Wednesday, October 31, 2012



Today at Fatal Foodies, it's all TREATS!

Head on over to the house with the embroidered haunted house scene hanging on the door see what Gayle Trent/Amanda Lee has in store for you. (Everyone will get a copy of one of Gayle's books, and one person will win another.) Mmm...I smell something yummy baking in the kitchen....

When you're done visiting with Gayle/Amanda, head on down the block to Joyce Lavene's place-- Joyce is giving away a copy of GHASTLY GLASS, her Halloween Renaaissance Faire Mystery.

Donis Casey ( is giving away an Alafair Tucker mystery to one lucky visitor to her place.

Lisa Hall is giving away one signed copy of her children's book, BURTON THE SNEEZING COW, to one lucky reader who leaves a comment on this post. Please check out her Facebook group at

Good luck with all the giveaways!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Luci in the ER with Vodka

I'm not going to pretend I grasped everything Luci Zahray (The Poison Lady) had to say about alcohols at Magna cum Murder this past weekend, but I want to share the bits I did understand. Or misunderstand, as the case may prove.

Every year, college students die of alcohol poisoning. That's because any alcohol is toxic in large enough quantities, and a toxic dose varies according to many factors: concentration of alcohol, size of drinker, what's in the drinker's stomach, over what length of time the dose is taken. Booze is ethanol (anything ending in "ol" is an alcohol, I think....).

And, not only can you die from drinking to much ethanol (either quickly or over the course of many years), you can die from ethanol withdrawal (the DT's). Trap a habitual, always-a-little-drunk victim where he or she can't replenish the ethanol in his or her system, and you've got a sober corpse without a mark on it.

On the other hand, when medical folks talk about TOXIC alcohol, they usually mean isopropanol, methanol, and ethylene glycol, and ethanol is an ANTIDOTE to those.

Ethylene glycol is the ingredient in anti-freeze that makes it smell and taste sweetly fruity, and also that makes it toxic. Actually, it isn't toxic in itself, but it becomes toxic as it's digested. Mix some of that in Mr. Boddy's Sangria and he'll get happily looped, then he'll slip into a coma, maybe have seizures, and die.

A SERIOUS NOTE: Make sure any cough syrups/cold syrups you buy do not contain ethylene glycol. Sometimes some countries use a bit of it to sweeten the mixture because it's cheaper than sugar.

For more about alcohol poisoning and antidote, see:
Alcohol toxicity
Antifreeze poisoning
Whiskey Cure After Anti-Freeze Error

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Halloween Party Feast!

Win a copy of Ghastly Glass in our Trick or Treat Giveaway!
October 31st
By Joyce Lavene

Halloween in the Renaissance Faire:
Murder and ghosts!

As I said in my last blog, every year just before Halloween, we have a huge feast with all the fun, scary food we can think of.

I want to thank everyone who sent me such great ideas for my food this year.

I made swamp punch and a graveyard of taco bean dip and green dip for chips.

We also had a pumpkin spewing macaroni salad, eyeball deviled eggs, ghost toast and dipping sauce, bones and sauce and a pumpkin cheese ball.

We always have the cauldron bubbling with dry ice. Snakes and spiders float around in the green and orange mixture. Everyone has to be careful not to eat them!

Hope you are enjoying your Halloween season too!

Joyce Lavene

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kahlua Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Leave it to Rachel Ray to come up with these wonderful chocolate cookies for adults! If you're hosting or attending a Halloween party, these might be the perfect cookies to serve.


  • 1 package dry chocolate chip cookie mix, 1 pound 1 1/2 ounces, found on baking aisle
  • 7 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso or instant coffee crystals
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee beans
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (recommended: Ghiradelli brand)
  • 4 ounces walnut pieces


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place racks in center of oven. In a mixing bowl, make a well in the center of dry chocolate chip cookie mix. Add softened butter, egg, Kahlua, instant coffee and ground coffee, chocolate chunks and walnuts. Mix well to combine all ingredients into cookie dough. Scoop with a small scoop or by heaping tablespoons and drop cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased nonstick cookie sheet or sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies in batches 9 to 11 minutes or until crisp and browned at edges. Transfer to wire rack to cool and serve.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Check out These Chompers!

Are these not fun? What a great way to give kids a Halloween treat that actually has some nutritional value. 
These are made from:
apple slices
peanut butter
mini marshmallows

Share other Halloween treat ideas! My oldest has braces, so the caramel apples and popcorn balls I used to make are out of the question this year.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pricing the Past

My mother and I have been reading Ross MacDonald's THE MOVING TARGET as part of the Magna cum Murder Writing Festival. The hero, Lew Archer, was throwing dollar bills around like tree leaves, and the kidnap victim's ransom was $100,000, so I decided to look up some 1949 prices, 1949 being when the book was published.

First I found The People History, and a page of prices and events. Seems that an average new house cost $7,450. A gallon of gas cost 17 cents (!!).

Next, since this is a food blog as well as a mystery blog, I looked at my favorite online foodie resource, The Food Timeline. It didn't have what I was looking for, but the page I've linked to has some great links and suggestions for finding old restaurant menus.

Long story short: A dollar was a darn good tip, and a hundred grand was a walloping big hunk of cash. A small fortune.

Oh, yeah -- we loved the book. :)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 22, 2012

Get Ready for Halloween Food!

Ghastly Glass
Halloween at the Renaissance Faire!
By Joyce Lavene

For some people, what they eat on Halloween doesn't matter much. They are saving their efforts for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My family is different. We LOVE Halloween! We dress up, have several parties leading up to the main event. And the food is very important.

Deviled eggs wear a ghoulish red tinge. Tiny cemeteries made from cookies and candy appear. Ghost cookies and swamp punch grace our tables. There is a lot of creative thinking put into what we're going to eat - and how ghoulish we can make it!

Peanut butter fingers with polished, almond slice nails is my youngest daughter's favorite treat. My oldest daughter makes scary Rice Krispy Marshmallow Treats. My son makes strange pizza that we're never quite sure about the ingredients, but it is delish!

I'm working on my recipe for this Halloween right now - looking for something different.

Any suggestions?
Joyce Lavene

Friday, October 19, 2012

Help me pick a costume!

Our trick-or-treating event is coming up in about a week and a half. Are you ready? I'm ready to visit everyone's blog and enter giveaways and get freebies (like recipes, embroidery patterns, etc.), but I don't have my costume picked out yet. Will you help me decide?

I'm sorry to say that the sites I found won't allow me to right-click my mouse and save the pictures, so we'll just have to go on suggestions without the photos.

1) Peter Pan (because the outfit is cute)

2) Marilyn Monroe (because Marcy DOES own the Seven-Year Stitch, after all)

3) Cleopatra (because it looks like it would feel as comfy as wearing a nightgown)

4) Lady in Waiting Costume (because I could also wear it to Joyce and Jim's next RenFaire!)

5) Batgirl (because it's BATGIRL!)

6) Firefighter (again, because the outfit is cute)

7) Amanda Lee

Do you have any other suggestions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Team Building with a Literary Twist

This morning I am doing a team building session with a group of doctors, nutritionists and social workers. So, how does an author approach team building? I am pulling out a literary term. I am speaking about point of view.
Here is on of the exercises I will be doing to help illustrate that point of view affects how we see things:
1) I will toss a raw egg into a glass bowl.
2) Participants will be asked "What happened? What are your feelings about it?"
3) Participants will be divided into 5 groups and given cards. Each card will ask them to consider what they witnessed from a different perspective. My 5 cards are:    homeless person
someone with an egg allergy     chicken that laid the egg       an omelette chef
the custodian who cleans room we are using
4) Groups present answers from various points of view.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

French Twist Toast

We dearly love raisin bread, but I seldom get any. Why? I don't know, that's why.

Anyway, I got some. And I decided to make French Toast with it. Wasn't that a good idea? Indeed it was!

I usually add vanilla and cinnamon to my egg/milk mixture, but the raisin bread already had cinnamon in it, and I used vanilla almond milk instead of bovine mammary secretions, so I didn't need those ingredients. I just mixed egg and milk, dipped the bread on both sides, and fried in vegan margarine.

Personally, I thought it was sweet enough as it was, and just topped mine with slices of banana. Charlie Sweet-tooth topped his with maple syrup. AND banana.

Two sticky thumbs up for a delicious breakfast!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roasting pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds
By Joyce Lavene
Buried By Buttercups
The new Peggy Lee Garden Mystery

Roasting pumpkin seeds is a time-honored effort after the jack-o-lantern is carved. Seeds are separated, washed and put on a cookie sheet for roasting. This mimics the time our ancestors put into preserving every piece of each food they could. Nothing was left to waste.

Besides, it's fun and tastes good!

It's easy too. Spread about a tablespoon of oil on the roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt, garlic, or onion. I have a friend who also does sweet seeds with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Bake on the top rack after seasoning until seeds begin to turn brown. Smaller seeds will bake faster, so keep watch. Let cool after removing from oven and eat. You can crack and remove seeds from hull, if you like, but it will take a while.

Good eating and good for you while you watch your favorite Halloween movie!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Holly Clegg's Chicken & Dumplings

Here is a terrific chicken and dumplings recipe from Holly Clegg:

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked, diced, skinless Rotessire chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups biscuit baking mix
2/3 cup skim milk
1. In large nonstick pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion, carrots, and garlic over medium heat 5-7 minutes or until tender. Stir in the flour and thyme.
2. Gradually add broth; bring to boil. Add chicken.
3. In bowl, stir together biscuit baking mix and milk. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling broth. Return to boil, reduce heat, and cook, covered for 15-20 minutes or until dumplings are done. Season with salt and pepper (if using). If soup is too thick, add more chicken broth.
Food Facts
Calories 235
Protein (g) 16
Carbohydrate (g) 28
Fat (g) 6
Cal. from Fat (%) 23
Saturated Fat (g) 2
Dietary Fiber (g) 2
Sugars (g) 16
Cholesterol (mg) 31
Sodium (mg) 815
Diabetic Exchanges: 2 carbohydrate, 2 lean meat

Terrific Tidbit: A plain comfort food as this is easier digested. Leftover chicken may be used but Rotessire chicken is a great short cut. Remember to remove the skin.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let Your Writing Lead you to a Cause

Even NASCAR gets into pink! As most of you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This photo was taken by my husband at Talladega last year.

I am so blessed that neither my mother, grandmothers, nor I have battled breast cancer. Double is the blessing, because if any of us ever are diagnosed, we have access to good medical care.

October is filled with opportunities to support women with breast cancer, celebrate with those who have beat it and to raise money for those who cannot afford mamograms and treatment.

I brought this cause to my books by the third installment in my series. Since the friendships and kinships of women is such a big theme in my books, I felt like the topic of breast cancer had to be addressed.

Having one of my characters battle breast cancer has given way to my getting to know more about this disease. I have researched the topic to make my writing more medically accurate. Best of all, I have had the privelege of talking to survivors to gain a personal perspective on the battle against breast cancer.   

Last week, I attended a meeting about our upcoming local  Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I attended with my neighbor, whose sister is currently battling her second bout of breast cancer. On race day, I will be selling books at the site of Team Queen's (named for my neighbor's sister, Noreen Queen) tailgate. A percentage of my proffits for the past few weeks and up through race day (October 21) will be going to Team Queen. 

When I began writing my series, I never knew it would lead me to a casue, but I am so glad it did! Has your writing led you to a cause? Could it?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Soup That Can't Be Beet

Ah, but it IS beet. Borscht, in fact.

Daughter #4 had borscht for the first time the other day, and I was reminded of how much I like this unlikely soup. Unlikely for me, that is, since I've hated beets all my life, up until this year. My beet-hatin' tastebuds apparently died of old age, and I decided I liked them, after all.

But I've liked borscht for some decades, now.

Exactly what, I hear you ask, is borscht?

It's a Russian soup made from meat stock (usually beef or pork), chopped cooked beets, vegetables, and a garnish of sour cream and dill weed. Here is a good recipe for it from

If you don't like beets, and you have some, try making some borscht with them. If you're vegetarian, you can use veg broth instead of meat broth. If you're a serious carnivore, you can put in some meat along with the meat broth and vegetables.

As Bullwinkle J. Moose once said of borscht, "You can't beet soup."

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 8, 2012

Acorn Squash! Yum!

I love acorn squash! I love its color and its texture.

It might be good any time of year but I only eat it in the fall. And then only with my son, Christopher.

You see, he's the only other person in my family that likes acorn squash. So about this time of year, we come up with a day and time. He brings some fabulous soup he's concocted and I make acorn squash brimming with brown sugar and butter.

Absolutely not healthy at all, except for the squash itself, of course.

This is comfort food for me. I grew up with my grandmother making it for the whole family when I was a kid. She made it every autumn after going to my great-grandmother's farm and picking a bunch of them. They were sooo good!

My recipe for these is very simple. Get an acorn squash. Cut it in half. Clean out the seeds and goo like you do a pumpkin for a jack o lantern.

I put them in a baking pan with a little water then add all the brown sugar and butter I can cram into them without it spilling over. I bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. The tops turn a little brown.

Digging into one is like sitting at the dinner table with my grandmother in Chicago where I grew up. Only now, I'm the grandmother.

It strikes me that I have to introduce my grandchildren to this delight. Even though my kids don't like squash, that doesn't mean their kids won't. right?

Joyce Lavene
Buried By Buttercups

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dinner in a Pumpkin

This time of year, I think just about everybody's thoughts turn to pumpkins. Here is a recipe I discovered at All Recipes for a rice, beef, and sausage casserole baked in a pumpkin.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1 sugar pumpkin
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans French cut green beans


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, mix ground beef and sausage. Cook and stir until evenly browned. Mix in salt and pepper, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar.
  2. Drain meats, and mix in chicken stock and rice. Cover, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, until rice is tender.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Remove and reserve top of pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp.
  4. Mix cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, mushroom stems and pieces, and green beans into the beef and sausage mixture. Spoon mixture into the pumpkin, and replace pumpkin top.
  5. Place pumpkin on a large baking sheet, and bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until pumpkin is tender. Scoop out portions of filling and parts of the cooked pulp to serve.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hunting Island

Do you ever think it would be neat to be a castaway? I don't think I would want to do it long-term, but a few days on a deserted island might be paradise!
Last week, Todd and I made a trip to the South Carolina coast. Our vacation included a stop on Hunting Island. The island is a park with many acres of rustic beach property.  
The main feature of the park is the lighthouse. Inside of the lighthouse are many artifacts and documents that describe the history of the lighthouse and the life of a lighthouse keeper.
All around the lighthouse were buildings and marked spots that showed where lighthouse keepers and their families lived, rasied gardens, etc. It was a lonely, hard life. They were literally cut off from the outside world.
While touring Hunting Island, all sorts of stories were inspired! If I decide to write one of these stories, I may have to make a return trip. Oh, what we must sometimes endure in the name of research! 
I don't think they allow people to spend the night on Hunting Island, but my stories might include some kind of extended stay. Who knows what kind of mysterious, amazing things happen out there at night? 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Food, Pro and Con

Food -- I'm all for it. Not to excess, of course, although what constitutes "excess" is often a matter of debate.

The meaning of my title, though, is to praise the Con Suite at Context science convention, which I attended this weekend. I don't know if it's something in the air in Columbus, Ohio, or what, but Marcon and Context, which both take place there (at different hotels) have outstanding Con Suites.

If you don't know, here's your chance to learn something: A Con Suite is a suite of rooms at a convention that's set up as a point of gathering and hospitality (they're sometimes called Hospitality Suites) for convention-goers.

Food, coffee, and soft drinks are provided free of charge. Talk is also free, and there's never a shortage of that.

The one at Context posts times the food is expected to arrive and what that food is expected to be. Sometimes an expected item doesn't materialize, but more often people donate unexpected bounties, like chocolate/jalapeño tarts. (No, I didn't try one.) Also bacon/maple tarts. (Yes, and they were sinfully good.)

We had freshly cooked pancakes and sausage links. We had a wide selection of cheeses (I don't mean cheddar/Swiss/Cojack, I mean Brie, blue, Camembert, on and on) and veggies. We had bacon and egg croissants. We had lovely little skewers threaded with mozzarella balls, dried tomatoes (preserved in oil), ripe olives, and artichoke hearts.

The food alone was worth the price of the convention!

I did more than just eat, though, which I'm blogging about at today. Come and see. :)

Marian Allen

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Soup! Yum!

    Pumpkin Soup! 
    By Joyce Lavene 

    If it seems like I'm really into pumpkin right now, you're right. It's fall and I can hardly think about anything else. I made pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pancakes over the weekend. Now I'm thinking pumpkin soup.
    Pumpkin soup is easy, tastes great, and is good for you. It's delicious by itself or with some good bread, baked until crispy in the oven.
    I use pumpkin puree for my soup because I like it better than real pumpkin in recipes.
    This is how I make it:
    Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray. Add one small onion, finely chopped. Let cook until tender. You could also use a few teaspoons of onion powder if you're in a hurry or someone doesn't like the onion bits (it happens at my house). 
    Mix one 8 ounce can of pumpkin puree into the pot with the onions. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth, 1 cup of hot water, 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg or two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Stir in one cup of milk - heat but don't let it boil.
    Ready to eat! Garnish with a few pumpkin seeds or a dollop of cream, if you like.
    See? Quick and easy!
    My new Peggy Lee garden mystery will be out this week! Buried By Buttercups is Peggy's new adventure, available at Amazon.