Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Pair of Pears -- muffin and salad #recipes from @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: As many of you know, Mr. Right is a doctor of natural medicine, primarily acupuncture, and his clinic is in our home. I’m not sure if it’s our location, in the woods outside a small town, or their generosity and gratitude that prompts some of his patients to bring him gifts, but I do enjoy them, like these fabulous dahlias. (Alas, the local restaurateur who brought us lovely bottles of wine no longer has back pain, thanks to Mr. Right, so no more gifts of wine!)

But when two bags of plums and pears showed up in one week, and my hunny was leaving town for a few days for a seminar, I had to get creative. Pears this week; we’ll talk plums on my next turn.

Years ago, when I first started teaching myself to cook, I made dozens of muffins. I’d learned to bake pies, cookies, and quick breads from my mother, but her idea of muffins was a box of Jiffy muffin mix. Somehow, I ended up with three muffin cookbooks. This recipe is a variation of one I’d apparently never made before, judging from the lack of scribbled notes, Mostly Muffins by Barbara Albright and Leslie Weiner (St. Martin’s Press, 1984). These are moist, dense, and fruity, with the spice combo of a fragrant gingerbread – great for fall.

In the muffins, I mixed the yellow and red pears – what variety they are, I have no idea. Call them "Bill and Bea's Pears."

For the salad, half a yellow pear worked perfectly. I made a simple balsamic dressing, but a red wine vinaigrette with shallots would be lovely, too.

When I initially typed up the muffin recipe, it called for diced bears, so here’s a picture of one, leaving our apple tree.

Ginger Pear Muffins

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt (not vanilla)
½ cup canola or other vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups diced pears (3-4 small)
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard muffin pan.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a medium bowl, mix yogurt, oil, molasses, and egg until blended. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the yogurt mixture; stir to combine. Stir in pears, raisins, and walnuts.

Spoon batter into muffin pan – fill to the top, as these won’t rise a lot. Bake 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then remove from cups to finish cooling. Serve warm or cool. Store in an airtight container. These freeze well.

Makes 12- 15 muffins.

Arugula Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Pecans and Vinaigrette

arugula – about half a cup for each salad
a ripe pear, sliced  – half for each salad
blue cheese or gorgonzola, crumbled – half an ounce or about one tablespoon for each salad
toasted pecans, broken or chopped – 4-5 halves, about one tablespoon

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1-1/2 teaspoons packed brown sugar, light or dark

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Close and shake vigorously to mix, about 10 seconds. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Refrigerate leftovers up to a week. Shake to mix or re-emulsify before using.

Compose the salads: Lay arugula leaves on a salad plate. Arrange the pear slices on top. Add the crumbled cheese and broken nuts. Dress, serve, and enjoy!

"Budewitz's finely drawn characters, sharp ear for dialogue, and well-paced puzzle make Jewel Bay a destination for every cozy fan." --- Kirkus Reviews

From the cover of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, Food Lovers' Village Mystery #5 (Midnight Ink,  available in trade paper, e-book, and audio):  

In Jewel Bay---Montana's Christmas Village---all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

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

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cabbage with Bacon & Apples

Maybe it's my age or maybe it's trendy, but it seems like a lot of my friends are talking about their immune systems. Then I happened to read an article that said to eat seasonally to boost our immune systems. Just as cold and flu season are rolling around, along come all the wonderful fall flavors and produce that are immune system boosting powerhouses. Of course, cabbage was one of the foods mentioned.

Now I will readily admit that I dislike sauerkraut. I'm not adverse to cabbage in general. And I love red cabbage cooked with red wine and apples.

But I happened to have a green cabbage in the fridge. So I experimented with some simple flavors and we thought it turned out great. There's a slight sweet-sour thing going on in this dish!

Cabbage with Bacon & Apples

1 package bacon
1 onion
1 green cabbage
2 apples
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
maple syrup

Fry the bacon in a large pot that has a lid. Meanwhile, chop the onion and cabbage, and peel, core, and slice the apples. When the bacon is cooked through, remove from the pot and set aside. Add the chopped onion to the bacon grease. (Yes, really.) Cook about five minutes before adding the cabbage, apples, and apple cider vinegar. Stir. Chop the bacon into small bits and add to the pot. Put the lid on, reduce the heat and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Add the maple syrup to taste. (I used 2 tablespoons.) With the lid on, simmer another half hour.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Welcome guest author Ellen Byron + book #giveaway!

Ellen Byron authors the Cajun Country Mystery series. A Cajun Christmas Killing and Body on the Bayou both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery and were nominated for Agatha awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. Plantation Shudders was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Mardi Gras Murder was deemed “a winner” by Publishers Weekly. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. She also worked as a cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing.

Check out the giveaway below!

Take it away, Ellen!


Bananas have been imported to the U.S. through New Orleans since the mid-1800s. By the 1950s, the Crescent City was the major port of entry for bananas being shipped from Central and South America. In Body on the Bayou, my second Cajun Country Mystery, I created a recipe for Bananas Foster Coffee Cake, inspired by the iconic dessert served at Brennan’s, a legendary NOLA restaurant. When I was mulling over ideas for another banana-centric recipe to include in my fourth book, Mardi Gras Murder, I found inspiration in a delicious mix of butter, sugar cane syrup, and pecans served with bread at Houmas House Plantation’s Café Burnside.

I came up with my own take on a sweet butter and then worked backwards to match it with a dish. Pancakes seemed the perfect choice. But not just any pancakes — banana pancakes.

The Butter:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or rum, if you’re not serving kids)
¼ teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly blended. Set aside.

The Pancakes:

2 cups Bisquick flour
1 and ½ cups milk
1 ripe banana, cut up
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 egg whites

Chopped raw pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a clean mixing bowl. Using a mixer, mix slowly at first to gently combine the ingredients, and then increase speed until the ingredients are well blended.

Pour in ¼ cups onto a hot griddle. Flip when the pancakes start to bubble. Press down on them if you need to in order to make sure they cook through.

To assemble, take one pancake and slather on the brown sugar butter. Top with another pancake and do the same. If you want a third pancake, follow the previous instructions. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if you’d like.

Serves 4-6.

NOTE: you’ll have lots of brown sugar butter left over. It stores for a couple of weeks if you want to wait until your next batch of banana pancakes. Or, here are a few bonus recipes:

  1. Spread on toast and sprinkle with pecan pieces.
  2. Mix a ½ cup of the brown sugar with a ¼ cup of rum and melt in a skillet or frying pan. Add a cut banana to the butter and cook until the banana is soft. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Voila! Your very own Bananas Foster.
  3. Blend ¼ cup with a ¼ to a ½ cup of light cream cheese and serve as a dip with cinnamon pita chips.


One commenter will win a copy of my latest book.  
Leave a comment and tell me your favorite pancake!  
Leave your email address so I can contact you if you win! Winner picked Wednesday.

Connect with Ellen online here:


Saturday, October 13, 2018

#Easy Chicken and Butternut Squash Hash by @Denise Swanson

This skillet supper is amazingly easy to make. Precubed butternut squash saves chopping time and microwaving the squash with the Brussels saves cooking time.

12 ounces prechopped butternut squash (about 3 cups)
 1 tablespoon water
 2 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered.
 6 center-cut bacon slices, chopped (I use turkey bacon)
1 chicken breast 
1 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic cloves
 1 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
 3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

First seasoned, grill, and shred your chicken breast.

Next place squash and 1 tablespoon water in a large microwavable bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, recover with plastic wrap, and microwave an additional 2-4 minutes or until tender. Transfer squash and Brussels sprouts to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook for about 5 minutes until crisp. Stir often. Add chicken, onion, garlic, thyme, pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; cook until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in vinegar. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel.

Increase heat to high and add remaining 1/4 cup oil to skillet, then add squash mixture. Cook 6-8 minutes, stirring often. Once mixture begins to brown add chicken mixture to squash mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.



The chips are down in Scumble River

School psychologist Skye Denison-Boyd had hoped that her maternity leave would be at least a little relaxing, but when she and her husband, Wally, meet with the priest to discuss their newborn twins' christening, an explosion at the nearby bowling alley rocks the rectory. And although the business was closed at the time of the blast, there's a body inside.

As police chief, Wally is inevitably drawn into the investigation, which seems to indicate that foul play is afoot again in Scumble River, and Skye can't help but do a bit of her own sleuthing. But the clues come fast and furious, ranging from an odd new stranger in town to animosity toward the gambling machines that had recently been installed at the bowling alley, and Skye finds herself wondering if this could be the puzzle that stumps her for good.

New York Times bestselling author Denise Swanson has penned another hit for cozy fans with Die Me a River, the latest installment in her beloved Welcome Back to Scumble River mystery series.



Right when Dani thinks she's hit a dead-end in her career, she unexpectedly inherits an enormous old house in a quaint college town. This gives her the perfect opportunity to pursue her true passion―cooking! So Dani opens Chef-to-Go, preparing delicious, ready-made meals for hungry students attending the nearby university, as well as providing personal chef services and catering events for the local community. To help support her new business, she opens her home to a few students, renting them rooms and becoming almost like a big sister figure in their lives.

But just as Dani is relishing her sweet new life, the friend of one of her boarders is murdered, and Dani becomes one of the primary suspects! She'll have to scramble to clear her name and save her business before the killer reappears―perhaps to silence the new chef forever.

Enjoy the occasional romance?