Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eat For The New Year

New Year's food traditions vary, but they usually include green leafy stuff (to symbolize folding money), gold or disk-shaped stuff (to symbolize coins), and pork (because pigs root forward). We'll be having cabbage, black-eyed peas and ham, which are the local variety of this tradition.

Here's how to make black-eyed peas edible.

Edible Black-Eyed Peas
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste
Combine and heat. Cook until most but not all of the liquid is gone. Serve with cornbread. If you have any green onions, dice them and add them.

Black-eyed peas are really good; trust me!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 30, 2013

Making sugar-free candied fruit peel
By Joyce Lavene

I love fruit bread, and usually bake a few loaves every holiday for my family, and to give away. This year was a challenge because you can’t get candied orange or other citrus peels that don’t have sugar.

I finally made by own by creating a syrup from Splenda and allowing the orange and lemon peel to simmer in it, and cool. It was very good, with raisins, apricots, pineapple, orange and lemon peel. I missed the color from the cherries though, and next year I’ll add blueberries and cranberries to it.

I used my bread maker, which I probably won’t do again because it made the pieces of fruit too small. I usually make the bread myself the old fashioned way.

This is basically a standard bread recipe to which I add fruit and an egg. It’s heavy and moist – which is how I like it!

It struck me that I could also make my favorite candy – chocolate covered orange peel in this way with unsweetened chocolate enhanced with Splenda. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Inside Out Veggie Dip

From Taste of Home

I came across this amazing “inside out veggie dip.” It’s a mix of healthy and tasty. It’ll be perfect to serve at that New Year’s Eve party!

Inside-Out Veggie Dip Recipe


2 large cucumbers

16 cherry tomatoes

1 packet of soften cream cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped carrot

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon onion powder

How to make it

Peel the cucumber into two thin slices and if possible with a decorative edge to give that fancy look. With the rest of the cucumber scoop out the seeds and set aside.

Cut a thin slice from the bottoms of tomatoes to allow them to rest flat. Cut a thin slice from tops of tomatoes; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-in. shell. Invert onto paper towels to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, red pepper, celery, onion, carrot, seasonings and chopped cucumber.
Fill tomatoes and cucumber slices with cream cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon in each. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope this day is a fun celebration of faith, family, friends and food! Here is a rundown of what my family will eat today: Breakfast parfaits (yogurt, fruit, granola, honey) biscuits bacon (pig bacon, instead of turkey bacon, for a change) Lunch steak baked potatoes salad sweets Dinner tomato soup sandwiches (chicken salad, ham rolls, pigs-in-a-blanket) veggies and dip sweets What are you having?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anna Bickel's Grandmother's Cranberry Salad

This is a favorite at my mom's church, and I love it, too. It's red, and it's made with cranberries, so that makes it a natural for this time of year. I don't make it often, because gelatin isn't vegetarian and I always use too much Agar powder if I substitute that for the gelatin. ~sigh~

Ana Bickel’s Grandmother’s Cranberry Salad
  • 1 small box cherry gelatin (Jell-o or off-brand)
  • 1 can jellied cranberries
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple
Mix 1 cup boiling water and gelatin until gelatin dissolves. Add jellied cranberry sauce and mix until sauce is dissolved. Add pineapples. Chill until firm.

NOTE: Drain the dang pineapples. Pineapple juice is the enemy of gelatin.

Merry Christmas, or happy any old holiday you choose!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays! by Joyce Lavene

                   Happy Holidays to everyone!

May Santa bring everything you asked for, and may the food you have on your table be bountiful!

Joyce and Jim Lavene

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five-in-One Pasta Delight

The holiday season is here, and invariably the kids spend more time in the kitchen hunting for “their kind of food”! But this is really no complaint, as I too love to huddle up with them at the dining table yakking and eating! The Christmas tree is ready. Most of the packages are wrapped. Now I’m starting to think about what cakes, cookies, and candies to make…besides main dishes!

I know my kids will love this cheesy pasta. In fact, I think I’ll go ahead and make it because it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, and this would be a nice, comforting dish for them to come home to.

Pasta with Five Cheeses


·         1 pound Rigatoni, fusilli or small shells

·         2 cups heavy cream

·         1 teaspoon Basil, dried

·         1 cup Crushed tomatoes in heavy puree

·         1 package Italian blend cheese, (8 ounces divided - mozzarella, mild cheddar, provolone, and asiago)

·         1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled


1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.

2.    Boil the pasta two minutes less than what the package specifies in plenty of well-salted water and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the cream, crushed tomatoes, basil, 1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend, and gorgonzola cheese.

3.    Add cooked pasta to the cream and cheese mixture. Stir to combine.

4.    Pour into prepared casserole dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of Italian cheese blend. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is browned slightly and pasta is bubbling hot. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BB&R Risotto #Vegetarian

BB&R stands for Black Beans and Rice, which is redundant, since a Risotto is rice. But, as a wise woman once said, "Whatever."

Unless you're a writer, it's kind of a bore to stand in front of the stove, stirring a pot for 20 to 30 minutes. If you're a writer, it's an opportunity to look busy while you dream up a story.
For this, I heated some garlic-flavored olive oil in a sauce pan. I diced some onion and tri-colored peppers and cooked them along with some cumin for a few minutes. Then I put in the arborio rice and stirred that around until the rice started to go translucent. I had four times as much water as rice, and added some of the water, stirring it and cooking at a simmer until most of the water was absorbed. Then I added more water, cooked, more water, cooked, until almost all the water was gone. Then I added the drained black beans and a cube of vegetarian bouillon and cooked until there was just some sauce, not watery water.

I topped it with shaved cheese. The thing on the side is a soft flour tortilla warmed in a hot skillet.

Pretty quick, very easy, extremely tasty.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 16, 2013

What is your favorite holiday cookie? by Joyce Lavene

What is your favorite holiday cookie?
By Joyce Lavene

Cookies are an important holiday tradition for me. I remember helping my mother make cookies when I was a kid. Christmas was the only time we made so many beautiful and elaborate cookie treats. They were sealed away in pretty tins and kept aside for the big day.

Of course, my brother and I always knew where to find them, and we sneaked more than a few. But we'd carefully arrange them so it looked as though none were missing. I'm sure we weren't fooling my mother - but it added to the fun and excitement of the holiday.

My mother made chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies that we frosted and decorated. She also made almond crescents, snicker-doodles, egg white cookies and cookies pressed from a tube. She made layer cookies and elaborate cookies that had to be baked and cooled before each part was added.

I am nowhere near the cook and baker my mother was, but I enjoy making cookies. I don't make all the different varieties or put in as much time thinking and collecting recipes as she did. I still make chocolate chip cookies - thanks to Nestle's sugar-free chocolate chips, oatmeal cookies, and almond crescents.

My challenge this year is going to be trying to keep everything sugar-free. I'm still hoping to eat some almond crescents, which are my favorite cookies. It's not easy to powder Splenda, but I'm determined to try.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Murderous Matrimony: www.renaisssancefairemuysteries.com
Book Six in the Ren Faire Mysteries

Hero's Journey: www.jjcook.net
A new E-novella in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Package Cheese Snack

The holiday season is here and time to catch up with friends and some cozy family bonding. For me, Christmas and New Year means lavish family luncheons, dinners and lots of fun.  Well, it can be fun only when the planning is done in advance for the big day. I generally make a checklist of the menu and arrangements at least a week ahead so that I am not caught in a mess when the guests arrive. This year, however, we have planned a potluck lunch at our friends’ place. I am all excited with the luncheon just a week away. I have already planned on my dress and accessories. Deciding what to take was quite tricky. I thought of cakes, cookies, pastries... but it was all either too strenuous or something very common.

So I decided I was going to make something like a usual snack but with a unique twist. I was racking my mind on what to contribute to the potluck, something which would be light and yet enjoyed by everyone.

I decided to make a delicious cheese log. How I wish my grandmother was here. She would just make these cheese logs in a jiffy and serve them fresh with a unique presentation always. I was going to try one of her innovations and present each of the blocks like a gift package.

I started Googling to find a cheese log recipe, and believe it or not, I stumbled upon one recipe in perfect grandmother style.

Christmas Package Cheese Snack


·         8 ounces of cream cheese (softened)

·         1/2 teaspoon dried dill

·         1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

·         1/8 teaspoon salt

·         Scallion

·         Red bell pepper


1.    Mix the dried dill, garlic powder, and salt into the softened cream cheese.

2.    Pack the mixture into a rectangular container lined with plastic wrap (you can reuse the cream cheese box).

3.    Refrigerate it for at least 3 hours. Before serving time, set the unwrapped block of cheese on a platter and decorate it with a scallion bow and red pepper polka dots and gift tag.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Sweet Secret

If you need brown sugar for some holiday baking, you do not have to run out and buy it. This works perfectly. I may never purchase brown sugar again! Ingredients: 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons molasses Directions: In a food processor combine both ingredients and process till combined. Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/brown-sugar-substitute-290745?oc=linkback

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Effortless Chocolate Mousse

When I say "effortless," I mean effortless. As in, "without effort." Okay, you do have to go to Kroger and buy a quart of Chocolate Paradise Deluxe ice cream. But, once you get home, all you have to do is put it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.

See, it got too cold for ice cream to be appetizing, so I took the Chocolate Paradise out of the freezer and put it in the fridge so it could melt. The kids used to stir their ice cream around and around in their bowls until it melted; they called the melted ice cream "clever juice," for some reason.

I figured, I'll just melt this puppy down and have a quart of clever juice to jazz up my coffee or pour over angel food cake or over fruit.

But, when I opened the container, this is what I found.
Chocolate mousse. The "ice cream" is thickened and texturized with cellulose gel, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, and carrageenan (Irish moss -- yes, real moss from real Ireland).

At first, I was like, Ewwww -- Nasty! And then I was like, How cool is that? I'm keeping this little trick in my back pocket, and I'm going to try it with other flavors.

Unexpected guest show up and you want to give them dessert but not ice cream? Put a quart of ice cream in the fridge to mousse up, spoon it into dessert cups with crumbled graham crackers or crushed nuts or peanut butter or whatever. Or layer two or more flavors.

