Sunday, February 26, 2012

What would elves make for breakfast?

Multi-talented Kris Neri lives in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona, where she and her husband own and operate a bookstore, The Well Red Coyote.  Among other things, Kris also writes.  Her latest book, Magical Alienation has just been nominated for a Lefty Award!

Featuring fake psychic Samantha Brennan and Celtic goddess/FBI agent Annabelle Haggerty. A spaceship crash in Roswell…a rumored alien…the mysterious Area 51…a harmonic convergence in Sedona. No connection, right? With its rock stars and shape shifters, gods and haunting militia leaders -- Magical Alienation will turn what you think you know upside down.

And now, a warm welcome to Kris Neri!

While neither my Tracy Eaton mysteries nor my Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries are cooking novels, in the course of an entire book, it’s natural that my characters would eat.

I bring considerable thought to their dining choices, and I make up recipes for those dishes, which I print as recipe cards and give out at signings, as well as posting them on a recipe page on my website.

The dish not only needs to suit the tastes the characters, it also needs to fit the story-circumstances. After all, if they’re being chased by bad guys, they can hardly take the time to prepare a five-course gourmet meal, which they consume in a relaxed manner. Since I create these dishes in my author’s test kitchen — which happens to be my real home kitchen — it also has to be something I can create, even if it means stretching in the kitchen.

I started this practice with my first book, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN. In that book, Tracy and her husband Drew traveled to New York to attend the wedding of his younger sister Marisa, only to end up dealing with Marisa’s kidnapping. Since Marisa and her fiancé owned a trendy restaurant, it was essential that the dessert they served at their family dinner be first-rate. That was a tough one for me. I’m a pretty decent cook, creative even. But I’ve usually regarded desserts as something to buy, not something to make.

It did help that I had a great love of tiramisu at the time (and still do!), and that I’ve always thought Bailey’s Irish Cream was a pretty spectacular drink. I put those together and created a winner — Irish Cream Tiramisu. Those recipe cards are always such a hit. I’ve given out thousands of them and people never fail to rave about it. I did make the dish a number of times, tweaking the ingredients until I thought it was absolutely perfect, and loads of readers have shared their experiences with it. But it’s hard to imagine how you could combine the ingredients of a classic tiramisu with Bailey’s Irish Cream in any proportion, and not have it turn out great.

Molly Westin, “Meritorious Mysteries” reviewer and “inSinC” editor, is a fan of my Bailey’s Tiramisu. Here’s what she says of it: “When I saw the recipe card for Bailey's Irish Cream Tiramisu from Kris's REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, I knew my family and friends would love it. And what a hit it has been. I never wonder what to take to special gatherings. In fact, one couple expects it every Thanksgiving! Thanks for sharing such a special dish.”

If you’re also a Bailey’s and/or tiramisu fan, you can find the recipe here:

Along the way, I’ve created other book-related recipes, including Tracy’s Favorite Chicken Crepes from REVENGE FOR OLD TIME’S SAKE and Fit for a Goddess French Toast for HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE. They’re all particularly good, and they all suit the novels they’re described in.

But the recipe for my latest magical mystery, MAGICAL ALIENATION, came with a particular challenge. All my earlier recipes were made by people. This recipe had to be for a breakfast dish created by elves. And it had to be a dish they’d make for a goddess. I mean, that’s like us cooking for the President, or the Queen of England, or even…Giada. It had to be that special.

What would elfin magic create (and I don’t mean that cracker company that co-opted my term…or I theirs.)? To inspire me, I decided it should involve one of my favorite ingredients. No, not Bailey’s. Sure, that is one of my all-time favorites, but I’ve already created some spectacular desserts with it—not just my tiramisu, but Baneful Bread and Butter Pudding with Last Gasp Sauce, which you’ll also find on the recipe page of my website. Besides, this had to be a breakfast dish, and I try to avoid the hard stuff at dawn.

That left one of my other favorites — cinnamon. It’s hard for me to imagine any kind of pastry that isn’t made better with lots of cinnamon. I decided this dish should be some kind of muffin. But was a plain ol’ cinnamon muffin good enough? Wouldn’t it need an outstanding premise and lots of really phenomenal ingredients to bring the muffin up to elfin level?

Here’s what I came up with:

Elfin French Toast Muffins
as served in
Magical Alienation by Kris Neri

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
½ cup butter, softened
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla, plus ¼ tsp. for maple glaze
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
½ cup cinnamon chips
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/4 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream 1 cup sugar into butter. Add eggs, vanilla, sour cream and blend. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda, and gently work into wet ingredients. Fold in cinnamon chips. Pour 1/3 cup into a paper muffin liners in a muffin pan. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Blend together maple extract, milk, powdered sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle icing over top of cooled muffins or spread with knife, if you prefer a thicker coating. Makes 12 large or 18 medium muffins.

By the way, cinnamon chips can be hard to find. Actually, they’re called cinnamon chips, but they’re really cinnamon and chocolate, though the cinnamon taste dominates. They’re made by Hershey’s, and though the chip selection in the baking aisle typically contains loads of varieties now, cinnamon chips can be scarce. I only found them in one of the markets we have where I live. But I also live in a small town, so if I can find them, I’m sure you can. They’re also available online, if you’d prefer that route. If you love cinnamon as much as I do, you’ll want to keep some on hand anyway. They also make a great snack.

And the muffin? Absolutely to die-for. The elves and I promise you this will be one of the very best muffins you’ll ever taste. It also stays moist for days. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did all the times I made during my perfecting process. It’s a dirty job, but thankfully, I got to do it. 


  1. Oh, yum, yum, yum! French toast muffins. Yum! Perfect for a goddess. Like all of us, right? I adore cinnamon.


  2. Sounds delicious Kris! Never heard of cinnamon chips but now I'll look for them!

  3. These look so delicious that I would like one (or two!) right now. Yum! Elves know how to live!

    Thanks so much for joining us today, Kris!

    ~ Krista

  4. Thanks for the welcome, Avery & Krista. I adore cinnamon, too. It actually has great health properties, so I tell myself I'm just getting my vitamins when I eat the chips. They're great dropped in pancakes, too. (yum, vitamins!)

  5. Lucy, I'd never heard of them, either, until someone told me about them. They're worth hunting for!

  6. I didn't know elves were such good cooks. I will look for cinnamon chips and whip up some of those beauties. And I wish you well on your new book. Come back to California again soon.

    1. You won't be sorry, I promise! I'll be back as soon as I can. Always love my CA trips and seeing y'all!

  7. I love cinnamon chips-I've used them instead of chocolate chips in my chocolate chip cookie recipe!

    1. I've started substituting them for chocolate chips, too. I think they're great. I don't know why they aren't more commonly available.

  8. I think I've seen these in the store and wondered where would you use them. But Hershey is in trouble (see Wiki) so maybe that is why they are hard to come by. The recipe sounds delicious but me being such health freak, I'd substitute butter for cal reduced marg and use low cal sour cream and even cut sugar down to half. Probably wouldn't taste the same but hey, can't have everything, right?

    1. Oh, no! Don't tell me Hershey's going out of business. I think I'll buy lots of these packages to keep Hershey healthy. How many packages would I have to buy to keep 'em afloat? It certainly could be fat-reduced, and probably without losing too much. But they are incredibly yummy as I make them. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Those are so pretty! What a great first recipe to post! I actually have some of those cinnamon chips, (have had them too long, truthfully), and haven't been inspired to make anything with them until now. If they are still usable, I'm going to make these! I may just make them and omit the chips if I have to, because the pictures of those muffins have me craving them!

    1. I'd be surprised if the chips have gone bad, Christi. I've kept chocolate chips for a long time and they were fine when I finally needed them. The muffins would still be pretty good without either the chips or the topping. It's basically just a sour cream cake recipe, and those are always good. With those ingredients, how can they not taste good?

    2. Hi! I wound up making banana muffins yesterday - you had me so wanting muffins! :)
      Yes, my cinnamon chips were too old to use. I checked the Hershey site to crack the expiration code, and mine were best by: December 2005!!! I thought they smelled a little weird, too. So, I tossed them. I couldn't believe I had had them that long. It doesn't even seem that they've been on the market that long! I was going to make your recipe without them, but I didn't have enough sour cream. It was one of those times when you MUST BAKE, but don't want to go to the store :)

    3. Ooh, that is really old. You know, now that I think about it, every time I've kept chips for a long time, I've stuck them in the freezer. Freezing does make them look a little odd, with the color changing somewhat, but otherwise, the quality stays the same. You could give up the chips in this recipe, but the sour cream is a must.