Thursday, September 17, 2015

Will Write for Foodies: Mystery Lovers Kitchen

The following article from Mystery Lovers Kitchen appeared in the Mystery Readers Journal: Culinary Crime II (31:2). Be sure and check out the issue, and Mystery Lovers Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs,  for more Culinary Crime and recipes.

Will Write for Foodies: Mystery Lovers Kitchen

Food trends and cooking bloggers may come and go, but the writers at are celebrating almost six years of daily recipes and stories. Aside from the daily blog posts, these writers have had more than forty cozy culinary mysteries published by Berkley/NAL over the past five years. They use current themes like competition between celebrity chefs, reality TV cooking shows, and fatal food allergies to spice up their culinary mysteries.

“The best part of the Kitchen is the friendships we’ve developed, not just between the
authors but with readers, too,” says blog founder Krista Davis. “We feature a recipe every day and invite other authors to share favorite recipes with us on Sundays. There’s something for everyone.” Here’s a taste of our culinary crime files.

An Early Wake

SUBJECT: Sheila Connolly 
GUILTY OF: Waking the dead

As a child I was a finicky eater. I tolerated meat, starch and vegetables, as long as they didn’t touch each other on the plate. I wouldn’t go near anything like a casserole, although stew was acceptable, kind of. (Of course, I always
liked desserts!)

But I still remember the first apple I picked from a tree and ate. The tree had long since been abandoned, and was untended for years, but the apple was crisp and intensely flavorful. It was wonderful—and the benchmark for every apple I’ve eaten since. Is it any wonder that my first series was about an orchard? Everybody loves apples. And the nice thing is, you can use apples in almost any dish, sweet or savory.

Now I write three series, but in two of them, the main character really doesn’t cook and doesn’t care. (And I created these people? For shame!) But Meg in the Orchard Mysteries does cook, when she has the time and energy (running an orchard is hard and physical work!). In fact, she even helped to open a new restaurant in her small New England town. To keep her supplied, I’ve been scouring cookbooks old and new for apple recipes, and haven’t run out yet. Some of those recipes probably go back to the 18th century, and use apple varieties that have long since disappeared. But there are still new apples coming, and new recipes to go with them.

Apple Ginger Chutney
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoons mustard seeds
In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over high

heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook until they stop popping. Remove the lid and reduce heat to medium-high.
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced 1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, halved
Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan
and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic and ginger
and cook briefly. Add cloves and cinnamon and cook another minute.
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped coarsely (choose an apple variety that stays firm in cooking, like Granny Smith)
1⁄4 cup raisins
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cups water
Stir in the apples, raisins, brown sugar, vine
gar and water (there should be enough water to cover). Simmer, uncovered, until the apples are soft but still hold their shape, and the mixture thickens (30–40 minutes). Remove the cinna- mon sticks and chill. If you want to spice it up a bit, you can add a dash of cayenne or some hot pepper flakes. This may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It makes one quart. 

Sheila Connolly writes three bestselling mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime and has also published ebooks Once She Knew, Reunion With Death, and the Relatively Dead paranormal romance series.

Assault and Pepper

SUBJECT: Leslie Budewitz  
GUILTY OF: Assault with spices

Like my blog sisters, I write cozy mystery. Some writers don’t like the term—as Carolyn Hart points out, what’s more uncomfortable than murder in a small town where everyone is affected? (Or in the urban cozy, a city within a city.) And I work hard to show that impact, one I’ve seen often as a practicing lawyer. But I like the term.
Ultimately, a cozy mystery is about community. Murder disrupts the social order. Our amateur sleuth investigates because she has a personal stake
in the crime and in making sure the killer is brought to justice. She may think law enforcement on the wrong track, or her role in village life may give her insight and information they lack. The professionals’ job is to restore external order by making an arrest. Hers is to restore internal order.

And what better signifies community than food? In my Spice Shop mysteries, Pepper Reece owns a spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. She works with everyone from new cooks to seasoned chefs, helping them spice up their lives and create joy at their tables. In my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, Erin Murphy manages the Merc, a regional foods market in her family’s hundred-year-old grocery in Jewel Bay, Montana.
When life goes wrong—as it does now and then—Pepper and Erin use their retail skills, their understanding of the community, and their knowledge of food and spices, to suss out killers. To serve justice, and the people they’ve come to love. Pull up a chair. You’re just in time for dinner.

Herbes De Provence
A savory touch to transport your taste buds. 21⁄2 tablespoons dried oregano
1⁄2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried savory

2 tablespoons dried crushed lavender flowers 1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried sage
Mix spices in a small bowl. Store in a jar with

a tightly fitting lid. Makes just over half a cup. As with all herb blends, experiment with your own touches. Let your taste be your guide. Other frequent additions: rosemary, sweet marjoram, or fennel seed. (Marjoram and oregano are distinct herbs but closely related and can be substituted for each other in some recipes.) Try
a blend with whatever combination of the suggested herbs you have on hand. Then, next summer, grow a pot of lavender on your deck or in a sunny window!
Herbes de Provence are spectacular sprinkled on sautéed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before grilling, or best of all, in roast chicken and potatoes. Add them to a lamb or a vegetable stew— think eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini, maybe some cannellini (white beans). Use them to season homemade croutons or tomato sauce. They add just the right herby flavor to the Potato-Broccoli Frittata featured in Assault and Pepper and on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.
Wrap a teaspoon of Herbes de Provence in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string to make an herb bouquet, also called a bouquet garni. Drop it into a small jar of olive oil for a few days to make an infusion for salads or sautées. 

The only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction, Leslie Budewitz writes the Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in northwest Montana, where she lives. Connect with her on her website,

Iced to Death

SUBJECT: Peg Cochran  
GUILTY OF: Stealing calories

Cozy mysteries generally have a “hook”— crafting, knitting, weaving, etc. Alas, my only hobby is cooking and eating, and I love both! I decided that my protagonist in my Gourmet De-Lite series, Gigi Fitzgerald, would have to be involved with food. Of course, I needed to do something different, so I decided she would deliver home-cooked, lower calorie, but gourmet meals to a select group of clients. Because I really believe you can enjoy good food without breaking the bank.
Gigi’s business allows her plenty of time to snoop. If she’s making her clients a slow-cooker meal like a lower calorie (but delicious!) chili or soup, she can get out of the kitchen and go around asking questions and digging for clues. And delivering the finished meals allows her to poke her nose into places she might not ordinarily go—the country home of a famous soap star, the wife of a partner in the town’s most prestigious law firm and a ne’er do well investment banker and his trophy wife. But when the tension of the mystery threatens to ratchet up too high—the reader can spend a few quiet moments in Gigi’s kitchen while she preps her next meal.

Chicken Tortilla Soup De-Lite
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts or

chicken tenderloins cut into bite-sized pieces 4 ounce can of chopped green chilies
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cans reduced fat chicken broth

11⁄2 teaspoons chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 4 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 cup water
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed 1 cup frozen corn
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.

Add chicken, chilies, tomatoes, chicken broth and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Mix flour and water. Add to soup and stir. Add beans and frozen corn and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
6 servings, 190 calories/serving

Peg Cochran is a Jersey girl transplanted to Michigan where she lives with her husband and West Highland Terrier, Reg. She is the author of the Gourmet De-Lite series, the Sweet Nothings Lingerie Series, written as Meg London, and the upcoming Cranberry Cove series and Farmer’s Daughter series.

The Wolfe Widow
SUBJECT: Victoria Abbott 
GUILTY OF: Cooking the books

Food, wonderful food. Where would we writers be without it? Our readers count on us to transport them to fascinating fictional worlds, using the senses to make them feel present in the story. For us, the sense that has the most impact is taste. No wonder our books are full of delicious food.
(Oops. Here’s a disclaimer from Mary Jane: Okay, none of my protagonists cook. However, Charlotte Adams wolfs Ben & Jerry’s Super Fudge Chunk from the freezer, Fiona Silk survives on hummus and Courvoisier, and Camilla MacPhee can make a meal out of a latte. Sometimes, my readers feel like they’re there.)

Luckily food plays a major role in the Book Collector mysteries. Jordan Bingham, the resident research assistant, dogsbody and amateur sleuth at Van Alst House, enjoys the mountain- ous meals served by the talented and zany Signora Panetone in the historic dining room. Jordan’s made the jump from her family’s traditional beans and franks with secret ingredient Heinz ketchup. We get to join her in the dining room, when she’s not risking her life to locate a tricky first edition from the Golden Age of Detection. Right now she’s recovering from The Wolfe Widow, when it looked like Van Alst House and everyone in it might have been lost. This should help her recover.

The signora would make this simple chicken dish using luscious tomatoes and juicy peppers from her garden. But it’s good in winter with whatever passes for tomatoes and peppers. For you busy people, it’s easy, reasonably quick and even better the next day. The signora usually makes it like this. But sometimes she changes this typical Italian dish because she has a little more or less of some ingredient. You can too.

Pollo Ai Peperoni
2 chickens, cut into serving pieces 4 tablespoons good olive oil
3 garlic cloves, slivered
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
3 juicy peppers, seeded and cut in strips. We used orange and green to contrast with the tomatoes
1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped.
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
1⁄4 cup flour Salt and pepper
Culinary Crime II
In a large pan, heat the oil with the garlic for about 5 minutes. Dry the chicken and shake in a bag with the flour.
Add chicken to the oil and garlic, and brown the pieces all over. If there is too much chicken fat, you may want to remove some. Then sprinkle pan with wine. Cook two minutes.
Add tomatoes and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, cover tightly and simmer for about 40 minutes. Don’t cook too high or too long. The signora serves this with a crisp green salad, a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of Frascati.

Victoria Abbott, author of the Book Collector mysteries, is a mysterious collaboration between the artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane, who also writes the Camilla MacPhee, the Fiona Silk and the Charlotte Adams mysteries. You can find them near Ottawa, Ontario. and


Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks, Janet, for including the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen writer-cooks in MRJ! I should clarify that while I was the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction, I'm thrilled to now share that honor with the amazing Hank Phillippi Ryan!

Sheila Connolly said...

Thanks so much, Janet! And right in time for apple season! We have so much fun on Mystery Lovers Kitchen, and it's a treat to share our recipes.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Janet! Great to be here and talking food and mystery!