DUDE, right?

After a few days, it collapses into clever juice, so now I have my yummy liquid to pour over or into stuff. It's all good. As long as it's chocolate.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cooking for Firefighters by J J Cook

Cooking for Firefighters
By J J Cook
from the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

Cooking for firefighters is no different than cooking for any other large group of people. Possibly the biggest difference is that the people who are eating could rush out at any moment and not return for several hours. That doesn't happen at most sit-down dinners.

I am a member of a family of firefighters dating back to the late 1800s. Foods haven't changed substantially during that time. Whoever is cooking - usually everyone takes their turn - makes a lot of soups, stews, and chili. Foods that are easy and can be re-heated are popular. Sometimes restaurants, and families who want to say thank you, will donate food for lunch or dinner. That can be a nice change of pace from what firefighters make themselves.

You can imagine our food gets to be a little repetitive after a while. Hardly anyone complains though. We know what we do is important to our communities, and we're proud of it.

Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

* That Old Flame of Mine

* Hero's Journey

* Playing with Fire (January 2014)


Friday, December 6, 2013

Refreshing Starter

With Christmas and New Year’s Day just around the corner, most kitchens are bustling with even more hectic activity than usual. The aroma of delicious cakes and pastries, cookies and biscuits would just lead anyone right to the kitchen. Who wouldn't want a fresh piece of bread right from the oven with all those appetizing herbs and cream?

While I was jotting down the menu for our big party night just before Christmas, a sudden thought crossed my brain. The entire spread would be filled with greasy, creamy, buttery elements good enough to make your stomach feel hungry for more even after a number of servings. But what effect would such heavy food have on the poor human anatomy?

After fiddling through the Internet and cookbooks, I came across this super light and delicious appetizer--light on the body and enticing on the taste buds. It’s a citrus and pomegranate salad with chili honey dressing. The colorful salad is appealing to the eyes and a refreshing starter.

Citrus and Pomegranate Salad with Chili Honey Dressing


For the chili-honey dressing
• 5 tsp. white wine vinegar
• 4 tsp. clear honey
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small red chili, cut in half, seeds removed, finely chopped

For the salad
• 4 small oranges, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 2 ruby grapefruit, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 1 plain grapefruit, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 1 small red onion, peeled, very finely chopped
• One bunch fresh mint leaves
• 1 pomegranate, seeds only, to serve

For the chili-honey dressing, mix together the vinegar and honey in a shallow serving bowl until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil, using a fork, then add the chili and whisk again. Add more vinegar or oil, to taste.

For the salad, arrange the segmented fruit in a broad shallow bowl. Sprinkle over the onion and mint, then pour over the chili-honey dressing and mix well until it coats the salad.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dang Pioneer Woman and her Awesome Cookbook!

Ree Drummond kept me up way past my bedtime last night. In case you are not familiar with the name, Ree is also known as THE PIONEER WOMAN.
She is a cute, sweet-talking, red-headed spitfire with a knack for cooking and photography. Ree lives on a massive Oklahoma ranch with her husband and four children.
Her rise to fame began when Ree started her own blog. The blog, depicting her family's rural life, is packed with stories, photos and recipes. The blog has led to cookbooks and a television show.
Yesterday, I received a copy of Ree's latest cookbook as an early birthday present. A YEAR OF HOLIDAYS is a beautiful  cookbook, packed with recipes for a year's worth of celebrations. Each step of every recipe includes a photograph. Other photos show Ree's family and friends enjoying various celebrations throughout the years.
Once I got to bed last night, I stayed up for at least an hour to look at my new,book. It left me with dreams of all the recipes I will be trying for my family's celebrations!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Can You Feed #Vegetarians?

Pirogi, again. I just purely LOVE pirogi! Well, anything with potatoes in it, actually. It's the Irish in me, I suppose.

ANYWAY, here is another priogi dish suitable for vegans and (potentially) delicious to anybody.

Pirogi and Mushrooms
  • frozen pirogi
  • vegan "buttery spread"
  • chopped onion
  • minced garlic
  • sliced mushrooms
  • crumbled cheese
Melt some buttery spread on medium low and cook the onions and garlic and mushrooms until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are browned. Meanwhile, boil the pirogi according to package directions. Remove the vegetables. Drain the pirogi. Melt some more margarine and lightly brown the pirogi on both sides. Return veg and heat together. Put the pirogi on plates, top with veg, top that with cheese.


Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 2, 2013

Are you a baked white or sweet (yam) potato person? Comment and win a copy of Hero's Journey!

Hero's Journey
An E-Novella in the sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries
 By J.J. Cook
Make a comment on this blog and win a copy!

It's always the same story at Thanksgiving.

There is stuffing and cranberries, and for some, the turkey or goose.

But do you choose baked white potatoes, mashed potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, or sweet potatoes?

I'm sure your choice says something about you as a person.

People who choose yams (sweet potatoes) are more outgoing and likely to try unusual things.

People who choose mashed potatoes are afraid of spiders.

Baked white? Likely to be past class presidents or football players.

Cheesy potato casserole? Let's just say that you have to watch out for these people!

Which potato eater are you?