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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Keeping an Amateur Sleuth Fed



Every amateur sleuth needs a trusty sidekick to help in the sleuthing, and Anastasia Pollack of my eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, is no exception. Her sidekick is Cloris McWerther, food editor at American Woman, the magazine where Anastasia works as crafts editor. Along with acting as a sounding board for Anastasia to bounce off investigative ideas, Cloris provides another valuable service—she keeps my meal-skipping, sweets-addicted sleuth supplied with baked goods. As her slightly overweight, pear-shaped figure will attest, Anastasia has never met a cupcake, muffin, or donut she didn’t devour.

 Today I’d like to share with you Cloris’s Apple Bundt Cake recipe.

 
Apple Bundt Cake

 Ingredients:

5 cooking apples

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2-1/4 cups sugar

1 cup butter

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup orange juice

4 eggs

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

Confectioner’s sugar
 

Peel and slice apples. Place in bowl. Add cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix to coat apples. Set aside. Cream the butter and remaining 2 cups of sugar. Mix all other dry ingredients together. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture. Combine eggs, juice, vanilla, and almond extract. Slowly add to other ingredients as you continue to mix. Batter will be thick.

 
Grease and flour Bundt pan. Place small amount of batter in bottom of pan. Add a layer of apples. Continue layering batter and apples, with batter as last layer.
 

Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. Cool on wire rack 15-20 minutes. Remove cake from Bundt pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

 
About the Author

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Other books in the series includes Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly and the ebook only mini-mysteries Crewel Intentions and Mosaic Mayhem.

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning craft and needlework designer. She
often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

 Visit Lois at www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth.

 
Decoupage Can Be Deadly

In her fourth full-length adventure, Anastasia and her fellow American Woman editors are steaming mad when minutes before the opening of a consumer show, they discover half their booth usurped by Bling! their publisher’s newest magazine. CEO Alfred Gruenwald is sporting new arm candy—rapper-turned-entrepreneur and Bling! executive editor, the first-name-only Philomena. During the consumer show, Gruenwald’s wife serves Philomena with an alienation of affection lawsuit, but Philomena doesn’t live long enough to make an appearance in court. She’s found dead days later, stuffed in the shipping case that held Anastasia’s decoupage crafts. When Gruenwald makes cash-strapped Anastasia an offer she can’t refuse, she wonders, does he really want to find Philomena’s killer or is he harboring a hidden agenda?

 
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dresdner Christstollen—A Holiday Gift from Far Away


Please welcome my guest, Heidi Noroozy, with a special German treat from her childhood.
 
When I was a child growing up in a German-Swiss family, Christmas at our house had a different feel than in the other homes in our small Vermont town. Less boldly cheery and more sedate, but every bit as fun. For one thing, we opened our presents on Christmas Eve and saved only the nut- and candy-filled stockings for Christmas Day. For another, our tree was light on tinsel and heavy on hand-painted wooden and glass ornaments sent by relatives in Germany.

As a child with a major sweet tooth, the arrival of a special package from East Germany (GDR) was always cause for great anticipation. I’d check the mailbox daily for weeks in advance. My mother’s family lived in the GDR, and between our infrequent visits, we had little contact with them. Except at Christmas, when Tante Grete mailed us a Christmas stollen (Christstollen)—a yeast cake filled with raisins, nuts, and candied fruit and covered with a lovely crust of vanilla-scented sugar. The most authentic ones are said to be made in the city of Dresden, which is where she lived.

The pastry came packaged in an oblong metal tin with a pretty winter scene painted on the side. The tin was sealed so tight, opening it required a bit of ingenuity—and my father’s toolbox. Because of the odd shape, a can opener didn’t work. So my mother would set the tin down on one end and pry the lid off with a hammer and chisel. The oval cake—a sweetbread, really—would slide out onto a cutting board, dribbling a trail of powdered sugar like a light dusting of snow.

Years later, when I moved to East Germany to study at Leipzig University (or Karl-Marz-Universit├Ąt, as it was called at the time), I would scour the shops in mid-December in search of a real Dresdner Christstollen. I found many lesser cakes during the Christmas holidays but none in the familiar tin box with the winter scene painted on the side. The explanations varied.

Mangelware,” one friend said, claiming that the ingredients were in short supply, due to the GDR’s perennial deficit of hard currency for imports. I had no trouble believing this explanation, having witnessed butter rationing and empty store shelves with my own eyes.

Another acquaintance told me that specialty products such as authentic Dresdner Stollen went straight to the export market, bypassing East German shops altogether. This, too, I knew was common practice.

Recently, I published a short story inspired by my years in the GDR. “Trading Places” features a disillusioned East German policeman on the trail of a graffiti artist whose cryptic political messages threaten to spark public unrest. Lieutenant Maibeck is an outsider in his world, a former aristocrat who’s tried hard to overcome the liability of his noble birth to fit into East Germany’s Communist society. In his single-minded pursuit of this goal, he’s alienated most of the people he loves. Christmas will be a lonely affair for poor Maibeck, but I like to think that he’ll slice up a sugar-crusted Christstollen to go with his morning coffee on Christmas Day.

You can read the story online in the October 2013 issue of Nautilus Magazine.

And here is a recipe I found in an old family cookbook. I can’t say whether it comes from the German or Swiss side, but it hardly matters. The Germans, Austrians and Swiss enjoy this festive cake in equal measure.

German Christstollen

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 package dry yeast

¾ cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of ½ lemon

1 ½ sticks butter, softened (3/4 cup)

¼ teaspoon ground saffron (optional)

½ cup black raisins

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup chopped hazelnuts

For the topping:

1–2 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup powdered sugar*

Heat the milk then cool it to lukewarm. Add the dry yeast, lemon zest, saffron and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix to form a sponge. Cover with a towel and let rise for ½ hour.

Mix the rest of the flour with raisins and nuts. Add to the wet ingredients along with the softened butter, and work into a dough, kneading until it's smooth. This can also be done in a mixer or food processor with a dough blade. Form the dough into a ball, and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Punch down the dough, and roll out into an oval. Fold one side of the dough over the other, leaving about 1/2 inch of the long edge of the bottom layer extending beyond the top fold. (This gives the stollen its distinctive, lopsided shape). Tuck the short ends underneath the loaf. Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Place the loaf on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about an hour.

While the stollen is still warm, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Dribble a bit more melted butter on top of the sugar, and then sprinkle on another layer of sugar.

* This topping is especially tasty with vanilla-scented sugar. You can make your own by sticking a whole vanilla bean into a jar of powdered sugar and letting it stand for about a week. Or mix a packet of vanilla sugar in with the powdered sugar before topping the stollen.

 ****

 Heidi Noroozy is a translator, blogger, and writer of multicultural fiction. Her short stories appeared in German crime anthologies and have been translated into five languages. Her most recent story, “Trading Places,” was published in the “Secret Codes” issue of Nautilus Magazine in October 2013. She lived in the GDR in the 1980s and holds a degree in German language and literature from Leipzig University. Heidi lives in Northern California with her Iranian-born husband and is currently writing a novel set in present-day Iran.

 

 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Cupcakes--and a dash of romance


 

Please welcome my guest, author Cheryl Norman, who responded to my call for holiday recipes, with a cupcake delight.

Cheryl grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where she wrote her first mystery at the age of 13.  She earned a BA in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta. After a career in the telecommunications industry, she returned to fiction writing and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort

Her debut with Medallion Press, Restore My Heart, led to a mention in Publisher's Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch. Running Scared, a romantic suspense set in Jacksonville, Florida, and Washington D.C., received a Perfect 10 from Romance Reviews Today. Reviewer Harriet Klausner calls her writing "Mindful of Linda Howard ... " Her latest romantic suspense novel for Medallion is Reclaim My Life, and Cheryl has two novellas in the anthology Romance on Route 66. Rebuild My World, the sequel to Reclaim My Life, will be published by Turquoise Morning Press.

In addition to writing, Cheryl works with breast cancer survivors to raise awareness about early detection and treatment of the disease. She also helps writers with grammar via her Grammar Cop blog, newsletter articles, and workshops. Visit Cheryl at her Web site: http://cherylnorman.com , Twitter: http://twitter.com/cherylnorman
and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cherinorman

 Here, in Cheryl’s words, is the story behind her cupcakes.

 ****

I recently wrote my first inspirational romance for Highland Press’s Christian Christmas anthology, The Heart of Christmas. My story is “The Christmas Prayer.” Royce Hilliard is a widower with a twelve-year old daughter who bonds with Noelle Barker, who she meets at church. Noelle is alarmed when the girl announces that God has sent Noelle to be her dad’s new wife, but Royce thinks it might be true. Noelle sure seems the answer to his prayers! Unfortunately, Noelle isn’t enthusiastic about Christmas or motherhood. Will she let ghosts of her Christmas past sabotage her happiness?

As you begin your holiday baking, you might enjoy the following cupcake recipe. I’ve made it, and I’m not much of a baker, so it must be easy. In the story, Noelle organizes a cupcake-baking marathon with the preteen church group, and they make holiday cupcakes for the senior center residents. Cupcakes are growing in popularity because they’re easy to serve and equally portioned.

If you’d like to read the anthology (it makes a nice holiday gift, too!), go to amazon.com (http://tinyurl.com/pf2g5un) or your favorite book source.

Happy holidays!

Cheryl Norman
Holiday Cupcakes

Ingredients:

·         1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

·         3 large eggs (room temperature)

·         2 ½ cups cake flour

·         2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

·         ½ teaspoon salt

·         1 ¾ cups sugar

·         1 ¼ cups milk

·         2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1.      Preheat oven to 375°. Line muffin tins with paper liners while butter and eggs stand at room temperature.

2.      In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3.      In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for one minute. Gradually add sugar (about ¼ cup at a time) until all sugar is creamed. Beat on medium speed, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl, for about two minutes total.

4.      Gradually add eggs, one at a time.

5.      Add vanilla extract.

6.      On low speed, add a third of the flour mixture then half the milk, alternately, until all flour and milk are incorporated. Do not overbeat.

7.      Using a scoop, add batter to each cup liner.

8.      Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.

9.      Allow muffins to cool in tins for about 5 minutes.

10.  Carefully remove cupcakes and cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before frosting.


 


Fluffy Cupcake Frosting

Ingredients:

·         1 8-oz. package Neufchatel cheese, softened

·         1 stick unsalted butter, softened

·         2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

·         6 cups sifted powdered sugar

·         (optional) food coloring or sprinkles

Directions:

1.      With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.

2.      Stir in vanilla extract.

3.      Gradually beat in powdered sugar, about a third at a time, on low speed until all sugar is incorporated and icing reaches spreading consistency.

4.      Add optional food color—carefully, a bit at a time until you get the color you want.

5.      Place frosting in a zippered food storage bag, seal, and then clip the bottom corner to form a piping bag. Decorate cupcakes and add sprinkles if desired.

Yields two dozen

 

 

 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The night I didn't cook

Hummus salad
I always, always feed dinner guests a homemade dinner, sometimes down home, sometimes a gourmet experiment. Except for last night. I had lured friends with the promise of a pot of soup since a "wintry mix" is headed to North Texas. But then I remembered that the "he" of this couple is sort of vegetarian, and I had that pan of spanakopita in the freezer. I went with a friend to the annual Greek festival and brought home the spanakopita, wondering who to share it with. Christian would have said, 'You want me to eat WHAT?" Jordan would probably have declined, and Jacob would have taken the required one bite and given his usual opinion: "I don't like it." My guests last night were perfect! The last time we dined together, we had Lebanese food, so this fit right in.
But what to serve with it? Aside from a Greek salad? As I've said here before I'm getting tired of tossed salads, Greek or not. I couldn't find tabouleh in the grocery (in retrospect I think I looked in the wrong place) but I did find tzatziki which I'm perfectly capable of making--but there it was already made. And from the company that makes the hummus I like best. Both items went into my shopping cart, and then from the long row of condiments, etc., at Central Market I chose marinated artichokes and dolma. I bought pita bread, which I had to search for, and overlooked the fact that it was honey-flavored. Nobody mentioned the honey in the pita.
So I had an array of appetizers--dolma, marinated artichokes, tzatziki, and pita. We lingered over them in front of the fire. Dinner itself was the spanikopita and a hummus salad, which is the only thing I fixed...and I hardly did any fixing for that.

Hummus salad

Spread a container of hummus evenly over serving plate.
Optional: top with a layer of Greek yogurt (actually I forgot to buy the yogurt or I would have)
Top with chopped cucumber, scallions, halved cherry tomatoes, and crumbled feta.

All of the above made great leftovers for lunch today.

And the soup? It's simmering in the crockpot. A huge pot of soup. I'll need to share with someone.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The joy of cooking--with a grandchild

Jacob eating a mini-muffin while Sophie watches jealously
 
In the continuing effort to keep seven-year-old Jacob from being constantly attached to one kind of digital screen or another, I announced Friday night that we would pot some herbs and then make mini-muffins. I shop at Origins (cosmetics) a lot, and last time I was there they gave me a starter kit for three herbs--chives, basil and thyme (all of which I already have on my porch). Each small pot had a hard cake of dirt in it--Jacob was fascinated watching the dirt cakes expand as we poured water on them. Then we carefully planted the ten seeds in each packet. He hasn't quite got the idea of giving them a tiny bit of water each day, but I do hope they sprout.
Then we moved on to muffins. He wore an apron, dumped the ingredients in the bowl, and with a bit of help from me, used the mixer. Then he spooned the batter into each muffin tin, using two spoons. As he worked, he said, "This is so much fun!" When I told him it would be easiest to use the spoon in his right hand to dip up the batter and the one in his left to scrape it off the first spoon, he said, "You just taught me the secret of cooking." I said, "Well, one of them." "How many are there?" he asked in all seriousness.
I will admit he flaked out on the second pan and spent the rest of the evening watching TV in the chair in my office. But he enjoyed the fruits of his labor. I gave him one muffin, and then when I took the second batch out of the pan I said, "Jacob, something awful has happened. This muffin fell apart. I can't serve it to company. What should I do with it?"
His answer was instantaneous. "Give it to me." And I did.
Here's the easiest muffin recipe you've ever tried:

1 pkg. Devil's Cake mix
1 can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup mini chocolate bits

Spoon into greased muffin tin and bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. The recipe is meant for regular size muffins, but I found that the mini ones have to bake just as long.

Best thing: one regular size muffin is something like one Weight Watchers point. So enjoy and feel righteous.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Two quick, yummy dishes from the Grandma Moses of Mysteries

Please welcome my guest, Norma Huss.

In July of 2011, I read an interesting recipe for broccoli salad on The Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog. It was a cold dish, but I altered it quite a bit to make this hot side dish. I cooked the vegetables (my husband does not like his broccoli and cauliflower raw), lost one ingredient (that I didn’t happen to have), and changed the sauce completely. A hit with both my husband and me.

Fiesta Vegetables - for 2 (multiply for more servings)

2 slices bacon, cut before cooking or broken up after (latter is easier)
3 or 4 florets broccoli
3 or 4 florets cauliflower
1/4 large onion cut in wide strips
1 or 2 tbsp raisins
1 or 2 tbsp chopped pecans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sugar or honey

 
Place broccoli, cauliflower, and onion in steamer. Steam for 15 minutes until tender but not mushy. While this is cooking microwave or fry bacon until crisp. Break or chop into bits.

Prepare sauce by whipping the olive oil, vinegar and honey together.


Mix cooked vegetables with sauce (or pour it over) and serve hot with the bacon, nuts, and raisins sprinkled on top.

Here's a bonus recipe. Sorry, no illustrations for this dish.

Sloppy Joes with Red Cabbage

 Brown hamburger until all pink is gone, chopping with a plastic or wooden spoon or spatula to keep the meat from clumping. Add chopped onion and one or two cups of shredded red cabbage. Add your favorite barbeque sauce or a purchased one. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, or until you corral all the family and prepare whatever else you might be serving.

 As you may have noted, I’m not big on exact measurements. My favorite barbecue sauce starts with ketchup and usually includes vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, powdered cloves, a tiny bit of cinnamon, salt, enough water to keep things from burning, and maybe some paprika, chili powder, or pepper. (Those last three are only if the mood strikes me.) Serve hot on buns.

I have served this numerous times to a variety of people. No one has ever detected any difference in either taste or texture compared to Sloppy Joes without the cabbage. (I love to add surprising elements to any meal.)
****
 I call myself The Grandma Moses of Mystery. Besides my two mysteries, Yesterday’s Body and Death of a Hot Chick, my other published book is a non-fiction retelling of a young man’s adventures—A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska.

As I write this post, my daughter is putting the finishing touches on the cover for my new book to be out later in November. Cherish is the title. It’s a ghost mystery for the younger YA reader.

The short blurb—Sophomore Kayla has seen the ghost for years and she wants to make her go away. But instead, it’s Kayla who disappears from her life in the twenty-first century and into Cherish’s life in 1946, only days before Cherish will die.


 

 

 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

‘Tis the Season…already!

On a Friday night recently, my oldest daughter mentioned she expected twelve adults and twelve kids for dinner and football watching the next night. “What’s for dinner?” I asked. Her reply? “I haven’t thought about it yet.” I would have had a menu planned a week before cooking started, dishes laid out, and so would her sister. She claims that gene missed her, but she pulled it off beautifully—two pots of chili (one vegetarian) with chips, salsa and guacamole. She planned a salad but decided against it at the last minute. Dessert was leftover birthday cake and cupcakes and cookies someone brought. Kids and adults alike loved it.

For me, it’s time now to start planning Christmas, both gifts (half or more of that is already done) and menus.

At Christmas I traditionally have a party for anywhere from thirty to fifty people. With that size group, I avoid anything like canap├ęs—don’t want to make, say, 150 crostini, wontons, or gougeres or anything like that. I focus on things that can be served in bulk. Here are two or my favorites:

Cheeseball

This is traditional in my family. When my brother and I were young, our family always went to a certain house on Christmas Eve for a party. I don’t remember what was served except this cheeseball and lots of fresh shrimp. I suppose there was a roast or something. Today, my kids clamor for this.

½ lb. Roquefort

1 pkg. Old English cheese (no longer available—I use an 8 oz. pkg of Velveeta)

l eight-ounce pkg. cream cheese

½ lb. pecans, chopped fine

1 bunch parsley, chopped fine

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 small onion, chopped fine   

½ tsp. horseradish

Let the cheese soften to room temperature and mix thoroughly. Add Worcestershire, onion, horseradish and half of the parsley and pecans. Mix thoroughly and shape into a ball. Do NOT do this in the food processor, as it will become too runny. Even a mixer makes it too smooth and creamy—wash your hands thoroughly and dig in, so the finished cheese ball has some texture and credibility. Roll the ball in the remaining parsley and pecans. Chill. Serve with crackers.

Brie with topping:

I use a 12 inch brie but you can do this with any size, even a slice; just cut down on topping.

Slice away the rind on the upper side of the cheese but leave it intact on the sides or your brie will run \all over the baking dish.

Top with a mixture of one cup dark brown sugar, well mixed with one tsp. cayenne—you can make any amount to fit your brie. Just keep the proportions. I have done ¼ c. sugar with ¼ tsp. cayenne for a smaller round of brie.

Bake until cheese is soft and topping is melted—about 20 minutes in a 350 oven, but watch it closely.

Serve with crackers.

More Christmas ideas to come! Start your planning now!

 
 
 

 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My kind of happy

My entertaining style is casual, to say the least (excluding small seated dinners and those are fairly casual but I do use wine glasses.) At gatherings of ten or more, I use plastic wine glasses, disposable plates, paper napkins--and urge my guests to wear jeans (which most know to do anyway).
I have new neighbors on the east--we share driveways and so, you might say, are intimately connected. I wanted to welcome them and introduce them to some of my great neighbors, so I decided on a happy hour with heavy hors d'oevres. The beauty of such events at my house is that my neighbors are used to bringing their own drink of choice and something to contribute to the meal. But still, as hostess, I felt obliged to provide some anchor foods, so I chose three old favorites?

Hot dogs in Crescent Rolls:
Everyone makes these, but I chose them because there will be three young children tonight. It's been my experience, however, that adults eat more than the children. With that, I put out a bowl of mustard next to the hot dog rolls (no one touched it). I did have some trouble that I may have to talk to Pillsbury about: I could not open the first can of rolls--the wrapping tore before I had a chance to pull it off. I finally used a knife to get into the package. With the second tube of rolls, I couldn't find where it unwrapped and consequently peeled off unusable hunks of dough. Talk about inept in the kitchen--if  you can't do Crescent Roll hot dogs, you're pretty hopeless. But I ended up with fifteen puffy golden rolls. Made them in the morning, refrigerated, and re-heated for serving.

Onion soup mix:
Another winner for kids, though they tend to eat just the chips. Still I put out mixed veggies, with a heavy emphasis on carrots (Jacob will get them for snacks this week). This doesn't do well made ahead, so I did it at the last minute.

Colin's queso:
I've posted this before, but it bears repeating. Everyone loves it, and it was my truly "heavy" appetizer. I call it Colin's because he still asks for it--specifically on his fortieth birthday. When my kids were at home, I made a batch, put corn chips in bowls, and ladled the queso over it. That was dinner.
I made this in the morning and put it in a crockpot on low.

1 lb. hamburger, browned and crumbled
1 lb. sausage, browned and crumbled--your taste dictates mild, medium or spicy
1 16 oz. jar Pace Picante sauce--again, you choose hot, medium or mild
1 can mushroom soup undiluted
1 lb. Velveeta
Combine all, heat in crockpot.

A note here: I avoid processed food as much as possible. For the hot dogs, I used Oscar Meyer Select chicken dogs--no preservatives, pure chicken breast meat. As to onion soup, Velveeta, and mushroom soup, I simply closed my eyes and overlooked my objections to preservatives. Generally I feed tidbits of Velveeta to my dog occasionally but do not eat it myself nor feed it to Jacob ( he of course adores it). I'm less worried about GMOs than I am about preservatives in our food. I used to eat a prepared tuna salad with a sell-by date two months out. Think about what's keeping it safe that long. Doesn't land on my tongue any more. I make my own tuna salad with my good tuna from Oregon.

The evening was a success, though I sent a lot of Colin's queso home with Jordan, along with chips, and I have some queso for me, some Crescent Rolls in the freezer to defrost for Jacob's snacks, lots of carrots, and some assorted veggies that will make a great stir fry. Isabella, the five-year-old from next door, did me the favor of eating all the bell pepper strips. The new neighbors are interesting--with varied and impressive backgrounds--and most pleasant. I fell in love with the children--Bella just had her birthday this weekend, and Grant is a year old, happy and adorable. We all are going to enjoy these new neighbors.

As usual, I got busy being a hostess and forgot to take pictures. But it was a pretty spread, with chicken salad, shrimp and red sauce, a sausage and cheese platter, and a cheese/bread appetizer added by neighbors. Neighborhoods like mine--throwbacks if you wish--are so comforting.

 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What I Cook or Don’t Cook When I’m Writing

Please welcome my guest, Marilyn Meredith, author of the newly released Spirit Shapes
My daughter and I had a conversation about cooking today—and my questions to her was, “I wonder how many dinners I’ve cooked over the years.” I don’t even want to figure it out.

When I cooked for my family, no one ever objected to what I concocted; they were just happy to eat whatever we I put on the table.  Hubby was in the Seabees when our five kids lived at home, and money was scarce. I shopped one time for the whole month, planning out every day’s menu ahead of time. I became an expert at putting together meals, sometimes from very little.

Later, after the kids were grown and hubby retired, we owned, lived in, and operated a care home for six women with developmental disabilities. I cooked dinner nearly every evening for them and us and whoever else might be living with us at the time (my mom, various grandkids) and we often had company too.  I learned to cook large quantities without sacrificing taste.

Now hubby and I are back to the two of us—though our son, who lives next door, often joins us for dinner. Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that I am still cooking nearly every night. It doesn’t matter whether I’m writing or not, I want to eat so I still cook.

I must confess though, I don’t enjoy it quite as much as I used to. I still like to try new recipes and experiment with food items I have on hand. Unfortunately, I’ve had few failures. It’s hard for me to give a recipe for a certain dish to anyone, because I seldom make things the same way twice. And I don’t measure.

Once in a while, I rebel, especially when I’ve had a particularly long day either writing or promoting, and I’ll say, “Let’s go to the Mexican restaurant tonight.”

Sometimes I write about a meal my characters are cooking and eating and it makes me want to fix the same food.

What about you? Does reading on Facebook what someone is making for dinner, or what characters are cooking or eating in a novel you’re reading make you want to have or fix the same food?

This is the meatloaf that I made when my editor visited. I always make a large meatloaf, and I don’t really measure much so the measurements here are not exact..

3 lbs. lean ground round
2 eggs
3 T of Worcestershire sauce
2 white onions chopped
¾ C Bread crumbs (I usually just tear up some old bread for crumbs and frankly, because I like whole wheat sour dough, that’s what I usually have around.
Salt to taste
Ketchup
Mix the 2 eggs with a fork then mix all the rest in with them. Use your fingers to mix it all up together.
Form a large, but rather flat loaf, maybe 2 inches thick in a large baking pan with sides.
Pour ketchup on top in a thick layer.
Bake about 45 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Serves 5-6 and hopefully with slices leftover.
****

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, an organization for electronically published authors, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ 
Her latest novel is Spirit Shapes: Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.
Marilyn is doing a blog tour to promote Spirit Shapes, and the person who comments on the most blogs on this tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Administered by Marilyn; please do not contact this blog.