Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sandra Parshall Guest Blogs!

Today, please welcome our guest, Sandra Parshall.

Sandra’s first Rachel Goddard mystery, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First novel. It was followed by Disturbing the Dead, which Library Journal called "edge-of-the-seat suspense" in a starred review, and, this year, Broken Places, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Sandy serves as Chapter Liaison on the national board of Sisters in Crime. She lives in the Washington, DC, area, with her journalist husband and their two cats and likes to spend her non-writing time taking photographs.

Take it away, Sandra!

Turkish Chicken (or not)

by Sandra Parshall

I’m one of those irritating people who are nearly impossible to feed. Don’t invite me to dinner at a steakhouse. I can promise the menu won’t have a single entrée that I’ll eat. Same goes for seafood restaurants. I’ll sit there nibbling on bread and protesting that I’m fine, really, I’m not hungry at all, and you’ll either feel guilty because I’m not eating or severely annoyed because I’m not eating. And I’ll be kicking myself for crossing the threshold of a place where I knew I wouldn’t find anything to eat.

Sometimes I try to brazen it out. One bitterly cold night in Baltimore, I roamed the streets with Donna Andrews, Ellen Crosby, and Tom and Kathy Harig, looking for a restaurant everyone could agree on. When we came to the Japanese place, everyone else was willing and I was

freezing, so I said okay and we went in. I felt sure I could find something on the menu without meat or fish. No such luck. I ended up with something the waitress described as vegetable soup to which the cook would add a choice of fish or meat for most diners. Great, I thought; I love vegetable soup. However, I soon learned that “vegetable soup” does not mean the same thing to the Japanese that it means to an American from the deep south. What I got appeared to be, and tasted like, a big bowl of hot, extremely salty soy sauce with some chopped broccoli in it. I swallowed a tiny amount, put the lid back on the bowl, and told myself I would eat later, at home.

So what will I eat? Pasta, for one thing. If a restaurant has pasta without meat, I’ll go. At home I eat a lot of cottage cheese (protein), yogurt (more protein), and peanut butter (loaded with protein). Food simply doesn’t mean much to me (unless chocolate is involved), and I can happily eat the same boring thing day after day as long as I’m getting enough protein.

I cook meat and fish for my husband, though, and there are a few dishes that we can eat together – the presence of meat in his serving being the only difference.

This is a favorite that I adapted from a recipe for Turkish Guinea Fowl. I’m not likely to find guinea fowl at the local supermarket, so I use chicken breast instead. The chicken is cooked separately, and you can add it to the dish to make an entrée for meat-eaters. You can leave the chicken out and make this as a side dish for a meat entrée or as a main dish for vegetarians. If you’re eating it without meat, it’s just as good cold as hot.


Serves 4-6

For the chicken:

1 chicken breast for each person

2-3 tablespoons oil

1 small onions


]1 bay leaf

For the rice:

3-4 tablespoons butter/margarine

1 small onion

1 small clove garlic

1 cup rice

3 cups chicken stock or water

¼ cup raisins, dark or golden

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, marjoram, and basil

(reduce amount by half if herbs are dried)

I tablespoon parsley

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Brown the chicken in oil. Place in large saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 sliced onion, parsley, bay leaf, salt. Cook on medium heat until tender, about 1 hour. Strain and reserve stock for rice. Cut chicken into large chunks.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons butter or margarine in large sauce pan, add chopped onions and garlic and saute until golden. Add rice and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock or water and bring to a boil. Add raisins, all but one tablespoon of almonds, cinnamon, and herbs and stir to mix well. Add chicken chunks, if using. Cook on low heat on stovetop for 20-30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed; stir once or twice to prevent raisins from sticking to bottom of pan. Ingredients may also be transferred to an ovenproof serving dish and cooked in a 325 degree oven until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle reserved almonds on top.

Thanks, Sandra, for joining us.
I love chicken. And add raisins?
Oh, yum!

And now, for a little MLK contest news:

Julie’s first book in the Manor of Murder Mystery series, Grace Under Pressure (starred review in Publishers Weekly!), debuts June 1st! To help launch the book and to celebrate its release, she's running a very special contest: Pre-order Grace Under Pressure any time before May 31, 2010, and you're eligible to win a $25 gift certificate from Mystery Lovers Bookshop! (and if you've already pre-ordered, you just need to let Julie know!) No receipts required. Just email Julie at with thedate that you pre-ordered and thename of the bookstore you ordered it from, and your name goes in! (Please put "CONTEST" in the subject header. Thanks!)

Here are a few helpful links to get you started:
Independent Bookstore List: here
- Mystery Lovers Bookshop (free shipping on book orders over $10!) - Centuries & Sleuths (Julie's local mystery bookstore)


  1. Thanks for joining us in the kitchen, Sandra. Almonds and raisins with chicken and rice sounds perfect to me. I'll have to try it. Love your series! I have Broken Places in my to read pile!

  2. Sounds like a delicious recipe with or without chicken. Another wonderful recipe to try and an interesting series to check on.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. Thanks for this great recipe, Sandra. I can put this one to good use almost immediately to keep my carnivore husband and vegetarian daughter happy. How clever to come up with an entree that is versatile enough for both! Thanks for joining us here!


  4. this is a great recipe. I like that it can satisfy both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

  5. Sandy, thanks so much for joining us. What a delight.


  6. Very intriguing recipe, Sandy. I'll definitely be trying it. I love that it can serve vegetarians as well as carnivores. A lot of people are looking for that kind of dish! Thanks for joining us today.

    ~ Krista

  7. Hmmm..HI, Sandy! So interesting--did you grow up being choosy about food? I remember arguing with my mother about ham salad--somehow, at age five, it just sounded terrible, and I must say to this day, I've never tasted it! Same with poached eggs. Yup, I know, but we all have our idiosyncracies!

    But I'm with you--I love peanut butter! I have it every morning for breakfast--on an apple! And next time you and I go out for dinner, we'll find a pasta place..

  8. Thanks for the enthusiastic welcome, everyone.

    Hank -- yes, I've always been fussy about food, despite growing up in the deep south, where people will eat almost anything and don't mind grease. The only foods I fondly remember from childhood are homemade peach ice cream (made with tree-ripened peaches from a local orchard)and banana pudding. I couldn't exist without peanut butter! I never get tired of it. When I'm at home, I almost always have a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch -- wheat bread, Jif extra crunchy PB, Really Raw Honey (bottled in Baltimore, available at Whole Foods, costs a fortune but it's worth every cent). The combo of peanut butter and chocolate is pure heaven.

  9. Well, and *sometimes* I'm in the mood for chicken and sometimes I'm just happy with veggies--it's great that this recipe can be used both ways!

    Thanks so much for coming by today, Sandra!


  10. Oh, Sandra, your recipe reminds me of one an old roommate of mine (Margaret) whipped up one night years ago. She'd had it in her family for a long time. I lost touch with M and stupidly never wrote down that recipe, but yours sounds close enough that I could kiss you! Quick, easy, nutritious, delicious. Can't wait to put it together for a meal this week. On the PB front, I'm grinning ear to ear at your story of tromping through Baltimore looking for a restaurant where you'd want to eat. If you're ever in New York, here's one that's *sure* to please (located in Greenwich Village on Sullivan Street). They also have great products: Peanut Butter & Company Finally, congrats on the fantastic reviews for BROKEN PLACES. I've been behind on my TBR reading, and I'm ordering it right after I post this comment!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. Sandra,

    My son is just like you when it comes to peanut butter. He eats it with everything. That's his main source of protein. He doesn't like fish, chicken, and only red meat if it's covered with sweet terriyaki sauce. I worry about him getting enough protein often (usually in the middle of the night when I'm not sleeping well). Hearing that you eat a lot of it and it's sustaining lightens my heart on this subject. I often tell people my son is made up of 95% peanut butter and 5% water.

    Thanks for a great recipe!

    Ann Charles

  12. Cleo, Peanut Butter and Company sounds like my kind of restaurant. Peanut butter has been around forever. The Aztecs had their own version (peanuts are native to the Americas).

    Ann, another good source of protein is textured vegetable protein. A company called Bob's Red Mill packages it as dried granules, and you can buy it at health food stores and many supermarkets (our local Giant has it). It's gluten-free and fat-free, has 12 grams of protein and 80 calories per quarter cup, and although it's made from defatted soy flour, it has none of that moldy, musty taste and odor that I hate about tofu. Because it's flavorless, you can add it to anything -- sprinkle it on cereal, add it to soup or beans, even stir it into peanut butter.