Sunday, March 3, 2013

Welcome Guest Author Victoria Hamilton and Comment-to-Win Her New Mystery!

We are in for a real treat today with our guest blogger Victoria Hamilton.

Victoria writes the bestselling Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. The second book in her series, Bowled Over, is releasing this Tuesday, and you can comment on this post for a chance to win a copy.

Scroll down to find out more about Victoria's new title as well as her brand new mystery series set to debut later this year--or maybe I should say "bran" new! You'll see why below. :) 

And now, please join me in welcoming today's guest. Take it away, Victoria!

~ Cleo Coyle

"Juggling Food" 

Writing and publishing mysteries has been my lifelong ambition. I kid you not; at twelve I announced to my parents that I wanted to be a writer. My dad was thinking Kierkegaard, while I was thinking Agatha Christie. It is wonderful beyond belief to achieve that goal. So wonderful I promised myself I’d never turn down work, no matter how busy I was.

Three years ago I had no mystery series. Sad face. :( 

Two years ago I had one mystery series. Smiley face! :) 

One year ago I had two mystery series. Super smiley face!! :) :)

And now? Well, now I have three series. Scaredy face! :( And...
Super smiley face!!! :) :) :)

Best (and worst) of all, two out of the three require recipes to accompany the text. Uh… yippee? 

What kind of recipes do I need to figure out, check, recheck and write out for my mystery series? In Vintage Kitchen Mysteries my heroine, Jaymie Leighton, takes vintage recipes and modernizes them for today’s cook, utensils, measurements, etc. Book 2, Bowled Over, comes out on March 5th and has a recipe for Potato Salad that I’m now afraid will have too much mayonnaise in it for some. Too late to go back! I like mayonnaise, though, and a lot does soak into the potatoes. 

In my new series, Merry Muffin Mysteries, set to debut with Book 1 - Bran New Murder - September 3rd of this year, I will be including muffins and probably some other random comfort food recipes in each book. I am the Soup Queen, so you can bet I’ll have soup recipes in some books. I made a dinner soup the other night… Chicken Vegetable Cannellini… and it was… mmMM! To die for. 

Of course with those two and a third series set to debut in 2014, I’m pretty busy. In my day-to-day life, then, it’s no mystery that I tend to fall back on those foods that everyone likes and are also easy to prepare with a minimum of recipe reading. One-dish recipes hit that note every time. To that end I thought I would offer up one of my all-time favorites, my version of Arroz Con Pollo, or Spanish Chicken and Rice. I adapted it from one I found in the New Doubleday Cookbook, though mine has evolved to be substantially different over time. 

Arroz Con Pollo 

Serves 6 if you have dainty eaters, 3 – 4 if not.

Ingredients 1: 

6 Chicken thighs

Enough flour to coat, about 1/3 cup.

Oil (Olive is best)

Method 1:

1 – Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Then, on the stove top:

2 - Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour. I usually just put the flour in a plastic bag and shake the thighs one or two at a time, then set them on a plate until I have them all ready.

3 - Heat oil in a largish skillet on moderate high heat for a minute or so, then, in small batches, brown chicken well, setting aside on paper towels to drain. Don’t worry that red juices will still be running when you take the thighs out, as they will be cooking in the oven. 

Then, the rice mixture: 

Ingredients 2:

1 cup uncooked long grain rice. (Basmati really is best for this; the grains stay separate and soak up the flavor. Honestly, I can’t say enough about Basmati. It has a wonderful nutty flavor and fragrance.)

1 small yellow onion

¼ to ½ red pepper

2 garlic cloves

¼ cup diced smoky ham OR julienned ham of your favorite kind.

1 cup chicken stock

1 ½ cup diced tomato with juices (it is important that the liquid in this dish equals about 2 cups, without counting the tomato chunks so the rice will cook properly)

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning, or your favorite: basil or oregano work well.

1 small dried bay leaf, crumbled.

*Note: When I look back at the original recipe from which this is derived, I see that I have changed it substantially. And left out two ingredients, pimientos and saffron, probably because I don’t have them in the kitchen and wouldn’t go out of my way to buy them. But I think I will try the saffron sometime, because I’ve heard so much about it. 

Method 2: 

1 - Reduce fry pan heat to low/moderate and, in the oil left from doing the chicken, stir fry onion, diced peppers and garlic for 5 minutes; add ham and stir fry 3 to 4 minutes longer until onion is golden.

2 - Add rice, stir fry 1 minute, then add broth, tomatoes (breaking up clumps) the salt and pepper, seasoning and bay leaf. Mix well.

3 – Turn all of this mixture into a 9 X 13 pan, and nestle chicken pieces on top. Cover with foil and bake about 50 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more.

This dish converts rice haters and is so good it will soon be a part of your regular cooking repertoire. It seems a little work-heavy at first, but once you get going, it gets easier and easier. Serve with a salad and enjoy!



Victoria is giving away one (1) copy of Bowled Over. Contest open to Canadian and US residents only and ends March 10th 2013. Leave a comment on this post to be included in the giveaway. Book will be shipped directly from the author.


Meet the author:

Victoria Hamilton writes the bestselling Vintage Kitchen Mystery series (Book 2 – Bowled Over, comes out March 5th) and the upcoming Merry Muffin Mysteries, also from Berkley (Book , Bran New Murder, debuts September 3rd, 2013) Victoria loves cooking and collecting vintage kitchen utensils, as well as reading and writing mysteries. 

Check out her webpage for all the latest: and find her on Facebook at: