Showing posts with label book clubs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book clubs. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#bookclub Herbed Black Bean Pasta Salad

 LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, how I love book clubs! I’ve belonged to two, in different communities, each for about eight years, and that once-a-month gathering was such a treat. People—men and women in the first, women only in the second—who loved books as much as I did, who cherished time reading and discussing, and who introduced me to their faves and welcomed the chance to meet mine. That is true friendship.

Wine and food help, too.

As an author, I enjoy visiting book clubs. Readers ask great questions! Even readers who don’t read a lot of mysteries dive in, finding themes and symbols, relating to the characters and their problems as if they knew them. And that satisfies me deeply, because one of my goals as a storyteller is to illuminate a bit of life. Maybe we haven’t found a dead body on the doorstep, thank goodness, but we’ve all faced loss and grief, dealt with secrets and betrayal, and felt the ache of love and loneliness. If my characters’ responses help a reader make a little sense of some aspect of this human experience, I’m beyond happy.

This salad, from KILLING THYME (out October 4), is great for bookclubs where a light dinner is served, or for a potluck, because it’s hearty without being heavy, easy to transport, and doesn’t need to be served hot. It’s also colorful and a little unusual, always a plus! At home, it’s terrific by itself or as a side dish, especially with chicken or salmon. Whole-grain pasta and beans make it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians—something Laurel keeps in mind when stocking Ripe’s deli case. (Or she would, if she lived anywhere but on the page!)

You’ll love the color the turmeric and fresh herbs add—and the combination of fresh herbs in the salad and the dried herbs in the dressing gives an extra punch of flavor.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME, out October 4! TWO winners will be chosen!

Herbed Black Bean and Pasta Salad

For the salad:
1 pound regular or whole-grain penne pasta
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow or green bell pepper, chopped
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¼ to ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend blend (below)
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse in cool water to stop the cooking. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans and chop the vegetables and fresh herbs. Place the beans, veggies, and herbs in a large bowl. Add the pasta and stir to mix.

To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a blender or a small food processor, or use an immersion blender, and mix until smooth. Add the dressing to the salad mixture and toss gently until well combined. (You may fear not having enough dressing, but don’t worry—it will surprise you!)

Serve warm or chilled, by itself or over a bed of chilled hearty greens, such as a mixture of spinach, arugula, romaine, or other sturdy lettuces.

Serves 8 to 10.

Pepper’s Italian Herb Blend 

This is a good basic blend that you can adjust for your own taste. Remember that blends take a few hours for the flavors to meld; because of the mildness of these herbs, you can use the blend generously right away, and taste how the flavors improve over time.

3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons dried marjoram
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes or garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (break the needles with a mortar and pestle or in a small bowl with the back of a sturdy spoon)

Mix herbs in a small bowl. Yield: about 10 tablespoons, just over ½ cup.

Discussion Questions for KILLING THYME 

KILLING THYME releases October 4. I hope this recipe and these questions make it the perfect choice for your next book club meeting! (Find discussion questions for my other books on the For Book Clubs page of my website.)

1. Pepper’s had her challenges hiring staff for the Spice Shop, but she’s back to a full crew now. Do Matt and Cayenne seem like good additions?

2. Lena, Pepper’s mother, makes her first appearance in the series in KILLING THYME. Oh, mothers and daughters! Discuss.

3. Lena says of Bonnie, once called Peggy, that she craves home and community, but repeatedly makes choices that keep her from getting what says she wants. Do you know anyone like that?

4. In this book, Pepper experiences tensions with both Kristen, her life-long best friend, and Sandra, her key employee. Do you think she handles them well?

5. Mr. Adams is both sweet and crotchety, pained by some changes in his neighborhood and pleased with others. How has your neighborhood changed, and how do you feel about those changes?

6. Pepper’s new bridal registry could give the Spice Shop’s bottom line a nice boost. But at what cost? Discuss weddings and the Bridezilla-Momzilla phenomenon! What’s the most unusual wedding gift you received?

7. Pepper’s relationship with Tag reaches an unexpected place of peace in this book. Should they get back together, or not?

8. Do you have a favorite use for thyme?

9. Did you identify the killer? Who did you suspect?

10. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KILLING THYME. TWO winners will be chosen, on Thurs, Sept. 23. The discussion questions may prompt some comments, even though you haven't read the book yet! 

