Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Behind the Scenes with Shawn Reilly Simmons

We here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen are excited to welcome guest Shawn Reilly Simmons, who's giving us a sneak peek into cooking for the stars!




Thanks to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen and Sheila Connolly in particular for inviting me over to share today!



Like many of the authors who regularly contribute to this blog, I write culinary mysteries that are inspired by my time working in a kitchen. Where my experience deviates a bit is the last cooking job I had was working as part of the crew on a movie set. That "kitchen" was really a couple of trucks and tents, constantly on the move, setting up wherever principal filming was taking place on any particular day over a four month period.

My Red Carpet Catering mysteries take place behind the scenes on movie sets, and are told from the point of view of Penelope Sutherland, chef-owner of a theatrical catering crew. There are three books so far: Murder on a Silver Platter, Murder on the Half Shell, and Murder on a Designer Diet. I'm happy to report I've been signed on for three more, all published by Henery Press.


The days cooking on a movie set are long, and most of the work takes place outside. That can be nice on a pretty day, but can be challenging when it's raining or when you're chopping vegetables in sub-freezing temps in a cold tent. Those kinds of days it's good to be assigned to the grill in the mobile kitchen. But that's exactly where you don't want to be during the hottest days of summer. That's when the tent feels much nicer.

Our team cooked for roughly three hundred cast and crew, all of whom came to eat twice a day for either breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner. We cooked, prepped, cleaned, broke down, set up, and drove to different spots in Washington DC during the times in between. A typical shift was at least twelve hours, but more often ended up around sixteen, most of them on our feet.

Movie stars, and the people who work on the movies they star in, don't expect burgers and fries when they call dinner break. We prepared restaurant-quality food including roast salmon, prime rib, fresh vegetables and pasta, not to mention a massive salad bar that rivals any I've seen in a restaurant. But the most important thing was we had to have it ready on time, every time. Films are shot on a schedule with lots of people on the clock. You never want to be the one holding up production.

The catering crew accommodated special meal requests for those who adhered to special diets or had allergies. We threw a few parties for the cast and crew on Friday nights when the week was a wrap, and a long week of work was done. Overall my time as an on set caterer was fun, exhausting, educational, and rewarding. And it was definitely a unique experience I'll never forget.

And now I know how to throw a giant dinner party--even though I've never had the occasion since to cook for hundreds of people. Maybe someday...

In my most recent book, Murder on a Designer Diet, Penelope and her team serve s'mores after a particularly rough night on the set. Because it's awfully cold outside in real life, even too cold for an outdoor fire for me, here's an easy way to bring s'mores inside and give them a holiday twist.


Red Carpet Catering Holiday S'mores Bars

Ingredients:

A dozen graham crackers (smashed)
A stick (1/2C) melted & cooled butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups marshmallows (20 or so of the big ones)
3/4 cups dark chocolate chips
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
6 candy canes, smashed! (keep pieces relatively uniform, no large, jagged pieces-use a Ziploc to control the scattering of candy dust)



Preheat oven to 400F. Line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang for easy removal after baking.

Smash (I love smashing things) graham crackers in a Ziploc bag, pour into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in butter and brown sugar until well mixed, then press mixture into the bottom of your lined pan to form the crust.



Bake in the preheated oven until crust is lightly browned, about 6 minutes--don't let it get too dark!




Remove pan from oven and let cool a few minutes. Cover crust evenly with the dark chocolate chips. 




Layer marshmallows on top. Cover again with white chocolate chips, and your smashed candy canes. (Like you're making the world's sweetest lasagna!)

Pop it back in the oven until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are browned, 3-4 minutes depending on your oven. (Don't let it get too dark, again!)



Let s'mores rest in pan on a baking rack until cool, about 30 minutes (seriously, it will be like sweet lava in there, so be careful).

When it's totally cooled, pop your pan into the refrigerator until set, about 45 minutes. Remove and cut into squares. 




You can make this the day before and cover tightly with film if you're heading to a pot luck party.

I like to pair my s'mores with Knobby Chocolate (almond) Milk: 2C Almond Milk, 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips melted over low heat, then add a shot of Knob Creek (or your favorite bourbon) after you pull it off the stove. Happy Holidays!

And there's a holiday giveaway! 
I'll give a copy of Murder on a Designer Diet along with some holiday treats--peppermint bark & holiday tea. Just leave a comment below.



