Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Seeds! Seeeds! SEEEEEEDZZZ!!!

One of the Happy Times has come: The day we get our first shipment of seeds from Pinetree Garden. We went hog-wild this year, and only the knowledge that it'll be Charlie doing all the hard work keeps me from putting all we bought into the compost and hoping for the best.

Here's what we got:

Parisian carrots. Supposed to be "round, bright orange carrots with a mild, pleasant flavor". Since our soil is so rich, Charlie says, that we can grow rocks in it, we need root crops that grow on the stubby side. These sound and look perfect.

New Zealand Spinach substitute. Looks and tastes and cooks like spinach, but can tolerate hotter weather.

Mache greens. Whatever they are. But the catalog said they have a nutty taste. That always sounds good to me.

Chard. Never had it, that I know of, but this looked good and promises "a nice, sweet flavor".

Lettuce mix. I'm always up for baby lettuce.

Italian Parsley. 'Nuff said.

Rapa Di Milano Coletto Turnip. Greens also edible. I am hooked on turnips, and something you can eat all of appeals to my sense of thrift.

German Giant Radish. I detest radishes, but somebody told me I should try them roasted, so Imma try it. Besides, this claims to be mild, and it's the heat I don't like. Growing these mostly for #3 daughter, who LOVES radishes.

Little Tyke Cucumber. Doesn't that sound cute?

Burpees Golden Beet. I detest beets even more than I do radishes. Beets taste like dirt. Golden beets probably taste like yellow dirt. But I'll give 'em a try. Growing these for Mom, a beet fan from way back.

Eggplant Black Beauty. Now we're talkin'.

Two kinds of snow peas? In God's name, WHY? Oh, I see: Charlie ordered one kind from the regular part of the catalog and I ordered one from the French part. Well, we'll be up to our eyeballs in snow peas.

Lima Beans. Mmmmmm.... Yes, Little Miss Picky LOVES lima beans.

And these are just the Spring crops! We are eating local and eating GOOD!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quick Italian Cream Cake

Holly Clegg's latest Trim & Terrific cookbook is called Too Hot in the Kitchen, and she offers this sample recipe on her site that my husband would love. His birthday is in May, and I'm thinking this just might be his birthday cake.

Quick Italian Cream Cake

1(18.25-ounce) box Butter Pecan Cake mix

1/3 cup canola oil

2 eggs

2 egg whites

1 1/4 cups water

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 cup flaked coconut

Cream Cheese Icing (recipe follows)

Toasted coconut and pecans, optional (about 2 tablespoons each)


1. Preheat oven 350°F. Coat three 9-inch pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In mixing bowl, beat together cake mix, oil, eggs, egg whites, water and coconut extract. Stir in pecans and coconut.

3. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake 12-15 minutes, until tops spring back when touched. Cool 10 minutes and turn out onto cooling racks.

4. Frost layers and sides with Cream Cheese Icing (see recipe) and sprinkle with toasted coconut and pecans, if desired.

Cream Cheese Icing

The ultimate rich icing.

1 (8-ounce) package reduced- fat cream cheese

3 tablespoons butter

1 (16-ounce) box confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add confectioners sugar, mixing until light. Add vanilla.

Food Facts

Calories 305

Calories from fat 38%

Fat 13g

Saturated Fat 4g

Cholesterol 34mg

Sodium 240mg

Carbohydrate 45g

Dietary Fiber 0g

Sugars 35g

Protein 3g

Dietary Exchanges: 3 other carbohydrate, 2 1/2 fat

For more of Holly's recipes, visit her at http://www.hollyclegg.com. All her recipes feature the food facts option you see below the recipe.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roasted Veggie Lunch

Most days, I try and do all veggies for lunch. When I want something heartier than salad or soup, I love to have a plate of seasoned, roasted veggies.

This plate shows roasted baby spinach, potatoes and cherry berry tomatoes. About any vegetable is good to roast.

Also, if I had used sweet potatoes, my meal would have been healthier and more filling. But, I had these potatoes left over from making baked fries for my family the night before.

Here's how I do my roasted veggies:

potatoes-Slice skin-on potatoes into strips. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and Kosher salt.

baby spinach-Prepare baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay spinach leaves on baking sheet. Spray leaves with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.

cherry berry tomatoes-Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and basil.

Roast all of these in about a 4oo degree oven. Put the potatoes in first, then the cherry berries and the spinach last. That is the order in which they will finish cooking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

True History of Wild Rice

One day, two Indians were paddling a canoe across a shallow lake and up a slow-moving stream.

Indian #1: Dammit! I told you not to come this way! Every damn time we come this way, the canoe gets full of all this damn grass seed! It gets all over me.

Indian #2: So what? It's just grass seed. Brush it off.

Indian #1: It gets everywhere! Look! It's all over the venison haunch! Yuck!

Indian #2: Wash it off, eh?

[author's note: This did not happen in Canada. People in Canada don't really say, "eh?" all the time. This Indian just talks like that.]

Indian #1: Easier said than done, buddy boy. Last time we came this way, I thought I had it all washed off, and it got into the stew and got cooked and we actually ate it.

Indian #2: How was it?

Indian #1: How do you think it was? It tasted like freaking grass seed!


Indian #1: You think that's funny?

Indian #2: No, I was just thinking: I bet if we scraped this stuff up and put it in a nice pouch and called it something fancy, like ....

Indian #1: Premium Grass Seed.

Indian #2: No, something foodie. Like Gourmet Grass.

Indian #1: Tastee Seed.

Indian #2: Wild Grass.

Indian #1: Nothing grassy. Nobody would deliberately eat grass.

Indian #2: I'd eat it in a brownie.

Indian #1: You ain't right. Anyway, call it ... Wild Rice. Wild Rice, yeah. So then what?

Indian #2: Then we sell it to the white man for big bucks. Tell them all about how difficult it is to gather. How we go out in the still of the morning, with the call of the birds and the presence of the Great Spirit, yada, yada, yada.

Indian #1: Bro, you are brilliant! We're rich!
~   ~   ~

Guess who had wild rice for supper last night? Guess who didn't like it?

I pan-roasted some portobello mushrooms, put in the wild rice and water, some salt, carrots, celery, onions and a bit of garlic-infused olive oil. Would have been delicious, if that damn grass seed hadn't gotten into it.

Do you like wild rice? How do you cook it?

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Island Food

By Vicki
My children do get around. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my trip to South Sudan to visit eldest daughter. Right now I am in Turks and Caicos visiting youngest daughter who is working here on a contract.

What a fabulous Island. Small and quiet. This has got to be the perfect writers retreat. Except I won’t be writing today, I’m off to the beach.
We went out snorkelling and diving for conch. Here’s a picture of me and my catch. The boat captain then made a delicious salad of the conch for us to eat on the beach.


The next day we took the Ferry over to Middle and North Caicos Islands (totally unspoiled, barely inhabited). We had lunch at Daniels CafĂ©, a perfect beach shack. I had freshly caught snapper, shown here. Youngest daughter doesn’t eat fish. Hard to believe, isn’t it, particularly for someone living here. She had fried chicken, which she pronounced as excellent.

It's a tough life, but someone has to do it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Foodie Calendars

Am I hopelessly old fashioned because I still love to put up a new wall calendar every year? It's a fresh start every January 1. A new year, a new calendar. As I was taking down my2011 calendar and replacing it with my pristine 2012 calendar, I suddenly noticed that thetwo had something in common. They were both food-themed. I stood back and pondered for a moment, rubbing my chin as I remembered the calendar of the past years. That is when I realized that four of the calendars of the last five years were food-themed, and that was all I clearly remembered. It could very well be that I have been buying food calendars for decades. I wouldn't be surprised.

I love looking at beautiful photographs of food, and nothing fulfills that desire for yummy beauty like a big old calendar. I tend to keep calendars for two or three years, especially if they gave me a lot of pleasure over the year. Here is a taste of the wall art that kept me happy for the last three years, Dear Reader.

What do your wall calendars say about you?

My 2012 calendar is A Year of Healthy Living: Recipes and Tips for Your Health and Well Being, by Ann Lovejoy, Amber Lotus Publishing Feb photo by Guy Bouchet-Cardinale cabbage and bacon in a copper pot on an old stove next to a pot of soup. Cover photo by Jan Vermeer.

2011 was Vintage Gourmet, Classic Cover Art from Gourmet Magazine. Copyright Conde Nast Archive. Asgard Press, Wilmington DE Cover by Henry Stahlhart. May 1948 also by Henry Stahlhart.

2010 the Organic Kitchen Garden, also by Ann Lovejoy, who is obviously a woman after my own heart. All photography by Robin Bachtler Cushman Amber Lotus Publishing. “Beautiful Photographs of kitchen gardens and the produce the offer, including recipes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crock Pot Lasagna

I have to admit I was skeptical that this would turn out well. I mean, lasagna in a crock pot? Who knew? Well, whoever came up with this recipe knew. All it takes is a little preparation in the morning, and you have a terrific lasagna waiting for you when you get home.

Crock Pot Lasagna


1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 teaspoons garlic)
1 lb. jar spaghetti sauce
8 ounces fresh (no boil) lasagna sheets
1 lb mozzarella cheese
2 oz Parmesan cheese
1/4 c milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper to taste


Fry beef, onion, and garlic in pan until lightly browned. Pour off any excess oil. Add spaghetti sauce and heat through. Combine milk, egg, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Place about 1/4 meat mixture into the crock pot and spread evenly. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets, cut to size. Top this with 1/3 cheese sauce. Repeat layers. Cook on low for four to six hours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Go Big Orange!

I know a dish is good when everyone asks for the recipe. That happened to me last weekend when I made my Big Orange Cupcakes for a baby shower. The name comes from the orange flavor and the fact that mine are served in University of Tennessee Big Orange country. Our blood runs orange around here, ya know!
I use a box of orange flavored cake mix. There are two variations I make to the basic ingredients: 1) 1 1/3 cups of water becomes 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of fresh sqeezed orange juice. 2) I whisk my eggs before they are added to the batter.

For the frosting:
1) Stir together canned buttercream and cream cheese frostings. 2) Add about 1 teaspon each of orange extract and fresh squeezed orange juice. 3) Add about 2 teaspoons of orange zest. 4) Stir frosting ingredients until well combined.

Garnish: pieces of orange slice candies

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buttering Parsnips

Fair words butter no parsnips, the saying goes, meaning that flattery will get you nothing. The earliest use of that saying, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is 1639.

I buttered no parsnips, either, until this year, because I am, as you may know, Little Miss Picky. In my continual pursuit of more culinary delight, however, I bit the bullet and the parsnip and tried one.

Oh, how I rue the many years (never mind how many) I've lived in ignorance of the bliss of this delicious vegetable! Vegetarians in Paradise tried to tell me, and now I know they spoke the truth! (The picture accompanying this post is from that site.)

Parsnips look like albino carrots, and they taste kind of carroty, too, which isn't surprising, since they're in the carrot family.

Peel them, dice or slice them, boil them until tender and then do, oh do, butter them. You'll be glad you did.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

As I promised last week, I’d like to tell you about a wonderful book I just finished savoring; A Homemade Life, by Seattle author Molly Wizenberg, who is also the author of the fabulous foodie blog Orangette. I took a long time to read it, and in fact read parts of it two and three times, it was that enjoyable. Molly’s book is just the kind of thing I enjoy reading, and that is a loving tribute to the people, places, and food that make life worth living; just what I always want to put into my own books.

She begins with her father, who helped imbue her with a love of food (as did mine), and how his death set her on a different life course. She writes of her love of Paris, the chocolate shops, the cheese, the outdoor markets, all of which inspired her to being writing the blog Orangette, which soon developed an international following. It was through her blog that Molly began a correspondence with a foodie who lived completely across the country in New York. Their email correspondence became a long-distance romance, and finally led to a meeting, an engagement, and a marriage. And plenty of delightful eats in the meantime.

One thing that made me pick up Molly’s book is the fact that she grew up in Oklahoma City, and I’m always interested in what a fellow Oklahoman has to say. Each chapter ends with a recipe, mostly simple and creative dishes that make you long to run out right now and buy a vanilla bean or a head of fennel or red cabbage. I particularly like the Frisee with Ham, Eggs, and Mustard Vinaigrette. Some are so rich and luscious that you can hardly read them without drooling, such as her recipe for Coeur a la Creme with Raspberry Puree, or the Vanilla Bean Cake with Glazed Oranges. Or the Hoosier Pie (OMG!)

As I noted previously, Molly’s book has reminded me that sometimes the very best, and often the most meaningful recipes are the simplest. One can create great dishes out of complicated, startling, and unusual combinations of ingredients. But sometimes, one or two perfect, quality ingredients are all you need to create a masterpiece, like her spring salad with avocado and feta.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the Thirteenth Foodie News

I'm not going to gross you out with some of the nasty foods I found "celebrating" Friday the 13th. Instead, here are links to other strange foodie news.

Famous Death Row Last Meals

More Famous Last Meals

Ten Dangerous and Deadly Foods

13 Creepy Cakes

Enjoy this lucky day!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The New Girl Scout Cookie

Drum roll please! This year, there is a new Girl Scout cookie. It is called Savannah Smiles.

We all got to taste the new cookie a few weeks ago at one of my daughter's Girl Scout meetings. I can describe the cookie as being sort of like a Danish Wedding Cookie with a tart lemon flavor.

Having tried all of the Girl Scout cookies, my very favorite is Thank U Berry Munch. It is filled with white chocolate fudge and cranberries. I will be ordering several boxes, all to help my little Girl Scout, of course. Oh, the things we must do for our kids!

If a little Girl Scout knocks on your door, or approaches you at your local retail outlet, remember that buying a box of cookies is supporting a great cause. If you live near me, my Calli would be happy to hook you up with some cookies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MORE Carrots?!?

Thanks, Vicki, for your post yesterday, giving your recipe for spicy carrot salad. I'll call off my boys. Sorry about the horse head. What thread count do you want the new sheets?

So I'll make you a side dish you can't refuse: honey glazed carrots. We had these the other night, and gobbled them up.

  • carrots (I used fresh "baby" carrots)
  • honey
  • brown sugar
  • butter or margarine
  • salt and pepper
  • water
Put all ingredients in a pot, using enough water to cover the carrots by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until carrots are tender and all the water has evaporated, stirring constantly at the end to keep the carrots from scorching and the sauce from caramelizing. Or let it, if that's the way you like it.

In real life, I didn't add the pepper until it was on my plate, since I love pepper on these and my husband does not.

The secret to a happy marriage is knowing what to add to a dish after it's on your personal plate.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, January 7, 2012

African Spiced Carrot Salad

Due to overwheming popular demand (thanks Marian) I have managed to locate the recipe for the carrot salad I made when I was in Juba, South Sudan. Herewith...

Vicki's African Spiced Carrot Salad

14 carrots
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp each salt, cumin, cinnamon, paprika
pinch cayenne
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

Diagonally cut carrots into 1/2 inch thick slices. In large pot of boiling water, cover and cook carrots until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Chill under cold water, drain.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; fry shallots and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in salt, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and cayenne pepper: fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots and lemon juice; toss to coat. pour into salad bowl; stir in coriander.

Carrots can be served warm or refrigerated and served cold.

We could not locate any corrander so served without. I am sure it adds a nice touch though.

Simple Dishes

I have been savoring a wonderful book over the past week, A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg, she of the fabulous foodie blog Orangette. I have been reading slowly, but I’ll be finished soon and I hope to offer a review next week. But before that, I must say that Molly’s book has reminded me that sometimes the very best, and often the most meaningful recipes are the simplest. One can create great dishes out of complicated, startling and unusual combinations of ingredients. But sometimes, one or two perfect, quality ingredients are all you need to create a masterpiece.

My mother used to can her homegrown tomatoes, which were so wonderful that we often made a light summer supper out of a bowl of canned tomatoes. The chili that my grandmother served in her cafe consisted of nothing more than ground beef and chili powder. I love chili of all kinds, but I have never had anything as good as my grandma's.

My husband's favorite birthday cake is simple white cake with white icing and sliced bananas between the layers.

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.

Another simple and delicious fruit concoction is poached pears. Any way you poach pears is good, but here is a quick idea:
Halve and core two firm pears and poach them in grape juice (I like sweet purple grape juice, like Welches), then serve them hot with a dollop of marscapone. Or how about poaching the pears in a lovely dry red wine, filling the hollow with sour cream, and a dash of ground clove?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Great Busy Mom Dinner

Hi, guys:

I'm sorry I've been appearing sporadically at best these past few weeks here on Fatal Foodies as well as on Facebook and everywhere that isn't Tallulah Falls, the fictional setting for my embroidery mystery series written as Amanda Lee. The latest book in the series, called Thread on Arrival, is due on January 15 (it was actually due Dec. 1, and I got an extension).

I've been so immersed in my writing, in fact, that last night I ran into a friend while I was waiting for my son to come out of the gym. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "I thought you guys had church on Wednesday nights."

"Honey," she said gently, "it's Thursday."

Well, maybe so, but it was Wednesday in Tallulah Falls. Still is, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, I made this meal the other night and it went over really well. I felt like a super multi-tasker! I'm going to call it Busy Mom Dinner, and you can add whatever variations appeal to you.

Busy Mom Dinner
Serves Four

Put four frozen, boneless chicken breasts in a crock pot. Cover the chicken with two small cans or one large can of cream of chicken soup. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 5 or 6 hours. About an hour before you get ready to eat, take the lid off the crock pot and add about half a bag of No-Yolk egg noodles and enough chicken stock to cover the noodles.

While the egg noodles were cooking, I made crescent rolls and steamed a bag of corn in the microwave. We had a delicious dinner that required very little time to prepare.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Makes me Hee Haw

Hee Haw is not only the name of a popular television show from years past, it is also a southern synonym for laugh. The down-home sarcasm of Celia Rivenbark has me Hee Hawing like a hyena!

Rivenbark is the author of We're Just Like You, Only Prettier and Bless Your Heart, Tramp. Having read those two book, I am now reading Stop Dressing you Six-Year-Old Like a Skank.

My husband bought the book as one of my Christmas gifts. He just LOVED asking the salesperson where this title was shelved!

Celia Rivenbark is a columnist who writes hilarious essays about things to which most can relate. Subjects range from pop culture to parenting. Rivenbark writes from a point of view that is uniquely souther, but universally funny. No matter where you're from, her books will make you hee haw!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gluten-Free Party Snack

Please tell me the party season is over for a while. It is? Oh, thank you!

I love parties and I love party food, but enough already. A new facet (for me) to the challenge of making food for a crowd is the increasing number of friends and family with food allergies or restrictions.

Although this recipe wouldn't be considered clean for the strictest vegans, it's gluten-free and, really, mostly vegan.

These are like Muddy Buddies, but they don't have peanut butter in them (peanut allergies for some folks), so I call them:

Snowy Buddies
  • Rice Chex
  • Corn Chex
  • candied pineapple, cut or broken in little bits
  • chocolate chips
  • walnuts - omit, in case of walnut allergies
  • pecans - omit, in case of pecan allergies
  • white (vanilla) chocolate bark candy squares
  • powdered sugar
Mix everything but candy squares and powdered sugar. Melt candy, being careful not to scorch it. Pour over mixture, stirring to coat everything thoroughly. Add powdered sugar, stirring with hands to coat everything. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

If you want to get fatal about it, of course, just pulverize some of the nuts your character (you know I'm talking about characters in stories, right?) is allergic to and mix the powder in with the sugar.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes