Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That Pete is One Cool Cat!




I am scheduled to read to my daughter's first grade class this week. My selection is the coolest kiddie lit I've seen in a while.

Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes is the story of a cat who will not let anything get him down. Even when his new white shoes get dirty and wet, he just keeps on walking.

Click on the link below to hear the whole story, including the catchy little song that Pete sings. It is is so infectious that you will be humming it for the rest of the week! The moral is one that we can all adhere to: "No matter what you step in, keep walking along and signing your song......because it's all good."


http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/kids/gamesandcontests/features/petethecat/

DIY Pizza and Plot

I came home from Context sf/fantasy convention too pooped to pop. Even yesterday, the day after my homecoming, I didn't feel equal to whomping up a spread. So, I took some leftovers and made a pizza.

I had made some whole wheat bread to take to the con--three times this recipe except with 1/3 of the white flour replaced with whole wheat flour--and hadn't cooked up all the dough, so I had some left in the fridge. I had cut up some zucchini slices and yellow bell pepper and brought some of those home uneaten.

So I worked a little more flour into the leftover dough, spread it on a pizza pan and drizzled it with olive oil. Spread on some spaghetti sauce--just enough for flavor, not enough for goo. Cut up the veg and sprinkled those over. Found some rather tired mushrooms in the fridge, so cut those up, too. Oh, and the tag end of these black olives. Oh, and a few capers. Some fresh mozzarella. Okay.

Bake that at 400F for 15-30 minutes, until the crust is brown and the cheese begins to toast.

Charlie, who eats to live rather than lives to eat, raved about it!

And the plot? A DIY pizza is a great way to slip an allergen to someone you want to disable or dispose of....

Charlie's fine, by the way.

MA

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cooking chard and other greens

At this time of year, here in Ontario, it’s hard to find locally-grown lettuce. The spring and early summer crops have expired in the heat, and the late summer/fall stuff isn’t ready yet.

Very optimistically I planted two rows of mixed lettuce just last week. Considering that last year’s attempt didn’t even give me a sprout, I am optimistic indeed. But I have learned a thing or two in the interim. I will let you know if I see signs of life.

So, in the absence of lettuce and other soft greens, I am really digging into the red and green chard, spinach, bok choy, and kale (all locally grown). Isn’t it funny how those things either didn’t appear on the menus of our childhood or, like spinach, were boiled to a frightful mass and we were told to eat it – OR ELSE!
With these greens I usually take a light approach, as follows.

Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a frying pan
Add chopped green onions and chopped garlic
When they are soft and browning, toss in as much of the greens as you want to eat (they will shrink considerably in the cooking), well washed and torn to bite-size pieces.
Cook for one or two minutes
Add a splash of soy sauce and a bit of water or chicken stock
Stir for another minute or two.

Plain, simple, easy. Absolutely delicious.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chile Season!


It’s chile time in Arizona. Every year in August the Hatch chiles arrive and hang around until October, This is an annual event around here, anticipated eagerly by salivating chile-heads who buy as many of the long green firecrackers as they can afford during the season. They freeze what they can’t use at once so that they can have a fix at other times of year when the craving becomes overwhelming.

Hatch chile peppers are the Southwest’s gold standard for chiles. They are grown in the Mesilla Valley around the village of Hatch, in southern New Mexico. The harvest begins at the end of July and goes until the first frost. Thousands of people from all over attend the annual Hatch Chile Festival in late August. There are all kinds of Hatch chiles, early-season green, late-season red, big and small, mild, medium, and Katie-bar-the-door!

When I think of a Hatch pepper, I think of a long green pod that resembles a common Anaheim pepper. They’re best roasted, then sweated in a bag until the skin sloughs off, and can be used in absolutely any dish going. When the pods ripen, they turn red, and h-h-h-hot! Often they’re dried and strung together in that ubiquitous symbol of New Mexico called a ristra. The ristra photo above was taken from the Hatch chile website (http://nmchili.com) The cook hangs her ristra outside in the dry New Mexico or Arizona air, then pulls off a pepper and grinds it into a fine chili powder whenever she needs it. This is the incendiary powder that gives New Mexican cuisine its unique flavor and kick.