Shawn Reilly Simmons is the author of the Red Carpet Catering mysteries featuring Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer. Shawn is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America and the Crime Writers' Association in the UK. She serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, and is an editor at Level Best Books, publisher of crime fiction anthologies including the Best New England Crime Stories. 

For more details, see http://www.shawnreillysimmons.com/




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#Christmas Week butter cookie recipe + book #giveaway from author @DarylWoodGerber


From Daryl aka Avery:

OH, YAY!  A HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY BELOW...

Sometimes it's fun to try new recipes.  Last week, I found a great looking, multifaceted recipe in my Ralph's Supermarket flyer that I thought would be perfect and easy for kids to make. It's a basic butter cookie that you can dress up in lots of ways. The recipe showed how to make cinnamon pecan pinwheels, chocolate peppermint cookies, apricot button cookies, all using the same butter cookie recipe.

Well, I had my grandsons over the other day, and one of them is really into cooking. He has a burn on his arm to prove it - he showed me. It's minor. Got too close to the stove at home. We were VERY careful to keep him away from hot stuff this time around.


He chose to make the cinnamon pinwheels!

Now, talk about a mess! Oh my. Kids just can't seem to keep the flour from going everywhere, but that's another story. I'm a good floor cleaner-upper (once they are out of the kitchen and settled at the art table).

The recipe uses regular flour, but you know me. I need to make things gluten-free. This made it difficult. Gluten-free flour dough just doesn't "roll" the same as regular flour dough. Sigh. It breaks. The "stretch and give" of gluten is vital. I've proven this multiple times when making my quiche or pie shells. But the wonder of baking is that things "melt" together and ultimately taste great, so if you can  get over cookies not being "beautiful," then you are ready to start celebrating.

Sugar cookie found in Ralph’s Supermarket Flyer

Basic Butter Cookie Dough

1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour (*gluten-free flour substitution is equal)

In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth (but not fluffy).  Beat in egg. Add flour (*or GF flour) and mix until incorporated. 


[forgot to take this picture; it's basic]

Chill dough for 1 hour. (I only refrigerated ½ hour. I think that was fine. And I had eager little boys.)

On floured parchment (*or GF floured parchment, if making GF cookies), set half the dough. Press down and flour the top. Cover with another piece of parchment and roll out into rectangle about 10 x 8. Then trim edges straight.  Repeat with second half of dough. Slide rectangles (on parchment paper) onto a baking sheet.

OOPS.  I misread this last direction when doing it, and it was difficult to move the dough – I did it, but it was messy. So pay attention. Keep it on the parchment paper.

Refrigerate another 20 minutes.  (*GF version refrigerate about 10 minutes; otherwise it can get “firm”).

For cinnamon pinwheels:

Meanwhile mix 3 tablespoons softened butter, ¾ cup brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl until well combined. Crumble half of the mixture of each of the rectangles and pat to distribute. (Ralph’s recipe also included ¼ cup chopped pecans; we elected not to use nuts.)


With long side facing you, using the parchment paper, roll rectangles into logs.  Chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut logs crosswise into ¼” slices. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until barely browned, about 12 minutes.  Let cool on sheets or wire racks.  Makes 3-4 dozen.

**My pinwheels spread a lot and then turned out sort of rectangular. I think this was because the gluten-free version was a little firm and didn’t roll into a nice round “log.” C’est la vie!



No matter what, consider setting cookies on two baking sheets.

Note: I used the trimmed edges for regular sugar cookies. I rolled the dough together, set out walnut-sized rounds. Pressed them down, and one of my darling helpers covered them with sprinkles. COVERED THEM.  LOL!!  Delicious!




AND NOW...A HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY!



LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT SOME COOKING MESS 
(OR CREATIVE MESS) YOU'VE MADE 
AND REMEMBER TO INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL. 
ONE COMMENTER WILL WIN A BOOK LATER ON THIS WEEK!


Savor the mystery!
Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames
Tasty ~ Zesty ~ Dangerous!

*
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GRILLING THE SUBJECT, the 5th Cookbook Nook Mystery, is out!
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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gluten-free Noodle Kugel, not just for the holidays!! Recipe from @DarylWoodGerber




Noodle kugel is not just for the holidays!   

