Friday, August 31, 2012

A Turkey Recipe from The Noble Pig

Doesn't that look yummy? And before you start calling me "the Noble Pig," I want you to know that The Noble Pig is the name of a vineyard and winery in Oregon. I stumbled upon the blog by accident and found this recipe.

I'm posting the recipe below, but I heartily encourage you to visit The Noble Pig and poke around the website for yourself. It's a lot of fun. I think Marcy might have to visit there. Vera, too.... And I'm almost certain Todd carries their wines.

Roasted Maple Glazed Turkey Breast
For the brine-
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 cups apple juice
4 cups ice

The first step to a tender and juicy turkey breast is through brining. This is a simple way to enhance flavor and moisture in roasted meat. This does not have to take long...two hours tops. Most of the flavor is absorbed in the first two hours anyway.

Dissolve salt and brown sugar in hot water in a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag. Stir in apple juice and ice. Make sure the brine is chilled thoroughly before adding the meat to prevent bacteria.

Trim away the ribs and wing bone as well as any excess skin around the breast. Submerge the breast into the cold brine and let sit 2 hours.
For the turkey-
1 6-8 lb bone in turkey breast or 1 3-4 lb bone in half-breast
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted

Roast turkey breast side up on a rack sprayed with cooking spray over a shallow roasting pan. (Cover the roasting pan in foil to make clean up very easy.) Using a rack elevates the meat, allowing hot air to circulate easily around the breast. Using a shallow pan roasts the meat where as a high-sided pan inhibits air flow and ends up steaming the meat. Not good.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roast turkey in the upper third of the oven to get the best color.

If making a 6-8 pound breast, after one hour, baste breast with maple-butter mixture. Baste every 15 minutes until the temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees. If you are making a 3-4 pound half-breast, start basting a half-hour after cooking and continue basting every 15 minutes until the temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees. Make sure to insert your meat probe into the thickest part of the breast. I like to insert it at the thinnest end, going towards the thickest.

The basting itself provides flavor but because the breast is in the oven for a short period of time we need to hasten the browning process. The sugar in the maple syrup will promote browning and impart a nice, sweet taste.

After the breast has reached 165 degrees, remove from the oven and tent with foil for 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back that Thang Up!

That "thang" I am referring to is your manuscript. Many fists have been banged, expletvies uttered and tears shed by writers who have lost their hard work.
This week, I thought it had happened to me. My laptop is getting up in age, and is becoming a bit tempermental. After a somewhat productive day of writing, I took a break. My computer was left running. Later, when I came back to save my work and shut down for the night; the screen had gone blank. After doing some things that I probably should not have (improper shutdowns, pulling out the battery, etc.) my computer screen once again showed visible graphics.
This incident was a reminder that I need to back my work up on a more regular basis. I like to use two methods of backing up my work. I save things on disks and I also email the files to myself. Then, I save the emails.
Writer friends, what is your favorite way to back that thang up! .     

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Deadly Microwave of Fatal Doom

Our trusty old Sharp Carousel microwave gave up the ghost. To be slightly more precise, it became unreliable. It might or might not engage when we hit the start button. The aggravation was getting on Charlie's nerves, so we got a new one.

Since the old Sharp Carousel lasted 12 years, we got another one, this one model R-331ZS. It is quite snazzy, with One Touch Cook and Auto Touch Cook and a higher wattage than the old one.

Amazingly, I managed to make popcorn in it with the One Touch Cook control. Pushed the little picture of popcorn and, in about half the time as the old one, we had excellent popcorn. And we eat a LOT of popcorn.

However. You knew there was going to be a However, didn't you?

The Auto Cook had me buffaloed. Naturally, I didn't read the instructions. I mean, I know how microwaves work, right? And, when an instruction manual has a full-page Installation Guide with an illustration of plugging the plug into the plug place....

Okay, so the Auto Cook button has a list printed next to it, right?
  1. bread
  2. soup
  3. baked potato
  4. fresh vegetable
  5. frozen vegetable
We also eat a lot of soup, so we put a bowl of soup in there, pushed the Auto Cook button twice, pushed Start, and the soup got hot. Way hot. Just the way Charlie likes it. "Perfect!"


Where I come from, pardner, "potato" is singular.
So tonight, I decided to make a baked sweet potato for supper. Yes, one. Yes, we eat light. No, I don't know how I can eat light and still be fat. It's one of those mysteries of life I plan to ask God about when I'm dead.

ANYWAY, I put the potato into the microwave, pushed the Auto Cook button three times, pushed Start, and went about my business cutting up apples and celery for apple salad.

Suddenly, Charlie shouted and ran into the kitchen. I turned around, and white smoke was roiling (the perfect word for smoke) out of the microwave and up to the ceiling.

I opened the microwave door which, of course, stopped the power, and much, much more smoke joined us in the kitchen. Well, in all the house, really, because smoke is just all kindsa like that.

We opened all the doors and windows and turned on all the fans, and the house still smells like scorched scorchiness. When the remains had cooled, I removed the fossil and threw it into the yard, where Joe can use it as a chew toy.

The microwave seems to be unharmed and unmarked, inside and out.

I just read the manual, and it says the Auto Cook setting for baked potato is for "3 units of baked potato".

Oh. Really.

"3 units"? Is that, like, three POUNDS of baked potato? Three TRUCKLOADS? Three BARGES? It wasn't one, anyway, that's for darn sure.

Well, we live and learn, don't we? Oh, the pizza setting? The one with one slice of pizza drawn on it? It's for a whole, entire, large, 14" pizza. That's just mean.

So remember, children, when you get a new toy, always RTFM. That stands for Read the Fine Manual, of course. The Fine one. Yeah.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, August 27, 2012

Portabello Mushrooms and Pasta

I love portabello musrooms! They're great fried on a sandwich, raw, and chopped up into pieces with pasta and in cream sauces.

These tasty morsels are actually brown crimini mushrooms that someone found a better marketing name for. With either name, they taste just as good.

What's the difference?

Portabello mushrooms have a very strong mushroom flavor and retain their soild feel, unlike some of their counterparts. That's what I like about them anyway.

Another thing, they're easy to make and take very little time to throw together with pasta for unexpected company. I am also a great fan of this kind of 'fast' food!

You can also add chicken to the pasta/mushroom recipe to give it extra protein.


Pasta with Portabello Mushrooms

Boil one package of pasta, drain and set aside. This recipe is better with short pastas rather than spaghetti, etc.

In a large skillet, combine one tablespoon olive oil three cloves of garlic, five large mushrooms, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 small white onion and cook until soft on low heat. Add in 1/2 cup red wine and allow to simmer for about five minutes.

Combine this mixture with the pasta and toss with Parmesan cheese.

Goes well with the rest of the bottle of wine, some toasted garlic bread and salad.

Serves four comfortably.

Joyce Lavene
Treacherous Toys - next week!
Renaissance Faire Mysteries


Friday, August 24, 2012

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Oh, my.... I'd never even heard of oatmeal cookie pancakes before, but now I want 'em! I first learned about the Pancake Party from Bake Your Day. From there, there was a link to Rachel Cooks where the actual recipe is located.

So here's the recipe, but to get the full, jaw-dropping, saliva-inducing experience, visit the links above. :-)

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes with Cinnamon Butter
Yield: about 8 (1/4-cup) pancakes
Time: 25 minutes

for the cinnamon butter:
4 Tbs. butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

for the oatmeal cookie “dough”:
4 Tbs. butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1/4 cup brown sugar

for the pancake batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbs. sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbs. grapeseed oil
1 tsp. vanilla

To prepare the cinnamon butter, mix the butter, vanilla and ground cinnamon in a small bowl until combined and well blended. Transfer the butter to a small sheet of plastic wrap. Cover with the wrap and shape into a small rectangle. Place in the refrigerator to chill until the pancakes are finished.

Mix the “dough” by combining the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar in a small bowl. Heat the butter over low heat until melted, remove from heat and then stir in the vanilla. Slowly pour into the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined. Set aside.

Heat a griddle pan over medium heat. For the pancake batter, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg, oil and vanilla until combined. Slowly pour into the dry ingredients and mix just until fully incorporated.

