Sunday, November 10, 2013

Comment-to-Win 3 Vintage Kitchen Mysteries from Guest Author Victoria Hamilton!

Please welcome back author Victoria Hamilton! She's sharing some great cooking tips with us today and sponsoring a fun (and generous) contest. 

Leave a comment on her post and you will be entered to win the first three books in her national bestselling Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, including this one, newly published: Freezer I'll Shoot.

The contest is now concluded. Scroll to the end of this post to see who won.

And now, take it away, Victoria!

~ Cleo Coyle

Tips from
the Soup Queen

Victoria Hamilton, author of
the national bestselling
Vintage Kitchen Mysteries
I love soup. Is there any food more satisfying to the soul than a good bowl of soup? Is there any prepared dish more versatile? Maybe it’s a sign of my devotion to soup that I say "no" to both questions.

My love affair with soup began out of necessity and thrift. As a poor twenty-something, I couldn't afford to waste anything. If I was fortunate enough to have a chicken to roast, I used the carcass to make broth and leftover vegetables went in to make soup. When I didn't have a chicken to cook, chicken backs were dirt cheap and make a great broth. Over the years I relied upon soup to stretch my food dollar.

Now I still do the same . . . but mostly because it is so soul satisfying to make a steamy, fragrant, delicious pot of soup. I have never thrown away a chicken or turkey carcass in my life without making it into the basis of soup. I buy extra turkeys this time of year so I’ll have more turkey dinners, but also because they will make gallons and gallons of my favorite, turkey vegetable soup.

Over time I have developed a lot of ‘must do’s’, but soup is the most forgiving of foods. There is no recipe for my soup, just some tips. So here we go...

Victoria's Tips for
Making Great Soup

* The secret to good stock is time. After thanksgiving... (I celebrate both Canadian and American Thanksgiving because, well, two turkey dinners. Need I say more? Plus I have a lot to be thankful for.) The carcass goes into the stock pot and stews for a full day. I then cool the broth, strain it, and put it in a large food safe container in the fridge overnight. Turkey and chicken stock will have a layer of fat on the top after cooling. Don’t take it all off, just most of it! Fat equals flavor.

* The other secret to great stock is. . . if you roasted your poultry, make sure to put a couple of cups of boiling water in the roasting pan to get all the little bits and bobs from the bottom. That is caramelization, and flavor lives in the roasted goodness. Dump the resulting broth in with the carcass if you’re freezing it to use later, or the stock pot if you’re doing it right away.

* Don’t ever, ever, ever salt your stock! You’ll have plenty of opportunity to salt your soup at the end, if it needs it. If you've done everything right, you won't need much, as the flavor of the broth will be intense with just herbs and veggies. And besides, you will develop flavor by reducing the stock with simmering . . . if you put salt in to taste and then reduce, I can guarantee your soup will be too salty.

* And on the subject of herbs. I use 'em if I've got 'em, but great broth is great even without herbs, especially if you used herbs when roasting the chicken or turkey. I do often use thyme, rosemary, savory, marjoram--whatever I have--but it's not necessary every time.

* If you want to be fancy, tell people that you wouldn’t think of making soup without mirepoix. Hah! All you’ve said is you need carrots, celery and onions to make really good soup. I don’t think I've ever made chicken or turkey soup without lots of mirepoix. ;-) You can sauté your vegetables before putting them in the soup stock, but it’s not necessary.

* That being said, almost any vegetable can go into your soup. I have used: green beans, yellow beans, cauliflower, broccoli, canned tomatoes, potato, celery, onion, carrot, cabbage, parsnip, and more than I can even remember. It’s great if you've just got a handful of something left, like the soup that is simmering on my stove right now that has the last of the green beans in it. You can add even cannellini or navy beans to your soup!

* Another beauty of soup is: you can use any kind of pasta in it, any at all! Even if you've got a handful of uncooked rotini or ziti left and think that size pasta is too big for a bowl of soup (you’re probably right) just crunch it up! You can even use a variety of pastas. Just crush them slightly and add them to the soup. Soup is very plebeian dish; it is not fancy-schmancy, and will be cheerfully different every time you make it. Just don’t add the pasta too soon, or it will take over the soup pot. Orzo starts out looking innocently like rice, but if overcooked ends up looking like dumplings; trust me, know.

Now it’s your turn to school me. 

What are your no-fail soup tips? I am a willing student in all things soup, and I just know you all will have lots to tell me! Is there one soup you make all the time, or do you change it up? Share, please!

~ Victoria


Freezer I’ll Shoot...

Trying to escape her overbearing mother, vintage kitchenware enthusiast and soon-to-be columnist Jaymie Leighton retreats to her family’s cottage on Heartbreak Island. While there she hopes to write an article about the Ice House restaurant, owned by good friends and neighbors, siblings Ruby and Garnet Redmond. Once an actual icehouse, the restaurant is charmingly decorated with antique tools of the trade, including a collection of ice picks.

One night, while working on her article, Jaymie overhears an argument, and, ever the sleuth, sets out to explore. But when she stumbles upon a dead body, her blood runs cold. It’s Urban Dobrinskie, whose feud with the Redmonds is no secret, and he’s got an ice pick through his heart. Now Jaymie’s got to sharpen her sleuthing skills to chip away at the mystery and prove her neighbors’ innocence – before someone else gets picked off…


Victoria Hamilton, nationally bestselling author of Freezer I’ll Shoot, Book 3 of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, is the pseudonym of Donna Lea Simpson, bestselling author of romance and historical mystery novels.

Victoria starting reading mystery novels at the age of 12 and devoured Agatha Christie mysteries, as well as those of Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She still adores mysteries, especially the cozy mysteries of Janet Bolin, Krista Davis, and others. 

She loves to cook, and collects teapots and teacups, as well as vintage kitchen utensils and bowls. She also enjoys crafts, especially cross-stitching and crocheting, and spends summer days in the garden, drinking tea or wine. Besides the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series Victoria also writes the Merry Muffin Mystery series and the Teapot Collector Mystery series which debuts with Tempest in a Teapot, out June 3rd, 2014.

To visit Victoria Hamilton Mysteries website, click here.

To friend Victoria on Facebook, click here

To like Vintage Kitchen Mysteries on facebook, click here.

To read Victoria's Blog, click here.

Twitter: @MysteryVictoria

*Soup photo courtesy of Stock.xchng, royalty free stock photos.

Victoria's Contest 

Congrats to "Karen in Ohio" who left the winning comment.

Karen - To claim your price,
contact Victoria by next Monday
via her public e-mail box:


Karen has won all
three of Victoria Hamilton's
Vintage Kitchen Mysteries...

Thank you for
joining us today, Victoria!

Good luck, everyone!

~ Cleo


  1. I love creamy, single vegetable soups and rely on my immersion blender to get the right texture.

  2. I enjoyed your first two books. I haven't read the third yet.

    1. Hope you like Freezer I'll Shoot just as much!

  3. Hi Victoria- you and I went to the same soup school! I never salt- the broth, veggies, bits of meat- do it for me.....turkey is the big soup here in the Fall.....and when I am at the butchers', they see me coming! I look for the ham ends.....for ham and beans....pick a bean! I like doing a minestrone, going into clean out the cupboard of any odd dried beans.....soaking them, and a bit of baking soda are key. I do like to have extra broth in the freezer..if I can- comes in handy when someone has a cold...I have'nt bought a store bough soup in.....well....a long time to be sure! We make our own tomato soup every year....I laughed when I saw you get "extra turkey "!! LOL!! We have been known to eat at a friend's, and come home with the carcass!!!!!!

    1. LOL... NEVER waste anything! I love making split pea soup with a big ham bone! YUM!

  4. We are 'soupers' here too! The little mister and I both make it. Thanks for the great advice and a snappy looking blog post too.

    Congrats on the new book.



    1. Well... I must tell you that Cleo is responsible for how nice the blog looks!! LOL.

  5. Oh my goodness, your post was wonderful!!! I saw a package of turkey wings at the store yesterday; I think I'll go back today and buy them to roast and then start a stock. I've never long-cooked my stock and then refrigerated it before making my soup, going to give that a try. I also love thick and creamy soups and rely on my immersion blender - it is one of my favorite tools. My mom makes the best soups and always has a freezer full. I just returned from a visit with her and we had soup each day!!! Yum.

    1. What a great idea for the rest of the year when I don't want to roast a whole turkey... thanks, Sharon!

  6. I love soup!! My current favorite is roasted tomato, but there are so many possibilities. Minestrone, broccoli cheese, chicken noodle, beef vegetable . . . I could go on and on. We have always made soup with our turkey carcases. Nothing better when it is cold out. Great post!

    1. Roasted tomato... do you roast the tomatoes yourself or use canned roasted tomatoes?

  7. Homemade soup is a staple at our house, and I consider it a personal housekeeping failure if there isn't at least one container in the freezer.

    I make a ten-vegetable soup that starts with a couple of beef short ribs, and it makes two gallons or so of a hearty, satisfying meal. I always use okra in it, and in fact freeze sliced okra in small baggies just for this soup. The secret ingredient, added close to the end of the several hour cooking time, is a can of V-8 Juice. Gives the soup a nice zip.

    1. Okay... I've never used Okra. Kind of scared of it. Do you have any advice for an okra novice?

    2. Nothing to it. I just add it in with the rest of the veggies, and it kind of melts away. But it adds some body to the broth. You could dust it with flour and fry it first, but I don't think that's necessary.

    3. Karen - Congrats! By random draw, you have won the contest! To claim your prize, contact Victoria by next Monday at her public e-mail box.


      Thanks to everyone who left comments and thanks especially to Victoria for providing such a generous prize to our followers.

      Enjoy the books, Karen!

      ~ Cleo

  8. I use my crockpot to make soup every weekend. Then I have it on hand to take for lunch for all of us for at least a couple days of the week. We love lentil soups and split pea and will try almost any bean based soup.

    I usually make my pasta for soup on the side so that it doesn't get too soft. My crockpot is my favorite tool for soup making.

    1. I have used my slow cooker to make soup before and it turned out great.

  9. Hi Victoria! Thanks for joining us today. I love soup and make my own broth all the time. My mother throws all the leftovers in soup – and I mean *all* of them. There was one very memorable time when she actually used leftover Chinese takeout. That doesn't appeal to me, but the weirder the combination, the more she seems to like it!


    1. Oh, Krista... your mother and mine... same cloth! We called it mystery soup, and sometimes it actually looked like dishwater ((shudder)).

  10. I love making soup, I just tend to overdue it. I make it 16 qts. at a time. I love your Vintage Kitchen series and own all three so I'm not entering the contest.

    1. There is no such thing as overdoing it where soup is concerned!

  11. Love your books and would love to win these 3, which I have not read yet.

    Here's hoping I'm lucky :)