Sunday, January 2, 2022

Around the Kitchen Table -- What We're Cooking This Year + 4-book #Giveaway

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: "The New Year -- full of things that have never been."

When we gathered around Peg's table in December, we talked about our goals and plans for 2022, most of them related to travel and writing. A couple of us mentioned recipes we want to try. I thought it might be fun to toss out a few ideas for what we hope to cook and kitchen skills we'd like to acquire in the year ahead. Of course, for us, our books dictate some of our new recipes--a year ago, I could not have predicted that I'd be making Chocolate Peppermint Bars in June and testing Peppermint Mocha recipes on summer's hottest day! (Yes, time is goofy these days, but it was all in the service of you, dear readers, and Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, coming this July.)  

Photo courtesy Pixabay

We have an espresso machine we dearly love, and I vow to learn to make latte art this year. I've managed the occasional accidental heart, but spider webs, skeletons, cat paws? What a treat! 

Mr. Right lived in India for a year as a young man, traveling and studying music, and we're planning a deep dive into Indian food this year, much as we explored French cooking last year. Watch this space for naan, sag paneer, pakoras, and much more!

Speaking of treats, it's been a treat to write and cook along side our dear Mary Jane Maffini, who also writes, with her daughter Victoria, as Victoria Abbott. This month we say farewell and thank you. You can count on MJ returning as a guest now and then, when she can break away from her family and her writing. Her many contributions are still in the recipe index that runs on the sidebars, under her various names. Thank you for the friendship and the good food, MJ!

And we welcome a new blogger to the Kitchen, VM Burns, author of the Mystery Bookshop mysteries, the Baker Street mysteries, and more. We're eager to see what Valerie cooks up! 

We're also debuting a new feature. We've dubbed the third Sunday of the month "Spotlight Sunday." Each of us will take a turn stepping into the virtual spotlight and telling you more about ourselves and our books. We think it will be a lot of fun, and hope you do, too.

So, blog sisters and dear readers, what's cooking in your kitchen in the coming year? Share your tasty plans in the comments for a chance to win a prize package from us! 


MAYA CORRIGAN: The 2021 holidays this year have given me two new cooking avenues to explore in 2022: sheet-pan roasting and sous vide. 

A friend gave me the Sheet Pan 5-Ingredient Cookbook. I've already found some recipes in it that I'd like to try, though "5" is used loosely in the book. The author states upfront that olive oil, butter, onion, garlic, citrus, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper don't count! I understand not counting ingredients like salt and pepper (which cooks can use to their taste) or oil when it's the medium of cooking (vs. an ingredient in a salad dressing). The recipes in the book, if you include everything except oil and salt/pepper, have between 5 and 10 ingredients. A bit of false advertising in the title, but fudging the ingredients is not uncommon in five-ingredient cookbooks. I aim for more honesty in my series. Aside from optional seasonings or garnishes, the recipes I include in my Five-Ingredient Mysteries really have just five ingredients.  

Though I'd heard of sous vide cooking, I hadn't experienced it firsthand until my sister used that method to cook a pork tenderloin for Christmas dinner. It was good, but not so good that I'm rushing to buy another kitchen device, especially since sous vide cooking takes more time than the methods I currently use. 

LESLIE KARST: This may sound a little odd, but what I want to try cooking this coming year is pig’s feet. “Trotters,” as they’re also colorfully known. The history of this new year’s resolution is that I purchased a half a hog a while back—a heritage, pastured, Duroc hog, to be exact—along with a deep freeze to preserve it. But now that I’ve cooked my way through the more traditional cuts such as loin, shoulder, and chops, I’m moving on to the nether parts of the beast, such as the belly and, yes, the feet. Because when you buy a half an animal, you get most everything from snout to tail, and I certainly don’t want to waste any of it

A little online research has told me that the best way to prepare trotters is to simmer them in water seasoned with spices, then slash the skin, drizzle it with oil, and roast till the skin is crackly and crisp and the meat inside fall-off-the-bone tender. But if any of you have any experience with pigs' feet, I'd love to hear about it! 


