Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking forward to the New Year!

I am looking forward to 2013! I always look forward to the new year - all that fresh paper waiting to be written on! I know there will be more stories than I can tell, surprises that I couldn't imagine, and plenty of good food to eat!

I should probably eat a little less of all that good food, and maybe I will. I'm not good at resolutions. Either it works for me or it doesn't. I'm not so good at deciding what I should do WAY before I should do it.

I DO have a new exercise routine in mind that I plan to start in the new year. Now that I'm home writing books full-time, my habits have changed. Some of those habits are good - some not. I am cooking more and eating out less. I also spend too much time on Facebook and Pinterest!

And there's also that yummy recipe for sweet bread that I know I'll make. Bread is my downfall. I LOVE bread!And now that we're writing a pie shop mystery, I find myself craving pie!

Anyway, the year is stretched out before me like a golden road. I'm looking forward to each delicious morsel. I hope you are too!

Happy New Year!

Joyce Lavene

Friday, December 28, 2012

Low Carb Goodies #3

Today is all about breads.

 Buttery Biscuits

2 cups Carbquik
1/2 cup Diet 7 Up
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450. Pour melted butter into bottom of an 8x8 square pan. Cut sour cream into CarbQuik mixture. Add Diet 7 up. Mix well. Sprinkle counter with extra CarbQuik to help with stickiness. Pat/roll out into a square. Cut into 9 equal pieces. Place cut biscuits onto the melted butter in pan. Bake 450 for 12-15 minutes.

Red Lobster Style Biscuits

8 ounces of cream cheese
4 large eggs
2 cups of pork rind flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese mix
1 cup shreded cheddar cheese
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Bring eggs and cream cheese to room temp.  Mix until well blended. Add the dry ingredients, spices, and cheeses to the wet mixture and blend, mixture will be thick. Grease the muffin tins and mound the mixture in (lemon size). Bake at 425 for 12-15 min. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.

Low Carb Microwave Sandwich Bread

1/4 c CarbQuik
1/4 c Ground Flax Meal
Not quite 1/2 tsp of Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Splenda
1 egg
2 Tbls Olive Oil
2 Tbls Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tbls of Sugar Free Apple Sauce

Mix dry ingredients
Add wet ingredients
Mix well
Pour in microwave dish that has the shape you like for sandwich.
Microwave for 2 min.
Take out of dish and cool.

Makes 4 slices

Basic Buns

6 egg whites
4 egg yolks
6 Tbls. Sour cream (can also use softened cream cheese)
2 pkgs. Splenda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
Onion Rolls

To the basic buns recipe, add in with the yolk mixture:

1/4 cup grated (powdered) Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Any other spices you may like

When you form them, sprinkle on dehydrated minced onions and bake as above. They really taste much more like onion buns.
Cinnamon Buns/French Toast

To the basic buns recipe, add in with the yolk mixture:

3 or 4 pkgs. Splenda
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

Bake as below, but I prefer about 40 minutes instead of 50 on these. These are great for making French toast with -- or spreading some cream cheese frosting on top.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very stiff. (Turn bowl upside down and if the whites don’t t slide, they are stiff enough.)

In a small bowl, mix together the other ingredients. Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Rubber spatula works best.

Generously spray two non-stick cookie sheets with Pam. Make 6 piles on each sheet as if you were making the Atkins Revolution Rolls.

Bake for about 50 minutes or less in a 300-degree oven. These will puff up while in the oven, but don’t be surprised when they fall quite flat when you remove them. That’s the way it is. Remove with an egg lifter onto a plate and let cool. Put in a plastic bag after it has cooled. (I poke holes in a Ziploc bag to keep them from getting sticky and I store them in the fridge.) The above recipe will make 2 pans full (12 total) - can be halved.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I so love Christmas! Once we turn off the lights and go to bed on Christmas night, it is always a little sad. There is so much magic in the season, and I hate to see it go.

Our family has found the remedy for the post-Christmas blues. We declare the week after Christmas as a time to purely relax. There is not much of a schedule. The kids are out of school and my husband takes the remainder of his vacation days for the year.

If the weather is nice, we will spend some time outside. When it is yucky outside, we watch movies and read books. Alarm clocks are turned off,  Christmas leftovers are plentiful and new toys provides hours of entertainment.

We might venture out, if we feel like it. Or, we might not. Friends are welcome to freely stop by, and we may go visit some people.

It is simply that time when we bounce back from all the stress of the Christmas season to do some things we never have time to to do. Such lazy indulgence would not feel right any other time of year, but it is just what we need after the holidays.  I love this week almost as much as I love Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Foam of Mushroom Soup

That sounds kind of Evil Queen, doesn't it? Like, "Girl, if the Soupmobile comes around while we're down the mine, don't order the foam of mushroom soup." So call it something else, but everything needs a name, and that's what I call this.

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can water or milk
2 eggs, separated

Mix the water or milk and soup until blended. Heat, then remove from heat. Meanwhile, beat the yolks a little. Add some of the hot soup, a little at a time, until the yolks are incorporated, then add back into the soup. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add most of the egg white to hot soup, folding in gently. Divide into serving bowls. Top with a dollop of egg white.

I sprinkled ours with smoked paprika, but chopped fresh herbs would also be nice. You could use any cream-based soup.

It's light yet satisfying. Just the thing, after the holiday feasts. Or instead of them, come to that!

Hoping your days are merry and bright, and wishing you the best of the season, whether that means Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice, and/or Happy Tuesday.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 21, 2012

Low Carb Goodies #2

This is the second installment of low-carb recipes. Today I'm looking at quick and easy. In fact, it's the Minute Muffin andvariations on the same.

Muffin in a Minute

Serving Size: 1

***I leave out the Splenda, add 1/4 cup canned pumpkin and nuke it for 3 minutes. You can experiment with herbs and seasonings.....others have suggested mashed cauliflower and feta cheese for good! They aren't kidding about soaking the cooking container right away because it will turn to concrete.

1/4 cup flax meal
 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
 1 packet splenda packet
 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 1 large egg
 1 teaspoon butter

Put the dry ingredients in a coffee mug. Or a bowl for a different shape.


Then add the egg and the butter. Mix.

Microwave 1 minute (or more). Take out. Slice, butter, and eat. Set mug to soak immediately.

Cream cheese would go nicely, too.

Variation 1:

I have been playing with this recipe since I saw it on Atkins website. I like to make an Italian herb muffin:
1/4c. flax meal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground garlic & parsley blend (Badia)
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. olive oil
1 egg
2 T. shredded parmesan cheese

Variation 2:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Dry ingredients:
3/4 c almond meal/flour (9 net carbs)
3 packets Splenda
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 Tbsp cinnamon
Generous pinch of salt

Other ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (instead of butter)
1 dash pure vanilla extract

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix in beaten egg, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Spray muffin tin generously with non-stick spray. Pour batter into each muffin cup, dividing evenly (my batter filled each cup around 1/3 of the way). Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then pop 'em out of the muffin tin.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Take me to Bass Pro for Christmas!

Yes, my kids do ask to go to Bass Pro Shop during the Christmas season. No, it is not to be outfitted with hunting gear. They love Santa's Wonderland.
Bass Pro Shops do a really cool thing each year. There are crafts, cookies to decorate, games and Santa photos. It is all free, even the Santa photo!
Trust me, it is worth going just for the photo with Santa. Children sit on Santa's lap in the midst of a scene depicting a snowy mountain cabin. No longer do I pay $20 for a bad photo with Santa Clause.
One word of warnning, it does get crowded. Bass Pro has a system where you receive a ticket with a time to begin standing in line. Trust me, it is worth the wait!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Savoury Cheese Toast

I spelled that right, mah fellah Amurrkins: I got this recipe from a British cookbook -- or, as they say in Great Britain, a cookery book. Savoury Cheese Toast is what I cookeryed.

One of my ex-sons-in-law gave me this book, which had been used in a school in England. I don't know if it had been discarded or if some Artful Dodger lifted it, but it made its way to me, and I am utterly delighted with it. It says things like, "Put a kettle on to boil," and, "Use a section of kitchen roll to spread the fat." It has instructions on how to cover a pudding for steaming and how to grill tomatoes. It's lovely!

Okay, so here's their recipe:

  • 200 g Cheddar, Lancashire, or Cheshire cheese
  • 4 thick slices of bread
  • Butter
  • 1/2 level tsp. dry mustard or a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • A little milk to mix
  1. Grate cheese on to plate, using large holes of grater.
  2. Toast the bread, butter it and keep warm on a large serving plate under the grill, turning this very low.
  3. Put the cheese in a basin, add seasonings and stir in enough milk to make a spreadable mixture. Turn up grill
  4. Pile on toast, taking it right to the edges.
  5. Put the toast back under a hot grill and cook for a few minutes, until golden and bubbly.
What I did differently:

There are only two of us, so I used two pieces of bread. I probably used about two cups of cheese, using a mixture of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, asiago, and Romano. I used a li'l squirt of yellow American mustard, and I used water instead of milk to moisten it.

It was so good!

If you want a copy of this cookery book for your very own, there are some used ones at Amazon.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 17, 2012

Creme Brulee for the holidays!

Recently, one of my novels had Crème Brulee mentioned in it, more because of its historic significance than because of the food. A new book details the story of how Thomas Jefferson brought Crème Brulee and other foods to America.

Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America

I tried making it and it's really much easier than I imagined! Not only was it easy - it was a lot of fun. I plan to make it for our Christmas dinner and surprise the family this year.

Part of the fun is lighting the concoction on fire at the table. You don't have to do it this way, but I'm
definitely going to do it and enjoy the looks on everyone's faces!

Crème Brulee is also known as burnt cream. It has a rich custard base with a contrasting hard layer of

caramel. It is usually served cold. The custard base can be flavored with orange, chocolate, coffee, or

whatever you like. I like mine best plain, as in this recipe.

6 egg yolks
6 tbsp. white sugar or sweetener
½ tsp. vanilla extract
21/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. brown sugar or brown sugar substitute

How to make it:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Beat egg yolks, 4 tbsp. of sugar and vanilla in a bowl until thick. Set aside. Stir cream into a pot over low heat until it comes to a boil. Immediately stir cream into the egg mixture. Beat until combined. Pour the mixture into the top of a double boiler and let it heat about three minutes. Remove immediately and pour into shallow baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes then remove and let cool. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Combine remaining brown sugar and white sugar. Add this mixture to the top of the set custard. 

For an exciting finish, use a long lighter to ‘burn’ the sugar. Hold the lighter about 4 inches from the top and move it slowly across the sugar for a few seconds. Great drama!

If you’re not looking for drama, turn on the broiler and place the dish under it until the sugar melts. Keep track of it because it will burn if you aren’t careful. Take it out. Allow the mixture to cool again in refrigerator until custard sets again.

Happy Holidays!
Joyce Lavene
A Haunting Dream 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Low Carb Goodies #1

This is the first post in a series I'd like to do on low-carb recipes. It seems that good low-carb recipes are harder to find than they used to be; so, hopefully, I can help solve that problem. The receipes I'm sharing with you today came from

Since Christmas is right around the corner, let's start with some treats you could take to a holiday party:

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of peanut butter
2 oz. of cream cheese
1 cup of granular Splenda
2 scoops of vanilla flavored Protein Designer Whey Powder

Melt the butter and peanut butter in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for another 1 min. Remove and stir in the cream cheese until completely dissolved. Stir in the Splenda and then stir in the Designer Whey Powder. Grease a 6 1/2 inch square container. Line with wax paper. Pour in the dish. Put in the refrigerator until cool. To speed up this process, place in the freezer until cool. Cut it into 20 - 1 inch square pieces.

Paula Deen’s Low Carb Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 1/3 cups baking sugar replacement (recommended: Splenda)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.
In a mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar replacement, the egg, and vanilla, and stir well with a spoon. Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet. With a fork, dipped in sugar replacement to prevent sticking, press a crisscross design on each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the cookies with some of the remaining sugar replacement. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

Carbquick Pound Cake

3 1/2 cups Carbquik
1 1/2 cups Splenda
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 whole eggs
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

-Heat oven to 350°F.
-Grease angel food cake pan (tube pan, 10x4 inches or 12-cup Bundt cake pan) and dust with Carbquik.
-Beat all ingredients in large bowl on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.
-Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.
-Cool 5 minutes; turn pan upside down onto wire rack or heatproof serving plate.
-Remove pan; cool cake completely.





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't Forget to Duck!

Their beards rival those of ZZ Top. They seem to own nothing but camo. They never cuss or throw puches in front of the camera. They speak kindly to their wives, and their kids do not act like brats. I am talking about Duck Dynasty on A&E. love the show because it is entertainment that my whole family can watch.
So, ya know I just have buy the book THE DUCK COMMANDER FAMILY for someone on my Christmas list. I bought it for my husband, cause I know he will let me read it! 
The picture on top is of a cake made by Bree at the Family Bakery in Gate City, Virginia. It depicts Si from Duck Dynasty. The likeness is uncanny, right down to his ever-present blue cup of iced tea.
If you want to be a part of the Duck Dynasty craze, catch on A&E tonight. Episodes begin running at 7:00.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Almost Vegan Pancakes

I fancied pancakes the other morning, so I made these with Bisquick Heart Smart. FULL DISCLOSURE - Nobody gave me any of this stuff, alas.

Almost Vegan Pancakes
  • 1/2 cup biscuit mix
  • 1 free-range egg from hens you know
  • almond milk
  • chopped pitted dates
  • chopped walnuts
  • vegan margarine

Beat the egg slightly. Add egg and enough milk to make a pourable batter. Add dates and walnuts to taste. Melt margarine in a skillet. Drop batter in by 1/4 cups. Cook until bubbles rise to top and pop and top surface isn't runny-looking. Flip and cook another couple of minutes.

We topped these with warmed peaches in raspberry syrup. And they were very, very good.

Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, December 7, 2012

Top Food Gift Sites

Okay, last week I did the top ten websites for online food shopping. Today, I'm going to give you my top sites for food gift-giving. I've bought from all of these.

1) Omaha Steaks - This site offers steaks, seafood, poultry, and entire meals that you can have sent to your own home or to someone else as a gift. They even offer gourmet pet snacks! One of the best things about it, in my opinion, is that you can ship items from one order to several different addresses.The shipping can be steep, but some deals qualify for free shipping. It's worth looking into.

2) Mrs. Fields - Who doesn't love cookies, especially around the holidays? Mrs. Fields offers gifts for all occasions, including corporate gift giving. There are baskets, tins, totes, and bundles of treats within a variety of price ranges.

3) Riverstreet Sweets - I found this candy shop when I was vacationing in Savannah, Georgia a couple years ago. For some sweet, southern goodness, you can't beat this shop. Riverstreet Sweets offers pralines, bear claws, toffee, chocolate covered pretzels, glazed pecans, caramel apples, and fudge. Like Mrs. Fields, they offer corporate gifts and a variety of treats ranging in price from under $25 to over $100.

4) Figi's - This site has the greatest variety of items. In addition to foods (cakes, bread, cheeses, petit fours, fudge, cookies, beef sticks, and salty snacks), the site offers ornaments, personalized gifts, jewelry, and home accents. Figi's also offers a variety of sugar-free food items.

Do you have any sites you'd recommend? If so, please share them with us!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cake and Cue!

Today is my birthday. I have already had a piece of the wonderful Italian cream cake my mom brought me.
This weekend, my husband is taking me out for a fancy dinner. So, what will I have tonight? I will be eating what I have requested on probably 12 out of my last 20 birthdays.
Nothing sounds better than Ridgewood barbecue! It is a hole-in-the -wall out in the middle of nowhere that do that is a destination for barbecue enthusiasts far and wide.
If you are every down this way, you gotta try Ridgewood! People Magazine, Southern Living and many others have sung its praises, so ya know it's not just a local girl being partial, Ridgewood has some good cue!
Another thing people like from Ridgewood, besides barbecue, is their homemade blue cheese dressing. I have seen lots of people with a bowl of it on their talble, dipping saltine crackers in it and smiling with every bite.     

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dairy-Free Cornbread

There are as many different ways to make cornbread as there are ... different ways to make cornbread.

~blushes -- clears throat~

ANYWAY, we're practically vegetarian here, verging on the vegan, and we don't have butter or milk or, as you may guess, buttermilk on a regular basis.

We do have a daughter who keeps chickens, so we have eggs.

So tonight we took a notion to have cornbread with our bean soup, and I made it thus:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • water
  • 1-2 Tablespoons cooking oil 
  • dairy-free margarine
Melt margarine in hot pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, mix other ingredients, adding water until batter is sloppy. Pour into hot skillet. Cover and reduce heat slightly, checking for doneness. When bottom is brown and top is not runny, flip and continue cooking until bottom is brown. The cornbread's bottom, I mean, of course. Stop being so silly!

Use more or less salt to taste.

It was surprisingly good. Charlie said it reminded him of his grandmother's cornbread. He didn't say whether or not he liked it. He's a diplomatist.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 3, 2012

An easy dish for holiday brunch!

I accidentally found this easy holiday brunch dish. It was the morning of the brunch and I found that the dish I was going to make wasn't going to work. I didn't have time to go to the store, so I had to think of what I could do with what I had.

I thought about egg and cheese biscuits. I had eggs and cheese and Bisquick. Maybe I could work something out. Not enough Bisquick and eggs for everyone coming to the brunch to each have an egg and cheese biscuit.

So I made the Bisquick recipe for biscuits that's on the side of the package. The recipe said it makes nine biscuits. I mixed that up and put it on the bottom of a baking pan, after spraying it with vegetable oil.

I put this into the oven and let it bake for about ten minutes on 350 degrees until it began to get firm.

While it was baking, I took eight eggs and beat them together in a bowl. When I took out the biscuit mixture, I poured the eggs in on top of it and put the whole thing back into the oven.

While that was baking, I shredded some Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar cheese, about two cups.

I took the egg and biscuit dough out of the oven after it had baked for another ten minutes.


The eggs were baking UNDER the biscuit crust. I didn't like that, so I took a spatula and broke the crust open. Egg ran everywhere in the pan. I put the cheese on top of that mixture and put it back into the oven for another 12 minutes.

By that time, everything had worked together to make a beautiful golden-brown top crust and the eggs had created a layer for tthemselves.

 I let it cool for a few minutes then sliced the whole pan into squares. They stayed together well enough for kids to pick them up and eat them with their fingers. Everyone enjoyed the egg and cheese Bisquick brunch dish!

I was glad I found it because I'll use it again sometime - maybe even plan for it!

Joyce Lavene
A Haunted Dream
Missing Pieces Mysteries
Tuesday, December 4th!
Online and in stores everywhere.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Best Websites for Online Food Shopping

Sometimes I hate going grocery shopping. I try to make a marathon trip every two weeks; but I'll invariably need something, stop at the store to get it, and wind up spending way more than I'd intended.

I love shopping online, so I sometimes find some terrific deals on food. One caveat applies: make sure you consider shipping options and delivery times. There's nothing worse than buying hard-to-find low-carb bread only to have it arrive moldy. Of course, if the mix-up wasn't your fault, be sure and document the way the package arrived and the receipt stating that you ordered expedited or special shipping.

Here is a Top Ten Online Grocery Website List from

1) Alice

2) Amazon Grocery

3) My Supermarket

4) Fresh Direct - I couldn't get a link to this site to work. I'm not sure if it was a temporary thing or if the site has gone down permanently. The website stated that there was a limited delivery area in NYC.

5) Net Grocer

6) All SuperStore

7) ShopFoodEx

8) ExpatExpress

9) GoBio!

10) Safeway

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lisa's Book-Mobile is Rolling!

Tis the season to sell books! During the holidays, I offer free delivery within a 25-mile radius of my house. It is so much fun to meet my readers in person. As a bonus, I often wind up selling more books when I deliver to workplaces. Co-workers see me there with books and take advantage of the opportunity to snatch a Christmas gift without fighting the crowds. Since gas prices are high, I piggy-back errands with deliveries. 
So, do you think I could write off a cool, vintage car if I use it for book deliveries? The one pictured would be perfect!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Swimming In Comfort

We've had beautiful weather, but it turned chilly, and I wanted comfort food. Food containing the four major food groups: fat, starch, salt, and chemicals. Nothing better than Tuna Noodle Casserole!

Some snooty-patooties make this with, like, fresh tuna, artisanal pasta, pan-fried fresh mushrooms in bechamel sauce, and so forth, but it really goes like this:

  • cooked spaghetti cut in bits
  • can of cream of mushroom soup
  • onion powder
  • 1/2 can of peas (or whole can, if preferred)
  • crushed saltine crackers
  • cubed Velveeta or other processed cheese-like substance

Mix and heat through until the Velveeta melts.

To my shame, I didn't have any Velveeta, and had to use rat cheese ... er, I believe the proper name for it is Colby, but I was raised to call it rat cheese.

YES, you need the crackers, even though it has spaghetti in it. AND you need the peas. Three starches are always better than one. Besides, the peas let you imagine you're eating something healthy.

Or make it all fancy-schmancy. Just enjoy it, that's all I ask.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sugar free cinnamon rolls - Yum!

Sugar-free Cinnamon rolls! YUM!

Pillsbury used to make an excellent sugar-free cinnamon roll so I never bothered making them myself until this year. For some reason, Pillsbury took theirs off the market. I've made cinnamon rolls plenty of times in the past, but those were with sugar.

It was my turn to host our Christmas Tree Day breakfast. Everyone else was able to have cinnamon rolls WITH sugar. But we have three diabetics in our family, and extended family group. I wanted to make sure there was something for them too.

So my son, Christopher, came over on Friday evening to help me with the project. He's very good with any kind of dough (pizza chef). We started with a regular recipe for cinnamon rolls and proceeded from there.

We dissolved one pack of yeast in one cup hot (not too hot) water then added one cup of flour and let it rise.

During that time, we combined 1 cup of softened butter with four eggs, mixing well with 1/2 cup Sucralose sweetener.  After the yeast and 1 cup of flour had risen for about 30 minutes, we added the two mixtures together. and mixed well. On a floured board, we kneaded the mixture until smooth. We let that rise until doubled in size.

We went and watched a TV show that we'd DVRed until that mixture had risen, but you can do anything you like.

When we came back, we turned the dough out on the floured board again and rolled it into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Christopher brushed about 1/2 cup melted butter across the dough. We divided it in half. One half was sprinkled with cinnamon (about 1/2 cup) and about 1/2 cup of Sucralose.

The other half we sprinkled with 1/2 cup Sucralose and about 1/4 cup grated orange zest.

Both these sides were rolled into log shapes and cut into 3/4 to one inch pieces and pushed in place a little on a well-greased pan. The tops were brushed with butter and left to rise overnight in the fridge.

On Saturday morning, before the party, I took the rolls out and baked them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Breads with sweetener instead of sugar take less time to bake.

I bought a can of Pillsbury vanilla frosting that I separated. One half was plain, for the cinnamon rolls, and the other half I added a few teaspoons of orange zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of orange flavoring for the orange danish rolls.

The rolls all came out golden brown and delicious! They were the hit of the party!

You can get a look at Christopher's poetry at:

A Haunting Dream, Book four in the Missing Pieces Mysteries will be out December 4th!

Visit my Facebook page to win a copy of this book and the first three books in the series!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fuel Up for Black Friday Shopping

If you're going to brave the Black Friday crowds today, be sure and eat a good breakfast before you go. If you camp out at your favorite store or mall the night before, bring along plenty of high-protein snacks. Experts warn shoppers to avoid mall food and stick to fruit, nuts, coffee, bottled water and protein bars.

Other Black Friday survival tips include:

  • Get some sleep before hitting the shops.
  • Make a list of your most-wanted items and the stores that have the best deals on those items.
  • Resolve to stick to a pre-determined budget. It's easy to get caught up in the madness and overspend, buying things you don't even want or need.
  • Shop online. Many stores offer their Black Friday deals, and you can score them from the comfort of your own home.
Good luck and happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Edible Centerpiece to Gobble Up

Is this not the cutest thing? A melon, pineapple, or pumpkin spiked with grape and cheese kabobs, slices of bell pepper and a pear face serves double-duty for Thanksgiving . It is both the star of the table and a healthy snack of cheese, fruit and vegetables.
I leave my pumpkins out until Thanksgiving, so I am grabbing a pumpkin from my yard to use as a base. Apples or pomegranates would be cute for "baby" turkeys.
One thing I found helpful while making the kabobs; microwave the cheese cubes for 20 seconds to soften. Cold cheese wants to break and crumble.
Here are directions for making your own turkey:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

From The Indians To Your Table

I got this recipe from an old cookbook that claimed to be American Indian recipes. I would tell you the name, but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup water

Mix. Put in greased pie plate. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes.

Every time I tell people this, they're like, "No, really, what's the recipe?"

But that's it.

When you first eat it, it's very bland, but awesomely good with soup. Then you realize it's also awesomely good warm with butter. Then it's just plain good.

Have a happy Thanksgiving Day or, if you live in a country that doesn't have such a designated holiday, have a happy thanksgiving day.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Raisin Stuffing for Thanksgiving By Joyce Lavene

Apple Raisin Stuffing

I grew up in a German household and this is the type of dressing we always ate for Thanksgiving. My great-grandmother made it when I was very small. It passed to my grandmother after that. When my mother passed away, I became the stuffing maker.

The recipe has changed during the years. My kids are adults but they still don't like the large pieces of celery and onion my mother always used. I substitute onion powder and celery seed.

When I became a vegetarian, I stopped using turkey broth and substituted a veggie gravy mix. I still add poultry seasoning.

This stuffing smells wonderful when it is baking and holds up very well for leftovers. I even like it cold! I enjoy thinking about helping the women in my family making this down through the years. My daughter helps me now, with her daughter at her side.

I think I need to get some boys in here too!

Into a large bowl, add 1/4 cup chopped onion (or two tablespoons onion powder), one stick of chopped celery ( or one tsp. celery seed), one cup of diced, chopped and peeled apple, 1/2 cup of raisins, 1/2 cup turkey gravy (or 1 package veggie gravy mixed with water as directed). Add 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper (unless you use gravy mix) and 1/4 tsp. sage and poultry seasoning. Last, add three cups of bread, either cubed or pulled into small pieces.

I have seen recipes similar to this that require sauteing. I don't do this. After the mixture is well blended, I put it all into a baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree over. The apples still have a little snap. I like it that way.

I make a lot more stuffing than this each Thanksgiving because as our family has grown with children and in-laws who gather around our table, so other people have grown to love this stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Joyce Lavene
A Haunting Dream
December 4th

Friday, November 16, 2012

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dishes

We're all so busy this time of year, and it seems every bit of spare time is snatched up by some emergency, event or even exhaustion. (How'd you like that last bit of alliteration?!) So, I've dug up some links to Thanksgiving dishes you can make ahead of time. Trust me, I won't tell a soul you didn't stay up until the wee hours slaving over a hot stove.

Good Housekeeping Make Ahead Dishes

Real Simple 24 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Martha Stewart's Everything Thanksgiving Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes

Eating Well Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Fine Cooking's A Mostly Make-Ahead Thanksgiving

I hope some of these recipes will make your meal planning a little easier.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Me on Daytime TV

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of appearing on Daytime Tri-Cities. This show is fun, informative, and very friendly to local authors. Here's the link to my interview:

Here is another link from the show that features a great idea for holiday entertaining. It shows how to do indoor s'mores, covered in a variety of toppings. I have to tell you, the studio smelled heavenly with all the melting chocolate!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Charlie's Squash

Charlie has been cooking more lately, and he's quite good at it. He discounts what he does, but I don't!

The other evening, I came in from some place or another, and he had dinner on the table. The main dish was this wonderful squash.

Our #2 grandson was over, so Charlie cut an acorn squash into thirds. He filled the cavities with vegan margarine and split a tomato into thirds and added them. Then he put it into the microwave. He says he put it on "beverage" about four times. That would make it about six minutes, pausing every minute-and-a-half (you can make it every minute). He said it cooks better that way than if you just do the whole time all the way through.

Let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS! Go, Charlie, go!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, November 9, 2012

Leftover Halloween Candy

Do you have any leftover Halloween candy? Here are some suggestions on what to do with it:

The Daily Meal - What to Do With Leftover Halloween Candy

Wisebread's 10 Things to Do With Leftover Halloween Candy

Boston Daily's What To Do With Leftover Halloween Candy

20 Uses for Leftover Halloween Candy

I generally put any leftover (and clearance) Halloween candy in my children's lunches until Christmas break rather than use it to flavor vodka or make brownies. What do you do with yours?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congratulations to.....

The winner of my drawing for a free, signed copy of BURTON THE SNEEZING COW is....drum roll please......Lisa R! Congratulations Lisa R.

Lisa was randomly chosen from the folks who comented on Gayle's Halloween post. I appreciate all of the other comments. I hope it is fortelling of the enthusiasm people will have for my new children's book.

If you did not win, but would like to order your own signed copy, I am offering a special deal for Fatal Foodies. You can order copies for $9.00 each. Shipping is $1.50 per book. I will sign books in the favorite color of the intended recipient.

Let me know if you would like a copy with a comment on this post or an email to:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Painless Piercing

My friend Jane and I meet every four weeks or so for lunch in Louisville, Kentucky. One of our favorite places to go is The Irish Rover, where we can get fish and chips or a cheese plate or Guinness beef stew in a bread bowl or bangers and mash.

The fact that we can also get a vast choice of excellent beers, stouts, and ales is quite beside the point. QUITE beside the point.

Nevertheless, we were amused to see this sticker on a trash receptacle:
Yes indeedaroony!

The last time we hit The Rover, I chose Bell's Two Hearted Ale. We had tried it before and judged it too sharp for what we were eating that day, but I thought it would be just the thing with fish and chips. And I was right. Um mum mum mum mum mum.

Now I'm looking forward to our next visit, to see what the server suggests. I might choose anything from a pale winter wheat to a nearly black stout. Jane will choose according to her food order; we might get the same thing, or we might get different things. Then we'll crawl walk down the street to Vint coffee shop and caffeinate ourselves.

Life is good.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Blues by Joyce Lavene

It's about that time of year again - time for the Thanksgiving Day blues.

Don't misunderstand me. I LOVE Thanksgiving! I love all the food that we only eat at this time of year. I love being with all of my family. I love all the traditions that go with making all the food. It's great!

The problem is that our family has outgrown a normal dining room size. Every year, the event gets bigger, which is great. Children marry and have their own children. Boyfriends and girlfriends come shyly to meet everyone. Then about this time of year, my brother calls me and says, "I think I need another five seats at the table."

"Five seats?" I ask, wondering where we're going to find that kind of room. "Did you find another family to adopt?"

"No, it's Suzie's friend from college and her mother is going to be alone if she comes with Suzie. You know how it is."

I DO know. But short of renting a VFW hall, I don't know where to put everyone. We're already taking up the living room (moved furniture out) and kitchen, dining room. I guess we could open up a bedroom!

We've tried a park/picnic shelter. Bad weather ruined everything.

My brother's house is even smaller than mine. He offers every year to have the holiday there. I just can't imagine having plates full of dressing, gravy and sweet potatoes in my lap, sitting on the floor or on his sofa.

I'm thinking about renting one of those big tents they use for weddings. That might work. Or maybe we could build on, just for Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Of course, we'd have to expand the kitchen too. Every family cooks and brings a meal with them. I'm not sure where to put the line of turkeys or gravy boats this year - or Aunt Alice and her daughter, for that matter!

A Haunting Vision
By Joyce and Jim Lavene
and Berkley Prime Crime
December 4th!

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to Eat During a Hurricane

It seems that in the past week, one of the most frequent posts on Facebook has been what friends are eating during the storm. And most of us were eating comfort foods: chili, homemade soup, cornbread, biscuits and gravy, ham, potatoes, homemade cinnamon raisin bread, coffee, and--of course--Halloween candy.

Here is a link to a post on what to eat during a hurricane or other disaster. This post reveals relevant information on how long the food in your freezer will last and what you should have on hand if/when the power goes out.

The next two links explore the emotional side of eating during disasters:

What Not to Eat During A Hurricane

What Did You Eat During Hurricane Sandy

Hope all of you are safe, well, and happy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012



Today at Fatal Foodies, it's all TREATS!

Head on over to the house with the embroidered haunted house scene hanging on the door see what Gayle Trent/Amanda Lee has in store for you. (Everyone will get a copy of one of Gayle's books, and one person will win another.) Mmm...I smell something yummy baking in the kitchen....

When you're done visiting with Gayle/Amanda, head on down the block to Joyce Lavene's place-- Joyce is giving away a copy of GHASTLY GLASS, her Halloween Renaaissance Faire Mystery.

Donis Casey ( is giving away an Alafair Tucker mystery to one lucky visitor to her place.

Lisa Hall is giving away one signed copy of her children's book, BURTON THE SNEEZING COW, to one lucky reader who leaves a comment on this post. Please check out her Facebook group at

Good luck with all the giveaways!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Luci in the ER with Vodka

I'm not going to pretend I grasped everything Luci Zahray (The Poison Lady) had to say about alcohols at Magna cum Murder this past weekend, but I want to share the bits I did understand. Or misunderstand, as the case may prove.

Every year, college students die of alcohol poisoning. That's because any alcohol is toxic in large enough quantities, and a toxic dose varies according to many factors: concentration of alcohol, size of drinker, what's in the drinker's stomach, over what length of time the dose is taken. Booze is ethanol (anything ending in "ol" is an alcohol, I think....).

And, not only can you die from drinking to much ethanol (either quickly or over the course of many years), you can die from ethanol withdrawal (the DT's). Trap a habitual, always-a-little-drunk victim where he or she can't replenish the ethanol in his or her system, and you've got a sober corpse without a mark on it.

On the other hand, when medical folks talk about TOXIC alcohol, they usually mean isopropanol, methanol, and ethylene glycol, and ethanol is an ANTIDOTE to those.

Ethylene glycol is the ingredient in anti-freeze that makes it smell and taste sweetly fruity, and also that makes it toxic. Actually, it isn't toxic in itself, but it becomes toxic as it's digested. Mix some of that in Mr. Boddy's Sangria and he'll get happily looped, then he'll slip into a coma, maybe have seizures, and die.

A SERIOUS NOTE: Make sure any cough syrups/cold syrups you buy do not contain ethylene glycol. Sometimes some countries use a bit of it to sweeten the mixture because it's cheaper than sugar.

For more about alcohol poisoning and antidote, see:
Alcohol toxicity
Antifreeze poisoning
Whiskey Cure After Anti-Freeze Error

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 29, 2012

Our Halloween Party Feast!

Win a copy of Ghastly Glass in our Trick or Treat Giveaway!
October 31st
By Joyce Lavene

Halloween in the Renaissance Faire:
Murder and ghosts!

As I said in my last blog, every year just before Halloween, we have a huge feast with all the fun, scary food we can think of.

I want to thank everyone who sent me such great ideas for my food this year.

I made swamp punch and a graveyard of taco bean dip and green dip for chips.

We also had a pumpkin spewing macaroni salad, eyeball deviled eggs, ghost toast and dipping sauce, bones and sauce and a pumpkin cheese ball.

We always have the cauldron bubbling with dry ice. Snakes and spiders float around in the green and orange mixture. Everyone has to be careful not to eat them!

Hope you are enjoying your Halloween season too!

Joyce Lavene

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kahlua Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Leave it to Rachel Ray to come up with these wonderful chocolate cookies for adults! If you're hosting or attending a Halloween party, these might be the perfect cookies to serve.


  • 1 package dry chocolate chip cookie mix, 1 pound 1 1/2 ounces, found on baking aisle
  • 7 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso or instant coffee crystals
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee beans
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (recommended: Ghiradelli brand)
  • 4 ounces walnut pieces


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place racks in center of oven. In a mixing bowl, make a well in the center of dry chocolate chip cookie mix. Add softened butter, egg, Kahlua, instant coffee and ground coffee, chocolate chunks and walnuts. Mix well to combine all ingredients into cookie dough. Scoop with a small scoop or by heaping tablespoons and drop cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased nonstick cookie sheet or sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies in batches 9 to 11 minutes or until crisp and browned at edges. Transfer to wire rack to cool and serve.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Check out These Chompers!

Are these not fun? What a great way to give kids a Halloween treat that actually has some nutritional value. 
These are made from:
apple slices
peanut butter
mini marshmallows

Share other Halloween treat ideas! My oldest has braces, so the caramel apples and popcorn balls I used to make are out of the question this year.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pricing the Past

My mother and I have been reading Ross MacDonald's THE MOVING TARGET as part of the Magna cum Murder Writing Festival. The hero, Lew Archer, was throwing dollar bills around like tree leaves, and the kidnap victim's ransom was $100,000, so I decided to look up some 1949 prices, 1949 being when the book was published.

First I found The People History, and a page of prices and events. Seems that an average new house cost $7,450. A gallon of gas cost 17 cents (!!).

Next, since this is a food blog as well as a mystery blog, I looked at my favorite online foodie resource, The Food Timeline. It didn't have what I was looking for, but the page I've linked to has some great links and suggestions for finding old restaurant menus.

Long story short: A dollar was a darn good tip, and a hundred grand was a walloping big hunk of cash. A small fortune.

Oh, yeah -- we loved the book. :)

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 22, 2012

Get Ready for Halloween Food!

Ghastly Glass
Halloween at the Renaissance Faire!
By Joyce Lavene

For some people, what they eat on Halloween doesn't matter much. They are saving their efforts for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My family is different. We LOVE Halloween! We dress up, have several parties leading up to the main event. And the food is very important.

Deviled eggs wear a ghoulish red tinge. Tiny cemeteries made from cookies and candy appear. Ghost cookies and swamp punch grace our tables. There is a lot of creative thinking put into what we're going to eat - and how ghoulish we can make it!

Peanut butter fingers with polished, almond slice nails is my youngest daughter's favorite treat. My oldest daughter makes scary Rice Krispy Marshmallow Treats. My son makes strange pizza that we're never quite sure about the ingredients, but it is delish!

I'm working on my recipe for this Halloween right now - looking for something different.

Any suggestions?
Joyce Lavene

Friday, October 19, 2012

Help me pick a costume!

Our trick-or-treating event is coming up in about a week and a half. Are you ready? I'm ready to visit everyone's blog and enter giveaways and get freebies (like recipes, embroidery patterns, etc.), but I don't have my costume picked out yet. Will you help me decide?

I'm sorry to say that the sites I found won't allow me to right-click my mouse and save the pictures, so we'll just have to go on suggestions without the photos.

1) Peter Pan (because the outfit is cute)

2) Marilyn Monroe (because Marcy DOES own the Seven-Year Stitch, after all)

3) Cleopatra (because it looks like it would feel as comfy as wearing a nightgown)

4) Lady in Waiting Costume (because I could also wear it to Joyce and Jim's next RenFaire!)

5) Batgirl (because it's BATGIRL!)

6) Firefighter (again, because the outfit is cute)

7) Amanda Lee

Do you have any other suggestions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Team Building with a Literary Twist

This morning I am doing a team building session with a group of doctors, nutritionists and social workers. So, how does an author approach team building? I am pulling out a literary term. I am speaking about point of view.
Here is on of the exercises I will be doing to help illustrate that point of view affects how we see things:
1) I will toss a raw egg into a glass bowl.
2) Participants will be asked "What happened? What are your feelings about it?"
3) Participants will be divided into 5 groups and given cards. Each card will ask them to consider what they witnessed from a different perspective. My 5 cards are:    homeless person
someone with an egg allergy     chicken that laid the egg       an omelette chef
the custodian who cleans room we are using
4) Groups present answers from various points of view.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

French Twist Toast

We dearly love raisin bread, but I seldom get any. Why? I don't know, that's why.

Anyway, I got some. And I decided to make French Toast with it. Wasn't that a good idea? Indeed it was!

I usually add vanilla and cinnamon to my egg/milk mixture, but the raisin bread already had cinnamon in it, and I used vanilla almond milk instead of bovine mammary secretions, so I didn't need those ingredients. I just mixed egg and milk, dipped the bread on both sides, and fried in vegan margarine.

Personally, I thought it was sweet enough as it was, and just topped mine with slices of banana. Charlie Sweet-tooth topped his with maple syrup. AND banana.

Two sticky thumbs up for a delicious breakfast!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 15, 2012

Roasting pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds
By Joyce Lavene
Buried By Buttercups
The new Peggy Lee Garden Mystery

Roasting pumpkin seeds is a time-honored effort after the jack-o-lantern is carved. Seeds are separated, washed and put on a cookie sheet for roasting. This mimics the time our ancestors put into preserving every piece of each food they could. Nothing was left to waste.

Besides, it's fun and tastes good!

It's easy too. Spread about a tablespoon of oil on the roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt, garlic, or onion. I have a friend who also does sweet seeds with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Bake on the top rack after seasoning until seeds begin to turn brown. Smaller seeds will bake faster, so keep watch. Let cool after removing from oven and eat. You can crack and remove seeds from hull, if you like, but it will take a while.

Good eating and good for you while you watch your favorite Halloween movie!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Holly Clegg's Chicken & Dumplings

Here is a terrific chicken and dumplings recipe from Holly Clegg:

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked, diced, skinless Rotessire chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups biscuit baking mix
2/3 cup skim milk
1. In large nonstick pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion, carrots, and garlic over medium heat 5-7 minutes or until tender. Stir in the flour and thyme.
2. Gradually add broth; bring to boil. Add chicken.
3. In bowl, stir together biscuit baking mix and milk. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling broth. Return to boil, reduce heat, and cook, covered for 15-20 minutes or until dumplings are done. Season with salt and pepper (if using). If soup is too thick, add more chicken broth.
Food Facts
Calories 235
Protein (g) 16
Carbohydrate (g) 28
Fat (g) 6
Cal. from Fat (%) 23
Saturated Fat (g) 2
Dietary Fiber (g) 2
Sugars (g) 16
Cholesterol (mg) 31
Sodium (mg) 815
Diabetic Exchanges: 2 carbohydrate, 2 lean meat

Terrific Tidbit: A plain comfort food as this is easier digested. Leftover chicken may be used but Rotessire chicken is a great short cut. Remember to remove the skin.