If you've never had kugel, yes, it's a traditional Jewish dish, often served on the sabbath and holidays, but it can be made throughout the year. It consists of egg noodles and eggs and lots of other delicious treats.  I learned to make this after my husband and I got married. He's Jewish; I'm Christian. We had lots of things to learn about each other's religions and have found common ground in food. [He likes my yule log, which I'll share in December.]

Anyway, kugel. I'd never had it before, but I quickly became an expert at making it. To me, it's like apple pie in a casserole!

When I had to start eating gluten-free, I had to give up all sorts of delicious treats, and when the Jewish holidays came around, I thought, "Oh, no! What am I going to do? No one makes gluten-free egg noodles!"  

Now, there are some good gluten-free matzo crackers, but you can't use matzo to make noodle pudding.  And, yes, there are some delicious pastas (spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagna and macaroni elbows), but no noodles. 


Until now! I found a "long" egg noodle that is fabulous! It's made by Jovial.
I got so excited, I went right home and made noodle pudding, and my family couldn't tell the difference from my "regular" version.
So, please, for the holidays, if you need to eat gluten-free and you used to enjoy noodle kugel, try this recipe!  If you can eat wheat, then you can make this recipe just the same, using regular egg noodles.

Noodle Kugel


(serves 8)

1/2 cup golden raisins  
12 ounces egg noodles (use gluten-free if necessary; Jovial brand is great!)
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 pound cottage cheese (2 cups)
2 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 green apple, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar for topping * (see below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Presoak raisins in hot water while preparing the rest.


Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil. Boil the noodles for about 4-6 minutes, stirring often so they don't stick together. Strain the noodles. Rinse. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, and chopped apples. Drain raisins and add to mixture. Stir well. Add noodles. Stir again.


Pour the mixture into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and extra sugar. (I used 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.)


Bake until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Then reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.


Savor the mystery!


Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames
Tasty ~ Zesty ~ Dangerous!


Friend Daryl on Facebook
Friend Avery on Facebook
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Follow Avery on Twitter
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Check out our website.


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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Peppermint White Chocolate Popcorn AKA the Easiest Holiday Treat Ever!

We at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen are delighted to welcome guest Paige Shelton, who gives us a wonderful (and easy!) holiday treat!


Necessity being the mother of invention and all, this quick and easy treat was first whipped up one late afternoon after my husband mentioned that he’d offered to take something to a holiday party we were to attend about one hour later. Dropping by the grocery store on the way was an option, but I thought I’d give the pantry a quick look. The popcorn box fell as I opened the door, so I took it as a sign. Well, two signs – however, I ignored the “pantry needs cleaning out” sign.

I picked up the box, started rummaging around some more and gathered the peppermint extract. Then I got lucky and found two bars of white chocolate (I think holiday elves must have put them there to help me out – it is rare and unusual that I would have such a thing hanging around), and got to work.



The best popcorn for this recipe is the Homestyle variety, which means it has only a smattering of butter. No Movie Theater here. You can also pop it yourself in a popper or saucepan on the stove and leave out the butter, but I was in way too much of a hurry the first time I made it - microwaved had to do and it worked well. 

Pop two bags and dump the popcorn into a bowl. I add another ¼ or so teaspoon of salt because that salty/sweet combination is one of my favorites, and I really like to notice the salty part.


Melt the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave per the melting instructions and then mix ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract into the melted goodness. Pour over the popcorn. It’s pretty important to try to pour evenly – don’t just dump it in and then toss. Try to stir the popcorn while pouring and then do some extra tossing. And, when you’re stirring and tossing, keep the utensils close to the bowl sides and bottom when you first go in – fewer broken pieces that way.

When I made it for the party, I just poured it into a bowl after coating it and took along. Even though the white chocolate hadn’t had time to solidify all the way it wasn’t gooey, and the popcorn was gobbled up quickly. Other times I’ve made it, I’ve spread it out on a baking sheet and let the coating harden up before serving it.  Additionally, I’ve tried adding little pieces of peppermint candy, but I like it better without the candy. It keeps the texture consistent.
 
 
 
See, easiest ever, huh?

Thanks to Mystery Lovers Kitchen for letting me drop by today. Hope everyone has a delicious and happy and safe holiday season.

Paige
 
Paige Shelton is the author of two mystery series. Her latest book and the fifth in her Farmers’ Market series MERRY MARKET MURDER is now available at bookstores and online everywhere. For more information on Paige or her books, visit www.paigeshelton.com