Thursday, December 2, 2021

Irish Soda Bread, Take One @LucyBurdette


LUCY BURDETTE:  For some reason I had decided I was not a fan of Irish soda bread. Maybe I had a bad loaf somewhere, sort of like a bad clam? I can't exactly remember. However, a few months ago I went into my favorite Connecticut bakery’s pop-up event and noticed that their soda bread looked delicious. I bought a loaf and we gobbled the whole thing. This is my attempt to recreate it, using the website Sally's Baking Addiction as a starting point.  Next time I make this (and there will be a next time,) I would add another tablespoon of sugar and also a tablespoon or more of zested orange peel. I will also try substituting my uncle’s dried Michigan cherries for the raisins.


1 and 3/4 cups buttermilk or milk with added 1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 large egg 

4 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your hands and the counter

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

I've gotten in the habit of not buying buttermilk, because I usually end up throwing half of it out. And it is higher in sodium than regular milk. If you want to use buttermilk, have at it. If you would like a substitute, squeeze half a lemon into a two-cup measuring cup and fill to the one and 3/4 cup mark with whole milk. Set that aside to come to room temperature. Whisk it together along with one egg.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, the flour, the sugar, the baking soda, the salt, and the caraway seeds. Stir in the raisins.

Cut 5 tablespoons of very cold butter into the dry ingredients. The colder the butter, the lighter the batter. 

When the butter is pea sized, carefully fold in the egg and milk mixture. 

Move the batter to a floured surface (I used parchment paper with a little flour sprinkled on it.) Flour your hands and knead the dough briefly into a round. Again, shorter is better, even 30 seconds. 

Move the batter to a prepared greased pan. (This can be a pie plate, a cake pan, or cast iron skillet.) Those round pans help the bread keep its shape. Once in the pan, make a cross in the batter with a sharp knife.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 25 minutes. You can check the bread halfway through to see if the top is getting too brown. If so, cover with foil for the second half of the baking.

Let the loaf cool for ten minutes or more before you slice it. Serve warm with more butter and possibly raspberry jam, or for breakfast, maybe with peanut butter?

In addition to Lucy's Key West food critic mysteries, she's written a thriller called Unsafe Haven! Hardcover and audio will be out this week.

About Unsafe Haven
A chance meeting on the New York subway leads to the destinies of two very different women becoming intertwined with terrifying consequences in this nerve-jangling thriller.

Sixteen-year-old Addison is on the run. She's leaving her life on New York's streets behind for a new one with Rafe, armed with just his phone number on a scrap of paper. She's taking the subway to meet him in New Jersey. He'll take care of her. Or so she thinks . . .

Elizabeth Brown's world has fallen apart and she's thinking about her newly ex-fiancé. Until she locks eyes with a teenage girl while waiting for the train doors to open, and a bundle is thrust into her arms as she leaves the subway. A baby, wrapped in a dirty coat.

Elizabeth phones the number she finds in the coat pocket. Then wishes she hadn't. Someone wants Addison and the baby. And they'll do whatever it takes to get them . . .

In a major departure from her lighthearted Key West mysteries, Burdette invites readers into the world of a chilling thriller. (Unsafe Haven is) a page-turner highlighting the problem of exploited runaways.

—Kirkus Reviews

If you'd like a nibble before you buy, read the first chapter here. And if you'd like to read more about the genesis of the book, read this post from Jungle Red Writers.

Ways to buy your copy of UNSAFE HAVEN:

Book depository 


Barnes and Noble 


Severn House 

And if this is not in your budget (which I totally get,) you can invite your local library to order a copy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Apple Cider Chai Spice Bundt Cake #recipe by Mia P. Manansala @MPMtheWriter

This cake is simple, delicious, and a cold weather fave. Not only does it combine two of my favorite drinks (apple cider and chai), but it looks and tastes like a giant apple cider donut! There are still a few tweaks I’d like to try to up the apple cider flavor (maybe double the cider and boil to reduce to a syrup and concentrate the flavor? Add an apple cider glaze instead of the cinnamon sugar coating? Both?) and I think creating my own chai spice mix would be better than the jarred mix I used, but if you want a fairly impressive dessert without a lot of fuss, you should definitely give this a try!

Apple Cider Chai Spice Bundt Cake

Apple Cider Chai Spice Bundt Cake


For the cake:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 TBSP chai spice mix or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar coating:

  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) melted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon OR chai/pumpkin pie spice mix


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray and then dust with flour or use Baker’s Joy (my preference). Set aside.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the flour, spice mix, salt, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar and oil. Mix to combine.
  4. Add the eggs to the sugar mixture and mix on medium speed for about two minutes.
  5. Add the applesauce and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  6. With the mixer on low, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by half of the apple cider. Continue alternating the flour mixture and the apple cider, finishing with the flour mixture. Mix until no streaks of flour remain.
  7. Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for about 50 minutes. The cake is done when a knife or chopstick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs on it, but no batter.
  8. Let the cake cool for at least an hour in the bundt pan before turning it over onto a cake plate or cooling rack.
  9. Using a pastry brush, coat the cake in melted butter.
  10. Mix the sugar and cinnamon for the coating and then sprinkle onto the top and sides of the cake.
  11. Enjoy with a steaming cup of tea or a nice hot cider!

Mix the sugars and oil thoroughly, then add the eggs and mix until combined. Add applesauce and vanilla extract and mix for about two minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture.

With the mixer still on low, add half the apple cider. Alternate adding the remaining flour and apple cider, finishing with the last third of the flour.

Once the cake batter is fully mixed, with no large clumps of flour, add to the prepared bundt pan and bake in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 50 minutes. Check with a thin knife or chopstick--it's done when there's only a few moist crumbs on the utensil.

Let the cake cool for at least an hour, then flip out onto a plate. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and melt the butter for the coating.

Use a pastry brush to coat the whole cake with melted butter. Use all of the butter even though it seems like a lot at first!

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar all over. You might want to put your cake plate on top of an easy to clean surface since this part can get messy.


My family isn't very big on pie, but they really enjoyed this cake on Thanksgiving! It'd make a great addition to any gathering, no matter what holidays you celebrate. Where do you fall in the Cake vs. Pie argument? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked this recipe, make sure you sign up for my newsletter! I include a Filipino-themed recipe every month, as well as giveaways and book recommendations!


Homicide and Halo-Halo (February 8, 2022)

Death at a beauty pageant turns Tita Rosie’s Kitchen upside down in the latest entry of this witty and humorous cozy mystery series by Mia P. Manansala.


Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new café after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.


To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago—a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case—because it looks like one of them might be next.



Pre-order from Murder by the Book and get a signed bookplate, sticker, and bookmark!

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Kale Salad With Roasted Mushrooms, Pears, Torn Croutons and Blue Cheese #recipe by @LeslieBudewitz

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  We love a good hearty salad, and as the weather gets colder, it’s great to have one that combines warm ingredients with the greens. This is an unusual combination, but we loved it and will definitely make it again. 

The original recipe calls for a pear or an apple. We loved the flavor the pear added. If I were to use an apple, I’d choose one with a mild flavor, like a Pink Lady. The strong flavor and bite of, say, a Granny Smith, would be too much. 

We usually have a bag in the freezer of leftover bread ends and slices, and typically turn them into seasoned croutons. I raided that bag for this dish, and breaking the toasts into croutons with my hands was great fun!

If you don’t like, or have, blue cheese, try Gorgonzola, which we used, goat cheese, or feta. I used a mix of button and crimini mushrooms, but others would be tasty, too. 

This salad pairs neatly with grilled chicken—we rubbed ours with a bit of olive oil and the Balsamic Chicken Blend from Red Stick Spice in Baton Rouge.

Kale Salad With Roasted Mushrooms, Pears, Torn Croutons and Blue Cheese

Adapted from the Washington Post

For the salad:

3 or 4 slices of crusty bread 

olive oil 

6 to 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced 

1 small red onion (3-4 ounces), roughly chopped 

table salt or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4-6 ounces curly green kale, thick stems and ribs removed, and chopped

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons apple cider or juice

2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil 

For the top:

1 large pear or mild-flavored apple (5-6 ounces), sliced

3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush the bread with olive oil and lay the slices on one side of a large, rimmed baking sheet. On the other side, lay the mushrooms and onions; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir or toss, spreading in an even layer, then season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize. (You may need to take the bread out a few minutes early.)

Meanwhile, in a large serving bowl, combine the chopped kale and a pinch of salt. Rub the salt into the kale with your hands for a minute or two. 

Make the dressing: Using a jar with a tightfitting lid, mix the cider, mustard, vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of oil. Shake to mix, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. 

When the vegetables and bread are done, remove them from the oven. Immediately add the vegetables to the kale and stir, to allow the heat to wilt the kale a bit. When the bread is cool enough to handle, break it into rough croutons. Add croutons and pear or apple to the kale and vegetable mixture. Pour in 2/3 of the dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle the cheese on top and serve family-style, with additional dressing on the side.

Serves 4-6. 

Wishing you a kale and hearty day!  

From the cover of BITTERROOT LAKE, written as Alicia Beckman (Crooked Lane Books; available in hardcover, ebook, and audio): 

When four women separated by tragedy reunite at a lakeside Montana lodge, murder forces them to confront everything they thought they knew about the terrifying accident that tore them apart, in Agatha Award-winning author Alicia Beckman's suspense debut.

