Friday, December 31, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Cinnamon Roll Batches

Happy New Year. This is the final installment of my month-long postings of holiday recipes that are old traditions in my family. December 4 was my uncle’s penuche, December 11 was my mother’s fruit cocktail cake, December 18 was my sister-in-law’s boiled chocolate oatmeal cookies. To start the year off right, I’m ending with my mother-in-law’s cinnamon roll recipe.

My late mother-in-law was universally recognized as a world-class cook, and like most world-class cooks, she didn’t use recipes. She could tell by the look, feel, and smell of a dish if it was thrown together right. This quality makes for some good eatin’, but it makes it hard on family cooks of later generations to duplicate the dishes they so loved growing up. I got this updated version of the original from my sister-in-law Lorraine, who as you can see, also cooks on the fly. I’ll reproduce Lorraine’s instructions, then let you know what I discovered when I tried to make the rolls.


a loaf of Rhodes frozen bread

brown sugar



more butter



raisins (optional

Thaw the bread for two to three hours. Let it rise a bit. Roll the dough out into a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Spread about 1/2 stick of butter over the dough. Spread brown sugar over the top of the dough. Shake cinnamon over the brown sugar. Broadcast a package of pecans (and raisins) over dough. Roll the dough up and pinch shut the edge along the side of the roll. In a sauce pan melt some butter and a handful of brown sugar along with some cinnamon and a little cream to make about 1/4 to 1/2 cup mixture. Pour the sauce pan of butter and sugar mixture into a cooking pan. Cut the long roll of dough into slices and place the slices onto the butter and brown sugar mixture in the cooking pan. Dribble cream on each cinnamon roll. Let the rolls rise in the pan for about 20 minutes. Cook at 375 degrees.

Here’s how it went:


I did okay up until I rolled up the dough. I let the butter soften for a couple of

hours which made it easier to spread over the dough. I covered the top of the dough with about brown sugar about 1/4 inch thick (I’m guessing around 2/3 cup), and sprinkled enough cinnamon to completely cover the sugar (@ 2 TBSP). I used 1/2 cup of pecan pieces, and about the same of golden raisins. Mistake no. 1: I rolled up the dough from the short end of the rectangle instead of the long end. This made eight thin rolls. Mistake no. 2: I used way too little brown sugar and way too much cream in the liquid mixture. The idea is to create a caramelly topping, and as you can see in the bottom of the pan, it should be much more caramel colored and a lot less cream colored. She said “a handful of brown sugar”. Use two good handfuls, 2 tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and just enough cream to make the mixture the consistency of a runny caramel. Mistake no. 3: the pan I used is too large. The rolls should touch each other and the sides of the pan. The pan in the picture is 9”x13”. RESULT: You’ve no doubt noticed that the cooking instructions do not include time. I preheated the oven and baked the rolls for 25 minutes, which was just right. However, my too-thin topping mixture made the bottom of the rolls soggy and the too-large pan made the rolls loose and not very tall.


This time I had figured out how to roll the dough. The long thin roll, when cut into eight equal pieces, makes much thicker cinnamon rolls. I also melted the butter and brushed it over the dough in step one. This was a lot easier than trying to spread it. However, dotting lots of little chunks of butter around makes the rolls very rich. Mistake 1: I adjusted the liquid mixture for the bottom of the pan, but not enough. It was still too creamy. Mistake 2: This time the pan I used was too small - an 8”x8” glass baking pan. I crammed all eight rolls into the pan. They rose like a mushroom cloud over the top of the pan. RESULT: I ended up with something rather like monkey bread with a soggy bottom.


My problem was that I don’t own the right sized pan. So this I put six of the rolls in the 8”x8” baking pan and the two remaining rolls in a six-inch ramekin. I used a lot more sugar and a lot less cream in the liquid mixture. I also used dark brown sugar instead of light brown, as I had in the first attempts, which made for a richer brown caramel. RESULT: when I turned these rolls out onto the plate, they were well risen and covered with sweet, gooey brown sugar caramel. By the time I retrieved my camera to take the picture, two of the rolls were already gone.

Gingerbread houses

My daughter and I bought a pre-fab gingerbread house to make tomorrow. I'm not sure how it will turn out because we haven't ever done one before. I'm pretty sure, though, that ours won't look anything like these most recent winners of the Grove Park Inn (Asheville, NC) gingerbread competition. (The three photos shown here were taken by Wright Creative.)

The creation to the left was the Grand Prize Winner and was made by Heather Lewis of Austell, Georgia.

This is the First Place Winner in the Adult Category. It was made by Angel Adkins of Kodak, Tennessee.

And, finally, this one was the Adult Category 2nd place winner and was created by Barbara Evans of Edelstein, Illinois.

Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guess I Oughta Make a Resolution

With New Years Eve approaching, I feel like I ought to be making my resolution. To tell the truth, I am not big on making New Years resolutions.I think everyday is an opportunity for making my life the best it can be. Perfection will never be achieved, but as long as my family and I are thiving and happy; that is pretty good for me.
A resolution seems like too much pressure to achieve perfection in some area, which can lead to a sort of resolution rebellion that makes me want to break the resolution out of sheer resentment towards myself for making the resolution.
When I worked for the school system, our professional evaluations included "areas for growth". I have always liked that term.
So, here is a list of my "areas for growth" in the new year:
1) I must become a better editor. Almost everything I write has at least one error. (Yes, go ahead and read over this whole piece with a fine-toothed comb. There will be an error.)
2) I must work on my organizational skills. A specific thing I want to do it to buy some file boxes to steamline my office/dining room.
3) I need to live in the moment. My mind tends to jump to what I think I ought to do next. This cheats me and my loved ones of my undivided attention.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Making The Most Of A Butternut Squash

There are only the two of us, so I wanted a nice little butternut squash. Couldn't find one. In the land of Bigger is Better, even the squash has been super-sized. The one I found had a reasonable bulby bit, but the neck looked like a cross between a giraffe and a rhinoceros. And, of course, a squash.

I cut off the bulby bit, scooped out the seeds (which are sooo good roasted: pull off and discard the strings, toss the seeds with oil or butter and whatever seasonings you like and toast in skillet or hot oven for about 10 minutes). Then I buttered the interior of the bulb halves and baked them, buttered side down, at 350 for 45-60 minutes and stuffed them with couscous topped with feta cheese.

I peeled and cubed the neck part and simmered the cubes until they were tender. I took out half to store. The other half, I mashed, adding salt, butter, honey, nutmeg and toasted ground pecans. It made a very nice spread. I have some of it left over, and I'm considering beating an egg into it and frying it as a sort of pancake.

With the other half of the simmered neck bit, I plan to make a soup. The original recipe calls for sweet potato, apple butter and pumpkin, but I'm going to make it with squash, apple pie filling and pumpkin. You add diced carrots, veg broth, garlic and onion and, nasty as it sounds, it is stunningly delicious. The recipe also calls for heavy cream, but we liked what I made before just fine without it. Suit yourself.

In the spirit of the season, I don't have a murder method to offer this week. Unless you know someone who is allergic to squash, I suppose.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

When I was a girl, we always got a banana, an orange or tangerine, and a walnut in our stockings on Christmas morning. For all the years of my childhood, this was my traditional Christmas breakfast.

Later, after presents, there was a giant Christmas dinner with all the family, but that banana always got my through to early afternoon.

Next week, on New Year's day, I'll tell you how to make a New Year breakfast of cinnamon rolls, but until then, I expect you're all opening presents, so I'll leave you to it and go crack my walnut.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Since today is Christmas Eve, I'm going to refer you to the blog I posted on Monday. It's the latest issue of Killer Cakes, and it's dedicated to birthday cakes for Jesus. Check it out at

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's On His Way!

Since Christmas is almost here, what better way to prepare than by making some homemade cookies to put out for Santa tomorrow?

Yum! How about these White Chocolate Kissed Gingerbread Cookies?

See cookie recipe.

And this sounds fun.... track Santa's progress online tomorrow - See Track Santa.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do It Yourself Christmas Fun

I love doing little food gifts for friends, neighbors, teachers, etc.
Here are a couple of simple projects that make a really cute presentation:
Candy Cane Vases:
You will need an empty can, candy canes. 2 rubber bands and ribbon.
1) Put 2 rubber bands around the center of the can. 2) Put candy canes all around the can, sticking them between the can and the rubber bands. It works best if the hook of the cane faces inward. 3) Tie ribbon around can to hide rubber bands.
Peppermint/Marshmallow Cocoa Stirs:
You will need peppermint disks, large marshmallows, and popsicle sticks.
1) Place unwrapped peppermints on baking sheet. 2) Tear large marshmallows in half and place marshmallow halves on top of peppermints. 3) Bake marshmallow topped peppermints in 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until peppermints begin to soften and marshmallows begin to melt. 4) Carefully remove candies from sheet with a small spatula. 5) While still warm, insert sticks into marshmallows.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bourbon Balls

Last week, I promised to post my Bourbon ball recipe, so here it is:


For centers:

  • 6 cups (one 2lb bag) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup Bourbon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • whole walnuts for topping--not a WHOLE walnut, obviously, just one unbroken piece of walnut meat

Cream butter and sugar. Add Bourbon, fold in nuts. Work together until thoroughly blended. Cover with wax paper. Refrigerate until well chilled. It will look crumbly, but you can press it into balls with your fingers.

Make into 1-inch balls or smaller, place on wax paper on cookie sheet and refrigerate again to make firm.

For coating:

  • 8 squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 Tb paraffin wax (plain white wax, like you use to seal jelly)
  • 2 Tbs butter, more if needed to make the coating liquid enough

[Note: This is never enough. I recommend making two batches of coating.]

Melt in double boiler over hot water (Do not let chocolate boil). Dip one center at a time. Place on wax paper, put walnut on top. Refrigerate.

Makes around 100 at about 60 calories each.

Now, naturally, two batches of coating is just a little too much so, since my dear old gray-headed Mama taught me "waste not, want not", I dip pretzels in the leavings. If there's anything left after that, I dump nuts into the pot and make chocolate nut clusters.

Ohhhh, so good!

Marian Allen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

This is the third week in my month-long postings of holiday recipes that are old traditions in my family. December 4 was my uncle’s penuche, December 11 was my mother’s fruit cocktail cake, and today I’m treating you to my late sister-in-law LaNell’s recipe for boiled chocolate oatmeal cookies. These are oh, so delicious, and very easy. I have this recipe in LaNell’s handwriting, and have lovingly pressed it into my personal cookbook. It would be a shame not to perk up your Christmas with these cookies, along with all the other fantastic holiday recipes my blogmates are also sharing this month.

1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla
3 cups uncooked quick oats
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine first five ingredients in a saucepan and boil two minutes. Add 1 tsp vanilla. Remove from the fire and add 3 cups of uncooked one-minute oats. Add one cup of chopped nuts. Mix in well. Drop by teaspoons-full onto wax paper and let set. Yields about 40 cookies.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Idea to Boost Last Minute Christmas Sales

I did not schedule many book signings for this month. It just seemed like too much to balance with all of the other Christmas activities we have going on with our family.

While I have loved having more time at home to wrap presents and bake, I have missed that extra cash that can come from signings that target Christmas shoppers. Yesterday, I decided to get creative and offer my "Christmas Panic Book Deal".

I put it up as a message to Facebook fans. Anyone who orders by Sunday get a discount plus free delivery (within a 25 mile radius of my house). I have already gotten orders for several books. It is an easy and inexpensive marketing plan. There is still time to all of my author friends to try it!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Deadly Danes

These cookies have been called Snowballs, Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Czechoslovakian Cookies and, in my go-to recipe, Danish Cookies. My #3 daughter calls them Pecan Balls, which is probably the most appropriate descriptor. This is one of the cookies I ALWAYS make for Christmas. They have about 70 calories each, and I could just stand at the counter and inhale the whole batch. I have far too much self-discipline for that, of course. But I could.

  • 1 stick butter or margarine, soft but not melted
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar plus some for rolling
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Mix and roll into 1" balls. Bake at 250 F for 1/2 hour. Cool slightly, then roll in more powdered sugar.

Here's another recipe I just found because I wanted to ... er ... liberate their picture. I think I like their recipe even better than mine: hotter oven and shorter baking time, and TOAST the nuts first--yeah, tha's what I'm talkin' about!

What makes them deadly? I mean, apart from the fact I could eat them until I pop? Well, I have a friend who's allergic to hazelnuts. Not any other kind of nuts, but hazelnuts. Now, suppose she were NOT my friend, but my deadly enemy. And suppose I slipped some hazelnuts into her pecan balls. It must have happened at the factory! The manufacturer should have put a warning label on the package! It's an outrage! What a tragic accident!

What's that? You say hazelnuts have such a distinctive taste, she would know at once that she had them in her mouth and would spit them out? Then maybe I'd better put them in the bourbon balls, for which I'll post the recipe next week.

Marian Allen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Squash

I love squash. I love squash so much that I make this dish every year for both Thanksgiving and Christmas although no one else in my family will touch it. That means lots of left overs for me. So be warned, this recipe is for serious squash lovers only.

Vicki’s Christmas Squash Casserole

2 large butternut or other firm winter squash
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (or as needed)
2 tbsp Maple syrup
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Fill large pot with salted water and bring to boil.

Peel, seed, and chop squash into rough hunks, and place in water (water should cover squash, if not, add more)

Reduce heat to soft boil and cook until squash is very soft – approx. 30 minutes

In food processor or blender puree squash. If too thick to puree, slowly add enough stock to soften

Add maple syrup, butter, nutmeg, and combine

Return squash to pot, stir in stock.

Reheat, adding salt and pepper as desired. Add more stock if required to make a smooth paste.

And that’s it! I’ve tried recipes that have you broil or bake the squash first, but found them unnecessarily harder. Some recipes call for baking the squash after it is pureed – why bother?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fruit Cocktail Cake for Christmas

Every week leading up to the new year, I’m posting a recipe that is a multi-generational tradition in my extended family. Last week was my uncle’s penuche. This week I’m sharing the recipe for my mother's fruit cocktail cake, just as she wrote it. This cake is easy-peasy, and while it’s delicious right out of the oven, the older it gets, the more luscious and succulent it becomes. In fact, just thinking of it...Excuse me while I delicately dab saliva off my chin.

1 1/2 cups sugar 1 15 oz can of fruit cocktail

2 cups flour 2 eggs

2 tsp soda 1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt you can substitute spices for the vanilla (like a spice cake)

Mix ingredients in order and pour into a 13x9 inch pan. Before baking sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup nuts, or after cake cools, frost with german chocolate cake icing. Bake for 45 minutes in a moderate oven.

MY OBSERVATIONS : I add the vanilla and the spices. I used 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground clove in the cake I gave you. I more or less put in whatever and however much spice I feel like, sometimes allspice, apple pie spice. My sister and I always put on twice as much topping as called for. You can use whatever nuts appeal to you, but I've always used pecans.

ALSO - In my oven, 45 minutes at 350 is too long. A toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean at about 35 minutes, so check for doneness early.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas food traditions

Here is a wonderful demonstration of how to make boiled custard. I remember going to my great-grandmother's house when I was a little girl, and boiled custard is something she always served. It was served as a drink and also as a sauce over cakes. Christmas at Mamaw Kiser's was the only time and place I ever had boiled custard growing up, and it still reminds me of her. What are some of your Christmas food traditions?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something about Fruitcake!

Ok, I know, love it or hate it, but fruitcake is one of those things that go with Christmas.

Well, I happen to like it. Funny though that there seems to be a vendetta against it (and I haven't seen any in the store yet!)

So instead of trying one, why not experiment and try different kinds? You might find one you like!

* Various Fruitcake recipes

* Recipe for Free-Range Fruitcake

(And see, I'm not alone... here's another fruitcake lover!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My New Favorite Cookbook

One of my main requests for birthday gifts was The Pioneer Woman Cooks. My husband came through in granting that request, and I have been obsessed with this book ever since.

In the past, I did a post on Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman. She is a former city girl/vegetarian who married a real cowboy/rancher.
Ree's move to the country threw her into a fascinating new lifestyle that inspired her to blog. The blog became such a sensation that she came out with her own cookbook, which soon reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

My one fear is that too much sampling from Ree's book will result in some thickness around my middle. This food is packing some major calories. Ree notes that ranch work creates a need for hearty meals. I do not think my almost-daily thirty minutes of walking/running results in the same amount of calorie-burning as breaking horses, fixing fence and all of the other tasks that Ree and her family do in working their ranch.
The photographs of their ranch that Ree puts in both her book and on her blog are stunning! She also includes photographs of the cooking process for her recipes, so you know how each step should look.
Here is my condensed version of one of Bree's breakfast recipes. My daughter liked it so much that she wanted it for breakfast and dinner in the same day.

Egg in the Hole

Cut a hole in the middle of a piece of bread, using a biscuit cutter or glass. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Put the bread in the butter for about a minute, letting it toast and soak in the butter. Break one egg into the center of the hole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks. Let the egg set, flip it and let it set on the other side.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Toast with an Accent

French, of course.

See, this is what it was like in my back yard yesterday. All those little white speckles are big fat snowflakes. And, no, that is not my house. That's the playhouse my DH built for our youngest daughter. Cool, isn't it?

Anyway, a hot breakfast was called for. We have LOTS of eggs, thanks to the chickens of our second daughter (which sounds like a French translation exercise, in itself). We had an omelet for breakfast the day before and scrambled eggs for supper, so I really didn't want any more eggs-eggs. I said, "How about French toast?" and my DH said, "Sounds good!" (They can be trained.)

Here's the way I make them, with illustrations:

  • eggs
  • milk
  • vanilla (got that from Vitto Scotti on a Dick Van Dyke Show episode.
  • bread
  • butter
  • cinnamon
Break eggs into a bowl (1 egg per 2 pieces of bread). Add a couple of tablespoons of milk for each egg and a little splash of vanilla. Beat with a fork until blended.

Melt butter in a pan large enough to hold 2 pieces of bread. Dip bread into egg/milk to coat and put into hot pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook until browned, turn and cook on other side.

Serve with honey, maple syrup, white corn syrup, jam, preserves or powdered sugar. I think it's fairly obvious which option I chose.

A caveat (Latin for warning, and pay close attention, because this is what makes this melt-in-your-mouth treat hazardous): Be careful not to inhale when you have a forkful of this anywhere near your mouth. Imagine the laughs the black-humorous coroner would get out of your smothering in powdered sugar. I'm not saying I would laugh, but you know how those humorous coroners are.

Marian Allen

Saturday, December 4, 2010


It’s December, my friends, time to be making all those wonderful treats you grew up with for the holidays. Leading up to the new year, each week I’ll be posting a recipe that is a multi-generational tradition in my extended family. I’m sure every one of you has some family recipe gem that you make every year without fail, because it just wouldn’t be Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid...(this is why we now use the multi-purpose term ‘holidays’) without it.

Up first, penuche. My mother’s older brother George, a good old boy from Arkansas, believe it or not, started this tradition by making up a batch of penuche with his own callused hands and giving it to my mother. Penuche is one of my all time favorites. For the uninitiated, it is nothing more than fudge made with brown sugar instead of chocolate.

Try not to drool.

2/3 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp of butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan. Combine sugar, milk, corn syrup and salt in pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage*. Remove from heat and add the butter. Cool the mixture without stirring until the bottom of the pan is lukewarm. Add the vanilla and beat vigorously and continuously for 5 to 10 minutes with a wooden spoon until the candy is thick and no longer glossy, and holds it shape when dropped from the spoon. Stir in nuts and spread the mixture evenly in the buttered pan. Cool until firm and cut into squares. Makes about one pound of penuche.
*Soft ball stage. Drop a small amount of the hot mixture from a spoon into some cold water. If it forms a soft ball which flattens when you take it out of the water, it’s the right temperature. Or if you have a candy thermometer, you can skip the whole water-dropping business and cook the candy until it reaches 234 degrees.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sweet Savannah

We spent Thanksgiving week on Tybee Island (this is the Tybee Island Lighthouse) and in Savannah, Georgia. So, this week, I'm passing along some sweet Savannah recipes you might want to make for your holiday parties.

All of these recipes come from one of Savannah's most famous residents, Paula Deen.


Mama's Divinity

Old Time Chocolate Fudge

I tried in vain to find a recipe for the bear claws my husband enjoyed so much. They aren't the pastries but more like turtles (you know, the candy with chocolate and pecans). Tim's favorite was the white chocolate coated bear claws. Unable to find a recipe, I simply ordered him a box. If you'd like some, check out River Street Sweets. You can order anything you'd like from their online shop; but if you're in the area and actualy stop by Savannah's River Street store, tell Melanie the Trents say hi! :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

M&M Cookies; A Long Lost Friend

Today, kicks off my holiday baking/candy making season. From now until Christmas, I will be fixing a treat every day or so, to go in my freezer. As we make our way through the holiday season, I'll be pulling out these treats for open houses, school functions and guests.

My first baking project is for an event at Calli's school. When I turned to Calli for suggestions, she named one of my favorites from when I was a kid. M&M cookies made their way to many celebrations of my childhood. Here is a simple recipe that makes lots of cookies:
Type in Robbi's M&M Cookies.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bananas, Con and Pro

I love bananas. Especially when they're just right, although "just right" is highly subjective. My mother likes 'em while the peel is still green. My grandfather didn't like 'em until the peel had brown spots on. I like 'em in between. We made a good team, banana-wise.

Bananas can be used as a substitute for oil in pancakes (assuming you like banana-flavored pancakes). And they're VERY good in fruit salad, especially with Bear-Whipping Sauce.

Long-time readers (or maybe it's on my own site that I posted it).... Anyway, when my #4 daughter was younger, I was mixing this sauce. She asked what it was, and I said, "Berry-dipping sauce" and she misheard me. So now it's Bear-Whipping Sauce.

Bear-Whipping Sauce
mix equal amounts of brown sugar and mayonnaise.

Trust me--it's delicious!

Fruit Salad
  • apple, cored and cut into chunks
  • banana
  • walnuts
  • raisins
  • Bear-Whipping Sauce
This is SO good! The problem comes when there are leftovers. Because here's the thing about bananas: They are a delicate fruit. That means they get manky pretty quickly. People do not want to eat leftover fruit salad with bananas in.

I've been known to rinse leftover fruit salad in a colander to wash all the ick off, then add a fresh banana and more BWSauce, but I've discovered a new use for it. The beauty part is that everybody else still goes ICK, so I get it all for myself.

I put the leftover manky fruit salad into oatmeal or over cereal. The mishy banana gets lost in the shuffle and just adds its delicious sweet flavor (and a little body) to the mix.

So ha! for me.

Marian Allen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

More on Turkey Leftovers

Yum, did Donis mention turkey leftovers?

My favourite meal of the year, I always say is Boxing Day dinner. Turkey leftover day.

Turkey is the traditional meal in Canadian households at Thanksgiving as it is in the U.S., but because Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October we are ready for another round come Christmas. And so, turkey is the traditional Christmas meal as well in many households, including mine.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and it is a holiday (now ruined in my opinion by the popularity of the Boxing Day Sale). As Christmas dinner is usually held at my house, I am the chief cook. So Christmas afternoon is a blurr of making stuffing, peeling potatoes, sorting out desserts, setting table, hunting for rarely used dishes or placemats, making the gravy, carving the turkey, etc, etc. You all know the drill. I sit down and enjoy the dinner, but there are seconds to be served, dessert to be assembled, coffee to be put on. And, of course, dishes to be washed.

Boxing Day however, is a lovely calm day of relaxing with family, admiring gifts, puttering about, maybe going for a walk. And then at dinner time, just piling leftover turkey and stuffing onto a platter. Heating up the potatoes and squash and warming the gravy. And digging in to the best meal of the year!

Can't wait!

Next time I'll post my simple recipe for squash caserole. I absolutely love it - no one else in my family will touch it. Making it just for myself is my one great Christmas indulgence.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Leftovers

Looks like we’re going to be eating leftovers for a week or two. One of my sisters and her family had Thanksgiving dinner at our brother’s house, and ended up going home without any turkey leftovers. She told me that evening that her daughter insisted that she cook a turkey immediately because one of the great joys of Thanksgiving for her was being able to look forward to days and days of turkey sandwiches.

Chris posted a link to a site with lots of dishes made with turkey, which at this time of year is a public service. For soon we’ll all be desperate for something different to do with all that meat.
However, like my niece, I’m betting that most of us have one particular turkey-leftovers dish that we anticipate eagerly year after year. I always look forward to either a turkey pot pie or a shepherd’s pie. I’d love to hear what your traditional Thanksgiving turkey reincarnation is.
With apologies to Bubba Blue, that mavin of shrimp from Forrest Gump, is it one of these?

Turkey sandwich
Turkey pot pie/shepherd’s pie
Turkey noodle soup
Barbecued turkey
Turkey salad
Turkey stir-fry
Turkey casserole
Turkey cassoulet
Turkey spaghetti/ lasagna
Turkey roulade
Turkey curry
Turkey pastie
Turkey pate
Turkey paella
Turkey enchilladas/quesadillas/tamales/tacos
Turkey stew
Breaded and fried turkey cutlet
Pan-seared turkey with a warm balsamic-fig reductions over a bed of sauteed garlic kale.
Or what?
Disclosure: We have a vegetarian Thanksgiving, so our turkey leftovers are always more like Tofurkey leftovers. We did Quorn turkey this year. Try it. It’s delicious.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Don't get too stuffed!

(Scene is Thanksgiving in miniature with items I received in a swap.)

And for those leftovers - yum, remember Chicken ala King? Always liked that. Here's a turkey version and other turkey recipes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House

Any of you who partake in the drinking of or cooking with Jack Daniel's Whiskey may be somewhat familair with the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee. It is home of the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
Located close to the distillery is Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House.In its day, the boarding house was home to many businessmen, military personnel and tourists. Now, Miss Mary Bobo's is a restaurant that serves up family style meals.
My husband ate there on a recent visit to Lynchburg, and said it was some of the best food he had ever eaten. While I did not get to go on the trip with him, Todd brought me back a souveneir cookbook. Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Cookbook is full of delicious stick-to-your-ribs southern food.
This cookbook has the greatest stories and photos that tell of the history of the boarding house and the Jack Daniel's Distillery. If you love to give books for Christmas, this one would be a great gift for the cook/history buff.
Here is a recipe from Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Cookbook. It is an interesting take on sweet potatoes for your Thanksgiving meal:

Upside Down Sweet Potatoes
3 pounds of sweet potatoes
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of marshmallows
1 cup of coconut flakes
Bake potatoes in their skins, peel and places in a medium mixing bowl. Mash with butter, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir to blend well. Butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Line the bottom and up the sides with the marshmallows, then sprinkle with coconut. Spoon potatoes over coconut.
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of pecan pieces
In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Sprinkle pecans over the top of potatoes and pour sugar mixture over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Yield: 8-10 servings

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sure As Eggs Is Eggs

That expression means, "That's for certain!" but it's a lot more fun. And so are these eggs.

Our #2 daughter and her husband have chickens, and the new ones just started laying. Now they're sharing their abundant supply of fresh-from-the-hen Easter eggs. Aren't they beautiful? If we weren't vegetarian, we could have green eggs and ham. :)

As it is, we feast on mushroom omelets and scrambled eggs and egg salad. Oh, happy days!

Marian Allen

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Housekeeping in Old Virginia

Sorry I missed posting last Saturday. I was a bit under the weather.

My fifth Alafair Tucker mystery, Crying Blood, is scheduled to launch this coming February. This means, of course, that the advance reading copies (ARCs) have already been sent to the reviewers, as well as to other mystery authors far better known than myself, in hopes they will supply favorable cover quotes for the book.

I hit the jackpot this time, cover-quote-wise, with lovely accolades from Joanna Carl, Carolyn Hart, and Margaret Maron. See my website ( to read what these lovely women had to say.

As many of you Dear Readers know by now, the great Margaret Maron was involved in a car accident on the very day her latest Deborah Knox mystery, Christmas Mourning, was to launch. Margaret was pretty banged up, but will recover, thank goodness. However, this incident really screwed up her scheduled promotional activities for the book. If there’s anything I can commiserate with, it’s the extreme annoyance of having to crash and burn your entire book tour at the last minute. So in solidarity, my mystery loving sisters and brothers, go buy Margaret’s latest book immediately.

Shortly after Margaret sent her quote to my publisher, she also sent me a copy of a book entitled Housekeeping in Old Virginia. She wrote to me that she thought it would be interesting and useful for writing about my early Twentieth Century Oklahoma farm wife.
Is it ever. It is a 1965 reprint of an 1879 book of “contributions from two hundred and fifty of Virginia’s noted housewives, distinguished for their skill in the culinary art and other branches of domestic economy,” edited by one Marion Cabell Tyree. If there’s anything my Alafair character is, it’s distinguished for her skill. I include at the back of my books more than just Alafair’s recipes for the dishes she makes for her family, I also talk about how she acquired and prepared the ingredients, for as you can imagine, there was no Fresh n’ Easy on the corner in 1915 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma. This is “slow food” to the max.

In looking through Housekeeping, I have to say that I was rather impressed with the section on how to care for the sick. I expected to see a lot more recipes for turpentine poultices and muriate or morphia pills for a cold. But some of Marion’s advice on caring for a sick person is surprisingly modern. To wit:

The modern science of physics has come to recognize sunshine as one of the most powerful of remedial agencies, and cases are not rare in which invalids have been restored to health by using sun-baths, and otherwise freely enjoying the sunshine.

She also talks about the importance of pure air, pleasant odors, cleanliness, cheerful colors, and “A room thoroughly cleaned, aired, and adorned with fresh flowers...It is well to keep the convalescent cheered, by projecting each day some new and pleasant little plan for the morrow.”

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Margaret, and each day some new and pleasant little plan for the morrow.

And a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

But until then....

Meals leading up to the big Thanksgiving feast on Thursday tend to be anticlimactic. My poor brother's birthday - yep, on Thursday - is anticlimactic this year, too. Once again, he'll be overshadowed by that other turkey. (Ha, ha, ha!)

Preparations for the Thanksgiving meal make it kind of hard to plan for the meals we'll be having the rest of the week leading up to it. Heck, I'm having trouble working around it already! I'm thinking, "Okay, the kids will want brownies...frosted, of course. And cookies. Oh, and I know they'll want mac and cheese...and potatoes. Ooh, and I want dressing!" So I go to the store and come back with things to have next Thursday, and I've got a hungry family looking at me wondering what's for dinner tonight.

Luckily, there are always some good stand-bys I try to keep on hand.

1) Oven baked chicken breasts - I get these lightly breaded chicken breasts from Schwan's and haven't seen them available anywhere else. They're a little pricey, but the entire family loves them and they can go from freezer to oven to table in about half an hour.

2) Pizza - Whether you buy it fresh, frozen, or you make it yourself, pizza is a no-fail choice, too. Of course, when I say "make it yourself," I'm talking about using ready-to-bake dough and sauce.

3) Soup and sandwiches - On a rainy evening, does it get any better than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup?

4) Slow cooker steak - You meant to have steak but you forgot to thaw it the night before. Never fear, put the steak in the slow cooker, cover it in barbecue sauce or beef broth, cook it three hours on high and then three hours on low, and it will be delicious. They'll never know you were in a panic at noon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Food Gets in the Way of Story

Saw this funny series of YouTube links on Facebook-- how food product placements have been used - let's say misued - lately in soap operas. I mean, how much more obvious (and ridiculous!) can it get? Definitely not something you want to do in fiction, right? Unless you're writing a specific foodie mystery perhaps?

See links for other Days of Our Lives food placements...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Newfoundland: Am I Hearty Enough?

As promised, I am following up on last week's post about The Shipping News. While I told the premise of the book last week, this week I am going to delve into the lasting impression that the book has left on me.
One of the most magical things about reading is that books can make an imprint on us. Whenever I read a good book, it changes me in some way. Something from that book makes an impression that will stay with me always.
The Shipping News leaves me with a healthy curiosity about Newfoundland. I have found myself Googling the location several times since I began reading the book.
The rugged terrain and unforgiving weather has me wanting to visit someday, yet a bit nervous about being tough enough for Newfoundland. I can be a bit wimpy about cold weather. It is not so much simple cold that I do not like, it is frigid, windy, damp weather that makes me want to retreat to the fireplace. Newfoundland's location of being in the North Atlantic sometimes makes it all three of the above; frigid, windy and damp.
Another problem is that I am timid about seafood. I eat shrimp, crab cakes and crab dip. That is about the extent of my cravings for things from the sea. I doubt a visit to Newfoundland would be complete without a large sampling of fish and other sea creatures.
So, yes I want to someday visit Newfoundland. I had just better pack warmly and learn to eat fish!
Has anyone been? Tell me about it! I am fascinated by this place.

Pickle in a Pear Tree

That's the name of my NaNoWriMo project for this year.

I didn't know what to name the formless project I planned to do this year, and so I used the Story Spinner (get you one--it's AWESOME). One of the words it came up with was pickle, and PICKLE IN A PEAR TREE just popped into my head. My head is like that. I'm not proud of it, I'm just stating a fact.

So I had to justify that title. I remembered a set of German blown-glass ornaments my mother has, one of which is a pickle. Christmas--tree--pickle. Pickle in a pear tree. Makes as much sense as a pickle on a Christmas tree.

Since I'd rather look stuff up than work--I mean, since research is an important part of the writing process, I looked pickle ornaments up on the interwebs.

I found many posts about a "German legend" that none of my German friends had ever heard of. This post on seems to cover all the bases. It's possible that pickles--or they may have been supposed to be cucumbers--were made as part of a series of fruits and nuts made by a German glassworks. F. W. Woolworth imported and sold the glass ornaments in the 1880's and it appears that Americans, who love a good legend even if we have to invent it ourselves, spread the "age-old German custom" across America and back to Germany.

So far, nobody in my book has killed anybody with a Christmas pickle. I hope nobody does. I'll just have to finish writing it so I can find out.

Meanwhile, romantic suspense (with a touch of the paranormal) author Mary Montague Sikes is guesting at my blog today. Please drop in and say hello!

Marian Allen

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book marketing - Black Ops style?

I learned this week that The Quick and the Thread has been nominated by RT Book Reviews for the 2010 Best Mystery/Suspense - Amateur Sleuth Novel Award. I'm thrilled! I'm up against some wonderful competition, but just being nominated should generate reader interest in TQTT and Stitch Me Deadly, right?

But on Monday at approximately 11:30 p.m., I realized that "interest" is a completely relative term. My son wanted Call of Duty: Black Ops, and it was launching at midnight on Tuesday, the 9th. He'd never been to a midnight launch before (neither had I), and he'd been waiting for this game for months. So I took him. As I was driving him to the game store, I imagined three or four cars in the parking lot...maybe 20 other kids in the store. In fact, I said, "I'll wait in the car while you go in and get your game. You'll look cooler that way."

When I pulled into the parking lot, my jaw dropped. It was full. Music was playing from either inside or near the store, and two large-screen monitors had been set up to provide game demonstrations for those waiting to pick up their copies. The store was offering free food and drinks (I did wait in the car; my son brought me a drink and asked me if I'd like a piece of steak or a chicken or steak fajita--how sweet was that?)

It was COLD, and people were lined up all the way down the street. The store personnel said that 500 copies of the game were reserved, and that they estimated that at least 300 people were there. And, of course, this wasn't the only store in town hosting a midnight launch of the game. There were launches at all the big retailers in our area.

It was like a Black Friday event. However, the game wasn't being offered at a reduced price. The shoppers didn't get any bonuses (unless you count the free food and drinks) for being at the store at midnight for the launch.

I was amazed at the diversity of the group--male teens dominated, of course, but there were children, women, and men who left clutching their games as if they were bars of gold. Long after I got home and got into bed, I was thinking Huh?! I wanted in. I wanted people to line up (not necessarily even in the cold at midnight--I'd settle for warmth at midday) to buy my book. I came up with the following ideas:

1) Rename all my books that haven't been released yet: Call-O-Duty: Stitch Me Deadly; Call-O-Duty: Murder Takes the Cake. (See how I changed the name to avoid copyright infringement? Yeah, I know...I know.)

2) Rename my main characters Calla Doody and Blackie Opps.

3) Get in touch with the Black Ops folks and beg them to make a really cool video game based on my books. (Once again...I know. Cozy mysteries do not lend themselves to multi-person war-type games. But these people are BRILLIANT. They could make it work! Does anyone have their number?)

P.S. See that skydiver? That could be Marcy...or Calla...or even Blackie. ;)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Latest Title from my Grab-Bag

It has been a while since I have mentioned my grab-bag of books. My grab-bag is a large shopping bag in my attic that is filled with various paperbacks that I have yet to read. Some have been purchased from garage sales, others have been given from friends. Together they make up a sort of bucket list of reading. It may take the rest of my life to read all of the books, but I will!
The latest title chosen from my grab-bag is The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. I will cover this books in two posts for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the book is very complex. The other is that I have a sick baby, and therefore must make my post short.
When I first began reading this book, my expecations were high due to all of the accolades cast upon the novel. To be honest, after reading the first page, I thought the book was so odd that I wondered if I would finish. By the second page, I was hooked and could hardly stop reading.
Proulx's writing is so stunningly original that it takes a moment to adjust. She writes several passages that I simply have had to go back and re-read because they were so jaw-dropping.
The Shipping News is the story of Quoyle, a pitiful loser of a guy who must uproot his kids after a series of events that include the suicide of his parents and the death of his cheating wife. Quoyle, his two young daughters and an eccentric aunt move to the coast of Newfoundland, which is the home of his ancestors.
The rugged coast and brutal weather of Newfoundland presents challenges for Quoyle and his family. While adjusting to their new life, they must confront bone-chilling cold, unforgiving seas and demons from the past. The difficulties are tempered by Quoyle becoming friends with some quirky Newfoundland folk and his developing ability feel emotions.
Next week, I wil explain my newfound fascination with Newfoundland. I would love to see it, but might be too wimpy about the cold to make it my home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eating Up For Lost Time

When I was a child, I was the world's pickiest eater. I was one of those cartoon children who want plain meat and mashed potatoes and, if possible, dessert, but nothing else. I was one of those children who never wanted to try anything new or differently prepared or certainly not anything green.

Oddly, I was willing and eager to eat squirrel and mushrooms, because my mother and I stayed with someone (grandparents? aunt and uncle? I remember the stay, but only the food details--shut up!) and I helped hunt mushrooms and the man of the couple went out before breakfast and shot the squirrels. See, even as a picky eater, I was into fresh and local and personal.

Anyway, picky though I was in my personal diet, I was always interested in what people in books ate. The most memorable scene to me in THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW was the one in which they made a cake for their mother and it came out with a depression in the top layer, and they filled it with fresh flowers.

SOUTH SEA ADVENTURE was one of the books I loved, and I'd delighted to say I found a copy at a library book sale. I loved (and still love) books about survival in circumstances that city folks, like I was, consider primitive. I read books about people lost in the desert or stranded in the woods or about prehistoric cave dwellers or American Indians before the white man or... you get the idea.

As I've grown (like the five little Peppers), I haven't lost that taste (taste--get it?--taste?) for food in literature. Part of the pleasure of volunteering in the Children's Room of the library is finding new childhood favorites for myself, especially ones with interesting food experiences.

In the early Boxcar Children books, they children made a home in an abandoned boxcar and fashioned an oven out of stones and ate the baby vegetables they thinned out of their patron's garden in the spring.

In the first book of The Series of Unfortunate Events series, the children make pasta puttanesca (recipe and instructions included in the text), which inspired many, many people (including children) to try something they'd never heard of before.

Best of all, there was Gary Paulsen's HATCHET, exactly the kind of book I liked best as a child, in which a young person is stranded in an unfamiliar environment and makes a livable place for himself in it. Probably appealed to me because we seemed to move a lot when I was a kid. It was probably, you know, metaphorical and whatnot.

And now I have stacks and stacks of foodie mysteries to delight me. Is it any wonder I'm so fat?--I mean, happy?

Marian Allen

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gluten Free!

Gayle wrote yesterday about foods that make you look younger. How about foods that make you feel a heck of a lot older?

I’ve written before about my Darling Husband’s compulsory low-oxalate, low sodium diet. Also about my voluntary forays into low-carb and macrobiotic diets, as well as our thirty years of vegetarianism. People who screw with their diets like this when they don’t have to probably have a screw loose, but when you’re a foodie, you tend to believe that if you could just find the perfect diet, you might attain nirvana.

Julia Child probably had the right idea about food. Use the finest ingredients you can find, love the heck out of what you eat, and be happy.

However, we all have to live with our own neuroses. And as you get older, whether you like it or not, you also have to live with the needs of the body you’re stuck with.

A friend of mine was diagnosed recently with a rather intense case of celiac disease. This was not something she had considered before, so she suddenly finds herself at a - let us say, mature - age, having to totally rethink her diet.

She now has to eat gluten free, which means no more wheat. On her behalf, I asked the program person at my local Whole Foods Market about gluten-free products, support groups, and cooking classes, and he was very helpful He also gave me this little piece of information: as we age, we all develop gluten intolerance to one degree or another. Most people are not so bothered that they have to eschew gluten forever. But most older people would benefit from cutting down, and some should avoid gluten like poison.

How would you like to be faced with the prospect of never being able to eat biscuits and gravy again? If it were me, my future culinary life would stretch out before me like a great wasteland, I think. Of course, there are many kinds of alternative flours from which to make breads, pastas, and pastries, and often the resulting products are very good.

But just between you and me, a sandwich on rice-flour bread just ain’t quite the same.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eight foods to make you look younger

The idea for this post landed in my in-box earlier in the week. I didn't even open the e-mail, but the subject line was enough to get my perverse mind into gear. It read "Five Foods To Make You Look Younger!" So I began to think about foods that would make one appear younger...or, at least, childlike. And here they are:

8) Wax lips - Okay, I know this doesn't really count as a food; but I wore these often as a child because I believed they made me look like Veronica from the Archie comics.

7) Juice box - the classic beverage that screams, "I wanna go out and play!"

6) Cereal - extra "youth points" if you can recite the tagline and if you get excited if there's a prize inside.

5) Fun dip - Tried this one this summer. It failed to make me look younger because it was so sour it turned my face wrong side out; and, though still tasty, the stick was way harder than I'd remembered. But it might still work out for you.

4) Bomb pop - Extra points if you get this one from an ice cream truck.

3) Candy cigarettes - If you're gonna smoke, do it right!

2) Candy necklace - Bling AND a snack!

And finally.....

1) The giant swirly lollipop! Bonus points if your hair is in ringlets and you can skip.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Death of Cupcakes Greatly Exaggerated

In a past post, I mentioned how sources said the cupcake seemed to be going out of fashion. Oh, yeah?

Well in Chicago, the cupcake is growing and in even more demand.

According to news reports, last week, Chicago's More Cupcakes began a new venture, the "More Mobile," a mobile van serving up, what else? - cupcakes.

The unique company on Delaware Place offers "artistic" cupcakes in a showcase setting, "breakfast" cupcakes like the BLT Cupcake or a cupcake with Ranch frosting, and even cocktail cupcakes. (Margarita or Pina Colada, anyone?) With at least 15 varieties offered daily, who says the cupcake is dead?

Chicago seems to be a virtual cupcake paradise -

* Sugar Bliss Cakes bakes cupcakes from scratch daily, and delivers.

* Flirty Cupcakes on wheels has flavors ranging from S'mores (ooh!) to red velvet cake, delivered from their cupcake van.

* And not to slight anyone, there are scores more places to check out when you Google "cupcakes Chicago." Wow! Chocolate sounds good!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yule Time Ladies

If you live in my area, you ought to consider attending Yule Time Ladies on
Saturday, November 13 from 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. @ Madagascar Coffee Company in Kingsport, TN. Tickets are only $10.00 and will buy you a whole lot of fun and stress-free Christmas shopping.
The morning will include a fresh muffin, scone and coffee brunch, door prizes, personal shopping consultations from exclusive vendors and more! Also, everyone who purchases a ticket will receive a copy of Christmas Blooms. This wonderful collection of Christmas-themed short stories is guarenteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.
Besides scones, muffins and coffees; there will be more food on display and available for sampling. Generation Cake Company will have some of their delicious cupcakes. I have tasted their keylime, caramel apple, raspberry lemonade and red velvet varieties. Trust me, they are all worth the calories!
Tastefully Simple will have lots of mixes that allow busy folks to serve wholesome dinners and foods for entertaining. Most recipes require the addition of only one or two ingredients.
Vendors will also have custom scrapbooks and cards, an exclusive line of make-up and skin care, Elf on the Shelf, cutom gift baskets and much more. Oh, and we will have books!
Call 276-494-9436 to purchase tickets. Hurry, seating is limited!
Here is a link to a television appearance I did to promote the event:
Yule Time Ladies is one of the Community Events.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Suspiciously Delicious

That's the name of the Magna cum Murder cookbook I bought this weekend. Magna cum Murder is a wonderful small mystery convention (the convention is small, not the mysteries) held annually in Muncie, Indiana. This link will take you to an issue of Pomp and Circumstances, Magna's newsletter, in which a call went out for recipes. Sadly, I didn't get around to sending anything in, but Alexander McCall Smith did (Mma Potokwane's fruitcake). What more does one need?

If you're an Alexander McCall Smith fan--or, more precisely, a Mma Ramotswe fan--you need much more, and here it is: Mma Ramotswe's cookbook! I totally need to get this.

Meanwhile, I have the Magna cookbook. If you're interested in having one, the email in the P & C newsletter soliciting recipes will get you answers to any questions. Better yet, come to Magna in 2011!

Marian Allen

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Negative Image

I’ve been wracking my brains for days trying to think of a food related theme to introduce my new book, Negative Image.

I’ve come up blank.

Sorry everyone. Not much eating goes on in this book, and certainly no cooking. There isn't even a Hallowe'en link I can toss in.

So instead I’ll just have to talk about the book.

Negative Image is the fourth in the Constable Molly Smith book from Poisoned Pen Press. The release date is supposedly November 2nd, but it seems to be available at most online sites already.

What would you do if you believe the person you trust most in the world has betrayed you? What would you do if you discover that the person you trust most in the world believes you capable of betrayal?

When his wife’s former fiancé is found dead of a single shot to the back of the head, Trafalgar police Sergeant John Winters is forced to make the most difficult decision of his life: loyalty to his job or to his wife. Meanwhile, tragedy strikes the heart of Constable Molly Smith’s family.

“…combines the crisp plotting of the best small-town police procedurals with trenchant commentary on such universal problems as love and trust.” Kirkus Reviews

“Delany … deftly sprinkles clues–and red herrings–without ever slighting her engaging characters.” Publishers Weekly

Negative Image is available at,, other online stores and the best independent and chain booksellers. It is also available for Kindle and other e-formats. If you'd like a sneak peek, the first two chapters are on my web page at

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Popcorn Balls

I miss the way Halloween used to be. When I was trick-or-treat age, back in the Middle Ages, as soon as darkness fell on Oct 31, the streets of my suburban neighborhood filled with seas of little hobos and pirates and witches. It was literally a mob scene.

And the treats! No store-bought mini-Snickers for us mid-century ragamuffins. Sadly, it’s not a good idea to give out homemade treats any more, unless both the giver and receiver have undergone a background check. I’d be loathe to let my kid eat a stranger’s cookie. But in those halcyon days, my sisters and I always came home with a pillow case full of little bags of cookies and brownies, apples and packs of Juicy Fruit gum, dimes and nickels, licorice whips, Slo-Pokes, Hershey Bars, and my very favorite treat of all time, popcorn balls!

So your little ones may have to make do with bite-sized Twixt and Krackles from the neighbors, but there’s no reason you can’t create your own tradition with a homemade popcorn ball to celebrate the season.

This quick recipe is very simple and unadorned, but there are all sorts of fancy add-ins and binders made of caramel and chocolate and who knows what else. We often enjoyed mixing red-hots with the popcorn.



3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons cold water

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup marshmallows

5 quarts plain popped popcorn


Combine the corn syrup, butter, cold water, powdered sugar, and marshmallows in a saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Carefully pour the hot mixture over the popcorn and mix, coating each kernel.

Grease your hands with butter or vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Happy Halloween!