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.