Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Local Girls go Big Time

See the adorable blondes wearing hot pink? That is a mother daughter team from Johnson City, TN. (right down the road from me) They are competing on this season of THE NEXT GREAT BAKER. Last night was the season opener. The ladies won their Hometown Challenge with cinnamon buttermilk biscuits. Later, they baked a cake that did not wow the judges. In the end, they were not eliminated. So, they will be back next Tuesday on TLC @ 9:00 (EST).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summertime Is Fruit Time

Fruit! OM-nom-nom-nom-nom!

What else is so luscious, so easy, and so pretty? NOTHING, that's what.

This dessert is just red and green apples, blueberries, and a dollop of vanilla yogurt.

You wouldn't be ashamed to serve this at the simplest or the fanciest table. And boy, oh, boy, it was delicious!

Yay, summer!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mmmm . . . Lotsa Lemon Meringue Pie By Ellie Grant and Maggie Grady

Murderous Mince is book 2 in the Pie in the Sky Mysteries from Simon and Schuster

What's better in the hot summer than cool lemon meringue pie?

It's a specialty at Pie in the Sky pie shop in Durham, NC, right off the Duke University campus.

I'm Maggie Grady. My Aunt Clara and I own and run the family pie making business.

Lotsa Lemon Meringue (My aunt likes to name the pies) is one of our favorites!

You can try making it yourself!

Flaky Pie Crust

Chill all mixing utensils and ingredients first

Two cups flour
One cup vegetable shortening
1 ½  tsps. Salt

Work shortening into flour and salt quickly until the particles are small as possible.
Sprinkle in cold water, only enough until the dough sticks together in a ball. It should be dry, not moist. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

After dough is chilled, place it on a pastry board or other flat, non-stick surface. Dust surface lightly with flour. Flatten the dough a little then use a lightly floured rolling pin to make smooth, even strokes from the center to the edge of the dough.

Turn the dough frequently to keep it round. Use an ungreased metal pie pan for flaky crust. Don’t turn the crust over when putting it into the pan. Leave rolled side up. Use your fingers to lightly press any cracks in the crust together. Flute crust, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes when needed before adding filling. Otherwise bake with filling.

Makes one nine inch pie crust

Lotsa Lemon Meringue – an old favorite
Bake one nine inch pie shell
One cup sugar plus four tbsp (or alternate sweetener)
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
One cup boiling water
One tbsp. butter
Three eggs, separated
Grated rind and juice from one lemon

Mix one cup sugar and cornstarch in a pot.
Add boiling water slowly then continue cooking on low heat, stirring constantly
Beat egg yolks slightly. Add butter and yolks slowly to mixture in pot.
Cook in double boiler until thick, stirring constantly.
Add lemon rind and juice then let cool.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until frothy. Mix in four tbsp. sugar. Continue beating until stiff.
Put lemon pie mixture into the baked pie shell. Swirl meringue over the top into peaks.

Bake at 350 degrees for seven to ten minutes. Or until slightly golden.

Leave a comment here and win an E-copy of the first book in the pie shop series, PLUM DEADLY. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mexican Chocolate Loaf Cake

I found this recipe at Cooking in Stilettos. Click on the link above for step-by-step instructions!
  • 1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (depending on your preferred heat level)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces of dark bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used a mix of 60 & 70%)
  • Powdered sugar (for garnish)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray (or butter and flour) and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk until everything’s combined. Set aside.
  4. In a bowl of an electric mixer (or using a handheld mixer), cream together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the yogurt and mix thoroughly.
  6. Add the eggs one by one, followed by the vanilla extract. If things look like they are about to separate, do not panic – whisk together with a spatula because sometimes the butter suspends itself in the yogurt mixture.
  7. Add one third of the flour mixture followed by one third of the chocolate. Repeat and beat until everything is combined.
  8. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool on a baking rack.
  10. Lightly dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!
Adapted from Aliya Leekong, Exotic Table

Read more:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Some Fizzy Kitchen Science

FIZZ, BOOM, READ! is the theme of many library summer reading programs for 2014. This afternoon, I will be doing a program at one of my local libraries. To go with the theme, I am going to conduct some fizzy kitchen science experiments. Experiment #1 Pour vinegar over baking soda to make it bubble and fizz. Experiment #2 Put a few drops of blue food coloring into milk. In a separate container, put blue food coloring into vinegar. Show that all of the milk and all of the vinegar turns blue with the color evenly distributed. In another container, have some plain, white milk. Pour the blue vinegar into it. Because of the vinegar's acid, there will be swirls and blobs of blue in the white milk. How does this relate to reading? Authors take seemingly ordinary words, mix them together; and cool things happen!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Know The Crazy Russian Hacker?

I'm addicted to this guy's videos. Sometimes he tells me how to make stoves or lamps out of detritus in case of a zombie apocalypse, but sometimes he shows me food hacks.

This video (or, as he would say, veedyo) shows you five food hacks for divesting fruits of their husks. Some I knew; some I didn't.

You're welcome.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, June 16, 2014

What to do with fresh onions by Joyce Lavene

What to do with fresh onions
By Joyce Lavene  
from Christopher Lavene

My son is a great believer in not wasting anything. Here is his idea for not wasting fresh onions - either from your garden - or from the store.

I hate to waste any of my garden products. As I've been harvesting onions, I've been collecting the green tops. I diced them up and blended them with a little water to make a slurry. I poured the slurry into greased ice cube trays to make: onion cubes! that can be used in sauces, salsas, chili beans, etc...

Chris Lavene's links for this and other ideas:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mini Cheese Balls

As Goldimouse in an old Looney Tunes cartoon once said, "I love cheese.... Raaally, I do." Well, I echo her sentiment. So when I saw this recipe from Roxy's Kitchen, I simply had to share it. (Raaally, I did.)

Five-Ingredient Mini Cheese Balls

Time: 30 min, Prep: 15 min.  Cook: 15 min.

Servings: 35-40 cheese balls       

  • 2 ½ cups (300 g) finely shredded cheddar cheese or a blend shredded cheeses (I used Black Diamond Italiano pre-shredded blend of cheeses)
  • ¾ cup (100 g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Sunflower oil for frying

Directions and step-by-step photographs available at Roxy's Kitchen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Current (Not-so-Current) Read

Once again, I reveal how behind I am on my reading list. I pulled THE RAINMAKER out of my collection of used paperbacks. Almost everyone else in the world has read this book. Those who have not should. In his typical, fabulous way, John Grisham weaves a mysterious, suspenseful, emotional, character-driven, legal thriller. I find myself not wanting to put it down; and I HAVE to see the movie!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Kind Of Kale Souuuuuuup

Oh, how I love kale, and also soup. I love soup so much, I often call it souuuuuuup, just to show it how much I love it.

Here's a good one we had the other night.

Kale Soup

  • kale (duh)
  • water
  • spatzle
  • 1 can of black-eyed peas
  • vegetable bouillon
Tear the kale away from tough stems and into bite-sized pieces. Cook the kale and spatzle in water and bouillon until the spatzle is done and kale is tender. Add drained black-eyed peas and heat through.


Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Legacy of Wine, By Joyce Lavene

A legacy of wine
By Joyce Lavene

The oldest grape vine, and the first wine, comes from the more than 400-year-old Mother Vine in North Carolina. Yet very few people know about the Scuppernong grape. California vineyards have eclipsed Muscadine wine which is made fromthe Scuppernong.
In 1524, French explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano discovered the Scuppernong grape which is a bronze variety of Muscadine. It was dubbed  The Big White Grape though Muscadine varieties range from bronze to purple and black.

Vintners around St. Augustine, Florida began commercially producing wine from the Muscadine in the 16th century. These wines are sweeter than their California and French counterparts in part because of the hot summers and moist soils. Virginia Dare was the most popular wine in the U.S. from 1809 – 1919, selling more than 500,000 gallons a year. 

Prohibition gave California wine a foothold. Muscadine wine is slowly making a comeback, but hasn't reached the popularity it once had. Small wineries have grown up in North Carolina, Georgia, and other southeastern states where the grape is grown. The cash crop has become an important asset to the states.

It's always seemed an irony to me that Muscadine grapes saved French and European wines, only to lose their importance to them. In 1868, Europe suffered losses of more than six million acres of vineyards due to parasites, Muscadine grape rootstock was grafted to the European vinifera, and saved the wine business in Europe. 

There has been a lot of talk about Muscadines being good for you over the last few years. I don’t know about that, but the wine they produce is wonderful. I don’t think French or California wines hold a candle to it. There is a vineyard, Rocky River Vineyard, only a few miles from my house, and I am a frequent customer!

The wine is sweet. It tastes like summer. I always talk about Muscadine wine in my books. You'll find my characters cracking open a bottle of Butterfly Blush or Sweet Red when they sit down to eat. I'm just doing my part to help rebuild the Muscadine wine industry!

My new book is Lethal Lily - book 7 in the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

You Deserve A Break!

We all deserve a break from cooking every now and then, don't we? Or even if we don't deserve it, we certainly want one from time to time. So when you're ready to hit the town, where do you look to find the best dining deals? offers $25 gift certificates for just $10 each, and sometimes they offer even better deals than that. Plus, if you're a member of Ebates, you can get up to ten percent cash back on your order. If you decide to order from, be sure to read the fine print to see just what the gift certificate will cover. For example, some restaurants stipulate that a minimum purchase is required.

Surviving the Stores has a page of current printable coupons for popular chain restaurants.

RetailMeNot - For best results, enter the name of a particular restaurant to get a current printable coupon.

Do you have any tips for getting the best price on dinner out?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My New Favorite Beach Dessert

Last week, I was on beautiful, peaceful, Hilton Head Island with my family. Beach visits are the only time I get to shop at Publix. While in Publix to buy our groceries for the week, I recalled a conversation from college. Several students from Florida were talking about the key lime pie from Publix bakery. I ran to to bakery's refrigerated case to find that the key lime pies were all gone. So, later in the week, I ran back into Publix for the sole purpose of getting my pie. They had two pies left, and one went home with me! The pie lived up to the hype. It was beautiful, tart and creamy. My favorite thing about it was a garnish of whipped cream and crushed almonds around the edges of the graham cracker crust. I miss the beach! I miss Publix key lime pie!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Don't Know Chicken Cornbread Casserole

Ever have one of those nights when you ask yourself, "What shall I make for dinner?" and you answer yourself, "I don't know"?

I had one of those the other night, and this is what I ended up with.

IT WAS DELICIOUS! Not vegetarian, but we're only mostly vegetarian, anyway, so it passed muster.

Chicken Cornbread Casserole
  • 1 box cornmeal dressing mix
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • butter or vegan margarine for dressing mix
Make dressing mix according to package directions, using liquid drained from mushrooms as part of the liquid. Combine all ingredients. Bake until hot through.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lemon Balm Tea by Joyce Lavene

Making lemon balm tea
By Joyce Lavene

Summer is nearly upon us here in the south. All around us are the sights and smells of another season of growth. Lemon balm is at its best right now. Time to make some tea!

Lemon balm is a large, perennial herb that grows like a weed here. The smell of it after a rain shower is indescribably good. You catch the strong lemon scent from it, and also hints of lavender.

The plant has been used as a tonic for thousands of years- thus the name balm. To have it growing in your yard is a blessing - and a curse - because it's a wonderful, healing plant but will also take over your yard if you're not careful.

I love making fresh tea from the leaves. One of lemon balm's qualities is that is raises your spirits. It has been known as a tonic and an anti-depressant for as long as it has been grown. Odes and songs have been written for it.

Summer is the time to make fresh tea. Lemon balm stays green here all year, but it has the best taste now.

Making tea:  Add twelves leaves - washed and separated from the stalk - to a container. Then add one pint of boiling water. Let the leaves sit in the hot water for about ten minutes. Add sweetener, if you choose, and you have it. Wonderfully refreshing!

My new book is Lethal Lily - a Peggy Lee Garden Mystery