Sunday, October 31, 2010

Congrats to Cleo Coyle's Sunday HOLIDAY GRIND Winner!

To celebrate HOLIDAY GRIND's release in paperback this week, I gave away three signed copies of the hardback edition.

Sunday night's HOLIDAY GRIND winner, by random number generator was...

Congrats, Janece!

Check your e-mail box. Just reply to my e-mail with
your address and I'll send out you prize.

Thanks to everyone who left comments on my Friday post about their favorite urban legends. A few were actually new to me, and I really enjoyed the *virtual* spooky campfire fun!

If you did not win, follow this blog so you don't miss your next chance to comment and win. I'll be holding more fun giveaways in November to celebrate the release of my holiday-themed Coffeehouse Mystery.


~ Cleo Coyle author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Welcome Livia Washburn!

The Season of the Pumpkin

I’ve always enjoyed Hallowe’en, but probably for different reasons than many people. You see, I grew up in the country without many neighbors, so my brothers and I never really trick-or-treated, and trick-or-treaters hardly ever came to our house. But we carved jack-o-lanterns, and since my parents didn’t like to waste anything, they didn’t like to throw away all that fresh pumpkin. We ate pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds. That was just the start of a whole season of good food that stretched all the way through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Of course, you can do more with pumpkins than just make jack-o-lanterns – and pies. In my new novel THE PUMPKIN MUFFIN MURDER, the fifth book in my Fresh Baked Mystery series, retired teacher and reluctant amateur sleuth Phyllis Newsom makes some delicious pumpkin cheesecake muffins to enter in the Harvest Festival cooking contest. As always in these books, the question is not just whether Phyllis will win the contest . . . but when and how will murder rear its ugly head? The recipe as it appears in the book calls for canned pumpkin, but fresh pumpkin will work just as well. THE PUMPKIN MUFFIN MURDER will be released in just a couple days from Obsidian Books. Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
3 tablespoons butter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners. Fill any unfilled muffin cups in tin with water.

Filling: In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add egg, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until mixed, then set bowl in freezer to set while mixing other ingredients.

Topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

Muffin batter: In a large bowl, blend together flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until well mixed.

Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Take the cream cheese mixture out of the freezer then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter in the muffin cups. Having the chilled cream cheese mixture will help you keep the cream cheese from touching the edges. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 18 muffins

Note: If you have dogs, add a heaping tablespoon of the leftover canned pumpkin to their meal. All of my dogs like pumpkin and it’s a healthy treat.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Congrats to Cleo Coyle's Saturday HOLIDAY GRIND Winner!

Saturday night's HOLIDAY GRIND winner,
by random number generator was...

Rochelle Staab



Tricks and Treats

I've been working on THE DIVA HAUNTS A HOUSE. Hmm, you didn't guess that it takes place at Halloween, did you?

There are so many fun recipes for Halloween. One of my favorites in THE DIVA HAUNTS A HOUSE is Chicken Scaryaki. But don't look for it just yet. It won't be out until next fall!

In the meantime, you can have fun playing with Hard-Boiled Monster Eyeballs. If you're a Southwestern food fanatic, substitute sour cream for the mayo, lime for the lemon, and add a dash or two of cumin.

They passed muster with my adult tasters. Mileage with children will depend on fussiness about certain ingredients. The good news is that they can be made earlier in the day. They still looked fairly good about six hours later.

Hard-Boiled Monster Eyeballs

6 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 an avocado
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon lemon
3/4 teaspoon mustard (I used horseradish mustard)
1/2 teaspoon salt (really to taste, start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more if necessary)
3-4 olives (black or green, whatever you like)

1 drop ketchup
1 drop light corn syrup

Slice the eggs in half. Puree the egg yolks with the avocado, lemon, mustard, salt, and mayonnaise. Spoon into egg whites and smooth with your finger. Place a slice of olive in the middle of each.

Mix the ketchup with the corn syrup. Use a toothpick to draw lines on the "eyeballs." If you squiggle the lines, they'll look like blood, if you make them straight and uniform, they'll look like eyelashes, which might be less scary for very small children.

After all that hard work handing out candy, you might find that you need a little treat. (How cool is this picture? Why are black and white pictures scarier than color ones?) So I'm including two drinks to try. Make Julie's Bloody Shirley for the kids, but try a Green Ghoul or Night Rider Cider for the adults. The Green Ghoul is a spooky lime color, but quite sweet and fruity. Night Rider Cider packs a little kick. It's less sweet, but very refreshing. In the mood to play a trick? Peel a grape "eyeball" and drop it in the Night Rider Cider. It will disappear at the bottom of the drink and won't be visible until your victim has consumed nearly all of his drink. Bwahahahaha! Oh! And don't miss Cleo's Ghostly Car Ad, just scroll down a bit. Hehehehehe.

Green Ghoul

Ginger Ale
Hypnotiq Liqueur

Pour a cup of Ginger Ale into a wineglass. Add two ounces of Hypotiq and one ounce of Cointreau. Stir and enjoy!

Night Rider Cider

Apple Cider
Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps Liqueur
Green Apple Vodka
grapes (optional)

Pour cold Apple Cider into an average size martini glass. Add one ounce of Goldschlager and one ounce of Green Apple Vodka. Stir and drop in one peeled grape.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Congrats to Cleo Coyle's Friday HOLIDAY GRIND Winner!

Friday night's HOLIDAY GRIND winner,
by random number generator was...




Testing the famous $250 Urban Legend Cookie Recipe by Cleo Coyle

In this post, I share some of my favorite urban legends with you, including one that involves food: the legendary $250 Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I also share some tips with you on getting the most out of any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Yes, even a notorious one. 

If you'd like to download 
the recipe in a free PFD, click here
Click here to download
the free Recipe PDF.

To read my entire post, scroll down, and bake with joy! 

A Note from Cleo 

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

As a writer of quirky culinary mysteries, I find urban legends fascinating.

- Maybe because they cross into that peculiar realm between shadowy danger and human folly.

- Maybe because they test our imagination.

- Or maybe, like any good campfire story, they blend the scary with the wacky.

Here are 3 Urban Legends
that have been around
since I was a kid. 

Have you heard
of these, too?

1. Alligators in the New York Sewers A family supposedly brought back a few babies from Florida and flushed them into the system, where they still live and prowl today.

Personally, I haven’t detected any evidence of ferocious creatures beneath my septic system, but it would be an interesting way to...well, go. Hey, no groaning. Shakespeare and Hitchcock considered the pun the highest form of humor. (Of course, that was pre-twitter lolcat.)

2. The Hook – After a young couple parks on "Lovers’ Lane," they hear a radio report about a crazy escaped convict with a hook for a hand. The boy doesn’t want to leave, but the girl makes him. When they arrive home, the girl gets out of the car and screams. A hook is hanging from her door handle.

Okay, I’m sure "The Hook" is supposed to serve as some sort of cautionary tale for young people who park and fog up windows. Honestly, I didn't "park" in my youth (late bloomer), but I never heard of my friends or classmates seeing a psychotic killer through their car windows. I did once see a cop appear at my car window with a flashlight. But that was in my thirties. At the beach. With my husband. And, wow, were we embarrassed...

3. Bloody Mary – Stand in front of a mirror and chant “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” and her ghost will appear.

I once tried this and it actually worked! My husband overheard me and brought me this... 

And you can learn how to make a classic Bloody Mary in the video above. Even if you know how, this bartender is charming enough to make it worth watching.

...which brings me to a tasty 
sub-category of the urban legend—
the culinary variety...

The $250.00
Urban Legend Cookie

The Story

A woman finishes her meal at the Neiman Marcus café and asks her waitress for the recipe of the store’s signature chocolate chip cookies. The waitress delivers the recipe to the woman’s table. A few weeks later the woman notices a $250.00 charge from Neiman Marcus on her credit card. When she calls to inquire about the charge, they inform her it was the cost of the recipe!

This tale is, of course, totally false, but one true thing happened as a result. So many people repeated the tale that Neiman Marcus made their recipe available free to the public. A nice break for those of us who love testing new chocolate chip cookie recipes. 

The Recipe

How to Bake an
Urban Legend

See my my tips at the end of the recipe
 for getting the best results out of it. ~ Cleo 

To download this recipe 
in a PDF form that you can 
print, save, or share, click here.

The Urban Legend 
$250 Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder

1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

CLEO'S VERDICT – A very good recipe. I especially like the espresso powder addition. Don’t be put off by this. You do not taste the coffee. In fact, the addition of coffee to a recipe is a well-known chef’s trick to intensify the flavor of chocolate.

By the way, espresso powder is like instant coffee. The espresso is made, then freeze dried and ground into powder. (It is not ground espresso beans.) 

Pictured below is what I use, the Megdaglia D'oro brand. If you'd like a link to buy this espresso powder online, click here. Otherwise, look for it in your grocery store's coffee section.


1 – Hydrate the dough: For the best results here, I strongly suggest that you chill this dough in the fridge overnight or 24 to 36 hours before baking. Simply form the dough into a ball, wrap it snugly in plastic, and place the wrapped dough ball into the fridge. Allowing almost any cookie dough to rest in the refrigerator gives the liquids time to penetrate the dry ingredients. You are also giving the flavors time to develop in the dough. This is really the best tip I can give you for any chocolate chip cookie.

2 – Forming the cookies: I didn’t bother with a measuring scoop as the recipe suggests. I simply used clean fingers to roll little balls (slightly smaller than golf balls) and used the heel of my hand to press them gently into rounds of about 2-inches in diameter.

3 – Baking the cookies: I use a simple $5.00 oven thermometer to make sure my oven temperature is accurate. If your oven is truly preheated to 300 degrees F., then I suggest baking the cookies for only 17 minutes. 15 minutes is a little too chewy and 20 a little too crispy, but 17 minutes at exactly 300 degrees F.…ah, just right for you to…

Click here to download the recipe
as a free PDF document.

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries