We’d Rather Be Writing – Release Day October 30!

Today is the big day for We’d Rather Be Writing – 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips! The ebook version was available for presale, but both ebook and print editions are available now. 

Proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry, whose goal is to end child hunger in America.

Due to space considerations in the book, photos of the finished recipes could not be included. I’m posting the picture for my contributed recipe of Chicken and Noodles here:

Fast and easy, I can have a delicious dinner on the table within 30 minutes of walking in the door!

Bonus recipe: Roasted Spaghetti Squash

1 Spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds removed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub cut sides of spaghetti squash with olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place cut side down in baking dish, with enough water to rise up sides 1/2″ of dish. Cover with foil and seal tightly. Cook for 45 minutes or until tender. 

Remove from baking dish and use a fork to remove the squash from the flesh in strands. Serve as a side dish as is, or to instead of pasta.



What is your favorite fast and easy recipe?

Fall Favorite – Pumpkin Whip

Pumpkin is everywhere, in every food and beverage. I don’t remember that it was this prevalent even five years ago – pumpkin has the best-ever publicist 🙂

I like pumpkin’s sweet flavor, similar to a couple of my other favorite autumn squashes: butternut and acorn. Their sweetness is brought out by roasting, and the butter and brown sugar I put in the hollow of an acorn squash. 

This recipe is ideal for a party, which is where I first had it. Four ingredients make it easy, and it can be made ahead or at the last minute. 

Pumpkin Whip

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (do not use pumpkin pie filling)
1 8 oz container Cool Whip (I use the light version), thawed for 20 minutes
1 box of instant vanilla pudding (I use fat- and sugar-free)
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice (use more or less to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. If the Cool Whip has frozen lumps, work them with the spoon against the side of the bowl. Cover and chill. 

Serve with gingersnaps (as shown below) or chocolate wafer cookies.

This would also make delicious individual parfaits, layering crushed gingersnaps with the pumpkin whip. 

20151028_202931

What is your favorite pumpkin food or beverage?

Cranberry Orange Bread

The holidays are coming! I was in Michael’s last night to pick up yarn for a baby blanket I am crocheting for my great-niece, and their stock of Christmas decorations is already bigger than their Halloween and Thanksgiving displays.

Cranberries have been on my mind, and I want to share this delicious recipe with you.

My husband told me about Cranberry Orange Bread, which his mother used to make for Christmas morning. This recipe is close to the one she used to make; she died in 2003, and we didn’t find a recipe. I searched online, and made adjustments to a couple that I found.

It’s a very wet batter, and the resulting bread is very soft and moist. I’ve made it using cranberry-orange relish, and it’s delicious! My husband’s family has nut issues, so I always skip the walnuts, but I think they’d be a delightful addition.

Cranberry Orange Bread

Dry:
2 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1 t salt (if using Kosher salt, increase to 1 1/2 t)

Wet:
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 C fresh orange juice
3 T corn oil

2 C cranberries, chopped
1 T grated orange zest
1 orange, peeled, all membrane removed and sections pulled apart into small pieces
1/2 C chopped walnuts, or walnut pieces (optional)

NOTE: Optional – Substitute 2 1/4 C Cranberry-Orange Relish for chopped cranberries, orange zest, and orange pieces.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Mix only to moisten. Fold in the remaining ingredients. 

Spoon into a greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan; spread out evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Remove immediately and cool on a rack.

2013 Christmas Cranberry Bread 20131225_085501

 

Mini Monkey Bread

I have seen so many recipes for monkey bread over the years, and never made it. This past weekend I decided to make it for Sunday breakfast – a sweet treat to have with savory scrambled eggs with tomato and cream cheese.

I wanted to make individual mini breads, and this was my first attempt. I would cut the biscuits into eighths instead of sixths for mini monkey breads; the muffin cups could barely contain them as they swelled and baked, and in fact a couple of pieces jumped over the side of the pan and onto the floor of the oven. Ouch!

These were so tasty, and they kept jumping into my mouth throughout the day. I love the caramel that bubbled up and oozed over them.

Fast and easy, delicious and satisfying. Can you ask for anything else from simple ingredients? I don’t think so!

Mini Monkey Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/2 C butter, melted (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the melted butter)
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
2 cans refrigerated biscuits, 10 biscuits/can, biscuits separated and each one cut into 6 or 8 pieces

Spray a 24-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Combine the melted butter and dark brown sugar. Once the sugar fully absorbs the butter, spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons into each cup of the mini muffin tin.

Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a gallon size zip top bag; add biscuit pieces. Toss to coat.

If you’ve cut the biscuits into 6 pieces, put 5 pieces into each muffin cup. If you’ve cut them into 8 pieces, put 6 or 7 pieces into each muffin cup.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan for 1 minute before turning out onto parchment lined sheet pan. Serve warm.

20151011_100745

 

Cream Cheese and Olives

Cream Cheese and Olives is a long-time family favorite. My mother would make this to take on road trips, because she could make sandwiches while we were driving without making a mess.

My favorite way to eat it is on Triscuit crackers. I have put it on toasted English Muffins, eaten it on whatever cracker was handy, and made little rolled sandwiches with white bread. In the fast and easy department, it doesn’t get much easier than two ingredients.

It makes an appearance at our annual sausage party (where friends and family gather to make lots of Italian sausage). It shows up in “Dying for Holiday Tea” with the green olive and red pimento giving Christmas color to snowy cream cheese.

Cream Cheese and Olives

Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 30 minutes

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (I use Philadelphia Neufchatel cheese)
1/3 C green olives with pimento
1 T liquid from olive jar

In a bowl, place the brick of cream cheese. If using full fat cream cheese, let it come to room temp before making this. If using 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, it is soft enough to use right from the frig, but I usually let it soften for a bit anyway.

Chop the olives as finely or as coarsely as you prefer. I prefer using a knife, but to get a finer chop, I’ll use my chopper. Use a fork to mash the cream cheese, add the liquid from the olives, and add the chopped olives. Mix to combine. Put in a container and refrigerate.

The flavors develop best when chilled for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Sometimes I don’t want to wait that long, and adding the olive liquid helps give the cream cheese olive flavor before chilling. If I’m taking it to a party, I’ll make it the night before.

My husband was skeptical about this combination, but now he enjoys it. The picture below is from last year’s Sausage Party (Cream Cheese and Olives in the foreground, Caramelized Onion Dip is behind it). I’ll post recipes from this year’s Sausage Party closer to the date (usually the Saturday before Christmas; this year’s date to be determined.)

2013 Sausage Party Caramelized Onion Dip Cream Cheese Olives 20131221_122035

 

We’d Rather Be Writing – 88 Authors Dish

We’d Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips is exactly what it sounds like. 

Lois Winston, one of my co-authors in the Happy Homicides: Thirteen Cozy Holiday Mysteries anthology, has edited a collection of dinner recipes and tips for cooking, household, writing, and organization. 

My recipe for Chicken and Noodles is included, as well as some of my tips. I sent out the recipe for the noodles portion of this recipe in the October 1 newsletter. If you don’t subscribe to it, message me and I’ll send it to you.

The price is a very affordable and giftable $.99, with all proceeds being donated to No Kid Hungry. I love that the profits from a cooking book go to an organization whose goal is to end childhood hunger. It’s available for presale now, and will be available October 30 in both ebook and print formats.

All of the recipes were submitted with the understanding that they be fast and easy to prepare. I have a collection of recipes that I can have on the table within 30 minutes of walking through the door. 

I’d love to hear what your fast and easy recipes are!

Triple Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Have I mentioned before how much I love caramel? It’s my absolute fave, and mixed with crispies and chocolate – nirvana! Next time I make these, I’ll add crispies or nuts. I’ve made caramels each of the last two years, and I’ll post the recipe and pictures closer to the holidays. 

I saw Julia Baker make chocolate caramel truffles on her Cooking Channel show Sweet Julia, and thought they looked easy and delicious. Right on both counts!

Last week I went to my friend Joanna Campbell Slan‘s Beta Bash, where her Beta Babes got together in Jupiter, FL. Her Beta Babes are her beta readers, those valuable fans of her writing who have volunteered to read early drafts of her works in progress and give her feedback.

Friday night eight mystery authors talked about their latest books at the Apollo School in Hobe Sound, and Joanna invited the Babes and the authors to her home for dinner beforehand. The authors participating were: S.L. MenearGregg E. BrickmanMiriam AuerbachRandy RawlsDeborah SharpDiane A.S. Stuckart (aka Ali Brandon), Elaine Viets, and Joanna Campbell Slan. I’ve linked their names to their websites for you – you might discover a new favorite author.  

I made these Triple Chocolate Caramel Truffles for the dessert table. 

Triple Chocolate Caramel Truffles

Makes 5 dozen

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Chilling time: 45 minutes (minimum)

2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1 C milk chocolate chips
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1 t salt)
1 T coffee powder
2 t vanilla
Confectioners sugar and Dark Cocoa powder for rolling the truffles in

Put all of the chocolate chips and the butter (and salt, if necessary) in a large bowl, and set aside.

Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and heat over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. In a separate pan, heat the heavy cream until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Heat the sugar/water mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar turns the color you prefer. NOTE: DO NOT stir the sugar – swirl to distribute the color evenly. 

Remove the cooked sugar from the heat, and add the warmed cream. Tilt the pan away from you, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. The mixture will rise up considerably, so use a pot with high sides. Stir until well combined.

Pour the caramel over the chocolate chips and butter. Whisk until smooth. Dissolve the coffee powder in the vanilla and stir into the chocolate caramel. Pour into a shallow pan and refrigerate until firm (at least 45 minutes).

Pour confectioners sugar into a bowl or plate. Using a small ice cream scoop, form truffles. Drop truffles in confectioners sugar and roll to coat. In another bowl or plate, put dark cocoa powder and roll truffles in it. Put coated truffles in a dish and chill. 

Before serving, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Let me know how you liked them!

20150923_224331

 

20150925_154027

 

Double Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

After making Coconut Chocolate Chip Macaroons, I started thinking about making chocolate macaroons. Everything’s better with chocolate, right?

I thought about the best way to do this, so experiment one was to use cocoa powder instead of using melted chocolate. The results were tasty, and my guinea pigs were guests at a 6-year-old birthday party. The plate wasn’t totally empty by the time we left, but there had been birthday cake, and there were very few macaroons left that I felt confident this recipe is good.

At some point, I’ll probably try this recipe with melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder. I usually have cocoa powder on hand, so wanted to try that first.

Judge for yourself, and let me know what you thought 🙂

Double Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Makes 5 dozen (depending on size; I use the small ice cream scoop to get this many)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 16:30 minutes/sheet pan of small macaroons; 18-19 minutes for the larger ones (using a regular sized ice cream scoop)

1 14 oz bag of sweetened, flaked coconut (can be toasted at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or used right out of the bag)
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla
1 pinch of Kosher salt
1 t coffee powder
2 T cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Dark Chocolate)
1 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 355 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, salt, and coffee powder. Once these ingredients are well combined, add in the cocoa powder. Mix thoroughly. Add the coconut, and stir to coat. Add the chocolate chips, and combine.

Using two teaspoons, two tablespoons, or an ice cream scoop, portion out cookies. On a half-sheet pan, I usually get 5 across and 6 down when I use the small ice cream scoop (30 per sheet pan). This recipe fills two full, and one partial, half-sheet pans. I occasionally make 5 or 6 large cookies, just to speed up the process. I find that a mix of small and large macaroons on the dessert platter look inviting.


20150919_124708
I tried an experiment using a mini-muffin tin. You’ll notice that a few of these have a cup shape, versus the mound shape from those cookies baked on parchment. I liked the taste (these came out chewier), but it was harder to get them out of the muffin tin. I used a chopstick to loosen the edges, and some came out easier than others. Those broken macaroons were used as quality control samples (my husband and I enjoyed them).

 

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

I’ve been posting desserts for the past few weeks, and it’s time to change it up 🙂

I love using puff pastry – it’s endlessly versatile, it can be used for both sweet and savory dishes, and it’s easy to create a dramatic dish. Best of all, it’s easily obtainable at the grocery store.

This is a fast and easy meal; I had it on the table less than an hour after walking in the front door. The key is to plan ahead at least one day, to give the puff pastry time to defrost. It is best to defrost it overnight in the refrigerator; it can be harder to handle if it defrosts unevenly.

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

Serves 2
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 25 min

1 sheet from a defrosted package of frozen puff pastry
2 T whole grain mustard (or your favorite)
2 T fig preserves (optional)
4 slices of baked ham
4 slices of Gouda cheese
1 egg, beaten with 1 T water

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

On a piece of parchment paper, lay out the sheet of puff pastry. Use a rolling pin to smooth out the seams. Loosen it from the parchment paper. Lay the parchment paper in a baking sheet, and put the puff pastry on it. Mix the mustard and fig preserves together; brush over the puff pastry, leaving a 1″ border. Lay the cheese in one layer over the mustard and preserves; lay the ham over the cheese.

Brush the egg wash all around the border. Carefully fold one half of the puff pastry/ham/cheese over the other half; crimp the edges to seal. Brush the top with egg wash, and cut slits in the top to vent.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit on a cutting board for a few minutes before cutting.

Delicious with a green salad, or some fruit. If you are serving more than two people, double the ham, cheese, mustard, and fig preserves. Use both sheets of puff pastry, filling the bottom of one and topping with the other. Cooking time remains the same.



S’mores Tarts

S’mores. I have fond memories of eating these at Girl Scout Camp and after barbecues or cookouts. If a grill was still warm, and we could toast marshmallows, we made s’mores.

Several years ago we had friends over for dinner. As a throwback to childhood, I bought marshmallows, chocolate bars (some with almonds – delicious nutty goodness!), and graham crackers. It had been years since we’d had them, and it brought memories racing back.

Flash forward to May 2015. Going to a Memorial Day party where kids might outnumber the adults, and I thought about how to make s’mores portable. I have used the small graham cracker tart shells in the past, and decided use them this time. 

They were a hit with kids and adults!

S’mores Tarts

Makes 12

2 C small marshmallows
Chocolate ganache (see recipe posted 8/27/15)
Marshmallow cream
12 graham-cracker tart shells

Place the tart shells on a baking sheet. Place 3-5 mini marshmallows in the bottom, and top with chocolate ganache. Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and place a dollop of marshmallow cream on the cooled ganache. Place baking sheets under the broiler, and broil until the marshmallow cream has warmed up and turned brown. Remove from oven and eat now or later.


Next time I make these, I’m going to use a torch to brown the marshmallow cream. It will be easier to evenly brown the tarts.