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