PEG COCHRAN/MARGARET LOUDON:  Two things come to mind immediately.  The first is Madeleines.  I bought a Madeleine pan back in--mumble, mumble--and I've yet to use it.  The cookies would make a lovely treat on Valentine's Day, wouldn't they?  I also have a package of egg roll wrappers in the freezer that I bought even before the Madeleine pan.  As the saying goes, there's no time like the present, so I plan to whip up a couple of different types of egg rolls.  There are plenty of "light" recipes that won't interfere with getting back on track with healthy eating in the new year.  If these experiments are successful I might try making sourdough bread.  I managed to kill the starter my daughter gave me (shhh, don't tell her) so I will have to start from scratch.  And perhaps by the end of 2022 I will finally try my hand at making my own puff pastry.  That's been on my bucket list for far too long!


MADDIE DAY: So many ambitions, ladies! Leslie K, just simmer those trotters in a good Brazilian black bean feijoada. Leslie B, I love cooking Indian with Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks. Maya, sheet pan cooking is so yummy, and so easy. Peg, good luck with your projects. 

We hauled out the mandolin to make thin potato slices for our Christmas day Pommes Dauphinoise. We'd used the device only once, I think. Yes, it's wicked sharp, but it was easy and safe, and now I want to do more with it. (Except, who thought it was a good idea to give a slicer and a musical instrument the same name, plus or minus an E?) I would also like to do more authentic Japanese cooking. I lived there for two years and have so many fond taste memories. 


VICKI DELANY: My goal is to try my hand at macarons. I am quite a good baker, if I do say so myself, but I haven't yet been brave enough to try these. They look quite difficult and require, so I've been told, a lot of practice. I never practice baking. I bake only what I want to eat or to share. But this year I do want to get familiar with these. In the Tea by the Sea mysteries, Lily Roberts is always baking macarons in the tea room. I include recipes in the books, but only those I've made myself.  It's about time I included some macarons, don't you think? 


LUCY BURDETTE: I received a wonderful new cookbook for Christmas called CHERYL DAY'S TREASURY OF SOUTHERN BAKING. It will be hard to know where to start: do I make the three citrus cake with my neighbor's key limes? Cheese and bacon scones? Butterscotch pudding? Stay tuned to this station and you'll see it right here!


MOLLY MacRAE: My goals are to: 1. Make sticky toffee pudding for the first time. It's not difficult, I've just never done it. 2. Find a local source for vegetarian suet and see how that works in traditional Scottish steamed pudding recipes using my lovely pudding bowl. 

3. Make vegetarian haggis and see if it's at all like real haggis (which I love but don't eat anymore because of the vegetarian thing). 4. Try to make my mother's fruitcake for next year's holiday. Her fruitcake was lovely and dark and especially good when served with hard sauce. Mom and a neighbor made them every year in late fall and fed them regularly with brandy for weeks. No one has her recipe, but I think traditional British Christmas cake must come pretty close. 


TINA KASHIAN: So many fabulous goals, ladies! My goal is to cook more vegetarian dishes. I received several cookbooks for Christmas. None are dedicated to vegetarian cooking, but each include tempting vegetarian dishes. I want to cook healthier for 2022 and to try different veggies than the normal ones in my diet. I also want my two teenage girls to eat healthier. Let's see how it goes!


MIA P. MANANSALA: Some great goals here! Leslie, in the Philippines, we have a dish called crispy pata that you absolutely have to try! My goal is to cook more often (this past year had me relying on takeout/delivery WAY more than I'd like) and to incorporate more vegetables and seafood into my diet. Seafood is already one of my favorites, but because quality fish can be pricey, I haven't eaten it as often as I'd like. I want to find affordable, sustainable ways to indulge in my seafood obsession. Also, Barnes & Noble had a 50% hardcover sale recently, so I used the gift cards I received as presents to pick up quite a few cookbooks. One of the cookbooks I plan on diving into is "Weekday Vegetarians." I don't think I could ever go fully vegetarian (or even pescatarian) but I love the idea of eating mostly vegetarian throughout the week. Here's hoping my husband agrees (he won't, but I can dream)!


CLEO COYLE: Tasty topic for the New Year, Leslie! We are loving your pudding bowl, Molly. And, Tina & Mia, Marc and I are not vegetarians, either, but we’re always interested in creative new ways to play with veggies. As for our foodie goals in 2022, we are happily continuing our love affair with honey...

(Click the cover to learn more)

Though we’ve used honey for years in our kitchen, the joys of that sweet ambrosia, its floral varietals, and the many ways to cook and bake with it are seemingly limitless. We look forward to sharing our appreciation of nature’s perfect food (and the culture of urban beekeeping) in HONEY ROASTED, our 19th Coffeehouse Mystery, publishing this February 1st. Happy New Year, everyone, may it bring you a bounty of good eats and good reads! ~ Cleo 

Farewell, Mary Jane! We're sorry you're leaving. 
Welcome, Valerie! We're glad you're joining us. 
And Happy New Year, writers and readers!


To be entered in this month's
group giveaway,
join us in the comments.

What are you looking forward
 to cooking (or eating!) in 2022?

Include your email address,
so we can contact the winner!


ASSAULT & PEPPER by Leslie Budewitz



Comments Open through
Wednesday, January 5

Don't forget to include
an email address!




  1. I've been thinking about baking a German Chocolate Cake. It's been quite a while since I've made one. Thank you for a chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

    1. Oh, so good! I'm already thinking ahead to my March birthday cake and that would be a good one!

  2. I want to make a rolled cake, like a jelly roll cake or one with a pumpkin filling. Everyone says they are 'easy' but I am nervous!! sharonquiltsatyahoodotcom

    1. What's the worst that can happen? So it falls apart -- it will still be delicious and you'll be laughing and you'll know what not to do next time1 Go for it!

    2. Failed rolled cakes me great trifles! Layer with whipped cream, some kind of sauce, maybe pudding. Trifles have rescued more than one Christmas dessert.

    3. I make Pumpkin Rolls every year and made my first Carrot Cake Roll this year that turned out great. I will say once you've got the process down they are easy but it did take me a few tries before I got them coming out not only tasting good but look it good. If you need any tips I would be happy to share what I've learned since I started making them.

  3. Happy 2022 to all, and wishes for a yummy New Year!
    MJ: Sorry to see you go, but I hope to read a new Camilla book soon!
    Maddie: Will be curious to see what authentic Japanese dishes you end up making.
    VALERIE: Welcome! Looking forward to seeing your posts/contributions on MLK this year.

    I am an eclectic cook and baker. I love trying a bunch of new recipes every year. Both MILK STREET and FOOD52's websites have been great resources for global recipes.

    One new cookbook I bought this year is FOOD52 GENIUS DESSERTS: 100 RECIPES THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU BAKE by Kristen Milgore. I made several yummy "genius" recipes in 2020 and 2021, so I am sure I will find some keeper recipes in this book.

    I have read 2 of the 4 books in your generous giveaway but I am looking forward to reading the others this year
    grace dot koshida at gmail dot come

    1. AUTOCORRECT: Really? the last word in my email should be "com" not "come"!

    2. Darn autocorrect! Grace, I'll keep you informed. I have a Japanese cookbook I love that I want to dust off and explore - haven't peeked inside it in years.

  4. Thank you for this column and the enjoyable reading, both blog and book along with recipe suggestions throughout the year.
    My baking goal is to make bagels and I am trying to choose among several recipes. King Arthur Flour site has three, all slightly different and there are many others on the web.
    Otherwise, my goal is to keep calm and remain open minded and tolerant. lrj

    1. You can't go wrong with King Arthur -- or a good bagel!

    2. I make Weight Watcher bagels--Greek yogurt mixed with flour and topped with Everything Bagel Seasoning. They're not bad!

  5. My goal is to learn how to make Macedonian dish called Sarma which is stuffed cabbage.
    Happy 2022!

    1. I LOVE Sarma! My in-laws were Serbian and it's also a Serbian dish. My mother-in-law would arrive for Christmas with a tote bag full of freezer bags stuffed with sarma that she carried on the plane! I've never tried to make it but I''m adding that to my list for 2022!

    2. Hi Peg, today is Orthodox Christmas and we are celebrating with Sarma!

    3. Hi Peg,
      Today is Orthodox Christmas and we are celebrating it with Sarma! My mother in law uses sour head cabbage leaves. Did your MIL do the same?

  6. Good luck, Mary Jane! Will miss your contributions to this blog. And Happy New Year to all the MLK writers.

    Have to say, I really don't have any cooking goals, mostly thanks to ennui from not having much of a social life these last two years. However, I really should start making bread again, and often, instead of relying on storebought. The kind we like has gotten hard to find.

    k maslowski at fuse dot net And thank you!

  7. I got a book full of cookie recipes I'm dying to try, a pina colada cake ball type of thing I'm curious about, plus it's been far too long since I've made a black forest cake.

    1. Oh, Black Forest! Going on the list of Birthday Cake possibilities!

  8. I want to make A batch of my grandma’s sandtart cookies and make a big pot of chili since we finally got some cold weather hear in DFW.
    Kitten143 (at) Verizon (dot) net

  9. Excited to try new recipe in the new year from friends/authors, recipes inspired by the books I read or in my search for something "different" to get out of the normal rut we all find ourselves in from time to time.

    However, I'm just as excited to work on downsizing tried and true recipes that haven't been made for ages because it's just the two of us - neither who really enjoy leftovers (that's another story). As in with other things in our lives, we don't need as much as we once did. The big casserole that I could share with my folks or invite company over isn't required any more. Most of the recipes handed down to my from my Mom and Granny were made to fed a LOT of folks. So in 2022, I want to take the recipe book that I created all those years ago and revise the ingredients to make smaller more easily devoured servings.

    While I have the basic learning for many nationalities foods (thanks to being an old Army brat raised around many sharing nationalities), I want to expand my cooking abilities to more than the most common of foods.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win FOUR wonderful books - three I'm dying to read and one I'm in the process of reading, but would make an awesome upcoming birthday present. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one.

    May this year be your happiest and healthiest year with many books in your future both for your profit and our enjoyment!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. That's a marvelous goal, Kay. I have occasionally looked wide-eyed at how much a recipe made, then packed some up for a neighbor who cooks but doesn't bake. Win-win!

  10. Becoming more creative with meals which are very unique and appealing. I cook but I strive to make even better and tastier delicacies. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Stick with us, Traveler -- we've got you covered!

  11. I'm so sorry to see Mary Jane leave but am so happy to see V.M. Burns is joining you. I love her books! For the cooking plans, I've been trying to find healthier recipes that aren't too "out there". As soon as I see ingredients I've never heard of or are expensive, I lose interest in trying them. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. There are several one pan meals that I have saved and want to try. They all look delicious so choosing which one to be first could be difficult.

    1. Brenda, several of us have posted one-pot pasta dishes or sheet pan meals over the years. Try putting "one pot" or "Sheet pan" in our search bar and see what you find!

  13. I want to break out of my comfort zone and try cooking new things. I also need to work on my procrastination about cooking. Once I do make new foods, I love most of them but actually starting a new recipe is my weak spot. egoehner(at)roadrunner(dot)com

    1. Emily, good for you wanting to try something new. I hope our photo illustrations help with that itty-bitty fear -- that's our goal!

  14. Whatever will go in the microwave but I am going to try to eat healthier and try some simple recipes.

  15. I am trying more vegetarian recipes myself. I made Moroccan lentil soup yesterday. It was really good, especially for the cold day we had. I have an entire bookshelf of eclectic cookbooks. I'm hoping to go through those and pick different things through the year. ( Hubby is a meat and tator guy, so wish me luck! lol

    1. I love lentil soup! Fortunately hubby does too and he's pretty much meat and potatoes as well or anything with Tex-Mex flavors.

  16. I live baking Angel Food cake. So I made one for New Year’s Eve. As tradition I always make lentil soup after New Year’s with left overs game. It is one thing my dad always asks for as one of his Christmas gifts along with butter cookies. We don’t see him until after the holiday because he lives 2 1/2 hours always from us. We pick a day to meet up and exchange gifts.

  17. Ohh but it looks like we will be having some fun coming our way from the authors. How exciting. I love to try new recipes. This year I want to try some more recipes with butternut squash and spaghetti squash. We need to get away from potatoes and noodles, so bring in the veggies. I look forward to what this blog brings our way. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Yummy goals, Lori! Use the search bar for butternut and spaghetti squash -- I've posted several recipes for each, and I know my blog sisters have, too!

  18. Cooking gourmet meals with very little effort would be wonderful since everyone enjoys this experience. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  19. I'm going to try making healthy smoothies with the smoothie maker I received.

  20. I want to learn to do more vegan and gluten free cooking - I tend to fall back on the sane standard fried chicken dinner too much I want to make more and healthier options.