Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cool Beans

Now there is a cool (actually ice cold) way to enjoy the taste of Jelly Bellys. On a recent trip to the Dollar General, I found boxes of Jelly Belly Freezer Pops. Here is one review of the freezer pops.

If you prefer the real deal, Jelly Bellys are all over the place right now. Here is a link to their fun site.

I remember this huge Jelly Belly craze when I was in elementary school back in the 80's. Supposedly, Ronald Reagan loved them, which seemed to sky-rocket their popularity.

Although they taste great, jelly beans don't exactly go well with the Easter ham. For that reason, I share my recipe for the baked beans that I am making this Easter:

Begin with canned baked beans. To them add generous amounts (a cup or so) of maple syrup and ketchup, about a teaspoon of prepared mustard, about a Tablepoon of white or apple cider vinegar and a dash of hot sauce. Dice about 1/2 cup of onion and stir into beans. Pour lightly greased baking dish or slow cooker. Lay strips of bacon or ham over the top. If using the oven bake low, slow and covered until bubbly. If using the slow cooker, cook as long as possible!

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Revenge of the Meat

My husband recently read a review of some books about the US food supply, more particularly the meat supply, and he's off meat altogether. I'm just as happy to go along. I mean, I love meat--my mother swears that "MEAT!" was my first word--but I've learned to love veg, too.

When Charlie and I were first married, I was a "meat and 'taters" person. "Salad" meant iceburg lettuce and tomato. "Vegetables" meant canned corn or green beans. "Fruit" meant bananas. Since then, my definitions have broadened. (No remarks about anything else that's broadened over the years, please.)

We have a daughter who's ovo-lacto-vegetarian and two others who are almost that meatless. The fourth used to date an ovo-lacto-vegetarian and still eats more veg than meat.

So we've collected recipes and techniques, and often go for days without meat, not really intending to. There's an organic grocery not too far from here, so we've decided that we might buy the occasional free-range chicken or package of ham from them, just for variety or to share with meat-eating guests.

Years ago, I told our first vegetarian daughter than I was giving up on pot roast, because I couldn't get it tender--no matter how I cooked it, it was always tough. She said, "That's because the cow is going, 'Okay, eat me, then, but I'm going to tense up so you can't enjoy it.'"

Which brings me to one of my favorite jokes:

A guy from Brooklyn was hiking in a jungle somewhere when he was captured by cannibals. He asked what they were going to do with him. They said they were going to kill him and skin him and eat him and tan his skin to cover a wicker frame and make a canoe. "Oh, yeah?" He grabs a fork and pokes himself all over and says, "THERE'S ya frackin' canoe!"


Monday, March 29, 2010

Win a copy of Gold Fever: A Klondike Mystery

Vicki here again, sneaking in when it isn't my day because I forgot to post my contest yesterday.

To celebrate the release of Gold Fever, I am having a contest and two lucky readers can win a copy. Please go to my web page at, read the first chapter, and send me an e-mail at Vicki at Vickidelany dot com (you know the drill) (or use the Contact link) and tell me the name of the river from which Angus saves the woman. Contest closes Saturday April 3rd.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Over the Chilkoot Pass

My newest novel, Gold Fever, the second in the Klondike Gold Rush series is due to be released next week. The first chapter has been posted on my web page, if you’d like to take a look, and Rendezvous Crime, the publisher, has done a nice publicity page here.

Food was, perhaps needless to say, nothing fancy for the men and women who ventured over the Chilkoot Pass to Dawson and the gold fields. The environment is not exactly friendly to agriculture, and the people who arrived did not intend to spend any of their time fishing or hunting or gathering their own food (and most were from the cities so wouldn’t have known how to in any event).

In the winter of 1897-98 Dawson approached starvation levels, so when the authorities realized that tens of thousands MORE people were poised to flood into the territory as soon as winter ended, the Canadian government insisted that every person arriving had to bring in a year’s supplies.

You’ve all seen, I am sure, the iconic photographs of people climbing the Chilkoot Pass with their goods on their back. In most cases they made twenty or third trips to get all their stuff to the top, at a load of approximately 70 pounds per trip.
What would an adult need in the way of food for one year? Here is an extract from one of the many guide books that were available to help the prospective prospector.

200 pounds of bacon
400 pounds of flour
85 pounds assorted dried fruit
50 pounds cornmeal
35 pounds rice
24 pounds coffee
5 pounds tea
100 pounds sugar
15 pounds soup vegetables (meaning dried)
50 pounds oatmeal
50 pounds dried potatoes
50 pounds dried onions
25 pounds butter
100 pounds beans
4 dozen tins condensed milk
15 pounds salt
1 pound pepper
8 pounds baking powder
2 pounds baking soda
1/2 pound mustard
3/4 pound ginger
2 dozen yeast cakes

Notice something missing? Anything fresh of course: lovely plump red tomatoes, fresh green vegetables, chicken, beef, herbs and spices (I wonder why they liked ginger so much?) eggs, chocolate, sausages, noodles, pasta, breakfast cereal (except for oats), not to mention Italian Espresso coffee or white chocolate truffles. Also nothing conveniently prepared in shrink-wrapped dried food packs.

Imagine living on that for a year. As Fiona MacGillivray says, "Once I leave the Yukon, I will never eat bacon and beans again."

Of course, those who either brought money or made money found there was plenty to buy once they had arrived although the prices could be exorbitant. I’ll talk a little about that next time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

A week or so ago, I began to see packages of hot cross buns at my local Whole Foods Market.  Easter must be just around the corner.

I've always been interested in traditional foods, and especially traditional holiday foods. When I was a kid, Easter always meant colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, coconut cake, and ham for dinner.  We were unaware of the Easter traditions of other countries and cultures, so I was an adult before I began to enjoy hot cross buns for Easter. 

Many cultures have some sort of sweet bread that is associated with Easter.  The Czechs eat a cake filled with almonds, raisins, and citron called Mazanec.  In parts of Germany, it's customary to bake a cake shaped like a lamb.  Greek easter bread, tsoureki, is a yeast bread made with with anis, braided into a wreath and baked with with  red-dyed eggs pressed into the dough. The Brits make a rich fruitcake with marzipan in the middle called simnel cake. 

Hot Cross Buns are British, too, and I always associate them with Easter, though I believe they are actually supposed to be eaten on Good Friday.  Whenever you eat them, they are a treat, especially warm from the oven, the frosting still warm and gooey.  Have one with a cup of tea

Hot Cross Buns
Dissolve 2 tablespoons of yeast in 1 cup of warm milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in  1/2 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/3 cup of melted butter, 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. Gradually mix in 5 cups of flour until you have a sticky dough.  Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth.  Cover the bowl and let it sit in a warm corner of the kitchen for 30 to 45 minutes.  Knead the dough again for just a couple of minutes, then add  and a half cups of raisins or currents, or a cup of raisins and 1/2 cup of candied citrus peel.  Form the dough into a ball and let it rise overnight in the bowl.

When you're ready to bake, divide the dough into 24 equal-sized balls and arrange on a baking sheet, allowing about 1/2 inch between each bun. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush the buns with egg white before baking for ten minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 15 minutes more, or until golden. When the buns are done, remove them to a wire rack to cool and spoon vanilla icing over the top in a cross pattern.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Do he eat people?

Still under the tight deadline, I wanted to share with you The Kid from Borneo, an Our Gang short in which the kids think their Uncle George is a cannibal--a really Fatal Foodie! Spanky was about three-years-old in this short and does a wonderful job in the kitchen scene with "Uncle George" feeding him everything in the ice box.
Take care & have a terrific week!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring: Cleaning, Projects, Easter, What Else?

Yesterday I got the spring cleaning bug and took down all the curtains to wash, cleaned windows and now it looks so much brighter. I almost wish I didn't have to bring the dog in so she can "snot" up the window again! ha!

Spring means fresh starts, right? As in projects... been busy reading and revamping a book project relating to miniatures.

Other things, quite a bit actually, are out to publishers and editors, spring seems to mean lots and lots (and lots!) of waiting? Keeping busy helps as you get distance so any refusals are not so hard to take. (Sometimes.)

But publishing and writing are not fields for the impatient. It takes soooooo long to get an answer! The only food mention I'll make this time is that waiting has a bad effect - nervous nibbling!

* If you're a writer, how do you keep focused and not get discouraged? (And okay share: what's your favorite "nervous" snacking food?)

* If you're a crafter, how do you keep yourself motivated?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness

I'm not referring to basketball. In our house, March is the month that the birthday bomb explodes.
Skylar was born on March 3. Calli's birthday is March 20. The month begins and ends with cupcakes, balloons and wrapping papers strewn all over.
Skylar's big day was celebrated with a cookie cake, cupcakes, pizza, salad and a veggie and dip tray.
Below is my favorite recipe for cupcakes. As you can see, Skylar loved it! This recipe comes from The Cake Mix Doctor :
Basic Sour Cram Whtie Cake
1 package of plain white cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanillia extract
1) Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Put cupcakes liners in cupcake pan.
2) Place cake mix, sour cream, oil, eggs and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop mixing and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 more minutes, scraping sides again if needed.
Batter will be thickened.
3) Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.
4) Bake for 18-22 minutes.
5) After cupcakes are cool, frost and decorate as desired.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I'm reading First Among Sequels, the fifth book in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series--or the fifth, if you count The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco. Prominent in the series is the powerful Toast Marketing Board. I'm here to tell you that product placement works: I've been craving toast ever since I started.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I've always been a fan of toast, as a base for sandwiches, as an ingredient for casseroles or stuffing/dressing, as a delivery system for butter and/or sweet spreads or just on its own. I love toast warm and gushing with melted butter, and I love toast cold and dry and crunchy.

I love plain white-bread toast, multi-grain toast, rye toast, whole wheat toast and toasted buns. I love bread toasted in a toaster, under the broiler, in a toaster oven or on one of those don't-cry-dear-the-bread-goes-in-here-but-in-comes-back-out-all-buttered-and-toasted-here machines.

If product placement can do that for toast, what can it do for books, which also feature prominently in the Thursday Next mysteries? I could make the reader Oh, yeah. Coals to Newcastle.

Anyway, if you haven't read the Thursday Next series, I highly recommend it. You'll be glad you did, and so will The Toast Marketing Board.


Monday, March 22, 2010

In a rut or just happy?

Do you ever get 'stuck' on a particular food or meal? One that just continues to satisfy your tastebuds for day after day, week after week, or even months on end? Or do you require culinary variety every day?

I love to try new things, but I find I'm also a creature of habit in that if I find a dish that I like, I will sometimes eat it on a daily basis until a: I get tired of it, b: I can't get the ingredients (fruit out of season, for example) or c: someone else is preparing the food.

For example, it's three weeks and going strong on the yogurt/berry/granola parfait front. I meant to vary my breakfast of choice with whole grain bread and almond butter, but haven't been able to break away from the luscious creamy Greek yogurt treat.

Last year Dave and I went through a taco salad binge. At least three nights a week for about a month running we had ground turkey taco salad. Finally we both just kind of got tired of it and set it aside until we developed a taste for it again. Which took about two weeks of taco salad abstinence.

So spill the beans, people! Tell me about your favorite binge foods!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


A ‘locavore’ is someone who eats food that grows in their local area.  The locavore movement is gaining quite a bit of momentum of late, especially in these days of concern about global warming, since food grown within a certain distance of where you are takes much less energy to transport than food grown on another continent and trekked half-way across the world so you can eat tomatoes in January.

I became much more interested in the locavore idea after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is the saga of her family’s year of growing as much of their own food as possible on their small farm in South Carolina.  Kingsolver’s farm already had several varieties of mature fruit trees, which added to their diet.  They also grew a huge vegetable garden with as many varieties of heirloom crops as they could find, as well as their own heritage turkeys, and chickens, which of course provided eggs.  They were surrounded by other small farmers from whom they were able to buy meats, honey, herbs, fruits, dairy, and veggies that they didn’t, or couldn’t, grow for themselves.  They did make some compromises.  They did buy flour from Vermont, and coffee.  But they did without bananas, which as far as I’m concerned, is heroic.

Locally grown food is fresh, only available in its natural season, and supports small, organic, and family farmers.  I know people who are religious locavores, and I greatly admire and want to emulate them.  But as of yet, all I’ve managed is good intentions.  I am much more aware of what I’m buying at the store, however, and I do find myself much more likely to pick produce from the bin that says “Locally Grown”.

I’ve never been a very successful gardener, though it certainly isn’t for lack of trying over the years.  I haven’t tried my hand at it for a long time, but after reading Kingsolver’s book, I was seriously considering giving it another go, in a small way.  We still have several deep bed plots in our yard that have gone unplanted for years.  Surely something would love to grow there. 

And then, last week, our yard guy brought a tomato plant he had left over and asked if we’d like to have it.  Yes, of course!  The sight of that lovely tomato all by itself in the corner deep bed inspired us to buy two more tomatoes, then a basil plant, some sage, French thyme, a pepper, a cabbage ... some rosemary and mint.

It’s March in Arizona, already in the upper 70s and low 80s. The flowers are rife and it’s time to get the garden going. Now, if all goes well, I’ll be a locavore myself by summer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thank you, Cake Wrecks!

Hi, guys:

I'm on a super-tight deadline for Stitch Me Deadly, book two in the Marcy Singer embroidery mystery series, so I don't have time to do an original blog. Instead, I'm going to refer you over to Cake Wrecks' Sunday Sweets where Jen is showcasing some beautiful creations, like this one:
Click here for more.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Weird Stuff to Eat

Everyone has their list of things they wouldn't eat, even if they are starving. Of course, that could change, especially in times of natural disaster.

It got me thinking about odd foods. Every area has something they consider normal that is well, odd, to others.

On this Weird Food site, it lists a few unusual offerings.

For instance, a couple from the site are:

* Aussies like beets on their burgers. (Beets? - Pickled yet!)

* Three-fried beans - It made me think of Mexican refried beans, which are well, mushy. But this is from the south which means deep fried. (Why is everything either gravied or fried down south? What are they covering up?)

A few of my own to-be-missed categories:

* Here in Wisconsin, a favorite is biscuits and gravy, something I'd never heard of until I moved here. I don't get it (nor would I want to. Sounds like a dish I'd really have to have gone many many days without food to even consider trying.) Sorry, I know from looking it up that some consider it a delicacy. I guess it's a matter of what you grew up with. Here's a Food Network recipe.

* Hot dogs with Sauerkraut: Some say forgo the hot dogs altogether. I like a hot dog now and then, Chicago style with all the stuff, hot peppers and mustard, too. Nope, no kraut, no ketchup.

* Fried cheese: why? I admit I haven't tried it. It just seems, well, odd.

* Pickled pig's feet: I remember those creepy jars that used to sit on every bar counter. Ick! And no, I wasn't hanging in bars all the time.

* Pickled eggs: Ditto. Make that almost pickled anything.

I know, I know; that too is a kind of "delicacy" to some. (I still ask why?) So here's a recipe. You can get other recipes here if you insist.


12-16 hard-boiled eggs
2 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pickling spices
1 jar pickled beets

Peel eggs and place into large jar. Combine remaining ingredients in an enamel saucepan. Heat to boiling point. Reduce heat and heat for 8 minutes. Pour over eggs and wait at least 24 hours before eating (to give eggs time to pickle and absorb flavor).

* Got your own suggestions of weird or must-be-missed food?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Day Trickery

Ah, those sneaky little Leprechauns!
This morning, my Calli woke up to find green confetti all about the house and a green balloon bouncing around the floor. Her line of questioning alerted me to her skepticism as to whether it was Mom and not a rowdy group of Leprechauns who had done it.
She announced her intentions to ask her P.E. teacher whether Leprechauns come into peoples' houses. Her P.E. teacher is Irish, which makes him an authority on such things. He is a dad too, which gives me confidence that he will back up my version of events. She plans to also tell her homeroom teacher, who I know will do the same.
When we got to school, she told another mom in the parking lot about the confetti and balloon. Calli even mentioned some pink confetti that must have been left by a girl Leprechaun. Not even I have a good expalation as the where the pink confetti came from. Must mean Leprechauns are real!
Tonight, the celebration continues with green pancakes. HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Not-So-Great Seitan

Since I wrote about seitan last week, I thought I'd splog myself and repeat my own blog report on my effort to make my own, with a follow-up EXCLUSIVE to THIS space!!!! (Oh, aren't we excited NOW?)

I read a piece in the Foods section of the newspaper about seitan or "wheat meat" and decided to try it. So I hitched up the mules to the buckboard and made the trek to a town big enough to have a grocery that carrys it. Bought some. Cost about 4 bucks for a few ounces, but Charlie and I only eat meat as a condiment, for the most part, so this meat substitute did us for three meals.

It was pretty darn good, so I went online and found a recipe for making it myself.

Did NOT work. Here is the recipe I got, because I think the fault was mine. I'm not crediting the recipe, in case the fault was NOT mine.


* 2 cups high-gluten flour
* 1 1/4 cups broth or water
* 3 tsp oil
* herbs, spices, seasoning

Mix dry ingredients, then liquids. Knead about 15 times, let rest 5 minutes, knead a little more, let rest 15 minutes. Cut into 6 pieces, form into cutlets. Put into hot broth, cover, simmer for 30-60 minutes. Use, refrigerate or freeze.

