Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good Luck for the New Year

I was born and raised in the American South, so of course I was taught to eat black eyed peas on New Years Day to ensure a happy and prosperous upcoming year. Is this the tradition you were raised with, Dear Reader, or is there some other food ritual you feel you must follow to start the year off right?

Many cultures bring in the year by eating fish. The Chinese eat a whole steamed fish, the Italians eat salt cod, the Polish have a picked herring at midnight. While the Poles are enjoying their herring, at midnight Spaniard eats 12 grapes, one for each month of the upcoming year. The Danes like their stewed kale with cinnamon, which will bring them prosperity, and the Austrians eat roast suckling pig for progress, as well as little pigs made of marzipan. The Japanese eat shrimp for long life.

In Scotland, the New Year celebration, or Hogmanay, is a bigger deal than Christmas.

In preparation for the big event, people spend several days beforehand redding the household, which involves cleaning the place from top to bottom. When the bells ring bells ring in the year at midnight, one greets the year on his feet, for good health, with a coin in his pocket, for wealth, and a glass of whiskey in his hand, for good times. After the bells have rung, the first person to cross your threshold will set your luck for the year. This is called first footing, and for good luck, you want to make sure that the first foot across your threshold belongs to a black-haired man, and not a blond, or, heaven forfend, a red haired woman! The first footer will bring a present of coal for the hearth, a black bun* or shortbread, and of course a drink of whiskey, and the householder will always have food for her guests.

In the morning comes the saining, or blessing of the house. A burning juniper branch is carried around so that its smoke can purify the house and all its inhabitants. Boughs of rowan are placed over the lintel for luck, and a sprig of holly to keep out the faeries.

A lot of drink is involved, and a lot of good cheer, and of course a toast to auld lang syne.

So here’s a hand my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o thine
And we’ll take a right guid willie waught*,
for auld lang syne.

Have a happy and prosperous 2012!

*A black bun is a pastry filled with raisins and currants, almonds and citrus peel, flour sugar allspice, ginger cinnamon, black pepper, baking powder, egg, brandy or whiskey, and milk. It looks like a tall pie, and is aged for several weeks, like a fruitcake.

*A willie waught is a good slug of spirits, always a good way to start the new year

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Whew, am I Ever Glad I didn't Marry a Rock Star!

I saw someone on a show talking about how much they liked Red, Sammy Hagar's autobiography. My husband is a fan of his music and is interested in how Hagar became so successful in all of his side businesses. With that in mind, I ordered the book for one of Todd's Christmas presents.

Last night, I picked up the book from Todd's night stand, and began skimming pages. For about an hour, I kept skimming.

The beginning of the book described how Hagar grew up in a poor and dysfunctional home. Early on, he showed promise with good grades and an unstoppable work ethic.

While he was still a struggling musician, Hagar met his first wife. Soon, she gave birth to a son.

Sammy's first wife was a sweet, innocent gal who proved too mentally fragile for handling the rock star life. Her husband was always gone. While he was away booze, drugs and women were readily available. Hagar indulged in all three.

I skipped around the book to find out that Hagar and his first wife divorced after many years of marriage. His first wife had become more mentally stable due to some good meds and Sammy had fallen madly in love with another woman. Also, since Hagar took a year off to be with his wife after a bad mental breakdown, he felt like he had paid his dues to her. Now Hagar and his second wife have two daughters who are probably younger that his grandkids from the first son he bore with his first wife.

Finally, I skipped to the end of the book. It does seem that Sammy Hagar is more devoted to his second wife and second family than he was the first time around. Guess that's a happy ending in the rock star world.

Now everytime Todd picks up that book, I'm asking "That lifestyle doesn't sound appealing to you? DOES IT?"

He always answers, "NO! It sounds awful!"

Good answer!

How might a Fatal Foodie find interest in this book? Hagar is friends with Emeril Lagasse. Turns out, two of Hagar's more tame interests are food and wine.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MY Carrot Salad

Vicki Delaney -- naughty thing! -- did NOT bring a recipe for her daughter's "chunky carrot salad" home with her from Africa. It hardly compares, but here is a carrot salad recipe from the wilds of darkest southern Indiana.

  • carrots, grated
  • raisins
  • walnuts
  • mayonnaise (homemade preferred)
Mix to taste.

I've never had a chunky carrot salad, but I bet I'd like it. Next time I make this salad, I'm going to eschew the grating and cut the carrots in small chunks.

What's your favorite carrot salad recipe?

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Vicki here. I'm back! Did you miss me?

Did you even notice I was gone?

I’ve been in Africa for a month. Had just a fabulous time. The purpose of the trip was to visit my daughter who is living in Juba, South Sudan. The world’s newest country. We then went on safari in Kenya.

I have posted extensively about both places at my personal blog ( so won’t do so here. Except to discuss the food.

South Sudan is emerging from twenty or more years of civil war, struggling to create an effective government and a civil society. Meal planning was a bit of a challenge, there being no fresh meat or fish (that you’d want to buy) and limited vegetables – no lettuce or most other greens. My daughter has a two burner gas stove top and no oven. She had company one night and I prepared a chickpea curry with rice and a chunky carrot salad. Unfortunately I didn’t bring either recipe home with me.

We ate out a lot. One memorable meal was at the remote town of Yei (pronounced Yeah!). Dinner was a buffet. I didn’t quite know what I was eating. Here’s a pic.

In Juba, they really seem to like Indian and Thai food. I love Indian but by the end of the trip I was getting rather tired of it. Here’s a picture of one dinner out.

The food on our Kenyan safari was incredible. I’ve eaten at fine restaurants that didn’t have such a good cook. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the chef flamb√©ing crepes suzette one evening. This picture shows the table laid for lunch.

Merry Christmas to everyone and all the best for the New Year. Hope you get much eating and reading in your life!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowman Cake

This snowman cake is so simple and makes a great centerpiece for your holiday table. It is not just cute for Christmas, but all winter long!

-Add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup of sugar to white cake mix. Then, make cake according to directions on box.

-Divide cake batter into three Pyrex bowls of graduated sizes.

-Bake cakes according to temperature listed on box of cake mix. You must check cakes during the baking because they will finish baking at different time.

-Once cakes have cooled, place largest cake on platter or cake stand. Frost with vanilla frosting. Stack next size on top of frosted layer. (Sticking a skewer through the middle of the cakes might help with stability).

-Frost middle layer. Then, stack top and frost it.

-You can decorate with whatever you have at home. This is what we used:

hat- a round cracker and marshamallow dipped in chocolate bark

eyes- M&M's

nose- candy corn

mouth- piece of Twizzler

scarf- fruit roll

arms-pretzel sticks

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Low Country, High Eatin'

Three of us from the Southern Indiana Writers Group just got back from Tybee Island. It was supposed to be a writing retreat, and we did write, but it more of a walk-the-beach, collect-shells and eat retreat. We kept looking at each other and chorusing, "It's research."

One of the things we ate was this "sampler platter", which was a Lowcountry Boil plus mussels, crawfish and two kinds of crab.

This was the platter for TWO, people! We asked them to hold the mussels and crawfish, and they substituted more corn and potatoes. The three of us couldn't quite finish all this. That corn, by the way, was the best I ever put in my mouth.

Okay, what is "Lowcountry"? That's the low-lying country along the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia.

And what is a Lowcountry Boil? It's a dish of red potatoes, corn on the cob, shrimp, and smoked or spicy sausage like kielbasa. Coastal Living magazine has a recipe here. I'm telling you what: I was not a vegetarian this week! I was a shrimp-and-crab-tarian and a kielbasa-tarian.

If you've never had Lowcountry Boil, I highly recommend it. I bet it would be good with just veg, in fact. Whole green beans. Baby carrots. Turnips. YES, TURNIPS!

Anyway, I'm still digesting this, and I ate it four days ago, so I'm crawling off to sit in front of the fire and dream of Tybee Island.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, December 17, 2011


One Christmas tradition in my family is that after presents (opened at five a.m. or earlier when we were young) breakfast always consisted of the bananas, tangerines, and walnuts that Santa left in our stockings, followed by a big old cup of hot cocoa. Some years marshmallows floated in the cocoa, some years it was capped by whipped cream. One memorable year we sucked our cocoa through a candy cane.

My mother's cocoa was usually from a mix - Swiss Miss, as a rule. But since I have become a health-conscious adult, I make my own from scratch. Nothing compares to the creamy deliciousness of a steaming cup of hot chocolate made with whole milk, but over the years I have also come to appreciate cocoa made with a base of some of the yummier non-dairy milk substitutes, like vanilla rice milk or oat milk. My very favorite non-dairy base is vanilla almond milk. And if you want to make it as easy as possible, you can even buy chocolate almond milk, heat it up on the stove, top it off with whipped cream, and stick in a peppermint stick. What could be more Christmas-y?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ted's Making Dinner!

For those of you following the adventures of Marcy Singer in Amanda Lee's embroidery mystery series, Ted has invited Marcy over for dinner. He's making chicken piccata. He tells Marcy his mother taught him how to make the dish before he left for college, but in reality, the recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman.

So below is Ree Drummond's recipe for Chicken Piccata:


  • 4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Kosher Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 4 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 5 Tablespoons Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Dry White Wine
  • 3/4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2 whole Lemons
  • 3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 1 pound Angel Hair Pasta

Preparation Instructions

This is how you make Chicken Piccata when you’re out of capers and you have a pathological fear of cooking anything without adding heavy cream.

Have a pot of water simmering for the pasta.

If chicken breasts are overly thick, pound until slightly flattened. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides, then dredge in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry two of the chicken breasts at one time until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side; a little longer if breasts are thicker, a little shorter if breasts are thinner. Remove to a plate, then add the other 2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil. Fry the other two breasts until golden, monitoring the oil/butter mixture to make sure it doesn't burn. Decrease heat as needed!

After removing the chicken, have the heat on medium to medium-low. Pour in wine and chicken broth, and squeeze in the juice of two lemons. Whisk the sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan. Allow sauce to cook and bubble and thicken until reduced by about half. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper as it's cooking.

Reduce heat to low and pour in cream. Whisk together and allow to cook for a couple of minute until sauce thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings or other ingredients. Expect the sauce to have a real tang to it; counter it with a little more broth and cream if it's too strong! Sprinkle in some chopped parsley and stir.

Right at the end, cook angel hair until al dente---do not overcook!

With tongs, place a medium-sized mound of pasta on a plate. Place a cooked chicken breast beside it, then spoon sauce over the chicken and the pasta. The sauce is strong, so no need to drown it. Sprinkle a little minced parsley over the top.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Little Cooking Each Day Helps Keep Holiday Stress Away

I love to cook a BUNCH of stuff for the holidays. Cookies, fudge,cakes and lots of savory dishes roll out of my kitchen during this season. Many treats go out as gifts, others are served to guests at my home or are toted to friends' homes for holiday parties.

My trick to maintaining my sanity is to cook and freeze just a little each day, beginning the day after Thanksgiving. This might mean baking and freezing layers for a cake, or cooking and freezing a pound of ground beef that will later go into a crock pot of soup. This plan requires lots of freezer bags and having the needed grocery items on hand.

If you're like me, and cannot find a full day or two that you can devote solely to cooking, this may be the plan for you! The reward to this plan is that you will have a freezer full of food that will allow you to pull together a cookie tray, layer cake or delicious appetizer at a moment's notice.

Another good thing about this plan is that having goodies in the freezer instead of on the counter means less temptation to nibble all season.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hold Tight

Yeah, I'm talking about The Andrews Sisters' song about seafood. That's what I'm eating this week: fresh seafood.

The Southern Indiana Writers Group was granted a week's free stay at one of the Mermaid Cottages on Tybee Island, Georgia for a writers' retreat. We are there, now. I hope we don't create a crustacean shortage, but it is what it is.

It's like this:

Humans and human-types have been feasting on crustaceans since prehistoric times. Well, come to that, non-human types have, too. BUT THE POINT IS, prehistoric middens are filled with the shells and bones of sea creatures nommed with probable delight by our distant ancestors.

So picture, if you will, four writers fighting over who gets to be Patty, Maxine and Laverne and who has to clap out the rhythm as we sing and eat instead of writing the whole time.

Catch you on the flip side!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tamale Time Again

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

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

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

I was not raised in the Latino tradition, so I was never an expert tamale-maker. I am simply lucky enough to live in a place where I can buy mine from those who are. There are many fabulous web sites where you can learn all about making tamales the old-fashioned way, but two that I particularly like are videos:

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gluten-Free Goodies

I got this link in my email inbox from Spry magazine and immediately thought of my friend Penny who is allergic to gluten. The article by Katie D. Neal includes recipes for:

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Men

Cranberry Pistachio Muffins

Gluten-Free Biscotti

Gluten-Free Rolled Sugar Cookies

Cherry White Chocolate Scones

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake! I'll Take Fruit for my Birthday.

Johnson City, TN just got its first Edible Arrangements store. This is a great business that makes beautiful arrangements out of fruit. And the first order they filled was the Mickey Mouse bouquet that my sweet husband ordered for my birthday!

I loved it. As you can see, my kids did too. (That's Skylar's little hand reaching into the picture). I have included a link so that you can see what they do, or order arrangments for special people on you Christmas list.

Now, I'm going to go pick some fruit off my arrangement for breakfast!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Another Christmas Goodie

This makes me swoon. Okay, I swoon easy.

Ritz PB Thing

  • Ritz crackers
  • peanut butter
  • white chocolate bark

Make sammiches out of Ritzes and pb. Melt the chocolate. Dip the sammiches halfway in. Cool on waxed paper.

I purely LOVE these things.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sonoran Style

I finally finished the original draft of the sixth Alafair book (try saying that three times fast). For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be testing the recipes that will go in the back of the book. I’ll be glad when this research phase is over, since I tend to overindulge in my test products. This book is different from the first five in the series. It is not set in Oklahoma. It is set here in Arizona, where I now live, in the year 1916. So rather than test out the heavy, fattening Scotch-Irish country food I grew up with, this time I’ll be testing the heavy, fattening, Sonoran style cooking that a turn-of-the-20th Century Arizonan grew up with. So, when time comes to test and write about the recipes for the dishes that I mention in the new book, I have to say that I’m really going to enjoy the heck out of myself.

When it comes to the food of my childhood, I usually remember very well how to make the dish and can whip up the recipe in no time at all. Sometimes, though, I haven’t eaten whatever it is I’m writing about since I was a child, and recreating the dish is something of an adventure. When I was writing the first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, my mother was still alive, so it was easy for me to call her up and ask if I needed to have my memory refreshed about some ingredient. She was gone by the time I was writing Hornswoggled, and I was forced to begin expanding my resources. I had no trouble remembering most of the recipes in that book, except for two. I ate plenty of my grandma’s chess pie in my youth, but I never made one myself. I found a recipe for it that was written out by my aunt Alma Bourland in about 1989, which is what I used for the book. I did modify the language of my aunt’s recipe just a little, though I pondered long and hard before I did, because I so loved the way she wrote it. “Mix sugar and meal good,” she wrote. “Add beaten egg and butter and mix well. Add milk and vanilla. Pour into uncooked pie shell. Bake slowly until firm.”

Which brings up a problem I’ve discovered with old recipes. How slow is slowly? How hot is a moderate oven? “Use a hunk of butter about the size of an egg.” “Add about a teacup of milk.” “Two glugs of sorghum.” Huh? These recipes were written out by women who cooked by eyeball, who were so practiced, and so familiar with the chemistry of cooking that they knew exactly what kind of reaction so many teaspoons of baking soda would cause when added to so many cups of flour and milk and baked for just so long in an oven that felt exactly so hot when they stuck their hands in to test the temperature.

So, in order to make the recipe intelligible to today’s not-so-talented cooks, Yours Truly included, I am forced to test these recipes over and over until they are right. Sometimes my experiments fail miserably. For my fourth book, The Drop Edge of Yonder, I tried to make an apple cornmeal pudding and ended up with something rather alarming. So, I worked and worked to to figure out what went wrong, made some modifications, and tried again until I got it right. The sacrifices one makes for one’s art!

Friday, December 2, 2011

So easy, but so good!

Like Lisa, I know that sometimes you get caught thinking, "Yikes, what am I going to take to [insert event here]?" The easiest recipe I know is to take a 12 oz. bag of milk chocolate morsels and melt them over low heat with a can of sweetened condensed milk. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and stir in a 12 oz. bag of either peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, or mint chocolate chips. Spread into a foil-lined 13 x 9 baking pan. Pop the pan into the refrigerator for about an hour. To cut, invert the pan onto your serving tray, peel off the foil, and cut into 1" x 1" squares. In my experience, the candy can be a little hard to cut so you might want to use an electric knife. But this is a rich, chocolate candy very similar to fudge that most people love.

Happy baking! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Easy Cheat for Your Christmas Cookie Tray

The madness has begun! From now through Christmas Eve, I will be cooking, baking, decorating and shopping like Martha Stewart after a box of Pixie Sticks and a can of Red Bull.

Some of my treats take lots of time. Others are so simple, it's silly. One of my easiest shortcuts is taking two Keebler Almond Crescents, spreading Nutella on one, then sandwiching the other cookie on top. Viola, instant Christmas cookie. They are pretty and people love them!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


We had a birthday party the other day, and one of the guests (#2 daughter) is vegan. Ever since we read Jonathan Safran Foer's EATING ANIMALS, we've all been a little squeamish about meat and dairy. We have eggs from happy, pampered chickens (really--I mean really REALLY), but not dairy, so Charlie uses organic milk and I use almond milk (although the way pollinating bees are abused makes even that iffy for a bee-head, which I am).

ANYWAY, I made bread (flour, water, salt and yeast) #2 daughter will eat. And I thought I'd make guacamole. It's naturally vegan.

  • avocado
  • salsa
  • lime
Mash up the avocado, squeeze in juice from the lime, stir in the salsa. You can, of course, not use prepared salsa and add fresh tomatoes, cilantro and spices, but it's past fresh tomato season, and I don't do grocery 'maters.

Tell you what--it felt like it wanted something else. So I mashed up some silken tofu and stirred that in, and it added a creaminess that everybody really liked.

If you want some really good vegan recipes, you can't go wrong with the web site Vegans Eat Pencil Shavings. Mr. Pig and Mrs. Cow and their friends, the Chicken family, will thank you for it.

Marian Allen
who is not entirely vegan or even vegetarian yet
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I probably should be writing about leftovers today, but I have herbs on my mind instead. My husband has been having some health problems lately, and he’s getting pretty tired of seeing doctors and taking medicines that are as likely to hurt him as they are to help. So late last month we started seeing a Chinese herbalist. He gives us giant bags of what looks like the stuff you scrape up off the floor of the forest primeval which I brew into tea that Don slugs down after supper. I feel rather like one of the witches in MacBeth as I stir my cauldron of eye of newt and toe of frog.

All this has made me consider how people used to treat sickness before the advent of antibiotics and steroids. It was not so long ago that our foremothers knew all about the medicinal qualities of food. Unadulterated food still has medicinal qualities, but do we know what they are anymore? Not likely, unless you’re a foodie, a scholar, or old.

Garlic has antibiotic properties, and was actually used during the 1918 flu outbreak as a treatment, especially in Eastern Europe. The Romans really thought highly of garlic - they believed that it gave you strength, and gladiators chewed raw garlic gloves before a match for just that purpose. I saw a recipe for a garlic soup to be fed to a flu sufferer which called for 24 cloves of garlic simmered for an hour in a quart of water. That’ll clear your sinuses.

Ginger is a traditional cure for nausea. It really works, too. You can use it for nausea of any sort. Commercial garlic pills are sold to prevent seasickness. Make a nice ginger tea by boiling a slice of fresh ginger until the water turns golden, sweeten it with honey, and sip it hot.

Onion, like garlic, is antibiotic, as well Here’s an anecdotal story about the curative power of onion. I was told this by the person to whom it happened. When my friend was a young boy, he developed such a severe case of pneumonia that the doctor told his mother to prepare herself for his imminent demise. In an act of desperation, his mother sliced up a raw onion and bound it to the bottoms of his feet with strips of sheet, then put cotton socks on him. In the morning, his fever had broken, his lungs had cleared, and the onion poultice had turned black. I make no judgment. I’m just saying.

I don’t know whether the Chinese herbs will cure whatever ails hubby, but at least we feel like we have a hand in his treatment and are not just at the mercy of pharmaceuticals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's Cookin' Fatal Foodies?

This morning, cooks all over the country are busy in their kitchens. I am quite a voyuer when it comes to food. So, I want to know what you are cooking.
Fatal Foodies is a diverse group. We are from all over the country. There are various preferences and restrictions that are sometimes self-imposed and sometimes medically prescribed.
As for me, I am not yet a matriarch; so my role at Thanksgiving is more a supporting role of providing sides and desserts. Here is what I am making:
1) cranberry salad
2) broccoli slaw
3) hashbrown casserole
4) chocolate delight

Now, tell me what you are cooking. Whatever it is, I hope it turns out delicous. Happy Thanksgiving Fatal Foodies!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Murder By Cook

The novel I started -- but will decidedly NOT finish -- for NaNoWriMo this year is MURDER WITH WHITE SAUCE. It's set during a cooking competition around Kentucky Derby time, and it led me to muse upon the many means of murder and mayhem available to the savvy cook.


  • pots and pans of every size and weight
  • rolling pins, wooden and marble (for pastry)
  • frozen joints of meat (raise your hands, Roald Dahl fans)


  • knives
  • kitchen shears
  • skewers
  • chopsticks


  • cleavers (ugh!)


  • toxic food disguised as wholesome
  • food poisoning (accidental or intentional mishandling)
  • allergens

It's a wonder any of us get out of the kitchen alive.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Impossible Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is just the ticket for Thanksgiving, and this website is just the place to find ways to make as many varieties as there are pies. Far be it from me not to contribute one of my own. The following recipe is for the easiest and most amazing pumpkin pie you'll ever make. This is my mother's recipe, and I'm presenting it here exactly as she wrote it down.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup biscuit mix
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
2 tsp. butter
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 inch pie pan. Beat all ingredients until smooth. Pour into pan. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

(No, you don't make a crust. The pie will make its own crust. – Donis)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yummy Desserts, Part 3

This is my final installment of Yummy Desserts brought to you via Killer Sweet Tooth. Next Thursday is the big day!

Our final recipe is for Regina's Peanut Butter and Banana Cake. I know you're probably thinking I'm bananas after all the banana-themed recipes, but Killer Sweet Tooth features Daphne baking for a convention of Elvis impersonators; and as you probably know, Elvis loved peanut butter and bananas. In fact, Daphne makes a pink Cadillac cake using peanut butter and banana cake. So, thanks to Regina Shinall, so can you!

Regina's Peanut Butter and Banana Cake

Cake Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup 2% milk

Frosting Ingredients:

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar

To prepare the cake, in large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.

Transfer to greased 13 x 9 (3 quart) baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

For frosting, in a small bowl, beat peanut butter, milk, and vanilla until blended. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over cake.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Congratulations To...

Through a random drawing, I have chosen a winner! My winner is Petite. Petite made one of the comments on last week's post, which entered them into my drawing. Petite, I will be emailing you so that I can send a book.

Thanks for all who entered. If you did not win, but still want a book; I am offering a special deal for Fatal Foodies. You can have your own signed copy of any of my Cutie Pies Chronicles for $10.50 per book. Shipping is only $2 for the first book and $1 for each additional copy. Comment and send an email address if you would like a book. I will get in touch for details.

For more on my books, check out my site:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We love soup at our house. In the summer, it only heats one little burner and cup of soup + cold sandwich = all you can eat. In the winter, it warms you down to your toes, especially if you soak your feet in it. I did not just say that.

Anyway, soup is easy to make.


  • stuff
  • liquid
  • seasoning

Boil the stuff in the liquid and add the seasoning.

No, not like "boil shoes and dirt in used motor oil and add grass". Smart-alek.

Okay. ~heavy sigh~

Let's call this ... oh ... mushroom soup with pasta.


  • olive oil
  • onions
  • water
  • mushrooms
  • vegetable bouillon
  • marjoram (because DH LOVES marjoram)
  • pasta

While you bring water to a boil (all right, keep your shirt on, one cup of water per serving, okay?), cut the onions into slices or dices and slowly cook in oil until translucent, then add onion and oil to the pot. If you want to use one pan and take a little longer, do this is the pot first and THEN add the water. Add bouillon according to package directions for the amount of water you've chosen to use. Slice mushrooms and add, raw, to the pot. Lotsa mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Bring back to boil. Add marjoram (or preferred seasoning) and pasta and cook until pasta is done according to package directions.

You can use butter or margarine or peanut oil if you prefer, but, unless you're on a fat-free diet, you want some fat in there to give it a satisfying mouth-feel.

If the pasta you use is made with spinach and/or tomatoes, or is (as we like) cheese tortellini, so much the better.


Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eating in Italy - a Guest Post by Rick Blechta

Today's Sunday and I (Vicki) am in darkest Africa. Literally. Therfore I've assigned the blogging duties to my good friend and fabulous mystery writer Rick Blechta. Rick knows food! And mysteries.

One of the many things we writers have to “suffer” through is doing research for our various projects. In the crime writing game, this can be especially important. Get your facts wrong and you’re sure to hear from readers who know the subject that you blew.

With that in mind, I always want to get things right. Since by training I’m a musician (and being blessed with a mind for all facts trivial), I use music as a background for my novels. If I’m not already familiar with something, I know another musician who is. However, also being pretty foolish, I often bring things into my stories about which I have no idea. That sort of thing can eat up a lot of valuable hours (and money) as I bring myself up to speed on whatever it is I don’t know much about.

Which brings me to Italy – literally. I’m currently working on the follow-up to a novel that will be released next fall, The Fallen One. This story’s protagonist is a singer. For the sequel, it seemed to me useful to set some of the story in Italy, where opera is a part of the culture. Having never been to Italy, I needed to get that all important first-hand experience of the country. It took 4.75 seconds to convince my wife that a visit was A Good Idea. So we boarded an airplane this past June and went off on a research trip to that land where great food and wine can be found on nearly every street corner.

Rome was our first stop, and being an inveterate reader of menus posted outside of restaurants, I noticed that nearly every one of them listed spaghetti all-amatriciana. Curiosity piqued, we ordered it at the first opportunity. One bite and we were in heaven. Since my wife speaks Italian, she asked about the very distinctively-flavored meat in the dish. It wasn’t pancetta, and though it looked like bacon, it certainly didn’t taste like it. We were told it was guanciale, a speciality of the region around Rome. The chef was also charmed into giving us the recipe.

Back in Canada, we found out that even a lot of Italians have never heard of guanciale. We persevered and eventually came up with two suppliers in our area. We’re lucky. In New York this summer, I spent over a day on the phone before coming up with a place that sold it. There is no substitute for guanciale, so don’t even think about substituting anything else for it! If you’re interested in trying this recipe, I’ll list some mail order sources for it in the States at the end.*

Serves 4.
1 lb dry spaghetti 1-2 Tbs
Good quality olive oil 4 oz
diced or thinly-sliced pieces of guanciale (cut off any rind first)
3/4 cup sliced onions
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (try to get imported Italian ones)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1+ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil, then fry guanciale over low heat until it’s crisp and browned. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Leave all the fat. You’ll need it.
2. Cook the sliced onions in the guanciale fat and olive oil until it’s translucent.
3. Add the tomatoes, white wine and pepper flakes, then boil the sauce fairly hard to evaporate most of the liquid. Meanwhile cook your pasta to taste.
4. When everything is ready, put the cooked guanciale back into the sauce and stir it a bit.
5. In a warm bowl or in the hot pasta pot, toss the pasta with the sauce to get it well-coated, then add the Pecorino Romano. Toss thoroughly to melt the cheese into the sauce. We usually add a bit of salt to taste and a healthy grinding of pepper.

Not only is this dish absolutely delicious, but you can pretty well put it together in about the time it takes to bring a pot of water to the boil to cook your pasta. With a glass of good white wine, you’ll feel like you’re in a trattoria in Rome. Buon appetito! -=-=-=-=-=-

Rick Blechta is a Canadian crime writer and musician. Orchestrated Murder, his seventh book, has just been released by Orca Book Publishing in their Rapids Reads series. Next fall, his full-length novel, The Fallen One will make its debut. Visit for all the information. *Mail order sources for guanciale in the US: or I’ve also heard that some Whole Food Markets carry it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What the Heart Knows - Food and Mysteries

Donis here. Shortly after I began writing the first of my Alafair Tucker mysteries, I realized that food was going to figure very large in the story. After all, any woman with ten children is always thinking about what’s for dinner. So each of my five mysteries contains a section of recipes for several of the dishes the family eats during the course of the tale.

I am not by any means the first author to have food figure large in her novels. Witness my blogmates, for instance. In fact, I could spend the next year reviewing food-centric mysteries for you, Dear Reader. These days, even books that don’t revolve around food often contain quite a bit about cooking and eating, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you can pick up some fabulous recipes from books.

I have been reading a book called What the Heart Knows, the first installment in the Milford-Haven Novels, by Mara Purl, which is a case in point. What the Heart Knows is a compelling book. Here is a blurb from Mara’s website:

Milford-Haven is a town full of characters. Escapees from San Francisco and Los Angeles, New York and Arkansas, Montreal and South Africa, have come here with their own hopes and expectations, agendas and shadowed pasts. The stakes are high: create a new life from scratch. The opportunities are dazzling: own a piece of the California dream. It’s a town of buried secrets and a dangerous mystery, quaint shops and breathtaking vistas, peaceful solitude and spontaneous conversations. What draws people here is the sense that—in their heart of hearts—they know there’s something they’ve always wanted to do. And if not now . . . when? So look for the sign to Milford-Haven, pull off Highway 1 and stop by. Come discover for yourself . . . What the Heart Knows.

Not only is WTHK an intriguing story, but as a bonus each of the Milford-Haven novels will contain recipes for some of the dishes these lucky central Californians enjoy. What the Heart Knows taught me about Joan Calvin’s Chicken Breast Marsala with Fetuccini Alfredo and Sally O’Mally’s Fabulous Gooey Sticky Cinnamon Buns as served at Sally’s Restaurant. I must warn you that neither of these spectacular dishes will help with your diet. You may die fat but you'll be happy.

Yesterday was the beginning of Mara’s Milford-Haven Novels 11-11-11 Contest at Facebook, which ends whenever the 111th copy of What the Heart Knows is purchased. You could win a free copy of the book, or a free classic Kindle. How to play? Please visit Milford-Haven Novels 11-11-11 Contest at Facebook!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yummy Desserts, Part 2

Last week, I shared with you the scrumptious recipe, Pat Tolbert's Banana Pudding. The recipe said it yields 8-10 servings, but not if my brother is around. (Did I mention Pat is my dad's cousin? AND that she also makes fabulous peanut butter fudge?)

But what if you're watching your weight and want something a little lighter to serve after Thanksgiving dinner? Well, Daphne Martin's recipe box has something to accommodate you, too, thanks to Lora Rasnake.

Lora's Good-For-You Banana Pudding

3 cups fat-free (skim) milk
2 boxes (4-serving size each) Jell-O French Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix
4 containers (6 ounces each) Yoplait 99% Fat-Free Banana Creme or French Vanilla Yogurt
8 ounces frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
48 reduced-fat vanilla wafer cookies
6 small bananas, sliced
Additional bananas for garnish, if desired

In large bowl, beat milk and pudding mix with electric mixer on low speed until well mixed, then beat in yogurt. Fold in whipped topping. Place 24 vanilla wafers in a single layer in ungreased 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Spoon half the pudding mixture over wafers. Place 6 sliced bananas over pudding mixture. Spoon remaining pudding mixture over bananas. Arrange remaining 24 vanilla wafers over top of pudding. Cover. Refrigerate at least 3 hours but no longer than 8 hours. Just before serving, garnish with additional banana slices.

If you try, Lora's Good-for-You Banana Pudding, please let me know how you liked it!

P.S. Happy Veterans Day!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Giveaway!

To celebrate my new book's debut, I will pick one Fatal Foodie to receive a free copy of one of my Cutie Pies Chronicles! Just comment on this post and let me have your email. I draw a winner.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Midwest Manna

There's been a lot of talk here lately about fall deliciousness, which I've been very happy to copy to my recipe book.

When the weather turns nippy, though, my first thought (well, after chili, of course) is mac&cheese.

Here's how we like it:

  • cooked macaroni
  • flour
  • salt
  • freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • butter or margarine
Butter a casserole. Heat oven to 350F. Put down a layer of macs. Sprinkle with salt, flour and cheese. More macs. More salt and cheese -- If you have enough macs for a third layer, sprinkle flour on layer 2. You should end with macs/salt/cheese and no flour on the top layer. Pour in milk until you can see it through the macs.

Bake until thickened and bubbly, about 45 minutes. If you don't like brown crunchy cheese (we do), you might want to cover the casserole until the last few minutes.

If you like your mac and cheese sloppy, use more milk and/or less flour.

This is SO GOOD! Charlie doesn't like pepper, but I like pepper on it.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Squash and Tomato Stew

Vicki’s recipe for curried root vegetable soup (below) was delicious. It’s fall, now, and time to make savory, warming stews. One of my favorites is Squash and Tomato Stew, which is really half-way between a soup and a stew. It is easy as can be, an excellent way to use your home-canned tomatoes and the butternut squash from your fall garden. It’ll cure what ails you. And it smells like heaven.

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 small butternut squash, cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons mild diced chile peppers (canned is fine)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 rounded tsp. ground cinnamon
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups veggie broth

Saute onion in oil until transparent, 3 or 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and stir for 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add peppers and squash and stir to coat with spices. Add canned tomatoes and broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until squash is very soft. Serve with hot buttery cornbread or crunchy garlic toast.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Yummy Desserts, Part 1

November is here, and Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing recipes from my latest book, Killer Sweet Tooth." You might want to try a couple for the big day.

Here's the first one:

Pat Tolbert's Banana Pudding

3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
dash of salt
3 eggs, separated
3 cups milk (can use evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 12-ounce box of vanilla wafers
6 medium bananas

Combine flour, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and salt in heavy saucepan. Beat egg yolks and milk, mixing well. Stir in dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon vanilla. Let pudding cool some before putting together. Layer about 1/3 of vanilla wafers in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (3-quart) baking dish. Slice 2 bananas over them and pour 1/3 of custard over; continue to layer, repeat twice. Beat egg whites until foamy (should be at room temperature). Gradually add remaining sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread meringue over custard, sealing to edge of dish. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes. Yields 8-10 servings.

Let me know if you try Pat Tolbert's Banana Pudding!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

But I had a Back-Up Plan!

I got a great bit of news last night. My publisher will be getting a box with copies of my brand new book tomorrow. Such a relief, since I scheduled three signings this weekend with the promise of having my new book!

What would I have done if the books would not have come? Well, I would have apologized. But, there was a back-up plan. I was going to get a list of folks who had wanted a signed copy. Then, I would have mailed or delivered the books to them free of charge. I would still have made some proffit and saved some face.

Authors who do book signings often have the challenge of managing inventory. If you ever have a signing and run short on books, my back-up plan is one way to handle a sticky situation.

Another idea is to go to any stores where your books may be on consignment. The business has not paid for the books, so they might not mind if you take a few copies with the promise to bring some more at a later date.

Finally,if you have books at retail locations, you might can buy some books back at their wholesale price. While none of these solutions are ideal, they may work in a pinch.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What To Do With That Pumpkin

I'm talking about the one you didn't want the mess of carving. A nice little pie pumpkin that you decorated with paint or hatpins poked into the flesh to form a design.

The coolest thing I ever did with one (well, I thought it was cool) was bake a "pie" inside one. Here's a recipe for that:

Oh, I suggest removing the hatpins/paint first. And don't forget to boil the ick off the seeds, dry them, toss them in oil or butter and seasonings and toast them. Mmmmm!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Vegetable Soup

By Vicki

Come fall the farm stands are overflowing with vegetables and more vegetables. Everything you need to get you through the long dark winter nights when the garden is but a memory.

I like to make great big pots of soup at this time of year and fill the freezer with individual portions.

Here’s my favourite recipe for curried root vegetable soup. You can use pretty much any assortment of squashes, potatoes, etc and vary quantities to suit what you like and how much you are making.

Vicki’s Fall Vegetable Soup

2 medium butternut squash – cut off rind, remove seeds, and chop into big hunks
3 medium potatoes – peeled, chopped
2 sweet potatoes – peeled chopped
1 large onion – peeled and sliced thickly
3 cloves of garlic – peeled and chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock

Place all vegetables into a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with curry and chilli powders, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Stir well.
Cook at 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the vegetables are soft

Puree vegetable mixture in a blender.
Add to stock pot with vegetable stock.
Stir well to combine
Simmer for 15 minutes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Samhain Redux

I’m not here today, Dear Reader. If you are reading this on Saturday Oct 19, I am this minute in Avondale, AZ, teaching a seminar on mystery writing for the second annual Avondale Writers’ Conference. Therefore, I am rerunning one of my favorite Hallowe’en posts from this blog, Samhain, from 2008. Enjoy, learn what Hallowe’en really means, and have a great holiday. - Donis

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

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

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

Put a slab of Hershey bar on top of a Graham cracker, put a melty-hot roasted marshmallow on the chocolate, top with another Graham cracker, and enjoy.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun at the Library

Now, I have a bizillion and one reasons to love the public library! They are having a family pumpkin decoration contest. The rules state that the pumpkin cannot be carved or pierced. This is what Calli and I came up with. Pretty cute, huh!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Milk Toast

My mother has been under the weather and asked me to make her some milk toast for supper.

Now, milk toast has a rep as being boring and vapid, but it ain't, the way I make it.

Milk Toast

  • milk
  • toast
  • butter
  • salt 
  • pepper

Make toast. Butter it with scads of butter or margarine. Heat milk. add salt and pepper. Pour over toast. Oh, put the toast in a bowl first. Sorry.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, October 22, 2011

An Ode to Trader Joe's

There is nothing better than the combination of autumn and a great market. My darling husband Donald Koozer wrote this poem after a trip to Trader Joe's last week. It says it all. Enjoy.


In the twilight of mid-October

a sacredness seems to linger

over the land and the city.

As we drive to Trader Joe’s,

the sun is setting in the west,

and in the east the Hunter’s Moon rises

like an ancient god over the horizon.

As it’s great face looms,

full and orange, in the dusk

we become pensive.

Outside the little market

pumpkins are piled in bins,

and bright yellow marigolds

and sienna chrysanthemums,

line the sidewalks.

As people shop the moon turns to golden

and rises higher into the night.

It sends a resonance over the land

that enters the body like a gentle current.

In the store we buy bread and cheese

and cherry tomatoes.

When we leave, the moon

looks down upon us,

and follows as we drive home.

It sails through the dark silhouettes of trees

and through lighted clouds

as if it has a message yet to impart--

a message of time, beauty,

and the coming of winter.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I BEARLY made this post! (Groan!)

Sorry for the delay in posting today. It has been quite a week. I won't bore you with the details, but instead, I'll share this story that shows that EVERYBODY has a KILLER SWEET TOOTH! ;)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A bear has feasted on pecan logs, caramel apples and other treats at a candy store in the Smoky Mountains resort town Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Employees reporting for work found the bear Wednesday morning at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, where the animal apparently had knocked a hole in a glass front door to enter, according to The Mountain Press ( ).

Police propped open several back doors and made loud noises, and the bear ran into the woods.

The animal had spread candy on the floor, and wrappers and packaging were strewn throughout a back storeroom. Pecan logs had been chewed and chunks were missing out of caramel apples.

Bob Miller of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park said bears are active this time of year, searching for food before hibernation.

((I wonder if anyone heard the bear say, "Boog is sorry!" as he escaped into the woods.))

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Sweet Read and Pie Tasting

My newest book, Sand Tarts, Pies, and Devils in Disguise will be debuting in the next couple of weeks!

One of my first events following the release will be a Sweet Read and Pie Tasting @ Colonial Heights Public Library in Kingsport, TN from 10:30am-12:00pm. I will be reading, answering questions and signing books while the audience samples yummy pies!

Here is a recipe for one of the pies I will make for the event:

Chocolate Strawberry Hand Pies
Strawberries dipped in chocolate are one of my favorite desserts in the whole world. Using a can of crescent rounds, I created a these little pies. If you cannot find crescent rounds, make triangular pies using regular crescent rolls.
Finely chop about 5 strawberrries. Flatten crescent round with the palm of your hand or a rolling pin.On half of crescent round place about 10 chocolate chips and 3-4 pieces of the chopped strawberries. Fold other half of crescent round over chocolate and strawberries. Seal edges with tines of fork. Continue until you have used all of your crescent roundss.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Curry. Tim Curry.

The first time my #4 daughter and I saw Tim Curry, he was presiding over a dinner table of uneasy guests in a mysterious mansion on a dark and stormy night.

For her, it was CLUE: THE MOVIE. For me, ~mumblety mumblety~ years earlier, it was THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

Yes, there's nothing like a specially prepared meal to bring people with little else in common together, whether it's a delicacy from China or plain old meatloaf.

The time of large family gatherings approaches, as we (in the northern hemisphere) defy and survive the darkness of winter by coming together and celebrating.

Some get-togethers turn out to be more tense than a battle with dire-wolves and mastodons, but just remember CLUE: THE MOVIE and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. No matter how tense things get, at least you aren't any of those people.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Best of Cottey Cooking

I discovered a pretty fantastic cookbook yesterday. It's called The Best of Cottey Cooking, by Chef Michael Richardson, who is the Director of Dining Services at Cottey College, which is a women's college run by P.E.O. (an international women's philanthropic educational organization), located in Nevada, Missouri. For more than 126 years, the college has offered young women the opportunity to learn and grow into leaders, role models, and confident individuals.

Cottey offers a unique combination of women's-only education, high academic standards, focus on leadership development, commitment to an international experience for every student. Read about the advantages of an all-women's education at

I loved the look of the cookbook, which is filled with all kinds of intriguing, healthy, and delicious recipes that even I could make without much trouble. Here is an excerpt from the introduction that explains more about it:

The Best of Cottey Cooking is Chef Michael's collection of more than 200 of the most popular recipes served at Cottey, adapted for use in your home kitchen. Treat your family to Molten Chocolate Cake, Baked Potato Soup, or Honey Dijon Chicken. Every recipe has been home tested and re-written for cooks of all skill levels to find success in their home kitchens. All the ingredients for these recipes can be found in most local supermarkets. Whether it's a quick and easy breakfast of Almond French Toast or a special occasion brunch calling for Bananas Foster Crepes, you'll find the recipe in The Best of Cottey Cooking. In addition, a significant portion of the net proceeds from this book will fund scholarships for future Cottey College students.

Note that last sentence. That makes this book an even better buy. You can order it on Amazon, or at

Just to whet your appetite, following is a recipe for a pie that Chef Michael calls one of the most popular on the menu. As I said, the dishes are delicious. I never said they were low-cal.

Chocolate Buttercrunch Pie
The crust makes this pie unique. Makes one 9-inch pie.

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 (1.55 ounce) milk chocolate candy bar

1 3.9 ounce package instant vanilla pudding and pie filling
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups cold milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipped topping
1 1.55 ounce milk chocolate candy bar, cut into chocolate curls or grated.

For Crust: preheat oven to 350 F. Place the walnuts in a baking pan and bake for 4-5 minutes until golden brown. Cool to lukewarm. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter, cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the nuts and chocolate; blend, using on/off turns, until nuts are finely chopped. Press onto bottom and sides of a lightly-greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake crust until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool completely.
For Filling: In a large bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes, then pour into the pie crust, spreading evenly. Refrigerate unil firm, about 1 hour.
For Topping: Once the filling is firm, spread the whipped topping to cover. Sprinkle top with the chocolate curls or grated chocolate. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Video from the Oklahoma Sugar Arts Show

For all of you (like me) who didn't get to attend the 2011 Oklahoma Sugar Arts Show in Tulsa on October 1-2, here is a video created by YummyArts!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Best Vacation Food EVER!

Last week, my husband and I spent a few days in Folly Beach, South Carolina. We just loved this funky little surfer town that lies nine miles from downtown Charleston.

I have eaten some really good food on vacation, but the food I had on this trip was exceptional!

Here are some of the highlights:

1) Nachos at a fun Mexican place called Taco Boy

2) A sandwich at Lost Dog Cafe that included bacon, fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese on whole grain bread

3) A plate of cheese and fruit with a glass of white wine at a wedding reception

4) Crab cakes at Hank's in Charleston

5) An awesome cheeseburger and fries on the pier at Folly Beach.

6) A beautiful tapa of beef fillet and fingerling potatoes.

7) A fruit and yogurt parfait served in a big coffee mug with crunchy granola on top at Lost Dog Cafe

Thank goodness I worked out every morning. If you ever go to Folly, take a big appetite, your camera and some running shoes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nutty Truffles

In honor of the short story I just (rough draft) finished, "Still Life With Peanut Butter", here is a favorite treat of mine. It comes from THE TEEN'S VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK, which I got for a teen friend and liked so well I got a copy for myself.

Becca's Chocolate Nutty Truffles
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1 cup favorite nut butter: almond, cashew, or peanut
  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dates, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In a skillet containing no oil or liquid, combine the almonds and cashews. Heat over a low flame, stirring frequently, just until you start smelling a toasty, warm aroma. (Keep watching and don't let them burn.) You can also toast them for 2 minutes in a toaster oven set on a low setting.
  2. In a bowl, mix together nut butter, maple syrup, and chocolate chips. Add nuts and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon.
  4. Make teaspoon-size balls of the nut butter mixture and roll in the sugar-cocoa mixture until evenly coated. Place on wax paper and eat, or harden in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Makes 25 to 30 truffles.
If you just insist on being fatal about it, make sure one of the nuts you use is something your enemy is deathly allergic to.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Orange Food

Here it is - October. The weather is finally cooling, and it’s time to worry about getting sick. So in the spirit of the season, here are some more remedies for flu-fighting that every woman used to have in her home disease fighting arsenal.

My mother told me that her mother did things to her when she got sick that I would think twice about recommending. One was the famous mustard plaster, made of powdered dry mustard mixed with flour and water to make a paste, sandwiched between two pieces of cloth, (I seem to remember my mom telling me that Grandma used brown paper) and applied as a poultice to the chest. This remedy would open the bronchi, and if you weren’t careful, it’d blister the heck out of your chest, as well.

My other grandmother liked to ease her breathing with a nice hot toddy, made of hot water, sugar, lemon, and a shot of whiskey. And if it didn’t ease her breathing, she didn’t care. Another pleasant immunity booster is elderberry wine.

I was once told that eating orange foods was a good thing to do if you wanted to avoid getting sick, and research has shown that there’s something to this. We all know about oranges and viatmin C, but sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and orange squash are full of immune boosting beta carotene, besides being comforting and delicious.

Squash and pumpkin make wonderful soups, and so do yams and sweet potatoes. But when I was a kid, I thought the very best way to eat a sweet potato was thus:

Wash a sweet potato and poke two or three holes in it. Bake it in a medium oven (you can wrap it in foil, but I just stick it in there naked) for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato, until it’s very soft. Take it out - carefully! (After all, it’s a hot potato) Let it cool enough to handle, then pick it up like a banana, peel back the top and slather with butter, and eat it. Peel the skin down from the top as you go. Oh, so yummy. And if you’re eight years old, this method of potato-eating has the added benefit of being a lot of fun.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pumpkin Recipe Roundup

While pumpkins are in abundance, now might be a good time to make and freeze some pumpkin goodies. My favorites--pumpkin bread and pumpkin roll. Below are a roundup of other pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin Spice Truffles

1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
11 ounces of milk couverture chocolate (11 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate to temper and melt for coating)
3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
4 ounces of orange colored chocolate

1. Place cream in 2-quart wide saucepan over medium heat just until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle chopped chocolate into cream. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes; the heat should melt the chocolate. Stir very gently until smooth.

2. Stir in pumpkin and spices. Pour mixture into a pastry bag and tie with a twist tie. Let cool to slightly warmer than room temperature.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 medium egg
1 cup milk
¾ cup unbleached white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cooked pumpkin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch powdered ginger
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed


  1. Combine all ingredients except vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl, whisking to blend.

  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add ¼ cup pancake batter at a time, allowing to cook until bubbles break around the edges. Flip and allow to cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until light golden. Repeat with remaining oil and batter.

Pumpkin Chipotle Soup

  • ½ Onion, chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 chipotle canned in adobo sauce, deseeded and chopped, AND 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can
  • ¼ cup apple juice or cider
  • 2 sugar pumpkins, peeled, deseeded and chopped OR 1 kobucha squash peeled, deseeded and chopped, OR 2 cans pumpkin puree OR 3 chopped yams
  • 2 to 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (depending on desired thickness)
  • ½ cup apple cider or apple juice
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)


1) Sweat onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent looking in the pan.

2) Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more (until golden but not burning- garlic can burn fast).

3) Add the chopped chipotle to the pan

4) Add the apple cider or apple juice. Allow to cook off a little, i.e. evaporate a little, add the stock to cover the pumpkin. Allow to simmer on medium-high heat for 20 minutes to a half hour.

5) Puree in batches in the blender filling only half way.

6) Add remaining or additional stock or water to the finished puree and stir to create the desired thickness.

7) Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Pumpkin Ravioli


For the Dough:
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
6 whole eggs
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

For the Filling:
1 small pumpkin (about 4 pounds), or 2- 15 ounce cans of pumpkin puree*
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 dash ground cloves
Cinnamon, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
About 1 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs

For the Sauce:
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
about 10 whole sage leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
grated parmesan, to taste


  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor or large bowl.

  2. Puree the ingredients together until a solid mass is formed, about 1 minute. The dough should not be wet and should be dry enough that it does not stick to the bowl. If it is too wet add some flour.

  3. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator. Let rest for at least one hour.

  4. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Rub the cavity with salt and pepper and oil. Place flesh side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until it is soft when punctured with a knife or fork.

  5. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and scoop the soft pumpkin meat into a bender or food processor. Puree until no chunks remain. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate until cold.

  6. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin puree with the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Stir together.

  7. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to your liking.

  8. Add enough breadcrumbs so that the mixture will hold its shape when scooped onto a flat surface. You may need more breadcrumbs if you made the puree from scratch.

  9. Add the eggs and stir well until they are fully incorporated.

  10. The filling mixture can now be set aside until you are ready to fill the raviolis. It can also be frozen at this time. It can be help in the freezer for up to 6 months.

  11. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pasta dough until it is very thin so that you can almost see through it. Use plenty of flour so it does not stick.

  12. Cut the dough into one long rectangle that is about eight inches thick and however long you can make it.

  13. Using a one ounce portion scoop or a large spoon, scoop about 1/8 cup onto one side of the strip of dough.

  14. Repeat this all the way down the dough placing each scoop about 2 inches apart form each other.

  15. Fold the other side of the dough, that does not have filling on it, over the filling. Then using your fingers press around each of the raviolis moving the air out away from the filling.

  16. Cut in between each of the lumps of filling creating many squares. Crimp the edges of each ravioli with a fork.

  17. At this point the raviolis can be frozen on a cookie sheet. When completely frozen they can be bagged for future use. They will hold about 6 months.

  18. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water enough so that it tastes like ocean water.

  19. In a saute pan melt the butter with the garlic over medium heat until it is foamy and has a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves and let them cook until they are crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat. Be careful not to burn the butter or the garlic.

  20. Turn the hot water down to a simmer. Place the raviolis into the salted water and let them cook for about 4 minutes or until the float to the top. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter.

  21. Once all the raviolis are cooked top with the butter sauce, garnish with fresh sage and grated parmesan, and serve.

*Make sure to purchase pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling. Then your raviolis would be very sweet! If using canned pumpkin puree, skip the filling steps 1 and 2.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Yield: About 4 dozen assembled whoopie pies (will vary depending on how large you make them)

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 10 to 12 minutes

For the Whoopie Pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Maple-Cream Cheese Filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

5. Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.

7. To make the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth.

8. To assemble the whoopie pies: Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.