Oct 072017
Can you spot Cooper, the elusive Golden Retriever?

Can you spot Cooper, the elusive Golden Retriever?

It’s October 7, but the temperature has climbed to 80 degrees again. A perfect day for having a big glass of iced tea. I, like probably many of you, grew up drinking sun tea. In the summers when I was a kid there would often be a big glass jar of tea sitting on the picnic table in my backyard. Now, I make my iced tea differently. I use a cold brew method. No sunshine needed.

For every four cups (quart) of water I add either two teabags or two teaspoons of loose leaf tea. Combine the water and tea in a pitcher. Put in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight. Remove the tea bags or strain. Enjoy!

 October 7, 2017  Posted by  Food, Recipe Tags: ,  4 Responses »
Oct 242014

On Tuesday I turned Chicken Soup & Homicide in to my publisher. All summer there was a lot going on with life in general, beyond my writing life, so getting the book whipped into shape over the last month and a half was intense. I’ve written before about how I end up with food obsessions whenever I work on big writing projects. Beyond the always present coffee, the editing phase of this book brought on a craving for kimchi. Yay for a healthy obsession, for once!

Kimchi is spicy fermented vegetables that is also the national dish of Korea. Traditionally it’s made with cabbage, but it can be made with all kinds of vegetables. It’s one of those dishes that has seemingly endless varieties and every cook that makes it has their own version. I would love to try making it, but the last few months I haven’t had the time to experiment in the kitchen. If you want to try it here are a bunch of recipes from the Beyond Kimchi blog. :)

For the most part, I buy the mild version of the commercially made brand of kimchi at my local grocery store. A rather standard napa cabbage variety. It is garlicky, mildly sour, slightly salty and pleasantly spicy. I like the taste of the fermented cabbage, so I’m not particularly interested in the sinus clearing spicy version. A few weeks ago I found the cucumber kimchi pictured above at a farmer’s market. What a difference! Even though it is red with chili pepper flakes, it isn’t extremely spicy. You can definitely taste the ginger in this variety and the cucumber gives it a rather grassy “green” flavor. I love it.

So kimchi has been the flavor-packed ingredient that I’ve been adding to my quick lunches while I’ve been writing. One ingredient = a cornucopia of flavor. It’s great with ramen noodles or rice. I also like to accompany it with eggs, either poached in ramen broth or fried and slid on top of rice. My favorite dish so far has been rice topped with low-sodium soy sauce, a fried egg and kimchi. I actually do a one-pan version of this in my little 4-cup rice cooker, by cracking an egg on top of the almost cooked rice then letting it cook from the residual heat. Add soy sauce and the kimchi. Stir to break up the egg into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

Have you tried kimchi? If you have, do you have a favorite variety?

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads



Jul 252014

I have been doing daily, hand to hand combat with leftovers this summer. It seems that I have been routinely cooking too much food, either by miscalculating how much my family would enjoy a meal or by how many people would be eating the meal. My refrigerator shelves are a maze of containers full of meat, vegetables and rice or pasta. It’s a daily dilemma deciding what to do with those bits & bobs of meals past.

Eggs are a great partner in the fight to use up food before it has to be thrown away. Today I whipped up a Southwest-flavored frittata for one. It was my lunch, but could easily have been scaled up to feed more people. Here’s my basic “formula” for creating frittata from leftovers.

1. Raid your refrigerator for leftover meats, vegetables and grains or pastas. Chop whatever you choose into bite-sized pieces, keeping in mind that the more ingredients you have the less you’ll need of any single item.

2. Heat olive oil or butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add any uncooked ingredients, like meat or vegetables, and saute until cooked through. Add cooked ingredients (rice, quinoa, macaroni, cooked meat, grilled veggies, salsa, etc.) and heat until warm.

3. Meanwhile beat eggs. Two or three should be enough for a frittata for one person. Feel free to add a splash of water, milk, sour cream or even plain yogurt, along with salt and pepper.

4. Reduce heat to medium low and pour in eggs. Quickly stir to distribute the eggs. Cover and cook until top of eggs are set. Top with shredded cheese and recover to melt for a minute or two. Loosen the edge of the frittata with a spatula and slide onto a plate. Serve with hot sauce or salsa, if desired.

What is your favorite way to use up leftovers?

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.


Jul 052014

Fizzy drinks and summer just go together, in my opinion. I love making different kinds of citrus syrups to add to seltzer water. Or adding some sort of carbonated water to wine or sangria, just to add a bit of sparkle. One of my favorite beverage discoveries recently was La Croix Sparkling Water. It comes in flavors from all varieties of citrus to coconut AND I buy cases of 12 oz. cans. That means I can open a fresh, bubbly can for every drink and not worry about a big bottle going flat.

I’m on a bit of a coconut kick lately, so I decided to try combining two of the coconut beverages that are in my refrigerator right now. I have to admit, I’ve never been a big fan of egg creams, which don’t have eggs in them, by the way. Traditionally they are made of milk, vanilla or chocolate syrup and seltzer water. I like chocolate milk and I like most soda pops, but combining the two has never appealed to me. However, this coconut version is different. It’s very light and tastes like coconut, instead of dairy milk. Maybe that’s the difference. I prefer fizzy coconut beverages instead of effervescent milk.

Have you  ever tried an egg cream? Do you like them?

Chocolate Coconut "Egg" Cream
Recipe type: Beverage
Serves: 1
  • 1 cup Silk vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp (or more) chocolate syrup
  • 1 can La Croix Coconut Sparkling Water
  1. Combine coconut milk and chocolate syrup in a tall glass. Add a splash of sparkling water and stir vigorously. Slowly pour in more sparkling water until glass is full, stirring slowly and gently to combine.


This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 July 5, 2014  Posted by  Food, Recipe Tags:  10 Responses »
Jan 302014

It has been the winter of broken records. Snowfall totals, lowest temperatures and wind chills. I suspect the schools here may be heading for a record number of snow days in a school year, too. Although most of the days have been declared “inclement weather” days as it’s been dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills keeping schools closed. My kids had an unplanned 5 day weekend thanks to bad roads from snow on Friday and then the super frigid polar vortex wind chills along with severely drifted roads on Monday and Tuesday.

Even though I have been able to get out of the house with my 4-wheel drive pickup, there have been many days that I just didn’t want to leave. So I’ve been cooking from pantry and freezer items. I really need to make a big grocery shopping trip because my shelves are getting pretty bare after all of the bad weather this winter.

On Monday I thawed some sausage and decided that breakfast sounded good for dinner, as in waffles and sausage. I love trying different waffle recipes and I hit Pinterest to keep my mind off the snow blowing around outside. I found a recipe that produced a thick batter. Many of the recipes I’ve tried in the past have a thin, liquid batter and I wanted to see what the difference in viscosity would produce in the finished waffles. I made a few tweaks to the recipe to reduce the fat a bit (the original called for a whole stick of butter for only 5 or 6 waffles) and add some nice caramel-y flavor with the brown instead of white sugar. My kids loved them. Nice and dense, but in a good – not potential hockey puck, way. A really nice way to end a blustery day.

What are some of your favorite meals to cook from your pantry stash?

Hearty Waffles For Cold Days
Serves: 5-6
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1¾ cups milk
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Beat together eggs, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Add milk and melted butter. Mix well.
  3. Whisk in the baking powder and salt. Add the flour a bit at a time, whisking well after each addition, until batter is smooth and lumps are gone.
  4. Cook according to your waffle maker's directions. The dough is thick and doesn't spread a lot. I poured the batter in a ring around the center then filled in the center to make sure the batter spread almost to the edges of my Belgian waffle maker.


This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads


 January 30, 2014  Posted by  Cooper, Food, Recipe Tags: ,  24 Responses »
Dec 122013

I am literally in the middle of writing my mystery novel right now. Every day is spent squeezing in as many hours writing as I can. A quick lunch is good. When only a few more minutes spent prepping makes the meal really good . . . I’m a happy woman. My brain definitely needs some mid-morning fuel, along with more coffee, to keep writing for the following two hours or so before my kids get home from school.

So I’ve decided to share some of the particularly tasty lunch creations I occasionally invent. I try to keep inexpensive, squiggly blocks of ramen noodles on hand. If I’m really in a hurry I just cook the noodles and make a sauce with light miso (another pantry staple) dissolved in a bit of boiling water. It’s a warm, umami loaded meal for the bitterly cold winter days that have now arrived in Michigan. Yesterday I raided my refrigerator and came up with a slightly more sophisticated version of ramen with a bit of protein from the meat and egg along with a salty, sweet and slightly hot sauce. Of course, you can start with the noodles, egg and sauce then customize to your heart’s content. Add in some cooked chicken, cubed tofu or even leave it out. Adjust the sauce with more sriracha or maybe even a splash of rice wine vinegar or citrus juice. Some vegetables would be lovely, like a handful of frozen peas or bean sprouts added at the end along with the egg. A bit of sesame seeds and some green onion would’ve been delicious sprinkled on at the end. As you can see, it’s a rather homely dish made of brown on tan, but I thought it was very good.

How do you dress up ramen noodles?

Ramen Noodles with Egg Threads & Pork
Recipe type: Lunch
Serves: 1
A quick and inexpensive meal that is much tastier than using the seasoning packet that comes with the noodles
  • 1 - 3 oz. package ramen noodle soup (any flavor)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup cooked pork, finely chopped
  • Sauce:
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 t oyster sauce
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • ½ t sriracha hot sauce
  • ½ t toasted sesame oil
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add ½ of the seasoning packet that comes with the noodles and the block of noodles, broken up a bit to make them easier to eat. Boil noodles for about 2 minutes, or until soft. In the meantime, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. With a fork, quickly stir the noodles and drizzle the beaten egg into the swirling broth/noodles. Add the pork. Heat for another minute or until the meat is warm. Drain in a mesh strainer. Put in bowl and stir in sauce.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 December 12, 2013  Posted by  Recipe, Writer's Lunch Tags:  12 Responses »
Nov 152013

It is comfort food season here in Michigan. The trees have lost their brilliant, autumn plumage and now stand as gray skeletons in yards and wood lots. Cold wind has been eating through light jackets and sweatshirts, prompting an outbreak of winter coats among people who have to venture outside. At times it has been difficult to fall asleep because the wind has continued into the night, bumping and banging on the house’s siding and shutters like a Halloween monster that has overstayed its welcome. This is the time of year when cold salads and iced tea lose their appeal. It’s time for warm, hearty food and steaming hot coffee or tea. Although, I have to admit I drink hot coffee all year long. My path through the morning is long and bumpy if I don’t get my dose of dark and steamy caffeine a few minutes after stumbling out of bed.

So, now I am craving things like thick stews and bubbling casseroles, but I don’t have the time to make anything time consuming or fussy. Not only is the holiday season barreling closer I have a big, exciting, slightly-terrifying-to-my-flash-fiction-writer-side writing project. I have to write down in my planner, every day, what time I need to pick up my kids from their after-school activities because I will forget. In fact, I was half an hour late picking up my daughter earlier this week because my brain didn’t adjust to her appointment being half an hour earlier than usual. This is a time when I take a break from my writing tasks and realize it’s the middle of the afternoon and I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner, but I need to figure that out quickly because I need to leave in 15 minutes to pick up the kids from school and that is when I will also have to stop at the grocery store.

Thank goodness for Pinterest. About a month or so ago I pinned a recipe for beans and ham made in the crockpot. Now this recipe takes some planning, you need to cook it all day, but it doesn’t get much easier. I grew up eating my mom’s homemade bean soup and I have always loved it. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of beans unless they are in spicy chili. The recipe I pinned was just dried beans, ham hocks and water. Much to my surprise, my husband actually liked the resulting thick soup. Since I love to tinker with recipes, the next time I made it I added in some of the ingredients my mom used in her soup and the result is the recipe below. I also have ideas for quite a few variations on this that I will be trying over the winter.

A few notes, you don’t have to soak the beans overnight before beginning this recipe. I was skeptical about that, but was pleasantly surprised at the tender beans and thick broth. I highly suggest using smoked ham shanks if you can get them. I used a combo of shanks and hocks the first time and could barely get any meat at all off of the hocks, but there was more than enough on the shanks to make a nicely meaty soup. By the way, I topped my soup off with liberal drizzles of sriracha hot sauce and it was an excellent way to add a bit of spicy heat.

What are some of your favorite ingredients to add to bean soup?

Slow Cooker White Bean & Ham Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
A thick, hearty soup that takes very little effort to prepare.
  • 1 lb. dried northern (white) beans
  • 2 smoked ham shanks or meaty ham hocks - 1½ to 2 lbs. total
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 6 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sort through the beans and pick out any debris. Place in a strainer and rinse with water to remove any dust or dirt. Add all of the ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove the meat from the shanks, shred and add back into the beans.

This post is part of the Weekend Cooking meme at Beth Fish Reads.

 November 15, 2013  Posted by  Food, Recipe Tags:  30 Responses »
Nov 112013

I am guest posting at the Life’s A Stage Weblog today. Stop by and get a two for one deal. You can read a review of The Queen of Bad Decisions as well as my guest post which includes a recipe for simple rice pudding. Warm, rice pudding is one of my ultimate comfort foods. Since the recipe is more like a porridge than custard, I figure it’s a perfectly acceptable breakfast as well as a snack or dessert. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think! Just click below to go to the post. By the way, make sure you take a look around Estrella’s blog. She is a wonderful, creative person. There are many beautiful pictures of the city she lives in, located in the Transylvania region of Romania, as well as regional specialty recipes.

Guest Post at Life’s A Stage Weblog

Oct 092013

As with everything else in life, my food preferences have changed over time. As a child and into my mid-20’s I couldn’t stand fresh tomato. Cooked tomato in things like spaghetti sauce was fine, but finding a slice of tomato on my hamburger had the potential to ruin my entire meal, depending on how easily it could be removed and how much “residue” was left behind. I’m still not to the point where I can pop a cherry tomato into my mouth and enjoy it, but I do like thin slices on my sandwiches and I gobble up fresh tomato salsa.

Dates are another one of those formerly-hated foods. As a kid I would scarf down any baked good my mom made, unless it had dates in it. Date bread and date bars were left to the adults. My interest in dates has just developed over the last year or so. I’ve seen dates used on some of my favorite food blogs, so maybe that is what piqued my curiosity now. I don’t know. I DO know that dates are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. They’re also a great way to add some healthy sweetness to a smoothie.

I used chopped dates, soaked in hot water for a bit, for the first few incarnations of this smoothie. Even with my high-powered blender, I still ended up with straw-clogging date chunks. So I popped the rest of the package of dates into a sauce pan, covered with water and simmered them for 10 or 15 minutes. I removed the dates (saved the liquid) and pureed them in my food processor. I ended up using a bit of the liquid to thin the paste out. Using this paste makes my smoothies much more…smooth. The Green Thickies blog has several ways to make date paste, along with a ton of healthy smoothie recipes. My smoothie is a great, filling way to squelch some of those pesky sugar cravings without the use of refined sugar.

If you also have a craving for a bit of fiction, I have also written a story that features this recipe. It stars one of the main characters in the Bartonville series. I’m offering it as a “thank you” for people who sign up for my new newsletter (I promise I won’t bug you with frequent or annoying emails). Sign up form is here or in my sidebar.

Date Cookie Dough Smoothie
Recipe type: Smoothie
Serves: 1 large or 2 small
Note: If you would like a smoother texture, cook and cool the oatmeal first
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons date paste
  • ¼ cup oatmeal (regular or quick)
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 frozen banana, cut into chunks
  1. Put ingredients in blender in order given. Pulse a few times to get everything moving and then blend until smooth.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

May 312013

I can’t believe the end of the school year is here. Three more days for my kids. They’re both happy and busy. And I’m the same way. I’ve been busy getting some “things” in place with my books and writing. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family, but I’m feeling a bit scrambled right now. It seems that we’re always doing something in the summer. Because we are busy it feels like I am often squeezing things in. Quick and easy is the theme of summer for me.

Last weekend, when I found out that I needed to bring a dish to a picnic I decided a dessert would be good, particularly cake.  Keeping hot food hot and cold food cold is always a challenge at potlucks. No reason to worry about that with cake! To keep with my quick and easy summer credo, I started consulting my collection of Cake Mix Doctor (by Anne Byrn) cookbooks. Yes, made from scratch cakes are best, but the author has some great ideas to dress up time saving mixes. There is also advice on choosing the right cake mix for a recipe, substitutions and tips for working with mixes in all of her books. I settled on a recipe from Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor: Lemonade Angel Cakes.

Not only were they delicious, they were also easy and inexpensive. After reading through the recipe I had expected a subtle lemon flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised at how lemony they turned out to be. Combine the refreshing lemon with a light cake texture and they were heavenly! My daughter proclaimed that we would have to make them again soon. I topped them with a whipped frosting from a can, because I was again afraid the recommended lemon cream cheese icing wouldn’t hold up well in warm weather. Honestly, I liked the cupcakes better without the icing.

I really like this recipe as it is, but I can’t help but think there are many ways it could be changed and customized. Sounds like some experiments are in order this summer. Until I come up with my own version of this recipe, I thought I’d share the original one.

Lemonade Angel Cakes
Serves: 22-24 cupcakes
This recipe is from "Cupcakes! From The Cake Mix Doctor" by Anne Byrn
  • 1 - 16 oz. package angel food cake mix
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup thawed, frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 24 paper cupcake liners
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcakes cups with the liners and set aside.
  2. Place the cake mix, water and lemonade concentrate in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, scraping down sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Spoon ⅓ cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it ¾ full. Remove any unused liners (makes 22-24 cupcakes). Place the pans in the oven.
  3. Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 20-22 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and continue to let them cool on wire racks, at least 15 minutes before frosting.
  4. Can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for 1 week.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads

 May 31, 2013  Posted by  Food, Recipe Tags:  9 Responses »