Chop onions 


Heat oil in cooker and use saute function to brown roast


Remove the roast from the cooker and add onions, garlic and broth. Scrape up brown bits from the bottom. Return roast to the cooker and using your cooker’s instructions, bring up to full pressure. (This takes a few minutes.)

Reduce heat to low, maintaining full pressure, and cook for 45 minutes. (I chose the meat/stew setting on my cooker and it auto set for 35 minutes which was fine.)

Using quick release method, release pressure and quickly add sauerkraut and apples to the cooker. Bring back to full pressure for 5 minutes and again use the quick release method. 



 Sauerkraut/apple mixture

Slice roast and serve with apples and sauerkraut.  I served it with mashed cauliflower.



 


The county fair is the highlight of the year for the small town of Lovett, Michigan—especially for food-and-lifestyle blogger Shelby McDonald, who writes as the Farmer’s Daughter. She’s submitting jams and jellies she’s created from the produce she grows at Love Blossom Farm in hopes of harvesting a blue ribbon.

But the townspeople get more than just the excitement of hayrides, tractor pulls, and cotton candy when Shelby’s neighbor and volunteer fireman, Jake Taylor, extricates the body of Zeke Barnstable instead of a dummy during a demonstration of the Jaws of Life. The fact that Jake and Zeke were known to be at odds plants suspicion in the minds of the police. As evidence against Jake grows, Shelby knows she has to plow through the clues to weed out the true killer and save her friend.

Follow me on Facebook to learn about upcoming giveaways!