Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bracing Myself...Again

I am composing my post as I wait in the orthodontist's office. My Calli is getting braces put on for the second time (also known as Phase 2). For the next few days, Calli's diet will have to be easy to chew. Soups, ice cream, pasta and rice seem like good options. Any other ides?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Okay, stew. But we don't say "styew" around here, we say "stoo."

However you say it, this was a good 'un.

It's mushrooms, hominy, tomatoes, veg bouillon, black beans, green beans, and rice. I seasoned it with cumin and just a touch of chili powder.

Some people see soup as only a winter food, but it's quick and easy, doesn't heat up the kitchen much, and it can be as light as you care to make it.

My husband like the broth and I like the stuff, so we're a good pair. We're a good pair, anyway, but that helps.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ollie's Spicy Gumbo by J.J. Cook

Ollie's Spicy Gumbo!

This recipe is from my first Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery, Death on Eat Street. The next book will be Fry Another Day, coming out in February 2015.

Ollie’s Spicy Gumbo

It took me a while watching Ollie make this so I could write it down. Here’s what I have.

1 pound dry red kidney beans
1 large onion, 1 large green pepper, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. minced garlic
Fresh parsley (Ollie says you know how much parsley you like)
2 tsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. dried sage or 1 tsp. fresh sage
½ tsp. paprika and oregano
2 stalks of celery
2 bay leaves
¼ cup chopped cayenne peppers
1 pound Andouille sausage (or spicy vegetarian sausage) cut into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups of water

How to make it:
Rinse and then cook kidney beans after soaking overnight.
Sauté in large frying pan, onion, green pepper, garlic, celery in olive oil.
Add cooked kidney beans to 6 cups of water. Stir sautéed vegetables to beans. Add bay, cayenne, theme, sage, and parsley. Allow to come to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours.
Stir sausage into the mixture and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
Make rice (if you like) according to directions on package. Serve the gumbo over rice.

You can also serve in biscuit bowls but use 3 cups of water in the gumbo instead of six!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Try as I Might, I can't get Organized When I Write

CREATIVE MINDS ARE RARELY TIDY. I once saw a sign with that quote on a teacher's desk. It is a quote that wholeheartedly applies to me. My newest attempt to get organized with my writing projects is an according file with labeled sections. Since my "office" is also my dining room table, I am constantly looking for things to keep my papers contained. I also need organizational options that are easy and quick to put away when the dining room table has to be cleared for company. If this folder works for me, I might be going back to Target for more! How do you stay organized?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Ogden Nash was one of my favorite humorous poets, but I disagree with him on some things. Parsley, among them.

Here is a poem he wrote about the wonderful herb:

Further Reflections on Parsley

by Ogden Nash

Is gharsley.

The opposite of gharsley.

See, I disagree with him, there. I like parsley very very much. I chop it and use it fresh, and I dry it for later. I mix it with butter and pour it over boiled new potatoes. I add it to pesto and green smoothies. I use it to make tabouli and couscous salad.

Do you use parsley as anything besides a garnish?

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Salted Hazelnut Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Salted Hazelnut Chocolate Buttercream

I found this yummy recipe on The Naptime Chef. Click the link above for the story behind the cake and the chef's notes!


1 ½cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½cups superfine sugar
3teaspoons instant espresso dissolved in ½ cup boiling water
2tablespoons kahlua
2tablespoons whole milk
3cups all-purpose flour
2tablespoons baking powder
1/3cup cocoa powder
1teaspoon kosher salt
For the Frosting:
12ounces semisweet chocolate
12ounces bittersweet chocolate
5large egg whites
1 ½cups superfine sugar
1pinch cream of tartar
2teaspoons kosher salt
1pound unsalted butter, room temperature
2teaspoons hazelnut extract
1cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour 3 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together for 10 minutes, until light and airy. Meanwhile, dissolve the espresso in the boiling water and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt and set aside.
3. Once the butter is fluffy add the eggs and mix well. Then add the rum, milk and espresso and beat until incorporated.
4. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined. The batter will be very fluffy. Evenly distribute it amongst the three baking pans and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes in their pans, then remove them and place them on wire racks to cool completely.
5. To make the buttercream: Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl and warm them over simmering water for about 6 minutes, or until warm to the touch. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate together in the microwave and stir together. Set aside.
6. Place the cooled egg whites in a mixing bowl and whip until they hold stiff peaks. Then beat it the butter in small pieces, followed by the salt, melted chocolate and hazelnut extract. The frosting should be fluffy and light!
7. Frost the cake between each layer and all along the outer edges and top. Then, scatter the hazelnuts all along the top of the cake and press them along the sides as well. Serve!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Subway to the Rescue!

My daughter was in a softball tournament last weekend. It was in the middle of nowhere and we had to be there for over 6 hours. Since going to a restaurant was just not an option, a team mom thought of an easy way to bring restaurant food with the team. We could choose between turkey or ham $5.00 foot longs from Subway. There was an option of white bread or wheat bread. Subway included trays of cheeses, tomatoes and shredded lettuce. All of the sandwiches were packed in a cooler. At lunchtime, the sandwiches were handed out. The sandwich toppings, chips, cookies, watermelon and a cooler of drinks rounded out the perfect ballpark picnic!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pasta Pesto Make-o Presto

The longest part of this recipe is waiting for the basil to germinate and grow big enough to harvest.

ONCE THAT HAPPENS, It takes next to no time to make pesto.
4 cups washed basil leaves
1/4 cup garlic-infused olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or cashews*)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
salt to taste
lemon juice to taste

Process in a food processor or blender or, if you're a stickler and have more time than you know what to do with, grind it bit by bit with a mortar and pestle. Yeah, right.

*To make it vegan, use cashews, increase amount of cashews to closer to 1/2 cup, and leave out the cheese. Add a tablespoon or so of nutritional yeast, if desired.

Measure 1/2 cup or so into a sandwich bag, squish the bag as flat as possible, seal, and freeze flat. When you need some pesto, it'll be quick and easy to break of a bit to toss into a pot of soup, or it'll take no time for the whole bag to thaw.

Alongside the pasta with pesto are its besties, Mr. Hominy and Mr. Mushrooms-Peppers.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 14, 2014

The only way to eat zucchini! by Joyce Lavene

Zucchini Bread – The only way to eat zucchini!
By Joyce Lavene 

I’m not a big fan of zucchini. But I have a lot of friends, family, and neighbors who grow it and want to give it away. I’m not sure if this is because THEY don’t want to eat it either, or they just grow too much.

Whatever the reason, I end up with a lot of zucchini every year. The only way I’ve found to eat it (without deep frying) is making it into bread. It’s not too bad this way, and you can freeze the bread and give it as gifts to the people who gave you the zucchini!

Here’s my recipe:

Grease the bottoms of 2 loaf pans with shortening or cooking spray.

Mix 3 cups of shredded zucchini with a cup and a half of sugar (or equivalent sweetener), 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 tsp. vanilla, 4 eggs, 3 cups of flour, 2 tsp. baking soda (unless you use self-rising flour), 1 tsp cinnamon, and ½ tsp. ground cloves. Or use 2 tsps. pumpkin pie spice. Mix well.

I like nuts and raisins in my bread. If you do too, add ½ cup chopped nuts, and ½ cup raisins to batter. 

 Then divide the batter between the 2 pans.

Bake for an hour or do the toothpick inserting thing to check if it’s done. Cool.

Slide bread out of pans and wrap with plastic. Eat within a few days or store in freezer for up to a few weeks.

Bewitching Boots by Joyce and Jim Lavene will be out on August 5th! This is the 7th book in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries. To read an excerpt:

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Homemade Ice Cream...In A Bag?

I saw this on Pinterest today and am wondering if it's good. I saw several versions of the "homemade ice cream in a bag." Some people gave it a thumbs up; others a thumbs down. Have you ever tried it? If so, what do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spa Water

Spa water is a cheap indulgence that looks beautiful and tastes refreshing. The pitcher in the photo contains mint and lavender from my yard, lemon and cucumber. I plan to try more fruit/herbal combinations this summer. My next pitcher may be cucumber, mint and watermelon. Doesn't that spunk good on a hot summer day?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Of What A Vegan Can Eat

As I've said before, I used to be all, "You're a vegan? So what in the world do you find to eat?" Then one of our daughters went vegan and we found ourselves sort of sliding in that direction without meaning to, and now I make meals we love and only later realize it was vegan. For realz!

Like this stew:

Got some kale there, some cabbage, garlic-infused olive oil, a little broccoli (florets and chopped stems), celery, tomatoes, veg bouillon, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Probably some onion powder (DH doesn't like onions but likes the flavor).

Guess what? Vegans can eat this. Non-vegans can eat it, too. It is de-LISH!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sazerac and Mardi Gras!

Learning about Mardi Gras food and drink
By Joyce Lavene
From the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries
By J.J. Cook 

In writing the third Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery, Fat Tuesday Fricassee, set in Mobile, Alabama, I came across an interesting fact. Mobile had the first Mardi Gras celebration in 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was even a city!

French soldiers who were in Mobile at the time brought their celebration with them. Today, Mobile has a lively, and more family-based, carnival than New Orleans. Lundi and Mardi Gras, Fat Monday and Tuesday in French, is the end  of two weeks of carnival with parades and parties. 

It’s the last chance to feast before the fasting that occurs during the weeks of Lent. It’s as good an excuse as any to party – and they do! There is extravagant food and drinks as well as behavior. It’s a great gold, purple, and green time of year (carnival colors).

Many of Mobile’s and New Orleans’ foods and events are similar. There are parades and ‘throws’ (beads, tiny stuffed animals, etc.) and even secret societies and krews who stage the parades. Don’t forget the moon pies!

One of the many things I’ve learned about is what many consider the official drink of Mardi Gras - Sazerac. It has been adopted by New Orleans as the official cocktail of the city and may well be the first mixed drink ever made in the U.S.

Sazerac is a potent, alcohol-based drink that incorporates absinthe, an anise flavored alcohol that is made from wormwood, green anise (where it gets its color), and sweet fennel. This drink was so feared for causing hallucinations that it was banned in the U.S. and many European countries for years. Only in the early 1990s did American companies begun making absinthe again when it was proven that the absinthe hysteria was groundless. The drink doesn’t cause any more side effects than any other potent alcohol.

Sazerac was a ‘bad’ drink during those years but never completely abandoned. People partying during carnival in New Orleans or Mobile wouldn’t have missed it.

I had to try it and this is how it’s made:

Mix two ounces of rye whiskey with one half teaspoon of maple syrup with three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. The secret to the drink is the absinthe. The glass must be chilled first and then misted or coated with it. Some people throw out what’s left, but if you want it stronger, leave it in. Mix the whiskey, syrup, and bitters with ice in a separate glass or shaker before adding to the glass prepared with absinthe. Strain into the glass, and add a lemon twist.

The green color is amazing, and so is the taste. Make this and you're ready to party!

I'll have some interesting foods coming up as I'm working on the book, Fat Tuesday Fricassee. Many of them are new to me. All of them are fun and delicious!

Look for the second Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mystery, FRY ANOTHER DAY, coming in February 2015. Pre-order now and save money!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Patriotic Oreo Pops!

Happy Independence Day!

Here is a fun and easy dessert you might enjoy making:

At the site (, there is a step-by-step tutorial for making these.
Have a wonderful day!!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My July 4th Treat

My family is going to a party on July 4th where every guest brings a finger food and some fireworks. I saw this recipe on Tricia Yearwood's Food Network show recently. Cannot wait to make it and share with my friends on July 4th!
Recipe courtesy of Trisha Yearwood Recipe courtesy Trisha Yearwood SHOW: Trisha's Southern Kitchen EPISODE: Kelly Clarkson in the Kitchen No-Bake Chocolate-Pretzel-Peanut Butter Squares Total Time: 1 hr 17 min Prep: 16 min Inactive: 1 hr Cook: 1 min Yield:10 to 12 servings Level:Easy Next Recipe Ingredients 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, melted 2 cups pretzel rods, crushed into crumbs 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 cup plus 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips Directions In a medium bowl, add the melted butter, pretzel crumbs, confectioners' sugar and 1 cup of the peanut butter and stir together until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. Combine the chocolate chips and the remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate and peanut butter are melted and smooth; two intervals should be enough. Mix to blend, then spread over the peanut butter-pretzel layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting into squares. CATEGORIES: Chocolate Dessert Microwaving View All Read more at:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tilapia and Veg

We're only mostly vegetarian at our house. One of the un-vegetarian things we eat is fish. Pescatarian, that's called. Just in case you're even, you know, on Jeopardy or something.

ANYWAY, here's what we had for supper.

That's tilapia dredged in Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs and fried in vegan margarine about five minutes a side. Then I took the fish out onto plates, mixed a little lemon juice into the margarine, and poured it over the fish.

The veg is Minton's Veggie Casserole, which I call that because a man named David Minton gave me the recipe. It's just a can of mixed vegetables, drained and rinsed, layered in a buttered casserole dish with crumbled crackers, mayonnaise, and cheese, then baked at 350F for about half an hour. It's extra good if you have some water chestnuts to add. Minton put Worcestershire sauce in his, but I'm not madly keen on Worcestershire sauce, so I leave it out.

Suit yourself. :)

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes