Sunday, February 14, 2021

Honey Phyllo Rollups Recipe and Giveaway from Guest Author, Ellen Byron/Maria DiRico

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Mia P. Manansala here, and today I'm happy to present our guest author, Maria DiRico's (AKA Ellen Byron), fantastic recipe for honey phyllo rollups! I've been a fan of hers since her Cajun Country Mystery Series, and am delighted that she has a new culinary cozy series, The Catering Hall Mysteries (and not just because the protagonist has the best first name 😉)

Ellen's generously giving away a signed copy of the latest book in the series, LONG ISLAND ICED TINA, so make sure to read all the way to the end!

Happy Valentine’s Day, all! Today, I bring you a sweet treat to share with loved ones or indulge in on your own. 

My Catering Hall Mystery series revolves around an Italian family running a – you guessed it – catering hall. It’s set in Astoria, a neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens. The series is very personal. Growing up, my mother’s cousins by marriage ran two Astoria banquet venues, the Astoria Manor, and the Grand Bay Marina.  

Being a culinary cozy series, the Catering Hall Mysteries include Italian recipes. But people are surprised to find the books include some Greek recipes as well. While Astoria was populated primarily by Italians when my mother’s family moved there in the late 1940s, Greek families quickly followed, bringing their wonderful cuisine with them. 

Today, Astoria is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the city, which is wonderful. But I’ve chosen to stick to what I grew up with—Italian recipes with the occasional delicious dash of Greek. I hope you find these Honey Phyllo Rollups a sweet Valentine’s Day treat. Opa! Or, as my Italian family would say, Cin cin!

Honey Phyllo Rollups

Note: I made 36 rollups recreating the recipe for MLK. You can do the same or save leftover ground nuts and syrup to use as ice cream topping. Yum!


The cookies:

  • 2 cups ground nuts – walnuts, pecans, pistachio, or almonds work. Baker’s choice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsps. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice 
  • 24 sheets, phyllo dough, thawed
  • ½ cup butter, melted

The syrup:

  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 T. lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the ground nuts, ¼ cup sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.

Place two sheets of phyllo dough on a sheet of parchment paper larger than the dough. Brush the phyllo dough with melted butter. Sprinkle the dough with ¼ cup of the nut mixture. 

Roll the dough tightly but carefully from the long side upwards, creating a slim log. Slice the log into four pieces and set each into a greased 13x9 baking dish. You can pack the rollups tight – they won’t expand. (Note: keep the unused phyllo dough covered with a wet cloth or paper towel so that it doesn’t dry out.) 

When you’ve finished making the rollups, bake for 14-16 minutes – until they’re a light brown. Let them cool.

While the rollups are in the oven, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the honey, ½ cup sugar, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for around five minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for about ten minutes.

Spoon the syrup over the rollups. If you have any leftover nut mixture, sprinkle it over the rollups.

Serving: 24-36 rollups.

Ellen’s Cajun Country Mysteries have won the Agatha award for Best Contemporary Novel and multiple Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery. She writes the Catering Hall Mystery series, which are inspired by her real life, under the name Maria DiRico. Ellen is an award-winning playwright, and non-award-winning TV writer of comedies like WINGS, JUST SHOOT ME, and FAIRLY ODD PARENTS. She has written over two hundred articles for national magazines but considers her most impressive credit working as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart.







In the second installment of Maria DiRico's new Catering Hall Mystery series, Mia Carina is back in the borough of Queens, in charge of the family catering hall Belle View Banquet Manor and keeping her nonna company. But some events--like murder at a shower--are not the kind you can schedule...

Mia's newly pregnant friend Nicole plans to hold a shower at Belle View--but Nicole also has to attend one that her competitive (and mysteriously rich) stepmother, Tina, is throwing at the fanciest place in Queens. It's a good chance for Mia to snoop on a competitor, especially since doing a search for "how to run a catering hall" can get you only so far.

Mia tags along at the lavish party, but the ambience suffers at Nicole's Belle View shower when a fight breaks out--and then, oddly, a long-missing and valuable stolen painting is unwrapped by the mom-to-be. Tina is clearly shocked to see it. But not as shocked as Mia is when, soon afterward, she spots the lifeless body of a party guest floating in the marina . . .


GIVEAWAY TIME! For a chance to win a signed copy of LONG ISLAND ICED TINA, let Ellen know about the best or worst baby shower you've been to and why. Make sure to leave your email address so she can contact you!


  1. Those sound yummy, Ellen!

    Best baby shower? The one my bestie and I threw for her daughter, Anna. It was casual, men and women, in the back yard, with lots of good food and drink. We bought dozens of white onesies in many sizes. We set out tables with fabric paint and hung a clothesline, then invited all the guests to decorate a onesie. A day to remember!

    Can't wait for your new book.

    1. Edith, thanks so much. Sounds like a wonderful shower. We painted onesies too, when I threw my writing partner a shower!

  2. Thank you for this yummy recipe. Happy Valentines Day. Hope it is special. I went to a baby shower when I was pregnant myself about 6 months. The mother to be was about 8 months along. And there were other pregnant women in attendance also. But for some reason the lady that coordinated the party wanted everyone to do things like potato sack race and running and various things like this. She also had these games of guess about the other people with out talking to them. She had a game about how well everyone knows the mother to be. Needless to say, I didnt participate in most of the "games" as a lot of the other ladies didnt either. It wasnt a really happy party. So those of us that knew the mother to be put together our own baby shower. We invited our husbands and had a blast eating, guest of honor opening gifts and just hanging out and talking. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Wow! Thank goodness you put you and your baby first! And saved the day for your friend.

  3. Most of the baby showers I’ve been to lately have been the same. Men and women social gathering. Good food, lots of gifts of clothing, toys and useful baby items! Thanks for sharing the recipe! Sounds wonderful! Looking forward to reading the book!

    1. Male-female baby showers are a thing now. They're always fun!

  4. The first and only baby shower I've been to so far was last fall. A simple party with food, gifts, hanging out. I got to see some friends that had moved and I hadn't seen in awhile. Fun day.

  5. Can't wait to read the new book. It's been so long since I was at a baby shower. The only one I can remember was a small one that was mainly her family and me. Her husband was there, too. Those are the kind I like, small and intimate. Kkcochran (at) hotmail (dot) com

    1. I agree. My Italian family used to throw showers that were as grandiose as weddings!

  6. The last baby shower was lovely. No games, just a family baby shower with gifts and a lunch for all to enjoy. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. No memorable baby showers here. Does that mean my friends are boring or just not part of the story line of a mystery?!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. LOL! I'm hoping for your sake it's the latter!

  8. The best was my sister's. There were a number of family friends that we hadn't seen in years that were able to come.
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

    1. Lucky you! I so miss the family gatherings I can't be part of because I'm 3K miles away from everyone else.

  9. I think one of the best ones was my own. Haven't been to many lately

    1. That's wonderful! I haven't been to one in a long time, either. I think next up will be when my friends' kids start marrying and having their own. My own kid is years away from that.

  10. Hi, Ellen. Loved your recent presentation about humor and heart at Grand Canyon SinC (I'm in the NorCal chapter). My favorite baby shower was the one held for me during my first pregnancy (41 years ago!). My favorite gift was a potty chair, and everyone laughed at me because I was so excited! mbunting(at)sbcglobal(dot)net.

  11. Margie, thank you so much!! I was super nervous, so I'm glad it went well! Seriously, means a lot to me.

    At my baby shower, everyone oohed and aahed over the Diaper Genie. A contraption that produced a sausage roll of used diapers? Sign us up!

  12. I'm not a fan of baby showers, so I guess my favorite ones have been the ones I've missed! (Now, if they threw showers for puppies...)

    These roll-ups look super yummy, El! Happy Valentine's Day to all!

  13. It has been a long time, but all the baby showers I remember have been nice, including my own. On the other hand, I have heard of a baby shower game where the guests taste purchased baby food and try to guess what it is - yuck!

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  14. Nicest baby shower, with one off note, was for my honorary daughter back in the 90s. The hostess had a big table out in the garden with really lovely food. The guests were mainly co-workers of the mom-to-be, including one guy. Unfortunately the guy brought his one- or two- year old daughter along who demanded attention throughout the party. What in the heck was he thinking? I was told he was a bit of an idiot and self-centered. Oh well.

  15. The best baby shower that I have been to was put on by my daughter in laws mom, sister and sister in law. They made beautiful decorations and we did the painting of onesies. It was also fun because kids were involved. My daughter in law, who doesn't like get togethers with too many people did great and really enjoyed herself and that is really what it was all about. sandra shenton thirteen at gmail dot com

  16. I haven't been to a baby shower in a long time. I do know that I haven't been to a bad baby shower or I would have remembered. Love the Cajun Country series and I'm looking forward to reading your new series.

  17. I think mine was one of the worst! Only because I was bed ridden and they held it at my house! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

  18. Yum, your recipe sounds as good as your books, Ellen! I've never been crazy about baby showers, but the last one I attended was for my oldest niece, who drove Mom and me to the soon-to-be sister-in-law's brand new home for the party, where we indulged in a delicious brunch casserole, fresh fruit and copious amounts of mimosas before eating cake. No silly games, and I got to see family members and old friends, and since my Sis-in-law deemed my handwriting the best, I had the job of recording the gifts for niece, so kept introverted me occupied. Thanks for the recipe and giveaway! lola777_22 at hotmail dot com

  19. One of the best I attended was kind of retro. The light lunch even included a sandwich loaf with 3 different layers and an orange jello salad. Dessert was a homemade, layered ice cream cake. Fun. Looking forward to reading this new book!

  20. It's been so long since I've been to a baby shower can't remember. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

  21. My best shower was one I threw for my sister. She's extremely hard to surprise, but I was determined. My sister-in-law was having a baby at the same time, so I told my sister the shower was for my sister-in-law. She even helped me plan it and brought brownies. She was shocked when she arrived and found out the shower was for her. I think that was the first, and only time I've ever seen her truly surprised.

  22. The recipe sounds delish! Loved Here Comes the Body! Such a fun book. Looking forward to Long Island Iced Tina. Last baby shower I attended was so long ago the only thing I remember is a game was played of things you might have in your purse - the thing aske for was something that bounces - the hostess did not find any humor in my answer - a check. This was before debit cards. (Not that I routinely bounce checks, it was something I had in my purse that COULD bounce). Thank you for the chance to win. madamhawk at gmail dot com

  23. My apologies to everyone. My computer went out at 4 pm yesterday and I only got online now. Love the comments!

  24. I've only been to one baby shower in the past 10 years for my niece. It was really great. She had a lot of snacks and got a lot of great gifts. JL_Minter(at)hotmail(dot)come

  25. I havent been to a baby shower in years. Since I cant really remember them, nothing really great or really bad must have happened.

  26. Five years ago my daughters baby shower for my granddaughter Bellemere. It was really nice and many delicious treats. Your recipe sounds delicious. The book sounds interesting and fun to read.