Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's For Dinner?


This image has nothing to do with anything, but I just learned how to upload photos, and I had to put something on here, even if I didn't have anything food related.  I got a new computer a few weeks ago, and I'm still learning all the ins and outs.  One of the ins I haven't studied yet is how to upload new photos from the camera to the computer, so at this point, I'm limited to using pictures I already have in my photo file.  This pic was taken last October when I did an event at Tattered Cover in Denver along with Mara Purl.  I chose it because I like the outfit.  The bookstore did serve cookies and punch, so we'll call that the food connection.

More on-theme:  I've been working feverishly on a new book for the past couple of months.  Not making a lot of progress, but working hard nonetheless.  One of the sad consequences of my current single-mindedness is that when evening comes, I never, never, never have the slightest idea what we're going to have for dinner.  I guarantee that whatever we choose is going to be easy.  Sandwiches, spaghetti, and pizza are common fallbacks.  

In the olden days, in pre-take-out and restaurant days, when a woman physically worked a heck of a lot harder than most do now, the usual thing to do was to have a set and rotating menu for every day of the week.  That way,  she didn't have to do much meal planning.  If it was Monday, she knew it would be a pot of beans. (Monday = washday = put on beans early in the morning and let them simmer all day).  Friday was usually a stew. (Clean the week's leftovers out of the icebox.)  A lot of it had to do with what was in season.  No tomatoes in March, unless they were canned.  No fresh salads in January.  

I think sometimes I should develop a rotating weekly menu for writing season, when spaghetti is always ripe. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday . . . Or April Fool?!



Rudest. . . prank. . .ever.

Last week I received a postcard from a local "creamery & caffe" [sic] wishing me a "Happy Birthday" and inviting me to "enjoy lunch on us!" I looked the place up online, decided what I was going to have and eagerly made my way to the restaurant. It was closed. No, I don't mean it wasn't open yet. It was CLOSED. There were "Restaurant Equipment for Lease" signs in the windows. I'd planned on having the "famous" chicken salad wrap and homemade ice cream. With a sigh, I drove to another restaurant, placed a to-go order and then went home to eat it. I had my wrap--although instead of chicken salad, it was a soft taco. And I even had my ice cream--not homemade, but a Slim-A-Bear.

Still, I was ever so put out. I got the card a WEEK ago. . . not a month, not six weeks, but a matter of days. Did they send out the card on the day they decided to close down? The whole ordeal made me snarky, and I wanted to return when I was less hungry with a huge red marker and correct everyone's grammatically incorrect signs. Like this one at a church: "Can't sleep? Don't count sheep. Talk to the sheppard." You know Jesus is closing his eyes and shaking his head over that one. Might as well put this on your church sign: Come on in. We don't read the Bibble!" A sign at an insurance company read: "School is in. Drive Careful." I tried to reason this one out--it was before I got to the restaurant and saw that it had shut down so I was in a better frame of mind. It could be considered correct, I suppose, if it read, "School is in drive. Careful!" I understand vandalism so much better right now. I'm getting a black ninja outfit and a can of red spray paint and I'm hitting the road. On the church sign, I'll cross out SHEPPARD and put, "Talk to the SHEPHERD! Do you WANT to go to hell?" On the insurance sign, I'll write "Your grammar makes people wreck. Is that your goal?" And on the restaurant, I'll try to reproduce the above cake from Cake Wrecks so they can fully accomplish their goal of trashing somebody's birthday.

Then again, maybe I'd better not mess with the signs.... (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26351328/).

I hope you all realize this was tongue-in-cheek. :-p

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hot Dog!

I sat down yesterday to have a hot dog, (I know, I know, not the healthiest thing, but I eat them very seldom) and this would be funny if not a strange coincidence.

There on an inside page was a story about Hot Dogs and Cancer.

Well.

The rumor/suspicions have floated around for years about a link to colon cancer. Yeah I know, just what you want to read about on a food-related site, right?

But the latest research says it's not true. I didn't check if the study was funded at all by hot dog or meat producers. But as these things usually go, give them a few weeks, a couple months, and the story will change somehow.

Maybe hot dogs will be considered good for you? Well, that may be going too far. (And all I can think of is that quote about hot dogs from the movie, "National Lampoon's Summer Vacation" with Chevy Chase. ha!)

The story did end on a high note - that in moderation, a hot dog here and there shouldn't be a problem. That's true with anything.

I've included some links to different recipes using hot dogs. And no, I don't think they were talking about Deep Fried Corn Dogs as anywhere near being a good idea. I like corn dogs but I'm not sure about that combination.

Hot Dog Recipes:

* Deep-Fried Corn Dogs
* Hot Dog Men
* (this one sounds good!) Creole Hot Dogs and Rice

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Shrimp and Louisiana Lit

As promised, I am providing a recipe from the menu I posted last week. I adapted this from a Southern Living recipe. If you love peel-and-eat shrimp, you've got to try this one!
Cajun Barbecued Peel-and-Eat Shrimp
1 cup of butter, melted

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 Tablespoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 pounds unpeeled fresh shrimp

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine first 8 ingredients; pour half into ceramic baking dish. Layer shrimp and lemon slices over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over top.

Bake uncovered @ 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink, stirring twice. Drain sauce. May be served hot or chilled.

I love these chilled with cocktail sauce (ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice) and fresh lemon wedges.


These make a great meal with corn on the cob, hushpuppies and coleslaw. It's the kind of dinner that's perfect for eating on a picnic table.


Why not follow your Cajun shrimp dinner with a movie adapted from a book set in Cajun Country. John Grisham's The Pelican Brief and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells will both take you to the sultry Louisiana bayou.






























Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer Love

What a great summer! The weather where we live has been heavenly, the harvest abundant. I have cucumbers and tomatoes coming out my ears (maybe it's time for a bath....). The farmers markets have profited from high prices at the grocery--it's cheaper to buy locally. Of course, it's also better for us and for the environment and the food tastes better, but this year it's also comparatively more affordable.

Last night, we had fried squash, one of my husband's favorites. I slice a yellow squash long-ways and soak it in salted water. Then I mix flour and Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up Salt, dredge the squash in it, and pan fry it. It's good sprayed with cooking spray and baked, too.

I baked some bread in the toaster oven (I use the toaster oven to cook for the two of us A LOT), sliced a tomato as big as my head, made a spinach salad (spinach, green onion, mushrooms and apples) and put out a round of Camembert I splurged on yesterday. Oh, MAN!

Then I went to my mother's, where I'm reading Rex Stout's THE RUBBER BAND, a Nero Wolfe mystery.

Came home and watched the rest of the convention coverage with my ever-lovin' husband, with my kitty purring in my ear.

Perfect.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Taco Salad - The Pefect Food

I go on food kicks where I'll eat the same thing day after day. One month it was chicken sauteed in olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and dill, then tossed with cold chopped cucumber and feta cheese. Good hot OR cold the next day.

Another binge was gourmet sausages (chicken apple or basil pine nut) sauteed in olive oil (I love olive oil, I do...) with tomatoes and fresh herbs (dill, basil, 21 Season Salute), with feta cheese (it's my Greek heritage I don't have) tossed in at the last minute. Another dish good hot or cold the next day.

I still cook and enjoy both these dishes, which use lean meats and go well with a whole grain roll if you're not on a no-carb diet. Oh, and both dishes were created by yours truly when I was doing Atkins a few years back. But my true food love now is taco salad.

Ah, taco salad...I could have it every day (and have, in fact, had it three days in a row now) and be a happy dietary camper. I use ground turkey meat instead of beef when cooking it at home, but love the lean ground beef as well. The turkey happens to be cheaper and better for Dave's cholesteral issues. As it's browning, I flavor it with cinnamon (I know this sounds weird, but it works). And when the turkey is finally chopped and brown, I add taco seasoning and water. The smell of it simmering as the water cooks down is enough to set me, Dave and all 10 cats drooling.

Yuck. That's not an appetizing image, is it? Sorry about that.

While I'm cooking the turkey, Dave chops up tomatoes and an avocado. I then add a splash of olive oil and white balsamic vinegar along with some basil to the veggies. Although tomatoes are a fruit. Oh well. Work with me, people!

We use a Lite Mexican cheese blend from Trader Joe's or queso fresco from a local market. Crunched up chips (tortilla for Dave, Identity Crisis rice/corn chips from TJs for me) are the base to which meat, cheese, the tomato/avocado mix and lettuce are added. A few more chips crumbled on top...and there is dinner. And lunch. And lunch again the next day.

I've learned to make small taco salads because if I put it on my plate, I will eat it. When we get together with our friends Rick and Jen, Jen pulls out huge bowls for our salads and I've made the mistake of filling the bowl. I've also learned to use more lettuce than any of the other ingredients. I still get all the flavor and crunch without enough calories for two meals. Possibly three.

Oink.

Ah, taco salad...will I ever tire of you?

Not for a while, methinks.

And if and when I do, you KNOW I'll still call you, baby.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Breakfast

How is this fatal? Well, I make an omelet that's to die for, that's how. (heh!)

Sunday Omelet

Cut up some mushrooms into a dry pan. Heat them, not stirring, until they toast.

Meanwhile:
  • dice some ham
  • for each person, beat one egg and one teaspoon of sour cream together
  • add salt, pepper and marjoram to the egg mixture
  • shred mild cheddar cheese
When the mushrooms are done, add a little butter and stir to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour in the egg mixture. Sprinkle the ham and cheese over all. If you have some leftover cooked asparagus, add that. Shoot, add anything that looks good.

Cover the pan.

When the edges are brown, the top and middle should be done. If it's done or MOSTLY done, fold the omelet over and take it out of the pan and let it finish cooking in its own heat. If it's still wobbly on top, flip it over, but be prepared for the melted cheese to stick.

Butter a slice of bread for each person and toss it in the hot pan to toast. Toast the slices on both sides, if you can stand to wait that long. Turn off the heat before the toast is done and let it finish cooking in the pan's residual heat.

Yum!


Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Big Eaters

Chris’s entry about Michael Phelp’s diet made me think of my grandfather.  He was six feet tall and weighed about 150 pounds.  He ate like a horse, and he ate as much fat and sugar as he could, and my grandmother saw that he got it.  She had no idea about calories or cholesterol, so she never put them in her cooking.  You could tell this was true just by seeing how thin these farm people were.  They craved fat after carrying yearling calves, buckets of milk, and small children around under their arms all day long.


My mother, and indeed all my female relations of yore, would have been unable to cook without  their drippings jar, which was kept within arm’s length of the stove.  Into this jar was poured the grease that was left in the skillet after frying any piece of meat.  Bacon grease was especially desirable for both its quantity and taste.


This grease, which was semi-liquid in summer and semisolid in winter, was used to fry anything that needed to be fried, such as vegetables, eggs, pancakes and johnnycakes.  It was also used as a tasty flavoring when cooking savory dishes.  My mother could tell by the smell if the fat was going rancid, which it sometimes did in hot weather.  She would then throw it out and start over.  It never took long to collect another jar full.


If any cook did this today, she’d be hauled off to food prison by the food police.

Friday, August 22, 2008

"And it was still hot"


August has two big events within days of each other for our family. The kids have to start back to school, and I have to have another birthday. I mention the birthday because when my husband asked what I wanted, I--for once--had a quick answer. The Hallmark "Where the Wild Things Are" ornament. When Nicholas and Lianna were small, Tim and I had to read that book to them every night. We had it memorized. Nicholas even had a "Wild Fang" puppet and a Max wearing a wolf suit. If your children are fans of "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak, then you'll recognize that the title of this post is the last line of that book. Although the book was written before I was even born, my brother had it; and it was a favorite of mine as a child, too.

The children went back to school on Wednesday. Since food represents nourishment in so many different ways, it was important to me that when they came home it was to "good things to eat." (Yes, that's another "Wild Things" reference. Max smelled "good things to eat" and that led him back home to his room where his supper was waiting for him. "And it was still hot."). I put chicken breasts and foil-covered ears of corn in the crock pot (one of my daughter's favorite meals) and I made a brownie and decorated it like a cake (they both love those). They came home to the comforting smells of chicken and chocolate--"good things to eat"--and Mom, who missed them very much and who will always provide a safe haven and a hot meal.

Here's is the really easy chicken recipe:

Ingredients:

Chicken (frozen or thawed)
2 cans or 1 family-sized can of cream of chicken soup

Put chicken in the crock pot. Pour soup over the top (don't add water). To include ears of corn, wrap the corn (I usually use frozen) in aluminum foil and put on top.

See? I told you it was easy. :-)

Now, wild things, let's shake off this melancholy and "let the wild rumpus start!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic Food

The Olympics is winding down, Michael Phelps won his handful of medals and now he can bask in tons of endorsements.

I keep thinking of something I read - that for someone who's so fit and health-oriented, that the first thing he wanted when his events and training were over was fast food?

I confess that I love McDonald's and Burger King fish sandwiches. I don't eat them often anymore, but I still like them.

So the king of swimming says he likes fast food. He's normal - and lucky as he likely has a fantastic metabolism. I bet even when he's not doing monster workouts during training, he still burns it off. The rest of us look (or think of it) and gain.

Everyone gasped, of course. It seemed a sacrilege that someone so athletic admitted something that amounts to a secret sin. It's kind of funny actually. Even athletes have their sweet tooth or food indulgences. They're the best at what they do, but they're also a little fallible. It makes the rest of us feel a whole lot better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Five Men, 3 Days... I'm Going to be so Tired!

Okay, get your minds out of the gutter! I will be entertaining four men in my house for the next three days, but my husband will be around. No, no...not that either!
We live close to Bristol, which may not mean anything to you, unless you follow NASCAR Racing. My husband works for a company that is headquartered in Little Rock. When racing came up at a meeting, and some guys found out how close we are to the track, plans were made. So, this weekend, we will have 5 guests from Little Rock and beyond on Friday evening and 4 until Sunday morning.
Since I have always fantasized about having a little bed and breakfast, I'm thinking of the weekend as such.
My husband is so much better at cleaning than I am. He's in charge of that, which is leaving me time to cook. I hope to give these men some true Southern Hospitality, and as Paula Deen (my favorite Southern cook and celebrity) says "Put some South in your mouth!"
Friday night's dinner is the big meal. Here is the menu that I have planned. I'll include some recipes in future posts.


Friday night dinner:

barbecued babyback ribs

peel-and-eat Cajun shrimp with cocktail sauce

7-layer salad

pimento and green chile cornbread

rolls

baked potatoes

banana pudding

toffee brownies

I also have plans to serve breakfast casseroles, country ham, biscuits, bakery muffins, and fruit in the mornings.
Before the men leave for the race on Saturday, I plan to do a taco bar, chips, salsa, and guacamole.
This would all be so "Stepford" of me, except that I get tremendous pleasure from pulling things like this off, and I have no plans of attempting this while wearing June Cleaver pearls. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Me and My Chicken Feet

Okay, so I write this column for WorldWide Recipes called Culinary Chronicles. It's supposed to be a food history column, but keeping me on topic is like trying to herd cats. Somehow, I got onto dim sum, and I mentioned that one featured item on dim sum menus is chicken feet. Several readers wrote to me about how wonderful chicken feet are, boiled ones or fried ones or baked or roasted.

Then Southern Indiana Writers, of which I am a member, did a book signing down the street from a dim sum restaurant and, from the time we scheduled the signing, I was going on about how I was going to eat the chicken feet. Nobody believed me, but I insisted.

The evening came, we went to the restaurant, I looked at the picture on the menu--and I...er...chickened out.

We had another signing at the same venue, went to the same restaurant... and I chickened out again.

When we did a signing at ConGlomeration science fiction convention, there was a vendor selling buttons with sayings on them, and he would make one for you saying whatever (within reason) you wanted. I told him what I wanted my button to say. He said, "...Is this a religious thing?" "No." His second guess was Baba Yaga, a Russian folk figure who lives in a hut that has chicken legs and moves around the forest so you never know where it--and the witch--will be. I explained that it was an advertisement of my cowardice, and he made the button. I'm hoping to shame myself into eating a chicken foot some day. I'm assured I'll like it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Apple Fritters of the Gods


When I was younger (let's not say exactly how much younger, but we're talking high school), my best friend and I used to eat lots of donuts. We had forgiving metabolisms. Four donuts in a sitting washed down with cocoa (topped with mini marshmallows) was standard after school fare. True, we'd walk to the donut store and back, but we're talking 15 minutes each way. Not exactly calorie burning exercise, especially considering we usually had on heels.

The donuts at this particular store were always fresh, with none of the nasty lard aftertaste and thick mouth feel that most donuts have. They were how I remembered donuts of my childhood, when Sunday breakfast was trip to Winchell's and the chance to pick out our favorites. Mine were chocolate frosted crullers and apple fritters, although I wouldn't turn my nose up at the chocolate eclairs. Yup, Saturday morning was cartoon time and Sunday was donut time. I realize to some this is a bit sacrilegious, but there you have it.

After I hit my twenties, either my tastes changed or donuts got worse. I started noticing the heavy lard thickness on my tongue after taking a bite and became more aware of the need for moderation in my diet. Not that I gave up chocolate or anything crazy like that; it's just donuts no longer held their hole-y sway over me. There would be boxes of donuts at work every morning and I had no problem ignoring them. Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, on the other hand, still lured me in with their siren song. Donuts? Feh. I left them to the likes of my increasingly fat bottomed co-workers, smug in my ability to walk away from break area snack free.

This distaste for donuts lasted several decades. I got a craving for an apple fritter about 15 years ago on a drive from L.A. to San Diego and stopped at a donut shop. Yuck. Lard. Nothing to write home about. I tossed most of it and never looked back.

Then, about six months ago, I was at George's Zoo, a little market/deli on Sloat and 44th Avenue across from the SF Zoo (and four convenient blocks from the house) early in the morning. A large bakery box sat open on the counter and the smell of fresh baked donuts wafted up. The smell immediately brought back childhood memories of Winchell's and those after school donut expeditions with Maureen and suddenly...I wanted one. I had not craved a donut in years, but one whiff of these babies and I was practically salivating. But I walked away. Given my desire to lose a few pounds and my no longer cooperative metabolism, the last thing I needed was a donut. Besides, it would no doubt disappoint me with that lardy nastiness.

The next weekend Dave and I went to George's for our pre-beach coffee (me)/chai tea latte (Dave) and there was that box of donuts. Fresh ones, of course. A fat, glossy apple fritter sat in the middle, surrounded by glazed old-fashioned, chocolate cake donuts, and Homer donuts (pink with sprinkles). The smell was as enticing as it had been the week before. Dave eyed a maple old-fashioned. I stared at the fritter. A battle of wills (ours and the donuts) ensued.

The donuts won.

These donuts tasted the way I remember them from my childhood. Warm, fresh, no lard. The fritter had huge chunks of apple baked into the bready part. The glazed frosting was rich and buttery instead of sickly sweet. Each bite melted in the mouth. It was worth every calorie.

They have these donuts at George's every day. I've since had three of them over a six month period, one of those three this morning. I still have half of it for later - an entire fritter eaten in one sitting would send a stronger person than me into a sugar coma for the rest of the day. It is so worth it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cake and Chicken Feet

I was impressed and jealous when I read Gayle's entry about the Oklahoma Sugar Festival.  I'm from Tulsa myself, but I live far away from there now, and won't be able to go.  I have relatives there, though, so perhaps I can send a proxy.  Because if there is anything I love to look at, it's a beautiful cake.

One of my sisters (Martha, the younger one.  Not the oft-mentioned Carol) has a God-given cake-decorating gift.  When she makes a cake, it is absolutely a work of art, so beautifully decorated that you just want to stare at it for an hour.  It seems a shame to eat this, you think.  Not that big of a shame.  They are as delicious as they are lovely.  She could make a nice living creating cakes, but does it strictly out of love.  What does she do for money?  She sells cold rolled steel.

We didn't eat that many desserts at home when I was growing up.  My mother's usual pattern was to make some variety of sheet cake once a week, and then the family would nosh on it for several days.  One of our all time favorites was her fruit cocktail cake.  It's easy to make, scrumptious, and the longer it sits, the better it gets.  I'd love to use this old family recipe in my books, but in the mid-1910s period that I write about, they didn't have canned fruit cocktail.  Happily, I don't have to worry about that on this blog, so here it is:

FRUIT COCKTAIL CAKE

1 1/2 cups of sugar                         1 15 oz can of fruit cocktail
2 cups flour                                     2 eggs
2 tsp. soda                                       1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla and/or mixed spices such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together and pour into large (9 X 13) pan.  Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup chopped nuts.  Bake for 45 minutes in a moderate oven (350-375 degrees)

Now, when my sibs and I make this, we usually double the topping, because we love it.  And seriously, if you will cover this with foil and let it sit for several days, it becomes dense, gooey, and incredibly delectable.

Addendum :  I got so involved writing about the cake that I forgot what I was going to say about chicken feet. I mentioned in an earlier comment that my great aunt Mary used to give us kids boiled chicken feet to eat, and my brother-in-law pointed out quite rightly that there is nothing much edible about chicken feet.  I should therefore clarify that Aunt Mary boiled entire chicken legs below the joint, feet attached, and gave them to the little kids.  I expect she thought that small children would enjoy the fact that they looked rather gross.  They tasted good, though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Oklahoma, Sugar!


Although mentioned in the title, this post is not for Sugar alone. :-)

Actually, I'm going to the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show at the end of September. In attempting to introduce cake decorators to Murder Takes the Cake, I called Jo Ellen Simon of the River City Confectioners Association. She was warm and encouraging and told me I should talk with Kerry Vincent. If you've ever seen a Food Network cake challenge competition, you're familiar with Ms. Vincent. She gave me Ms. Vincent's e-mail address, and I sent her a message. She promptly responded with her phone number. I called and she was delightful. She was excited about the book and invited me to come to the Oklahoma State Sugar Arts Show, as it would be the perfect setting for a cake decorating mystery. I told her I would be there on September 27, notebook in hand. Actually, I'll have a notebook in one hand and a camera in the other. I'm sure I'll have lots of pictures to post upon my return.

Naturally, I have several posts to write between now and September 27, but I was so thrilled about this I had to go ahead and write about it. Plus, if there are any cake decorators who read Fatal Foodies who will be at the show, I'd love to meet you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Food and Mysteries


I've been so caught up in blogging daily at Candid Canine that I completely forgot about posting here last week.

For fun, I thought I'd share something different. We talk about food and mysteries here, but the food I really enjoy (besides the stuff I shouldn't eat!) is in miniature. It's made of polymer clay, but it looks real.



Besides writing mysteries, I enjoy collecting and creating miniatures. Thanks to the Internet and Skype, my Dutch friend, Kitty Balke, and I often share ideas and projects. We inspire each other and copy ideas. For fun, I'm sharing some photos of her gourmet shoppe.



The detail is amazing. Maybe that's why I enjoy the hobby so much; it's a way to relax but you also can be extremely detailed and realistic as you want. It's the same as writing, except it's creating with objects and images instead of words.



Having a hobby or pastime allows you to use your creative skills in a different way and sometimes lets you subconsciously think out problems in your book or writing without dwelling on it. Besides, it's fun!

The best thing? Making this kind of food is calorie free!

** Do you have a hobby or food related pastime that you enjoy to take your mind off of writing for a while?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They go for the gold. I go for the eggroll.

Last time the Summer Olympics were on, I was so inspired. It made me want to strive to be my best in every area of my life. I became more focussed as a mom and wife, had more discipline with my writing, and was motivated to swim laps, run up and down my street, and practice the few gymnastic skills I've retained from childhood.
The 2008 Summer Olympics are having a distinctly different affect on me. I blame it on pregnancy. Ever since the opening ceremonies, I have had an insatiable desire for Chinese food!
Am I weird? Is this happening to anyone else? Are patrons lined up out the door at Chinese restaurants?
I mean, I am OBSESSED! Yesterday, I made some spicy peanut and sesame noodles from leftover spaghetti noodles, carrots, onions, broccoli, edamame, sesame oil, stir fry sauce, and peanut butter. It was delicious!
With this pregnancy, many of my cravings have passed after a few days. In case this Chinese food thing doesn't go away, I am prepared with a stockpile of ingredients and recipes. In the near future, I have plans for sesame chicken wings, hot and sour soup, eggrolls, and stir-fry.
I cannot write about the games without mentioning the marvelous Michael Phelps. While writing this post, I have just watched him win another gold metal. He is incredible! I am amazed by his accomplishments. Now, why do his rippled abs remind me of a plate full of Chinese barbecued spareribs?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Elvis, Faulkner, Charlie and Me

My husband and I were driving to San Antonio to visit our youngest daughter. I said, "We're going to stop in Tupelo to see Elvis' birthplace. My bestest pal is a super Elvis fan, and she would never forgive me if I went that close and didn't go." My husband said, "Then we're going to Oxford, Mississippi, too, to see Rowan Oak, where William Faulkner wrote."

Well, Elvis' birthplace was totally touristy, but Rowan Oak was closed up tighter than a drum, with a fence and a no trespassing sign right behind the memorial marker. It had been raining that day, too, and the path was wet. Charlie went up anyway, but he was cautious of getting too close, in case they had armed guards or ferocious dogs or something.

I'm not sure if Faulkner had a signature food other than whiskey, but here's to fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, the food of The King!

BTW, there are a bazillion mysteries featuring Elvis as detective, and that's not even counting the ones with Elvis impersonators, Elvis fans, non-Presley Elvises or animals named Elvis...or Bubba, which seems to be a generally understood code name for Elvis.

I've read Daniel Klein's KILL ME TENDER, and liked it very much. I haven't read any of the others, but a search at any online book store will turn up more than you can shake a pelvis at.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Mind is a Blank, but my Stomach is Full

It's true. I have feasted on delicious food this last week and weekend and yet now that it's time to post, my inspiration is in inverse proportion to the calories consumed Thursday night alone. So I guess I'll talk about Thursday night's dinner!

Dave and I had dinner with Michael and Tania, friends visiting from England. The venue was Jeanty at Jack's. , a French restaurant in the Financial District of San Francisco. Michael used to work with me before moving back to England, so my lovely, wonderful boss (who would have joined us had he been in town) said I could expense the meal and be everyone's Sugar Momma for the night. Whoo hoo! I love being a Sugar Momma...

The food at Jeanty's is delicious. It's not cheap (which is why being able to expense the dinner was so very nice), but the quality is definitely worth the price (especially if it's expensed!). They have a tomato soup served in a puff pastry that's not only a meal by itself, but a veritable work of art. The pastry shell, crisp and golden, rises a good four inches above the dish it's cooked in and the soup...rich, creamy, perfect. I suggest sharing it if you want to save room for anything else.

Dave and I were early, so we had champagne cocktails and oysters while we waited. Decadence...if you're an oyster lover, which I am. I can eat them by the dozen...or two or three or four dozen. I have, in one evening, eaten 40 oysters without complaint from my stomach. I washed them down with champagne, a decadent version of Lewis Carroll's oyster eating walrus. Hey, at least I didn't make friends with them first!

When Tania and Michael arrived, we ordered an array of appetizers, including smoked salmon carpacchio, quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings with Lobster Sauce), and roasted bone marrow served on crispy thinly sliced pieces of buttered baguette. We feasted like Romans (except without the gratuitous vomiting and orgy part) on casoullet (duck comfit, sausage, bacon and white bean stew), tournedos au poivre (a thick, tender beef filet), washed down with Peter Franus Zinfandel, a rich, spicy, fruit-forward wine with a viscous mouthfeel. Dessert was apple clafoutis (apple dumpling) and chocolate creme brulee accompanied by brandy and port. At the very end of it all, Dave and I had a digestif of some herbal concoction with a ginger ale chaser. I can recommend it highly as something that will settle your stomach after a rich meal.

Now before you start following me around and oinking, I still have most of my casoullet left from the meal. I've been having little servings of it for lunch this weekend and may or may not be able to finish it before it turns Leftover Corner onto Asking for Food Poisoning Lane. And the tournedos au poivre was someone else's dish - I just stole a bite or two. We split two desserts between four of us and the appetizers were small portions. But still, it was a very rich meal and I was full from it for two days.

Okay, fine. OINK!!!

There. Are you happy?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mysteries and Mexican Food

I'm sorry that I was AWOL last Saturday.  I was doing a Mystery Writers of America event up in Sedona, Arizona.  This was the annual Arizona MWA meeting, as well as one of a series of author events being held this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sedona Public Library.  The co-sponsor was the Well Red Coyote Bookstore, which is owned by mystery author Kris Neri and her husband Joe.

The bookstore held a reception for the participating authors in the afternoon, an then we adjourned to the library for a panel discussion on mystery writing.  I was privileged to be one of the authors, along with fellow mystery writer Betty Webb, thriller writer and retired attorney Ben F. Small, and true-crime author and practicing attorney Kerri Droban.  Kris was the moderator.  The formal program lasted about an hour, with time afterward for book signing.  It was a wonderful event, very well attended by regional MWA members as well as a pretty good showing from the local general public.  We had quite a bit of media coverage, which really helped bring people in.

If any of you Dear Readers have ever been to Sedona, you know that it is literally one of the most beautiful spots on this green earth.  It's located about 120 miles due north of where I live in Tempe, half way to the Grand Canyon, three-quarters of the way to the high mountains around Flagstaff.  It's a town of around 30,000 (I'm guessing), and surrounded by cliffs so red that you can hardly believe your eyes, with the spectacular, wooded, rushing, Oak Creek running right through the middle.  When we first moved to Arizona over twenty years ago, Sedona was a tiny, quiet little place smack dab in the midst of all that eye-popping scenery.  Sadly, everyone else, including the entire state of California, has discovered it, and traffic through that winding canyon has become horrible, especially during high tourist season.

Our event lasted until late, so my husband and I spent the night there, which was an expensive proposition.  But Sedona is still small enough, and high enough in the mountains, that the stars were like a silver blanket.  That sight alone was worth the trip.

After the panel, we gathered at a local Mexican restaurant called Casa Bonita and gorged on chiles relleno (me) and enchiladas (my husband).  One of the great perks of living in Arizona is that Mexican food is just food, and you don't have to look very far to find it.  Here in Arizona, the Sonoran style of cooking is prevalent, since the state is sitting right on top of the Mexican state of Sonora.  We are also fortunate to have access to a number of restaurants that cook Jalisco-style, which incorporates a lot of seafood. I grew up in Oklahoma, and we ate Tex-Mex, which is an actual native style of cuisine.  Sonoran and Jaliscan cooking seem much lighter to me, and not as fried-up and smothered in melted cheese. 

Talking mystery all evening, and then eating Mexican food, made me think of Louise Ure, and as soon as I got home, I re-read her Forcing Amaryllis. Louise's books are set in the Tucson area, and her characters get to eat a lot of Mexican food, which she describes in mouth-watering detail. So if you are in the market for some Mexican menu ideas, yu cound't find better references than Forcing Amaryllis and The Fault Tree, by Louise Ure. 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tea Shop Mysteries




I haven't read Laura Childs'Tea Shop Mysteries, but they were recommended to me today by my friend Jennifer Flaten. She'd read and enjoyed "The Silver Needle Murder," the latest in the series. I did a "Search Through The Book" at Amazon and read the first couple pages. Though the book didn't jump right into the action, the stage was set with descriptions of Charleston, South Carolina. I'd like to read more. The teas sound intriguing, too, although my tea of choice in the summertime is Milo's calorie free iced tea. Yum. I discovered it recently and found it has all the taste without the work and calories of traditional iced tea.

Summertime is a wonderful time to sit on a front porch, look at beautiful scenery, drink iced tea and, basically, do nothing. The church above is Christ Church on St. Simons Island, Georgia. It's a beautiful little island; and if you haven't visited St. Simons and Jekyll Islands, you should do so if you get a chance. That's where my family went on vacation last year. I don't know how the tea mystery led me to iced tea and then to St. Simons; but if you can follow my skewed reasoning, I'll give you a funny anecdote from our trip.

Very near Christ Church was the home of author Eugenia Price. When we were there last year, it was for sale. With a price tag of $4.2 million, a realtor would've taken one look at us and said, "I don't think so." Especially since just two days before we left for vacation I'd fallen down our stairs and broken my tail bone and had my blue donut in the car. [eye roll] Anyhoo, me being me, I HAD to see that house. We found out what road it was on, and off we went...past the sign that said "Private Road"... past the "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs. We drove to the gate. "I just HAVE to get a picture," I told my husband. "I know," he said with a sigh. I got out of the car and walked closer. It was getting dark, and this area was so swampy. There were live oaks everywhere. Pretty in the daylight, but rather spooky in the dark. I had a sudden vision of some caretaker "unleashing the hounds." With a squeak of fear, I got back into the car.

All night I cursed my cowardice. The next morning, I told Tim (my sweet husband), "We're going back to that house today." He said, "I know." At nine a.m., I figured the creepy caretaker wouldn't unleash the hounds, so we went back to the home of the late Eugenia Price. I got out of the car, quickly snapped a picture and got back into the car. We sped back down the driveway. I'd have put a picture of the house here, but my picture didn't turn out very well. For the most part, you can see live oak limbs.

So now I've gone from tea to trespassing. Ah, the joys of summer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beat the heat. Head for the mountains!






These dog days of summer have me longing for a trip to the close, yet much cooler, mountains of North Carolina's High Country. Luckily, there are several books that can take me there at a moment's notice.


One of my favorites is Emeralds in the Snow, written by Maggie Bishop, published by High Country Publishers, Ltd. Maggie Bishop manages to pack a lot of punch in 188 pages. There's wealth, greed, romance, murder, mystery, and adventure.


Emerald Graham is beautiful and rich. Lucky Tucker is a rugged and handsome guy, whose is generous, despite a life of hardship.

Emerald meets Lucky when she falls while skiing, and he is working for the ski patrol. The two become romantically involved. Things get a little more complicated when they discover that their lives had been intertwined long before they met.


I have met Maggie Bishop on a couple of occasions. She is a sweetheart, and I suspect that she is also a foodie. Emeralds in the Snow includes several food scenes. In the first chapter, after Emerald and Lucky have their first meeting on the ski slopes, they have coffee in the ski patroller break room. There are a couple of other occasions where the two drink mugs of hot beverages, which lends a cozy tone to the story. If you love outdoorsy types, you may even envision yourself drinking a mug of cocoa with Lucky Tucker!

One of my favorite scenes in the book is a beautiful illustration of the contrasts between our two main characters' lifestyles. Emerald and Lucky make a pizza at his house. Emerald, accustomed to having a hired cook in her home, is unaware that there is such a thing as pizza dough in a can. Lucky helps her through the process as they top the dough with jarred sauce, deer sausage, frozen vegetables, and cheese. Other meals prepared at Lucky's cabin include a spaghetti dinner, where lucky surprises Emerald by serving a bottle of wine, instead of his usual beer, and breakfast waffles topped with his grandmother's jam.

The contrast in upbringing is further explored when Lucky accompanies Emerald to a swanky event, where he tries escargot and lamb in a mint sauce. Later in the book, the two have a picnic. When Emerald gives Lucky's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apparent snub, the two discuss the differences in their backgrounds.

As the two become closer, Lucky invites Emerald to have Sunday lunch at his grandmother's. Emerald creates a bit of a stir, when in an effort to help, she sets the table in formal place settings, which becomes a bit confusing for Lucky's family. A flustered Emerald soon relaxes as she stuffs herself with flaky biscuits and warm pie.

If the summer heat has you longing for the mountains, check out this read, and check out Maggie's site: http://maggiebishop1.tripod.com/





























Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hush Puppies

My mother and I went to a wedding in Peru, Indiana this past weekend and ate at the Country Catfish Family Restaurant. The connection to fatality is that the food was so good we could have eaten ourselves to death on it! Catfish, sour cream and onion steak fries, fried OKRA and hush puppies that melt in your mouth. There was one left over and we took it back to the motel room and put it in the refrigerator. One left over. One. And two of us.

Fortunately, my mother and I really do love and like each other, so we both survived. I gave it to her, she offered to share, I declined and the crime was averted. But it could have been bad--bad. I can picture the cop turning away, face pale with shock. Then they would find the fragments of hush puppy and he would say, "Oh, yeah. I've eaten at the Country Catfish before. I understand." The survivor, if any, wouldn't even be charged.

Hush puppies, in case there's anyone reading this who thinks it's just a brand of shoe, are fried corn bread dumplings. But they can be so much more than that. Maybe a little chopped onion in there, maybe a little actual soft corn kernels. The ideal ones, like the ones at Country Catfish, are crispy-crunchy-brown outside and soft-tender-airy melt-in-your-mouth inside. The story goes that they were fried up to toss to the dogs to keep them quiet while the people ate fish or meat. Well, woof woof, I'm a dog. Gimme some of those hush puppies or I'll bite your leg.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Forbidden Foods


I picked up a book the other day to use as inspiration for a writing project (I've been contracted to turn a short story of mine into a 200 page novel); In the Devil's Garden: A sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen (here's the Amazon.com link). To quote Amazon.com:
Lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greed, blasphemy, and anger--the seven deadly sins have all been linked to food. Matching the food to the sin, Stewart Lee Allen's In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Foods offers a high-spirited look at the way foods over time have been forbidden, even criminalized, for their "evil" effects. Food has often been, shockingly, morally weighted, from the tomato, originally called the love apple and thought to excite lust; to the potato, whose popularity in Ireland led British Protestants to associate it with sloth; to foods like corn or bread whose use was once believed to delineate "lowness," thus inflaming class pride. Allen's approach to this incredible history also includes tales of personal journeys to, for example, a Mount Athos monastery, where a monk reveals the sign of Satan in an apple, and to San Francisco to investigate dog eating. If his history is sometimes too glancing and facetious, even beyond the sensible need to entertain, it is always fascinating.

I'm only on Chapter One (Lust) and am totally hooked. What really struck me from the get-go is the author's observation that 'we now judge a dish largely by how guilty we feel about eating it--at least judging from today's advertising--and if it is not considered 'sinful; we find it less pleasant.' Sadly that's true, especially the first part. Rich chocolate desserts are always described as 'decadent' and 'sinfully delicious' whereas sorbet and the like is generally referred to as 'refreshing.' I personally love salads and lighter fare and never feel deprived when eating salmon, fresh tomatoes and other 'good for me' foods, so I'm not entirely on board with the 'less pleasant' aspect of foods not thought sinful. But there is something especially fun and...well...yes, almost wicked about digging into a rich chocolate mousse or flourless chocolate cake. The trick is getting rid of the guilt associated with it and just learning to enjoy for the sake of the pleasure itself.

I'm not advocating wholesale irresponsible eating. Health and weight are factors to be taken into consideration and very few of us can indulge in whatever we want all the time without some adverse affects. All things in moderation. But if you ARE going to indulge, do so without guilt. Enjoy and appreciate! And if you love reading about food as much as eating it, do pick up In the Devil's Garden; it's sure to stimulate your mind and your appetite!


Friday, August 1, 2008

Calling All Cake Decorators!

As many of you know, I've written a cozy mystery novel centered around Daphne Martin, a cake decorator. In conjunction with the book's release in October, I'm sponsoring a fun contest. Cake decorators can submit photos of some of their best work with a "love" theme (G or PG, please) to be considered for inclusion in an e-book. These could be wedding cakes, Disney princesses, Valentine's cakes, etc.

I think it would be cool if decorators spoke a little about themselves and/or their techniques, too. The e-book will be released on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2009, and will include a forward from "Daphne Martin" and will provide links to the decorators' sites and/or information about their shops.

I know how hard cake decorating is, and I want to showcase some of you talented decorators. I spoke to the publishers (Bell Bridge Books) about this, and they said they might even choose a photograph from the e-book for the cover of the next book, tentatively titled "Dead Pan."

For more information, or to learn more about the e-book, please let me know. If you'd like to check out the book a little bit before you make up your mind, you can find out more at http://www.gayletrent.com.

Speaking of cakes, you guys have got to check out Cake Wrecks (http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/). I browsed this site and laughed until tears streamed down my face and I could not breathe.