Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eat For The New Year

New Year's food traditions vary, but they usually include green leafy stuff (to symbolize folding money), gold or disk-shaped stuff (to symbolize coins), and pork (because pigs root forward). We'll be having cabbage, black-eyed peas and ham, which are the local variety of this tradition.

Here's how to make black-eyed peas edible.

Edible Black-Eyed Peas
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste
Combine and heat. Cook until most but not all of the liquid is gone. Serve with cornbread. If you have any green onions, dice them and add them.

Black-eyed peas are really good; trust me!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 30, 2013

Making sugar-free candied fruit peel
By Joyce Lavene

I love fruit bread, and usually bake a few loaves every holiday for my family, and to give away. This year was a challenge because you can’t get candied orange or other citrus peels that don’t have sugar.

I finally made by own by creating a syrup from Splenda and allowing the orange and lemon peel to simmer in it, and cool. It was very good, with raisins, apricots, pineapple, orange and lemon peel. I missed the color from the cherries though, and next year I’ll add blueberries and cranberries to it.

I used my bread maker, which I probably won’t do again because it made the pieces of fruit too small. I usually make the bread myself the old fashioned way.

This is basically a standard bread recipe to which I add fruit and an egg. It’s heavy and moist – which is how I like it!

It struck me that I could also make my favorite candy – chocolate covered orange peel in this way with unsweetened chocolate enhanced with Splenda. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Inside Out Veggie Dip

From Taste of Home

I came across this amazing “inside out veggie dip.” It’s a mix of healthy and tasty. It’ll be perfect to serve at that New Year’s Eve party!

Inside-Out Veggie Dip Recipe


2 large cucumbers

16 cherry tomatoes

1 packet of soften cream cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped carrot

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon onion powder

How to make it

Peel the cucumber into two thin slices and if possible with a decorative edge to give that fancy look. With the rest of the cucumber scoop out the seeds and set aside.

Cut a thin slice from the bottoms of tomatoes to allow them to rest flat. Cut a thin slice from tops of tomatoes; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-in. shell. Invert onto paper towels to drain.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, red pepper, celery, onion, carrot, seasonings and chopped cucumber.
Fill tomatoes and cucumber slices with cream cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon in each. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope this day is a fun celebration of faith, family, friends and food! Here is a rundown of what my family will eat today: Breakfast parfaits (yogurt, fruit, granola, honey) biscuits bacon (pig bacon, instead of turkey bacon, for a change) Lunch steak baked potatoes salad sweets Dinner tomato soup sandwiches (chicken salad, ham rolls, pigs-in-a-blanket) veggies and dip sweets What are you having?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anna Bickel's Grandmother's Cranberry Salad

This is a favorite at my mom's church, and I love it, too. It's red, and it's made with cranberries, so that makes it a natural for this time of year. I don't make it often, because gelatin isn't vegetarian and I always use too much Agar powder if I substitute that for the gelatin. ~sigh~

Ana Bickel’s Grandmother’s Cranberry Salad
  • 1 small box cherry gelatin (Jell-o or off-brand)
  • 1 can jellied cranberries
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple
Mix 1 cup boiling water and gelatin until gelatin dissolves. Add jellied cranberry sauce and mix until sauce is dissolved. Add pineapples. Chill until firm.

NOTE: Drain the dang pineapples. Pineapple juice is the enemy of gelatin.

Merry Christmas, or happy any old holiday you choose!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays! by Joyce Lavene

                   Happy Holidays to everyone!

May Santa bring everything you asked for, and may the food you have on your table be bountiful!

Joyce and Jim Lavene

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five-in-One Pasta Delight

The holiday season is here, and invariably the kids spend more time in the kitchen hunting for “their kind of food”! But this is really no complaint, as I too love to huddle up with them at the dining table yakking and eating! The Christmas tree is ready. Most of the packages are wrapped. Now I’m starting to think about what cakes, cookies, and candies to make…besides main dishes!

