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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Up Side to my Fridge Woes

For nearly seven weeks, I was without a refrigerator in my kitchen. To make a long story short, I will just say that our fridge that was only two years old went. bad. During the repair process, the inside of our freezer and some wires on the back were burned with a torch. For weeks, we have been back and forth trying to get a replacement for our fridge that was destroyed beyond repair.

Since I preach optimism, I willl share the positive points from this ordeal:

1) We do have an extra fridge in the garage, so we had somewhere to put our chilled goods.

2) I saved on groceries, because the fridge and freezer were so stuffed that I had to use up what was inside before I could buy more.

3) I did not cook nearly as often. Making multipled trips to the garage was such a pain that I made huge batches of whatever I was cooking, and we ate it for several nights.

4) The manufacturer of our refrigerator came through with a replacement! I've got a brand new fridge with no dents in the door from my kids playing around it.

5) At least I have never opened the door to find an animal curled up inside, as in the photo!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good Sammich That Sounds Yuck

My first realization that I could edge closer to vegetarianism came when I ate the best bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich of my life, then discovered I had forgotten to put the bacon on.

So, when I got a craving for a pastrami sammich the other day, I made this:

  • rye bread
  • Swiss cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • dill pickle slices
  • pepper
  • butter or margarine (optional)
Make a sandwich of everything except the butter or margarine. If you're grilling the sandwich in a skillet, melt the butter and grill on both sides until as brown and crispy as you like. If you're using a sandwich press, press that sandwich.

Okay, now, I make my own pickles and my own mayonnaise, I use fresh-ground pepper, and I buy middlin' expensive Swiss cheese and deli rye. All that probably goes a long way to making this a good sandwich. A REALLY good sandwich.

BONUS:  If you tell somebody you had a sandwich of Swiss cheese, pickles and mayonnaise, they're almost guaranteed to go Ewwww!

Making your own mayonnaise is super easy, if you have access to farm-fresh eggs and a food processor or blender.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/4 or more ground mustard to taste
  • 1/4 or more salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup salad oil (I use canola oil)
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
Put the first 5 ingredients into the blender and process for about 5 seconds, until it's good and blended. While the processor is running, in a thin stream about the thickness of a pencil lead, drizzle the remaining 3/4 cup of oil into the liquid. It will thicken, the more oil you put in! It's like magic!

You can fiddle with the lemon juice amount or substitute vinegar, vary the salad oil flavor, add spices or herbs, but we just like it the way I have it here, with maybe 1 1/2 TBS lemon juice to make it kind of punchy.


Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Main Entry: locavore
Part of Speech: n
Definition: a person who attempt to eat only foods grown locally
Example: Locavores grow their own food or buy foodstuffs grown within their region.
Etymology: 2006
Usage: cooking

Locavore: A word that didn’t exist even five years ago (in fact it doesn’t exist in my MS Word 2010 dictionary).

Quite a few of us on this blog, authors as well as our readers, like to think of ourselves as locavores. People who try to eat local food, in season.

The idea of eating locally, of supporting local farmers rather than importing foodstuffs from factory farms or agribusinesses thousands of miles away, is definitely an idea whose time has come.

Last weekend Prince Edward County, where I live, celebrated Taste! A festival of local eating (and drinking!). Other agricultural communities are also gathering to celebrate their rich farmland and crops. Wolfe Island, where we hold our annual Scene of the Crime Festival, has a series of events. And there are lots more.

I probably left this post a bit too late this year. Here in Canada most of our big agricultural events are held in September or the first week of October in the run-up to Thanksgiving. (Which is next weekend. Did you know that?)

Keep your eye out next year. Find out if there is a celebration in your area. Meet the people who grow and raise your food and say thanks.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Apple Time

It’s that apple time of year, when the farmer’s markets and groceries are overflowing with local apples of all varieties. No matter what your apple preference, there is something for you available right now. Don likes the good old Delicious variety, but I’m partial to Fuji or a good Gala. I like my apples sweet and crunchy. I look forward to the Honey Crisps every year, but some years the crop is spectacular, and some years, not so much. Same with Pink Ladies and Jazz. I’m not a fan of the tart apples, though I know you’re supposed to use tart varieties like Granny Smith for pies and candy apples. I’d rather just eat the caramel by itself if the apple is too pucker-making. A couple of days ago Don brought home a package of Kraft Caramels. I had a couple of Gala apples in the house, and the combination was so irresistible to him that rather than take the time to melt the caramels and coat the apples with it, he ended up just eating the two at the same time.

The apple is one of the most versatile of fruits, and in my humble opinion, few dishes, sweet or savory, do not benefit from the addition of an apple. I like to put an apple in vegetable soup. (The Indians know what they’re doing with mulligatawny soup.) I love that tiny hint of sweetness in with the savory.

In the world of my Alafair Tucker books, Alafair’s father-in-law owns a large apple orchard, so I write quite a bit about growing and using apples. In Hornswoggled, Alice describes her grandfather’s apple trees thus: “in the summer they make wagon loads of the tastiest little red apples. They’re tart and sweet all at once. Every restaurant and bakery and greengrocer in the county wants Grandpapa’s apples.” I’ve mentioned pies and cobblers, apple cakes, butters (my mother made apple butter to die for), jams and jellys, making pectin from apple peels, storing apples in barns, pressing cider.

But you certainly don’t have to do anything complicated with an apple to create a delicious and elegant mouth-pleaser. There is a very simple and very European desert I learned from Jacque Pepin which consists of sliced apples accompanied by walnut halves, water crackers, and a nice wedge of Stilton. The touch that makes this fruit and cheese plate special is that Jacque squeezes half a lemon over the apple slices, then sprinkles them with cracked black pepper.