Twenty-five years ago, during a celebratory weekend at historic Whitetail Lodge, Sarah McCaskill had a vision. A dream. A nightmare. When a young man was killed, Sarah's guilt over having ignored the warning in her dreams devastated her. Her friendships with her closest friends, and her sister, fell apart as she worked to build a new life in a new city. But she never stopped loving Whitetail Lodge on the shores of Bitterroot Lake.

Now that she's a young widow, her mother urges her to return to the lodge for healing. But when she arrives, she's greeted by an old friend--and by news of a murder that's clearly tied to that tragic day she'll never forget.

And the dreams are back, too. What dangers are they warning of this time? As Sarah and her friends dig into the history of the lodge and the McCaskill family, they uncover a legacy of secrets and make a discovery that gives a chilling new meaning to the dreams. Now, they can no longer ignore the ominous portents from the past that point to a danger more present than any of them could know.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Watch for her first standalone suspense novel, Bitterroot Lake (written as Alicia Beckman) in April 2021 from Crooked Lane Books.

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

Swing by her website and subscribe to her seasonal newsletter, for a chat about the writing life, what she's working on, and  what she's reading -- and a free short story. And join her on Facebook where she shares book news and giveaways from her writer friends, and talks about food, mysteries, and the things that inspire her.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Cran-Apple Crisp by Maya Corrigan #recipe

I always enjoy baking with fresh fruit when it's in season. A cranberry-apple crisp makes an easy treat for the late fall and early winter, when both cranberries and apples are plentiful. Though I love fruit pies, I make crisps more often. This dish uses oats rather than flour for the topping, giving it more crunch than a pie crust. And there's no dough to roll. 


2 cups fresh cranberries
3 cups peeled apples, coarsely chopped 
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Most of the ingredients

Ingredients left out of the other photo

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the cranberries, chopped apples, and granulated sugar. Put the mixture into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish or a 9-inch pie pan.

Using your fingers or a pasty blender, make a crumbly mixture of the butter, brown sugar, and oats. Combine the salt and the cinnamon and work them into the oat mixture. Sprinkle it over the fruit. 

Bake at 350 degrees until the top browns, approximately one hour.  

Remove the crisp from the oven, wait until it is no longer hot. Cut or scoop out portions onto plates. Serve warm or cold, either plain as shown in the photo, or with cream or ice cream.

I enjoy desserts with fresh cranberries. A year ago I shared a recipe for a cranberry tart. Once upon a time, when I had few holiday ornaments, I made garlands of cranberries to decorate our tree. 

Do you find uses for cranberries this time of year?


It's a perfect time for a holiday mystery!

"A wonderfully seasonal cozy mystery"

--Criminal Element

The 7th and latest book in Maya's series is Gingerdead Man.

During Bayport's Dickens of a Holiday festival, Val is hosting a private tea party for the volunteers dressed as Dickens characters including Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past. A Santa who's more naughty than nice also comes to tea. An unexpected guest arrives, "shrouded in a deep black garment" like the eeriest Dickens ghost, and hands out gingerbread men with white icing skeleton bones. Though the creepy treat called a gingerdead man looks like a Halloween leftover, cookie addict Santa can't resist it. When the man in red turns blue, Val and Granddad have a cookie-cutter killer to catch.

"If you are looking to settle in with a well plotted cozy this Christmas, Gingerdead Man is for you. Grab a gingerbread man and some hot chocolate and enjoy." -- Mark Baker, Carstairs Considers

"Plenty of red herrings, mixed motives, and recipes for foodies make for a spirited holiday cozy." -- Kirkus Review of Gingerdead Man

"Maya Corrigan is skillfully able to take elements from several of my favorite Golden Age mysteries and weave them together....Gingerdead Man is a superb mix of cozy Christmas mystery shenanigans and hair-raising thrills." -- Miranda Owen, Fresh Fiction


Maya Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries featuring café manger Val and her live-wire grandfather solving murders in a Chesapeake Bay town. Maya lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Before writing crime fiction, she taught American literature, writing, and detective fiction at Northern Virginia Community College and Georgetown University. When not reading and writing, she enjoys theater, travel, trivia, cooking, and crosswords. Visit her website for book news, easy recipes, mystery trivia, and a free culinary mystery story.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Guest Lorie Lewis Ham with Grandma's Recipe + Book #Giveaway!

It is my great pleasure to welcome a talented writer, editor, and all-around mystery maven to our Kitchen. ONE OF US, the launch book in Lorie's new Tower District Mystery series is a joy to read, and she's giving a print copy away today to one lucky commenter. To enter Lorie's giveaway, be sure to leave a comment (with your email address) at the end