Recipes

Autumn already?

Happy Autumn Equinox, everyone! Today marks the “official” start of fall in the Northern hemisphere, with exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness, and it’s all downhill from there as far as daylight goes, LOL, until December 21st. I hear it’s the only day where you can balance a pumpkin on its stem. Oh wait, that’s an egg…no, that’s a myth, right?

It doesn’t feel like fall in Virginia yet, and it probably won’t in places like Texas until the winter solstice.

Moving on….

Of course, there are plenty of “unofficial” occasions that mark the start of fall for some folks. The end of Labor Day weekend. The first day back to school for the kiddos. The very tops of the sugar maples starting to turn red and gold. Ah, bliss. I love fall.

But I’m not here to talk about those particular signs. I’m here to talk about September 1st, aka the start of Pumpkin Spice Latte season in the Starbucks world. That’s what fall is really all about, Charlie Brown. *wink*

Pumpkin Spice…the source of delight and mockery. 

 

It’s all a matter of perspective.

You may have seen “a few” things on the internet about the pumpkin spice phenomenon. Seems like there’s a pumpkin spice for every occasion (at least hypothetically, haha).

For the horror movie fans:

For the second amendment folks:

 

Even the automotive DIYers can get in on the pumpkin spice craze, LOL:

As for me, I used to be a PSL fan, but I switched to mochas – a year-round, good-ol’ reliable flavor. But hey, you PSL enthusiasts out there, rock on. The world can use all the comfort it can get right now. Wave your flag proudly.

While I don’t drink PSLs anymore, I’m still a fan of pumpkin flavored desserts and treats. In fact, after checking my list of recipes on my iPad (I love the Recipe Tin app!), I was a bit startled to discover that I have 21 pumpkin recipes. Only one ingredient category has a larger number: chicken, at 24. Beef trailed in at third, tied with chocolate, at 20 each.

(Chocolate is tied for third? It’s a world gone mad. *sob*).

I’ve already shared my pumpkin fudge and pumpkin tiramisu recipes in earlier posts (listed below), but I figured ’tis the season for pumpkin, so why not another? So here’s my recipe for pumpkin creme brulee, a dessert featured in at least one of my Concordia books. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Crème Brulee (4 servings)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, firmly packed
For sugar shell top: 4 tsp granulated white sugar.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (Fahrenheit). In a saucepan, whisk cream, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, until bubbles form around edges of saucepan and steam rises from the surface. DO NOT BOIL. Take pan off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, vanilla, pumpkin puree, and sugars (except that reserved for sugar top) in a large bowl until ingredients are fully incorporated. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and whisk the somewhat-cooled cream mixture into the strained mixture. Divide into four ramekins (8oz size).

What the bath looks like. Be sure to cover w/foil before putting in the oven.

Hot water bath: place ramekins in a large baking pan, and pour boiling water into the pan (around the ramekins) until water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set. It may still be a little jiggly in the middle, but that should set as it cools.

Once they have cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (don’t touch the wrap to the surface of the custard) and chill in the fridge.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tsp of white sugar over top of each custard and either use a small kitchen torch to carmelize the surface, or put ramekins on a baking sheet and set it under the boiler for a minute or two, until the sugar is melted and the top is browned. Let cool briefly, and serve.

What do you enjoy about the fall? Do you have a favorite food this time of year? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Want more pumpkin recipes? Check out these posts:

for pumpkin fudge:

Start your Halloween with a Pumpkin Mashup!

Taste of Fall: Pumpkin Tiramisu

 

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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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