Oil the griddle pan and pour 1/4-cup of the pancake batter onto the griddle pan. Evenly sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the “dough” topping on top of the pancake. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly and the bottom is golden brown. Flip the pancake and cook for another 2 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Flip the pancake onto a plate, “dough” side up. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve with the cinnamon butter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two American Classics

This is Appalachian Fair Week around these parts. The Appalachian Fair is classic Americana. You can tour agricultural exhibits, see a beauty pageant or talent show, enjoy live music, ride the ferris wheel and indulge in funnel cakes, cotton candy, corn dogs and lemonade till you puke!
One of my favorite works of classic American literature ties in beautifully with the fair. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White has its most pivotal moments at the county fair.
You probably all know the story. In case you do not, here is a little summary:
Wilbur is a pig that becomes friends with a spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur realizes that his fate is to one day be slaughterd, Charlotte comes to his aid. She begins spinning webs that feature sayings like "Some Pig" in Wilbur's pen.
Charlotte's amazing webs create quite a spectacle. When she accompanies Wilbur to the county fair, her webs give Wilbur an edge. In the end, Wilbur wins a prize at the couny fair, saving him from the slaughter house.
The sad part of this story is that Charlotte dies, but leaves behind her eggs. Wilbur takes care of the eggs that Charlotte left until they hatch. Most of the spiders go off on their own, but three stay at the farm to be with Wilbur.
This story beautifully illustrates the circle of life and true friendship. E.B. White's sense of humor makes it a highly entertaining read. Just have the tissues handy! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Happy Little Stir-Fry

Charlie and I love stir-fry, so we had one the other night. After all the chopping I did prepping for World on the Square, I was all about slicing. I'm thinking I may get myself a good, sharp, professional chef's knife, so watch this space for accident reports and buy stock in adhesive bandages.

ANYWAY, here is our stir-fry:

  • white button mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • yellow squash
  • broccoli stems
  • red peppers
  • onions
  • seasoned salt

Colorful, isn't it? And it was most tasty, too.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Making Cat Treats!

Making Cat Treats

My cat, Quincy, loves his cat food and doesn't really like cat treats. I've tried all kinds of varieties. He really doesn't like any of them.

This wouldn't bother me. It's not like he HAS to have treats - except that my dog, Rudi, LOVES his treats! Every evening after he's eaten his regular food, he waits patiently until we go into the kitchen and have bacon flavored snacks.

While Rudi is enjoying our ritual of jumping up for snacks, Quincy watches and looks a little pathetic. I think he really wanted to have treats too. He just didn't like the ones we had.

So I found a recipe and made some of my own. Now Quincy has snack treat time with Rudi and I can tell he's much happier.

Or I don't feel as guilty. I'm not sure which.

But here's my recipe for cat treats that Quincy loves. I hope your cat will love them too!

Cheesey Cat Treats
Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour with 1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Add 1/2 cup plain yogurt to moisten. Add 1/2 cup cornmeal and knead the dough then roll it out until it forms a bar shape, about 1/2 inch thick.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Cut into pieces, as you would with cookies, and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Store in container with lid.

Rudi and Quincy also help us write our books. When we write, they sit in the office with us and keep us company. It's nice to be able to share your life with your furry people!

Joyce Lavene
Treacherous Toys
Renaissance Faire Mysteries

Friday, August 17, 2012

San Francisco Street Food Festival

In honor of native San Franciscan Marcy Singer (heroine of the embroidery mystery series), I'm letting you know about the 2012 San Francisco Street Food Festival taking place tomorrow, August 18. 

The festival is sponsored by La Cocina, "a non-profit incubator kitchen that provides affordable commercial kitchen space and industry-specific technical assistance to low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses." Food and music will be available to enjoy in the Mission District from eleven in the morning until seven o'clock p.m. The event is free, though donations are encouraged.

This sounds like an event Marcy would enjoy. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stroke of Genius or Act of Sabotage?

Could you say "no" to this face? I hoping readers will be drawn to me because of my cute companion. Skylar will either draw customers in, or scare them away!  
Next Thursday, I will be bringing Skylar along to a book signing. This is her first time accompanying me to such an event. If she is well-behaved, she will be charming. If she is in a bad mood, all of her toddler fury may be unleashed! Customers will either say "she's adorable" or "she's a spit-fire".
If you live in my area, come by: "Lunch Break with the Authors"
Thursday, August 23 from 12-2 @ Atlantis (240 E. Main St. in Downtown Johonson City)
This event is free and includes refreshments!   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Day With A Top Chef

World on the Square was this past Saturday, and again Chef Lana Cullison prepared masses of food. This year, I got to help!

I cut the stems off broccoli, then she said to cut off the tough end of the stem (which she called a rabe), and then slice them thinly on the diagonal. She cooked those stems and put them in one of the dishes. I was so excited! I do that, too! I didn't know I was being cheffy; I thought I was being cheap!

Meanwhile, Mom sliced carrots. Here, you can see the broccoli florets, celery, onions, and garlic on the Asian tray.

Meanwhile, Lana and her assistant worked on the chickens. They were trussed, spiced, packed into roasters, and cooked (I'm talking about the chickens, here, not Lana and her assistant), and then we pulled the meat off the bones for Lana to divide between (or is it among?) the various international dishes.

In the foreground are some of the many squash that were donated by people in the community, and a colander filled with cilantro, parsley, and green onions (or scallions, if you want to be that way).

Lana let me use her professional chef's knife, with which I disproved the aphorism, "The sharper the knife, the less likely the cook is to cut himself." Maybe that's only true for boy cooks. I was mincing away at the parsley when -- you're way ahead of me -- I tagged my thumb.

"WHOO!" I separated knife from target as if somebody had pulled a trigger. Parsley flew in a cloud.

LANA: What happened?
ME: I cut myself.
LANA: Are you hurt badly?
ME: I'm okay, but look at all the parsley I wasted!

I slapped a bandaid on it, cleaned up the parsley, and went on with the work.

I passed the chef test. :)

Here's a picture of the cilantro and surviving parsley, and Lana with a lemon. Also the perp -- I mean prep -- knife. We used lemons and oranges in some of the dishes, the zest and the fruit.

Delicious dishes. I got pictures of most of them, which I'll post on my blog tomorrow.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, August 13, 2012

Garlic Stuffed Tomatoes



As I've mentioned a few times on this blog, this is the best time of year for fresh veggies. Tomatoes are king right now with their juicy pulp and awesome taste.

It's a shame not to eat them fresh, but if you have a producting garden, there are usually too many tomatoes to eat. That means it's time to get creative with recipes to make use of them.

Stuffing tomatoes is a delicious way to eat fresh tomatoes. It's healthy and can be served alone, or as a side dish with a protein.

Here's my recipe for garlic stuffed tomatoes:

You'll need two medium tomatoes. Cut a slice off the top of each (keep the tops) and scoop out the pulp.

Add the pulp to a mixture of 1 stalk of celery, 1 small carrot, 1 small onion and a clove of garlic. Add these ingredients to a food processor or finely chop by hand.

Add to the mixture 3 tablespoons vegetable broth, 1/4 cup bread crumbs (seasoned are best) and 1/4 cup mozzarella or cheddar cheese.

Saute the vegetable and bread crumb mixture together in a little olive oil. Add broth, breadcrumbs and cheese.

When cool, stuff the mixture into the tomatoes. Put the tops back on and bake uncovered so the mixture gets crispy for 10 to 15 minutes.

Each tomato is one serving.


Joyce Lavene
Treacherous Toys
Book 5 in the Renaissance faire Mysteries
September 4th




Friday, August 10, 2012

Duncan Hines Festival

Do you live near Bowling Green, Kentucky? I don't, but I'm considering a road trip for the Duncan Hines Festival on August 10 and 11. Just the very name conjures images of brownies, cakes, muffins, and cookies. And, did I mention, brownies?

According to the website, "The Bowling Green Junior Woman's Club is proud to host the 16th annual Duncan Hines Festival. This year's events include a Concert in the Park, Art Exhibit, Adventures in Good Baking Contest and the very popular Uncle Duncan's Duck Derby! Proceeds from this event will benefit the Regional Child Development Clinics and other worthy nonprofit causes."

The event looks like loads of fun. There's even a brownie-eating contest!

I doubt I'll really be able to make this trip, but I know my family would enjoy it. What fair or area event are you looking forward to this year?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Dream Writing Retreat

Last week, my family did our yearly Hilton Head vacation. We had so much fun building sand castles, playing in the waves and spending time with our family.
The island was quite crowded last week, but will soon become much less crowded and more laid back. We once went to Hilton Head in Septemeber, and the vibe was completely different than in the summer.
On one of my morning walks, I began dreaming of what it would be like to come down to Hilton Head by myself in the off-season, for the soul purpose of finishing a manuscript. I imagined heavenly quiet, long morning walks to clear my head, and days spent on the beach with my lap top. For breaks, I could take myself out for a quick dinner. Of course, I would miss my family terribly, but I think I could get more writing done in a week than I can in six at home.
Oh well, it does not hurt to dream. You guys think such a trip could be a tax write-off?         

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marketing Books -- At A Market

Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 8, 2012, is Farmers' Market Day in Harrison County. The Farmers' Market is inviting vendors other than their registered members to set up at the market, and the Southern Indiana Writers is (are?) one of the vendors doing so.

We actually have an appropriate book: an anthology of stories about food, each story accompanied by a recipe, the anthology named NOVEL INGREDIENTS.

The market is open from 4-7, and there'll be a pot-luck supper following, of mostly local ingredients. I'm not sure what I'm taking, but it'll be vegan and gluten-free, so the most people possible can partake of it. The hideously hot weather seems to have broken for the week, and it isn't supposed to rain until Thursday; we're looking forward to a pleasant venue.

The food will certainly be fresh!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, August 6, 2012

Banbury Cakes

Banbury Cakes - Yum!

This is the beginning of a thirty day countdown to the launch of my next Renaissance Faire Mystery. The title is Treacherous Toys and it is set in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at a modern-day Ren Faire. The Faire is teeming with magicians, lords and ladies in their finery, knaves and almost any other creature you can imagine.

Mrs. Potts at the teashop there usually makes ginger cookies. But occasionally, she whips up some Banbury Cakes. The smell wafts across the cobblestones and brings in people from the castle to the jousting Field of Honor.

Ye Olde Recipe Banbury Cakes

These delicious little fruit-filled pastries were first mentioned in English text in 1586. They were originally sold in little baskets and wrapped in white cloths to keep them warm. The cakes have been made in Banbury since that time, inspiring poets to create sonnets for them. They are that good!

1 lb. puff pastry

2 oz. butter, melted

4 oz. raisins

4 oz. currants

2 oz. mixed peel

4 oz. coarsely ground brown sugar

1 level teaspoon mixed spices

Egg white and caster sugar (powdered sugar) for topping

Set Oven to 425F

Mix the melted butter, fruit, peel, sugar and spice together in a bowl, combining well.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and, using a saucer, cut into about 16 circles. Divide the fruit mixture evenly between them, then dampen the edges of the pastry circles and draw up into the centre, sealing well. Turn over and, with the hands, gently form the cakes into ovals, then press down very gently with a rolling pin.

Make 3 diagonal cuts across the top of each cake, then brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Place on lightly greased baking trays and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Serve slightly warm. Makes about 16.

Add some Renaissance to your day! Huzzah!

Joyce Lavene
Treacherous Toys
Book 5 in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries

Friday, August 3, 2012

Low Carb Pizza

I have a confession to make. I've been cutting carbohydrates. But, man, do I miss those little boogers! Actually, I miss the good things they make up, such as, pizza.

Therefore, I am happy to announce that I have discovered a way to have my pizza and eat it too.

Low Carb Personal Pizza

One slice Julian Bakery Zero Carb Bread
Bella Vita Low Carb Tomato Basil Sauce
Turkey Pepperoni
Diced Onions
Shredded Pizza Cheese

First toast your bread. Then spread on the tomato sauce. Top with pepperoni, onions, cheese, or your preferred toppings. Pop into the microwave for 30 seconds.

Do you have any yummy, easy, low carb recipes to share?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Be Back Next Week!

I'm on vacation with the family. I promise to be back next week with all of the yummy details!