Friday, September 30, 2011

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

The 16th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off today at Walt Disney World. The festival runs from September 30 through November 13. According to the website, more than 270 chefs including Disney chefs and culinary stars from across the country conducting culinary demonstrations and hosting dinners and tasting events.

Sounds fun! If any of you attend, please give us your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet Memories and Comforting Food

My husband's sweet grandfather died on Sunday, September 18. Papaw will be sadly missed by everyone who kew him.

In the days after his death, there was a beautiful and bountiful outpouring of kindness from numerous people in our community and beyond.

The amount of food that was lovingly prepared for our family was astounding. Casseroles, cakes, salads, soups, breads, buckets of chicken, boxes of donuts, jugs of tea, even pizzas for our kids were delivered to my in-laws house almost non-stop.

It was such a comfort for our family to gather for several nights to eat our meals together. Sadness is even sadder when you eat alone!

Following the burial, we went to the church fellowship hall where tables were filled with home-cooked meats, sides and desserts. Sitting with friends in the fellowship hall where Papaw had enjoyed countless potlucks and celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary was a very fitting way to celebrate his life.

Papaw loved when the family got together for meals. Nothing made him happier than seeing his great-grandkids all playing together. As I watched my kids and their cousins playing and eating sugar cookies in the fellowship hall, I knew that Papaw was smiling down on us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fried Corn YES Fried Corn

I can't believe I lived so long without realizing this is what I was eating. The other evening I was at a meeting and someone was being all about how somebody else wasn't from around here (not being ugly about it, just saying), and he said, "You've probably never even eaten fried corn."

And I was like, "Oh, yeah, fried corn!" Because "fried corn" isn't so much fried as cooked in a skillet. Okay, yeah, that's kind of the definition of frying, but still.

To make fried corn, you can use canned or frozen corn, but fresh late-season corn is best. That's because late-season corn tends to be starchier, and that's good for this dish.

  • butter or margarine
  • corn kernels
  • salt
  • sugar (might need it if corn isn't starchy enough)
  • water
Melt the butter. Add the corn and salt (and sugar, if using). Cook on medium low heat until the corn is heated through. If it looks like it's drying up or browning, add water.

What you want is for that starch to go sugary. The result will be a tiny bit chewy (you can cook it until it's so chewy it sticks to your teeth, if that floats your boat) and with a slight natural sweetness. That's why I don't add sugar--I like the touch of converted sweetness from the corn, not the sugary sweetness of ... you know ... sugar.

Now, some people fry bacon and then fry the corn in the bacon grease, so do it that way, if you want to. You might have to drain your corn on a paper towel.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Indulging Your Inner Glutton

This morning, my car turned into the parking lot of a Good Egg restaurant and a force beyond my control drew me inside and ordered eggs Benedict.

I feel very guilty for succumbing to my inner glutton. However, I remember a radio program I heard not long ago. Recent scientific research indicates that will power is finite. That is, if we are using all our will power on one thing, such as not smoking, then we have very little left to apply to another, such as not eating that quart of Ben and Jerry’s. This makes me feel better.

I'm very health-foodie, but I certainly wasn't raised that way. I'm a Southerner, and, like a friend of mine liked to kid, I was raised on deep fried fat balls rolled in sugar.

I always put quite a bit about food in my books, not necessarily to preserve some of the old ways of cooking, though that is certainly on my mind. I'm really more interested in writing about the old ways of eating. Our forebears’ way of eating had a lot to do with their rigorous way of life.

My grandmother put a ton of sugar in everything. When she made fruit pies, she added so much sugar that the fruit dissolved, so her apple pies were actually applesauce pies. She did this because my grandfather liked things sweet. When he drank iced tea, you could see two finger-widths of undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass.

He also liked fat. With my own eyes I’ve seen him put butter on his chocolate cake. The sad thing was that my grandfather was nearly 6 feet tall and never weighed over 150 pounds in his life. You could be like that, too, Dear Reader, if you plowed behind a mule for a living. Grandpa came by his love of fat honestly, though. His father buttered radishes and onions before he ate them. My own father had a thing for fat, too - loved an inch of fat on his pork chops. My mother and her mother, on the other hand, wanted their meat lean, dry and burnt. I understand my mother-in-law liked her meat well done, too. My mother speculated that anyone who’s ever had to kill and clean a chicken or a hog wants to make sure it resembles flesh, blood and bone as little as possible. Of course, if you killed and preserved your own meat, eating it well done is a very good idea, bacteria-and-parasite-killingwise.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Post Today

My husband's sweet papaw passed away Sunday and will be burried this morning. Say lots of prayers for our family. I'll be posting next week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kinda Korma

I recently read DEAD AS A DODO, a mystery by the wonderful Jane Langton. Unfortunately, I didn't much care for that particular book. To be exact, I totally loved it until the end. Didn't like the end. And they didn't eat enough. I don't ask for actual recipes (although I love them), but I do like to experience a meal or two.

But the point is, one of the characters was of Indian extraction, and that made me jones for Indian food. So tonight was the night.

I call this Kinda Korma because it isn't really, it's just something I threw together.

  • cooked potatoes (mine were teeny ones from our garden)
  • butter or margarine
  • spices (like curry powder)
  • tomato sauce
  • leftover kale (or spinach, of course)
  • chopped cashews
  • raisins
Melt the margarine and fry the spices in it until fragrant. If you like, you can toast the cashews at the same time. Add rest of ingredients and simmer.

I served this over Jasmine rice. Tasty. Very tasty.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homemade Peach Ice Cream

Summer is over - in most parts of the world, that is. Here in Phoenix, we still have a few weeks of +100 degrees to go, so ice cream season is still in full swing. Reading Marian's entry below on peaches made me think of a scene in my third book, The Drop Edge of Yonder, wherein Alafair makes a batch of rich peach ice cream for her son's eighteenth birthday.

Hand-cranked, homemade ice cream is not only a rare treat to eat, making it is also great aerobic exercise and a good way to increase upper body strength.

An ice cream freezer from the era I write about (1910s) was basically a large lidded tin can that fit down into a wooden bucket. The lid had a hole in the middle, through which was inserted a dasher, which somewhat resembled an oar. The handle of the dasher protruded from the hole and was attached to a hand crank, which had to be turned continuously until the ice cream was frozen.

The recipe for ice cream does not have to be complicated, by any means. An excellent ice cream can be made with a half-pound of sugar beaten into a quart of sweet cream. Add some sweetened fruit puree or just some vanilla extract, freeze, and devour. The recipe I used for my book uses a custard base, which is more work, but worth it.

Peach Ice Cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
Puree of four or five peaches, which Alafair would have done by mashing the flesh of the fruit through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon. Sweeten the peaches with another 1/2 cup sugar, if desired.

Mix sugar, salt, milk and egg yolks in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan. Cool to room temperature. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and peach puree.

Pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer can. Fill the can only two-thirds full, to allow for expansion as the ice cream freezes. Fit the can into the bucket, insert the dasher and put the lid on the can, then attach the crank.

Fill the freezer tub one-third full of ice, then alternate the rock salt and remaining ice, filling the bucket to the top of the can. Use about four parts ice to one part salt. Turn the dasher slowly until the ice partially melts and makes a brine. Then crank rapidly until it's hard to turn the dasher. How long this will take depends on the weather. If you're lucky, the ice cream will set in ten minutes or so. Or it may take half an hour. Or it may not want to set properly at all. It's all very mysterious.

When it does happen, remove the ice from around the top of the can and remove the dasher. Plug the hole in the lid and replace it on the can. Refill the bucket with ice and salt and leave the ice cream to "ripen" for several hours.

"Ripening" makes a firmer dessert. However, when the day is hot and a bunch of impatient kids are clamoring about, a bowl full of soft, semi-frozen cream that has to be gobbled up before it turns back into liquid is perfectly delicious.

My husband Don remembers that the homemade ice cream his family made for Labor Day always had a touch of saltiness, since the a little bit of the salt packed in with the ice on the outside of the bucket never failed to seep in. His older brother Gary did the churning, which Gary thought unjust, since he didn't like ice cream. But he did it anyway, because after all, that was the Labor Day tradition.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Extreme Couponing

I have to confess that I've never seen the TLC show, Extreme Couponing. The show apparently features shoppers getting hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for $1. Or in the case of the shopper below $800+ for $88 and change.

Here are links to two articles discussing the backlash the program has had on couponing and manufacturers: one from Yahoo Finance and one from My Dollar Plan.

These people apparently say saving $10-$20 isn't enough, but I'm thrilled when I go to the store and see $10 come off my grocery bill. If I had over $700 come off my grocery bill (can't imagine buying $800 worth of groceries at one time, but, for the sake of argument), I'd faint. I'd also feel like I should be wearing a ski mask. So what are your thoughts on extreme couponing?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Networking and a Great Lunch!

Today, I get to be a grown up! I will throw the mommy sweatpants and t-shirt aside to put on a dress and heels.

This morning, I am attending The 18th Annual Women In Business Conference in Abingdon,Va.

A business conference may seem a bit out of the box for a author, but I have found it to be a great networking opportunity.

As authors, we sometimes tend to limit ourselves to conferences and workshops with other authors. I encourage all of my author friends to look for various other networking opportunities. You never know who might want to know more about your book!

Oh, and one of the best parts of the conference is that we get lunch! That means I get to eat a grown-up lunch, with a cloth napkin and no high chair anywhere in sight!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Peaches for the Monkey King!

Good peaches are SO GOOD! They're so juicy, you have to eat them over the sink. Never mind your manners, just slurp away.

Peaches originated in China, near the Pakistani border. They've been cultivated in China since the 10th century BCE. Traders spread the fruit along the Silk Road to Russia and Persia. The Greeks and Romans found peaches in Persia and thought they originated there--in fact, the scientific name means "Persian plum" and the English word "peach" derived from the Latin "persica" for Persian.

The Spanish brought peaches to the USA, and American Indians spread them across the continent.

Although the South is famous for its peaches, they can be grown as far north as Michigan. The third best peaches I ever ate were Pennsylvania peaches. The second best are these local ones, and the best were the ones we got on our own late, lamented tree. It didn't bear often but when it did--OH, MY!

Peaches are a big part of Chinese culture, as you may imagine, since they've been around so long. The immortals stayed that way by eating the Peaches of Immortality from the garden of the Queen Mother of the West. The Monkey King (also known as The Stone Monkey) was put in charge of guarding them but, instead, he ate them--one of his many escapades. If those peaches were as good as the ones sitting in my kitchen right now calling my name, I don't blame him one bit.

Today is the Monkey God Festival. I think I'll raise a peach in his honor. :)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Labor Day

My folks in 1947

Labor Day is past, school is in session, and though you couldn’t tell it by the temperature, summer is over. Labor Day always makes me think about my dad, who passed away on Labor Day in 1967, when he was only 44. My father was a life-loving, affectionate, tremendously fun person, a man made to be a daddy. He was also quite the foodie, and if being a gourmand is genetic, that is a gene that he passed on to all four of his children.

He would try anything, the more exotic and unusual the better. And if the dish happened to gross out my mother, who was a picky eater, that made it all the more irresistible to him. He adored a good steak, lobster, oysters on the half-shell, the usual high-end eats. But he was also fond of tripe and innards of all kinds, loved to pick the giblets out of giblet gravy, loved liver smothered in onions. A true equal opportunity eater. He was always bringing home things like a box of chocolate-covered crickets, or freshly ‘harvested’ mountain oysters.
He adored anything fresh from the garden. He would eat English peas off the vine and sweet corn right off the stalk. Fortunately my mother was a talented gardener, and managed to keep him well-supplied with his drug of choice -- home grown or home-canned tomatoes.

He solemnly announced to us at the dinner table one evening that not liking tomatoes was un-Casey.

Last night I went to a salad supper, wherein the hostess supplies the greens and sides, and the guests each bring something to put in the salad. I usually choose something uncommon to bring, like hearts of palm or raisins, but I always bring tomatoes as well, when they are in season. For yesterday's event I bought some organic, local, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and while I was cleaning them I had a flashback to the summer of 1980.

I was living in Tulsa at the time. One morning I went to visit my mother, who was baby-sitting my four-year-old nephew Joe. I walked into the house to find him sitting at the table chowing down on a plateful of fresh tomatoes from grandma’s garden. He looked up at me and said, “I love ‘maters.” No “hello, Aunt Donis.” or “how’s it going?” The boy had his priorities. And never let it be said that he is un-Casey.*

*Joe is my sister’s son, so not actually surnamed Casey, but blood will tell. He is also in his mid-thirties now and two weeks ago became the father of his second child. Still loves ‘maters.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thread Reckoning Release/Giveaway

Thread Reckoning, book three in the embroidery mystery series featuring Marcy Singer, was released on Tuesday, September 6. In celebration of the book's release, I'm giving Fatal Foodie readers an opportunity to win a signed copy of the book.

All you have to do to win is comment on this post! On Saturday, September 10, I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner. Please include your email address so I'll be able to get in touch with you.

Here is a brief synopsis of the book:

St. Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and residents are in a romantic frame of mind. In fact, one bride has commissioned Marcy to embellish her mother's vintage wedding gown with jewels for her Valentine's Day wedding. Marcy is delighted until she finds that the worst bridezillas have nothing on this bride-to-be. When the bride's future mother-in-law is found stabbed to death outside Marcy's shop, matters go from bad to worse.

Don't forget to post for an opportunity to win the book. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My First Time Eating on Television

Last week, I got to do one of my favorite author-related things. I appeared on a local morning show called Daytime TriCities. Here is a link to my interview:

Daytime TriCities always has someone cooking up something scrumptious. Usually, I get to sample treats after the show, once the cameras have stopped rolling. This week, I was invited to come down during the show to take a bite of a delicious turnover filled with apples, peanut butter and caramel.

Now I have become comfortable talking on television but eating on television is a whole different story. How big of a bite should I take? What if I am asked a question while my mouth is full? Do I look funny when I chew?

Here is footage of Liz Bushong making the delicious turnovers and comforting, creamy cinnamon latte. At the end of the clip, I take a bite of my turnover. The turnover was so good that it was hard not to devour the whole thing in five seconds. Instead, I took my dainty tv bite then gobbled it up once I was off camera.

If you would like more of Liz's recipes. Here is her site:

You can order her fabulous dessert cookboot from this site. If you scroll down, you will find the recipes for the turnovers and the cinnamon latte I got to taste on the show.

I think I need some more practice of eating on tv. It is one tough assignment, but I think I am up to the task.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spreading the Buzz

Knowing me, you'd think this post would turn out to be about bees, wouldn't you? But it isn't.

Well, I can take a moment to share a conversation I had with a nephew this weekend. He's just started beekeeping, and he said he has Welfare Bees: He's giving them sugar and pollen supplements and trying to guard them from disease and pests, and the result is bound to be weaker bees. If pressed, he would have backed away from saying that vulnerable PEOPLE should be left to die and skimmed out of the gene pool. I mention the conversation because it's important for writers (and readers) to consider the implications of word use.

But, less seriously, the buzz I'm talking about is the buzz about Terry Pratchett's coming Discworld Ankh-Morpork board game. It's due out this month, and I'm hoping it's within my budget because I wants it! It's mine! It's my birthday present, my Precious! *Ahem*

And the fatal part? Well, if you're ever in Ankh-Morpork, don't buy a sausage inna bun from Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. And, if you value your liver, lights and life, don't drink the water.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Violette Malan's Eggplant Pasta Sauce

In a nice two-fer, my good friend and fellow SOTC board member Violette Malan is married to the lovely and talented carpenter Paul Mussleman. When I need something fixed or installed around the house, Violette comes along and we can have a visit.

A couple of weeks ago, I had plumbing chores to be done. While Paul fixed leaky faucets and installed new ones, Violette and I recapped this year’s hugely successful Scene of the Crime festival and talked books and writers.

Then they made lunch! Can’t get better than that. Actually, you can as all the vegetables in this sauce were from Violette’s garden. I’ve already made several batches for the freezer.


Heat: 3-4 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pan
Add: ½ cup chopped onion
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
Simmer over low heat until tender, approx. 10 minutes

Add: 3 cups cubed, unpeeled, eggplant
2 roasted red peppers, peeled, and chopped
Cook over medium heat, 5 minutes, stir frequently

Add: 3 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Cover, simmer for 30 minutes, stir occasionally

Add: ½ cup chopped green olives
Stir through and simmer additional 5 minutes

• Use ordinary, not extra virgin oil
• Use the olives that come already cut in the jar, usually called "Pizza Olives"
• You can substitute 1 cup of chopped green or red pepper for the roasted pepper
• You can substitute 1 tablespoon of capers, or, 6 anchovies for the olives

Violette is also a fantasy author, most notably the hugely popular Dhulyn and Parno series published by Daw. If you are a fantasy lover, and even if you just love a great story, check them out at

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Eat Well, Live Well

My husband and I were both raised on a typical Southern/Western American diet, with a meat dish as the center of every meal, with vegetables added as an afterthought, and that’s the way I learned to cook. Then, in 1977, during a trip to Europe, of all things, we decided to go vegetarian.

It took a couple of years to learn a totally new way to eat and cook, but once you get the hang of it, living vegetarian isn’t that hard. You’d think it might be harder to cook a delicious and tempting meal without meat, but I must say that often veg meals are more creative and imaginative. After a year or so, we even learned to eat out satisfactorily, and the new lifestyle was no burden at all.

The problem was, and always has been, us. Over the past decades, we have experimented with every permutation of meatless diet known to man, and some we just made up ourselves. We were experts at making things difficult for ourselves in the name of health and/or philosophy. And we would persevere in our self-inflicted dietary restrictions for years at a time. The young and idealistic have the energy and discipline to do this.

For ten or fifteen years, we ate no refined sugar. By that I don’t just mean sugar in the sugar bowl, either. We avoided corn syrup, too, and as for artificial sweeteners - heavens to Betsy, no! I would buy unrefined honey, sorghum, molasses, and pure maple syrup for sweetening. (It had to be Canadian maple syrup, too, since at the time, the U.S. allowed additives and adulterants in its syrup) Believe me, it is very hard to bake this way, not to mention expensive.

Don liked to make cinnamon rolls, since he has such fond memories of his mother’s, which were rich and sweet and light as air. Don’s were made with whole wheat flour and one of the above for sweetening, and while they were sticky and tasty, each roll weighed about a pound and bore no resemblance whatsoever to his mother’s.

We avoided white flour until very recently, when we discovered that wheat germ is very bad for people who are prone to a certain kind of kidney stone. Since the aforementioned type of kidney stone nearly killed Don last winter, we’ve altered our flour requirements. I still buy organic flour, but it’s white, and we’ve rediscovered the joy of really fluffy biscuits.

For two or three years during the eighties, we cut all nightshades out of our diet. The prevailing health-Nazi wisdom was that nightshades were very bad for you. Now, nightshade vegetables are quite the staple of a vegetarian diet, and a carnivorous diet, too, for this family includes potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. How’d you like to go for three years without meat OR potatoes OR tomatoes OR sugar? (And the truth is, if you are prone to gout, cutting out nightshades will help you a lot. Otherwise, the potato kept the Irish alive for hundreds of years, so you be the judge.)
The potatoless diet went away when dietitians decided that nightshades weren’t so bad after all. By that time, it was determined that coffee was the devil. I have written in this column before that I have a coffee monkey on my back, and have had ever since my early twenties, when I had to get up at five every morning and needed artificial stimulation to be able to do it. But when I decided to sacrifice coffee for the sake of longevity, I did it, by gum. Then a couple of years later, scientists admitted that perhaps coffee is actually good for you, and I gladly let that monkey climb back on.

After twenty years or so of dietary discipline and a growing skepticism in the scientific community, coupled with Don’s new diet restrictions, the extreme health-foodieness fell by the wayside. We are as sugary as the best of them. And as I grew older and ... more substantial, I found that it was easier for me to watch my weight if I fell off the meatless wagon when eating out or at a friend’s house. So I stopped asking if there was chicken broth in that soup if soup seemed to be the healthiest choice on the menu. Now I eat fish a couple of times a week, and take fish oil tablets for my heart. In fact, I’ll pretty much eat whatever I deem to be the least harmful thing on the menu. I’m still health conscious, but only to a point, for at my age, I’ve decided that the best thing for your health is to enjoy yourself.

(In defense of our hippy-dippy youth, when Don did fall apart, he was told by the doctors that his years of good dietary practice certainly staved off his health problems by twenty years, and may have enabled him to withstand them where others might not have.)