Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finish Line Time!

I am near the final stretch of completing the manuscript for my next book. This one has been hard!
GOODBYE CUTIE PIES will be the final installment in my series. So, in addition to the normal stress of writing a book, I am trying to give closure to some issues introduced during the series; yet leave openings for some spin- off series.
Finishing a book is never easy, but this one will be emotional. It may be a bit like sending a kid off to college ( yet not really THAT emotional).  It is so  bitter-sweet to say " goodbye" to CUTIE PIES!
Anybody else get sentimental about your books?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Never Say Ptah

Actually, if you want to say Ptah, click on this link. Pretty cool, eh?

What brings it up is: I was looking for a topic for today's post, so I did a search for culinary mysteries, and I found The History of the Mystery: A Website for Fans of Mystery Novels, specifically this page on Culinary Mysteries.

In perusing the page, I found quite a few books and series I didn't know but found intriguing. One is The Poisoner of Ptah: A Story of Intrigue and Murder Set in Ancient Egypt. It's by P. C. Doherty. It looks like he specializes in historical mysteries, which I love, love, love! Looks like I have a new author to explore and maybe collect.

Life is good!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, February 25, 2013

Picking Healthy Hot Peppers By J.J. Cook

Peppers are good for you
By J.J. Cook
author of That Old Flame of Mine 

Studies have shown that hot peppers are good for you. It doesn't matter if it's jalapeno, poblano, or cayenne. These little balls of fire can do all kinds of exciting, healthy things for you from burning extra calories to reducing risks for heart disease.

Hot peppers contain capsaicin which is an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Besides that, they taste good! Not a hot pepper lover? Try adding a little spice to your popcorn or add to your chocolate dishes. Add some hot peppers to gravy with your favorite meat and potatoes dinner. Try some in your eggs or homemade cornbread. It's delicious!

Capsaicin is mostly found in the pepper’s seeds and ribs, but is also in the rest of the pepper too. 
Some people believe that hot peppers cause ulcers, but ulcer development has never been linked to hot peppers.

Sweet Pepper, Tennessee is home to the hottest, sweetest, peppers in the world! These are known as the Tennessee Teardrop Pepper. This is a very pretty plant too, and makes an excellent houseplant!

Tennessee Teardrops Hot Pepper HP868-20

That Old Flame of Mine is the first book in my new Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries. Look for it at bookstores and online April 2nd!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Duck Dynasty Frog Legs

Some of the recipes they have on A&E's Duck Dynasty sound wonderful. A lot of them don't. Take the one below. First off, I don't think I could eat frog legs because 1) they're FROG LEGS!, and 2) poor little Kermits....

But for those of you who might like them, here is Willie's recipe (and commentary) for Garlic Frog Legs:

Garlic Frog Legs

Many things in life — whether it's food, business, or even someone's personality — slowly evolve over time. They don't necessarily get better overnight, but if you keep working at them and stay focused, chances are they're going to end up being better than when you started. Take for instance my recipe for frog legs. When I was growing up, Kay's frog legs were one of my favorite meals. But as I got older, I started experimenting with ways to cook frog legs and added my own personal touch to her recipe. Kay has probably never heard of garlic-infused grape seed oil (she's never used anything but butter or Crisco), but that's what I like to use to fry my frog legs. And for the record there are many infused olive oils I like using nowadays. Kay still doesn't understand how they "infuse" oil, but I tell her, "Don't question, just enjoy."

I had some frogs and garlic and dreamed this up one night. It is so good. For the few hundred who will actually go get frogs, try it. The rest, well… use chicken instead. Good luck.

  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Bunch of frog legs
  • Butter
  • Garlic-infused grape seed oil
  • Flour
  • Can of beer
  • White wine
  • Phil Robertson's Zesty Cajun Style Seasoning
  • Bulb of garlic
    2. Soak frog legs in beer for an hour or so.
    3. Season frog legs with Zesty Cajun Style Seasoning.
    4. Roll frog legs in flour and set aside.
    5. In a large black skillet bring butter and grape seed oil up to high (don't burn the butter, it will brown when burning). It doesn't take much oil and butter, just about a half-inch or so.
    6. When oil and butter starts sizzling, put frog legs in and brown on each side. It should be about halfway up on frogs, just enough to brown.
    7. If butter gets low, throw another half stick in. Set browned frog legs aside.
    8. With what's left in the pan, add white wine, garlic (whole pods, peeled), mushrooms, and cook for three to four minutes.
    9. Add frog legs to white wine mix. Cover and cook at 300 degrees F for thirty minutes until meat is falling off bone. (You will know it's done, believe me!)

    If you try this, please let us know your thoughts!

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    The New "In" Food?

    I played "Grocery Store Columbo" yesterday. Through my keen observations, I believe I have stumbled upon something. 
    Exhibit #1: A display featured some new potato chips flavored like chicken and waffles.
    Exhibit #2: On dairy aisle, I saw yogurt with maple- flavored waffle bits.
    So, is this a trend? Are waffles all the rage? What waffle-flavored foods will show up next?

    Tuesday, February 19, 2013

    Hot Stuff

    I had this Pickled Mustard Seed Sauce once and adored it, so I asked for and received the recipe. I made it for myself the other night, and WOAH, NELLIE! It was WAY hotter than I remembered! I'm not sure what I did wrong.

    There are many recipes for pickled mustard seeds and for sauce made from them. When I make this again, I'll make some changes.

    This recipe is cut from the original, which was enough to supply a restaurant. If you need more, just multiply.

    Pickled Mustard Seed Sauce
    • 1/4 cup mustard seeds
    • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1/8 cup sugar
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup mayo
    • 1 tsp prepared mustard
    • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Combine mustard seeds, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in small sauce pan. Bring to bare simmer over low heat, stir briefly to combine. Continue to simmer until mustard seeds are tender but with a toothsome pop, about 30 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY and add more water if the water simmers away.  Cool to room temperature, then mix with remaining ingredients.

    Next time I make these, I'll cook them much lower and for 45 minutes instead of 30. I'll use my own mayonnaise and probably no additional mustard. I might add a little garlic and a touch of ginger, and maybe some orange zest. I'll probably increase the mayonnaise for a milder spread.

    Still, it was good! Made me wish I had some beef to spread it on instead of this rather blah cheese.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Snow Cream by Joyce Lavene

    It shouldn't surprise anyone that even snow cream is part of the changing face of American life.

    Or is it?

    When we were kids, the only important thing was making sure you had milk and sugar and a fairly clean source of snow. Clean to us meant no 'yellow' snow.

    We looked for places like this where we didn't think a dog could reach.

    Once we had a bowl of snow, we ran inside, added some milk and sugar and mixed. If my mom was home, we added some vanilla too. It was great do-it-yourself ice cream.

    I read today that people are whipping the snow now and adding lemon rind and peach juice. It didn't sound right to me.

    I checked back into history to see how our sturdy ancestors ate their snow cream. Surprisingly, there's no mention of it until the middle 1800s when an American cookbook had a recipe for snow cream. It had rosewater in it, according to that recipe. Sometimes, they even mentioned the root of mallow being added.


    I grew up around the Chicago area where we had snow cream until we got sick of it. Today, I live in North Carolina where we only get snow every other year or so. Snow cream is highly prized here and something everyone looks forward to.

    A friend of mine called and asked if I had any vanilla for snow cream right after our barely one inch snowfall over the weekend. I didn't but I did have concentrated orange juice. Though it went against my principles to eat orange snow cream, it was pretty good.

    Nothing like I remember eating as a kid, but few things are.

    So in case you missed this treat, here is my recipe for snow cream.

    One bowl of clean snow. Try to get it while it's snowing or right after. Add one cup of milk and 1/2 cup of sugar (unless your mom isn't around, then dump in a cup). You can also use Splenda or another sweetener. Add about a teaspoon of flavoring. Vanilla is a little bland. Chocolate syrup might be better. Concentrated orange juice was good too.

    Mix. Eat. Enjoy!

    That Old Flame of Mine
    By J.J. Cook
    The first book in a new series set in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
    Release date: April 2, 2013

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Lighten up! Healthier Comfort Foods

    Don't those foods look yummy? (I took the photo from the first article on healthier comfort foods.)
    Smart Balance - Healthier Winter Comfort Foods (includes Biscuits and Chicken Parm!)

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Dumplings to Heal my Dumplins

    In the south, "dumplin" is a term of endearment. What can be more endearing than a tender lump of dough, simmered in soup?
    So when two of my dumplins fell into the throes of a yucky stomach bug; it was dumplings to the rescue! The dumplings worked their magic on my dumplins. Todd went back to work today and Skylar slept straight through the night!

    Here's how I make chicken and dumplings:
    1) Season two large chicken breasts with McCormick's Montreal Chicken seasoning. Drizzle a baking        dish and chicken breast with olive oil. Bake @ 375 degrees until juices run clear.
    2) While chicken bakes, combine 1 can cream of chicken soup, 2 cups of milk & 1 cup of chicken broth. Simmer this mixture in a large pot.
    3) Chop chicken & add to simmering liquid.
    4). To make dumplings: stir together 2 cups of baking mix & 2/3 cups of milk until a soft dough forms.
    5) Bring liquid up to a boil over medium heat.
    6) Drop dumplings in by the tablespoon.
    7) Lower heat & simmer for 10 minutes. Cover pot & simmer 10 more minutes.

    Note: If dumplings absorb too much liquid, add more broth & milk in equal amounts. You can add peas, celery, carrots & onions for a chicken and dumplings soup.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Speak To Me Of Sous Vide

    I keep hearing about this. Have you heard about this? "Sous vide" is French for "under vacuum", and it's a popular form of cookery these days.

    Sous vide has been around since 1799, when the brilliant Count Rumford (the guy who figured out how to construct a fireplace and chimney that put heat into a house instead of sucking heat out), described it (so says Wikipedia). Then, in the 1960's, industry used it to preserve foods. In the 1970's, chefs who thought industrial stuff was cool took vacuum-packing, translated it into sous vide, and made it haute cuisine.