From the cover of KILLING THYME. coming October 4 and available for pre-order now: 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. When Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But when Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

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 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Peach Pie #recipe for #BookClubWeek @LucyBurdette #giveaway

Aren't my friends good sports?

This is a pie for peach season--I think any book club would be happy to devour it while discussing a Key West mystery! More on the discussion in a bit, but first the recipe... 

I wait every year for the peaches in Connecticut. I buy mine at Bishops farm markets, a bushel at a time. You can also slice the peaches and add the sugar, and then freeze them in a 6 cup quantity. When you are ready to make the pie (when you're feeling sad that peach season is over,) warm the peach mixture over a low flame and then add the rest of the ingredients and proceed as written. 

This recipe is based on one I found in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook. I always use my father's pie crust because it's so easy. And I adjusted some of the flavorings, deleting the nutmeg and increasing cinnamon. I also added a quarter cup slivered almonds to the topping.

Ingredients for the filling

Six cups ripe peaches, sliced
Three-quarter cup sugar +1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon salt
One half teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cold water
1/4 cup cornstarch

Peel and slice the peaches. Stir the sugar and salt into the bowl. Let this sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch with the almond extract, lemon juice, melted butter, and cold water. Stir until smooth. Stir this mixture into the peaches.

While the peaches marinate, make your crust. 

I recommend this easy version of my father's crust.
 Then on to the topping!

Topping ingredients

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground in food processor
1/2 cup rolled oats, whole
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
One half stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds

 Pulse together all the topping ingredients in the food processor until crumbly.

Spread the topping over the pie. Place the pie on a baking sheet. Lay one sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top. Bake at 375 for 50 to 60 minutes. Bake until the crust and topping are golden. I took the foil off for the last 10 minutes, going for that extra crunch

Let the pie sit for four hours at room temperature before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired. (Everyone did, even the chocoholics.)

Now, hmmm, which book to choose for the discussion? My friends and I had a very interesting chat about tarot card reading over pieces of this pie. Did we believe in tarot or horoscopes? How far should a friend go to protect another friend's confidence? (You'll remember that Hayley Snow's dear friend Lorenzo is a tarot card reader. Only he seems to have lost the ability to see his own future in FATAL RESERVATIONS.) Here's more on that book, a blog about the evolution of Lorenzo, and some of the recent reviews.

But if your book club meets around the holidays, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS would be a perfect choice--Christmas in Key West!

Near Valentine's Day? Try MURDER WITH GANACHE.

And here are book discussion questions for TOPPED CHEF, DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, and AN APPETITE FOR MURDER, which would be good choices for any time of year!

Leave a comment about which book you'd choose--I'll be giving away a signed copy to one lucky commenter!

And you can follow Lucy on Facebook,



and Instagram!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

BOOK CLUB WEEK: The Christie Curse (and maybe some chocolate)

Welcome. We’re so glad you’re here! Of all the fun activities that an author gets to participate in, book clubs have got to be the best. This is our chance to meet and mingle with readers and potential readers. Book clubs are all about people who love books and are almost always full of folks who also love food and drink. That’s just one of the reasons why this week’s theme is so much fun. Mystery Lovers Kitchen is the perfect blog for a book club theme. 

We make great use of everyone’s recipes and our index all the time and for today, we’re using some of  MJ's and Victoria's own favorite past posts with easy and delicious book club treats for your book club. 

We love all book clubs whether they meet in someone’s home, a church hall, or a library. We’ve been to gatherings where the hostess served an entire dinner around the dining room table and others where the meal was pot luck on a groaning buffet table. Some groups serve desserts and coffee, other appetisers, cheese and wine. In churches and libraries, people strut their stuff with cookies. It’s all quite wonderful. Even in online book clubs, you get the impression that people are happily munching at their keyboards. 
One thing we have noticed is that there is almost always chocolate at book clubs. This is for the health benefits, of course.  May we suggest these delicious little pots-de-chocolat that are so pretty and yet easy enough that you could make them in your sleep. 

You can put serve then in any little cups or glasses that you have around. They would still be good if you served them in a jam jar.You'll find the link below!

For today, of course, we are thinking about suggestions for a book club meeting to discuss The Christie Curse. For those of you who are new to us and our series, here’s a bit of background on the first in the book collector mysteries. 

 But first, how about enjoying one of these delicious traditional Nova Scotia Oatcakes that MJ was served at a fabulous book club event in scenic Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia. You'll find the link to the post and the recipe below.

 And now at last a bit about The Christie Curse. Read on:

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared—making headlines across the world—only to show up eleven days later at a spa under an assumed name. During those eleven days, did she have time to write a play?

Jordan Kelly needs a new job and a new place to live. She’s back in Harrison Falls, New York, living with her not so law-abiding uncles, in debt thanks to a credit card–stealing ex and pending grad school loans. Enter the perfect job, a research position that includes room and board, which will allow her to spend her days hunting down rare mysteries for an avid book collector. There’s just one problem: her employer, Vera Van Alst is the most hated citizen of Harrison Falls.
Make that two problems: why is that cute young police officer taking such an interest in her?

Jordan’s first assignment is to track down a rumored unpublished and unproduced Agatha Christie play that may or may not exist. It seems easy enough, but Jordan soon finds out that her predecessor was killed while looking for it, and there is still someone out there willing to murder to keep the play out of Vera’s hands. Jordan’s new job is good…but is it worth her life?  

Now it’s time for us to toss out some questions and some delicious ideas for your real or dream book club meeting. Here are some questions we often get asked and some others we’d like to answer. 
As most of you know we are a daughter and mother team writing this series together. We often get asked what it’s like to write with your mother or your daughter.
That sounds dangerous, people suggest.

Of course, it is fraught with peril as are all such m & d relationships. However, we balance each other out. Victoria is taller and funnier and MJ has a lot of experience and is also quite tricky. We respect each other’s viewpoint and what we each bring to the table.  There’s lots of negotiation because the fact is that neither one of us actually owns the book. It’s a joint effort and we can’t afford to be unilateral or, ahem, princessy. We laugh a lot and compromise plenty.   No one needs to die off the page. Somehow it all comes together.

What drew you to the Golden Age of Detection?

We have both always read and enjoyed mysteries, something we’re sure we share with you. MJ was raised on Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and the rest of the mystery royalty and Victoria has also read and enjoyed the greats.  As book sellers we were both were involved with the Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore in Ottawa. Life in this mystery focused world made total sense to us. We get book collecting and the fascination of the genre. 
What can go wrong?

Oh ho. Well, just recently in book three we were discussing Jordan’s Uncle Kevin (who first appears in The Sayers Swindle).  MJ thought Kev was wiry and fit and Victoria thought he was pudgy and cuddly. We both agreed that Uncle Kev is always an accident waiting to happen and one step from bringing calamity to himself and others and women seemed to love him, but our vision was two different pictures of the dangerous dude. Despite this, we showed our enduring love and affection by munching a few of these little cookies together. The link is below.

 As for Uncle Kev, all will be revealed in The Wolfe Widow (September 2014)     Be there.

Speaking of uncles, are any of your relatives, um, criminals?
No, some of them are Irish and others are Italian, but they’re all solid citizens. A few of them might be known to shout “Eat! What’s the matter, don’t you like it? Eat now!” but your silver service would be safe with them. Still, we love Jordan’s crooked uncles and if you can’t have crooks in mysteries, where can you have them?

People are always eating in The Christie Curse. Why don’t they ever get fat?

Part of the author’s job is to absorb surplus calories in order to save the characters and the readers from tight waistband syndrome.  We hope you appreciate this sacrifice on our part. 

But seriously, we think that food enhances a book, engages our senses and makes everything better.

Speaking of better, this might be a good time to serve the chocolate souffle.  
 Yes, the recipe link is below.

What’s the most fun about writing a mystery book collector series drawn from the twenties and thirties?

Aside from the characters, the books and authors themselves are wonderful. For The Christie Curse, we re-read dozens of Agatha Christie books, plays, short stories and biographies. She’s a great lady who stands the test of time.  Both Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers had lives that were every bit as interesting and exciting as their books. Sometimes more so. Re-reading all the Sayers mysteries was a labor of love while working on The Sayers Swindle.  

And what about the pug?

Well, Walter may be a figment of our imaginations, but Peachy the Pug is the newest addition to our personal stable of pooches ( MJ’s two dachshunds and Victoria’s 14 year old Merlin all welcomed the frisky little rescued pug).  

What's next in the book collector series?

We're glad you asked.  The Sayers Swindle will hit the stand on December 3, 2013 and we are working on The Wolfe Widow. Having fun around here!

If you liked the Christie Curse, we know you’ll also enjoy The Sayers Swindle

Can Jordan keep going straight? Will Vera’s missing Sayers collection be found before Jordan loses her job?  What is Walter eating? Look out behind you, there’s a guy with a shovel! 

You can pre-order from your favorite bookstore or click here 


Is there anything else to eat?

Sure thing! Sometimes you have to get a treat on the table and your day's gone wrong and you're out of time.  Let's call 8-minute plum cake to the rescue!  Well, you do need to allow 25 minutes for it to bake (or you might have one in the freezer like we do)  You'll find the link below!

Click this Mystery Lovers Kitchen  link below for the oatcake recipe!
 Click thisMystery Lovers Kitchen  link for the chocolate soufflé and chocolate heart cookie    blog and recipes:

Click this Mystery Lovers Kitchen link for the pot-de-chocolat blog and recipe.

Click this Mystery Lovers Kitchen link for the 8-minute plum cake recipe.

 Thanks for coming by!  Here's a little bit more about us.  
Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between Victoria Maffini and her mother,  Mary Jane Maffini (who insists all of this IS on her diet).. The Christie Curse, their first book collector mystery, launched in March 2013 and  The Sayers Swindle, the second in the series will be out in December 2013. Please let them know how you like it.

There are lots of ways to reach them. Sign up for their newsletter at
Pleaase note that Walter the Pug in the series is a dead ringer for Peachy, Victoria's new best friend.  
Come over and friend them on Facebook
Tell them you love the pug!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Club Week: Murder by Mocha and 5 Minute Microwave Fudge by Cleo Coyle #bookclubs

It’s Book Club Week at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, and I'm happy to send a shout-out to the "Sister Dear" book club of North Carolina, whose members inspired today's post. 

The club will be discussing Murder by Mocha next Saturday at a local coffeehouse, and my husband (and partner in crime writing) will be joining me in a conference call appearance at their gathering. We're looking forward to it!

If you’d like Marc and I to appear at your own book club via telephone, drop us a line at our public e-mail box: 


And if you're new to this site or our series, keep reading...


(Frequently Asked Questions of Cleo)

1) Question: Which of your books should I read first?

Answer: There are 12 books in our bestselling Coffeehouse Mystery series, with the 13th Billionaire Blend, coming from Penguin in December. But you don’t have to read them in order. Each stands alone, and focuses on a different theme and a different aspect of New York City life.

2) Q: Do you have Reading Group Guides for my book club?

A: Yes! You can download free Book Club Discussion Questions for many of our books at our Reading Group Guide page, just click here.

Take our "killer" New York tour
at Mystery Fanfare by
clicking here.

3) Q: What are your books about?

A: My husband and I have been living and working in New York City for three decades, and our Coffeehouse Mysteries—a unique blend of crime, humor, action, and romance—are set in and around the Village Blend, a landmark coffeehouse in Greenwich Village. The coffeehouse is managed by Clare Cosi, a divorced, single mom who continually finds herself mixed up in murder. View the series trailer by clicking the arrow in the window below...



4) Q. Who else is in the cast besides Clare?

Madame, octogenarian
owner of The Village Blend
A. Clare Cosi is often assisted in her city-wide sleuthing with a colorful cast of characters. Click here to visit their avatar page and read about them in their own words. In brief, they include...

Madame Dreyfus-Allegro-Dubois, the octogenarian owner of the century-old Village Blend...

Her adult son, Matt Allegro, a globe-trotting coffee hunter, ...

A quirky family of young baristas, whom Clare not only manages but often mothers, and...

A good man and smart cop, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn, who becomes emotionally involved with Clare over the course of the series.

Mike Quinn, NYPD Detective

5) Q: What is the exact order of your titles?

A: For a checklist with the correct order of all 13 titles in the series and brief descriptions of every plotline click here. If you’d rather go to our website for this information, click here and scroll down.

6) Q: Are your books available in audio?

A: Yes. They’re produced by AudioGo (BBC America Audiobooks), and you can see the entire line by clicking here. They’re also available (simply search by title) via Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

7) Q: What book would you select for a book club discussion?

A: The holiday season is coming, so if you’re looking for a holiday-themed discussion, try...

HOLIDAY GRIND in which Clare Cosi solves
the heartless slaying of a kind sidewalk Santa...


in which Clare tracks down the
killer of a 
young cookie baker. 

And, yes, there are plenty of 
delicious holiday and cookie 
recipes included in both books.

Holiday or not, I'm also happy to suggest the same book that the "Dear Sister" Book Club chose for their discussion at a local NC coffeehouse next Saturday...

Marc and I were inspired to write this mystery after learning about an actual culinary crime. Like the other titles in the series, Murder by Mocha can be read as a stand-alone, and it offers many twists and turns. There are long-buried secrets, stunning surprises, and the characters make choices that will (no doubt) be the subject of lively discussions and even disagreements. 

To read suggested Book Club Questions for Murder by Mocha, click here.

As the story opens, Clare Cosi is working on a special project. Her employer has asked her to provide premium coffee beans to an old friend (Alicia) for the development of a new product. Mocha Magic Coffee is supposedly laced with herbal aphrodisiacs that will put the "magic" back into your love life.

Clare is skeptical about the drink’s potency—though she does plan to share it with NYPD Detective Mike Quinn (when he’s off duty, of course). Before she gets that chance, a corpse turns up in Alicia's hotel suite. Then it quickly disappears without any evidence a crime has taken place. At the product’s launch party, a pretty young executive is found dead. With half the cast going a little loco from the Mocha, Clare concludes that someone wants control of this coffee’s secret formula enough to kill for it.

In the meantime, Mike becomes embroiled in a cold case murder and shocks Clare when he informs her that she holds the key to solving it. Toss in a stunning revelation about Clare’s beloved employer, and a budding relationship between Clare’s daughter and a rogue cop named Franco, and you’ve got one heck of a caffeinated tale. 

Murder by Mocha was a blast to write, and it made two Top-10 lists for Best Cozy Reads. Thanks to our readers, it was also a bestseller in hardcover and paperback. 

Read the prologue and 
first chapter by clicking here.

Take a peek at the book's
recipe section (with foodie photos)
by clicking here.

Culinary theme:


In Murder by Mocha Clare Cosi not only caters a chocolate-themed party, she must sniff out clues at a confectioners' expo, where she also snags a sinfully delicious sample from Valrhona, one of the world's most renowned chocolatiers.

Your book club group can join Clare with a chocolate-tasting of your own because
Valrhona's online store offers tasting tins of their gourmet chocolate. You can see the line by clicking here

OR you might want to make your own chocolate treat from Murder by Mocha's recipe section. Today I'm sharing a very easy one: Five Minute Chocolate-Hazelnut Fudge. You can even make it in your microwave...

Cleo Coyle’s "Magic"
Five Minute Microwave
Chocolate-Hazelnut Fudge

“Oh, chocolate fudge I’ll eat. What I can’t swallow is fudging, as in fudging statistics, fudging results, fudging the truth. Mathematicians call it a fudge factor—putting an extra calculation into an equation just so it will work out as expected. It’s what we law enforcement types call a scam.”
                                                ~ Detective Mike Quinn,
Murder by Mocha 

Scamming does indeed play a role in Murder by Mocha's plotline, but there is no fudging in this fudge recipe. The claim that you can make it in a microwave is true, and the results are creamy, dreamy, and absolutely delicious. It's a great fudge to serve a parties or give as a gift, so you might want to keep this recipe handy for holidays... ~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.


1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (12-ounce) package of good quality semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread (room temperature)

Step 1 – Prep pan: Crisscross the bottom of an 8 x 8 square pan with two sheets of parchment paper. The parchment sheets should be long enough to extend, like handles, over the edges of the pan. 

Step 2 – Melt with microwave: Place the milk into a microwave safe bowl. Cut the butter into the milk. Pour in the chocolate chips, and microwave it all for 30 seconds. ONLY 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Nuke it for another 30 and remove to stir again. This should be enough time to melt the chocolate and butter. If not, continue microwaving and stirring in 20 second increments until everything is melted.

NOTE: Do not simply microwave this mixture for 2 solid minutes without stirring. You run the risk of scorching the chocolate and completely ruining the fudge. Once chocolate is burned, there is no saving it. Be sure to melt it slowly, in increments. 

Step 3 – Finish the fudge: Into the melted mixture, sprinkle the salt and measure in the vanilla and Nutella. 

NOTE: Nutella should not be cooked in a microwave because high heat will alter its texture and flavor, which is why I'm careful how I use it in recipes. What I want you to do is simply stir the Nutella into the warm, melted mixture that comes out of the microwave. Be sure to stir from the bottom, lifting and folding to blend everything well. 

Step 4 – Chill and cut: Now pour the chocolate mixture into your lined pan. Using a rubber spatula or back of a spoon, smooth the top, leveling it off. 

Chill the pan in the refrigerator until firm—this will take 2 to 3 hours. Remove and cut into small squares. To store, place fudge in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator, and, of course... 

Eat (and read) with joy! 
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

Sign up for my
newsletter here.

To download the free illustrated guide to 

Murder by Mocha’s recipe section, click here

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Book Club Week at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

Welcome to Book Club Week at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. All week long, we'll be bringing you ideas for your next book club meeting, including some discussion questions and, most important of course -- recipes!

I'm kicking things off, not with my latest book, but with one that's so appropriate for the season. The leaves are blowing and the air is turning crisp. That can only mean one thing -- Halloween is in the air! Naturally, you can host a Halloween book club for any book, but why not read a Halloween book like THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE?

Surprise! This isn't something one usually plans for a book club, but what fun to come in costume! Hats and boas, Happy Potter glasses, witch tights, kitty faces, and vampire capes. It's all in good fun.

There are plenty of Halloween decorating hints in THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE. If you're worried that they'll all be complicated Natasha-style ideas, don't worry. It's easy enough to set up a table with a few elements that will scream Halloween. An orange or black tablecloth. Black candles! What? Your silver candle holders are tarnished? All the better. Add a pumpkin or two and it's ready. When you talk about the book, be sure to turn down the lights and discuss it by candle light. (Note: I am not responsible for things that might go bump in the night.)

Discussion Questions:
I've made it easy for you. They're on my website right here. But feel free to make up your own questions, too!

If you're part of a group that goes all out, then by all means make Dead Man's Bones. They are simply delicious. Add Ghost Potatoes and a salad and you've got a whole meal.

Reader Lisa Jennings Perry made these mummies for an office party a couple of years ago. So cute and always popular. The recipe is in THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE.

 If you're more inclined to sweets, you can't go wrong with my Autumn Spice Cupcakes. They're everyone's favorite. Skip the cute lion faces. Make mini cupcakes and pop one piece of candy corn on top of the frosting to decorate.

Dips are always great for a group, too. If time is at a premium, buy hummus and add the carrot fingers as described below. Or make Caramelized Onion Pinto Bean dip, which is gluten-free and appropriate for vegetarians and vegans, too.

Caramelized Onion Pinto Bean Dip

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small to medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

five gnarly carrots
five almond slices

Saute the onion in the olive oil slowly over low-medium heat. Give it time to caramelize and flavor the oil. Set aside to cool. When cool, add the onions and olive oil to a food processor along with all the other ingredients except the garnish. Process until creamy, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Peel five carrots and cut to finger lengths plus an inch or so to stick in the dip. Add a dab of the dip to the tops as "glue" for the almond slice "fingernail." Insert in dip.

Serve with carrots and your favorite crackers.

And just for fun, here's an excerpt from THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE. It takes place during a seance. Madame Poisson is communicating with a spirit.

When I sat down and joined hands with Bernie and Jen again, Madame began to hum.

She stopped and muttered, “Good heavens! What are you doing? I don’t know what that means.
Charades? We have to play ghost charades? Okay, look, I watched Ghost about fifty times, but this isn’t anything like that. You’re going to have to give me some help.”

Maggie appeared to be the only one with her eyes closed. “Please, Patrick. Tell us the name of the vampire!”

“Aha. Good,” said Madame Poisson. “First name. No? First word? You look like you’re doing the YMCA dance. How about this? I’ll ask questions and you answer by knocking. Once for yes, twice for no.”

She cleared her throat. “Was it a man?”

Mars and Jen broke into smiles. We waited for a response, everyone, except Maggie, gazing around as though we expected to see spirits.

To my complete amazement, we heard a tiny ping in the sun room.

Mars leaped to his feet.

Madame Poisson motioned him to sit. “Do not disturb the spirits. Is he here with us tonight?”

I found myself holding my breath. When we heard another ping in the sun room, Bernie leaned over and whispered, “How is she doing that?”

I shrugged. I had no idea. Even worse, only nine of the people sitting in my living room were men, and I could eliminate everyone except Leon, Dash, Ray, Karl, and, I supposed, Blake. Of course, we all knew that the pings didn’t mean anything. Still, they were very odd . . .

Madame Poisson breathed heavily. She swayed ever so gently, her eyes closed. Beads of perspiration broke out on her brow, she lifted a hand, her head tilted back, and she slid from her chair onto the floor with a thump.