Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paradise Indeed

We've been rhapsodizing over all the fresh food we get during the summer, in spite of the terrible heat and drought. Summer is the time to feast on fruits and vegetables, and the bounty makes it easy to slide into vegetarianism or even veganism without even noticing.

Since I've had various friends and relations of the animal-product-free persuasion for some years now, I've found several web sites I like to consult.

One of my favorites, to which I return again and again, is Vegetarians in Paradise. If you want information, they have information. If you want resources, they have resources. If you want recipes, they got 'em!

They're also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Go! Read! Eat!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 30, 2012


People think zombies are going to take over the world. I have something even more startling - giant veggies!

That's right. Spuds that weigh hundreds of pounds (imagine the French fries!), cabbages that are larger than a man and tomatoes that rival those from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (not that I saw that movie but I heard about it from a friend).

Imagine if these veggies ever became aware of what was going on - that they were about to be shredded, diced, chopped, fried and boiled. They probably wouldn't take it lying down!

I have a link that will take you to a page where you can see these enormous veggies for yourself:


I also have real-life evidence. I took this picture of a farmer holding a huge sweet potato that weighed in at almost 20 pounds!

And this wasn't fully grown!

You scoff and say you'd just eat it, right? Let's talk about that.

How would you cook something that big? And then how would you eat it - especially if it didn't want you to?

It would take a lot of butter and gravy at Thanksgiving to eat that bad boy!

What makes veggies grow so big?

No one is really sure. Some farmers think it has something to do with when they plant them (full moon, no moon, first Friday after the fifth ring of Saturn). Others think it has something to do with their proximity to a nuclear power plant. We may never know the truth.

A word of advice: Never grow a veggie BIGGER than yourself. It might just eat you instead!

Joyce Lavene
Renaissance Faire Mysteries
Treacherous Toys - September 4

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Omelet

How about a quick and easy summer omelet recipe courtesy of Cooking Light magazine? It incorporates veggies you might be getting out of your garden right about now. :-)


2/3 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large egg whites
1 large egg
2 tablespoons shredded smoked Gouda cheese


Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add corn, zucchini, onions, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove from heat.

 Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/8 teaspoon salt, water, pepper, egg whites, and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Coat pan with cooking spray. Pour egg mixture into pan; cook until edges begin to set (about 2 minutes). Gently lift the edges of omelet with a spatula, tilting pan to allow uncooked egg mixture to come in contact with pan. Spoon corn mixture onto half of omelet; sprinkle corn mixture with cheese. Loosen omelet with a spatula, and fold in half over corn mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until the cheese melts. Carefully slide omelet onto a plate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh no! NOT the Coffee Maker!

We had some BAD storms last night. After a restless night of being awaken by lightening, thunder, rain, wind and a frightened child; my morning cup of coffee was going to be a welcomed indugence.
So, I flipped the switch on my coffee maker, and NOTHING! All I got was a blink, faint flashing from the controls and then it was dead. I immediately began trying various outlets, thinking that perhaps a circuit had been blown in the storm. After realizing that everything else on my counter worked, I knew that it was time to throw my beloved, trusted coffee maker away.
Now, I have two decisions. I am seriously thinking about cutting back on my coffee; starting today. I hate it that I am one of those people who feel like they cannot ever go without a cup of coffee. This plan to possibly give up coffee for the day is driven more by the fact that, after several days of going out of town, and running around to do errands; I seriously need an errand-free day. Since I know that I have to do some errands tommorrow, it is kind of silly for me to run out just to get a new coffee maker. Or, is it? I may suffer some major headaches from withdrawal! Will a pounding  headache just have me replacing coffee with a bunch of Diet Coke or tea?  
My second decision is, what kind of coffee maker should I buy. Since it is something I use everyday (unless I cut back on coffee today) I do not care to splurge a little. Or, should I do a simple French press? Any suggestions?
As my closing remark, I know that I am so lucky to suffer no more storm damage than a destroyed coffeemaker. My prayers go out to those who did not fare as well.         

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CSA Redux

In May, I did a post called CSA - Special Veggies Unit. Here's what I said:

No, that wasn't a typo. Although, this being a web site about food and mystery, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the difference between CSI and CSA is a single letter.

A CSA, in case you don't know, stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's a form of gambling, as are all forms of agriculture.

One locates a CSA member, one pays a lump sum up front (literal seed money), and one receives a share of the harvest. Sort of like sharecropping in reverse. The payoff usually begins in June, but we had a mild winter so ours has already begun.

We had some divine strawberries this month. We're getting kale, chard, broccoli, green onions and butterhead lettuce. All through the summer and into the fall, we'll have a variety of fruits, vegetables, fresh eggs and -- and this is the best part -- we know not what else. And so I bring the subject around to mystery. :)

If you live in the continental United States and you want to locate a CSA in your area (it might be too late to buy a share this year, but it might not be), visit the Community Supported Agriculture site. There's a search area in the right-hand sidebar.

If you live outside the continental United States and you know of a CSA site for your area, please leave the link in the comments for the benefit of future visitors.


We've since had scorching heat and a pitiless drought. We got a couple of turnips since that enthusiastic post. This was our latest delivery. This was half a share.

The family apologized to us, which nearly broke my heart. As if they could help the weather! Here's hoping things get better as the summer progresses.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eating from the farmer's market

I love to stop at roadside farmer's markets over the summer and into the fall. This is the freshest produce you will ever find, short of picking them out of your own garden.

Right now, my tomatoes are growing but not quite ready to eat. The farmer's market just up the street has plenty of fresh tomatoes from gardeners and farmers around me. There are also peppers, sweet corn, watermelon and cataloupe. Later, as summer wanes, there will be pumpkins, peanuts and cabbage.

People love to gather in these open air markets and talk about what's going on locally. There's no talk here of who is running for president or the war in Afghanistan. We talk about work being done at the school or the bridge that's closed on Hwy. 601. There's talk that the pizza place will shut down in the fall and move to the next town over.

And will Marvin Jenkins grow a ribbon-winning turnip this year? Last year's was more than 5 pounds!

It's a different way to shop for food. I know it would be limiting, but I wish we could buy all of our food this way. No stickers to tell you where the food came from - the woman who grew the purple hybrid tomatoes is standing right next to them. She'll probably even tell you how she did it.

Joyce Lavene
Twitter: @author54
Treacherous Toys Coming up September 4!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Grilled Pizza?

I'd never thought of pizza as something to "throw on the grill" before; but after seeing this post, I became intrigued and decided to check this concept out a little more. Apparently, if you have a pizza grilling stone, you're good to go.

An About.com site dedicated to grilling and barbecue declares that there's no better way to cook pizza than on the grill. Their list of top-ten grilled pizzas include: Greek, feta and tomato, pepperoni, Italian sausage and bell pepper, pita pizzas, spicy sausage, pulled pork, Philly-style white pizza, Southwestern, and Mexican.

Food Network has Mario Batali's Grilled Pizza Margarita recipe, and it also has Emeril Lagasse's lobster, goat cheese, and scallion California-style grilled pizza recipe.

Have you ever grilled a pizza? If so, how did it turn out?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Quest to be Old Mother Hubbard

I am letting my cupboard go bare. Unlike Old Mother Hubbard, a bare cupboard will be a welcome sight to me. Since our vacation is later this month, I am trying to cook from the food we have in the cabinets, refrigerator, garden and freezer rather than buying lots of stuff at the grocery store. That way, I will not have food expiring while we are gone. So far, trips to the store have mostly been for things like milk and eggs. Also, if I plan a meal based on an ingredient that is on-hand, I have picked up what I need to make the recipe. For example, I bought a can of tomatoes and green chilies, taco shells, refried beans, and taco seasoning when I went to the store yesterday. Using cooked ground beef from my freezer, cheese and sour cream from the refrigerator and garden tomatoes; I will serve slow-cooker tacos with toppings. Best of all, yesterday's shopping resulted in a bill that was only about $15. The recipe will make enough to feed my family for 2-3 meals. Realizing how much this can cut down on wasted food and our grocery budget, I think I will try a modified version of this practice on a more regular basis. For one week out of each month, I will only buy thing like milk and eggs, forcing myself to use food I already have. Here is my slow-cooker taco recipe: 1 lb cooked ground beef 1 can refried beans 1 can diced tomatoes and green chilies 1 packet taco seasoning 2 cups of cheddar, monteray jack or Velveeta cheese Combine everything but cheese. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Stir in cheese during last 30 minutes of cooking time. Use for nachos, hard tacos or soft tacos. This also makes a nice dip for tortilla chips.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Death By Chocolate

I'm told that the term "Death By Chocolate" is trademarked, which is too bad for whoever holds the trademark, since people use it all the time. It's kind of like trying to trademark "This End Up" or "Hot Enough For Ya?"

Death By Chocolate has become a catch-all term, a title given to any number of desserts that have three qualities in common:
  • super-rich
  • super-chocolaty
  • super-caloric
They're usually super-messy, too, all gooey and drippy and oozy and luscious....

Perhaps Captain Hook of the musical Peter Pan put it best when he said:

The Boys, who have no mother sweet,
No one to show them their mistake,
Won't know it's dangerous to eat,
so damp, and rich a cake!!!

But Death By Chocolate doesn't have to be a cake. It can be a pudding, a cheesecake, a pie, an ice cream, or a combination of any or all of these. Or it can be a book.

I've just bought DEATH BY CHOCOLATE by Julie Anne Lindsey. I mean, listen to the blurb:

Ruby Russell has reached her limit.  When she discovers her hipster husband has a dirty little secret, she whips him up a Viagra-infused-chocolate mousse punishment, but in the morning, her husband’s a stiff.  Armed with a lifetime of crime show reruns and Arsenic and Old Lace on DVD, Ruby and her best friend Charlotte try to lay low until after Ruby’s son’s wedding, but a nosey therapist, meddling minister and local news reporter are making it very difficult to get away with murder.

And look at that cover! Doesn't that just look like something our own mascot, Sugar, would love? How could I resist that book, eh? Head over to Laurie's Non-paranormal Thoughts and Reviews for an excerpt and character interview, and then join me in stalking being a respectful fan of Julie Anne.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 16, 2012

Have you been conquered by Mexican food?

Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America

I sometimes feel that I've been conquered by Mexican food, although I still eat ketchup on everything. I think I could eat some form of Mexican food at every meal.

So I was surprised and pleased to find this book by Gustavo Arellano which talks about the history of Mexican food and how it crossed the border.

This book came out in April of this year and is an interesting read. Arellano is a nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author. He takes the reader through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, including Taco Bell!

According to the book, Americans have slowly been taken over by Mexican fare since the 1880s, as they are inundated with chili, tamales, tacos, enchiladas, tequila, and many other foods from south of the border. we seem to be happy as each decade brings more and different types of spicy Mexican eats to us.

We consume billions of dollars worth of this food every year. Arellano's books explains how this came about and has some funny anecdotes to go with it.

I enjoyed reading this, and I think you will too, if you enjoy Mexican food!

Happy Summer Taco Eating!

Joyce Lavene
Twitter: @author54

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pastry Live

Pastry Live is scheduled for August 3-5, 2012 at The Retreat at Perimeter Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. Competitions include Chocolatier of the Year, the National Showpiece Championship, the Art of the Cake competition, the Signature Plated Dessert competition, and the Student Chocolate Challenge. There are also seminars available to help chefs hone their skills.

For more information, see Pastry Live's webpage, follow them on Facebook, and/or follow them on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Whoa! Don't let the Kiddies Watch.

As one of the few people in the world who have not read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or its two follow-ups, I was beginning to feel as though I had been left out of some huge club. Everywhere I went, people were talking about the trilogy. Because I like to read, many assumed that I was familiar with the books. 
Most told me that they liked the books, but said that the intensity of the writing combined with tremendous amounts of information and detail made them a somewhat difficult read. I do not think that anyone meant to say that they were difficult in a way that meant "not worth reading", but difficult as in "takes some concentration."   
These days, I hardly have an uninterruped thought. Taking on a lengthy and deep novel is something I might consider after my youngest gets out of the toddler stage. By that time being in the "I've Read  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" club would be so passe. I know,  it is already passe, because everyone I know is now reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
I could no longer put off my curiosity about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I took a shameful shortcut and watched the movie. It was a great, get-in-your-mind-and-not-let-you-sleep kind of story. The story was awesome, but the movie had some uber-graphic scenes. If you take the shortcut, and watch the movie, be sure the kids are nowhere nearby! Some of the depictions are seriously disturbing.
Now, I do want to know what happens in the next two books of the trilogy. I cannot decide how I want to find out what happens. The movie might not be out for a while. So, do I tackle the book or wait for the movie?    

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tomatoes? Evil? TOMATOES?

I can't imagine anybody not loving tomatoes, but some just don't like them. Some people like tomato sauce, like on spaghetti or pizza, but the fresh, raw delicious scrumptious delectable .... Anyway, some people don't like them.

In fact, some people are allergic to them, poor dears! According to Livestrong.com, some people might just feel a little icky when they eat tomatoes, but some can even go into anaphylactic shock. Wow!

Imagine a dastardly character slipping some tomato goo into a supposedly tomato-free concoction and giving it to a character with a severe tomato allergy....

Looks like TomatoesAreEvil.com gets it right. Check out this funny and informative site dedicated to those who don't like "the evil fruit", especially the tomato-free recipes.

And you know what I say to people who say they hate tomatoes? I say, "Good! That leaves more for me!"

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tomatoes and Bruschetta on the Grill

I don't know about where all of you are located today, but here in the Southern US, it's hot, hot, hot. Way too hot to cook inside. That's why people who lived here in the 1700s through the early 1900s always built their kitchens separate from the main house!

We might have air conditioning now, but taking the heat outside - on the grill - is nice. Sometimes my family gets tired of eating the same food - burgers, chicken, hot dogs - so we have this nifty quick recipe for the grill that's different.

Also, though most recipes of this kind call for Roma tomatoes, this is the best time of year for homegrown tomatoes. They are always better in, and on, whatever you're making.

Tomatoes and Bruschetta on the Grill

Mix together in a bowl 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped, 1 clove of garlic, minced, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup finely chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut two baguettes into thick slices, about 1/2 inch.

Spoon the tomato mixture on the bread. Then top with finely shredded mozzarella cheese.

Be sure the fire in the grill is gone and only coals are left. Raise the grill level to its highest point above the coals. Cooking time is minimal so be careful the bread doesn't burn. The cheese should be melted.

You can cover the grill with aluminum foil, if you like, for easier removal. I like the bread better toasted over the coals without it, but it's good either way!

Stay cool!

Joyce Lavene
Treacherous Toys
Book #5 in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries
Available for preorder everywhere.
Twitter: @author54

Friday, July 6, 2012

World's Largest Chocolate Sculpture

Qzina Specialty Foods in Irvine, California, recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary by creating the world's largest chocolate sculpture. The sculpture models an ancient Mayan temple and weighs 18,239 pounds, breaking the previous Guinness World Record set in Italy in 2010.

The company chose its Mayan theme based on the culture's role in the origins of chocolate. Mayans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate Cacao trees and understand the potential of the cocoa bean.

To read more about Qzina's massive sculpture and to see photographs, visit this page.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th! What will you be Eating?

Happy Independence Day! So, Fatal Foodies; what are you eating today? My day will be filled with delicious, but not-so-healthy food. Thank goodness my day will include lots of swimming to burn off calories!
For lunch, my family is having fried chicken, biscuits, slaw, mashed potatoes, Jello gigglers, and peanut butter balls. Dinner will be a traditional cookout with hot dogs, burgers and all the sides. 
Between the lunch celebration with my family and the dinner celebration with my husband's family, I will get to share this celebration of freedom with three military veterans   
Hope all of you have a wonderful holiday and something good to eat! Tell me what you're having.     

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Robbed of Cobb

Some of my fellow Southern Indiana Writers and I went to the Fandom Fest this past weekend. It was held at an old and prestigious landmark hotel on the Louisville waterfront. What we should have realized is that "old and prestigious" = $$$$

I don't even want to talk about the parking fee, so don't ask. No, just don't. I mean it.

ANYWAY, what I want to say is that the best value for money, food-wise, was Thelma's Deli's "Cobb" Salad. I put "Cobb" in quotation marks because it wasn't really a Cobb Salad. It was good, but it wasn't The Real Deal, like this one from Saymmm.com:

Avocado -- We no could haz
According to What's Cooking America, Cobb Salad was thrown together by Bob Cobb, manager of The Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood. He told Sid Grauman about it; Grauman asked for one, loved it, and spread the word.

True Cobb Salad is made from avocado, celery, tomato, chives, watercress, hard-boiled eggs, chicken, bacon, and Roquefort cheese. Ours had no avocado, celery, chives, avocado, watercress, Roquefort cheese, or avocado. Did I mention there was no avocado? Ours did have lots of mixed greens, including chard one day and spinach another day, cucumbers, and cheddar cheese.

It was very good, and was substantial enough to last us from lunch through dinner until we got home after 10:00. Well worth the money.

But no avocado. Alas.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wine Slushees - By Joyce Lavene

Wine Slushees!

Rocky River Vineyards makes the best Muscadine wine!

Because it's 105 degrees (don't know what that is in Celsius, sorry) today while I'm writing this blog, I'm not going to even think about cooking or food of any kind.

Instead, I'm going to concentrate on the important thing you should do when it gets hot: drinking!

In this case, drinking good wine and wine beverages. My recipe today is for wine slushees. Very good in the heat and good for you too, because wine is good for you, right?

My favorite wine is Muscadine wine. If you aren't from the South, you probably haven't heard of it. It's made from grapes native to the Southern states ( I live in North Carolina) and has a unique taste. Some people don't like it, but then some people don't like ice cream. There's no accounting for taste!

muscadine grapes

To make this treat, you will need a bottle of wine. Red is best, but blackberry and strawberry are also good. Either a blender or slushee machine is also needed to make the ice fine enough.

You can also add strong chai tea to make it extra spicy.


1 bottle of wine (your choice of flavor)
finely chopped ice - about four cups
Add one cup strong chai tea if you'd like a little zing to it

Finely chop the ice and put in a large pitcher. Add wine (and chai).

Mix and drink as quickly as possible. You can freeze this but you will lose consistency.

A sprig of mint on the lip of the glass is very good with it!

This will serve three to five people - if you have to share!

The next book in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries, TREACHEROUS TOYS, will be out September 4! Preorder is always appreciated!

Joyce Lavene
Twitter: @author54