Recipes

August 30, National Toasted Marshmallow Day

August 30, National Toasted Marshmallow Day
Image courtesy of Nina Hale, creative commons license.

Image courtesy of Nina Hale, creative commons license.

Okay, so it’s a made-up holiday (sponsored by the National Confectioners Association), but what’s not to love about celebrating that iconic summer treat, toasted marshmallows? The history of the marshmallow is pretty cool, too.

Althaea officinalis, illustrated by Leonhard Fuchs. Citation link: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1000513

Althaea officinalis, illustrated by Leonhard Fuchs. Citation link: http://catalogue.wellcomelibrary.org/record=b1000513

Marshmallows were originally made from the root of the Marshmallow herb, also known as Althaea officinalis. The Egyptians made candy/cakes from it, mixing the sap with honey and grains. One source says the Egyptians reserved such a treat for the gods and that everyone else was forbidden to eat it, but I have not been able to confirm that with other sources.

The sap of the Marshmallow root was long known to soothe sore throats, and the Greeks and Romans used it medicinally as both a liquid and lozenge. It was the French who finally turned it into a candy in the early 19th century, whipping it to an airy consistency. However, extracting the necessary sap from the Marshmallow plant was time-consuming. Only small, local sweet shops prepared it, mixing small batches by hand.

Our commercially-produced marshmallows bear little resemblance to these earlier confections. Once it was discovered (late 19th century) that gelatin and egg whites could substitute for the consistency provided by the Marshmallow root sap, the marshmallow no longer had Marshmallow in it.

Nonetheless, many people enjoy our modern-day marshmallows, and it’s nice to see that vegan and kosher varieties are now more widely available. An occasional fluffernutter sandwich, rice krispy square, MallowCup, or smores beside a campfire can be a fun treat, right?

Speaking of treats, here’s a recipe for our family’s favorite marshmallow dessert, cookie pizza. Enjoy!

Cookie Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite sugar cookie dough (we use Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix, but you can use the already-prepared 18oz pkg of refrigerated dough)
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups M&Ms
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg F, or per sugar cookie baking instructions.  Divide dough, and press into 2 ungreased pie pans.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.  Cool.

 

2. In either a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave, melt chips and sweetened condensed milk until smooth and blended.  Spread over crusts.  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Bake 4 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly toasted.  Cool and cut into wedges.

 

Want to read more about marshmallows?

NATIONAL TOASTED MARSHMALLOW DAY – August 30 | National Day Calendar

Wikipedia: Marshmallow (includes a video link as to how marshmallow was made from the root)

The History of Marshmallows

Boyer Candies (makers of MalloCups)

 

Do you enjoy toasting marshmallows, or using them in a recipe? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Concordia logo FINAL small

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Anywhere my research takes me: burglars, knitting, detective cocktails?

Anywhere my research takes me: burglars, knitting, detective cocktails?

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Let’s call this “Take Your Pick” Tuesday, since today’s post is a mashup of 5 sites, chosen from the many, many bookmarks I have in my “K’s blog” folder. It’s an eclectic assortment, but I hope you get a kick out of them!

 

In no particular order:

1. “Girl Thrashes a Burglar.” The New York Times, 17 November 1899.

I found this newspaper article during my research on 19th century criminals.

Girl thrashes

Here’s a quote from my favorite part of the article:

…she pluckily resisted, and during the desperate struggle that ensued managed to free herself. Then, with all the force she possessed, she struck the intruder full in the face.

This unexpected attack from the young and fragile girl shattered the would-be burglar’s nerves. The next instant he took a header through the shed window. Just as he turned from her the young girl sprang after him and succeeded in landing another blow on his cheek.

You go, girl!

2. “Dropped snack? No sweat! Study reveals 5-second rule is real.”  Today Health, 12 March 2014.

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

I think I was researching popular myths and old wives’ tales when I stumbled across this one. Of course, it’s way more modern than what I was originally looking for, but I marked it. Could come in handy sometime… You gonna eat that?

3. “Detectives and their drink: cocktail recipes and Thin Man martini video.” Mystery Fanfare, 24 May 2011.

Pic by Ken30684, via wikimedia commons.

Pic by Ken30684, via wikimedia commons.

I’m a big fan of Dashiell Hammett and Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man series. The films in particular have witty, rapid-fire dialogue that’s a pleasure to watch. And then there are the cocktails…what’s not to love? There are six cocktail recipes on this site, plus a fun clip from the movie.

One of the cocktail recipes, featured in the film:

Knickerbocker from The Thin Man (1934)

50ml gin

Large dash dry vermouth

Small dash sweet vermouth

Add the gin and both vermouths to a mixing glass filled with ice. Once well mixed, strain into a frosted martini glass.

Want more info on the Thin Man series? Check out my blog post: Nick and Nora Charles: Masters of Mystery.

4. “Bicycles and Bloomers: How Bikes Helped Revolutionize Women’s Lives.” Photowings.org (date unknown).

women bicycle

Image via wikimedia commons, used by permission of JGKlein.

The protagonist of my 19th century mystery series, Professor Concordia Wells, is an avid bicyclist, so naturally I researched everything I could about women bicycling in the late-19th century: what the machines were like, what they wore, how popular it was, what folks thought of the phenomenon. The link above has some great photos and quotes from back in the day.

Want more info on women bicyclists? Check out my blog post: The sporting life for 19th century women: bicycling.

5. “This is your brain on knitting.” CNN Health, 25 March 2014.

"Jeune fille tricotant," by Jules Breton, 1860. Image via wikimedia commons.

“Jeune fille tricotant,” by Jules Breton, 1860. Image via wikimedia commons.

I’m not sure how I ran across this, but I enjoy crafts and found it interesting. Here’s an early paragraph:

Crafting can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain, experts say. It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging.

And if the knitting doesn’t alleviate your stress, you have a couple of nice, pointy weapons. 😉

So there you have it: an inside peek at my cluttered internet “closet,” where I keep all sorts of scraps and tidbits.

What sites do you like to bookmark for future reference? Is it as crazy an assortment as mine? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

 

 

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New Release! Cozy Food Cookbook Anthology

New Release! Cozy Food Cookbook Anthology

So what happens when 128 mystery authors compare notes on food prepared and served in their novels? A cookbook, with over 200 recipes!

Cover image via Amazon.com

Cover image via Amazon.com

The Cozy Food cookbook was the brainchild of mystery author Nancy Lynn Jarvis, and she’s done a terrific job herding cats gathering and organizing the recipes/bios from all of us.

I contributed two recipes, dessert offerings that are featured in my Concordia Wells mystery series (who knew so much eating was going on?): a Charlotte Russe (which I’ve posted about here), and a pumpkin creme brulee. Preceding each recipe in the cookbook is a short blurb about the significance of that particular dish in the story in which it appears.

Cool, huh?

The table of contents includes: Starters and Beverages; Soups and Crumbles; Salads and Dressings; Pasta and Casseroles; Main Course Dishes; Veggies and Side Dishes; Desserts and Pies; Cakes, Cupcakes, and Frostings; Cookies, Bars, and Brownies; Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Teatime; Quick, Easy, Quirky, Saucy, and Even Pet Treats.

In addition to the recipes is a section at the end with short bios and links for each contributing author, so you can get your cozy mystery fix with authors you might not have discovered before. A win-win!

It’s available on the Kindle for $3.99, and as a paperback for $12.95.

 

Thanks everyone, and bon appetit!

~Kathy

 

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What a Lady Sleuth Needs: clues, corset…and dessert!

What a Lady Sleuth Needs: clues, corset…and dessert!

Lady (1)If one were to ask any proper late-nineteenth century lady what she would need in order to conduct a little unorthodox sleuthing, she might list the following:

1. a dark gown of quiet fabric, perfect for night-time reconnoitering;

2. a parasol, for defending oneself against a belligerent witness;

3. a petticoat (second-best, of course), for ripping into strips when preparing to break a window in an emergency;

4. clues: an eyebrow raised, a sigh, a startled flush…even the slightest of these will not escape her eye;

5. a bracing cup of tea, to fortify one’s courage before confronting a suspect in a lonely tower at midnight.

And finally:

6. a dessert table, where our lady sleuth can congregate with potential witnesses or suspects. Sweets are sure to coax even the most reticent to drop one’s guard.

Speaking of desserts, I’ve been asked by fellow mystery writer Nancy Lynn Jarvis to contribute to a mystery author cookbook she’s compiling. Squee!

When I thought about it, I realized that my Concordia Wells series really does have a fair amount of eating going on: dances, teas, picnics…wow, who knew?

And of course, Concordia has a special fondness for desserts. So I’m submitting two for the cookbook: a Charlotte Russe and a pumpkin creme brulee.

What’s a Charlotte Russe?

Charlotte Russe is a 19th century dessert, created by a French chef in honor of his Russian employer, Czar Alexander I (hence the “russe”). There is some disagreement about the “Charlotte” part of the name: some say it is for the czar’s sister-in-law, Queen Charlotte, and others say it is a corrupted form of charlyt, an Old English term for a custard dish.

There are many variations of the dessert, but most of them involve custard, lady fingers, liquor, and fruit. New York bakeries in the 19th century created a “to go” form of the dessert, with sponge cake, custard, and a maraschino cherry on top. It was put in a push-cup that folks could carry around and eat from.

You know I had to test it out, right? Here’s my version of Charlotte Russe:

Charlotte Russe (makes 8-10 servings)

All dessert pics by K.B. Owen

 

Ingredients:

all pics from K.B. Owen

1 packet unflavored gelatin, mixed into ½ cup cold water
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 eggs, separated into whites and yolks
4-6 tablespoons of the liquor of your choice (bourbon, whiskey, sherry or grand marnier work well)
2 cups whipping cream
20 ladyfingers
Garnish: fresh fruit of your choice – strawberries, peaches, berries, orange slices, etc.

Directions:

Cook gelatin and water mixture on low heat until gelatin is dissolved; remove from heat to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, beat sugar and egg yolks until incorporated and smooth. Whisk in liquor.

Whisk in gelatin until incorporated into the egg yolk mixture.

April2015Desserts 076In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff (don’t overdo it; you don’t want them to be dry). Fold egg whites into the egg yolk/gelatin mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream into soft peaks. Gently fold into the rest.

 

 

 

Line a glass bowl (3 qt size) with lady fingers (split them first, nice sides facing out). Fill gently with the cream mixture, being careful not to dislodge the lady fingers.

…the first row of lady fingers. I put a second row on top of this as I filled the bowl.

Cover; chill overnight (at least 8 hours).

If desired, garnish with fresh fruit just before serving.

 April2015Desserts 087

I hope you’ll give Charlotte Russe a try! Do you have a favorite dessert from a novel you’ve read?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Simplicity, Writing, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by. How did I do this week in my ROW80 author goals? Well, the lesson learned seems to be simplicity. Let’s take a look!

My goals:

1. Post twice per week on my blog: a ROW80 check-in on Sundays, and an original post mid-week. During my blog tour, my total weekly count will actually be three times per week, as I’m scheduled to guest post twice a week through the beginning of March.

Done! Last week I posted Fine Dining, Mashup Style at Misterio Press. Martha Stewart and 19th century household expert Isabella Beeton, meeting through the magic of the internet. 😉 I’ve also been writing my advance guest posts – my blog tour starts this week! Gack, still have to write the sidebar widget for that.

2. Send out five new email requests per week to book reviewers who have indicated they are available and interested in reviewing books in my genre (mystery).

It was three this week, through Facebook and emails. The Goodreads sign-up doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, with only one request for a review copy. Disappointing. I haven’t gone back to the Amazon top reviewer lists yet, because they take so dang long to wade through. I’ve decided to revise this goal to 3 per week.

3. Visit, comment on, and tweet posts from ten bloggers each week.

Done!

4. Write and publish three SocialIn posts during this 80-day period.

Published a SocialIn post a week ago about 19th century sledding. That’s 38 sites! Lots of copying and pasting. I’m still getting the hang of it.  Will shoot for another SocialIn post in mid-February.

5. Exclusively dedicate four hours each weekday (probably in 2-hour increments) to writing the second draft of Unseemly Secrets.

This week was a bust, unfortunately. Had minor oral surgery, and the weather (insanely cold, and some snow) disrupted the kids’ school schedules again. But I have to get back to my draft, no matter what. In fact, I think I’m going through writer withdrawal…

I read a lot of advice blogs and articles about the craft and business of writing, and it can become a confusing mire. I got caught up in some of that this week. But I had an epiphany of sorts today (see? writing these ROW80 updates are super-beneficial!). Business cards, giveaways, promos, social media, reviews, Amazon sales rankings…yep, these are important, but they won’t make any difference at all if I don’t WRITE! I only have two books published right now. That isn’t much to promote or giveaway. Once I have more books out there, then I can tinker with giveaways and such, but right now the real business of writing has to be FIRST. It’s simple. I know – duh, Kathy. 😉

This week will be a real test of that, since it’s the end of the school quarter and the kids have a four-day weekend coming up. But I hope that by next Sunday, I’ll be able to report that I found a way to make it work.

So there you have it – my progress this week, if you can call it that. 😉

While we’re on the topic of simplicity, I’ll leave you with one of my fave super-easy cookie recipes. And it’s gluten-free, too. I know it seems weird that this could be a cookie when there’s no flour in it. But it really does work! And it’s delicious. I made it again this week when the weather had us cooped up.

Simpler Than Sin Peanut Chocolate Cookies (makes about 30 cookies)

(recipe from the The Cookie Bible)

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

 
1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
6oz bar of dark or milk chocolate, broken into squares

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 deg F
In medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, egg and vanilla; mix well.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 minutes, remove from oven and place a chocolate square in center of each cookie.
Bake an additional 5-7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly golden around edges.
Cool 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

pic by K.B. Owen

pic by K.B. Owen

A couple of notes:

  • It is very important that the egg be room temp; the cookie dough doesn’t set up as well if the egg is cold (a good rule-of-thumb for most recipes, actually).
  • I like to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper first (I hate washing dishes, and I’m paranoid about cookies sticking to the tray).
  • The cookie dough is very sticky, so I’d advise using food prep gloves or just a cookie scoop (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray). Thanks to my friend Deb for this tip!
  • It’s okay for the chocolate square to mush the cookie when you place it; the additional baking time will fix that.

How’s your January going? Do you have a favorite comfort food you like to make when the weather outside is awful? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – This Tuesday, I’ll be over at Spann of Time, historical mystery writer Susan Spann’s blog. It’s the official “kick-off” to my Unseemly Pursuits blog tour. Susan has some interesting questions for me. I believe food, socks, and pets are involved. And oh, yeah, some questions about writing, too. 😉 Hope to see you there!

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4-Ingredient Key Lime Pie

4-Ingredient Key Lime Pie
heart
Happy Wednesday!
Hubby and I recently celebrated our anniversary.  It was a nice, low-key evening at one of our favorite restaurants (I love Bonefish Grill).  We played a short card game over drinks and appetizers, enjoyed food that I cannot cook skillfully at home, and overall had a relaxing evening over the glow of our LED table candle, LOL.  And hey, any night where I’m not cooking and/or washing up afterwards is a winner.
I did do a little cooking that day: a super-easy Key Lime Pie for our anniversary dessert back at home.  It only took 20 minutes to make, including the prep!  (That means my kitchen wasn’t heated up, either).  I modified the original recipe a bit by using a gallon-size ziploc bag for mixing, so no cleanup.  Wahoo!
Like to give it a try?  Here it is:

4-Ingredient Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie 003

…did I think to take a pic BEFORE we dug into it? Ah, well…

Ingredients:
5 egg yolks (for a tip on separating yolks and whites, check out this post)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Key Lime juice (not regular lime juice)
1 ready-made (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Dump yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and juice in a gallon-size ziploc bag.  Close bag and squeeze contents around until well-mixed.
Open the bag enough to pour contents into the pie crust.
Bake for 15 minutes (it won’t look done, but it is).
Remove from oven and cool.
You can eat it as soon as it’s cool, or refrigerate it first.  Make sure to store any leftovers, covered, in the fridge.
A special thanks to my friend Kelly for sharing this with me!  If you’re into fiber-based crafts (and more), check out the hyperlink for her page.
Do you have a favorite dessert for celebrating special occasions?  What’s your easiest dessert?  I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
Kathy

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Strawberries, Memorial Day Style!

Strawberries, Memorial Day Style!

Happy Friday!  With Memorial Day upon us and the sort-of-official start to the summer season, I’m re-posting my recipe for dipped strawberries.  Around here, strawberries are ripe for the picking…right now!  This is an easy, quick way to dress up your strawberries in summer style.

Red,White and Blue Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of strawberries, washed and blotted dry
  • 12oz pkg of white chocolate chips
  • blue decorating sugar, poured into a small bowl

Directions:

Line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Melt chips in microwave, according to package directions (you may need to stir in between cycles and add more time) until smooth.  Dip strawberries 2/3 of the way into the melted chocolate, then 1/3 of the way into the blue sugar.  Place on foil.  Put the tray in the fridge for about 2 hours, or until chocolate hardens.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) It’s really important to dry the strawberries thoroughly before dipping; otherwise, the chocolate won’t stick to them very well.

2) Don’t make ahead; plan to use them that day.  The strawberries will start releasing water, which will get into the sugar’s blue dye and create a drippy mess.  (They still taste good, though!)

Have any recipes you’d care to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

Also in the spirit of Memorial Day, here’s a fun video parody by U.S. Army soldiers of the song “Call Me Maybe.”  It’s not the wildly popular one which imitates the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders’ version – you’ve probably all seen that one.  I actually like this one better.  Let me know what you think.

Wishing you a memorable Memorial Day with you family, and a special thank-you to our soldiers and their families who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  You will never be forgotten.

Until next time,

Kathy

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What do a crockpot, a mad bluebird, and Earl Grey have in common?

What do a crockpot, a mad bluebird, and Earl Grey have in common?

Sounds like a bad riddle, doesn’t it?  For me, they were the Fab Triumvirate of items that kept me sane during the past two weeks, while I was speed-writing with a group of fellow first-draft writers.  We were writing the “Emotion Draft” – a program put together by the multi-talented Rachel Funk Heller, who designed and mentored us through the process.

I’ll have to let her post about it, because she can explain it better, but the basic goal was to get as many words down in each day (for twelve days) as we could, keeping in mind the characters’ emotional responses to the events we had plotted, and tapping into our Adaptive Subconscious without our Inner Critic getting in the way and slowing us down.  (We’re going to edit it later anyway, right?).  I got to nearly the halfway point in my rough draft doing this.  Yay!  Book three of Concordia’s escapades is on its way to becoming a reality. 😉

During my intensive writing sessions, I turned to these:

MadBluebirdTea

 

…Earl Grey tea, because that’s my absolute favorite, fragrant tea – and the jolt of caffeine doesn’t hurt, either – and my “mad bluebird” mug, because looking at something that’s cute and grumpy at the same time cheers me up.  Kids are good for that, too, by the way.  Just sayin’…

Planning ahead for those busy days helped, too, especially the meals.  What?  The family wants to be fed…again?

Below is one of my favorite crockpot recipes, originally from my mom (*waves hi*).  It was the first recipe on my plan-ahead list.  When it’s added to rice, it can feed a family of four through at least three nights, with some left over for a couple of lunch servings.  It freezes well, too, and since we really didn’t want the same meal for three or four nights in a row, I divided the end product and froze half of it for the second week.  I don’t know about you, but having leftovers to turn to feels like money in the bank.  Love that warm, fuzzy feeling of security.

So, here’s the recipe…hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

 

Crockpot Beef

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onion*

1 cup chopped celery*

1/2 cup chopped peppers*

*I use already chopped veggies from the supermarket’s salad bar, or the freezer section.

30 oz tomato sauce

2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 cup water

 3.5 lb eye round or rump roast (I used two small ones, adding up to about 4 lbs)

2 or more cloves of garlic, minced (I use the already-minced stuff in the jar.  See a theme here?)

ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Mix veggies together, and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of crockpot.  Set the other half aside for the moment.

2. Season roast(s) with garlic and black pepper.  I just use a fork; it’s awkward no matter how you do it.  Don’t worry if some garlic falls off.

3.  Sear roast(s) on all sides in a heated pan or skillet with a little oil, until they look something like this:

4. Then plunk those little cuties in the crockpot, on top of the veggies.

5. Put the rest of the veggie mixture on top of the roast(s).

6. Pour all of the liquid ingredients on top of that (no need to mix them; just splash them in):

7. Cover and set on HIGH for 6-8 hours.  The house will smell soooo good.  Be prepared for major stomach-rumbling.

8.  Then, it’s time to shred!  What I like to do is spoon the liquid into a separate receptacle temporarily, then use two forks to pull the meat apart right in the crockpot, like this:

9. Pour the liquid back in, stir, and serve over rice or noodles.

What recipe do you turn to when you know you have a busy week ahead?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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