Posted in Cooking, Home

Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap

One of the best things about the holidays is the food. I know, I’m a food junkie anyway (have you read any of my books? LOL) but around the holidays my addition gets worse.  I’ve been to cookie exchanges where I bring my prize cookie, only to find out someone else had the same recipe. But with rum.

Who needs the stress of baking and hoping your cookies pass your friends’ muster? Because believe me, they are judging you. At least in a kind and caring Christmas kind of way.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Christmas cookie swap. I’ve shied away from them for a few reasons. One, I don’t have time to make 12 dozen cookies to take with me. And two, I don’t have a large family close by to give away the cookies I bring back. And what if you have a cookie bomb? Those would go right into the trash at my house.

I also know several people who are wigged out at the thought of eating something that didn’t come from a commercial bakery or their own kitchen.

Instead, I want to suggest the Christmas Cookie recipe swap. It can be done in person or virtually, but in person would be more fun.  Here, you make and bring two dozen cookies to share. And copies of your recipe for every attendee.  The party has twenty-four participants? You get twenty-three new recipes to try in your own kitchen.

You get all the fun of eating, drinking, and sharing Christmas cheer with a lot less stress and work.

If you’re 1600 miles, give or take, from your loved ones and you want to pull off a virtual Christmas cookie recipe exchange, do the following. Set the event up on Facebook as a party. Set a date/time for people to post. Explain the idea in the invite, then on the night planned, go crazy. Remind participants to not only post their recipe, but maybe a cool video showing how they made the cookies. Or a photo of the finished product.

Most of all, which ever way you host your party, make sure to have fun.  The holidays are about love and sharing than perfection.

Here’s the recipe I’d bring for sharing… What about you? What would your Christmas cookie recipe be?

Easy Almond Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the following:
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  1. Add in:
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  1. Mix the following dry ingredients in a small bowl:
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Mix the wet and dry ingredients, then add:
  • ½ cup almond slivers
  1. Form the dough into small balls.
  2. Roll in 2 tbsp sugar, then put on greased (with spray oil) or parchment-papered cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes about 2½ dozen, depending on the size of your cookie balls.

 

 

 

 

Quotes –

Guidebook to Murder –

“I’m buying a rifle to keep those carpet baggers off my land.” Miss Emily declared.

Mission to Murder-

Some people like to hear their own voice.

If the Shoe Kills-

The holidays were supposed to be a time of goodwill, celebration and community. You couldn’t tell that by the glares going around the table…

Dressed to Kill-

As soon as we entered the store, I knew my aunt was dead wrong.

Killer Run –

Josh Thomas was on a rant and the creamy chocolate dessert was the only thing keeping my mouth shut instead of pointing out the flaws in his reasoning.

Murder on Wheels –

Yep, that’s me. Jill Gardner, coffeehouse/bookstore owner and mad geocacher.

Tea Cups and Carnage-

“I want to help. I ran a snow cone machine before, do you all have a snow-cone specialist?” Kathi clapped her hands together…

Hospitality and Homicide –

“We’re so glad you chose South Cove as the place to write your next book.” He held out the key.

Killer Party –

“Throw me a book and the room service menu and I’ll see you when we check out.”

 

 

 

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series, Jill Gardner has left her book-and-coffee shop behind to spend Thanksgiving week in coastal Oregon. But before the feast can start, foul play interrupts their vacation . . .

When Jill and Greg join another couple, Blake Jennings and Kathi Corbin, for a weeklong camping trip, Jill is delighted to have a few days to take in the beauty around them before they dive into the Thanksgiving holiday. When the foursome take the off-road vehicles out on the dunes for a local adventure, they find an unexpected treasure—a ring attached to the hand of its prior owner. Can Jill and Greg solve the mystery before they join the woman buried in the shifting sands?

Praise for The Tourist Trap Mysteries

“Murder, dirty politics, pirate lore, and a hot police detective: Guidebook to Murder has it all! A cozy lover’s dream come true.” —Susan McBride, author of The Debutante Dropout Mysteries

“Lynn Cahoon has created an absorbing, good fun mystery in Mission to Murder.” —Fresh Fiction

 

Posted in Cooking, Home

Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

 

 

I’m often asked if Hope Early, the amateur sleuth in my Food Blogger Mystery series, is based on me. The honest answer is yes and no. I’m not going to bore you with a long list of what Hope, and I have in common or not. Rather, I thought I’d share one thing that we both love – chocolate.

There are times when we both want some deep, rich, dense chocolate. And when those moments pop up, we grab out aprons, mixing bowls and whisks to whip up something decadent.

Now, there’s rarely a time I’ll pass up chocolate cake. Though, there are times I want something more decadent. When I’m in that mood, there’s nothing like my Flourless Chocolate Cake. Rich and decadent, this is a perfect ending to any meal. Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream and fresh berries.

 

Don’t worry, it’s easy to bake and wickedly delicious.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 cups cocoa powder
  • Powdered sugar or whipped cream and fresh berries, optional.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch Springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Combine butter and chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute and stir. Continue to microwave in 15 second increments, until butter and chocolate chips are melted. Stir to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Add melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Stir in cocoa powder and mix until smooth.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the greased pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  5. Let cake cool for ten minutes on cooling rack and then release the side of the pan.
  6. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream and berries.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Food blogger Hope Early finds one item not on her scavenger hunt list—a dead husband…

Between developing her food blog, Hope at Home, and choosing low-cal recipes for a feature in Cooking Now! magazine, Hope has a full plate. Still, she’s never too busy to compete in a Jefferson, Connecticut, tradition—the town’s annual scavenger hunt.

But as she races with her team to check off the next item, Hope discovers a grisly surprise—the body of shady real estate developer Lionel Whitcomb, shot in a parking lot. His wife Elaine, who’s also in the hunt, gasps and nearly faints. But two other women on the scene cry out that their husband is dead.

It turns out this louse of a spouse was more than a little lax in legally divorcing his former wives. Did one of them put a bullet in the bigamist? Number one suspect and number three wife Elaine begs Hope to investigate. Now Hope is on a new kind of hunt—for a cold-hearted killer and triple widow-maker . . .

Includes Recipes from Hope’s Kitchen!

Posted in Cooking, Home

Easy Peezy Halloweeny Spice Ball Cookies

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Friends kid us that the only thing we really know how to make is reservations, and, with the exception of Jim’s scones, they’re probably right. However, once in a while we come across a terrific quick and easy recipe and this one, for Halloween Spice Ball Cookies, is fantastic!

It comes from one of the original BOOKED 4 MURDER club ladies in Sun City West. For those of you familiar with our Sophie Kimball Mysteries, you’ll know that BOOKED 4 MURDER was inspired by the real book club. And the credit for this recipe goes to Geri Lahti.

Here goes:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ t. vanilla (we usually add a bit more)
  • 1 spice cake mix 25 oz. (any brand)
  • Powdered Sugar

 

  1. CREAM THE BUTTER AND CREAM CHEESE
  2. ADD EGG AND VANILLA
  • ADD CHOPPED PECANS IF YOU’D LIKE
  1. MIX ALL TOGETHER WITH THE SPICE CAKE MIX
  2. PUT IN REFRIGERATOR FOR AT LEAST TWO HOURS
  3. AFTER THE TWO HOURS ARE UP, ROLL THE MIXTURE INTO BALLS
  4. ROLL BALLS INTO POWDERED SUGAR
  5. PUT ON UN-GREASED COOKIE SHEET OR USE PARCHMENT PAPER
  6. BAKE AT 350 DEGREES FOR 10- 12 MINUTES
  7. ENJOY!!!

 

Last one standing is the winner . . .

The holiday season has arrived and bookkeeper/amateur sleuth, Sophie “Phee” Kimball, would love nothing more than to enjoy the comforts of her new home with her detective boyfriend near Arizona’s Sun City West. Instead, her mother Harriet wants to showcase her chiweenie-chihuahua-dachshund Streetman in the Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza costume events. The festivities begin in October and end on St. Patrick’s Day—with the winner starring in the St. Pat’s Day parade. But things quickly turn an awful shade of green when Streetman uncovers a dead body under a tarp-covered grill in the neighbor’s yard.

The victim is Cameron Tully, a seafood distributor working out of Phoenix, who died from ingesting a toxic sago palm leaf. Before the police can even find a motive and suspect, another Precious Pooch owner nearly dies from the same poison. With Harriet believing someone’s targeting her and Streetman because of the costume contests, Phee will need a potful of Irish luck to sniff out a killer . . .

 

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Home

Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day

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Robbie Jordan opened Pans ‘N Pancakes, her country store and restaurant, in the fall. One of her customers’ favorite offerings are cheesy biscuits. Because the store is in Brown County, Indiana, she also serves gravy with the biscuits, but they’re just as good with honey or apple butter.

 

Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ c butter cut in half-inch cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Continue reading “Cheesy Biscuits from Maddie Day”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Upside Down Apple Cake-Flower by Amanda Flower

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Earlier this month, I went apple picking with a friend and her young children. It was so much fun, and it was hard to stop picking apples, especially when the merchant said that the apples were $16 a half bushel or as many as we could fit in a half bushel bag. We were determined to get our money’s worth. As you expect, we both went home with a ton of apples. I even gave thirty apples away to my sister-in-law, and I still have apples coming out of my ears. The only solution was to bake. I made apple crisp, which was a hit. But when I still had a lot of apples, I decided to get a little more daring. A new recipe I tried was Upside Down Apple Cake. It actually only took three apples, so I still have an apple problem. In any case, my friends loved it. Here’s the recipe! Don’t tell my friends I used a box cake mix though! Thanks! Continue reading “Upside Down Apple Cake-Flower by Amanda Flower”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Tim’s Cranberry Orange Bread by Maddie Day

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Mac Almeida’s boyfriend, baker Tim Brunelle, makes this yummy quick bread for his bakery, Greta’s Grains in Westham on Cape Cod. Bake a day ahead of time for easiest slicing.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Zest and juice of one orange. If juice doesn’t equal 3/4 cup, add orange or cranberry juice to supplement
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Continue reading “Tim’s Cranberry Orange Bread by Maddie Day”

Posted in Cooking, Crafts, Home

HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies

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Fall has arrived here where I live in the Pacific Northwest, and the trees have already started turning lovely colors. The bright reds and oranges provide a nice contrast to the dark green foliage of all the Douglas firs and cedars in our area. Another odd sign that the weather is changing here is the sudden appearance of spider webs everywhere. While I’m not a fan of creepy crawlies, the webs are quite striking when they’re covered in dew and sparkling in the sun.

I wanted to share one of my favorite cookie recipes with you for a couple of reasons. The first is that my amateur sleuth, Abby McCree, loves to bake cookies of all kinds. She draws a lot of comfort from baking whenever she’s feeling stressed, but she also loves to share her creations with all of her friends. She and I have that in common.

The second reason is that I’ve been making this same cookie since I was a little girl. My mom and I always made cookies together using a Mirro Cookie Press. I still use the same kind of old-style press that she had and think of her whenever I make these, a type of cream cheese spritz cookie. They are light, crispy, and especially tasty. I made this batch in fall colors, using orange sugar crystals with a spot of green to look like pumpkins.

I hope you’ll give the recipe a try—they always meet with rave reviews when I share them with friends and family.

Happy Halloween!

Alexis

HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies)

  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Continue reading “HOLIDAY WREATHS (cookie press cookies”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Horsing Around Can Be Fun!

I’ve always loved horses, but the topic of equine rescue was a real eye-opener for me. Frankly I was immersed in the glamorous world of shows, polo matches and competitive racing and oblivious to the grisly fate suffered by far too many horses whose owners abdicate responsibility for them. I soon found that the Internet was awash with sad tales and dismal statistics. My fantasies about cherished creatures like Trigger, Silver and Buttermilk clashed markedly with reality. With the help of my best friend Babette Croy, I decided to do something about that.

My name is Perri Morgan. I lead a relatively dull existence in Grand Falls, Virginia, crafting custom leashes, collars, bridles and saddles for dogs and horses. “Rescues” touch a special place in my heart since after my parents’ death, I became the product of the foster care system. I know all too well what it means to long for acceptance and a forever home. In fact, my modest spread boasts two retired military dogs, one entitled feline and an ornery pygmy goat, all of whom were discarded and subsequently re-homed with me.

My community is an affluent one filled with Macmansions, lavish landscaping, and well-intentioned neighbors leading busy lives. Many of them enjoy polo, horse and dog shows and competitive riding. Some like Babette also have a big heart and genuinely care about less fortunate creatures. My pal is passionate. In fact, one might call Babette a social justice warrior willing to put herself and her pocketbook on the line to help animals.

Unfortunately, even good intentions can clash when property values and profits collide. Our town council suddenly proposed to rezone land and evict the Cavalry Farms Rescue facility. Tempers flared, expletives flew, and our normally tranquil community experienced a galloping case of NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome. With Babette leading the charge, several of us mobilized and formed a protest group, appropriately dubbed NEIGH. Nothing militant, just a band of concerned citizens with something to say.  Our ace in the hole was the public scrutiny provided by my romantic partner investigative hottie, Wing Pruett. Grand Falls prided itself on a liberal reputation and shunned any bad publicity. I was cautiously optimistic about our chances until disaster stuck: I came face to face with the bloodied corpse of Babette’s assistant, draped across her employer’s bed! Continue reading “Horsing Around Can Be Fun!”

Posted in Cooking, Home

Sweet Bougatsa Recipe From Donna Kauffman

 

Welcome to Moonbright!

Kate Angell, Allyson Charles, and I had such a wonderful time setting our stories in the magical seaside town of Moonbright, Maine. The stories center around Bellaluna’s Bakeshop, an Italian bakeshop owned by the heroine of my story, Abriana, and her grandmother, Sofia.

It was so much fun researching this story, not the least of which was trying out some Italian pastry recipes! And yes, the book comes with several yummy recipes for you to try!

Today, however, I want to talk about the other chef in my story. My Greek hero, Caleb Dimitriou. His entire extended family run a handful of Greek restaurants, scattered from Philadelphia, to Maine, and all the way to Greece!

My great-uncle was Greek, and my grandmother ran a family restaurant, so it was great fun to delve a bit into the family history and bring it to life in this fresh, fictional way. I only wish the story was longer so I could indulge in my love of Greek food as well as all those delicious Italian pastries.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t indulge in playing with a few family Greek recipes. The things I do for research! (Yes, the struggle is real. And delicious!) Continue reading “Sweet Bougatsa Recipe From Donna Kauffman”

Posted in Cooking, Creativity, Home

The Taste of Fall by Allyson Charles

When I was invited to contribute a story to The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice, I was very excited. Not only because the stories centered around Halloween, one of the best holidays of the year, but because it allowed me to write about my favorite season. When I think of fall, I think of cozy cardigans, spiced lattes, and apple pie. Crisp fallen leaves and reading before the fire. In short, I think of hygge.

If you haven’t read Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness or The Little Book of Hygge, you might not have heard of hygge. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word meaning a mood of coziness and a feeling of well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. In 2016, the Collins English dictionary named hygge as runner-up for word of the year.

So what are some ways to practice hygge? When autumn rolls around, I pull out the quilt I’ve been working on—for years now—and snuggle up on the sofa and sew away. I think I’ve given up hope of ever actually completing it, but the act of stitching the pieces together is an act of zen for me, the end product not nearly as important as the journey.

Or I pull on a pair of reading socks and a soft sweater and find a reading nook to lose myself in a book for the afternoon.

Or bake a delicious apple pie or chocolate-chip scones which I may or may not share, depending on whether I want to spread the hygge, or keep it all to myself. Continue reading “The Taste of Fall by Allyson Charles”