Monday, June 1, 2020

Around the Kitchen Table: Our Summer Weight Loss Tips & Recipes w/book #giveaway

CLEO COYLE: If you follow this blog, then you know we all enjoy treats. We've blogged beautiful cakes, cookies, and rich desserts. Just for today, however, with summer now upon us, I thought it would be fun to ask my fellow culinary mystery writers to share some ideas for lighter fare, as well as weight loss tips they've found helpful over the years.

I'll go first...

By now, I'm sure most of us have heard about intermittent fasting, though it may not not be the solution for everyone. It has worked for me. I've lost twenty pounds with this method (singing "Hallelujah!" from the chubby girl chorus), although the key for me and my metabolism has been keeping my carb intake low (#keto) in conjunction with the fasting, and that means keeping my cravings under control.

My best tip is: don't fight your cravings, trick yourself into satisfying them. Here is one example. I enjoy pizza, but it's too high in carbs and calories for me when I'm not moving around enough. Instead of eating a New York slice, I'll make my "Pizza Bites" (click here for the recipe or on the photo below). It's just one example of how I'll "trick" my craving monster with a lower carb (and calorie) treat...

Click the photo for Cleo's recipe.

How about you, fellow foodies? 
Do you have any tips or recipes that you
find helpful for weight loss?

(Join us in the comments with your own!)


LESLIE B: Though I've been a Weight Watchers' Lifetime member for more than 30 years, I do occasionally need to take off a few pounds, usually after the holidays. What works best for me is to focus not on what I can't eat, but on making the positive choices that will help me reach my goal. It's starts with planning -- knowing what we'll make for dinner for the next few days, often making a soup or a dish full of vegetables, grains, or beans. Bonus? Plenty of leftovers so it's easy to figure out lunch and avoid being tempted by, say, grilled cheese -- our topic in March! 

Herbs and spices are a great way to make dishes tasty without adding calories. This Greek Chicken with Baby Bell Peppers, Orzo, and Tzatziki is my adaptation of a Weight Watchers recipe that fits the bill perfectly.

And I always save "room" in my plan for dark chocolate or a glass of wine!


DARYL:  My dieting tip is eat less at night and try to eat only protein and vegetables at night.  About a year ago, I cut back to eating "half" what I thought I'd like to eat and that seems to be perfect for maintaining my weight.  Now, don't get me wrong. I like sugar and carbs, and I do eat those in morning, before lunch. I might splurge with a Dove's dark chocolate mid-afternoon. But I find that having my carbs early lets my body burn it off throughout the day. I use protein powder in my milk with fruit breakfast. I like scrambled eggs for lunch.  Like Leslie I think herbs make all the difference in a meal, so use liberally. Also, like Leslie, I do like a glass of wine at night. With a good book? Heaven. 


Lucy's vegetable beef soup
LUCY: This is such an important question, Cleo, with the news out last month that 40% of Americans are obese. 40%! Yikes! Here's my best advice: Don't diet. Eat everything in moderation, except for vegetables--and there the sky is the limit! If I make cookies for example, I then freeze them so I can dole them out one by one. It's harder to eat a lot of cookies if they're frozen. If you eat out one night and order fried chicken and mashed potatoes, maybe the next night a vegetable soup and salad are in order? Here's an easy recipe for creamed vegetable soup, but you'll find lots more on our website!

And plan all this before you're starving--it's so much harder to resist treats when you're hungry. One more tiny tip--make water your drink of choice. It has no calories and it's good for your body.

And finally, exercise. Walk, attend a yoga class, go to a trainer at the gym. You'll feel better and did you know that muscles burn more calories than fat?


MAYA: I agree with Lucy about eating in moderation instead of giving up foods you like. Like her, I freeze cookies to enjoy them one by one. In my case, it's more often two than just one, but they're small cookies :-) and I don't usually have a dessert after dinner unless it's fruit.

My best tip for weight loss: Fish rather than fast. Fish can be a leaner and lower-calorie source of protein than meat, and it doesn't take long to cook or require elaborate preparation. I shared one of my favorite fish recipes on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen a few weeks ago: Parmesan Halibut Steak. It has only five ingredients and takes barely 15 minutes to prepare. While it's cooking, you can make a salad to go with it. Fresh Alaskan halibut is readily available during the spring months, but you can also use this recipe for any firm-flesh fish like mahi or swordfish. 

Maya's halibut steak with a side salad


PEG: I recently lost 20 lbs. using the Weight Watcher blue plan--you've probably seen some of the WW friendly recipes I've been posting. I do what a lot of other MLK folk do--I eat fewer carbs.  I've found substitutes like these pancakes made with bananas and eggs.   I measure the carbs I do occasionally eat like rice to keep me honest and I also measure the oil I cook with.  I've found you usually don't need anywhere near the amount in so many recipes! Luckily I don't have much of a sweet tooth--I'd rather have a glass of wine.  Like Lucy, if we go out to dinner or a party, I allow myself to indulge in whatever I want--but I eat a light breakfast and lunch beforehand and also cut back the next day. That way I don't feel deprived.  Plus hubby and I have started to take a short walk (just shy of a mile) with our coffee in the mornings and then a longer "power" walk in the afternoons.

ESSIE LANG:   Honestly, the only weight-reducing solution in my house would be to lock up the kitchen cabinets with timed releases on them, only at mealtime. It's just too, too easy to stop and pull open a cabinet door, rummage around and pop something into my mouth - every time I walk past. Especially when I'm writing. I love what Daryl does and may try to switch to that. Carbs aren't difficult for me to give up, except for pasta, and sweet potato fries, and potato salad. Okay, it will be a work-in-progress.  What I seriously try to do is drink as much water as I possibly can and stock up on baby carrots. Often I'll add a delicious green dip from a local restaurant -- I'm not totally sure what all is in it but I know there are few calories and lots of goodness. I also like Peg's walking program but for now, will stick to my early morning power walks.


LESLIE K: With a metabolism that wants to conserve fat as if I were stranded in an arid desert with only grass and radishes to eat, I’ve spent most of my adult life watching my calories. And what I’ve learned is that it’s best if I stick to a regimen on a daily basis (the French word for a “a diet” is “un régime,” after all)—generally something light like a salad or cottage cheese and tomatoes for lunch. But I try to make the lunch colorful and artfully arranged—it tastes better that way!

I then allow myself a normal (though moderately-sized) dinner, since to deny that to this food lover would be torture. As many of us MLKers have already said, it’s all about moderation. Allow yourself that treat from time-to-time; just keep it small.


MADDIE: I'm right there with Leslie K, both in stature (those calories have nowhere to go...) and metabolism. That salad looks yummy, my friend. I learned a delicious cucumber soup recipe from a woman I cleaned house for when I was a southern California college student many (many) years ago. It's tasty, refreshing, and fills you up with veggies and low-fat dairy. What's not to like, especially mid-summer? Thank you, Mrs. Schwartz!

I included the Cucumber-Dill Soup recipe in Strangled Eggs and Ham, which takes place during a steamy southern Indiana August, and Brooke Blogs featured it. (Note: the giveaway has been over for most of a year.) It's best when you can use locally (or home) grown cukes and dill, but if you're not a gardener or don't have a farm stand nearby, don't let that stop you. For me, I have cukes AND dill in my little organic garden, and I can't wait for them to be ready to harvest. Gardening burns calories, too - and I always save room for wine.

VICKI: Sorry, no weight loss tips from me. I lost 55 pounds about 2 -3 years ago, and I'd like to say it was hard, but it wasn't.  I had several gall bladder attacks and had to be very strict about my diet for two months before I had the pesky thing removed. And I quite simply lost a lot of my appetite over those months and it never came back. One thing I have been aware of since then though, is not letting the weight creep up.  I weigh myself every day and once it creeps over the number I've set as unacceptable, I cut back for a few days.


KRISTA: Ouch, Vicki. That's a very hard way to lose weight. I'm always having to lose weight. In fact, I am probably the very worst person to give advice on this topic. However, I do have one trick that helps and that's limiting dinner to soup. It works very well for me. The hardest part is convincing myself to do it! Pass the Krispy Kremes, please.


Now it's YOUR turn! 

Do you have weight loss tips or recipes to share?

Leave a comment on this post 
and join in our table talk to win these 3 books.
Remember to leave your email address 
so we can contact you if you win!

The Diva Spicees it Up, by Krista Davis
Murder at the Taffy Shop, by Maddie Day
Shredding the Evidence, by Daryl Wood Gerber

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Diane Kelly Bakes Easy-Peasy Peach Pie

Please help us welcome Diane Kelly to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Diane writes the House-Flipper Mysteries and loves desserts! She's giving away TWO books, a pair of fun sunglasses, and an adorable stuffed kitty named Sawdust! Don't miss her fantastic giveaway at the end of this post.

Hello, Readers and Cooks!

Desserts are my favorite thing to prepare in the kitchen, because they often represent a special occasion or celebration and I’m always up for some fun! I took a cake decorating class years ago, and have since made all kinds of cakes and cupcakes, ranging from Scooby Doo to Picachu to Texas bluebonnets. I could never seem to master the art of making roses, though. My hands and the frosting bag refused to cooperate with each other. But if you want a cute clown sitting cross-legged on your cupcake, I’m your gal.With my love of desserts, it’s no wonder my books include such titles as Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli and Death, Taxes, and Pecan Pie.

My recent release Dead in the Doorway involves a beloved peach pie recipe that appears to be lost when the only woman who knows its secret ingredients passes away without passing on the recipe. But is this to-die-for pie lost forever, or will her friends on Songbird Circle be able to resurrect the recipe? And just how and why did one of the neighborhood women end up dead in the doorway of the house that carpenter Whitney Whitaker plans to flip?

While performing research for this book, I learned some interesting facts. The first was that nectarines are technically a type of peach. They’re just a balder type with no fuzz. Who knew? I also learned that although Georgia is known for peaches, its northern neighbor South Carolina far surpasses it in peach production. In fact, I had the best peaches I ever ate while visiting a writer friend in Columbia, SC. They are called “Flavor Rich” peaches, and are one of the earliest varieties available each year.

This peach pie recipe is super easy and versatile, vegan, and includes some unusual ingredients that I tossed in for fun when writing the book. I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as my family did!

Easy-Peasy Peach Pie

Ingredients for crust:
            3 cups all-purpose flour
            2 teaspoons salt
            2 teaspoons sugar
            1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) vegan butter (Earth Balance brand works great!)
1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) vegetable shortening
            8 tablespoons cold water
            1 tablespoon brown sugar (for sprinkling over crust)
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar (for sprinkling over crust)
Ingredients for filling:
            5-6 nectarines (fresh, frozen, or canned peaches can be substituted)
            ½ cup granulated sugar
            ½ cup brown sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
            ½ teaspoon cinnamon
            ½ teaspoon ginger
            2 tablespoons maple syrup
Chill butter and shortening before starting. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in food processor by pulsing a few times or mix by hand in a large bowl with a spoon. Add the chilled butter and shortening. Pulse several times if using a food processor or, if making by hand, use pastry tool to combine the ingredients. The dough will look coarse at this point. Drizzle in the ice water while the processor is running, or drizzle it in while using pastry tool to mix dough by hand. Once dough begins to clump, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and shape it into two separate balls. Roll each ball with a rolling pin until you have a 12-inch circle. Transfer one of the shells to a pie dish and gently press it into the dish.

To prepare the filling, first wash, peel, and slice the nectarines. Mix the sliced nectarines with the other filling ingredients in a large bowl, then spoon the filling into the shell.

Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the second pie crust into 3/4-inch strips. Lay five strips vertically across the filling. As you add the horizontal strips, alternate gently pulling back strips 1, 3, and 5 and strips 2 and 4 as you weave in the cross strips. (For a visual primer on how to weave the lattice top, check out this YouTube video:

Trim off the excess crust and pinch the edges together for a nice look. Lightly sprinkle both brown and granulated (or coarse) sugar over the top of the crust. Bake pie at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is brown and juice bubbles through the lattice.


About Diane: A former tax advisor and assistant state attorney general, Diane Kelly is no stranger to white-collar crime. When she realized her experiences made great fodder for novels, her fingers hit the keyboard and thus began her award-winning Death and Taxes romantic mystery series. A dog lover and Citizens Police Academy graduate, Diane also writes the hilarious K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series. Her longtime love of vintage homes and renovation shows were a natural segue into her cozy mystery House Flipper books, which feature a fabulous feline. Find Diane online at, on Twitter and Instagram @DianeKellyBooks, and on her author page on Facebook at

Giveaway: I’ll be giving away a copy of both books in my House Flipper series, which includes Dead as a Door Knocker and Dead in the Doorway, along with a pair of promotional sunglasses and a plush “Sawdust” (the cat from the series). Limited to US and Canada addresses. Good luck!

Leave a comment with your email address to enter!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Bourbon Grilled Chicken #Recipe @PegCochran


This recipe is derived from one on The original recipe calls for chicken breasts but I happened to have some legs and thighs I wanted to use up. I think it would be tasty either way--just alter the cooking time to suit whichever cut of meat you are using.  


Chicken thighs or legs
1/2 cup low sodium or gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoon grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
Sesame seeds (optional)



In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, apple sauce, onion, ginger, garlic, oil, bourbon, BBQ sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. 

Reserve and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade. 

Place chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag and add marinade. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.

Ready for the grill!

Preheat outdoor grill to medium high heat. 

Grill the chicken over indirect heat until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, approximately 10 minutes per side. Move chicken over barbecue flame and cook approximately 5 more minutes per side until skin is crisp and marinade has caramelized. 


Place reserved 1/3 cup marinade in a small sauce pan. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until sauce has thickened slightly, 5 to 6 minutes. 

Top chicken with sauce and sesame seeds if desired.


OUT NOW! Book #5




The dead of winter takes on a whole new meaning in the new Cranberry Cove Mystery from USA Today bestselling author Peg Cochran!

On a night of heavy snow and bitter cold, newlyweds Monica and Greg are comfortably nestled before a warm fire when they’re roused by a late-night knock at the door. Surprised to find a troubled and confused woman on the doorstep, Monica is even more shocked when the woman vacantly utters that someone is trying to kill her. Sensing distress but not danger, Monica decides to help this mysterious woman, but her clouded recollections yield little—until she dredges up memories of her sister and a nearby home, where they find the woman’s sister, dead.

Unable to deny her own curiosity or the woman’s request for help, Monica begins digging into the suspicious death, only to discover a murky family history of valuable land, a bullying brother, an unscrupulous real estate developer, and endless rumors of good deeds met with bad blood. And when the trail of the killer begins to turn cold, Monica realizes that while the family wants to bury their sister, someone is out to bury the clues—and if Monica’s not careful, to bury her as well . . . 

Includes tasty recipes!


And Coming October 27...



Barnes & Noble 

  The plot thickens for American gothic writer Penelope Parish when a murder near her quaint British bookshop reveals a novel's worth of killer characters.

Penelope Parish has hit a streak of bad luck, including a severe case of writer's block that is threatening her sophomore book. Hoping a writer in residence position at The Open Book bookstore in Upper Chumley-on-Stoke, England, will shake the cobwebs loose, Pen, as she's affectionately known, packs her typewriter and heads across the pond.

Unfortunately, life in Chumley is far from quiet and when the chairwoman of the local Worthington Fest is found dead, fingers are pointed at Charlotte Davenport, an American romance novelist and the future Duchess of Worthington. Charlotte turns to the one person who might be her ally for help: fellow American Pen. Teaming up with bookstore owner Mabel Morris and her new friend Figgy, Pen sets out to learn the truth and find the tricks that will help her finish her novel.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Stir Fried Tofu from Vicki Delany

If you remember, two weeks ago I gave you a recipe for a tofu noodle bowl.  Because I cook for one, I had half a package of tofu and some noodles left over.  So a few days later, I just threw a bunch of stuff together to make this bowl.  This is a perfect last minute meal.

Because it’s a ‘throw together’ dinner I haven’t provided measurements. Use what you have on hand.  Use up any vegetables you have in the fridge such as beans or zucchini.

Stir Fried Tofu

Package of firm tofu
Soy sauce