Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cheers to the holidays -- and a double #bookgiveaway


My holiday gift to you: One lucky reader will win two signed copies of GUILTY AS CINNAMON---one to keep, and one to give away. Comment below for a chance to win.  

I like to joke that research for my books means eating. And that's kinda true. But when I was writing GUILTY AS CINNAMON, I knew I needed to understand more about the business of being a chef. So I devoured chef lit—memoirs and nonfiction about kitchen life. One fun discovery was BLOOD, BONES & BUTTER: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, founder and chef of Prune in New York. I learned a lot about cooking and the business of running a restaurant, but also how freedom and weirdness are key ingredients. Chef Hamilton described a scam that worked its way into CINNAMON, after I finally figured it out!

And she made me crave the Negroni, a cocktail made with gin and Campari. Have I said, I don’t like gin? And Campari is too bitter for me. But this drink—wow.

Then we went to Seattle, for research. I-90 in central Washington was clogged with construction and we got to our hotel in the Pike-Pine corridor late, hungry, and thirsty. We walked a couple of blogs to the Odd Fellows Café in the old Odd Fellows Hall, two doors down from the great Elliott Bay Book Company, and two blocks from my alma mater, Seattle University.

Where I drank a Negroni sbaglatio, made with sparkling wine instead of gin. Wow. Plus you can drink two and still walk home.

(When we took these pictures, we hadn’t found the little tool for cutting the perfect orange peel. You don’t technically need it. But you know you want it.)

My version of the Negroni comes from Gary Regan, author of the Joy of Mixology, which Mr. Right found in said Elliott Bay Bookstore. Sandra’s spiced nuts are my variation of a recipe found in Vij’s Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine, by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, the husband-and-wife team who run Vij’s in Vancouver, B.C. Road trip!

Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that’s as individual as the cook. GUILTY AS CINNAMON includes the Seattle Spice Shop’s version, created by Sandra, the shop's master mixologist. Make your own, or use a commercial version, as I did for this batch. My house is redolent with cloves and cardamom. And the sweetness the mango adds is a nice complement to the cayenne.

The perfect pairing for your holiday entertaining, for a party of twenty or one. Just save some for me.

The Negroni 

For each drink:

1½ ounces Campari
1½ ounces sweet vermouth
1½ ounces gin
1 orange twist (a strip of peel, about 1/2 inch wide and 3 to 4 inches long, twisted to release the oils)

Pour the liquor into an ice-filled rocks glass, and add the peel.

Best drunk outdoors on a deck overlooking a freshly mowed meadow or water. Or anywhere, actually.

For a Negroni Sbagliato, substitute champagne or sparkling wine for the gin. Drink lore says a bartender created it by grabbing the wrong bottle; sbagliato means “mistaken” in Italian. An inexpensive sparkling wine, on the dry side, like Freixenet (pronounced “fresh-eh-net”) Brut from Spain or Yellow Tail from Australia, will do nicely. Plus the wine will add a touch of international flair! No need to worry about opening the bottle. Just uncrimp the wire cage and remove it, place one hand over the cork, and turn the bottle, not the cork, until you hear that satisfying pop.

Sandra’s Spiced Nuts

1 pound raw almonds or cashews, or a mix
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt or another crystal variety
1½ teaspoons amchur, or mango powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground cayenne

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the nuts, oil, salt, and spices.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast about 10 minutes, stirring once to cook the nuts evenly. (If the edges of the nuts start to brown, pull them out to avoid burning.) Place the baking sheet on a rack; the nuts will continue to brown slightly as they cool.

Remember what Pepper says about spice blends: They take a few hours to marry and mellow, so these are best made ahead. They’ll keep several weeks if stored in a tightly sealed container.

Makes 1 pound.

Recipes from GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Berkley Prime Crime, December 2015)

Do you have a favorite holiday libation? 

Leave a comment, with your email address, to be entered for a chance to win two signed copies of GUILTY AS CINNAMON, the second installment in my Seattle Spice Shop mysteries---one for yourself and one to give a friend! Contest ends at midnight, Wednesday, December 16. 

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.


  1. I think that is one of the best parts of writing foodie fiction- playing with recipes in the kitchen (and eating them with a group of friends!) Love the cover on this book; looking forward to reading it!

  2. I can't wait to read this! And I would love to share with a friend! Thanks for the chance!

  3. Love the stories behind the recipes; and of course would love to read the book (and share the other copy with a dear friend)! EMS591@aol.com

  4. That drink sounds interesting...

  5. Growing up my father was famous for his Tom&Jerry concoction served at holiday parties. I loved spoonfuls of the batter, but when I was old enough, adding bourbon was allowed. Nice! Now, I love egg nog with brandy, cranberry with champagne, and an old stand-by...Irish Coffee with a drizzle of mint syrup! kat8762@aol.com

    1. Cranberry with champagne? Hand me one, would you, Kathleen?

    2. Pat (patdupuy@yahoo.com)December 15, 2015 at 1:02 PM

      I used to love eggnog until I decided I really didn't need the calories. Now I think mulled wine or any kind of drink made with sparkling wine is good for the holidays.

  6. Sandra’s Spiced Nuts sounds like a good recipe. Thank you for the giveaway.

  7. I would love to win this for my sister and me. Thanks for the giveaway. poohwine1217@gmail.com

  8. Thank you for sharing the recipes!!! Cannot wait to read! Dspinlexo@aol.com

  9. My favorite has always been eggnog. We were allowed one little sip on Christmas Eve when I was little. I still make it the same way and trust that all that booze will kill anything that the raw eggs might be hiding.


  10. Wow, 2 books! Thanks for the chance!

  11. I like cinnamon nuts but haven't ever had them with this type of spice mixture.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  12. I don't really like gin either but this might be one drink to try! And the spiced nuts sound tasty, very different from what I am used to but tasty. No favorite holiday drink especially, but wine or eggnog are always good. I do remember my mom mixing a special concoction every New Year's Eve and waiting until I was old enough to try it. No idea what it was, probably gin since she liked a sloe gin fizz, had egg in it (?), and she called it a "Yahootie." Weird but a fun memory of my very unusual mom.

    Thanks for the generous giveaway! Happy Holidays!

    1. Too funny -- a Yahootie sounds like what I blame when Yahoo isn't behaving!


  13. That's awesome!! Impatiently waiting inline for the book at my library! Hopefully it's under my tree too!!

  14. Indian spices add such a magical touch, whether purchased as a mix or mixed by you.
    Thanks for tasty sounding ideas.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  15. Would love to win 2 copies. I always donate my books to the small town library and the wished I hadn't. I've fought hard to get cosies on the shelves. They admit library patron do read them.Ruth Nixon ruthenixon@sbcglobal.net

  16. I like eggnog. Thanks for offering the books. I would give the second copy to the library for many others to enjoy!

  17. I enjoy hot tea. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  18. The book would be a real enjoyment. I would give the book as a gift. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  19. I like hot chocolate with brandy in it---but now I think I'll try your drink. Thanks for the contest.

  20. Oh I like cranberry margaritas and wassail. I think that is how you spell it. And any hot chocolate with peppermint!

    Thank you for the opportunity

  21. Thanks for the chance to win! ! Dnrocker@yahoo.com

  22. Anything with Bailey's Irish Cream usually wins me over.
    Thanks for the chance.

  23. Oh happy holidays. I have a cat named Cinnamon. Her sister it Nutmeg. Thank you for the recipes.

    1. Oh, Lisa, love that! Are they a golden brown, or did you pick the names just for fun?

  24. Sounds like you had fun while doing some research for the book,lol. Thanks for a chance to win one.

  25. I don't drink very often, but I don't mind a little run in my egg nog at Christmas!

  26. I can't drink due to the meds that i take for my nerve disease but my hubbys is Irish Baileys Creme he buys a little bottle. Now I love cinnamon i eat cinnamon toast every morning and love cozy mysteries have read and reviewed many would love to read this! ptclayton2@aol.com

  27. I loved the recipes, can't wait to try them. My favorite holiday drink is Irish Coffee but must be enjoyed in front of the fireplace. Thank you for the chance to win 2 copies, one for me and one for my friend. scarletbegonia5858@gmail.com

  28. Great recipes and giveaway! Thanks so much! bobandcelia@sbcglobal.net

  29. Thanks, all! This very day, one of my favorite food bloggers, David Lebovitz, is singing the praises of the Negroni! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/09/negroni-cocktail-recipe-gin-vermouth-campari/

    (And other characters wonder why Pepper and Erin don't believe in coincidence!)

  30. Thank you for the chance to win 2 books. Would like to win.

  31. Love the cover on the book. Thanks for the giveaway. marlene.ezell@gmail.com

    1. Isn't it great? I adore my cover artist's vision, for both series. And I promise, Arf the dog plays a big role in solving the mystery!

  32. There was a spiked eggnog that a doctor made, when I worked in his office that was delicious! The other doctors would come for eggnog and treats but of course, as staff, we could have some too. Merry Christmas! dbahn@iw.net

  33. Thank you for the recipes and the giveaway. J_A_M_5672@yahoo.com