One of my favorite things in the world to eat is chiles rellenos. Now, there are lots of rellenos recipes, and I love them all. The chile rellenos one usually sees in Mexican restaurants is stuffed with cheese or beef, coated in an egg batter, and fried, but I have an easy recipe that I make at home that is a lot less trouble and in its way, just as yummy.

Slit open a roasted green chile pepper, scoop out the seeds. Stuff with garlicky mashed potatoes that have been mixed with 1/2 inch bits of diced Monterey jack or sharp cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese and bake in a medium oven until bubbly. If you want, finish under the broiler for a few seconds until the top of the potatoes begin to brown.

Arriba!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Like Pop Tarts? How about making them a destination?

Most of you probably heard about the latest "entertainment" entry - or let's call it a legit way to play with food.

POP TART World recently opened in New York - a place centered on breakfast treats! Read more here.

Sounds kind of fun - you can design your own Pop Tarts, and if you like, even eat Pop Tart Sushi, which supposedly has different flavors.

But... in our eating problem society, do we really need another place glorifying sweets? Is eating now entertainment beyond cooking shows and those make-a-pig-of-yourself eating contests?

What do you say?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biscuits, Books and Baskets of Goodies

In my ongoing quest to do book signings in places that have food, I have jumped on the chance to participate in the Local Authors Book Faire @ the State Street Farmers Market in Bristol.



http://market.bristoltn.org/Events



An interesting thing about State Street in Bristol is that it it crosses both Tennessee and Virginia. I am not sure which side the State Street Farmers Market is on, but I know it will be a blast either way!



This event begins at 7:00a.m. and lasts until 11:00a.m. As soon as I arrive and get set up I'll be seeing the lady who sells hot biscuits and coffee. Hopefuly, during the time I am there, I will have the chance to check out all of the fresh produce. I'm picturing big bushel baskets of green beans and little green baskets filled with bright, sweet strawberries!





Here is a good recipe I made last week that highlights fresh fruits and berries:





Fruit Pizza





Mix a package of sugar cookie mix according to directions.


Spread sugar cookie dough to cover a rectangular pan or roll out on a pizza pan.


Bake dough according to package directions.


Beat an 8 oz. block of softened cream cheese with 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.


Spread cream cheese mixture over cooled cookie.


Lay any combination of fresh fruit and berries on top of cream cheese. (I squeeze a little lemon juice over fruits that tend to turn brown.)

Fair Food, Foul Food

It seems to be a law that food at State Fairs and County Fairs have to be as unhealthy as possible. And that is, perhaps, as it should be. Fairs are, after all, agricultural celebrations. After winters of struggling with cold and ice to keep stock alive, winters of eating the food preserved over the past growing season and hoping it will hold out (at least, in the days before grocery stores), after springs of hoping to get the crops planted in between ground frozen with cold and soggy with rain, hoping conditions are right for the seed to sprout and the crows don't eat them and the rabbit and deer don't nibble them to the ground, after summers of fighting raccoons and drought and rain and blight, fighting animal disease and predators--after all this, it's finally time to bring in the harvest, finish off the growing and grooming of the stock and celebrate!

So you take a week or so off and go to the fair. You bring your best preserves and bake your special cake, put a final polish on that piece of furniture you've been making in the evenings to unwind before bed, enter your prize livestock to challenge your peers as to who's the best farmer/rancher, and you indulge yourself in food you only eat once a year.

Used to be. These days, most fair-goers indulge in bad food most of the time, so fair food has to get weirder and worse for you. But, although it sounds like it, this isn't a diatribe against bad food. It's no crank statement to say that most of us should eat more sensibly, and that food that's bad for us ought to be an occasional indulgence. That said, it's always fascinating to see how bad fair food can be for you. Chocolate-covered bacon. Hamburger on a donut bun. Deep-fried Snickers bars.

Personally, corndogs and cotton candy are deliciously, wickedly bad enough to suit me. :) How old-skool is that?

Marian Allen

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ode to a Spud

Since I’m the kind of a gal who’s always searching for the magic bullet, foodwise, I’ve been keeping a low-carbohydrate diet for the past few days. I resisted the idea of low-carb diets for a long time. For the past many years, the conventional wisdom has been that meat and fat and oils are anathema, while whole grain rice and beans are food for the gods.

Yet in the past decade, many a scientific research project has determined that restricting carbs is good for your weight and your cholesterol and your blood sugar. Witness the fact that Drew Carey lost eighty pounds on a low carb diet and rid himself of Type II diabetes, to boot. Of course, low carb isn’t all that easy when you’re a vegetarian, so my long-practiced flesh-free lifestyle is no more. My low-carb diet is more or less a fish-vegetable-egg diet. Also some butter and cream cheese and half-and-half, which is nice, especially for someone who has denied herself such yummies for the past twenty years or so. (As long as it’s organic/hormone free. I can’t be expected to give up all my health-foodieness cold turkey, so to speak.)

My seriously carb-restricted diet is only temporary, say, five pounds-worth and maybe ten points of LDL. But that doesn’t keep me from craving potatoes right now.

Oh, the lovely potato. There was a time, you know, when all the world was potato free, except for the blessed inhabitants of the Andes. It’s hard to imagine life without the comfort of a fluffy, floury, potato, slathered with butter and sour cream, or simmered in milk with onions until it’s falling apart, or whipped into a silken cloud. I could argue, however, that God created the potato for frying, for what could surpass a French fry crisp and gold on the outside and pillow-soft on the inside. Unless it’s my mother’s home fries, sliced in rounds and fried with onions in an inch of bacon grease until it’s crisp and crusty.

I like to try different varieties of potatoes. The good old russet can hardly be beaten for fries and baked potatoes, but small reds are great creamed, and I love buttery Yukon golds fried, or just boiled up and served on the side with a nice sauce. I like to put purple potatoes in soups and stews just for looks, and I understand that they have a nice nutritional kick. It’s good that more varieties are available to us, now. Used to be only the one was available to us Americans in our supermarket bins. I read recently about a Chilean woman who has made it her life’s work to collect as many heirloom potato types as she can, and to date has discovered over 200 distinct varieties.

When I add carbohydrates back into my diet, I’m considering making it my life’s work to taste them all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

School lunch ideas

My children returned to school this week, presenting me with the age-old problem of what to pack for their lunches. Here are some recipes I found that you might want to try:

Garlic pita chips

Puff pastry pretzels

Chicken salad pitas

Peanut butter and banana wraps

Crunchy turkey salad sandwiches

Keep in mind that the food you pack in your child's lunch may be the only display of affection you're allowed on school property...or in sight of school property. :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Donut burgers, cream puffs and other fattening fair foods

What is it about State Fairs that has you eating things you normally wouldn't?

In Wisconsin, people line up for a fresh-baked cream puff, pastry filled with whipped cream. (Nope, I don't like them.)

In Indiana, it's not only chocolate bacon (?) but the donut burger. Yes, that's right: a burger between two deep-fried Krispy Kreme donuts. And I heard on the news - it supposedly comes in at a whopping 1,500 calories.

Egads!

I don't get this trend for selling and everyone choking down these incredibly fat, high-calorie meals at and outside the fair - enough for a day's worth of meals!!

Salads that turn out to be far from healthy; coffee drinks and shakes with a day's worth of calories; crazy calorie burgers, chicken turned into a fat feast, etc.

Yes you have to read the labels, and yes, it's up to you to watch what you eat and yes, sometimes you like a splurge. Still, it's almost shameful that companies, restaurants, food manufacturers etc. are helping people shovel their way to an early grave with foods that are so ridiculous in the calorie and fat department.

None of these sound good, but I admit that I have my own weakness: that terrible rich elephant ear turned into a turtle ear - fried dough (uh-oh!) with chocolate, nuts and caramel. Nope, haven't had one yet but one last fair is coming up. Nope I don't want to know the calorie or fat count. At least sharing it, I'll only get half the calories! ha!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This is Plum Exciting!





Here in Tennessee, the title of my post is a very likely expression that you may hear following a good bit of news. We like to use "plum" as an indication of degree. If you are really, really tired; you are plum exhausted. If it has been a while since your last meal, you are plum starved.
So, truly I am plum excited with the news that the first Stephanie Plum novel, One for the Money, is being made into a motion picture. Katherine Heigl will play Stephanie Plum, the New Jersey bounty hunter. Sherri Shepherd will play her prostitute-turned-bounty-hunter best friend, Lulu. The photo above is of Heigl on the movie set.

