Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cooking for an Odd Crowd

We had the family Memorial Day get-together here. We have vegans. We have carnivores. We have gluten-intolerants.

Everybody brought a pitch-in dish, so everybody knew there would be at least one thing safe to eat. But Charlie and I are hospitable cusses, and we wanted to provide stuff everybody could eat and would like.

Charlie bought a semi-load of red potatoes and I cooked them long and far below boiling, so they were firm but melt-in-your-mouth creamy and served them with vegan margarine.

We also had vegan bean soup:

I use canned beans because there's only so much futzing I'm willing to do, especially when I JUST GOT HOME from a working weekend at a fantasy/sf convention.

My husband's family doesn't like soupy beans, they like beany soup, so I held back about two cups of beans and mashed the rest, then added the whole beans and stirred it up and added about six times as much water as bean mixture. Vegetarian bouillon to match that amount of water. Marjoram. Onion powder (because Charlie can't eat onions). Olive oil with garlic. IMPORTANT! The oil gives the soup that meaty umami mouth-feel and the garlic somehow adds a note that totally substitutes for a meat flavor.

Again, cook it long and low.

We bought a family-farmed ham for the carnivores and put a bowl of ham scraps and shreds next to the soup for those who are all like, "It just ain't bean soup without ham in it" could add their own.

A good time was had by all.

p.s. I was thinking about the gluten-intolerant people and about the various flour substitutes. What if you assured someone who was gluten-intolerant that a bread is made without wheat flour, but secretly it was made with nut flour and they're also allergic to nuts? Honest mistake or murder? Only your detective can determine that.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I had quite the weekend last week and consequently missed my Saturday post here on Fatal Foodies. I fully intended to do my duty, but as you know, Dear Reader, sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.

I have written before on this blog about the fact that rather than formally compost my food scraps, sometimes I bury them directly into an area of fallow garden. This often results in the odd volunteer crop coming up in unexpected places a couple of months later. Usually I recognize the plant, but sometimes I don’t, and it’s quite an adventure to cultivate the little stowaway and see what I eventually end up with.

Early in February, something popped up in an out of the way corner that had me stumped for a while, though I could tell it was a vegetable and not a weed. It was moderately well grown before it suddenly dawned on me that I had a potato plant on my hands. The leaves were very slightly different than I was used to in a potato, so I was very interested to see what variety I was going to end up with. I do like to experiment with potato varieties in my recipes, and when I tried to remember what I had cooked up over the winter I realized I had several possibilities from good old Idahoes to Yukons to purple fingerlings.

By the end of the month the plant began to die back and I dug up a specimen to see what I had. They were perfect little red potatoes, and I had a very nice batch of them, enough for at least two meals for the two of us.

For the first batch I did nothing but scrub them (Gently. They were very thin-skinned) and cut out the eyes. There were no bad places to remove. I steamed them in a little bit of water and we ate them plain with butter and a dash of salt and pepper. They were wonderful, melt in your mouth tender, silky textured, and flavorful. It reminded me that if you have really fresh, naturally grown food to work with, you don’t need to do anything fancy to it to make it taste like something you’d get in a gourmet restaurant.

Last fall we had several volunteer squash plants of more than one variety. The most delightful was a prolific spaghetti squash plant that produced at least ten squashes for us over the season. I wouldn’t have planted a spaghetti squash vine myself, but I did buy one to eat in the summer and I buried the seeds after cleaning it. The resulting volunteers inspired me to experiment with ways of cooking spaghetti squash that I would never have tried if I didn’t have a wealth of ingredients to work with. Squashes and melons are fantastic growers and easy plants to cultivate. I’ve also had success with volunteer garlic, sweet potatoes, beans, and greens. The only failure was a bell pepper plant that popped up on its own which produced several small and bitter peppers. Not very tasty, but interesting to look at.

I wonder what would happen if I threw a chocolate mousse into the garden?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Japanese Cakes

This morning I received an e-mail from a Japanese company expressing interest in the Daphne Martin cake decorating mystery series. I forwarded the e-mail on to my agent and edtior, but the query made me wonder what types of cakes are popular in Japan.

Here are some links to recipes:

Daifuku - The recipe is available at About.com's Japanese Food site. This cake uses rice flour and anko.

An online Tokyo guide advises that the Japanese people don't like sugary desserts and that their cakes and other desserts have a subtler sweet flavor.

Another site, Miso Soup for the Otaku Soul, tells about the special holiday the Japanese have for eating cake: Kurisumasu. When I did a search for "Kurisumasu," I learned that "Merii Kurisumasu" means "Merry Christmas" in Japanese.

My So-Called Japanese Life has a recipe and detailed instructions on making Japanese sweet potato cakes, and the Joy of Cakes Blog includes Japanese wedding cakes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gayle Trent, You Take the Cake!

Last week, I finished a delightful read by Fatal Foodies own Gayle Trent. Murder Takes the Cake was an intriguing mystery set in a charming town, with characters that reminded me of folks I know.

Gayle's main character is Daphne Martin. Recently divorced, Daphne has moved back to her hometown to start over. Part of the starting over includes launching her own cake business. Daphne's Delectable Cakes gets off to a rough start when one of Daphne's customers winds up dead.

This sets Daphne off on a mission to prove that her cake did not kill Yodel Watson. On her adventure as cake baker/detective, Daphne interacts with a cast of fun and interesting

characters that leads to new friendships, romance and the killer!

As a result of reading Gayle's book, I have had the insatiable desire to bake cakes. Seriously, I baked 3 cakes in two weeks. Gayle does a beautiful job in showing how much care and love Daphne puts into her craft. Reading about Daphne had me wanting to bake as a form of relaxation.

Daphne's joy for making cakes helped me to realize how much I enjoy the process of baking. From the mixing to the frosting, it completely enthralls me. Eating the finished product is not too bad either!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Edible Posies

A press release just crossed my monitor for a book called EAT YOUR ROSES. [insert your own joke about pressed flowers ha ha]

Here's part of the release:
PITTSBURGH (June 1, 2011) - Now you can have your flowers and eat them too!  Denise Schreiber's new book, EAT YOUR ROSES…pansies, lavender and 49 other delicious edible flowers, is an adventure in taste delights, some familiar, some exotic.  Get ready to discover calendula corn muffins and that ultimate floral treat, rose petal ice cream!

EAT YOUR ROSES (St. Lynn's Press, June 2011) introduces 52 delicious edible flowers, their culinary uses and the special "sense appeal" for each. Schreiber, a passionate flower eater, horticulturist and award-winning cook, presents dozens of playful, mouth-watering recipes - from appetizers to desserts to fragrant liqueurs - all of them incorporating one or more edible flowers.

This light-hearted yet authoritative gift book balances edible flower history and lore with proper handling and preparation techniques - including a resource guide and a listing of flowers that are not edible and should be avoided. Her book is illustrated through with full-color photographs.

Schreiber invites us to look beyond the veggie patch for great food ideas. Many of her recipes were first introduced at her popular annual Edible Flowers Food Fest, the largest event of its kind in Western Pennsylvania.

About the Author:
Denise Schreiber is Greenhouse Manager for the Allegheny County Parks system, with 9 regional parks in the Pittsburgh area. She is a columnist for a number of regional garden and lifestyle magazines, and is a regular guest expert on the widely heard Sunday morning radio show, The Organic Gardeners (KDKA). Her yearly Edible Flowers Food Fest always attracts a sell-out crowd eager to see what she will come up with next.

About the Book:
Eat Your Roses…pansies, lavender and 49 other delicious edible flowers. St. Lynn's Press, June 1, 2011, 104 pages, trade paperback, ISBN 978-0-9819615-5-2; $17.95.


Available for pre-order (as of 5-24-2011) at Amazon.com.

I encourage you to visit the Allegheny County Gardens web site for more information on edible flowers (including the Edible Flowers Food Fest), recipes for using edible flowers, plants that are dangerous to your pets, and more.

Personally I'd rather look at 'em than eat 'em but think of the money you could save on catering if you only had edible flowers for your wedding.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, May 20, 2011

A bit expensive for my taste

The Independent reported this story on a new online luxury food store called Gilt Taste. Gilt Taste was founded by former Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl. Feel free to follow the link above to read the article at The Independent. I went to Gilt Taste on a quest to see what I could find. Here's a sampling:

Today's Date Picnic Box - $25 - A paint-by-numbers picnic box containing eco-friendly tableware.

Dried Gray Morels - $28 - I had no idea what a morel was until I read about them at the link. They are apparently mushrooms from the wine forest in Napa Valley, CA.

Couronne du Chocolat - $75 - Moist chocolate sponge cake from Lady M in Manhattan.

Black Winter Truffle Juice 1st Choice - $112 - I wondered what one would do with truffle juice, and the website says it adds a je ne sais quoi to braises, stews, and roasted meats. Since je ne sais quoi means "I don't know what" in French, I'm wondering if they really know. :\

Murray's Cheese and Chocolate Pairings - $79 - I've never tried it, so I can't be certain; but I don't know that I'd want to mix my "stinky English stilton" with my "Pralus Fortissima."

Domestic Caviar Trio - $162 - This assortment contains paddlefish, hackleback, and California Osetra. You also get 30 blinis, 7.5 ounces of creme fraiche, four mother-of-pearl spoons, and a cooler.

Flannery's Reserve Bone-in Kansas City Strip Steak - $196 - 4 16-ounce steaks

If you guys order anything, please report back on how it tastes. At these prices, I would hope it would be the best thing you've ever tasted!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Eating Better...

We all know that the better you eat, the better you feel.

That appears to be the case for tennis star Novak Djokovic who's been on a winning streak. Coincidence that he changed his diet after learning of a gluten allergy?

Already an excellent player, the tennis player has since improved even more. While some changes like diet improve how you feel, analysts say that improved mental confidence is also important in a solo sport like tennis.

But the old saying, "you are what you eat," does have merit. For the tennis star, it's no pizza, pasta and many starchy foods.

For others, erasing certain foods from the diet is a medical necessity. There are ways to eat well while not eating wheat products...

* Starting a gluten-free diet.

* How about a yummy-sounding Baked Potato and Bacon Soup?

* Gluten free recipes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kid Panels

I expect to have my children's book, Burton the Sneezing Cow, make a debut in Spring 2012. After the manuscript was completed and turned into my publisher, I saw an episode of Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice that made me consider how kid-friendly my story really was.

On that epsisode of the show, contestants were assigned a task of creating a children's book. A big issue with one of the contestants who is also a mom is that some words were not familiar to kids of their particular age group.

That got me thinking about my own story. It went over well with my daughter, but perhaps she understood all of the words because they are words we have used in our house. It was then that I decided to begin doing Kid Panels.

My Kid Panels have so far been made up of children at my daughter's school. I read the story to them, and ask them to tell me if they do not understand something or do not like something. Thanfully, I have learned a great deal from these kids and have adjusted my story accordingly. On my last Kid Panel, the adjusted story went over better than it ever has with a group of kids.

Here are some of the things I have learned:
1) My main character is a cow with allergies. I had to explain allergies, because unless kids have them, they may not know about them.
2) My farmer is named Stanley. Some kids want a simpler name.
3) The kids want some kind of rhyming poem or song incorporated into the story.
4) I used the word "pasture". Most kids thought I was talking about a "pastor".
5) I had to change "veterinarian" to "animal doctor". If kids do not have pets, they may not know what a veterinarian is.

Writing for children is a whole new thing for me. If it is what you do, I suggest that you try Kid Panels. It is fun and informative!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vegan Is Boring? Let Us See....

First the food, then the recipes, then the plot.

Here's what we had for supper last night: Cauliflower and peas in tomato sauce (too thin. meh.), skillet-roasted herbed chickpeas and almonds, couscous and broccoli.

Cook cauliflower until done but still with some oomph. DRAIN WELL. I mean WELL. Don't just strain it, take it out to Arizona and peg it out in the sun for a couple of days. Dang, I thought I had drained it, and then just look. Anyway, DRAIN it. Put it back in the pan with canned or defrosted DRAINED peas and some chunky garden spaghetti sauce. Heat and serve. Preferably not watery.

DRAIN AND DRY a can of chickpeas (Garbanzo beans). Sprinkle with salt and herbs (I used fresh rosemary) and coat with a little olive oil. Put it into a reasonably hot skillet and heat, stirring occasionally, until the peas start to brown. Add some sliced almonds and MAYBE a touch more oil. Continue to cook until the almonds start to brown and smell toasty. Also good cold for a munchie.

Cook broccoli until as tender as you like it. Drain it, reserving the water, but don't get all fanatic about it, because you're just going to put the water back in. Measure the water and return as much to the pot as you need to make the amount of couscous you want. Make the couscous as you like it, using oil or vegan margarine rather than butter. Stir the broccoli back in until hot.

I lied. I don't have a plot for this one, just the food and the recipes. Not fatal, unless you're allergic.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tortilla Pudding

Back in the day, when responsible cooks never, ever wasted food, some of our most beloved comfort foods were invented out of the most unlikely leftovers. This is what sausage is, and hash, paella, Tuscan bread salads, hot dishes and casseroles. My mother used to clean out her refrigerator every Friday and make a stew out of whatever she found. That stew often contained something very odd, but it was always delicious. Her mother taught her to use leftovers that way, and her mother taught her.

