Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
My friend Anne recently reminded me of how I met her late mother. I overheard Mrs. K talking to someone and, recognizing her accent as English, waylaid her. I had been reading -- yes, English mysteries -- and wanted to know what "fairy cakes" were. She said they were like cupcakes, and told me how to make them particularly fairy-like. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I have since found that cupcakes or fairy cakes were developed during the 19th century, possibly as a cross between muffins and cake. They were called cupcakes because the ingredients were measured in a cup, rather than being weighed. Traditional fairy cakes have equal measures of butter, self-rising flour, castor sugar and eggs. To make a cupcake (of whatever recipe) into a fairy cake: Cut the tops off the baked mini-cakes and cut each circle into two half-circles. Put a blop of icing on top of each cake and stick the half-circles into the icing to resemble wings. Thanks, Mrs. K!
The English mysteries I had been reading were the Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes, beginning with THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF. One of the characters, Aunt Agatha, is addicted to fairy cakes, so I had to find out what they were. Here's the recipe I've worked out:
- self-rising flour
- sugar (not powdered, but finer than regular--a food processor will do it)
First, break the eggs into a measuring cup and mark the quantity. Combine the eggs with equal amounts of the rest of the ingredients. Bake as you would cupcakes.
They're VERY tasty, whether you make the little wings or not.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I thought I'd bring a special guest to Fatal Foodies today. Nadia Gordon (aka Julianne Balmain), the author of the Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley mysteries, chock full of food, wine and murder!
What was the original inspiration for your Sunny McCoskey mysteries?
I’m friends with an extraordinary group of people who started cooking in a very authentic, uncompromising way. In any other era, that would be a meaningless sentence. But in our time, when a food that smells and tastes like strawberry might not have any strawberries in it, the attempt to cook food that is what it purports to be is a very important undertaking, for the environment and for people. This topic—great food prepared from locally grown and gathered ingredients—is a real passion for me. I admire the people leading this movement and wanted to write about them. I wanted to explore a life where you spent the days cooking food from ingredients with a supply chain that was entirely transparent. You know the patch of earth where the potato is grown, and you know the guy who grew it, and you’ve been in his shed and seen what kind of jars and bags of stuff are in there. If you open a guy’s shed and see buckets of Roundup, you know you’re in the wrong place.
How much of you is in your protagonist?
Much less than readers tend to imagine. The writer’s life—my writer’s life—is pretty vicarious. I’m in the business of observation. Sunny actually does things. I might go along on the wild mushroom hunt, but Sunny is the one who knows the best places, knows which mushrooms are safe to eat. I might hang out in the kitchen, but Sunny is the one who cooks. I cowardly, cozy, and sleep like a stone. Sunny is a fearless maniac who is always up roaming the countryside half the night looking for dead bodies and murderers.
I just finished your new release, LETHAL VINTAGE, and was definitely taken aback by the behavior of one of the reoccurring characters (no names mentioned, no spoilers). Definitely some unresolved character arcs and relationships going on. How many more Sunny M. books in the series do you foresee? Keep in mind the higher the number, the happier you will make your interviewer.
This is Sunny’s baggage. She is very much in control, of everything, and very solid. Not much rocks her boat. But what if her boat needs to be rocked? I see the first four books as the spoon tap tap tapping at her shell. As the first book opens, Sunny is a happy woman, doing what she loves, with a successful restaurant in paradise. She’s in the world’s most lovely rut. By the end of book four, she’s made up her mind to change. There will definitely be more Sunny books, just not for the next year or two.
Reading about Sunny's dishes for her restaurant generally has me drooling (in a good way!) and casting about for the perfect food/wine pairings. What is your background as a cook and/or an oenephile?
I’m a good voyeur and a great eater. I think the most important thing I bring to the table, so to speak, is a blank slate. I learn very slowly. The upside is an enduring state of Zen-style beginner mind. I still come at a glass of wine like a complete beginner, which means I can keep learning, keep tasting. Food and wine and how to make them are areas you can study for a lifetime. I was once at a dinner with a bunch of foodies that started early and went late. There were many, many good wines. Late in the evening, someone ordered an older, very expensive wine. The steward poured, someone tasted, and glasses were poured and happily consumed. There was a guy from Italy who had definitely had enough already. I thought that it was rather a waste we were all drinking a great wine no one could really taste anymore. He took one whiff and declared the bottle corked. It was. There is always plenty to learn.
What’s your perfect environment for writing and do you have a process you follow each time you write?
It’s pretty grim. The planning of a book is a great joy. I wax poetic. I am consumed by a passion to research the most minute details. My characters carry me away to an imaginary land. Then it’s time to execute and that means huge quantities of Peet’s coffee, lots of pacing, frenzied cleaning of the house, catching up on every bit of correspondence, agony, panic, etc. And then, at last, the incredibly satisfying plunge into the heart of it.
How do you balance out your role as a mother with your writing? As someone who only has cats (and finds them quite distracting), I would really like to know...
It’s difficult. My passion for my work is as strong as ever—stronger, even, since I have all this great new material—but I have much less time to write. Moms are forced to become extremely efficient. I get much more done in a hour these days than I used to, but I have far fewer hours! I became a mom rather late in the mom game, so I’d had plenty of time to explore the world and get to know myself. I had so much time on my hands I was doing yoga, surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking. All in one day! Well, not really, but a bunch. Now I’m lucky if I can score twelve minutes for a jog-walk around the park. But how sweet to have a child to steal you away from your work. There’s a Rumi poem that goes, “Before now I wanted/ to be paid for what I said,/ but now I need you/ to buy me from my words.” My son does that great service for me.
How do you promote your books? Do you blog/Facebook/Twitter and if so, do you think it's worthwhile?
I do think Facebook and Twitter are worthwhile means of getting the word out about your books, certainly right now. They can be extremely effective if you really engage with it. Personally, I don’t tweet and my Facebook participation is minimal. It’s an issue of time and privacy. I have a website that may one day soon include a blog of some sort. Back when the Internet was new, I had a column called “The Ex-Model Files” on Spiv, a Turner Broadcasting website that vanished with the Time Warner merger in the nineties. I wrote it under the pen name Cara Friedrichs. It was sort of a proto-blog, and I loved doing it. I might start doing something like that again—basically a weekly column I publish on my website.
What do you love about writing and what, if anything, do you hate about the business?
I love the deep dive of fiction writing. The way you sink down, down, down into the sea of story and bring back otherworldly treasure. I don’t particularly like the part of the process where you’re looking for a deal and negotiating it. That’s nerve racking. I also don’t love sitting down indoors all day. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a pencil and paper in the meadow?
Do you write in other genres? If so, which ones? If not, do you want to?
I write pop culture nonfiction from time to time, meaning humor, light commentary, and how-to on a variety of topics. The next novel I write may not have a dead body in it.
If you weren't a writer, what would you be?
Marine biologist. My science career was cut short back in high school, but the sea and its critters, particularly the whales, have always been of huge interest. And I daydream the line of clothes I would present for each season, always have, so perhaps fashion designer. Fashion designer to the whales?
If you haven't read Nadia's Napa Valley mysteries yet and are a Fatal Foodie, hie thyself hence and check out her books! Thank you, Nadia!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Donis typing today. I write a mystery series set in the 1910s, featuring a sleuth who is a farm wife and mother of ten children. Now when you have ten children, you're always thinking of what's for dinner, so my books involve a lot of food and cooking. And raising and preparing, too, since if you lived on a farm in Oklahoma in 1915, you didn't pop in to the A&P to pick up a tomato in January. I talk about food so much, in fact, that I have a "cookbook" in the back of each book, which gives not only the recipes for many of the dishes I mention in the story, but the lore of the dish as well.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The VERY FIRST THING I did when I had my own place was... sit on the table.
Although I didn't know what she meant until I saw Dietrich standing and singing on the bar in DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, I also discouraged my children from sitting on desks and tables by saying, "Get off the _____, Marlena!" My youngest tells me that the VERY FIRST THING she did when she had her own place was.... You're way ahead of me.
Now it's my cat. Her name is Katya, but I should have named her Marlena. She has her own chair with a pillow on it here in the office, and her own padded kitty place on the bookshelf, when I certainly have books I could have put there, and still she-- GET OFF THE DESK, MARLENA!!
In other news, I was about to roll out biscuits on the counter and, as I always do, cleaned the surface well beforehand. Good thing, too, because I found.... How shall I put this? A certain person, who shall be nameless, but who lives in a two-person household and isn't me, often cuts his fingernails in the kitchen. Don't ask me why. You KNOW how active fingernails get when they're cut: as soon as they get free from your finger, they go flying off, trying to achieve earth orbit.... Well, so we almost had a Sweeney Todd moment when we ate the biscuits. Fortunately, I pre-empted that.
The biscuits were good.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Last night when I watered my garden I noticed some nice little green tomatoes. I think that in a few days they will be ready to pick for some fried green tomatoes. Here's how I make them:
Fried Green Tomatoes
Slice green tomatoes. Put slices in colander and sprinkle with salt and sugar (or sugar substitute)
Let tomatoes sit in colander for 5-10 minutes to allow juice to render.
Put equal parts cornmeal and flour in brown paper bag. Place tomato slices in bag and shake.
Fry in hot oil.
Sprinkle hot tomatoes with Kosher salt.
I like to serve fried green tomatoes with cheese grits and sweet smoked sausauge. Here's how to do it:
Sweet Smoked Sausage Peel the casings off smoked sausage and slice into about 1 inch pieces
Drizzle olive oil in heated skillet. Put sausage in skillet. Sprinkle sausage with sugar and fry (stirring constantly) until sugar is carmlized and sausage is brown.
Cheese Grits Make instant grits according to package directions. Add salt, milk, butter, garlic and your favorite cheese. Stir over low heat unitl cheese is melted.
Okay, you can lighten this up a bit. The tomatoes can be oven-fried. You may use turkey sausage, sugar substitute, and a low-fat or fat-free cheese.
Of course, I cannot post anything about fried green tomatoes without recommending the classic book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe which was later made into a movie.
Here is a link to a site about the town where the Whistle Stop Cafe is located:
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
So many people asked to come along on his travels, he--or rather, his creator, Jeanette Bennett--established #TemporalTues . Followers are invited to tweet their time travels on Tuesday, and to follow others' travels by following the hashtag (the # sign) #TemporalTues. If you aren't on Twitter, this is nonsense, but that's nothing new for my posts.
At any rate, in honor of Temporal Tuesday, I'm going to post my recipe for refrigerator dill pickles out of a cookbook I inherited from my grandmother. The publication date of the book is 1954. Shut up, it is not an antique. I was born in 1950. Shut UP!...
The proportions are from the cookbook, but the notes are mine.
REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES
- Brine (1 cup salt to 1 gallon water)
- cucumbers, washed and cut as you please
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 cups vinegar
- 3 quarts water
- garlic cloves
- dill weed
Rinse cucumbers and pack into clean, hot jars with 1 clove garlic and some dill weed in each jar.
Combine salt, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.
Pour boiling mixture over cucumbers in jar. Seal. Refrigerate when cool.
Even my grandsons who were raised on store-bought food love these pickles.
Monday, July 13, 2009
NOT so done! Guess my dinosaur of a microwave requires about 10 minutes more time than suggested. So, with the help of my friends, I put the cake and what batter we could reclaim in a sanitary manner BACK in the bowl and nuked it for another 10 minutes.
May I just say "Messy, but YUMMY!!!"
I'm calling it Erupted Volcano Cake.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I am more than pleased to introduce my guest, Vicki Delany, fellow Poisoned Pen Press author and co-blogger at Type M 4 Murder (www.typem4murder.blogspot.com). Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of suspense (Burden of Memory, Scare the Light Away) to a traditional village/police procedural series set in B.C. (Valley of the Lost, In the Shadow of the Glaicer) and a light-hearted historical series (Gold Digger) set during the Klondike Gold Rush.After a computer career, she is enjoying the rural life in Prince Edward County , Ontario, where she rarely wears a watch. Vicki's next novel is Winter of Secrets, the third in the Constable Molly Smith series, to be released in November, 2009 by Poisoned Pen Press.
I Can Cook. Why Can’t They?
I am quite a good cook, if I do say so myself. I am particularly proud of my baking skills – pies from scratch, right down to the pastry, cakes, cookies of all types, squares to die for, including what I modestly refer to as my “World Famous Lemon Squares.”
My protagonists, however, don’t quite measure up. I’m not sure how that came to pass, but when I thought about their culinary gifts, I realized I didn’t give them any.
Let me explain.
Constable Molly Smith, of the Trafalgar City Police, in the books published by Poisoned Pen Press, lives close to her parents in the small town in which she was raised. Her mother, Lucky, has an extensive garden and a well-stocked freezer. Perhaps Molly never learned to cook because she didn’t have to. In Valley of the Lost, however, poor Molly is at an impasse. She is expected to bring something to the police department pot luck. She assumed her mother will make her legendary five-hour lasagne. Alas, Lucky has other things on her mind (such as an abandoned baby who hasn’t learned how to sleep yet). Molly is forced to purchase a frozen slab of something lasagne-like. Here is Molly, contemplating her dilemma:
She’d signed up to bring lasagna, so she’d have to head over to the supermarket and buy a frozen slab of mass produced product.
At least none of the older guys would ask if she’d made it herself.
At the grocery store, Molly finds:
Smith stood in front of the freezer case and stared. The variety was impressive: seafood lasagna, vegetable lasagna, chicken lasagna, three mushroom lasagna, four cheese lasagna. Nothing called five hour lasagna, unfortunately, so she settled on the package with the simple label of: Lasagna.
The line at the checkout was long. To pass the time, Smith read the label on the container.
Otherwise, three hours to bake from frozen.
Who knew frozen food was so time-consuming?
The five hour lasagna is real. I make a recipe I got from Martha Stewart Living that is so complicated and takes so long I call it Five Hour Lasagna. Here’s Molly thinking about it:
It was expensive, complicated, wordy. And it made a meal that tasted like something served in heaven to angels fluttering their wings on fluffy white clouds.
I’m sure neither Martha nor Lucky Smith will mind if I give you a link to the recipe.
Fiona MacGillivray is the protagonist of my other series, who makes her first appearance in Gold Digger: A Klondike Mystery. Food on the Chilkoot Trail and in the gold rush town of Dawson, Yukon Territory in 1898, was about what you’d expect. Not very good and not much of it. Fiona calls on her neighbours at suppertime:
Their meal looked most unappetizing – a bit of fatty beef, a few leaves of boiled cabbage, some wrinkled potatoes. The ubiquitous beans.
Fiona herself doesn’t even try to manage with what she has:
I once boiled an egg. Forgot about it and left the pot over the fire until all the water had evaporated. The egg exploded as I reached into the burnt pot to take it out. I never dared to try cooking again. I wouldn’t call the horrid food I managed to scrape together on the Chilkoot trail cooking. Angus had to intervene out of sheer desperation,
I won’t provide you with any recipes from that book.
Check out Vicki's web site at www.vickidelany.com
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
When it's hot, of course, who wants to cook? So out comes the grill. Our favorites are the usual: chicken, bratwurst, cole slaw and potato salad. For a change of pace, hubby likes grilled pork chops. I like grilled catfish.
Since I don't have one of those contraptions that lets you cook the fish right on top of the grill without it falling through, a good alternative is wrapping fish or other meats in foil, adding a spot of butter or margarine, seasoning, choice of veggies like spinach, or broccoli, some tomatoes, and sealing it together in a package. Grills up great and makes a yummy one-dish meal.
Following are some great grilling recipes for fish:
* Catfish with Dijon Sauce
* Fish Kabobs
* See more at Grilling-Recipes.com
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Such an event calls for some girly food. Here is my menu:
chicken salad on croissants
This is my recipe for chicken salad. I don't believe I have ever been to a baby shower, wedding shower or any other gathering of women that did not include chicken salad.
Lisa's Chicken Salad (measurements should all be according to taste)
chopped, roasted chicken (I roast it in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper)
red grapes, halved
mayo and sour cream (equal amounts)
Enjoy with your best girlfriends!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
On the other hand, there's this microwave cake--not the one we've already posted in here.
MICROWAVE CHOCOLATE CAKE
- 1 box super moist chocolate cake mix
- 3 eggs
- 16 oz sour cream
- chocolate chips
- chopped walnuts
Now, when I made this, I used half a box of cake mix one big and one tiny egg, 8 oz sour cream and cooked it for 7 1/2 minutes. It wasn't quite done in the middle, which was a bonus, as far as I'm concerned.
Here's another chocolaty delight:
- 1 package cream-filled sandwich cookies
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- melted chocolate
I would guess any kind/flavor of sandwich cookies would do, and any kind of candy coating. The kind I had were chocolate cookies with white cream filling dipped in dark chocolate, and they were YUM!
How chocolate do you like your chocolate?
Monday, July 6, 2009
When I worked on ARMY OF DARKNESS (comedy horror movie - think Three Stooges meet flesh rending demons), we would work long hours through the night, eating craft service foods in between shivering in the desert waiting for our scenes to be shot. I was a sword-fighting Deadite (also the armourer's assistant/fiancee) and we had a lot of 'storming the castle' shots before moving into the battle sequences with the armies of Arthur and Henry the Red. When the day/night's shooting was done, I was generally ravenous and wired. So my friend and fellow Deadite Julianne and I would head to the Carrow's next to the Day's Inn in Palmdale and order cornbread and hot chocolate. We'd slather the cornbread with butter and honey, and heap piles of whipped cream onto our hot chocolate, enjoying the decompression after a lot of work. By the time we'd finish our post-filming snack, we'd be pleasantly logy and ready for a good day's sleep.
Cornbread is still one of my favorite comfort foods. I found an organic, gluten-free mix at our local produce market and it is as delicious as any cornbread recipe I've tried. Instead of honey, I use agave syrup, which pretty much tastes the same with a much happier gylcemic index result. I miss the post-filming cameraderie with Julianne, but the taste of the cornbread brings back some very happy memories.
What foods bring back specific memories for you and why? Inquiring minds and all!
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Happy Fourth of July, all. Time for hot dogs.
For as long as I can remember, my traditional Fourth of July fare has been hot dogs and all the fixin’s. I grew up in the Southwest, so for me, an adult hot dog (as opposed to a kid’s purist hot dog consisting of a frank and a bun) is served Texas style - piled with chili, onions, and melted cheese - and to this day, that is my ideal hot dog. However, in my dotage I have become infinitely more careful about clogging my arteries, and I am sad to say that I haven’t had a chili-cheese dog in years.
The first New York style dog I ever ate was actually in New York City in the 1970s. I bought it from a street vendor, slathered with mustard and kraut. It was delicious. Speaking of the ‘70s, I lived in Lubbock Texas in 1976, which, as some of you may be old enough to remember, was the Bicentennial. The city of Lubbock held quite a celebration, with parades and fireworks and free food - including hot dogs! Fortunately I was young and spry at the time, and managed to elbow my way through the crowds thronging the poor hot dog distributor. I came away with one dog in one hand and half a dog in the other, with nothing on either but the wiener. But they were free, dang it.
These days, my hot dogs are fairly frugal. I like a little mustard, some chopped onion and sweet pickle, and ketchup. But to each his own. As long as you don’t forget the potato salad on the side. That would be just wrong.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I finally couldn't take it any more and went to the doctor today. I'd been putting it off because I was afraid the doctor would tell me I had to stop doing whatever was causing the strain (writing). During the month of May I had to rush to finish The Quick and The Thread. From the month of June until now (and counting), I'm rushing to finish Dead Pan.
I was worried I'd get a diagnosis of carpel tunnel, arthritis or something that might require surgery. As I stepped upon the scale at the doctor's office, visions of sugar plums (or, rather, cookies) danced in my head. [Cue the theme from Jaws.]
After an examination and an x-ray, the doctor relayed his diagnosis: lateral epicondylitis...better known as tennis elbow.
[Cue America, the Beautiful]
"Thank you so much," I told the doctor. "I was afraid you were going to tell me my condition was due to my being either too old or too fat."
But, nope, I have an athlete's injury.
America, America, God shed His grace on me...
And crowned me good with motherhood....
But I diet on Monday!
Happy Independence Day!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
If you have seen the movie October Sky you are familiar with Hickam and his roots in a small but proud West Virginia coal mining town.
Hickam was inspired to write We Are Not Afraid in response to our country's pervasive sense of fear after 9/11. From facing down a school bully to fighting in the Vietnam War, Homer illustrates how he and others in his life learned to overcome fear.
This book filled me with a sense of pride and encouragment. Times are still uncertain and fear is still pervasive. I suggest this book for anyone who needs a pick-me-up and a restored sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to live in this great nation.
Homer Hickam's site is really good. He as included a section of advice for writers.
Have a safe and happy July 4!