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Cooking

Cookbooks and a Cook of Convenience by Debra H. Goldstein

My mother was a wonder in the kitchen. Whether cooking or baking, she was a natural. I didn’t inherit her skills. If I make dinner two nights in a row, my husband suggests going out. When my son was six, he was given a reading comprehension test. All he had to do was tell the story from four pictures the examiner showed him. He flunked. He got the first three right – a family sitting down to dinner, a family eating together, and a family finishing eating, but instead of saying, “The family clears the table,” he said, “Now, they pay the bill.” I compensate for being a cook of convenience by collecting cookbooks.

Although I have staples like The Joy of Cooking, many of the cookbooks I collect stress speed and ease in the kitchen. Like Sarah Blair in One Taste Too Many, the first book in my new cozy mystery series from Kensington, I tend to select recipes incorporating pre-prepared ingredients. One that I make often is spinach pie featuring Stouffers spinach souffle. Some of my favorite cookbooks in this category include: So You Think You Can Cook, Come for Cocktails, Stay for Supper, Rachael Ray – 365: No Repeats (30-minute meals), and Better Homes and Gardens Skinny Slow Cooker. Simply because of their names, I keep Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Book and her Appendix to The I Hate to Cook Book in a prominent place in my hardly used kitchen.

 

When I am forced to cook, I prefer to make recipes that have good pictures. It is much easier in the grocery store to match a picture with the produce while deciding which ingredients to buy. Who knew there were so many types of squash, potatoes, beans and peppers to choose from? Almost every Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbook has excellent pictures.

Sometimes, I purchase a cookbook because of the story it tells. For example, the Bounty of Biltmore Cookbook contains the traditional recipes served at the Biltmore through the years, but it also references the history and workings of the Biltmore House. Other cookbooks reflect the history of the people who wrote them. To me, the food is secondary to the life stories of the cooks in books like The way to a man’s heart – The Settlement Cook Book.

In my last house, when we remodeled the kitchen to give me a pleasant path from the garage to the den, I had special shelving built to exhibit my unopened cookbooks. I thought it was only fair. My couch potato husband uses the den shelves for sports paraphernalia.

Sarah’s Spinach Pie

Ingredients

1 prepared pie crust (deep dish)

1 can or jar of diced or sliced mushrooms, drained

2 pkgs. Stouffer’s frozen spinach soufflé

1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

1 package Durkee’s French Fried Onions

 

Instructions for Cooks of Convenience

Spread a layer of cheese in the bottom of the raw pie crust. Spread onions and mushrooms next. Repeat. Retain some cheese and onions to top off the pie. Place thawed soufflé in pie crust and mush it around to cover the layer below. Bake 50 minutes at 350◦ and then sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top and finish for 7-10 minutes. Check for firmness with a toothpick. For best results, let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Delicious as a leftover.

 

For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired hometown she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant . . .

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

Includes quick and easy recipes!

Advance praise for One Taste Too Many

“Debra Goldstein whets our appetite for murder in this series debut. Scarf down a full serving of this tasty mystery as soon as you can.” —Maddie Day, bestselling author of the Country Store Mysteries

“A cozy mystery loaded with humor and heart.” —Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Hidden Fear

“Twins, murder, and mouthwatering descriptions of delicious food. One Taste Too Many is a page-turner debut of a cozy mystery that leaves you wanting more.” —Barbara Ross, author of Steamed Open

Butternut Squash Cake by Debra Sennefelder

When I set out to write Kelly Quinn and her series, The Resale Boutique Mysteries, I knew the twenty-something fashionista wasn’t a cook. While living in the city, she was far more apt to stop at the diner across from her apartment building or grab take-out for dinner after leaving the buying offices of the department store where she worked. Cooking a meal and baking a cake weren’t things she was interested in doing.

Since moving back to her hometown of Lucky Cove, New York, not much has changed except the dining establishments. She’s still not much of a cook but thankfully her best friend, Liv, works in her family’s bakery and her employee, Pepper, loves to cook and feed Kelly. So she’s eating well these days. Maybe too good. Her skinny jeans have gotten a little tight since moving out of the city where she walked everywhere. I can relate to Kelly, thanks to the holidays. So much good food!

Now that’s it’s January, it’s time to buckle down and make smarter choices. But, this gal loves chocolate cake and it’s my birthday month (and it’s also my release month, but I’m sure you’ve heard that already) and I love to celebrate with cake. This is quite a dilemma for me. But, I think I have a solution that will make my skinny jeans happy and allow me to savor the special moments in this month.

Chocolate cake with a healthy twist.

If you enjoy not-too-sweet, moist, decadent chocolate cake this is the recipe for you. But, I warn you, make sure you have a tall glass of milk when you serve up a slice of this cake for yourself because there’s no better way to enjoy it. Trust me.

What’s the healthy twist? Butternut squash. That’s right. Typically we serve butternut squash as a side dish or as a soup, but in a cake? I know, weird but so yummy. I prefer to make my own butternut squash by roasting first and then pureeing in my blender. But there is frozen butternut squash puree and also canned available. There’s also some unsweetened applesauce so you know this cake is moist beyond belief. And it’s a little less guilty indulgence which I know we all can appreciate.

Happy Baking!

Chocolate Butternut Squash Cake recipe

Ingredients:

½ cup butternut squash puree

2 egg whites

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup Canola oil Continue reading “Butternut Squash Cake by Debra Sennefelder”

Original Fantasy Fudge by Krista Davis

When I was growing up, a neighbor always made this fudge for Christmas. She insisted that it came off the back of a marshmallow creme jar. That neighbor has passed on now, so I tried the recipe on the back of the jar but it just wasn’t the same. It took a lot of searching but I finally found the original recipe, which I think came from Kraft. Don’t lose the recipe! It’s hard to find. I prefer my fudge without nuts, but feel free to add nuts if you like them.

 

Original Fantasy Fudge

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup margarine or unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 12-oz. (340 g) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. (198 g) jar Kraft Marshmallow crème
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Continue reading “Original Fantasy Fudge by Krista Davis”

Florentine Cookies by Krista Davis

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Florentine cookies in my household.

If you hate dried fruit or chocolate, then they are not for you! But if you love the richness of chocolate with the chewiness of dried fruit (think dried cherries, apricots, and/or raisins), then you’ll love these. Use your favorite chocolate chips (not coating wafers).

They aren’t hard to make at all, but they do require patience and counter space. After all, the chocolate has to set before you can store them. I pack them in layers with wax paper in between each layer of cookies. Be sure to refrigerate them!

This recipe makes approximately 45 cookies. Continue reading “Florentine Cookies by Krista Davis”

When Cookies Are More Than Just Cookies by Alexis Morgan

 

One of my favorite parts of starting a new series is figuring out what drives the characters to do what they do. As I went through the process of getting to know Abby McCree, the main character in my new release, DEATH BY COMMITTEE, I noticed she spends a lot of time in the old-fashioned kitchen of the Victorian house she inherited from her favorite aunt.

I gradually realized that there were several different reasons Abby so often headed for the pantry to gather the ingredients to make another batch of cookies. For starters, her roommate is Zeke, a slobbery mastiff mix she inherited along with the house. He’s a rescue dog with a rough past, and she likes to spoil him just a little with the organic doggy treats she bakes just for him.

Abby also enjoys spending time with friends sitting around the dining room table with coffee and cookies. Sometimes they’re just hanging out together, but she also knows that refreshments make the drudgery of committee work a little more palatable.

Then there’s the fact her handsome tenant is a bit of a curmudgeon with a sweet tooth. Providing Tripp with a steady supply of baked goods helps make for a much happier tenant/landlady relationship.

And finally, hanging out in the kitchen brings back fond memories of all the time Abby and her aunt spent there together. Continue reading “When Cookies Are More Than Just Cookies by Alexis Morgan”

My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford

 

Because our holiday get-togethers can be a little too big for anyone’s dinner table – there are often 40-45 people – we tend to go for a very non-traditional everyone-bring-something holiday meal. Last year we had around forty family members, plus some foreign exchange students whose host families were traveling out of town. They were slightly confused by the informal atmosphere. We’re guessing it was nothing like they’d seen in American movies. But the nice thing about the only-slightly-planned collection of dishes is that a few more last-minute guests present no problem.

I was thrilled recently, in a discussion about what everyone brings, to find my Corny Corn Casserole is a favorite of several family members. It’s a family recipe from a co-worker who always made it for her own family and so in my recipe box it’s listed as “Mary’s Corny Corn Casserole.” It’s also one of my favorite types of recipes – easy ones! So, here you have it:

Mary Lee’s Corny Corn Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained.
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter in a casserole dish and put it in the oven to melt. Keep an eye on it and take the dish out when the butter is melted. Don’t leave it in too long as you don’t want the butter to brown. Continue reading “My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford”

Christmas Cheesecake from Lindsay McKenna

This is a dessert I make every Christmas Eve for my family. It’s simple and easy to whip up. This is a dessert we eat after dinner. Unlike other folks, we’ve always opened Christmas gifts on the night of the 24th.

We have a marvelous meal of stuffed turkey and of course, we’re busting at the seams because we ate too much! We then clear the dishes from the table, put them in our dishwasher. My husband David then goes to our Christmas tree and begins to parcel out the gifts to everyone. We spend lots of time opening them up.

By the time we’re done, we’re ready for dessert, coffee or tea. And the cheesecake is light and you can have a small sliver or a thick wedge, depending upon how much room you have in your tummy! This cheesecake has been a family tradition for 41 years in our family.

HOMEMADE CHEESE CAKE by Lindsay McKenna
www.lindsaymckenna.com

Ingredients:
3–8 oz of “Light” Philadelphia Cream Cheese
4 eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar (I use 1/2 cup and it’s fine…up to you but I like less sugar) Continue reading “Christmas Cheesecake from Lindsay McKenna”

Ginny’s Spice Bars by Linda Reilly

One of the things I love most about the holidays are all the delectable recipes people share with me. While I’m not the best cook, or baker, I occasionally land on a favorite that entices me to pull out the old apron every season (metaphorically, since I don’t own an apron) and whip up some goodies.

Years ago, I worked with a wonderful woman named Ginny. She had so many talents I lacked that I was always in awe of her. When I was trying to shave off a few pounds (okay, more than a few), she kept me on the straight and narrow by rationing my daily cheese treats. One cheese stick per day at mid-morning–that was it! One day when she’d been out of the office for the morning, my willpower wobbled. I ate a second cheese stick. The minute Ginny walked in, she knew from my expression what I’d done. “You ate a second one, didn’t you?” she said. Like a defendant in a Perry Mason episode, I broke down and confessed. If this sounds like a lot of drama, it was all in great fun and gave us plenty of giggles. Ginny has since moved away to warmer climes and I still miss her, but I’d like to share her recipe with you.

Every holiday season, Ginny presented each of her co-workers with a batch of her delicious spice bars. Tucked into a cozy holiday tin, they were tender pillows of spicy ginger and molasses, so loaded with butter that the first time I ever tasted one, I nearly melted to the floor. They were like potato chips–I couldn’t eat just one. In fact, I couldn’t eat just five!

 

 

Ginny’s Spice Bars

¾ cup butter or margarine, melted Continue reading “Ginny’s Spice Bars by Linda Reilly”

My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford

Because our holiday get-togethers can be a little too big for anyone’s dinner table – there are often 40-45 people – we tend to go for a very non-traditional everyone-bring-something holiday meal. Last year we had around forty family members, plus some foreign exchange students whose host families were traveling out of town. They were slightly confused by the informal atmosphere. We’re guessing it was nothing like they’d seen in American movies. But the nice thing about the only-slightly-planned collection of dishes is that a few more last-minute guests present no problem.

I was thrilled recently, in a discussion about what everyone brings, to find my Corny Corn Casserole is a favorite of several family members. It’s a family recipe from a co-worker who always made it for her own family and so in my recipe box it’s listed as “Mary’s Corny Corn Casserole.” It’s also one of my favorite types of recipes – easy ones! So, here you have it:

Mary Lee’s Corny Corn Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained.
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg

Instructions: Continue reading “My Corny Holiday Tradition by Mary Lee Ashford”

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