Okay, I used bread flour, because it's higher in gluten than regular flour, but maybe not high enough. I used water, corn oil, onion powder, dried sage, dried celery leaves and salt.

The proportions of liquid to dry made a goop that could in no way be kneaded, so I added maybe 1/2 cup more flour, little by little until it was kneadable. Did all the rest as instructed. Cutlets looked like cutlets.

When done, the cutlets looked like cutlets coated in slime. When cut, they were gummy and heavy and thick.

I put the broth into a pot, cubed one of the cutlets, added some cut up mushrooms, carrots, celery and a can of butterbeans and simmered that for another 45 minutes or so.

The cutlet cubes were like chunks of chewy dumplings--not at all like the seitan I bought at the store. Lucky for us, we like chewy dumplings, so I froze the rest of the cutlets to use the next time we want to eat something almost totally indigestible.

Supper--WIN, seitan--FAIL.

So now I'm going to plunk down some do-re-mi and buy a seitan cookbook that promises to tell me how to make it.

I'll let you know how that turns out.


The book hasn't arrived, but the follow-up is this: I got one of the frozen cutlets out and defrosted it, coated it in seasoned bread crumbs and sprayed it with buttery spray and cooked it in a skillet at a medium-low heat for about half an hour, turning once half-way through. The result was still not what one might call "good"--except for a given value of "good"--but not as bad as it was before.

Charlie said, "It tastes good, but the texture is.... What's the word I'm looking for...?" I said, "Gummy?" He said, "Yeah, that's it. Gummy." "But not as gummy as it was when I boiled it?" "No, not that gummy."

So I consider it an improvement. Matter of fact, I'm getting to like it, and that scares me.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Apocalypse Cakes - Talk about Fatal Foodies...

Okay, my boyfriend sent me this link and I couldn't resist. This is the site of Apocalypse Cakes .
To quote their website:

We’re doomed. Eat cake.

A variety of cataclysmic punishments from God continue to rain down upon us. Obviously, this is the time to eat several entire cakes. Use this blog to help you celebrate your time on this earth, for when you look up from your cake-smeared cakehole, the sky will fade ablack, the lakes will blaze aflame and the locusts will buzz aswarming. Eat now, little heathens; there are no cakes in the apocalypse.

On this website are blog posts with the following categories:

Each category has a corresponding cake recipe. The recipes are sold in sets of 10 cards. The photos are hilarious, disturbing and downright disgusting, depending on the cake. My personal favorite for a laugh is the Fallen Angel Cake. Picture shown above. For other photos and hilarious/disturbing/possibly offensive to some people descriptions, do check out the site. But only if you have a rather broad sense of humor.

Fatal Foodies indeed...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vicki x2 Winter Chicken

As I have mentioned before, I'm writing a book in which the protagonist owns a small-scale organic farm in Upstate New York. As part of my research for the book, I spent a very nice afternoon at a small-scale organic farm near where I live some months ago. When I left she (the farmer) gave me a big paper bag full of potatoes. All kinds of potatoes: some are light brown and normal sized, some are as small as my fingernail and are purple, some are round, many are long ovals. I used some of the fingerlings the other night in one of my favourite quick dinner dishes, and the quality of the potatoes really stood out, even though it is now March and they would have been harvested some four to six months ago.

Here is the recipe for a really quick and easy chicken dinner, perfect for winter when root vegetables are about all you have to cook with.

I have not given suggested amounts of the vegetables, just use what you like and as many as you think you can eat.

Vicki x2 Winter Chicken

Feeds 2.

4 bone-in chicken thighs (skin removed if you like), seasoned with salt and pepper

Potatoes, about the size of a golf ball, washed but not peeled or sliced (fingerlings are recommended)

Butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into pieces the size of the potatoes

Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces the size of the potatoes

2 tomatoes, quartered (they will turn very mushy and almost disappear so quality isn’t important – supermarket tomatoes will work, for once)

Brussels sprouts, washed, with ends removed.

1 Onion, peeled and sliced into hunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped.

About a tablespoon of dried herbs, as you like them (suggest rosemary, thyme, basil)

Preheat oven to 350.
Add all ingredients to a roasting pan, trying to make a single layer.
Drizzle about 2 tbsp of olive oil over meat and vegetables, and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.
Toss meat and vegetables to coat with oil and herbs
Bake with lid on for about 45 minutes to hour.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Aran Soid

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. My particular batch of Caseys are over 300 years from Ireland, and even though I wasn’t raised with Guinness and cable-knit sweaters, I’ve always considered the Feast of St. Paddy to be a happy day for me.

Everyone is at least a little bit Irish on March 17, and what could be a better way to celebrate the fact than by making a crusty brown loaf of Aran Soid, or Irish soda bread.  Nothing could be easier, or tastier, especially warm from the oven, slathered with butter, and eaten with a hot bowl of stew that contains plenty of meat and potatoes, onions and carrots. 

So to you all, I say Slante’ ( SLAHNSH-uh, or ‘to your health’), and eat up!

Soda Bread

1 lb. flour - 1/2 tsp. salt - 1/2 tsp soda - 1/2 pint buttermilk.

Add the salt and soda to the flour and sift into a bowl.  Make a well int he middle and add buttermilk.  You can use fresh or sour milk, if you must, but it’s not quite the same.  With a wooden spoon, stir into a soft dough.  Four up your hands and knead the dought lightly, then turn it out onto a floured board.  Flatten it with the palm of your hand into a round shape about and inch and a half thick and place on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.  Bake the round in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.

Meet Gayle Jetson...

I have finally, officially moved into the 21st Century. This week I've upgraded to a smart phone and Skyped! What does this have to do with food? Nothing, unless my phone has an app with restaurant menus or easy online ordering. But it has a lot to do with writing and marketing.

My venture into Skype was for an interview with Book Talk Radio. Since I couldn't make it up to New York, the interview was conducted via Skype and will air this upcoming Saturday. As the old Kenny Rogers' song Ruby puts it so well: I painted up my lips and rolled and curled my tinted hair. It was the first time I'd ever applied TV makeup for what basically amounts to a telephone call. I felt like Jane Jetson.

For those of you who don't already know - anyone? - Skype is a free video conferencing feature. It's a great tool for interviews but would also be wonderful for meeting with book clubs (I've heard of other authors doing this) and doing virtual writers' conferences or bookstore events. I learned in a hurry to put the camera up a little higher than your head. You're at a much better angle looking up than you are looking down (or, at least, I was).

Have any of you used Skype as a book promotion tool? If so, in what ways? I think it could possibly be a wonderful way to connect with readers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: Food and the Mad Hatter's Table

Just saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (love loved it!) - lots of eye candy!

Besides the wonderful costumes and scenery and 3D (very cool!), (and Johnny Depp of course!), what caught my eye was the Hatter's Table. Being a dollhouse and miniatures collector, I've been drawn to this movie since I first heard about it. What a scene this would make in miniature!

Found this new pic online showing the table's contents better. Looks yummy!

There are a few more photos showing closeups of what they are eating and drinking (Tea! the March Hare says.) And lots of cakes. Fun stuff. A movie definitely worth seeing.

Check out the fantastic cakes on these promotional photos and a gorgeous tea set!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Veg Out

Tommorrow, I am hosting a playdate/lunch with some girlfriends and their kiddies. I plan to make a dish that I used to make all the time, when I lived with my parents.

They had a garden that was on the bank of a creek. That soil must have been good for zucchini, because there were more than we knew what to do with every summer. Sometimes, just for fun, we would leave a zucchini on the vine to see it grow as large as a wiffle ball bat.

The garden brings back fond summer memories. I loved getting in the creek with a big bucket to get water for the plants. It mesmerized me when my dad strategically planned how many rows of corn would be planted. He swore that we needed a minimum and odd number of rows for proper cross-pollination. Once, I even cancelled a date because it was the night that my family and I were putting out the garden. By the way, the guy never asked me out again.

Zucchini can be found in the grocery store all year long. You can also add things like eggplant, onions and fresh mushrooms.

Zucchini Parmesan

Ingredients: thinly sliced zucchini, jarred spaghetti sauce (I add a touch of sugar to the sauce), any combinations of mozzarrella, parmesan and provolone cheeses

Directions: Microwave zucchini just long enough to get some of the water out and drain. In a glass dish layer sauce, zucchini and cheese. End with a layer of cheese. Microwave or bake until hot and bubbly.

Great with a salad and garlic bread!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Great Seitan

I've just discovered this stuff, although it's been in use for thousands of years. Seitan is sometimes called wheat meat, because it's made from wheat gluten and has the texture of meat. In fact, some vegetarians won't eat it because it has such a meaty texture. A vegetarian friend of mine laid his daughter and a waitress out to filth for serving him a meat dish when he specifically asked for vegetarian, then had to apologize when he found out it was seitan.

Seitan (say-tahn) is made from high-gluten flour with the starch washed out of it. You can make it yourself at home, and here's an article telling all about it. This recipe sounds like making weird-flavored bread, but it's worth a try.

So far, I've put seitan in a stir-fry and in...well...another stir-fry. It was good both times, with different flavorings. I'm going to try making "beef" stew next.

As for "fatal"--I wonder what would happen if you fed someone with a wheat allergy a seitan cutlet? Fictionally, of course. I'm not a fiend. I just play one on the internet.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Yogurt Parfaits

I have discovered a new favorite breakfast, courtesy of my friend Marcy in Hawaii. It's very simple, but to die for... and has the added benefit of being really good for you!

You need:

1 cup Greek yogurt (I use plain, non-fat organic from Trader Joe's)
1 cup berries (I love raspberries and blueberries, but any berries will do)
1/2 cup organic whole grain granola (Nature's Path or 18 Rabbits both make yummy granolas)
drizzle of honey or agave nectar
tsp. slivered almonds (optional)

Layer the above and enjoy!

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? I read a book on metabolism, hormones and nutrition while in Hawaii (my friend is a doctor and had some interesting diet and nutrition books lying around) and found myself saying "Ah hah!" a lot while reading various symptoms and reasons for weight gain, especially in women of a certain age (I love that expression). One of them was brain fog (yup, that's what they called it), which I have been experiencing in spades the last few months. London pea soup brain fog. I noticed after a few days of eating nothing but a very healthful diet of fresh, raw and organic foods, I started feeling sharper in the brain pan. A little sun cutting through the fog there. I've continued the diet since returning home, cut back to one glass of wine a night on week nights, and the writing has been a lot less frustrating. I've been sleeping better, having some fascinating dreams (which always stimulates my creativity) and also feeling satiated after smaller meals. I love the fog, but NOT in my brain!

Here's to happier, healthier and yummier eating!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Way of Tea

I know everyone has been talking about the Tea Party lately, but I just attended the real thing, and infinitely more pleasant and uplifting it was, too.

My friend Ronnie hosted twenty women for an afternoon of tea, finger sandwiches, scones and other dainties, served on fine, delicate china, with linen napkins and tablecloths.  

The Japanese know the true value of a good tea party.  The Way of Tea presents its practitioners with the opportunity for hospitality, friendship and camaraderie, and stimulating conversation.  It’s a feast for the senses - the aroma and taste of the tea and the treats; the visual beauty of the arrangements, the china patterns, the silver; the music of your friends’ conversation. The Japanese also knew that tea with your friends is good for your soul.  Poet Takeno Joo, one of the great practitioners of the Way of Tea, believed that ‘each human encounter is to be treasured, for it can never be reproduced.”

How sad that these lovely traditions are dying out.  How is it we’ve decided we’re too busy/important/hip to indulge in an activity that is not only a nice excuse to get together, it’s also nothing less than art. 

Salmon Pinwheels

Spread soft cream cheese on a whole wheat tortilla to cover.  On the bottom two-thirds of the tortilla, lay overlapping strips of shaved cucumber.  On top of the cucumber, lay thin slices of smoked salmon.  Starting from the bottom edge, roll the tortilla up into a long cigar-shaped roll. Slice the roll crossways at 1 1/2”  to 2” intervals to create pinwheels.  Poke a toothpick into each pinwheel to hold it together, if necessary.  Enjoy with tea.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cool new cupcake recipes from Woman's Day

After reading Lisa's comment on my post about the peanut butter and banana cake last week, I was intrigued when I found these recipes from the Woman's Day kitchen. I think the coconut cupcakes sound the best. The WD kitchen also developed Boston cream cupcakes, cremesicle cupcakes, s'mores cupcakes, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes and lemon honey cupcakes.

I'm posting the coconut cupcake and frosting recipe below (and hoping I don't get in trouble for it, since I'm giving Woman's Day all the credit and a link). Here's one wonderful thing I noticed from the post. There is a little, square nutrition box to the right of the screen. It says Yield 24 cupcakes. All other values in the nutrition block are 0. That's right. Calories: 0 Total Fat: 0
Oh, yeah! Color me blissfully and willingly deceived. :-)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp coconut extract or vanilla extract
3/4 cup light coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
Coconut–White Chocolate Frosting
1 cup (6 oz) white chocolate baking chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 brick (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp coconut extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Garnish: sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; stir in coconut.
3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended. Beat in coconut extract.
4. With mixer on low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until just blended.
5. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin cup. Bake 20 to 23 minutes until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove cupcakes from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
6. Frosting: Melt white baking chips in a small glass bowl in microwave as package directs. Beat butter, cream cheese and coconut extract in large bowl with electric mixer until creamed and blended. Beat in melted white chocolate until blended. On low speed, gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar.
7. Spread 2 Tbsp frosting onto each cupcake; sprinkle tops with toasted coconut.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Have Your Chocolate Any Way You Want, Whenever You Want

I admit it. I'm a chocoholic. Love the stuff; can't live without it. I'm a lifelong dieter too and the two never seem to work together though the food sellers seem to keep trying new creations.

It got me thinking about an old favorite I'd tried years ago - chocolate soda. I can't remember what brand the initial one was though I found Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge soda online. I don't think I've seen it sold lately anywhere in my area, though. Actually I'd forgotten about it.

I just can't think of chocolate as something that is satisfying in "just a taste." A recent offering was Special K Chocolatey Delight cereal - with chocolate bits, the idea being you want a snack that won't ruin your diet. Yes, good idea, but... doesn't that "sample" just make you want more?

Well, that's the adult version, of course. Kids have had chocolate Coco Puffs for years, and we won't even pretend there is anything remotely healthy about that.

The latest offering made me stop in the aisle and say well, maybe... Chocolate Cheerios. Hmm, chocolate flavored oats. Good for you. Right?

Well, the site says 9 grams of sugar, 100 calories per serving. Not bad (hoping the serving is 1 cup and not a half cup.) But still... would that fix the chocolate craving--or feed it? What do you think?? (Of course, gee you don't need an excuse to eat chocolate first thing in the morning. A great way to start the day! haa!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


The photos depict scenes that have become very familiar to East Tennessee, as well as many other parts of the country this winter. We have had so much more snow than usual this winter. Sometimes it's a pain, but overall I love it!

It has been a fun, magical winter for Calli. A day out of school often means a special breakfast. This will forever stand out in my mind as "the winter of the scone." It has been Calli's most requested breakfast.

Below is the recipe that we use. I mix it all with my stand mixer and bake it on a pizza stone.

Fruit and Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter or margarine

1/2 cup diced mixed dried fruit (I like dried cranberries)

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into mixture with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in dried fruit. Add milk; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead gently 8-10 times. Using lightly floured roller, roll dough on a baking sheet to a 9-inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 12 wedges; separate slightly. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough. Bake 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

International Intrigue

My mother and I are going to an International Festival at a local college this evening. There will be information booths and FOOD! So I, evil thing that I am, thought, "What a good idea for a murder!"

The motive might be personal or ideological or traditional. Does someone from one country hate someone from another because of one country's long-standing oppression of the other? Because someone of one group resents being made to hob-nob with someone of a traditionally despised other group? (You could invent the countries or groups.) Is someone at the festival serving a variation on a traditional food that is an abomination to the tradition that originated it? Like latkes with bacon bits in it or beef curry? Or is it a love rivalry or a top-student rivalry or a student/teacher involvement or bad blood between two academics or even something involving the people who bring in the displays and nothing to do with the campus at all?

Opportunity and means--Easy to slip something into food or onto a plate of food. People would be expecting odd tastes and textures, and courtesy would insist one eat at least a bite. A little Thai sauce for someone with an intense peanut allergy but doesn't know what Thai sauce is? A little cyanide in a dish that includes ground almonds? So many possibilities.


Oh, er, if I don't post next Tuesday, make sure I'm okay.


Monday, March 1, 2010


I just returned from my vacation Saturday night and spent Sunday re acclimating to cooler climates and a distinct lack of papaya and mango in the fridge! I also trimmed many feline claws, unpacked, cleaned house, went to check out the very high surf at Ocean Beach, and, in short, spent very little time in front of my computer.

May I just say I have never eaten so much yummy fresh fish, fruits and veggies on vacation before. Lost almost four pounds and learned to scuba dive!

Anyway, the cheating comes in 'cause this is all I'm doing for a post this week. I'll make up for it next Monday!