    Time passed (imagine calendar pages ripping off and whirling away), and now fast food chains are using sous vide equipment, according to the HuffPo. Apparently, even I could make perfect whatever, if only I could afford half a grand for the machine.

    On the other hand, some day when my medicine is working really well, I could hit Radio Shack and get me some components and rig up my own sous vide gear the PopSci way.

    Or I could go redneck, and make my own out of a plastic bag and a beer cooler. Dear Lord, is there enough beer in the world to make me think it's safe to eat meat kept warm for hours in a hot water bath? No, no, I don't think there is. It sounds like a reality tv episode just waiting to happen.

    For that is what sous vide is: vacuum pack your food and your seasonings and/or marinade, heat water to the temperature you want the food to cook to, put the bagged food into the water, and leave it there until the food reaches that temperature throughout.  The finished food can be held at the desired temperature without drying out or overcooking, because it's vacuum-sealed and at the temperature you want, period paragraph.

    So that's sous vide. Personally, I'm going to wait until the home version comes down in price, then I'll buy one for $10.00 at Goodwill when one of the first adopters decides it's too much trouble. I can wait. I'm patient. And cheap.

    But not beer-cooler cheap.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Hush puppies! By Joyce Lavene

    Hush puppies are a very favorite comfort food of mine. I can't have them often because they're deep fried and full of calories but once or twice a year, I whip up a batch.

    I use my mom's recipe, that she got from her mom, but mine are never quite as good as hers. Food is that way though, don't you think? It's wrapped up in memories and love, impossible to separate. Fortunately, my kids have some foods they remember that way that I made when they were growing up. The circle continues.

    Of course, you can get some very good hush puppies at many restaurants in the South. I don't eat BBQ but a little place up the road from us that makes BBQ also fries up some very good hush puppies. Possibly the best hush puppies I've ever had out were from what they used to call 'fish camps' around here in North Carolina. Most of them are gone now.

    Fish camps looked and felt a little like you were eating at church. They were in nondescript buildings, long rows of plain wood tables and ladder-back chairs inside. Usually, they were near a creek or a river where the fish were caught fresh before you ate them. They ground up their own slaw, battered and fried the fish. Most of the time, this was all you could get to eat at fish camps. Sometimes they might have some banana pudding but that was about it.

    Anyway, here is my recipe (my mom's and grandma's too) for hush puppies.

    Mix together two beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar (or sweetener to taste) with one large, finely diced, onion in a bowl. Add one cup self rising flour and one cup self rising cornmeal. Mix well. If you live somewhere they don't have self rising products, use baking powder according to directions.

    If you have a deep fry, drop the batter into hot oil by the teaspoon. If not, heat up some oil in a pan. Fry until crisp and golden brown. Serve hot.

    My husband likes these dipped in Ranch dressing. I like them plain, like we had them as a kid.


    Joyce Lavene

    That Old Flame of Mine
    Coming April 2013
    from J. J. Cook and Berkley Prime Crime
    Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Valentine's Day Foods

    Thinking about today's post made me remember an article I did for SheKnows a few years back that would be a great fit. Check it out at Mouthwatering But Not Too Heavy.

    So, then, in searching for my article led me to find these other great articles! :)


    Valentine's Day Recipe - Warm Chocolate Coconut Cake

    Foods of Love - 30 Aphrodisiac Foods

    Sweet Treats for Your Sweetie

    Valentine's Day Cocktails

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Puffy Pillows of Strawberry Goodness

    Just in time for Valentine's Day, Kraft has released their yummmy, heart-shaped, strawberry marshmallows. They are delicious on their own, but here are some other uses for these adorable treats:
    1) Float atop a cup of cocoa. Add whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup to make it more special.
    2) Use on a fruit kabob. Kids can help put fruit and marshmallows onto popsicle sticks.
    3) Dip in chocolate!
    4) Decorate a big, fluffy dish of chocolate pudding or mousse.
    5) Use on indoor s'mores.
    6) Put them in a bowl of fruit salad.
    7) Decorate the top of cupcakes.

    I love these so much, I may have to stock up before they run out!


    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    A Good Use For A Dead Biscuit

    We had one big fat biscuit left over. Being the folks we are, we each left it for the other one until it got thoroughly stale and inedible. So we ate it.

    Here's how:

    I broke it up and poured melted butter over it. Then I added some raisins and chopped pecans. Then I beat together an egg, some milk, a little sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and poured than in and stirred it all around. I put it in the microwave for about three minutes. The result was this. Biscuit Pudding, I guess. Like Bread Pudding, but with a stale biscuit instead of stale bread.

    It was DELICIOUS! I couldn't eat all of my half, so I saved it for the next day, breaking it up and adding some vanilla almond milk before I heated it in the microwave, and it was EVEN BETTER.

    Sometimes, it pays to be waste-not-want-not.

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes