Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Favorite New Recipe

On an almost daily basis, I mix up one of my favorite new recipes. I mix it up in my kitchen sink. It smells awesome; is cheap to make; it fizzes and bubbles; and it uses ingredients you all probably have at home. Any guesses? My favorite new recipe is not a food, but contains two food ingredients. Any guesses? My favorite new recipe is for an great multi-purpose, mildly abrasive household cleaner. I mix: Warm water (about 1/2 gallon) A few drops of dish detergent White vinegar (about 3/4 cups) Baking soda (about 1/8 cup) Use to make countertops, floors, sinks and the inside of your fridge sparkle and shine!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Eclairs vs. Long Johns

What's the difference between a Long John and an eclair? 

A Long John is what we, in the USA, call a long thin filled doughnut. Long Johns are made out of doughnut dough, usually fried. The result is usually soft when fresh. Long Johns are usually filled with jelly, sugar cream or vanilla pudding. The earliest reference to Long Johns I can find is 1945. They weren't thought very highly of.

From Wikipedia
Eclairs are made of choux dough, piped onto a baking sheet, and baked. Choux dough is a paste made from fat (butter or margarine), flour, water and enriched with egg. The result is usually a bit crispy when fresh. Eclairs can be filled with icky super-sweet sugar cream, sweetened whipped cream, or (heaven!) custard, and are often topped with chocolate icing.  

Eclairs were developed around the turn of the 19th century. The name means "lightning," but nobody really knows why they're called that. Some say it's because the light glistens on the icing, but that isn't confirmed. It might be because they disappear like lightning, at least when I'm around.  

Of the two, I prefer eclairs, but I'll take a Long John if it has custard or pudding in it and there are no eclairs available. 

Let's be honest: I'd eat a stick, if it had custard in it and chocolate icing on top.

Marian Allen

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gardein, and comfort food

Gardein, and comfort food
By Joyce Lavene

It was nice during the cold weather to be able to make some good comfort food. Gardein Foods, which makes several different varieties of vegetarian meatless products, was a big help with this.

We have only recently been able to buy Gardein products in the Charlotte, NC area, and I love them already. There is orange chicken, and crispy chicken strips. The beef tips are my fave. They make easy beef stew, and vegetable soup. I made beef stroganoff while we were enjoying the snow.

It's best to defrost the beef tips first. They are pre-cooked. I cut them into pieces so they aren't such big chunks. After that, I saute in a little olive oil, maybe a tablespoonful.

As they are cooking, I add 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/2 onion, finely diced. Add 1 cup of water to the mixture and turn down the heat. let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

This will make a nice brown gravy base to which I add 1 cup of sour cream, 2 teaspoons parsley, and 1/2 cup mushrooms.

Let this simmer together for a few more minutes, and then remove from heat.

I serve with wide noodles, but it is also good with mashed potatoes.


Next week - my recipe for the orange carrots in this picture!

My new release is Broken Hearted Ghoul - the first book in the Taxi for the Dead Paranormal Mysteries.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sausage & Corn Chile Con Queso Taco Ring

Doesn't this look good? I found it at Willow Bird Baking (where there are LOTS of yummy recipes and terrific photographs to make you drool)!

Sausage & Corn Chile Con Queso Taco Ring

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 5-6 portions

Forget your usual tacos and even your usual taco rings: this taco ring is an explosion of hot sausage con queso with green chiles. It’s gonna blow your mind! And it’s so easy to make.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons salsa of your choice
1 tablespoon diced green chiles
1 pound hot sausage
olive oil (if needed)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and cover a round pizza pan with foil sprayed with cooking spray (or use a pizza stone or baking sheet). Place cream cheese, cheese, salsa, and chiles in a large bowl and set aside.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the sausage. Remove the meat to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, reserving the grease in the skillet. As soon as sausage has drained for a minute, pour it into the cream cheese bowl. Set this aside to allow the cheeses to melt.

In the meantime, pour corn kernels into the skillet over medium heat (adding a little olive oil if there’s not enough grease) and cook 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Stir in 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning towards the end of cooking. Pour the hot corn over the cream cheese and sausage mixture. Stir together until well combined (it’ll take a bit, but it’ll come together).

Carefully unroll packages of crescent rolls, separating them into long triangles. Place triangles, points out, in a sun-like ring (allowing bases of the triangles to overlap). Press down on the overlapping bases to flatten the center of the ring to a consistent thickness. Spoon sausage mixture all around the ring (you’ll need to really pile it high) and then tuck the points up and over the mixture. Bake until golden brown (let it get really golden to avoid doughiness), around 15 minutes. During the last few minutes of cooking, top it with cheddar cheese. Serve with salsa, cilantro, sour cream, chips, and guacamole.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Someone is Going to Cash in Some Chips! This is such a fun contest! It allows you to create a chip flavor and design the bag. The best part is that there is a million dollar prize!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chili -- Kinda Sorta

I've been vilified before for calling what I call chili "chili" and I'll no doubt be vilified again. But that don't make no nevermind to me, as we used to say.

It's been cold and icy and snowy around here, and Charlie and I decided we wanted some chili. He wanted white chili. Okay.

Now, you have to know two things about us:
  1. Charlie is almost entirely vegetarian, but he doesn't like cooked tomatoes or chilis.
  2. We both grew up here in the Midwest of the USA

And that tells you two things upfront about this chili I made:
  1. It has no meat in it.
  2. It has spaghetti in it. Yes, spaghetti.
So while the broken-up SPAGHETTI was cooking, I heated some garlic-infused olive oil in a pot and sauteed some onions, chili powder, and cumin. I stirred in some flour for a tiny bit of thickening. I drained a can of pinto beans (his request) and put them, along with some water and not-chick'n bouillon into the pot and cooked it for about 15 minutes.

Charlie says, "It's bean soup!" I'm like, "You don't want meat or tomatoes or chilis in it; all that leaves is beans!"

So here is our kinda sorta chili, WITH SPAGHETTI, topped with a dollop of salsa and some cheese, also I added some corn to mine (Charlie doesn't like corn off the cob).

By the way, it was delicious!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, February 17, 2014

To Soup or not to Soup?

By Joyce Lavene

I love good soup when it's cold outside. I'm a real fan of almost any kind of soup from split pea to tomato.

The only bad thing about soup is the kind that comes in a can. There is more sodium in that little can than a person needs to eat for a whole day.

So I started making my own soup. I can minimize the impact of salt by adding herbs, and I've found that it's very good. Because I'm vegetarian, I can also make meat-free soups that are very tasty!

Soup doesn't have to be bad for you.

Carrot-Potato Soup

Add two cups of cooked, diced potatoes to one cup of cooked baby carrots. Puree in food processor. Add Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb mixture, and 1 tsp. pepper. Mix in one cup of milk. Stir together in pan on stove, or in the microwave. Instant soup!

For my 'pertater' eating friends!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Since it IS Valentine's Day, I thought this "Layers of Love" torte would be the perfect recipe to share with you today.

Layers of Love Torte


  • 1 package Oreo cookies (not Double Stuff), finely crumbled or ground in a food processor or blender
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a 9-inch spring form pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Stir together the Oreo crumbs and the melted butter until just moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan. (They may not go all the way up the sides, but that’s okay.) Bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.
  3. Beat 2 cups of the heavy cream with a wire whisk attachment until foamy. Slowly add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks. Refrigerate until needed.
  4. In another bowl, beat 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup Biscoff, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream until very smooth. Fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream to the Biscoff mixture (eyeball it) and spread evenly in the bottom of the crust.
  5. Rinse out bowl and beaters and beat another 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup Nutella, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream until smooth. Fold in another 1/3 of the whipped cream. Spread evenly on Biscoff layer. (I like to use an offset spatula.)
  6. Rinse bowl and beat the remaining cream cheese, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Spread over Nutella layer. Chill torte in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sweets for Your Sweethearts

These pictures are from an event a few of us did for children at my church this past Sunday. It was a Valentine dessert buffet with the main attraction being a chocolate fountain. The room is decorated with plastic tablecloths ($1.00 each) and helium balloons. Tied on each helium balloon was a Bible verse about love. It would be fun to do the same thing at home. You do not even have to own a chocolate fountain. Simply do a chocolate fondu or melt chocolate in a double boiler. For dippers, put fruit, chunks of cake (pound or angel food), marshmallows and Rice Krispie treats on wooden skewers. Pretzel rods are good for a sweet/salty snack. Tie any kind of sweet words you wish on strips of paper tied to balloons

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Eat Pertaters On Snow Days

That's my answer to Joyce Laverne's question yesterday. On days like this:
you can't go wrong with a baked potato. Take about ten Russet potatoes. Heat the oven to 450 F. Clean the potatoes. Rub them with a little oil or butter, if you really want to, but it isn't necessary. Poke holes in the potatoes, so they won't explode. Yes, potatoes WILL explode, if they don't have holes in. Trust me. I know. Bake them babies for an hour, maybe 70 minutes.

Take them out. Put one on a plate. Make a cut one way and the other way, in the shape of a cross. Then put one hand on each end of the spud and push. It fluffs!

Then you put all the good (bad) stuff on it: butter, cheese, bacon, chives, more cheese, salt, pepper....

Want one. Now!

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, February 10, 2014

What do you eat at on snow days? by Joyce Lavene

What do you eat on snow days?
By Joyce Lavene 

We've all had so many snow days recently, even in the southern part of the U.S. It can get a little tiresome after a while.

Still, you have to eat - even when it snows. That can be a problem when snow hits on the day you're supposed to shop. I try to keep a few things in the pantry that I know we like, special things we don't normally eat.

Snow cream is good for a few minutes. What then? I keep some extra rich mac and cheese around that I replace when we use it. Yes, it is in a box, but when you don't have power for long, that can be a blessing. 

I also keep some packets of strawberries and cream oatmeal on hand, along with other instant meals that only require hot water. They can be good and warm, and my Sterno tank doesn't get worn out boiling water!

Speaking of water, I lose mine when the power goes out, so i also keep some extra water around. It's hard to do anything without water.

If I do shop right before I know bad weather is coming, I go for things other than milk and bread. Cookies are good. Soups. Crackers and cheese. Hard rolls. Definitely chocolate!

A snow day is better when you have something you don't usually eat when you have to stay home. I really like some hot chocolate with some creme de cocoa in it while I watch the snow fall.

To each his, or her, own!

Look for our new short story, UNDEAD BY MORNING, the first story in the Taxi for the Dead Paranormal Mysteries.

And coming  March 4th, the novel, BROKEN HEARTED GHOUL.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

I'm in a sweet mood today, so I'm bringing you this scrumptious cake from CopyKat Recipes.

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake


Brownie Bottom
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 4 squares Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 8 ounce package cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream



Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy pan over low heat, stirring constantly, cool. Add sugar and eggs, 1 at a time; mix until blended after each addition. Blend in milk and vanilla. Stir in combines flour and salt, mixing until just blended. Spoon into a greased and floured 9x3-inch spring form pan, spreading evenly. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.


This is a simple recipe for cheese cake. It will mix up easier if you let your cream cheese soften a bit before you begin to mix it.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing at low speed after each addition until well blended. Blend in sour cream, and pour over brownie bottom. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool before removing from rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Paying it Forward Everyday

Johnson City, Tennessee is home to a little cafe where the practice of paying it forward is also a business model. One Acre Cafe encourages those who can to pay a little extra so those who cannot pay still get to eat. In exchange for a meal, people can volunteer some time to work in the cafe. This cafe was started by a family that attends the same church as I do. I cannot wait to visit One Acre and pay it forward!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You Won't Believe What We Had For Breakfast!

Goldenrod! For breakfast!

Okay, not really goldenrod.

My mother's mother called this Goldenrod Toast. When the kids were little, we had this on Easter. Guess why. We still love it, and sometimes boil eggs just to make it.

  • bread
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk
  • salt and pepper
  • hard-boiled eggs
Cut the eggs apart and put the yolks into a bowl. Mash them and set them aside. Chop the whites of the eggs and set them aside. Toast the bread and put it into a rimmed plate. Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in flour, 1 tablespoon flour for each tablespoon of butter. For each tablespoon of flour, stir in one cup of milk. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly, and continue to stir until the gravy is smooth, thick, and glossy. Stir in the chopped egg whites until they're hot through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the gravy over the toast. Sprinkle the mashed yolks over the top.

You know, a book named THE GREAT UPHEAVAL might not be the best meal-time reading....

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, February 3, 2014

Strawberries! By Joyce Lavene

It’s going to be strawberry season soon!

I’m looking forward to strawberry season, as I do every year. In February, the red fruits begin coming into stores. It’s like the first sign of spring for me – exciting stuff!

These first fruit will never be as good as the local farm strawberries that come later, but it’s hard to resist that taste until April or May when the best ones are ready.

Did you know strawberries have been written about, and eaten, for more than 2,000 years? They have been assigned magic powers, and been said to be the fruit of Venus. It was believed that breaking a strawberry in half and sharing it with someone would make that person fall in love with you.

In America, strawberries were one of the first native foods Europeans recognized. Strawberries grew wild, and had also been cultivated by Native Americans, for many years. One of their strawberry recipes, a mixture of cornmeal and strawberries, was actually the basis for the strawberry shortcake we enjoy today!

The name strawberry (originally streoberie) may have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb to spread straw, as many growers tend to grow this tasty fruit in beds of straw. The name we use now wasn’t recognized until 1538.

I'm going to eat some strawberries now instead of writing about them. I hope you have some to enjoy too!

By Joyce Lavene