I know my kids will love this cheesy pasta. In fact, I think I’ll go ahead and make it because it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, and this would be a nice, comforting dish for them to come home to.

Pasta with Five Cheeses


·         1 pound Rigatoni, fusilli or small shells

·         2 cups heavy cream

·         1 teaspoon Basil, dried

·         1 cup Crushed tomatoes in heavy puree

·         1 package Italian blend cheese, (8 ounces divided - mozzarella, mild cheddar, provolone, and asiago)

·         1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled


1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.

2.    Boil the pasta two minutes less than what the package specifies in plenty of well-salted water and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together the cream, crushed tomatoes, basil, 1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend, and gorgonzola cheese.

3.    Add cooked pasta to the cream and cheese mixture. Stir to combine.

4.    Pour into prepared casserole dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup of Italian cheese blend. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is browned slightly and pasta is bubbling hot. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BB&R Risotto #Vegetarian

BB&R stands for Black Beans and Rice, which is redundant, since a Risotto is rice. But, as a wise woman once said, "Whatever."

Unless you're a writer, it's kind of a bore to stand in front of the stove, stirring a pot for 20 to 30 minutes. If you're a writer, it's an opportunity to look busy while you dream up a story.
For this, I heated some garlic-flavored olive oil in a sauce pan. I diced some onion and tri-colored peppers and cooked them along with some cumin for a few minutes. Then I put in the arborio rice and stirred that around until the rice started to go translucent. I had four times as much water as rice, and added some of the water, stirring it and cooking at a simmer until most of the water was absorbed. Then I added more water, cooked, more water, cooked, until almost all the water was gone. Then I added the drained black beans and a cube of vegetarian bouillon and cooked until there was just some sauce, not watery water.

I topped it with shaved cheese. The thing on the side is a soft flour tortilla warmed in a hot skillet.

Pretty quick, very easy, extremely tasty.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 16, 2013

What is your favorite holiday cookie? by Joyce Lavene

What is your favorite holiday cookie?
By Joyce Lavene

Cookies are an important holiday tradition for me. I remember helping my mother make cookies when I was a kid. Christmas was the only time we made so many beautiful and elaborate cookie treats. They were sealed away in pretty tins and kept aside for the big day.

Of course, my brother and I always knew where to find them, and we sneaked more than a few. But we'd carefully arrange them so it looked as though none were missing. I'm sure we weren't fooling my mother - but it added to the fun and excitement of the holiday.

My mother made chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies that we frosted and decorated. She also made almond crescents, snicker-doodles, egg white cookies and cookies pressed from a tube. She made layer cookies and elaborate cookies that had to be baked and cooled before each part was added.

I am nowhere near the cook and baker my mother was, but I enjoy making cookies. I don't make all the different varieties or put in as much time thinking and collecting recipes as she did. I still make chocolate chip cookies - thanks to Nestle's sugar-free chocolate chips, oatmeal cookies, and almond crescents.

My challenge this year is going to be trying to keep everything sugar-free. I'm still hoping to eat some almond crescents, which are my favorite cookies. It's not easy to powder Splenda, but I'm determined to try.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Murderous Matrimony: www.renaisssancefairemuysteries.com
Book Six in the Ren Faire Mysteries

Hero's Journey: www.jjcook.net
A new E-novella in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Package Cheese Snack

The holiday season is here and time to catch up with friends and some cozy family bonding. For me, Christmas and New Year means lavish family luncheons, dinners and lots of fun.  Well, it can be fun only when the planning is done in advance for the big day. I generally make a checklist of the menu and arrangements at least a week ahead so that I am not caught in a mess when the guests arrive. This year, however, we have planned a potluck lunch at our friends’ place. I am all excited with the luncheon just a week away. I have already planned on my dress and accessories. Deciding what to take was quite tricky. I thought of cakes, cookies, pastries... but it was all either too strenuous or something very common.

So I decided I was going to make something like a usual snack but with a unique twist. I was racking my mind on what to contribute to the potluck, something which would be light and yet enjoyed by everyone.

I decided to make a delicious cheese log. How I wish my grandmother was here. She would just make these cheese logs in a jiffy and serve them fresh with a unique presentation always. I was going to try one of her innovations and present each of the blocks like a gift package.

I started Googling to find a cheese log recipe, and believe it or not, I stumbled upon one recipe in perfect grandmother style.

Christmas Package Cheese Snack


·         8 ounces of cream cheese (softened)

·         1/2 teaspoon dried dill

·         1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

·         1/8 teaspoon salt

·         Scallion

·         Red bell pepper


1.    Mix the dried dill, garlic powder, and salt into the softened cream cheese.

2.    Pack the mixture into a rectangular container lined with plastic wrap (you can reuse the cream cheese box).

3.    Refrigerate it for at least 3 hours. Before serving time, set the unwrapped block of cheese on a platter and decorate it with a scallion bow and red pepper polka dots and gift tag.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Sweet Secret

If you need brown sugar for some holiday baking, you do not have to run out and buy it. This works perfectly. I may never purchase brown sugar again! Ingredients: 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons molasses Directions: In a food processor combine both ingredients and process till combined. Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/brown-sugar-substitute-290745?oc=linkback

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Effortless Chocolate Mousse

When I say "effortless," I mean effortless. As in, "without effort." Okay, you do have to go to Kroger and buy a quart of Chocolate Paradise Deluxe ice cream. But, once you get home, all you have to do is put it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.

See, it got too cold for ice cream to be appetizing, so I took the Chocolate Paradise out of the freezer and put it in the fridge so it could melt. The kids used to stir their ice cream around and around in their bowls until it melted; they called the melted ice cream "clever juice," for some reason.

I figured, I'll just melt this puppy down and have a quart of clever juice to jazz up my coffee or pour over angel food cake or over fruit.

But, when I opened the container, this is what I found.
Chocolate mousse. The "ice cream" is thickened and texturized with cellulose gel, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, and carrageenan (Irish moss -- yes, real moss from real Ireland).

At first, I was like, Ewwww -- Nasty! And then I was like, How cool is that? I'm keeping this little trick in my back pocket, and I'm going to try it with other flavors.

Unexpected guest show up and you want to give them dessert but not ice cream? Put a quart of ice cream in the fridge to mousse up, spoon it into dessert cups with crumbled graham crackers or crushed nuts or peanut butter or whatever. Or layer two or more flavors.

DUDE, right?

After a few days, it collapses into clever juice, so now I have my yummy liquid to pour over or into stuff. It's all good. As long as it's chocolate.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cooking for Firefighters by J J Cook

Cooking for Firefighters
By J J Cook
from the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

Cooking for firefighters is no different than cooking for any other large group of people. Possibly the biggest difference is that the people who are eating could rush out at any moment and not return for several hours. That doesn't happen at most sit-down dinners.

I am a member of a family of firefighters dating back to the late 1800s. Foods haven't changed substantially during that time. Whoever is cooking - usually everyone takes their turn - makes a lot of soups, stews, and chili. Foods that are easy and can be re-heated are popular. Sometimes restaurants, and families who want to say thank you, will donate food for lunch or dinner. That can be a nice change of pace from what firefighters make themselves.

You can imagine our food gets to be a little repetitive after a while. Hardly anyone complains though. We know what we do is important to our communities, and we're proud of it.

Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries

* That Old Flame of Mine

* Hero's Journey

* Playing with Fire (January 2014)


Friday, December 6, 2013

Refreshing Starter

With Christmas and New Year’s Day just around the corner, most kitchens are bustling with even more hectic activity than usual. The aroma of delicious cakes and pastries, cookies and biscuits would just lead anyone right to the kitchen. Who wouldn't want a fresh piece of bread right from the oven with all those appetizing herbs and cream?

While I was jotting down the menu for our big party night just before Christmas, a sudden thought crossed my brain. The entire spread would be filled with greasy, creamy, buttery elements good enough to make your stomach feel hungry for more even after a number of servings. But what effect would such heavy food have on the poor human anatomy?

After fiddling through the Internet and cookbooks, I came across this super light and delicious appetizer--light on the body and enticing on the taste buds. It’s a citrus and pomegranate salad with chili honey dressing. The colorful salad is appealing to the eyes and a refreshing starter.

Citrus and Pomegranate Salad with Chili Honey Dressing


For the chili-honey dressing
• 5 tsp. white wine vinegar
• 4 tsp. clear honey
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small red chili, cut in half, seeds removed, finely chopped

For the salad
• 4 small oranges, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 2 ruby grapefruit, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 1 plain grapefruit, peeled, pith removed, segmented
• 1 small red onion, peeled, very finely chopped
• One bunch fresh mint leaves
• 1 pomegranate, seeds only, to serve

For the chili-honey dressing, mix together the vinegar and honey in a shallow serving bowl until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil, using a fork, then add the chili and whisk again. Add more vinegar or oil, to taste.

For the salad, arrange the segmented fruit in a broad shallow bowl. Sprinkle over the onion and mint, then pour over the chili-honey dressing and mix well until it coats the salad.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dang Pioneer Woman and her Awesome Cookbook!

Ree Drummond kept me up way past my bedtime last night. In case you are not familiar with the name, Ree is also known as THE PIONEER WOMAN.
She is a cute, sweet-talking, red-headed spitfire with a knack for cooking and photography. Ree lives on a massive Oklahoma ranch with her husband and four children.
Her rise to fame began when Ree started her own blog. The blog, depicting her family's rural life, is packed with stories, photos and recipes. The blog has led to cookbooks and a television show.
Yesterday, I received a copy of Ree's latest cookbook as an early birthday present. A YEAR OF HOLIDAYS is a beautiful  cookbook, packed with recipes for a year's worth of celebrations. Each step of every recipe includes a photograph. Other photos show Ree's family and friends enjoying various celebrations throughout the years.
Once I got to bed last night, I stayed up for at least an hour to look at my new,book. It left me with dreams of all the recipes I will be trying for my family's celebrations!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Can You Feed #Vegetarians?

Pirogi, again. I just purely LOVE pirogi! Well, anything with potatoes in it, actually. It's the Irish in me, I suppose.

ANYWAY, here is another priogi dish suitable for vegans and (potentially) delicious to anybody.

Pirogi and Mushrooms
  • frozen pirogi
  • vegan "buttery spread"
  • chopped onion
  • minced garlic
  • sliced mushrooms
  • crumbled cheese
Melt some buttery spread on medium low and cook the onions and garlic and mushrooms until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are browned. Meanwhile, boil the pirogi according to package directions. Remove the vegetables. Drain the pirogi. Melt some more margarine and lightly brown the pirogi on both sides. Return veg and heat together. Put the pirogi on plates, top with veg, top that with cheese.


Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, December 2, 2013

Are you a baked white or sweet (yam) potato person? Comment and win a copy of Hero's Journey!

Hero's Journey
An E-Novella in the sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries
 By J.J. Cook
Make a comment on this blog and win a copy!

It's always the same story at Thanksgiving.

There is stuffing and cranberries, and for some, the turkey or goose.

But do you choose baked white potatoes, mashed potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, or sweet potatoes?

I'm sure your choice says something about you as a person.

People who choose yams (sweet potatoes) are more outgoing and likely to try unusual things.

People who choose mashed potatoes are afraid of spiders.

Baked white? Likely to be past class presidents or football players.

Cheesy potato casserole? Let's just say that you have to watch out for these people!