I have to confess, my ultimate dream for my books is that they might become movies someday. Just in case Hollywood comes calling, I have most of the cast put together:
Marlene-Ashley Judd


Dorothy-Jenna Fisher from The Office


Allison-Reece Witherspoon


Glen-Billy Ray Cyrus


Patsy-Paula Deen


Marlene's Mom-Jenna Rollins


Marlene's Dad-Robert DuVall


Mark-Benjamin Bratt



I've actually gone further with the casting, but will not bore you with the entire list. With such an all-star cast, I just know it would be a hit! Anyone got any pull at MGM? I'd just be plum tickled to see the Cutie Pies Chronicles as a movie! Anybody else got the cast put together for the screenplay adaptation of their work?


Launch Contest!

This yesterday from Karen Syed at Echelon Press:
http://www.omnilit.com/product-eelsreverence-448675-234.html

This will get you started, will add formats tomorrow to omnilit, right now
pdf and html, had some issues with conversions. Should show up on Kindle and
BN.com within a week or so, gods willing.

Announcement will go on our web site manana.

So now I can announce my contest.

From today through September 26, inclusive, September 26 being my birthday, everyone who leaves a comment on my blog, my Tuesday Fatal Foodies posts, my Echelon Exploration posts, my Write Type posts, my blog book tour posts the second and third weeks of September (schedule coming soon) AND mentions EEL'S REVERENCE will be entered. Anyone who buys the book and posts a review anywhere and includes the link to the review as a comment to any of those posts will be entered five times. All entries will be numbered and the winning numbers will be chosen by random number generator. Only one prize per entrant. First winner gets first choice of prize.

Prizes:

  • Free copy of EEL'S REVERENCE or FORCE OF HABIT, my upcoming sf/farce. (2 separate prizes-1 of each)
  • Free softback copy of SWORD AND SORCERESS XXIII, with my story "Undivided" in it.
  • Free softback copy of DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, with my story "Team Player" in it.
  • Your name in the story I'm going to write to promote FORCE OF HABIT.

So that's my contest.

Oh--by the way--it cosses $2.99.

Wheeeeee!

Marian

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Calling June Cleaver


I was watching Julie and Julia last night for the second or third time, which I’m sure you know, Dear Reader, is about a young woman who sets herself the task of cooking every one of the over 500 recipes in Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking over the space of one year. Julia Child’s cookbook was written shortly after World War II in order to teach French-style scratch cooking to Americans. Now, my grandmothers were both quite expert at American-style scratch cooking, which is what I write about in my books. My mother was no slouch at scratch cooking herself. But when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, scratch cooking was considered oh-so-old-fashioned. The modern Mid-Twentieth Century American Housewife was encouraged by all the smartest lady’s magazines (and food companies) to utilize the latest time-saving canned and packaged foods to save herself needless hours in the kitchen, presumably so she could put on her shirtwaist dress and pearls and meet her man at the door with a dry martini and a delicious meal on the table when he came home from work.

Since my poor young suburban ‘50s mother wanted nothing more than to be hp to the times, that’s the kind of food I was raised on. I’m such a health-foodie now that I shudder to remember what we grew up eating. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious.
How I occasionally long for a nice side-dish of Uncle Ben’s instant white rice mixed with a can of undiluted Campbell’s cream of celery soup to go along with my Hamburger Helper goulash. My aunt was particularly fond of magazine recipes, especially for cake. Ever had a mayonnaise cake? How about Coca-Cola cake? I think the savvy cook from my youth could create an entire month’s-worth of meals and hardly repeat herself just by keeping a few basic ingredients in her pantry for mixing and seasoning:

Canned cream-style soup, Lipton’s Onion Soup mix, crackers, American cheese slices and a chunk of Cheddar, a bag of noodles, instant rice, Jello, Kool-Whip, packaged cake mix.

One of my mother’s specialties was Ambrosia. Drain a can of fruit cocktail (you know - those little chunks of peach and pear, tiny green grapes, and the odd unnaturally red cherry) and dump it into a tup of Kool-Whip. Mix it up nice, maybe with some packaged shredded coconut, and scarf it down. We loved it, and she made it for us practically until the day she died. I wouldn’t be surprised if my sibs still make it. Admit it, you guys.

There are so many things you can do with Jello that I don’t have the time to go into them all, so I’ll just hit the Mid-Century highlights. Emerald salad - that green stuff made with lime jello, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, maybe some finely grated cucumber. Broken glass pie, made with two or three bright colors of Jello, set and cut into jagged pieces, mixed with Kool-Whip (or heavy whipped cream, or unflavored gelatin mixed with a can of evaporated milk for a firmer consistency), pour into a pre-made graham cracker crust and chill. How about an orange Jello salad filled with grated carrot and served with a glop of mayo? Lemon Jello with crushed pineapple and little marshmallows.

One of our party staples in the 1960s was lime punch. Just dump a quart of lime sherbet in a punch bowl and pour quarts of ginger ale or 7-Up over it. Our tuna casserole was made with noodles, a can of peas, a couple cans of tuna, and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Speaking of parties, when I was old enough to throw my own, I went through a stage of making tiny cheese balls out of grated cheddar mixed with cream cheese and rolled in crushed Doritos.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go rummage around and see if I can find an old box of Jello in the back of the cabinet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New site you should check out

I've found a new site that has me inspired. It's called Beauty and Bedlam. I love having a pantry full of "stuff." It's so great not to have to run out to the grocery store every time we think we're out of something.

This site teaches you how to stockpile groceries. The author says that on one trip, her grocery bill was reduced from $135 to $12! Can you imagine? And it's not like she's just buying groceries for a family of two or three--she and her husband have five children. Among these five children are teenagers--BOY teenagers! You'll understand my amazement at this if you're feeding one of these bottomless pits. :)

The author also talks about spending one day a month baking and stocking your freezer to save time the rest of the month. I've been thinking that I'll be baking cookies every Sunday now that it's time for school to start back up again. But the Beauty and Bedlam blogger has inspired me to get in the kitchen and bake a month's worth right now. And later, I'm going by the grocery store....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Food related: Pizza Mysteries, Interview with Tim Myers

As the White Rabbit says, I'm late, I'm late! But since this is food-related, check out the interview I did with mystery author Tim Myers, who under his pseudonym is writing the new Pizza Mystery series.

See link at my other blog

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dreamin' of Donuts

Later today, I am meeting a fellow writer friend for lunch at Smokey Bones. If you are not familiar, Smokey Bones is a chain that features lots of barbecue. http://www.smokeybones.com/ I love their brisket, yet I am conptemplating a salad.

Why is that? Glad you asked. No, I an not on a diet. Yes, I still eat meat. I want a salad so that I can save room to have an order donuts for dessert. You see, Smokey Bones has these amazing donuts. They come to your table hot, in a brown paper bag. The cake donuts are generously coated in cinnamon and sugar. If that is not enough, you also get a strawberry dipping sauce.

For days I have been dreaming of these donuts with a cup of coffee! Sometimes when I crave hot donuts at home, I do the recipe that follows. I learned it in middle school Home-Ec, the place where I was taught life's most practical knowledge.

Canned Biscuit Donuts

Poke holes in indidual canned biscuits using a soda bottle top, or something of similar size. Fry in hot oil that has been heated in a large skillet or deep fryer. When golden brown, remove donuts from oil. You can shake them in powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar; or frost them with chocolate or vanilla icing. Sprinkles are also fun!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sassy Cajun Cookbook

My guest today is Sylvia Dickey Smith. She appeared on my blog yesterday, and is here today with a completely different interview on a completely different book--what a gal! Her bio says:

My name is Sylvia Dickey Smith. I was born in Orange, Texas, and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. When 34, my curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when I moved to the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to West Indian women, set me on a journey of study and self-discovery.

Back in the U.S. at 40, I started college and didn’t stop until I achieved a B.A. in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling.

An advocate for women, my writing features those who recreate themselves into the people they want to be, strong women who take charge of their lives and get things done. (If you've met Sidra Smart or Bea Meade, you know what I mean.)

The stories dwell on the wondrous twists and turns of human behavior rooted in my background as a counselor before I became a novelist. The tales are fun, sassy, and (according to my fans) darn good reads. I hope you like these kind of books, too! I look forward to adding you as a fan.

Once you've met her, I'm sure she will add you as a fan, as she has me. :)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Does food play a part in your fiction?

Not only in my fiction but also in my life! Food, and the pleasure good cooking brings, is the core not only of survival, but of the will to live. I’m one of those who live to eat, rather than eat to live. But maybe I combine the two. More and more I focus on eating true food, real food, instead of focusing on nutrition—which can often be full of empty calories.

Sidra has spent a lifetime of cooking for her husband’s parishioners, fellow preachers, her family, potlucks at the church and dinners on the ground. She’s 50 now, and out on her own for the first time in her life. She’s tired of cooking. Then along comes nosy, busybody Aunt Annie who swears she cooks better than anyone in the whole wide world! And indeed, she’s not too far afield. Her cooking swings from Cajun seafood gumbo and crawfish soup to southern chicken and dumplings—the best you’ve ever wrapped your gums around. Sidra has sworn for years she’d sleep on a bed of fire ants rather than move in with her aunt. But, of course, that swear tempts fate, which leaves her no other opportunity. Aunt Annie is always in the kitchen cooking up something delicious, and she expects it to be eaten and bragged about! But in the end of book three in the Sidra Smart mysteries, Sidra decides to make pickles, and she’s off on her own cooking journey.

Bea Meade, in A WAR OF HER OWN, cooks like mama taught her. Bea believes if it weren’t for her thin crusty biscuits, Hal never would have married her. Then, there’s the fried fruit pies fresh-made every morning and packed in his lunch box, that almost makes Hal decide to stay with Bea, instead of leaving her for another woman.

Why did you decide to write this cookbook?

The publisher of my Sidra Smart mystery series, L & L Dreamspell encouraged me to. We wanted it to be a spin-off from Sidra and Aunt Annie. They live in Cajun country (southwest Texas, right on the border of Louisiana), so we decided to combine recipes from both cultures and call it Sassy Southern Classy Cajun (read a review by Kevin Tipple here).

The term, Sassy Southern Classy Cajun may sound like an oxymoron to the average person. But in a land where folks live to eat rather than eat to live, good food becomes a passion. In southeast Texas, where southerners and Cajuns all sleep under the same threat of hurricanes and where mosquitoes grow as big as dragonflies—almost—gregarious folks welcome any excuse to get together for fellowship, fun and lively music. Food is the common denominator, an important part of any gathering.

It’s a small book with tried and true recipes—many submitted by fans. I’m wishing now we had made it larger. Maybe one day I’ll do another. There’s something about cookbooks that make so many people want to collect them, even though, with the internet, recipes can be easily downloaded for free. What is it about a cookbook in my hand that comforts me—that connects me to my past? Interesting study, huh? When friends and family gave me recipes, I made it a habit to write their names and dates on the card. Today, when I go back and pull one of those recipes to make, I read that information and connect with that time, that person, and send them a mental blessing. Many of them have passed over by now. I give thanks for their memory, and the impact they had on my life. Perhaps that’s the power of a recipe—especially those we’ve collected over the years. They serve as a diary, or a book of letters.

Who is the best cook you knew, growing up? Do you still think so?

Although my mother was a good cook, and made absolutely the best biscuits, fried fruit pies and chocolate pie in the world, I suppose I’d have to say the best over all cook was my Aunt Annie (Yes, one and the same as Sidra’s Aunt Annie!) She made cooking a whole new art form for me. She ‘sold’ herself as a great cook, and bragged to everyone how, when she’d take a fresh coconut layer cake to the church social folks lapped up every crumb. She made the wedding cake for my first wedding, and other than the bite fed me by my new husband, that’s the only one I got. Others at the reception ate the last crumb.

I loved her homemade yeast hot rolls. My Uncle Frank knew how much I loved them and every time she made them and I wasn’t there, I was told he’d call out my name and say, “Come get your hotrolls!”

And yes, I’d have to say I still think so. If I didn’t, knowing her, she’d come back and haunt me!

Do you like to cook? Do you have a favorite cuisine? Do you blend cuisines?

Love to cook! I’ve definitely done my share. When we lived in Trinidad, we had company living in our house all summer when college student volunteers came. With little prepared food, and few items available in the store that we were accustomed to, I learned to cook a lot of things! Like English muffins, New York style bagels, butter-layered cinnamon roles, hotdog and hamburger buns, onion rings, potato chips, ranch-style beans, potato-less potato salad (using breadfruit), made-from-scratch cakes—you name it, I made it!

I have no favorite cuisine. I love them all. When I cook, yes, I might well blend them. For instance, the other night we entertained our neighbors. We had chicken & dumplings, pinto beans (I cook mine with chili powder, chopped onion, and garlic, along with salt and lots of black pepper), and my sister’s recipe for the most delicious cornbread you’ve ever tasted, and it uses no eggs. (Which is in the cookbook, along with the chicken and dumplings) Then I added a Caprese salad, which is Italian. For dessert, fruit cobbler made with the season’s fresh peaches and Blue Bell ice cream’s Homemade Vanilla. We ate until we had to roll away from the table!

Do you like to read fiction that features food? If so, what's your favorite book--or what are some of your favorite books--that use food to help define a culture or a character?

Great question! And yes, I agree with you—writing food does indeed define a culture and/or a character. So often cozies can include food and recipes, like Karen MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn mysteries. I’m a fan of Karen’s work, but I’m not a big reader of cozies. And when I get right down to thinking about it, I don’t know of any other work I’ve read that does what I do. Radine Nehring’s work likely comes the closest.

That’s not to say those works aren’t out there, but their not ones I know about or have on my shelf.

My books all include food not only because of who I am, but of the characters I write. I believe a person truly is what they eat, and how much of it! I can’t imagine writing a book that doesn’t include food. So much of our lives happen around food. It defines a person. Not only food, but how it is prepared, where we buy it, what we do to it in the process of meal preparation. Come to think about it, I could develop a whole personality type inventory with food and food preparation as the scale. That gives me an idea! Remember, I thought of it first! Know any publishers who might be interested? Send them my way!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

SASSY SOUTHERN CLASSY CAJUN is available at Amazon, as are other Sylvia Dickey Smith books.

Please visit Sylvia at her web site and at her blog and follow her blog tour:

August 9, 2010: Marian Allen
August 10: FatalFoodies
August 12, 2010: Straight from Hel
August 21, 2010: Meanderings and Muses
September 7, 2010: Jane Finnis
September 13, 2010: Eric Reed
September 29, 2010: Mason Canyon Reviews

MA

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Rainy Day



At last, a rainy day.

Not being tempted to take a good book and settle into a lounge chair on the deck, with the occasional dip into the pool, I’ll spend today in the kitchen.

The farm stands are overflowing with produce and it’s time to start getting it in for the winter. I had guests over the past few weeks and usually made a blueberry pudding cake for dinner. If there was any leftover when they left, I put it into bags and popped them into the freezer to serve me over the winter. Then I’d whip up another cake to look all fresh and new for the next guests. Same with blueberry scones: some for them, some for me.

This afternoon it will be blueberry muffins and then tomato sauce. I’ll do up gallons of tomato sauce and soup to put in the freezer. The sauce is great with a few shrimp over pasta or perhaps with meatballs or even just on its own for a light vegetarian meal. And who doesn't love tomato soup on a cold snowy evening.

My own tomatoes this year have been AWFUL. See pictures above.

Last year they were great. This year every plant has one tiny, droopy little bit of fruit clinging to the end of a skinny, anaemic green, almost leafless branch. Most disappointing. I had to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s stand. I’m sure they will be as nice as any I grow myself. But it just won’t be the same.

I have the honour of being the guest blogger at Mystery Lovers Kitchen today. The recipe, and a picture, of the aforementioned Blueberry Pudding Cake is provided.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

You Take a Little Flour, a Little Water...

My apologies for missing my blog entry last week. There is a story behind that, but it isn’t very interesting, so I won’t trouble you, Dear Reader.

Last week I received the advance reading copy (ARC) of my newest book, Crying Blood, from my publisher, and I’ve been proofreading until my eyes are about to fall out. I’m about three-quarters done, and I must say that the typesetter did herself proud. There are very few typos that I’ve found thus far.

When I turned the final version of the MS in to my editor, I had by that time been over the book about a thousand times and had completely lost all objectivity about the story, so I was interested in re-reading the book again after some time had elapsed. My hope was that I’d be able to see it with fresh eyes, and maybe be able to tell if it’s really any good or if I was just fooling myself. I’m glad to report that to my relief that it ain’t bad.

I’ve already moved on to the next book, and am in the midst of doing the research for it. My preliminary plan is to move my protagonist, Alafair, out of Oklahoma for this one story, and have her visit Tempe, where I currently live. This will not only shake things up a little bit, series-wise, but it’ll have the benefit of making my location-scouting infinitely easier. I will still have to deal with the one-hundred-year time difference between her and I, but at least I’ll be able to do my local history and library research in person rather than long-distance.

One thing that I’ve been looking into is the difference in food and folk medicines that Alafair will be having to deal with. For instance, she’ll probably come in contact with her first tortilla. Which will remind her of a flat corn fritter. Or maybe a pancake or a pie crust..
Have you ever noticed how just as languages have cognate words, cuisines have cognate foods? Almost every type of ethnic cooking has some sort of flatbread as a basic food item. Mexicans and Central Americans have tortillas, both corn and flour, the French have crepes, Ethiopians have injera, the Indians have naan. Cut your flatbread into strips and you have noodles, or dumplings. Stuff them and boil them and you’ll get ravioli or dim sum or pirogues. Put some stuff in them and roll them up and get a blini or a blintz. Or a pasty, a calzone, a quesadilla. Put a little baking powder or egg or yeast in your flour and water and make a biscuit. Maybe a scone or soda bread.

No matter how different things are, they’re more alike than you’d think.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recipe help!

For Daphne's Kitchen (a back-of-the-book addition to Murder Takes The Cake, being rereleased in January 2011 by Simon & Schuster's Gallery imprint), I need a recipe for cinnamon rolls and a recipe for Mocha Madeira cake. I can't offer you anything in the way of financial renumeration, but I'll be happy to send you a few copies of the book; and you'll be given credit for the recipes.

Any takers?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner




One of the most comforting things I know is a stack of pancakes, with butter and syrup. While they are always great, I like pancakes best at night.


Last night, following an afternoon of swimming with my girls; I put on some comfy pajamas and commenced to making breakfast for dinner. Eating a dinner of pancakes and sausage while dressed in my pajamas was a little bit of Heaven on a Tuesday night! I have leftover pancakes and sausage in the fridge, so all I have to do for a pancake and sausage breakfast this morning is to zap them in the microwave.

Other breakfast foods I love to have at night are: biscuits, BLT sandwiches, muffins, scrambled eggs and coffee cake. Anybody else love breakfast for dinner? If you see a breakfast recipe that feels just a bit too ambitious to pull off in the morning, don't throw it away; have it for dinner!

Here is my favorite pancake recipe:
2 cups of baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1 cup of milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of baking powder

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon batter onto hot and greased griddle or skillet. Cook each side until done.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Line Edits!

Okay, so I wrote this book, EEL'S REVERENCE, right, and I read it and I read it and I gave it to other people to read, and I made corrections, right? And I sent it to Echelon Press and their editor read it and suggested corrections and I made them, right? And they sent me a proof copy and I went through it and I CAUGHT MANY MISTAKES THAT I NEVER CAUGHT BEFORE! And they fixed my mistakes and sent me a final proof and...can you guess what comes next? Yup, I found many and many mistakes that I missed all the times before.

I'm like, how was this even readable before? Should I have just left it as it was, and challenged my readers to break the code?

God bless Karen Syed, the publisher at Echelon, for bearing with me through all this with patience and good humor!

I invite you to download and read "Line of Descent", a free story at Smashwords (available in read-without-a-Kindle formats) that is set in the same world as EEL'S REVERENCE and includes chapter 1 of EEL'S REVERENCE--uncorrected, for your puzzle-solving pleasure.

As for the food connection: I am eating crow.

MA