Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dioramas: Magic in a Box

It is so great when kids get excited about reading. I am so pleased with the tremendous efforts made by my daughter's school to promote this excitement. One of the most recent events was a school-wide media fair.

Students were encouraged to do a project based on their favorite book. Calli chose to do a diorama. When I was a kid, dioramas just fascinated me. I could get lost looking at those magical works of art created inside of a shoebox. It was like looking inside those beautiful Easter eggs with a scene inside of them. If a potion would have been available, I think I would have drank it to become really tiny so that I could have become part of those scenes. Maybe I read to much Alice in Wonderland, but it sounded thrilling to me!

Calli chose (with, I promise, no coaxing from me) to do a scene from my upcoming book, Burton the Sneezing Cow. The project was termed "family involvement" so parents were allowed to assist. With my glue gun and Calli's expertise with modeling clay, I think we came up with a pretty cute project!

All of the projects were on display at the school's Media Fair that was held in the gym one evening. Tons of parents and grandparents turned out to see what the kids had done. It was a huge success. Kudos to Calli's school!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My New Fave Snackie

Kale chips. I heard about these several months ago, and I made something similar by accident when I roasted some bok choi and the greens part went all brittle, so this isn't exactly a Revelation From On High.

I suppose you can use any thin leafy green. You can even slice potatoes, sweet potatoes or other fat veg really thin and do this. But this post is about the kale.

  • fresh kale greens
  • oil
  • salt
Tear the greens off the stems in small-ish pieces. Toss the greens with just enough salted oil to lightly coat them. You can use different oils and add different herbs and spices for different flavors.

If you have time or can wait, bake them at 325 for 20 minutes or longer, until they dry out and crisp up. I baked mine at 450 for maybe 10 minutes, and they scorched.

Still good, though!

One caveat (caveat = warning, for those who don't happen to know -- my mind is FULL of things that other people don't know and don't care to know): These are as full of fiber as any other kind of kale, so don't overeat them. Word to the wise. Just sayin'.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, February 24, 2012

Light Cake Recipe

I want to try this. I wonder (do I dare to hope!) if this would taste anything like the Coca-Cola Cake from Cracker Barrel but with fewer calories....

Light Cake Recipe


1 box dry cake mix
12 oz can of diet soda
1 tub of light whipped topping


Do NOT follow the instructions on the boxed cake mix for this recipe. Instead:

Empty a regular boxed dry cake mix, any flavor*, into a medium bowl. Add a 12-oz can of diet soda, any flavor*. Using an electric hand mixer, mix the two ingredients very well. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake according to temperature and time recommendations on the box of the cake mix.

Allow the cake to cool completely. Then top with an entire tub of lite whipped topping. Cut into 12 squares. PERFECT light dessert.

*I recommend using diet 7-up or diet sprite for white or lemon cake mixes and diet Coke or diet Pepsi for chocolate cake mixes. You can also spruce up a white cake mix by adding fresh, sliced strawberries atop the whipped topping - a very light version of strawberry shortcake!

Number of Servings: 12

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Couple of Ash Wednesday Questions

This Ash Wednesday morning, I woke up 2 questions on my mind:

1) How does the baby get into the King Cake?

2) What will I give up for Lent?

I was wondering if the baby was baked into the King Cake, or was placed inside after baking. What perplexed me was how the cake could be baked without either melting the baby or releasing toxins. This morning, I sought to answer this question.

The first site I hit upon was a funny animation of the baby crawling into the King Cake. Knowing that could not actually happen, I took my search a bit further. Common sense was leading me to think that the baby was most likely inserted after baking. My thought was verified by a King Cake recipe I found. Turns out that baby is placed inside the cake while the cake is still warm. Then the cake is decorated, with special care taken to conceal the spot where the baby was inserted.

Onto question number two. Last year, I cut back on my Diet Coke consumption for Lent. As of yesterday afternoon my plan was to cut it back even more for this year's Lent. Then, I realized that there was a more toxic thing in my life than the Diet Coke. There is a negative situation that I have no control over. I worry about it, lose sleep over it and generally give it way too much time and energy. I am giving it up for Lent and putting it out of my mind.

So, I will spend the next forty days enjoying, but not completely cutting out my Diet Cokes and thinking about positive things! What are you giving up for Lent?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TV Doesn't ALWAYS Lie!

Last week, I posted about a product that disappointed me, but this week, I'm happy to share a happy post about a happy little product: PlateToppers.

I'm on the social network Klout, because one of the benefits is Perks: free stuff. One of my perks was a two-set of platetoppers from ... well ... PlateTopper.

They only work on dinner plates or larger, alas, though I understand they're planning to bring out more sizes.

Kids, the thing works. A platetopper is a hard plastic dome with a soft rim. You just press it against a plate and it forms a seal so strong you can pick the whole deal up by the handle (though they recommend you don't tempt fate by carrying it that way).

When you want to open it, you just lift the little tab at the edge of the rim and it comes off like it was never sealed.

When they come out with the other sizes, you can bet I'm going to buy some -- if I can't score some free ones. ;) I may buy more of the currently available size. They're great for sending carry-out plates of food to people who had to miss a party or storing stuff in the refrigerator or keeping ants out of the cookies or whatever.

There are much prettier pictures on the product's web site, but I thought my own picture is more appropriate here:
As you may be able to see, another use is to capture fingerprints from suspects who wouldn't give them willingly. If I were guilty of something, I would SO be busted.

This review has not been paid for. I was given a set of PlateToppers with the stipulation that I disclose the gift in any review I might do, but the gift was given with no stipulation on whether or not I did a review or what the content of that review would be.

In other words, I didn't have to say I liked it if I didn't, but I did, so I did.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Until Then...

I've been away, Dear Readers, did you notice? My husband has had all kinds of health problems over the past three years - kidney failure, heart trouble, and now an operation for Crohn's disease that has had him in the hospital twice in the past month.

I hoped it wouldn't come to this, but my family situation has become such that I fear it is necessary for me to take a leave of absence from Fatal Foodies until this situation resolves itself. I will miss all of my Foodies colleagues, but I shall be a faithful follower of this blog until the day comes I can return. My sixth Alafair Tucker Mystery, The Wrong Hill to Die On, is due out in October, and I hope I will have rejoined the cyberworld by then.

Many thanks to Gayle and the gang, and to you, Dear Reader, for letting me share my love of food and mysteries with you. So until we meet again, I hope you follow Julia Child's philosophy of life: Use the finest ingredients you can find, love the heck out of what you eat, and be happy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Veggie Pizza

Many, many moons ago, I worked in a law firm where we'd sometimes have "snack day." Most people would bring snacks into one of the conference rooms, and we would wander in and out of the snack room all day. It was a little like Thanksgiving Day, but it was with people you work with, you tried not to get caught socializing too much, you still had to get your work done, and there were no parades or football. Come to think of it, it was more like just having food at work. But, I digress.

One woman used to bring a veggie pizza every snack day, and I loved it. Here's the recipe:

Veggie Pizza

Place two cans of crescent rolls on a cookie sheet and press seams together. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden. Cool.

Mix 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, 1 package of dry Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing, and 2/3 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing until smooth. Spread on cooled crust. Chop any combo of fresh veggies (she usually used broccoli and cauliflower) and sprinkle on crust. Sprinkle with cheese.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Is chia the new acai? For a couple of years, it seemed that acai was the new little power-packed wonder food. Now, I am hearing all sorts of things about chia seeds. Turns out these tiny little morsels are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, I'm talking about the seeds that come with a Chia Pet. Who knew?

I'm thinking about getting some chia seeds to blend into a smoothie, sprinkle over a salad or stir into soup. My only fear is that, while I increase my omega-3 intake, I might someday sprout little, green, leafy sprigs from every pore!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not As Seen On TV

So I'm in the drug store, and I see this product for perfect boiled eggs without the hassle of peeling. I've torn up more eggs than a fox in the hen house, so I'm all over that product.

Here's the box, being all about how wonderful it is. Perfect! Eggs! Every! Time!

Okay, you assemble the product (never a good step, when cooking is involved), crack open an egg and pour it in through a little hole in the top. Are you thinking, "Recipe for broken yolks"? 'Cause it was. Then you screw in the plug (another phrase you probably don't want to hear in cookery).

And here's the product in use. At least one of the capsules leaked. If what you want is fluffy boiled egg-white foam that collapses into yuck when removed from the heat, this product is for you!

And here's the end result. If your idea of a perfect boiled egg is a thing that looks like a prosthetic device for making Conehead puppets, then I have a whole box of molds for you.

Highly recommended under, as comedian Tom Lehrer used to say, under a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances. Otherwise, not.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine's Day for Two

Last week was all about Valentine's Day for the children. Today it's about a romantic dinner for two.

Better Homes & Gardens Magazine has a slideshow of twenty-five desserts for two (complete with recipes) like the individual brownie trifle pictured. Click on the link above to check them out.

Busy Cooks has complete menus available at their site, including a Make Ahead Valentine's Menu, an Indulgent Valentine's Day Menu, and and Inexpensive Valentine's Day Menu. They even have an Easy Crock Pot Valentine's Day Dinner! You guys should know by now, I like my crock pot. ;-)

Rachel Ray has a selection of romantic dinners, which includes appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hummus on the Hoof

Originally, "on the hoof" meant "a live animal". If you paid a rancher X dollars for Y pounds of meat, you needed to know if that was Y pounds after it was dressed out or Y pounds while it was still alive, with all its inedible bits still on and adding to the weight.

It has come to mean "without preparation", as in, "I forgot I had to do an oral book report today, so I just got up and did it on the hoof."

In the case of the title of this post, it means.... Well, here's a recipe for hummus, given to me by writer friend T. Lee Harris:

Garlic Lovers' Hummus
By T. Lee Harris
  • 2 C. (One 15oz can) chick peas, drained
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed (Less or more to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp. (Approx.) tahini, (sesame paste) *
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Put chick peas, garlic, herbs and olive oil in food processor and pulse
to make a paste. Add lemon juice and process thoroughly until smooth.
Add more lemon juice a little at a time if the mixture is too dry. When
it's well mixed and smooth, add a little of the tahini at a time until
the hummus thickens to the desired texture. Add salt and pepper to
taste. Place in a bowl, garnish with chopped onion, chive, cilantro or
the like and you're ready to go.

* Tahini = 4 parts sesame seeds to 1/4-1/2 part sesame oil
(scant 3 Tbs sesame seeds + 1 tsp sesame oil = approximately 3 Tbs)

I didn't have any tahini and I didn't have a lemon, but I had half a lime. I also have sage growing right outside my back door, and I like it, too. I'm not madly keen about hummus, on the whole, to tell you the truth, but we do like chick peas. So this is what I did:

Hummus On The Hoof
By Miss Lazybutt
  • 1 can chick peas, drained
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and squozerized squishened water pressed out of it
  • 1 teaspoon or so of garlic-infused olive oil
  • dash of sesame oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • fresh sage leaves or dried sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oils. Put everything but the lime juice into the pan and stir until everything is coated with oil and hot. Put into a bowl and dress with lime juice and salt and pepper.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vicki's Meat Loaf

Nothing says a cold winter’s night than meat loaf. Here’s my take on it.

Vicki’s Glazed Meat Loaf

Serves 4 – 6.

4 slices of white bread, crumbled
½ cup milk
3 garlic cloves
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1) Add milk to bread and let soak for 10 minutes
2) Chop garlic and onions. Add chopped egg, salt and pepper, mustard
3) Mix garlic mixture into breadcrumbs
4) Add beef and pork and mix until combined
5) Form meat mixture into an oval about 1 ½ inches thick
6) Place on baking sheet
7) Combine ketchup, Worchester sauce together
8) Brush ketchup mixture over the top of the meat loaf
9) Bake at 425 until cooked through (about 45 minutes)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Valentine's Day Cupcakes

St. Valentine's Day will be here before you know it, so I thought we'd better start getting prepared. If you have to take cupcakes to a school party or other function, Valentine's Day cupcakes are pretty simple. I love how the ones on the left are decorated to look like conversation hearts.

Also, a company called Roundabouts Cupcake Sleeves makes wraparounds for cupcakes that look like the Valentine cards you find for kids in stores.

To make an elegant cupcake (maybe a white cupcake with a red rose in the center), you can buy pre-made icing flowers at Wilton's online store or at any number of other suppliers. Often grocery stores or craft stores will carry them at this time of the year.

Another fun idea if your child takes part in candy or card exchanges at school is to make your own candy wrappers. At Alenka's Printables, there are some adorable wrappers made to go over existing regular sized and miniature candy bars. You can edit the wrappers, and they're free!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine Book Tour

I am so excited for next week! It is my Valentine Book Tour. Here's how the week will go:

Monday, February 6-Speaking to the Monday Club @ the Johnson City Library

Tuesday, February 7-Appearing on Daytime TriCities @ 10, then popping over to Blowfish Emporium in Bristol, TN from 11:30 till 2:00

Wednesday, February 8- Signing @ Madagascar Coffee Company in Kingsport, TN from 10 to 1.

Friday, February 10-Signing @ The Family Bakery in Gate City, VA from 10

to 1.

Saturday, February 11-Signing @ Southern Treasure in Gray, TN from 10 till 1.