Which potato eater are you?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Slow Cooker Breakfast

Here's a slow cooker breakfast you can put in the crockpot the night before to assure a speedy breakfast the next morning. The tutorial is from The Bargain Hound, and the casserole looks really good!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I am thankful for the snow we got last night. What a perfect day to make my Thanksgiving side-dishes I'm taking to relatives homes.
Here is one of the things I will be making today:
Cranberry Salad
1bag cranberries, chopped
3 apples, shredded
1-15oz can mandarin oranges (drained)
1-6 oz box cherry Jello
2 cups hot water
20 oz can crushed pineapple (drained)
1cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1cup sugar
1cup chopped celery

Combined all ingredients and chill till set

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Can You Feed #Vegetarians?

Well, this, for one thing. We had this last night.

Pierogi stuffed with potato and cheddar (bought frozen), covered in peas, carrots, celery, and onion, and lavished with vegan margarine and chopped fresh parsley.

If you need it to be vegan, get potato and onion instead of potato and cheese.

Charlie, who seldom pays much attention to food, made a point of saying how much he liked it!

Please, omnivores, do me a favor and don't make your vegetarian/vegan relatives eat before they come, or graze on the garnishes, or wonder if the vegetables are cooked in animal fat. Make some delicious vegetarian/vegan dishes that are worthy of being main dishes, and let everyone know what's meaty and what isn't. As an omnivore with vegetarians/vegans I care about, I know how easy it is. 'Kay? Thanks!

Now, get out from between me and that turkey!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 25, 2013

'Tis the season - for sugar-free eggnog! By Joyce Lavene

Sugar-free Eggnog
By Joyce Lavene

When I was a kid, we never drank eggnog until New Year's Eve. Today, you can't get eggnog in the store after Christmas. I'm not sure what happened.

I recently found out that I am diabetic. It's borderline right now, but having two other diabetics - my Dad and my husband - in the family, I know what a challenge this is. I'm not going to push my luck.

So I've cut back on sugar. I'm trying to eat better, and I'm working out. I may even lose a few pounds - no guarantees on that!

But that bring me back to the eggnog.

I really enjoy a fresh, cold glass of eggnog this time of year. I was afraid I might have to give that up, but I found a very good recipe that has helped me through.

Sugar-free Eggnog

Mix 1/2 cup Eggbeaters with 1 cup of low fat milk. Add two tablespoons of sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix. Use 1/4 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice and a few packets of sweetener (your choice).

This is really good with one of those glasses with the top that you can shake things in, or you can use a whisk. Refrigerate for half an hour and enjoy!

Why eggbeaters? Because they’re pasteurized so you don’t have to cook the eggnog.

Can you add rum to this? By all means! But remember that a  lot of alcohol isn’t good for your glucose levels! You can add rum flavoring for the same taste (but not effect!)


Look for Murderous Matrimony, book 6 in the Renaissance Faire Mysteries. available now at Amazon.

December 3rd: Hero's Journey from Berkley Prime Crime

Friday, November 22, 2013

Turkey Cooking 101

Happy Auer gives us a turkey cooking lesson! :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall For Food

I mean food for fall. Whatever.

Here is a delish fall meal we had recently:
That's coffee (naturally), lentil soup with onions, carrots, and celery, home made bread and baby Swiss cheese, and apple salad.

As for the Fatal part, I made plenty of soup so Charlie and I didn't have to have a knife fight over who got seconds.

I keep my knives sharp.

Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 18, 2013

What do you think THESE guys eat at the Ren Faire?

What do you think THESE guys eat at the Ren Faire?
By Joyce Lavene
from Murderous Matrimony

I spent about ten hours this past weekend signing books and chatting with authors and fans at the Carolina Renaissance Festival in Huntersville, NC.

The weather wasn’t too bad. Kind of cloudy, but no rain. The festival was crowded with Dr. Who look-a-likes, weeping angels, pirates, elegant ladies and gentlemen.

And these two. They got me wondering.

Ren Faire food is a little strange. There are a lot of food on sticks – from roasted corn to chicken and steak. Most people seem to prefer the finger food.

There are also bread bowls filled with broccoli-cheese soup and chili (not together). I had one of these. It was very good.

On the side are huge pickles, pretzels on sticks, fudge, coffee and bakery sweets. It’s easy to imagine what it would have been like living in that time frame and smelling all those foods while walking around in the foggy morning.

Okay – maybe not ALL those foods. But some would have been possible.

Back to my original question. I think these two characters ate the huge turkey legs. You have to wonder where in the world they find turkeys with such big legs. I’ve never seen a Thanksgiving turkey with legs that big!

Someone suggested steroids, but that would hardly fit into the Ren Faire time. It’s possible though.

My Renaissance Faire Mysteries:

Come to the Renaissance Faire! My newest book, Murderous Matrimony is out now. It is the 6th book in the Ren Faire Mysteries, and contains the wedding of Jessie and Chase.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Turkey Cake Pop Tutorial

My Cupcake Addiction shows you how to make adorable turkey cake pops!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Preschool Author Visit...More Tips

In a continuation of last week's post, I offer more pointers for a preschool author visit:
1)  Many preschools have multiple ages. Begin your presentation by reading to all children. Save question and answer sessions, etc. for older children (ages 3 & 4)
2) Come up with some type of games, song, etc. to get children involved. My main character sneezes throughout my book. I divide kids into two groups (red group and purple group). When I say corresponding color, that group says "achoo, achoo."
3) Prepare for lots of hugs. Little kids love visiting authors!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vegetable Porn

I know. It's so wrong. Looking at these pictures behind my husband's back makes me feel so dirty.

No it doesn't. It makes me feel hungry!

In that wonderful, serendipitous, time-hogging way it has, the interwebs slung me onto this site and into the middle of this recipe, which my husband would never want to eat in a million years and which has me drooling even as I ~slurrrrp~ type.

Even the title is to die for:

Sara's Laksa -- Big, Fragrant Malaysian Coconut Soup with Vegetables and Tofu

Marian Allen

Monday, November 11, 2013

Renaissance food for Christmas? By Joyce Lavene

Renaissance food for Christmas?
By Joyce Lavene
from Murderous Matrimony

Christmas was an amazing time during the Renaissance, just as it is now. There were parties and feasting, excitement and happiness – and not just for the rich. Servants and peasants observed the holiday with extra food, parties, and even days off from their menial work.

Churches and houses were decorated with greenery which wasn't taken down until January. Gift-giving during this time was the New Year Gift, as it was improper to give a gift during the Christmas season.

There was dancing and music all during the day and night. Everyone would wear their best clothes and play sporting games, racing horses, and holding tournaments.

Of course, food played an important role in this merriment. Rich and poor alike had special dishes they made during the holiday season. There might be twenty courses to a meal! 

Roasted boar’s head was the main course for many wealthy people. The poor had to settle for a ham.

There were pastries made with various kinds of nuts and honey. Flavored custards were served, as eggs and milk were plentiful. Fruits were cooked with sugar and cinnamon, many times served whole on a plate. Hundreds of pies and cakes would grace the heaping tables.

Besides the boar’s heads and hams, there were dozens of various birds served – partridges, capons, pigeons turtledoves, pheasants, quails and peacocks.

A really special dish might include a roasted calf’s head
 covered in sugary almonds.

Another course might be a whole pig or a whole sheep. Chickens were roasted and served almost as snacks between the main courses.

Of course there would also be olives, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and other vegetables.

Fortunately, since there was so much food – these feasts would go on for days. 

Sometimes weddings were scheduled for these times simply because there was so much for everyone to enjoy!

 Come enjoy the wedding of Lady Jessie Morton and Bailiff Chase Manhattan on Friday, November 15th at 2 pm.

There will be gifts and merriment as the new Renaissance Faire Mystery – Murderous Matrimony – is released!

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Make Modeling Chocolate

I thought this might be good to know if any of us decide to get creative with our holiday desserts! :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Preschool Author Visit

I have given tips on this blog for doing author visits to schools. Those tips are geared towards elemtary school visits.
If you are a children's author, visiting preschools can be very fun, but make your presentation entirely different than you would for elementary students.
Their attention span is next-to-nil. The younger, the child, the shorter the attention span.
Also, their understanding of concepts and language is still limited. Authors must be very careful to not talk over their heads.
Here are some tips:
1) Do not spend very long on your introduction. Begin reading right away.
2) Be very animated. It holds their attention.
3) Sit close to the children.
4) When a student distracts others, let preschool teachers deal with it. They know how to handle each child effectively.
More tips next week!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Grape Leaf in Louisville and Cincinnati Chili

"Mediterranean" can mean many things, when it comes to food. It can mean Italian. It can mean French. It can mean near Eastern.

When Louisville's The Grape Leaf restaurant says it, it means deeeelicious! My friend Jane and I ate there the other week, and I'm still happy.

A lot of Mediterranean restaurants which focus on the Turkish or Greek style of cooking will give you a nice gyros or a nice kabob, maybe some rice and lentils or a quinoa salad, a moussaka or a baba ganoush, and call it done. The Grape Leaf gives you a headful of flavors midwestern Americans don't generally experience.

That brings me to Cincinnati chili. Cincinnati style chili was concocted by a Greek immigrant, and is rich with spices like cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, vinegar, and cocoa! The waitress who gave me my first taste told me that people either love Cincinnati chili or hate it. I love it!

And those flavors that dance on my tongue in Cincinnati chili are those I found in the basmati rice with lentils at The Grape Leaf.

Oh, it was heavenly! One of these fine days, I'm going to try my hand at making rice with those flavors. I can hardly wait!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yummy Potato Pancakes! By Joyce Lavene

Potato Pancakes
By Joyce Lavene

I’ve got a hankerin’ (yes, a handkerin’) for some potato pancakes! Yes, the lovely, crispy warm ones that I probably shouldn’t eat. I want potato pancakes with applesauce, the way my Mom used to make them.
And I’m probably going to have them!

Here’s my recipe:

4 cups mashed potatoes (day old is best, but do what you have to)
1/2 cup minced onions
1 egg
1/4 cup flour

Mix all ingredients. Use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture into a skillet that is hot and greased. Cook until each side is crispy and brown.
Easy-peasy! Potato pancakes in only a few minutes. Serve with applesauce. Beans are good with it too!

Watch for my new book on November 15th, Murderous Matrimony!

I'll have recipes from the Ren Faire wedding of Jessie Morton and Chase Manhattan.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Cannibal Pumpkin...How's that for a FATAL Foodie?

Pretty scary...if you happen to be a mini pumpkin! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Words For Fall: Apple and Crisp

Put them together and whaddya got?

Apple Crisp
photo from MorgueFile.com
  • 4 C. sliced, pared tart apples
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1/2 C. oatmeal
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 3 1/2 T. margarine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8x8x2 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place apple slices in the pan and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients together until the mixture is completely moistened. Sprinkle evenly over apples and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender and top is golden brown. Serve warm.

And, oh, man, is it good! Especially with vanilla or caramel ice cream. Mmmmm!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 28, 2013

Apples and Halloween! by Joyce Lavene

Apples and Halloween
By Joyce Lavene

Apples and Halloween are forever linked. Part of the reason for this is that apples are harvested in the fall. Of course the more plentiful the fruit, the more games, and dishes we’d find to make with it.

But what about bobbing for apples?

It was cold during our recent Halloween party and we opted for ‘bobbing’ for apples hung on strings from the doorway. No one wanted to go out in the cold with a wet head!

Most people believe apple bobbing goes back to Irish and Scottish rituals around the time of Samhain, the old religion. It wasn't just a game, but also a form of divination.

The apples were thrown into the water, and after catching one (hands free), you were supposed to peel it and circle your head with it before throwing it over your shoulder. Doing this was supposed to reveal the initial of your true love’s name.

For some reason, apples have been at the core of superstition and myth. The apple in the Garden of Eden – the witch making poison apples in the fairy tale There were golden apples in Greek and Norse mythology.

Maybe it was the common aspect of apples. Everyone knew what apples were. 

When I was a child, people frequently gave apples in your trick or treat bag. That doesn't happen much anymore after the 'razor' scare of the 1970s. I admit it wasn't my favorite treat. Who wants something that we all know is good for you?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Falling Back in Love with Sam

My youngest began preschool this fall. This has allowed me to begin seeing Sam again. I have loved Sam ever since he moved to my area. For many years, we enjoyed lengthy and regular visits.
After having kids, my visits with Sam began decreasing. It just was not as much fun once I had kids tagging along.
I am refering to SAMs Club. It is NOT a fun place to take small children! Navigating the enormous warehouse with a little one is overwhelming and over stimulating.
Skylar beginning preschool has given me a few hours a week to run errands by myself. While I miss my little sidekick, it sure is nice to resume my visits with Sam!
I forgot what a tremendous selection of food is offered at SAMS Club; and do not get me started on the food samples they hand out!
Oh, how I missed this place. Sam, I might have stayed away for too long; but my love for you burns strong ad ever!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Upcook, Downcook

Back in the day, I loved to watch Upstairs, Downstairs (the original show, especially the first few seasons), just to watch Mrs. Bridges cook or talk about cooking. So I was excited to stumble upon Mrs. Bridges' Upstairs, Downstairs Cookery Book.

Alas, it has mixed reviews. The worst of it is that the reviews reveal it's only an Edwardian cookery book, not one that follows the show.

Still, I'm happier, just knowing this book exists. I can hear Mrs. Bridges now, telling Mr. Hudson how irritating Sarah is, and how Rose talked back in a most shocking way.

I'm putting the book on my wish list, just for fun, and might even buy it for myself one of these fine days.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marshmallows anyone can roast! By Joyce Lavene

Marshmallows anyone can roast
By Joyce Lavene

For many years, having our Friday night bonfire has been difficult for the vegan and vegetarian members
of my family. I don't feel as sorry for the adult members of our family as for the kids. What is a bonfire without roasting marshmallows?

Making S'more,s and watching the marshmallows get all brown and puffy is a delight. And I'm pleased to say that now vegans and vegetarians can also enjoy this time-honored tradition.

These marshmallows are awesome! They taste really good. They're gooey and crispy when you eat them. They roast just fine on a stick over a fire.

Wondering why vegans and vegetarians can't eat regular marshmallows? It's the gelatin, just like in Jello.

"Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattlechickenpigs, and fish. Food-grade gelatin is produced mainly from two raw materials, beef skin and pig hide. Photographic and pharma grades of gelatin are generally made from beef bones, although some beef bone gelatin is used by the food industry. Gelatin is an animal protein unlike many other gelling agents used by the food industry."

Yummy, right?

Anyway, for obvious reasons, people who don't eat meat, don't eat gelatin. The only place I've been able to find these is online, but that's okay.

Back to the marshmallows. These are very good and will suit your purpose. Now I'm going to make a fire and roast some!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Something Funny

Since last week's post was kind of a downer (even though it was interesting to know where our fear of Halloween candy originated), today I wanted to give you something to smile about. This is from LOLCATS:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My New Favorite Board on Pinterest

I love Pinterest! All of my pinned projects may never be completed, but I am going to give it a shot. Check out my Halloween board:


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Looking at the World Through Cups, Mugs, and Glasses

My kids know me so well. I had a birthday recently, and one of my presents was Tom Standage's A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 6 GLASSES.

Just as food is sometimes more than just food, what we drink can shape our world. Beer was used as currency, as were spirits (Molasses to Rum to Slaves). Wine was exported from ancient Greece, along with Greek culture. Tea brought about the British Raj and was symbolically integral to the American Revolution. Coffee houses have always been centers of creativity, business dealings, and social change. As for the sixth drink, where can one go to escape Coca-Cola?

So let us say, along with Jerome K. Jerome, author of THREE MEN IN A BOAT (TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG),
Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.
 Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes