Hobby Reads

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Cocoa-Crunch Cookies by Joanne Fluke

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

1 and 1⁄2  cups softened butter  (3 sticks, 34 pound, 12 ounces)
1 and 1⁄4  cups white (granulated) sugar
2 large eggs
1⁄2  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder  (I used Hershey’s)
2 and 1⁄4  cups all-purpose flour (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)
1 and 1⁄2  cups finely crushed plain regular potato chips (measure AFTER crushing. I used Lay’s, put them in a plastic zip-lock bag, and crushed them with my hands)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate  chips (I used Nestlé)
1⁄3  cup white (granulated) sugar for dipping

Hannah’s 1st Note: Use regular potato chips, the thin, salty ones. Don’t use baked chips, or rippled chips, or chips with the peels on, or kettle-fried, or flavored, or anything that’s supposed to be better for you than those wonderfully greasy, salty, old-fashioned, crunchy potato chips.

In a large mixing  bowl,  beat  the butter, sugar,  eggs, salt,  and  vanilla  extract  until  the mixture  is light  and fluffy.  (You can do this by hand, but it’s  a lot easier with an electric mixer.)

Add the quarter-cup of unsweetened cocoa  powder. Mix it in thoroughly.

Add  the  flour  in  half-cup  increments,   mixing  well after each addition.

Add the crushed potato chips and mix well. Continue reading “Cocoa-Crunch Cookies by Joanne Fluke”

Jane Fonda and Spice Cake by Edwin Hill

Nothing quite says fall to me like a New England fair, and my favorite one of all is the Sandwich Fair in New Hampshire, which takes place every year over Columbus Day Weekend. My uncle lives in Sandwich – where much of my first novel, Little Comfort, takes place – and I’ve been going to the fair for as long as I can remember. One of the most memorable years for me is 1981, when I was eleven.

That year, the whole town was abuzz because filming had completed on the movie version of On Golden Pond, which was shot on Squam Lake, and was due to be released in December. People had stories about seeing Jane Fonda at the local general store, or hearing Katharine Hepburn talking as she walked in the woods. The filmmakers were trying to keep a lid on the location of the lake, which the locals agreed to in theory – except they talked about it all the time. 

I didn’t much care about the movie. What I did care about was my spice cake.

Like most fall fairs in New England, the Sandwich Fair is an agricultural fair, meaning there is sheep shearing and oxen pulls and, yes, bake offs. I proudly baked up a spice cake for the junior competition. So what if it was a tiny bit lopsided and I may have forgotten the ginger when I mixed it up? Who cares if the Tupperware I stored it in tipped over during the drive from Massachusetts? I’d made it. It tasted good. I knew I’d win. Continue reading “Jane Fonda and Spice Cake by Edwin Hill”

Why I Brew Beer By Peter Brandvold

I brew beer for the same reason men and women have been brewing beer since they started pounding on tom-toms and genuflecting before the sun gods—because I like the taste of a good, heady pail of suds. Aside from a little slap ‘n’ tickle on a hot August Saturday night with the radio turned low, you just can’t beat a good beer buzz. It’s almost as much fun as wrestling pterodactyls.

Brewing beer probably wasn’t as enjoyable back when men and women had so many other tasks on their calendars, like killing supper and holding the wolves at bay. It was probably just another damn thing they had to do. A necessary one if they relied on beer because they couldn’t trust their water, as was the case for some civilizations. No, really!

Of course, for me brewing beer is a hobby. Like most hobbies there’s the obligatory explanation that it distracts me from my day job—writing—and helps me relax. That’s a somewhat spurious notion for me, however. I’m one of those rare, enviable schleps who loves his day job. Writing for me is fun and it helps me relax, and there’s the added benefit that the occasional paycheck helps hold the wolves at bay.

I like brewing beer because I relish the complicated simplicity and the long elemental tradition of the age-old task. What is more basic and natural than scooping up a handful of malted oats, giving it a good sniff, drawing that oaty aroma deep into your lungs, then dropping it into the converted meat grinder and churning up the grain so that the bouquet grows even more sweet and lush as the finely ground hulls and kernels separate and drop into the bucket below the funnel spout?

That grainy tang is right out of my fond childhood and teenage memories of late July grain harvests back on my grandfather’s farm in North Dakota. It’s akin to the memory-loaded smells of lilacs in a country cemetery, the greasy tang of old cars, and the Magic Marker and chalk-and-varnish scent of old schoolrooms. (I don’t know what schoolrooms smell like today; do computers have an odor?)

Beer brewing is addictively simple yet complicated. In a nutshell, you grind the grain, add water, stir, boil, throw in some yeast and hops, let sit, and—voila!—you’re in the suds! Take it from me–any idiot who flunked seventh-grade algebra and whose girlfriend had to get him through physics can do it. The complication, and thus the fun, arises when you start experimenting with different grain combinations and hops combinations, different mashing temperatures, and when you decide you want to brew beers from different eras. I love researching old recipes to find out what kind of beer, say, Thomas Jefferson brewed and quaffed. (He added corn to his favorite recipe.) Continue reading “Why I Brew Beer By Peter Brandvold”

Hobby Blog Post by Jessica Pack

Years ago, writing was my hobby—the creative break I needed from day to day life. Now that writing is my work, I’ve had to find other hobbies to provide the much-needed creative breaks. Rather than finding one thing I put time into and develop, I have instead found dozens of mini-hobbies. The upside of having many hobbies, is that things are always fresh and new. The downside is that I never get very good at any one thing and it never goes quite to plan.

Last summer I went to   my cousin’s house and saw a version of a cinder block patio bench she and her husband had made. Genius! The DIY articles I looked up said that it was a two to four-hour project. My bench took approximately 15 hours. To make it, I purchased twenty-four cinder blocks, six cedar poles, spray paint, and liquid nails. You might notice that there are only twelve cinder blocks in the final product, that’s because I bought the cheaper ones online first and then had to buy the right ones. The twelve sub-par blocks have been put to work in other places around my yard. I also bought untreated (i.e. cheaper) cedar poles because I had some extra stain lying around—guess how long it takes to stain untreated cedar poles? I didn’t even count that time in my final tally. It’s a cool bench though, right? Unfortunately, it’s not very comfortable to sit on, the stock sizes of cushions don’t fit, and since most of my family is short, our feet don’t touch the ground when we sit on it. But it is sturdy, I tell you that.

Next, I stumbled upon cozy cross stitch designs with non-traditional phrases while scrolling Pinterest. Another brilliant idea! I messed up my counting in the upper right-hand corner and had to improvise but forty hours after starting, I had this spectacular piece of handwork. I showed it to a friend once I’d finished and she said that it was really good advice. I was too embarrassed to tell her it was lyrics from “Ice, Ice Baby.” Now it’s displayed in my living room and I watch to see if visitors get it or just think I’m advocating team work and organization.

My most recent hobby is an online vegetarian cooking course. I’ve been mostly vegetarian for a while but I struggle to know what to cook other than cookies, which are, in fact, vegetarian. My family has not enjoyed the bean paste with mushrooms, roasted balsamic yams, or quinoa salads as much as cookies. Fortunately, I have five weeks left in my course so I’m holding out hope that I’m going to be making some pretty amazing vegetarian dishes by the time I finish. Continue reading “Hobby Blog Post by Jessica Pack”

Poppy’s Strawberry Spinach Salad by Lee Hollis

One of the reasons I get excited about writing the Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mysteries is because I just love to eat. Every book allows me to try several new recipes, and usually each story features a different kind of food theme. In Hayley’s first adventure Death of a Kitchen Diva, there was a full seven course meal. In the last book, Death of a Cookbook Author, I focused on yummy casseroles. The series has included recipes for southern fried cooking, meals on a budget, dishes with ingredients such as chocolate, bacon, pumpkin, as well as cupcakes and Christmas-themed stews and treats. Next year, Death of a Wedding Cake Baker will have not only a perfect wedding cake recipe, but a host of hors d’oeuvres, entrees and salads appropriate for a wedding reception!

But Hayley isn’t the only character who is a foodie. When Poppy Harmon is not out solving her cases for the Desert Flowers Detective Agency, she spends her free time indulging in her two favorite past times – watching TV crime shows and whipping up a tasty meal in her kitchen.  Cooking calms her down and focuses her mind. She has solved more than one case in her kitchen. Although as you know if you have read her first book Poppy Harmon Investigates, her “partner” Matt Flowers, who is the face of the agency, is usually around to take all the credit.

Here is one of Poppy’s favorite recipes when she is on the go and needs something simple to eat on her way out the door.

Poppy’s Strawberry Spinach Salad with Homemade Poppy Seed, Honey  Vinaigrette & Sugared Walnuts for Two




2 bowls

4 cups baby spinach leaves

½ red onion sliced thin

3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (more or less for taste)

8 strawberries stems removed and sliced

4 slices cooked bacon, diced

1 Clementine peeled and in segments


Poppy Seed Honey Vinaigrette




2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup honey 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds

1/2 cup Honey


Candied Walnuts


1 cup walnuts

¼ cup brown sugar

Candied Walnuts:

  • In a non stick frying pan on medium low heat add your walnuts and brown sugar.
  • Mix together until combined and keep stirring until all the sugar is melted and coats all of the walnuts. Stir nuts about one more minute without burning and empty out on parchment paper to cool.


  • Divide the spinach, red onion, crumbled feta, strawberries, Clementine and bacon between to bowls.


  • In a mason jar or bowl with a whisk add all of your dressing ingredients and shake or whisk until well mixed add your desired amount and top with the candied walnuts.
  • Yes, candied walnuts are fattening, but Poppy is exercising more now that she has hit the streets of Palm Springs to solve crimes. Plus, she’s not acting on her 1980’s TV detective show Jack Colt, PI so it’s no longer necesary to watch her figure so closely anymore!




Lee Hollis begins a delightful new series in which Poppy Harmon and her friends find that life after retirement can be much busier—and deadlier—than any of them ever anticipated . . .

When Poppy goes from complacent retiree to penniless widow in a matter of weeks, the idea of spending her golden years as the biggest charity case in Palm Springs renders her speechless. With no real skills and nothing left to lose, Poppy uses her obsession with true crime shows to start a career as a private eye . . .

But after opening the Desert Flowers Detective Agency with help from her two best friends, Violet and Iris, Poppy realizes that age brings wisdom, not business—until she convinces her daughter’s handsome boyfriend, Matt, to pose as the face of the agency. It’s not long before Matt’s irresistible act snags a client desperate to retrieve priceless jewelry burglarized from an aging actress at the Palm Leaf Retirement Village. Or before Poppy stumbles upon the bloodied body of the victim’s arch rival . . .

In a flash, Poppy’s innocent detective gig is upstaged by a dangerous murder investigation riddled with slimy suspects and unspeakable scandal. As she and her team uncover the truth, Poppy must confront the secrets about her late husband’s past and swiftly catch a killer lurking around the retirement community—even if it means turning her world upside down all over again.

Praise For Lee Hollis And The Hayley Powell Mystery Series

Death Of A Pumpkin Carver

“The mystery is well-written and the story will keep any reader’s attention. After meeting these hysterical characters there is no doubt that you’ll go back.” —Suspense Magazine

Death Of A Bacon Heiress

“A fun mystery that will have readers enraptured.” —Kings River Life magazine

Death Of A Christmas Caterer

“A fun Christmas cozy.” —Library Journal

Death Of A Coupon Clipper

“Hayley is a likable heroine that readers will cheer for.” —Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Death Of A Country Fried Redneck

“A snappy pace, fun characters and a clever plot. A tasty entrée for the culinary cozy crowd.” —Library Journal

Death Of A Kitchen Diva

“Lee Hollis’s debut mystery featuring food columnist Hayley Powell is delicious and satisfying. Another course, please!” —Carolyn Hart, New York Times bestselling author





Heavenly Apple Pie Recipe From A Saint by Kevin O’Brien

Ever since I first saw North by Northwest on TV when I was a kid, I’ve had a crush on Eva Marie Saint. Back in 1995, I finally wrote her a fan letter—and to my surprise, she wrote back. When I mentioned in a follow up note that I had written a book (ONLY SON), Eva Marie Saint went out, bought it, read it and gave me an honest review (she wasn’t crazy for the main character, but really liked the writing). This was the start of a pen-pal relationship that continues to this day.

If you’ve read a number of my thrillers, you’ve probably caught on that Eva Marie Saint has a cameo in each one. She has become a good luck charm for me. I always have some character watching one of her movies on TV. It could be On the Waterfront (for which she won an Oscar) or Exodus, The Russians Are Coming or Grand Prix, Superman Returns or one of her other films. In my latest thriller, THEY WON’T BE HURT, my heroine is home alone, watching Raintree County, when someone breaks into her house.

If you watched the most recent Oscar telecast, you saw 93-year-old Eva Marie Saint get the first standing ovation of the night. What you might not know is that her apple pie recipe deserves a standing ovation, too!  Every time I make it (usually for Thanksgiving or Christmas), the pie is a big hit with everyone—and it’s pretty easy to make, because it has a shortbread crust instead of a traditional crust.  Here’s the Oscar-worthy recipe:


-1 & 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 4), peeled, quartered, seeded, very thinly sliced.

-1 cup cold water

-3 tablespoons lemon juice

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/2 cup (1 stick) diced unsalted butter, room temperature Continue reading “Heavenly Apple Pie Recipe From A Saint by Kevin O’Brien”

Moonshine: A Celebration Of America’s Original Rebel Spirit by John Schlimm

White lightning . . . XXX . . . Firewater. 

Whatever you call it, moonshine is America’s original rebel spirit.

This ultimate must-have for aspiring moonshine connoisseurs, boozy history buffs, and party seekers everywhere is a buzz-worthy ride through moonshine’s legendary history. From its roots in the hollows of Appalachia and keeping the good times flowing through Prohibition to its headlining status today as a pop culture icon, Moonshine tells the rip-roaring story of the moonshiners who became folk heroes for the ages and how their batches of XXX endure as the favorite thirst-quencher of millions.

While stirring the rebel in each of us, Moonshine also gives you a bootleg up on hosting get-togethers and parties with a dream stash of 100 recipes for infusions and cocktails using moonshine as a main ingredient—Moonshine Monkey, Dirt Road Colada, Lemongrass & Mint Mojito, Smokey Mountain S’More, and many more. Plus, other fun-starters throughout the book include moonshine-themed playlists and a how-to for throwing an unforgettable moonshiner’s movie night.

Moonshine: A Celebration of America’s Original Rebel Spirit proves once and for all that the best things in life still come in jugs and Mason jars.

Downloadable MOONSHINE Color and Sip Pages!

Print out and color!


Can food be a hobby? by Samantha King

I’m not sure the rules, so I’m going to vote YES. I’m a huge food lover. Spending hours  in the kitchen isn’t as feasible as it was before having kids. Now my three-year-old and three-month-old have become the priority of my every waking minute… but, a young, growing body depends on nutrition, so I focus on easy meals and snacks packed with nutrients.

We’ve conditioned our three-year-old to love green juices, so the veggies she doesn’t eat on her plate get consumed by tasty liquid. Here’s our favorite green juice recipe:

  • 500mls of pure coconut water (extremely hydrating)
  • 250mls of water
  • 3 Tablespoons of Hemp hearts (high in protein and omegas 3 and 6)
  • Large handful of spinach (high in iron and vitamin K)
  • ¾ cup of frozen mangos (source of vitamin C which aids in iron absorption)
  • Small chunk of fresh ginger root (anti-inflammatory)

*Makes 3-4 servings.

That’s it! I use a highspeed blender to get the smoothest results. I like to blend the liquid with the hemp hearts first and add the other ingredients last. Three-year-old approved! Continue reading “Can food be a hobby? by Samantha King”

Benevolent Brewing by Sally MacKenzie

I’m the first to admit I’m not a historian. I set my books in Regency England (and a narrow slice of that—1816 to around 1820) because I read and loved Georgette Heyer when I was growing up. I’m more of an historical magpie, collecting details that catch my eye and weaving them together to form my story’s background. For my Widow’s Brew series, I mixed philanthropy with brewing.

A variety of charitable organizations of the 18th and 19th centuries aimed to help women and children. Two of them likely were part of my inspiration in naming my Benevolent Home for the Maintenance and Support of Spinsters, Widows, and Abandoned Women and their Unfortunate Children: the Foundling Hospital “for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children” and the Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes. Both were founded in the mid-1700s—and not by women. However, women—Hannah More, Catherine Cappe, Elizabeth Fry, etc.—were active in philanthropy at the time in areas such as female education, relief for the poor, and prison reform.

So, did women run British breweries, too? Er, no—or at least, not that I know of. There were indeed successful Regency businesswomen—Eleanor Coade, who developed, manufactured, and sold her eponymous Coade stone, an extremely durable material popular in outdoor sculptures and monuments, is a prime example. (Eleanor Coade was also a philanthropist—and specified in her will that some of her bequests were off limits to her beneficiaries’ husbands!) But by the Regency, women had left—or been pushed out of—for-profit brewing, thanks to the Industrial Revolution that turned brewing into a large commercial enterprise. Continue reading “Benevolent Brewing by Sally MacKenzie”

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