No matter what your ethnicity, your mother (or father) or grandma had some delightful dish in her arsenal that was made out of scraps and dabs and dibs. Bread pudding is a perfect example. I have a regular monthly lunch date with a couple of friends, and part of our ritual is to go to some restaurant that serves bread pudding for dessert. At the end of the meal, we buy one serving to share and spend several lovely minutes comparing the current pudding to all the others that have gone before.

Last week for Cinco de Mayo I was served a fantastic Mexican version of bread pudding that I hereby share with you Dear Readers. Use it the next time you find yourself with extra flour tortillas. Or what the heck--just go out and buy some some tortillas especially to make this dish. It’s worth it.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Tortilla Pudding
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 eight inch soft flour tortillas
1 cup diced pineapple, fresh or canned, well drained
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
3 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Whipped cream

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and begins to bubble. Pour the syrup into a 9-inch square glass baking dish and tilt the pan to evenly coat the bottom and sides.

Tear 5 tortillas into bite-size pieces and cover the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle pineapple and 1/3 cup chocolate chips evenly over the top. Tear the remaining 5 tortillas an place evenly in baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and pour over the layered tortillas. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, and press down lightly to distribute the egg mixture over the tortillas. Set aside 30 minutes to allow the egg mixture to soak into the tortillas.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 55 minutes or until pudding is firm. Cool for 15 minutes and serve warm with whipped cream. You can replace the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips for a Dulche de Leche version of tortilla pudding.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Leave Tony Alone!

All this talk about childhood obesity has me wondering what has really changed--the food or our children's lifestyles? Back in the 1950's when Kellogg's Frosted Flakes debuted as Sugar Frosted Flakes, childhood obesity wasn't a problem.

According to a BBC news report done in 1999, children in the 1950s--despite the food shortages of the post-war era--had more nutritious meals than their 1990s counterparts. Granted, these are British children and the talk I'm hearing about childhood obesity is being generated in the United States; however, this fact is what stands out to me: "Although the fat and overall calorie intake of the 1950s child was higher, generally children were more active than their 1990s counterparts." (Professor Michael Wadsworth, Director of the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development)

I'll take that a step further and make the guess that children's stress levels have also risen significantly since the 1950s. Everything I've read about stress indicates that stress releases cortisol, a hormone that causes increased abdominal fat. Kids used to only have to worry about SATs or other college entrance examinations. Now they have to worry about SOLs on an annual basis. They're asked in elementary school to name their future career goals. In addition to schoolwork, they worry about their parents' financial or marital situations, peer pressure, and reports they see splashed across the news.

Rather than forcing cereal and junk food manufacturers to stop marketing to our children, shouldn't we be more concerned about what's going on around them? In Matthew 17-20, Jesus says: "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes through the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man." (New American Standard Bible)

My advice, for what it's worth, is this: Turn the news off when your children are in the room. Talk about positive things. Don't fight in front of your children. Don't let them see you stressing out over money. And get them out from in front of the television or computer monitor regularly. Eliminate enough extra-curricular activities that you can gather your family around the dinner table two to three times a week. Exercise as a family--Wii dance games are a hoot!

And when the groceries run out, make them wait until the next grocery day to get "the good stuff." I'm not saying to let your family go hungry. But if you buy a box of Frosted Flakes one day and they're gone the next, don't rush out to buy another box. When I was growing up, grocery night was Friday night. I LOVED Friday nights. And do you know what we always had for dinner that night? Sandwiches! But the bread was fresh and we got stuff like potato chips and candy that we hadn't had since the previous week.

I'll admit that these days I'm heavier than I was when I was younger. That's because my job is sedentary, I have more stress, I exercise less, and I've forgotten the concept of "delayed gratification." That's how I know what's wrong with our many of our nation's children--I've got the same issues. And it ain't Tony's fault. It's mine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nice Racks!

I'm talking about racks of ribs! This Saturday is the annual Racks by the Tracks in Kingsport, Tennessee. The day is all about ribs, micro-brewed beers, blues music and fun.


I will be at the authors' tent from 9:00-5:00. You bet I'll be trying some of those ribs!

Yesterday, I saw one of the judges for the ribs contest on a local news program. What I found interesting is that a prize-winning rib does not fall off the bone (means it is overcooked), but instead it gently pulls from the bone when you bite into it. He also noted that dry ribs are the most difficult to do properly. For those who may not be as into ribs as I am, that means a rib that has dry rub as opposed to a wet sauce.
If you're in my area, come on out! Be sure to try some ribs and come by the authors' tent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Front Porch Party

Killer Party in Corydon!
Not a Derby party where we had mint juleps until we were dead drunk. No, our 10-year-old nephew came up with "an old-fashioned front porch party". We gathered on his front porch, four generations of us, and had snacks and listened to shows from the golden days of radio.

Times have changed, and we listened to the shows on CDs, not on an old Philco with vacuum tubes inside, but the happiness of being together and sharing an experience was the same.

Here is the program he gave out:

The Inner Sanctum show kept us guessing and left us puzzled because the twist ending totally didn't make sense--which was fun, in its own way. The Tales of Fatima turned out to be a mystery with Basil Rathbone as the detective. Not Basil Rathbone playing the detective, but Basil Rathbone playing himself as a crime-solver, along with his sidekick, the feisty wardrobe mistress. The "Fatima" in the title was the brand of cigarettes that sponsored the show.

A good time was had by all. I recommend the idea to you.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring is Asparagus time

Spring has Spring
The grass has riz; I wonder where the flowers is.

Or so goes the old saying.

I am once again packing my bags and getting ready to hit the road on book tour. The timing isn’t good and I wouldn’t normally choose to travel in springtime. But my destination is Bloody Words in Victoria, B.C. on June 3 – 5, so I have little choice. I have a house sitter and she will put in the annuals in pots on the deck, and a neighbourhood teenager coming to cut the lawn. But otherwise everything will wait until my return. And then probably won’t get done. So there are likely to be any vegetables this year. I’ve covered the vegetable patch with a tarp to try to keep the weeds down.

I’ll miss asparagus season which is a real disappointment. I love asparagus but it is one of the things I only eat locally grown and in season. The season will be over when I get home. Sniff sniff.

Here’s the dish I’ll miss the most:

Vicki Delany’s Asparagus Linguini with Shrimp and Garlic

450 g linguine
¼ cup olive oil
450g medium sized raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb asparagus, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 to 5 garlic cloves, minded
½ cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped parley
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to directions (reserving 1 cup of cooking water)

Heat oil in skillet over moderate head. Add shrimp, turning once until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a large bowl

Add garlic, wind and red pepper to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste as well as the butter and stir until butter has melted. Add shrimp and asparagus and stir until cooked, or for about 4 – 5 minutes.

In large bowl, toss pasta with shrimp mixture and parsley, adding reserved cooking water to moisten as necessary. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Looking to buy farm fresh asparagus in Ontario: click here

For details on my book tour please click here. It would be fun to meet some Fatal Foodies readers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mom's Favorite Foods

Happy Mother's Day! The picture of my parents was taken in 1947, when they were newlyweds and before four kids and a happy life together. My mother and father have passed on, and I have no kids of my own, so I’ll be spending Mother’s Day with a couple of my favorite authors, Carolyn Hart and Earlene Fowler, at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since Carolyn and Earlene both have roots in my native states of Oklahoma and Arkansas, I’ll be feeling right at home. Perhaps a bit nostalgic, too.

When I was a little kid, we always ate Mother’s Day lunch at Borden’s Cafeteria in Tulsa. My sister and I would finish eating several years before my parents (especially my mother, who was a notoriously slow eater), and being little girls we’d get all impatient and end up crawling around under the table trying to amuse ourselves while our folks tortured us by lighting up a post-prandial cigarette and smoking it right down to the nub before we could leave.

My father was something of a gourmand, but my mother had her definite likes and dislikes. She definitely liked her meat burned and her coffee weak with lots of Creamora and sugar. She loved her Coca-Cola, bacon with anything, Hershey's Kisses, Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, pineapple pie, and any dish that somebody else made for her.

If you mother is still with you, I hope you can do something nice together tomorrow. If God wills and you outlive your mom, I guarantee you’ll miss her when she’s gone.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Foodie News!

Let's start with the biggest news first--the Royal Wedding Cake! According to the Daily Mail, the cake for Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was eight tiers decorated with 900 delicate sugar paste flowers. Slashfood tells us the cake--which took five weeks to make--was "a rich fruitcake." Somehow I think it must be MUCH better than the stuff Americans traditionally give to unliked distant relatives at Christmastime. :)

So, did you guys watch any of the Royal Wedding coverage? I didn't get up early to watch or anything; but as soon as I did get up, I tuned in to the Today show to "oooh" and "aww" along with the rest of the world. And I have to say: Didn't she look gorgeous? And doesn't William look like his mother? And wasn't Harry precious, especially when he sneaked a peek at the bride and then told his brother, "Wait until you see her"?

And now on to more pressing matters. Have you ever watched the Olive Garden commercial touting their "Tuscan Cooking School" and thought, "yeah, sure"? Well, if so, you might want to read what one former Olive Garden manager is saying about his experience. According to Slashfood's Jason Best, the school is pretty much a sham. Says Best, "It seems the Olive Garden doesn't even own the place. They just book all the rooms at a hotel during the off-season, close the place to the public, and take over the restaurant." The anonymous ex-manager claims that cooking classes consisted of "an hour here or there" where instructors discussed fresh produce and spices before taking the group site-seeing.

The former manager also says that the company sent "pre-written articles to our local newspaper with fake quotes from me and a group photo." As a freelance writer, that's the only real part of this article that troubled me. I can understand a company wanting to impress customers with exaggerated claims and perhaps doing the bare minimum to make the claims appear legitimate. But the "fake quotes" and pre-written articles really bother me and will make me question the veracity of everything else Olive Garden releases. Of course, I realize we shouldn't take everything we read online as the truth; but still....

Finally, video killed the radio star--will Starbucks kill the cake pop?

Starbucks has started making cake pops, the lollipops made by mixing cake crumbs with frosting and then coating them with a hard candy shell. Cake pops (which I've used in both Dead Pan and Killer Sweet Tooth) are reportedly quickly dethroning cupcakes as the go-to item for baby showers, birthday celebrations, and weddings. (Can you imagine Will and Kate having a bazillion cake pops? No. That simply would not do.)

The concern over Starbucks' latest offering is centered at Honest Cooking, the Food Magazine. Honest Cooking fears that having the cake pops offered by Starbucks will lead to a further oversaturation of cake pops in the marketplace and cause them to lose their popularity. They do, at the above link, however, offer a recipe for lemon cake pops that might be a great addition to your spring picnics.

The Starbucks cake pops are available in flavors Rocky Road, Tiramisu, and Birthday Cake. I applaud Starbucks for branching out. Apparently, they're also offering mini cupcakes, red velvet whoopie pies, and sweet squares.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Books for Mom

If you are still searching for a Mother's Day gift, why not buy her a book? Here are some good ones to satisfy various interests:

1) Jan Karon's Mitford series- wholesome, heartwarming and sentimental

2) Adriana Trigiani's Very Valentine- celebration of family traditions and romance with set in New York City and Italy

3) Celia Rivenbark- The funny titles say it all. Collections of Rivenbark's columns are hysterical. The fact that the chapters are short essays make these books great for busy moms or older moms whose eyes tire easily.

4) The Pioneer Woman Cooks- wonderful recipes and beautiful photos

Not for the mom who is counting calories!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

We Eat The Dog's Dinner

The first time my mother and I saw risotto, we thought it looked like the dog's dinner. It tasted heavenly, and now we greet an announcement of risotto with delighted cries of, "Dog's dinner! Oh, boy!" --What do you mean, remind you not to invite us over for a meal?

Anyway, rice started in China and traveled to Mesopotamia and Persia to Egypt to Moorish Spain to Italy. Risotto is an Italian dish, and the first time my mother and I saw and ate risotto was in an Italian restaurant. It was an opera luncheon, just so you know. We ain't entirely devoid of culture. We're plenty couth, the both of us. Remember my motto, which I ... er ... borrowed from Mehitabel the cat: To hell with anything unrefined.

But I digress.

Riziculture (rice farming) was established in northern Italy by the late 1400s. The rice grown there is short-grained, such as the arborio variety used in risotto: Rice, flavorings, vegetables and often meat, fish or seafood (or frogs) are cooked together in liquid (sometimes water but usually broth, often flavored with wine). The liquid is added gradually, in several additions, with the cook stirring frequently or constantly while the liquid is absorbed. The result is usually much more rice than you expected, no matter how little you started out with, in its own thick and creamy sauce.

I made risotto the other night, using vegetarian sausage (Gimme Lean), veg broth, tomato sauce, bell peppers and onions, adding freshly grated Parmesan at the table.

It looked like the dog's dinner, but it was delicious!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes