Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Amish Frienship Bread...Don't blame me if you become a slave to it!

One Christmas gift from my husband was a book by one of my favorite authors, Celia Rivenbark. Bless Your Heart, Tramp and Other Southern Endearments has had me laughing out loud and nodding my head in agreement. One essay from this book that I particularly enjoy is, Revenge of the Amish Friendship Bread.

Celia writes about all of the love and care that one must devote to their starter for Amish Friendship Bread. It made me recall the day that I recieved my bag of starter from a co-worker. Anyone who has ever maintained starter for Amish Friendship Bread or sourdough bread knows where I'm coming from.

I faithfully tended to my starter and baked my lovely loaves for months. The result was moist, beautfiul, sweet, fragrant loaves that I used to enjoy with my mornng coffee. Then, I was put on bedrest with my pregnancy. Some sacrifices had to be made, and my Amish Friendship Bread starter became one of the casualties.

Someday, I will again take up the practice of tending to a bag of starter. If you think you're ready to take it on, here's a link that has the recipe for starter and instructions for doing your own bread.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Delicious Austerity

I got this from the WorldWide Recipes newsletter. The poster (who identified herself as Valerie) said it was from her grandmother's WWII cookbook. I make it a lot and absolutely LOVE it!

Chicken Croquettes

Oven Temp: 450F

1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp pepper
1 T diced onion
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 T minced parsley
2 T cold water
2 C cooked cubed chicken
1 C soft bread crumbs or cooked rice
1 C finely sifted dried bread crumbs

Mix mayonnaise and seasonings in a bowl. Gradually stir in water.
Add chicken and soft bread crumbs (or rice). Mix with fork. Let
stand 5 minutes. Shape into 6 - 7 croquettes. Roll each in the
dried bread crumbs. Place on foil on a baking sheet. Bake 15 - 20
minutes or until browned.Hoorah for the women (heck, for the cooks of any gender) who could take what my family calls scrips and scraps and make food that's not only nourishing but enticing and satisfying.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Austerity Cooking

Christmas is over. Back to work.

One of the difficulties of writing a series is that while you're promoting your latest release, you're also working on the next book.  My January 2009 book hasn't even been officially launched, and I'm already half-way through with the next one.  The fifth book in this series is set right at the beginning of World War I in the U.S.  When America got into the war, the government issued a whole set of austerity rules, including ways to save certain food items such as flour, sugar, dairy, and meat.

So I'm researching the ways that women in that period changed and altered recipes in order to comply.  Some of them were amazingly inventive, and judging by the ones I've experimented with thus far, they were very tasty, as well.

One interesting recipe that my grandmother used even when I was a little girl (quite a bit after WWI, in case you're wondering) was for Vinegar pie.  I am convinced that you can make a delicious pie out of anything.  This is not the recipe I'm going to use in the book, but it is a very simple variation, if you're feeling brave and experimental.

Vinegar Pie:
1 egg
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 cup water

Beat together the egg, flour, and sugar, then add vinegar and water, stir in the cinnamon, pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Joys of Christmas Past

Yesterday I did an Examiner post about the surprising paths to Christmas Spirit. I spoke about a once-abused-now-rescued-and-affectionate horse and a skittish stray cat. Today I'm concentrating on the joys of Christmas past . . . as in the joys of having Christmas behind us. In no particular order, they are:

* Christmas has passed, but New Year's Day isn't here yet. Still time to enjoy a few goodies without that awful eat-less-exercise-more resolution hanging over my head. And there's still time to enjoy the Christmas tree without dreading taking it down. When will they make a tree like those in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas that you can simply pull down like an umbrella, ornaments intact?

* Playing with the children and their new Christmas presents!

* Snuggling with my husband.

* Giggling with the children.

* Enjoying my new Christmas presents. I was up until one this morning reading The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer. He's such a good writer. I love everything I've read by him so far.

* Imagining someone saying what I just said about Brad Meltzer about me. Or, how about this? Brad Meltzer saying, "That Gayle Trent is such a good writer." :-D

* Year in review shows where you see everything you've forgotten or paid no attention to earlier in the year.

* New Year's Eve marathons! I Love Lucy and Looney Toons. . . . Does it get any better than that?

* Christmas vacation!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Broken Freezer was a Christmas Blessing

I tend to go extremely crazy in the weeks that preceed Christmas. In years past, I have begun baking and making candies right after Thanksgiving, and putting them in the freezer. The result has usually been a huge surplus of treats, and me scurrying around trying to distribute my arsonal of cookies and fudge.
This year, the freezer on our garage fridge went out right around Thanksgiving. At first, I was convinced that this calmaity would put a huge damper on my holidays. Without the extra space, I would not be able to try each and every recipe that I had planned to make.
I am now convinced that the freezer malfunction was a result of divine intervention. My baking and candy-making began last week. I made about half as much as usual, and still had all kinds of stuff for family and friends.
Little did I know that it would take a broken freezer to teach me that I need to chill out a little over the holidays! Fatal Foodies, if you tend to be like me, please know that the holidays will not be ruined if you don't do everything you THINK you're supposed to. Perhaps this realization is the best gift I have gotten this Christmas.

Merry Christmas! Hope you get some time to "chill out" with loved ones!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sumpin FASS

As a service to people rushed off their feet and invited to more parties than they can deal with, here is a really really quick and easy recipe that is also really really good.

Corn Salsa
  • can of corn or frozen equivalent defrosted

  • can of black or red beans

  • salsa of whatever strength and quantity you like

  • tortilla chips for scooping

Drain corn, beans, and salsa of excess liquid. Put them all together and serve with chips. Good cold, room temperature, or heated.

You have to drain this puppy, or it ends up swimming in liquid. If you have more time, you can layer corn tortillas, the mixture, shredded cheese and repeat, then bake it for a casserole.

Another tried and true one:

Bean and Cheese Dip
  • can of chili beans in sauce

  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese -- or Velveeta (processed cheese spread), if you prefer

  • heavy-duty dipping chips or sliced French bread

Heat chili and cheese until cheese is melted. Dip chips into it or spoon it over bread.
Hmmm.... Why is it always vegetarian? Why is it always Tex-Mex? I am not vegetarian, nor Texan nor Mexican....


Monday, December 22, 2008

Cat Food

If you have or ever have had companion animals, you probably have experienced their intense attention at meal time. You're happily eating your breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack and suddenly you have the overwhelming feeling you're being stared at. Intensely. You -- and your food -- are the subject of a single minded focus rarely seen outside of Superbowl fans or strip club patrons. More than, say, two animals and you feel like Tippi Hedren in the last scene from THE BIRDS.

In our household, there are 10 cats. Leaving food unattended is a sure fire way to lose it; one of my cats, Foster, ran off with an entire sausage. He stole it from the cast iron pan on the stove when I left the room for, oh, maybe a minute. Watching him run through the house, one end of the sausage in his mouth, the other trailing between his front legs like an antelope felled by a lion, the other cats on his tail, I was half tempted to let him keep it - I couldn't stop laughing. We ended up chopping it into little pieces and distributing it amongst the feline populace. Trust me, you wouldn't have wanted to eat it either.

Any meal involving seafood starts a clarion call. Foster (the sausage thief) has a meow like a
donkey mixed with a party horn - HEEEEEowwwww.... He jumps up on the arm of the couch (we don't have a dining room table, so most of our meals are eaten at the coffee table), fixes me and/or my plate with his slightly crossed blue gaze and stares with kitty hypno-vision, giving his pathetic HEEEEowwwww every few minutes. The other cats, with the exception of Bug Bear, are slightly more polite. They'll just stare with varying degrees of 'give me now' intensity and/or huge pathetic eyes straight out of a black velvet painting. Bug Bear believes in the direct approach - front paws on my lap, nose and mouth at the edge of my plate. This is not allowed and he is immediately scolded and displaced, but he has the persistance of the Terminator.

What amuses and amazes me about felines is the variety of weird things they eat; things you wouldn't think they'd like. Foster has a passion for corn on the cob, with or without butter. This was discovered after he stole a partially devoured corn cob off my plate during an indoor picnic (we were eating on the floor), vanished from the room and happily consumed the rest of it. Little bits of corn were found all over the house.

Several of my cats love chips. Potato chips, corn chips, popcorn...not gluten free chips, though. They will not touch my beloved Identity Crisis chips from TJs. They also love pizza, little pieces of cheesy crust. Buttered toast...not so weird, I guess.

But avocado? Yup, avocado. And cooked broccoli too. Who would have thunk it?

So what's the weirdest thing YOU'VE seen your cat or dog eat? Enquiring minds want to know...

"AH...dat was good!"

Foster after his meal...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tamale Time

It’s not Christmas in the Southwest without tamales.  Tamales are such a labor intensive dish to make that it has become tradition to make them for very special occasions, like Easter, or Christmas.  In Hispanic families, women often spend days making tamales before the holiday, and then give them as gifts.  Tamales were here before the Europeans.  There are records of the Aztecs serving tamales to the Spanish in the 1500s.

Every region has its own native style of tamales - all the Southwestern states (New Mexican tamales can rip roof of your mouth right off), all the Mexican states, all the Central American countries.  The basic idea is to wrap a filling in masa (a type of corn flour), then a corn husk or banana leaf, and steam it - usually end-up - for half  an hour or so.  Now, the fun part is the filling.  Usually, tamale filling is shredded pork, which can be flavored with a plethora of imaginative spices and ingredients.  Chiles, of course, and cumin, garlic, and bitter chocolate.

But never think that a good cook will stop there.  Out here in Arizona, as Christmas approaches, you can find tamales of every ilk imaginable - pumpkin, chocolate, pineapple and pork, bean with beef and rice, chicken, “green corn” tamales, stuffed with mild green chiles and cheese.  Usually, tamales are served hot out of the steamer (don’t forget to remove the husk), so soft and juicy that adding a sauce is just gilding the lily.

I was not raised in the Latino tradition, so I was never an expert tamale-maker.  I am simply lucky enough to live in a place where I can buy mine from those who are.  There are many fabulous web sites where you can learn all about making tamales the old-fashioned way, but two that I particularly like are:  (once you get there, type 'Cynthia Pineda tamales' in the 'Search This Site' bar)  and  and

So if cooking is your thing, start a whole new holiday tradition in your family.  And if tamales are your holiday tradition, let us know your favorite kind. 

P.S. I can't get the What's Cooking America link to work on this page, but you can copy and paste.  I also found a fun recipe for duck tamales at 

Friday, December 19, 2008

We have a . . . winners!

No, that isn't a typo. It isn't grammatically correct; but I had so many entries for The Writer's Planner that I decided to have help me choose two winners. Congratulations to Margo Dill and Virginia Williams. I'll send you The Writer's Planner later today. If you're just tuning in to Fatal Foodies and would like to find out more about The Writer's Planner, check it out at

Building on Chris' post about Christmas cookies, I wanted to share a link to an article I wrote for on cookies for those who have diabetes or food allergies. You can find the article via Examiner or SheKnows.

Happy baking!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cookies!

It's been Christmas for weeks in retail-land and everyone has been trying to get people to part with their money earlier. Pushing Santa in before the Halloween merchandise was gone didn't work, however. One week to go and the economy has a lot of people saying, Bah, humbug.

There is one way to make the season bright, however. Make Christmas cookies! Okay, so none of us really need the calories. But with so much doom and gloom broadcast on the news each night, who couldn't use a smile?

So, gather up the kids and grandkids, get the spouse off the couch. Get out the cutters and ingredients. Sprinkle on sugar. Laugh at the goofy-looking reindeer cookie. Chuckle about Santa's lopsided beard. Make some Christmas cookies and have fun.

Eat without guilt. Enjoy!

Here are some Christmas cookie recipes to try:


* Chocolate Kisses

* Cookies Kids can make - Gingerbread garland

* Candy Cane cookies

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pajamas and a Bedtime Story

My little girl always gets a new pair of pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve night. That way, when she bounds down the steps on Christmas morning, she is camera ready! Besides that, it's a little easier to get an anxious child to bed when you offer new pj's.
This year, I have decided to begin a new tradition. I love to give her books for Christmas, but this year, I plan to give her one special book on Christmas Eve night. It will be a bedtime story that will have her dreaming of Santa and pondering the true meaning of Christmas.
The Santa Train Tradition is a beautiful book that describes the special journey of a train that winds through the Appalachian
Mountains every Saturday before Thanksgiving. The story is true, and has special meaning to people in our region. You can read more about the Santa Train and this book:
So, if you have little ones in your life, a gift of pj's and a book is a super-fun idea. Actually, it can be a really cute gift for anyone. An adult might enjoy a little herbal tea or scented candles thrown into the mix.
Shopping tip: Target has some really cute Christmas/Winter themed pajamas that won't break the bank.

A Couple More Christmas Gifts

If your weather lets you get out, here's a gift that won't cost much, won't have to be mailed, and will mean a lot: Next time you're at the grocery buying for those parties and family feasts, fill the top rack of your cart with canned goods, small bottles of dressing, toilet paper or diapers of #3 or up sizes. Then take them to a food pantry or Community Services location. Our local Community Services workers tell me that they've had a 66% increase in need over this time last year. They also tell me that, even though they're low on food and goods, they're MUCH better off than many larger cities. They think it's because most people around here are just making it themselves, and can imagine going--and some HAVE gone or know those who have gone--from giving to needing. Because of being so close to the need, a lot of people pick up a few extra things every time they go to the grocery and drop it by. Just one can of corn can make a difference. Let's do it!

Another gift you can send right from home is a micro-loan. Back when I had extra money, I loaned one person $25 and another person $50 through Kiva. That's been paid back into my Kiva account. I could take it out, but it doesn't cost me a thing to lend it out again. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Sky Took Him

I am entirely impressed by Gayle’s Writers Planner.

It's not officially due to launch until January, but The Sky Took Him, the fourth installment in my "Alalfair Tucker Mystery" series, has been shipped from the printer already, and is available for purchase right now from Poisoned Pen Press, or on the B&N or Amazon sites.  I've posted an excerpt from the first chapter of the book over on my web site (, if you'd like to read a bit of it.  Once you get to the site, just click on “About This Book” for the excerpt, or on “Reviews” to read the STARRED REVIEW Sky received in the December 8, 2008, edition of Publishers Weekly. (you can’t see me but I’m doing the Dance of Joy)  As usual, there is a collection of old family recipes in the back of the book.

I notice that things are pretty quiet on all the writers’ chat rooms and in most of the blogs I regularly read.  It’s the Holidays, Dear Readers, and I assume you’re all in your kitchens making wonderful goodies for all the family and friends who are visiting.  

Next week, I’ll post a recipe - maybe two - for the traditional Mexican and Southwestern Christmas dish, tamales.  It says good luck and lots of love to fix tamales on Christmas.  So go finish baking, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows (or if you want to stick with the Mexican theme, cinnamon and chocolate), and curl up with a good book.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Writer's Planner

Last year I fell in love with the American Girl planner. It was filled with articles, tips and all the little things girls might like. I wished there was a planner like that for writers, but a Web search assured me there was not. So I made one. The Writer's Planner is filled with articles, pictures, quotes, a submission tracker, a TBR list and a page for websites and passwords. The planner is designed so that you fill in the dates yourself so you can start anytime you'd like. There are also URLs for writing and promotion sites. I could have chosen simply to work within the e-book format, but I find I do better when I have a hard copy in front of me. So I printed The Writer's Planner out, put it into a three-prong folder, and I'm ready to go. You can be, too. You can a) order The Writer's Planner here ( or you can win a copy by e-mailing me ( with THE WRITER'S PLANNER in the subject line. The contest will go from now until next Friday. Next Friday, I will draw a name from all the contestants who have entered. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hard Candy Christmas

Okay, I have used Dolly Parton as inspiration for yet another post. The title of her song sounds sweet and sentimental. When I looked at the lyrics online, I realized that it is actually about getting through the holidays when things are not going so well in our lives.
If you want a truly sweet "Hard Candy Christmas", look at this lovely website for a local candy company:
They make many unique treats, including peppermint candy baskets, like the one pictured above. Their peanut butter candy is sooooo good! If you want to send a special candy gift, they have lots of great choices.
Here is a recipe to make your own hard candy:
2/3 cups white corn syrup
2 cups sagar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon flavoring
several drops of food coloring
Directions: Combine sugar, syrup, and water. Cook to hard ball stage or 300 degrees. Add flavoring and food color. Pour into iron skillet that has been in freezer. Cool at room temperature. Take knife and crack.
After cracking, I roll the pieces in powdered sugar. Cinnamon flavoring and red color make a really nice candy.
Warning! Be careful when making hard candy. Hot sugar lava sticking to your finger creates a nasty burn!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Soup To Die For

I went to Magdalena's for lunch and I got this killer soup in a bread bowl. I posed it and snapped it just for you:

This was beef vegetable soup and I ate EVERY BITE! As much as I love soup in a bread bowl, I've never made it--that suddenly seems very odd. I think I'll do it, next time I make soup. I make soup A LOT. Charlie and I love soup. I made--what, children?--Posole yesterday. Mmmmm. As much as Charlie and I love soup and as much as we love bread, you may never hear from me again: the deliciousness may just finish me off!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Writing Block Blah

Okay, I have writer's block and no appetite. This past weekend was an exercise in frustration - my derrier was in my rocking chair (my favorite place to write) for hours at a time, my iBook perched on top of a flat pillow, which is my writing desk. Yet barely anything of worth was produced. Probably the WORST writing weekend I've had in ages.

To make matters worse, the stress caused by the lack of productivity affected my appetite. Not that I didn't eat, but nothing sung to me. I usually get my inspiration from something I read or eat as far as my posts for Fatal Foodies. And I usually have definite ideas about what sounds good to me for any given meal. This weekend, however, I was one of those annoying people who, when asked if I was hungry and if so, what did I want, just whined, "I don't know...maybe. I don't know, nothing really sounds good." Dave would make suggestions, I'd wrinkle my nose and scowl at him. We did manage to make it through a weekend of meals without him killing me and we did, in fact, enjoy splitting an Irish breakfast at The Bashful Bull Diner on Taravel and 46th. An Irish breakfast consists of eggs, country potatoes or hash browns, Irish sausage, Irish bacon and black & white pudding with a side of toast. We are both black and white pudding addicts, not a good thing as it's lousy for one's arteries. But oh, so tasty...

I did have some truly magnificent pumpkin fudge at the Sisters in Crime Board Meeting (I'm the new Events Coordinator for SinC NorCal), but no recipe to offer as it was purchased at a craft store and the fudge maker was not at the meeting. But oh, it was good... It almost had the texture of a really good pumpkin pie and was fudge. I've never had anything like it before.

At any rate, I am a Fatal Foodies Fuddy Duddy today. Devoid of appetite and inspiration. I ask my fellow Fatal Foodies and readers, what do you do when you have a: writer's block and b: can't figure out what you want to eat?


I just got an email from M is for Mystery, a great bookstore in San Mateo, and look at this excerpt:

Do you have a mystery lover and cook on your gift list? We have two cookbooks -- 'A Taste of Murder' and 'A Second Helping of Murder,' both with lots of impressive autographs -- that celebrate the connection between detective fiction and food. They include more than 130 recipes each, many of which pay homage to the authors' characters (Marcia Muller - Sharon McCone's Garlic Bread, and C.J. Box - Pickett's Mad Scramble Breakfast) and they range from the gourmet (Elizabeth George - Rigatoni Puttanesca) to the true beginner (Robert B. Parker - Susan Silverman's Boiled Water). This is a very reasonably priced gift, especially considering the many signatures of authors whose characters are honored by recipes. A list of the more than two dozen signatories, and the illustrated dustjackets, are posted on the Web version of our Dec. Newsletter. Just scroll a bit and stop at the heading "A Taste of Murder for Christmas!" Go to: (The usual mantra applies: Supplies are limited.)

I just had to share this...

Saturday, December 6, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I promised to give you the recipe for one of my favorite winter comfort soups, posole.

I’ve eaten hominy and hominy grits all my life.  Hominy is a Native American staple, and was always around when I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma. But we always ate our hominy straight.  I learned to make posole, which is a yummy, spicy, hominy-based stew, after living for a while in Texas, close to the New Mexico border.

I’ve seen many posole recipes, with many variations on the ingredients, but almost always including pork and hominy.  Since Don and I have been cooking vegetarian for thirty years, my posole recipe is of course meatless.  It’s also easy and fast, and a wonderful quick and warming meal on a winter day.

Donis’ Posole

one 16 oz. can golden hominy

one 13 oz. can of chopped tomatoes with juice

1 cup vegetable broth

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

1 small chopped onion

one 4 oz. can of whole, roasted, mild green chiles, chopped (you can buy your chiles already chopped, but I like the texture much better when I chop them myself.)

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp chili powder, or to taste. How hot do you like it?

2 tsp olive oil

Heat the oil in the bottom of a soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until transparent.  Add chopped peppers, cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder and heat for about a minute until fragrant.

Add hominy, tomatoes, and broth all at once, stir well to mix, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with hot corn tortillas. 

If you have any of this soup left over, it’s even better reheated the next day, after the flavors have been allowed to marry overnight in the fridge.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Foodie Funeral Musings

Forgive me for being a bit melancholy today. My husband's cousin Susan died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. She was in her thirties and leaves behind a boy not much older than Nicholas and Lianna. After the initial jolt (not a shock, as it wasn't unexpected), one of my first thoughts was what dish to fix to take the family. I don't know if it's a universal thing or not; but here in the South when someone dies, you take food to the family. I believe it's mainly so the family doesn't have to worry about preparing meals during their time of grief. But I also think it's to comfort.

I remember one time several years ago when someone in my neighborhood died unexpectedly. I found out about it while I was at work and stopped to buy a pie on the way home. My plan was to take the pie over to the family as soon as I got home and before they left for the funeral home. When I got home and started to put the pie in a pie plate (for some reason, you don't want the family to realize you didn't actually make the food item yourself), I saw that it was FROZEN! I had to thaw the pie and bake it before taking it to the family. It was well after dark by the time I got the pie baked and cooled enough to take to the family. Off I went with my pie and flashlight walking to the neighbors' home. Unfortunately, there was no one there. I did finally find someone home to take the pie, but a friend teased me about being like the old man in the myth who went all throughout the world with his little light seeking . . . truth, I believe. The joke was that I went all throughout the neighborhood with my little light seeking a pie-taker. [eyeroll]

I still don't know what to take to Susan's family. I mean, what can you take that will actually bring some comfort to a young boy whose mother has died? All that can really comfort him is the reassurance that he'll see her again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Country Ham...No Thank You Ma'am!

The holiday season is bringing up an issue that is awkward for me to admit. It is just another weird characteristic added to my collection of quirks. It is particularly embarrassing because I’m a southern girl. After I make my confession online, I fear I’ll be banished to a location north of the Mason Dixon Line. It is with a great deal of shame that I share my shortcoming. I CANNOT EAT COUNTRY HAM!
Don’t freak out just yet! I did not say that I don’t like country ham. I just can’t eat it. I love the taste. Here’s the thing. It makes me sick. Country ham makes me physically ill! I’m talking severe headaches and vomiting. If my reaction were any less violent, I swear I would partake of the ham and suffer the consequences.
The first time I suffered from a country ham induced malady, was on the day after Christmas, in the year 2000. After that, I tested my luck a few more times, eating just a little country ham, and hoping for no ill effects. My hopes were dashed time after time, when my country ham encounters left me vomiting over the toilet and rubbing my aching temples.
Consulting with those in-the-know has led me to believe that the nitrates in country ham trigger a migraine for me, which leads to nausea. While I accept this explanation and the limitations my condition places on me, it is often hard to explain to others.
This Christmas season, and all of the eating opportunities will surely lead to a country ham situation that will require an explanation. I only hope that my host or hostess will be understanding.
If posting this confession leads anyone to revoke my Southern Girl Membership Card, I have relatives in Cincinatti, which we consider "The North". So, if my next post is about Cincinatti's famous Skyline Chili or Graeter's Ice Cream, ya'll know what happened!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

For Whom Some Foods Are Invariably Fatal

Around Thanksgiving/Christmas--turkeys and pigs.

Anybody who knows me, knows that my first word was, not mama or dada, but "MEAT". Still, I have many friends and relations who are vegetarian, and my husband and I eat a lot more vegetables and fruit than meat. Here is a casserole we had last night. As it happens, it's a chicken casserole, but it's easily adaptable for vegetarians, and I'm posting the vegetarian version.

Vegetable and Rice Casserole
  • 1 can Cream of Celery or Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 can water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder or chopped sauteed onion to taste
  • pepper
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables or 2 cans mixed vegetables (drained) or any durn kind of cooked or semi-cooked vegetables you durn well please
  • seasonings to taste
Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Mix all ingredients. Cover and bake at 375 for about 50 minutes. If desired, top with shredded cheese. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir and serve.

To make it non-vegetarian, you can use, as the original recipe suggested, Cream of Chicken soup and top the rice-vegetable mix with boneless chicken breasts. Or, to please everybody, make the vegetarian version and cook the chicken breasts separately and serve them, cubed, on the side to be added as desired.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Broccoli Popcorn

Broccoli as a fun food? She's got to be kidding, you say. While some of us do like our greens, very few people think of broccoli or brussel sprouts as a yummy snack. I certainly didn't until my sister made what I've come to call broccoli popcorn for us when we were visiting and I started craving the dish on a regular basis ever since.

You will need:

Oven heated to 500 or on BROIL (depends on your oven. Lisa's heats up quite nicely at 500, ours demands the broil setting).
Glass baking dish (you can use a cookie sheet, but it's hard to clean up afterwards)
Fresh broccoli heads and stems,as much as you feel like eating
Olive oil - the good stuff!
Lemon juice
any other herbs or spices you think would be tasty

Heat up the oven, spread the broccoli on the dish, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and herbs, put under the broiler/in the oven until the broccoli is crunchy. You'll want to stir it up and get both sides. I like it cooked to crunchy browned crispness. You can also use frozen broccoli, but it doesn't get as crunchy. It does, however, lend itself to being blended with seafood - I poached scallops in lemon juice, white wine and a hint of butter, drained them, then added it to the broccoli in the oven with grated Mizithra cheese. Can you say yummy?

P.S. I thought I had this scheduled to post automatically, but... it didn't. D'oh!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving No Matter How You Slice It

Don and I had our usual two-person, vegetarian Thanksgiving again this year.  We have lived out here in the wilds of Arizona for close to twenty-five years, just the two of us, with all our family far far away in Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, and Northern California, and a few other points on the compass. 

When we first moved out here, we made a point of driving back to OK every year for Thanksgiving.  We were younger, then, and wealthier and less encumbered.  Then, fifteen or so years ago, I started a business and was literally unable to travel for pleasure for a decade.  I don’t have the business any more, but now our parents are all gone, and our siblings are flung to the far corners of the earth.

But it’s okay.  We’ve developed our own traditions.  We always cook a vegetarian feast just for us, and eat it while watching an old movie.  One of my TG perennials is The Farmer’s Daughter with Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten.  This year we ate field roast (a type of fake meat) stuffed with hazelnut dressing, gravy and mashed potatoes, the world famous green-bean casserole, whole berry cranberry sauce, rolls, and lots of raw celery, red bell pepper, and olives.  Pumpkin pie, of course.

My youngest sister, who is also a vegetarian, suffered empty nest syndrome this year.  She lives in Denver, her son, daughter-in-law, and the grandkid live in Tulsa, and her daughter, who joined the Army last summer, is posted to Korea along with her husband.  So in order to stave off the Thanksgiving blues, she and her husband went out to eat at a Greek restaurant and took a drive up to Estes Park to enjoy the holiday with the elk.

So whether you had a Thanksgiving houseful of friends and relatives or it was just you and the cat, I hope you made it a special and happy day for yourself.  Now, have an Alka-Seltzer and may you find some really good sales going on.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ever Made a Frittata? If Not, You Oughta!

Chances are that many Fatal Foodies will have fridges full of leftovers come this next Friday. Last year I tried a couple of recipes that put an interesting twist on some of those leftovers.
If you get tired of turkey sandwiches, maybe a stuffing frittata and salad with cranberry vinagrette will hit the spot. Both of these recipes come from Robin Miller of The Food Network. I was a bit skeptical, but they are delicious!

Stuffing Frittata

2-3 cups leftover stuffing
1 cup of shredded cheddar
6 large eggs
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated parmesean cheese
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions: Preheat broiler. Coat ovenproof nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Put stuffing in bottom of pan to warm and stir to break up a little. Sprinkle cheese on top. In medium bowl, whisk eggs and whites, milk, mustard, and nutmeg. Pour over stuffing. Sprinkle parmesean over top. Cook on low 5-7 minutes. Transfer to broiler for about 2 minutes.

Cranberry Vinagrette

1/2 cup cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red win vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Directions: Whisk it all together or shake it all up!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Pumpkin Treat

Leslie is our #3 daughter, and also a friend. Although she's a good cook, she doesn't enjoy it. She likes eating, though, so I'm always happy to have her to dinner. She gave me this recipe.

Leslie's Favorite Pumpkin Dump Cake

  • 15-oz can of pumpkin--not pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 5 or 6-oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 9-oz box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix first six ingredients until well blended. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle cake mix on top. Cover with pecans. Pour melted margarine over top. Bake about 45 minutes to an hour.

Whip together well, pour into graham cracker crust and chill 3 or so hours. Top with fresh fruit.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich Combo sister is visiting and we are both Wine connoisseurs.

Okay. Winos. Fine. Are you happy now?

So I made breakfast sandwiches for Sunday brunch today. Healthful breakfast sandwiches. Let me describe.

Turkey bacon (three fat slices per sandwich)W
Whole grain English muffins
Low fat provolone cheese slices
Fried egg with lemon pepper
Black olive tapenade

Put it all together and...well...yum.

That, however, was not enough for the ideal Sunday brunch.

I've been saving a bottle of not too expensive, but VERY good Bordeaux I bought a year ago, saving it for just the right meal. A Chateau la fleur Mongiron, 2003. When I took that first test bite of the breakfast sandwich, something told me this was the moment, the meal, that this bottle was waiting for. So I opened it, put in the wine snorkel (it aerates the wine the same way decanting it does, but without the wait), poured a glass, took another bite of sandwich and then a sip of wine.


Lisa agreed after I gave her a sip of my wine when she'd had the first bite of her sandwich. Sunday brunch decadence. It doesn't get much better than this.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Winter Soup

My last event for 2008, the 4th Annual Authors & Auction, went very well last Sunday.  That's me, standing behind author J.M. Hayes, who is talking to

author  Nancy E. Turner. Over 100 people showed up, we sold a lot of books, auctioned off a lot of nifty stuff for a good cause, and ate ourselves silly on chocolate fondue and cakes of every variety.  Now that the appearances are in abeyance until January, I hope very much to get back to the business of writing, cooking, and generally living a more structured life for a while.

I loved the cookie recipes and the snowy day thoughts from the previous blogs.  Makes me nostalgic for cozy, snowy weather, a fireplace, hot chocolate and a fuzzy sweater.  No snow here.  Today’s high was eighty-five degrees.  Of course, as we say in Arizona, you don’t have to shovel sunshine, so I’ll content myself with my romantic childhood memories of winter. 

All this doesn’t mean that I don’t make plenty of winter comfort foods.  I am particularly fond of soup at  this time of year.  Day before yesterday, I made one of my old standbys, potato-carrot soup, which couldn’t be easier or tastier or more nutritious.  I chopped up two small potatoes, two large carrots, half a large onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic and boiled them until soft in about two cups of vegetable broth.  Then I blended it all, stirred in milk until it was the consistency I like, then returned it to the fire until it was hot.  Serve it with a nice roll, and yum!

We had quite a bit left over, which I used last night as the base for more soup.  I use whatever I have to create something different, so last night I just chopped up another small potato and some more onion and garlic, put it in the leftover pureed soup, added a little water, and cooked until the new ingredients were done.  Didn’t blend it.  It was sort of an oniony potato soup with a nice gold color and a wonderfully creamy consistency.

One of the best winter soups is posole.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  As the Christmas season nears, the traditional thing to do here in the great American Southwest is to eat lots of posole and make tamales for Christmas.  Since I’ve carried on long enough, I’ll give you Dear Readers my posole recipe next week, and we can all look forward to tamales in December.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Snow Days and Sweet Surprises

Actually, that title is a little redundant. Snow days are usually sweet surprises, at least for children. I don't think my husband was very thrilled this morning as he trudged out to sweep off the truck, especially since he's had a bear of a cold this week.

I took my jug of rock salt out early this morning and salted the sidewalk all the way to the mailbox and back. Ordered packages are due to arrive, and I don't want the mailman to fall and 1) hurt himself, 2) break whatever goodies are in the packages, and/or 3) sue us. That last one is the result of working too many years for lawyers and judges.

Alas, there were no packages in the mail, but there was a sweet surprise. I had a letter from Guideposts' Senior Editor Elizabeth Kramer Gold. She reminded me that several years ago, Guideposts published a book called Their Mysterious Ways: Amazing Stories About God's Animals and Us and included my essay "The Gatekeeper." The letter was requesting the right to reprint the essay in a new gift version of that book titled Angels in Disguise: When God Sends Animals to Comfort Us to be released next Fall.

I'm excited. I'll get paid for the article again, I'll get a copy of the book, and I was reminded today of the essay I wrote about the best dog I ever had--a St. Bernard named Duke. He was great.

I have macaroni and three types of cheeses in the crock pot. I'm thinking about making pumpkin bread and brownies (and freezing the pumpkin bread for next week). And I'm playing Justice League Heroes with my children.

Don't tell my husband, but snow days rock. ;-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Warming Hearts, One Cookie at at Time

I once saw a news story about a lady who has made it her mission to get homebaked cookies to our troops. Here is a site about her organization:

My church uses homamade cookies to spread love and good wishes in its prison ministry. Volunteers donate bags of cookies that are taken to inmates in a local prison.

Whether you want to bake some cookies for your family, to send in a special care package, or to give as gifts to your neighbors, they're certain to bring smiles. Here's a great site for Christmas cookie recipes:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And the Winner...kinda sorta... IS:

I was part of the Trick or Treat contest here where people who posted to my blog during the last week of October through the first week of November got entered to win a free download of their choice of an anthology by the Southern Indiana Writers. Well, the winner--kinda sorta--was Charlene Burke. I say kinda sorta because her choice was GROUNDS FOR SUSPICION and what she got was a paper copy of ITS ALWAYS SOMETHING.


Here's what happened. I emailed her to tell her she had won. She emailed back to tell me which one she wanted. I saw that she only lives and works about 15 minutes from Corydon. I offered to meet her and give her a paper copy instead. She agreed. I found I didn't have a paper copy. Not a problem--I could pick one up at the SIW meeting on Thursday and give it to her on Monday. My back went out. I didn't go to the SIW meeting on Thursday. Okay, so I would give her a paper copy I did have and apologize. Better yet, I would give her a paper copy of what I did have AND give her a download of the book she chose. I logged onto Lulu, where the anthologies are available for download. The file is a bazillion kilobites big... and we have dial-up at my house. Okay. So I would go into town to meet her and download the PDF file on the Cafe on the Square high-speed connection. Oh, but laptop doesn't have a CD burner.

Fortunately, Charlene is a VERY nice person and graciously accepted the book she didn't choose.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inspired by exhaustion and minimal options

I spent all day yesterday writing and was ready for a nice hot meal. Unfortunately the pickings in the fridge were slim and I wanted something easy, yet didn't want to order out (budget and all). So I pulled out the following items:

Roll of polenta (you can buy it this way at Trader Joes)
leftover chicken/apple sausages that had been in the freezer for over a month
can of black olives
jar of pasta sauce (also from Trader Joes)
the dregs of a bag of parmesan, feta, and mozarella cheese

I heated the oven to 400 and poured a little olive oil in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Then I sliced the polenta into relatively even slices and put a layer down on top of the olive oil. Added some pasta sauce, sausage slices, olives and cheese. Repeated the layering, saving most of the cheese for the top. Cooked it for about 30-35 minutes, then let it sit for a bit.

May I just say 'yum?'

We had it with some light red wine, a pinot noir from Talus. A little went a long way and other than the cheese, it was relatively low in fat. And for those of us (me!) trying to avoid wheat, the polenta was a great option instead of lasagna. I had it for lunch again this afternoon after it had
solidified a bit more in the fridge and it was even better. I recommend it when you want something comforting, tomato-sauce based and Italian, but with a reasonable calorie count and fat content. Or if you just want something yummy that goes with red wine!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Cowboy Hat Has Spoken

And the winner of the Unspeakably Stupendous Trick or Treat Drawing for a signed copy of The Sky Took Him is (drum roll) Kate Kelly Gallegos!  As soon as the book is released next January, I’ll be sending her copy along to her.

I want to thank all of you - Ruth, Irene, Carolyn, Corey, Margo, Cathy, Taunna, Janice, Dana, Gayle, Marian, Krysten, Pam, Annette, Lu Ann, and the two Carols - for your lovely comments.  I wish I could afford to send free copies to all of you.

What a strange and tiring time it’s been lately.  My signing at the brand new Queen Creek Library went very well.  They set up the authors at tables in the foyer, where every person going in had to pass right by us.  There must have been a thousand people at the event, so it was sort of like being in the middle of a cattle chute.  This Sunday, November 16, I’ll be participating in the 4th annual Authors and Auction Event at Four Points by Sheraton in Tempe.  If any of you are in the vicinity and would like to come by, check out the details at

This is my last event for 2008, thank goodness.  I plan to put my head down and work, now, and the next time I appear in my official authorly capacity will be at the launch of Sky on January 17, 2009.  Until then, the holidays are coming and my thoughts and blog entries return to good eating.

P.S. Gayle, great tv interview.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If I was a cooking show host, I'd be. . . .

A nervous wreck! Yesterday I appeared on a local daytime television show to provide some quick and easy cake decorating instructions while talking about Murder Takes the Cake. It was fun and I didn't do as badly as I feared I might. See for yourself:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Holiday Season... Fatal Foodies Style

I've been thinking about how the Fatal Foodies' passion for food and passion for books food are so intermingled. Is it that those who are patient enough to devour every word of a book, allowing plots to unravel and characters to develop are the same type of people who savor every bite of our food, taking time to enjoy various flavors and aromas? Do those of us who read with such detail that a story comes alive in our mind's eye also ponder the complexities of how ingredients come together to form tastes and textures? I think part of it must be that we are sensory driven people. We love how a good writer can take us places, introduce us to people and allow us to sample foods we have never even heard of.
Perhaps I'm a Fatal Foodies snob when I declare that Fatal Foodies may just have a superior ability to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the upcoming holiday season. For it is our love of sensory details that will allow us to take in each tiny twinkling light and notice every delighted child's smile. Old familiar tunes will make us weep with sappy sentimentality, and the smells of cinamon, cloves, and sage may very well make us picture our grandmother's hands preparing holiday feasts. I count us lucky for our ablilities to make glorious experiences out of things that many people may take for granted. Fatal Foodies, we are a blessed bunch!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shish Kebabbing for Apples

My friend Jane and I met at Shiraz Mediterranean Grill for lunch yesterday. They have food TO DIE FOR! I'm serious, it is so good! She had the shish kebab--beef so tender, it melts in your mouth. Due to a mix-up, she also had a kebab of ground and spiced beef, which she shared with me. I had falafel which, for those who don't know, is chickpeas and spice formed into a ball and deep-fried, then covered in tzaziki sauce, which is like yogurt and cucumbers. Oh, MAN! We had a side of rice and lentils and, of course, baklava, that heavenly flaky honey-drenched pastry.

There were no apples involved, actually, but the title occurred to me and I couldn't resist it.

No, what I was thinking was that a kebab, that skewer, would make a dandy weapon. Is that a new idea, or has it been... er... done to death?

I know I could EAT myself to death at Shiraz.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dinner at Farallon

Friday night Dave and I had dinner at Farallon Restaurant, courtesy of work. It's not a place
we could generally afford to go on our own dime and we've wanted to go there for a long time. I mean, you walk by the front windows and the decor is spectacular.The ceiling lamps are in the shapes of giant fairytale-esque jelly fish. The walls are all curved, like the inside of a seashell, no harsh angles or sharp edges. And the food is spectacular. Here's what we had:

broiled Greenlip mussels, caramelized sweet onions, saffron vinaigrette

Madeira chantilly, Extra virgin olive oil, chives

wild mushroom gnocchi, toasted hazelnuts, porcini fondue

Black truffle polenta, baby spinach, pearl onion jus

Bellwether Farm's sweet ricotta cream,
pine nut- pistachio praline, fig-Gew├╝rztraminer jam

Chocolate truffle
Dark chocolate almond cluster
Milk chocolate peanut butter pave'

I had a champagne cocktail and a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir. Dave had a Fog Cutter cocktail (citrus and rum and other yummy things) and some chilled sake. The portions were generous (considering the prices, this was a good thing and also a surprise - I've found a lot of expensive restaurants are usually not so forthcoming with enough food to satisfy one's appetite) and the food rich and filling. I couldn't finish mine (I had the pike) and happily gave the rest to Dave. As a result, I enjoyed myself without indigestion.

The service was also excellent - consistant without being intrusive, pleasant personalities (no uber hyper 'Hi! My name is Jamie and I'll be your SERVER tonight!') and we never had to ask for anything. But my favorite part was still the cool jellyfish ceiling lamps. :-)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Queen Creek

I want to thank Gayle for the lovely prizes I won by Trick or Treating on her site.  I’ve already polished off the chocolate and I am eagerly looking forward to reading Murder Takes the Cake.  How lucky am I?

Today is the last day for Trick or Treating on my site, Dear Readers, so don’t miss the opportunity to go over to and leave me a comment before tomorrow.  You’ll get a really fun recipe, and be automatically entered in a drawing to win a copy of my upcoming release, The Sky Took Him.

I will be signing copies of all my books today from 10 am until 2 pm at the grand opening of the Queen Creek Library in Queen Creek Arizona, which if you are not familiar with Arizona and have never been there, wouldn’t you love to go there just to see what a place called Queen Creek looks like?  I’ve seen the new library, and it is pretty cool.  So if any of you happen to be in the vicinity, drop by.  They are doing a whole carnival, and including several Arizona authors in the festivities, which is quite an appropriate thing for a library to do.  I’ll not only be signing books, but taking the opportunity to get rid of all my extra Halloween candy by handing it out to anyone who walks by.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Donis Casey who won my Halloween contest! Also, here are some links to posts I've done in the past week that you may be interested in.

Why Pregnant Women Should Eat Fish

Easy, Elegant Cake Decorating

Cake Decorating With Your Children

Thursday, November 6, 2008

National Food Holidays

Someone must've taken the motto, "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" to hear when they compiled this chart of National Food Holidays.

The list doesn't give an indication for the year so you can safely celebrate today as National Nachos Day. Each day's link goes to a related recipe, also. So pick your favorite day and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tea for You, Tea for Two, Tea for All Your Friends

Anyone who reads of my posts has become familiar with my daughter Calli. So, I include a photo of Calli in her Halloween costume. Besides a shameless opportunity to show off my little cutie, Calli's Alice in Wonderland costume leads into my topic/recipe for this week. The crazy tea party that Alice attended in this classic story reminds me of one of my favorite cold weather treats.
As soon as the air gets a little chilly, I love to drink a steaming mug of Russian Tea. My very first memory of having Russian Tea was as a child, when a friend's mom served Russian Tea and popcorn to us after a long day of playing in the snow.
The follwing recipe is so easy, and makes a wonderful gift for co-workers, neighbors, etc. Include a little note with directions on how to make the tea. There are many clever ways to package the recipe as a gift. I've received it in a small plastic container with the directions written on the lid in permanent marker. You can put it in plastic bags, tied up with pretty ribbon, pour into a jar decorated with Christmas fabric and raffia, or present the tea mix in a pretty mug.
Russian Tea
1/2 c. instant tea
3 c. sugar
2 c. Tang
2 pkgs lemonade mix
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
Mix ingredients. Three teaspoons for a cup of tea. Can be served hot or cold.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Well, I gashed open my thumb last night, trying to clean a candle out of a glass candle holder. What a dummy! My husband bandaged me up so now I have a wad of gauze and tape that looks like a mattress wrapped around my thumb. You know men--bigger is always better.

So I was going to make bread, but there's no way I can knead it now. :( We'll just have to wait--and just when I posted about my bread book and got us all drooling and stuff.

Time out for food and fatalities to say--VOTE! Vote for the candidate of your choice, but VOTE!

waving a flag and cheering

Monday, November 3, 2008

Simple Pleasures

I am a total foodie and I love my food and wine and enjoy all the subtleties of the various combinations betwixt the two. However...there are times when I crave something very basic.

Hot bread with butter or olive oil. Nothing more, nothing less.

Bread. The evil of evils, according to the likes of Atkins and all other proponents of low/no carb diets (which I have followed in the past).

Hot bread.

Fresh bread.

In the case of this evening, half baked seeded sourdough bread from Trader Joe's, requiring 10- 15 minutes in the oven to bring it to crunchy crusted, soft and chewy interiored perfection.

I served it with a choice of Earth Balance organic buttery spread (it tastes much better than the name would indicate) or San Pietro olive oil, a rich, nutty, buttery flavored oil from Italy. Expensive, yes. But when it comes to olive oil, the occasional splurge is SO worth it. And it's good for you too.

That was it for dinner. We'd had leftover pasta (in bat and jack-o-lantern shapes) for lunch and weren't really all that hungry. So a few slices of hot bread and a glass of really nice pinot noir was just the thing.

Okay. TWO glasses of pinot noir.

At any rate, I am satiated and content. It just doesn't get much better.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Back to Reality

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween, that your dearly departed found their way to your house for their annual visit with no trouble, and that you are not suffering from candy overdose, like I am.

Today is a day for salads and dull, serviceable clothing as we return to the workaday world of the living, but if you are still longing for a treat, don't forget that you have a week left to follow the Trick or Treat trail that Gayle laid out in yesterday's entry.  Don't miss out.  And don't forget to check your glucose levels.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trick Or Treat!

Happy Halloween!

As promised, we've gathered up some links so you can go trick-or-treating at our sites. Costumes are optional; but if you do dress up, please add your picture here in our comments so we can share in your fun.

Since it's my post day, I get to go first.

Come to my Haunted HOUSE for your treat from me. Be sure and scroll all the way down the page so you'll get all the goodies I've set up for you.

Then go next door to Donis Casey's KITCHEN. Before you leave, be sure to leave a comment on her blog. Donis says, "Anyone who leaves a comment on my blog between now and November 8, even just to say, "Hi, Donis", will be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of my newest mystery, The Sky Took Him, which will be out in January."

On down the street is Margo Dill's LIBRARY. Margo says, er"Stop by my blog for three scary 'book' treats--if you love young adult and children's books, then here's three you can enjoy with or without your kids on Halloween. Plus some activities and discussion points to go with them, including book ideas from the popular TWILIGHT series."

At Lisa Hall's BAKERY, stop by and jot a note to Lisa to be entered to win a copy of her latest book,
Secrets, Lies, and Pies, which serves up a hilarious slice of small town life. While Marlene Prescott is creating sweet treats in her bakery, some ladies in town are cooking up some mean tricks!

Hurry over to Marian Allen's PARLOR. for free stories, recipes and Culinary Chronicles columns. If you leave a comment at Marian's blog, she'll put your name in a drawing to win a PDF of their choice of Southern Indiana Writers anthologies from

Finally, do you dare to stop by Dana Fredsti's Private Eye OFFICE? If you do, and if you leave Dana a comment on her blog, you'll be entered to win a copy of MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon.

Have fun!

Halloween Food

With Halloween around the corner, I can't resist sharing some unique recipes.

Okay, I admit that I usually don't mind the gross stuff though creating it in miniature makes it less unappealing it seems. (Photo: Halloween feast, C. Verstraete photo.)

There are some fun Halloween recipes out there, which will give you all kinds of ideas for that next party.

There are tons of cute Halloween cakes you can make. Then there is the gross stuff...

How about the famous Kitty Litter Cake? Supposedly it's good though, gee, bet you can't wait to dig in, right?

Well, I think I found something to beat that. I won't picture it here, as well, it's pretty disgusting.

Curious? Check out this recipe for a Thorax Cake WARNING: Not for the timid or weak stomachs.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SEC Football, Pimento Cheese and Chicken Wings!

This coming Saturday, The University of Tennessee Vols will play the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Now, I'm a UT fan, but if I weren't, I might have to root for South Carolina. It has become a tradition for my husband and I, along with a couple of other friends, to make the trip to Columbia, South Carolina every other year to see our Vols play as the away team. We keep coming back because the hospitality is second-to-none.
Honestly, it is unbelievable how nice their fans are. We wear our Tennessee orange all weekend, and rarely gone anywhere that a South Carolina fan doesn't go out of their way to welcome us to their home turf, and tell us that they hope we're having a great time.
One of the most fun parts of our trip is tailgating before the game with some friends who are South Carolina alumni. I can't post on Fatal Foodies without talking about food! So, let me tell you, the tailgaiting food is awesome! The two most prominent items at any South Carolina tailgait party seem to be pimento cheese sandwiches and chicken wings. The pimento cheese is always homemade, and ALWAYS made with Duke's mayo.
Chicken wing restaurants are quite plentiful in Columbia, South Carolina. Most will offer a huge variety of flavors, from hot and spicy to tangy and sweet.
So, I hope the Vols win this Saturday, but with all the hospitality and good food, I won't be complaining!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sad News For Mystery Readers

I just saw that Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite mystery writers, has passed. Opening one of his books was like using a teleporter: You were instantly immersed in his setting, in the world he was writing about. I've heard long-time Hillerman readers who were reading different books swapping gossip about the characters, ones reading later books telling how relationships were going to develop, ones reading earlier books pointing out clues to character development the later-book reader had forgotten. I couldn't, of course, but I feel like I could find my way around the reservation without a map, just from reading Hillerman's books.

Note for fellow writers: I'm told that, when he sent his first Navaho cop book to his agent, the agent advised him to take all the Indian stuff out of it. I guess the moral is, write from your heart and your readers--and your work--will respond.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When Not Even Chocolate Makes Things Better

It's October, almost Halloween. Usually my favorite time of the year. But we just lost one of our foster kittens (we took in a year old Mom cat and her four newborn kittens to save them from a shelter in Fresno) to pneumonia and I am so friggin' sad, nothing is cheering me up.

There is a box of See's Candy sitting in our kitchen, a gift from the gal who persuaded us to foster this particular batch of felines. She bought a pound of our favorite See's chocolates (butterscotch squares, dark chocolate truffles, cashew brittles and, for Dave, dark almond clusters) as a thank you for taking in these furry little babies. I love See's Candy. I know I'll enjoy them. But not today. My appetite is pretty much down the toilet, along with my creativity.

Fostering young kittens, especially from crowded shelters, is always a risk. Disease runs through the population and even an URI can be deadly to the fragile immune systems of these babies. We figured with the momma cat nursing them, they stood a good chance; mother's milk gives kittens a certain amount of natural immunity. But three out of the four caught her cold, one of them lost his sense of smell and couldn't find his way to Mom's milk dispenser, so we've been bottle feeding him. I think he's made it past the danger point. Another has an eye infection and we were worried about him this morning...but it was one of our little orange boys who ended up getting really sick in a matter of hours. Fine last night, a little shaky this morning and then, two hours later, deathly ill. The vet did his best...we bought a humidifier and childrens nose drops after the kitten was given antibiotics and fluids...sat for hours with him in the bathroom and thought we'd pulled him through. But he slipped away from us in his sleep a little while ago...looking so peaceful we couldn't tell if he was dead...

I hate this. There shouldn't be things that can't be fixed by See's Candy.


I'm all intrigued about our Halloween Trick or Treat.  I hope everyone gives it a try.  I can't wait to see what sort of treats we all come up with.  I've spent some time thoughtfully rubbing my chin as I try to decide what sort of treat (or trick!) to offer.

In one of my past working incarnations, I owned a Celtic gift shop.  I imported gift items from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales - all the Celtic countries, in fact, which include Man, Brittany, and Galicia.  This time of year is a very big deal for Celtic peoples, for midnight on Oct. 31 is the turning of the year - Samhain, or Celtic New Year, and the origin of our Halloween.  This is the time when the veil between this world and the next is at it's thinnest, and those with eyes to see are able to see right through to the other side, where the dead live.  Some Celtic people would light bonfires on Samhain eve to guide the souls of loved ones, and make lanterns out of hollowed out turnips to lead the dead home for their annual visit.

My husband remembers that every Halloween, his father would dig a pit in back of the house, line it with bricks, fill it with wood, and light what they called a "bonfire", though it was more like a good sized campfire.  The family would sit around it and roast wieners and marshmallows on sticks and stretched-out hangars.  He has no idea where the family tradition came from, but I'm guessing it was passed down through the family from the misty past, for such traditions are remarkably enduring.  So, if you live in the country or don't worry about being fined for building an open fire in your back yard, stretch out those hangars and get yourself a bag of marshmallows, and take a trip into the past with some campfire s'mores.
Put a slab of Hershey bar on top of a Graham cracker,  put a melty-hot roasted marshmallow on the chocolate,  top with another Graham cracker, and enjoy.

By the way, Samhain is pronounced "SHAW-win."  In Gaelic, that mh makes a "w" sound in the middle of a word. 

Friday, October 24, 2008

I must not have good taste. . . .

Yesterday I got a link from American Cake Decorating with the winners of the 2008 Oklahoma Sugar Art Show. Granted, I said from the instant I walked into the exposition hall that I was glad I didn't have to be a judge because I couldn't possibly choose a winner. That said, I was so surprised that this cake apparently didn't even place!

The cakes that won are gorgeous, too. You can see them for yourself at But don't you feel sorry for whoever made this cake. . . and all the others? It makes me really glad I had to come home before seeing the awards. Don't you know many contestants left in tears? And I would have, too.

Okay, let's shake it off. It's Friday and we're not allowed to have a bad day today. It'll ruin the whole weekend.

Yesterday I worked on the "treat" I'm giving you for Halloween! I'm so excited. And I'm looking forward to trick-or-treating at everyone else's sites. We have some cool things in store for you next week. If you'd like to participate and offer a "treat," please let me know by Wednesday, October 29. If you'd like to participate by trick-or-treating, simply join us on Friday and click on the links. You don't even have to dress up. Unless you want to. Maybe we could give a prize for best costume! :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Almost Halloween!

I am about to go into crazy, full-on Halloween mode! My house is decorated. Calli has her costume. The assembly of treat bags has begun. Next week, I'll be dipping apples in caramel, carving a pumpkin, making a giant veggie tray for my daughter's pre-school party, attending a Trunk-or-Treat at my church, and of course, trick-or-treating.

With all the activities going on, I am thankful to have found a couple of really cute ideas for simple Halloween-themed dinners. The first is for Mummy Dogs. They're weiners wrapped in crescent roll dough. If you look at this site, it shows how to make them look like cute little mummies.

The second recipe is for Cheddar Witch's Fingers. These are a savory, crispy snack that I think will be really good with a bowl of soup.

These recipes would be super-fun to make for a scary movie night or open-house on Halloween night.