Monthly Archives: August 2012

Eggs, etc.

Laura Child’s latest series,* Cackleberry Club Mysteries  (Did you know cackleberry is slang for egg?  I didn’t.) has three middle-aged women opening a breakfast/lunch restaurant that morphs into an afternoon tearoom and also sells books and knitting supplies on the side.  I guess this makes sense as I can’t imagine that as stand-alone shops any one of these ventures would succeed in a small Midwestern town.  These three friends have definitely cornered the niche market; all they need to do is do is add a small boutique or jewelry shop to appeal to all the women in town.

So far, I have read the first two books in the series, Eggs in Purgatory and Eggs Benedict Arnold.  As mysteries, they are average.  The stories ramble on with lots of suspects, but then seem to hurriedly come to a conclusion and especially in the second book, the murderer seems to come out of left field, but all the recipes sound delicious.  I haven’t yet made anything from Eggs in Purgatory, but I want to try several including Cherry Pie Muffins, Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, and Easy Sour Cream Biscuits.  I’ve tried two recipes from Eggs Benedict Arnold: Chicken Croquettes and Frozen Lemonade Pie.  I would consider the Chicken Croquettes to be more like crab cakes than croquettes.  Any croquettes I have ever eaten have had either a white sauce or mashed potatoes as a base with meat or vegetables mixed in, then were rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried.  These had no white sauce or mashed potatoes, had the bread crumbs mixed in and were pan fried.  But name quibble aside, they were quite tasty and the family all agreed they were worth making again.  Next time though I’d add more cheese and use a heavier hand with the seasonings.  The Frozen Lemonade Pie was very easy to make with just four ingredients, but was a little too sweet for my taste.  (I don’t like things as sweet as most people.  When I bake, I generally cut the sugar by 1/3.)  If I make it again, I’d probably cut back on the sweetened condensed milk.  The next recipe I want to try from the second book is Blueberry Breakfast Squares, which is a simple cake with a blueberry filling.

The verdict: average mysteries but worth reading, mainly for the recipes.

*Her earlier series are Tea Shop Mysteries and Scrapbook Mysteries.

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2012 Cozy Theme Reading Challenge–Finished!

Well, it took until the very last day, but I finished the Goodreads Cozy Theme Reading Challenge and I was able to complete my personal challenge of reading cozies that contained recipes as well.

Here’s what I read:

#1 British – English – Books that take place in the United Kingdom countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I read Aunt Dimity and the Duke for this, but I also read an Aunt Dimity book for the paranormal category and it felt a little like cheating to read two books from the same series, so I kept looking.  It took until the day before the challenge ended to find another book that was not only set in Britain, but also had a recipe.  Sweet Revenge by Andrea Penrose actually has 25 chocolate recipes—one at the beginning of each chapter. Most of the recipes contain either liquor or coffee, neither of which I drink, so won’t be trying them, but there were a few recipes I might try: Salted Chocolate Caramels, Cacao Shortbread, Chocolate Angel Food Cake and Spiced Hot Chocolate.  Sweet Revenge could also have worked for the historical category as it is set in 1813.  Lady Arianna Hadley sneaks back to London years after her father escaped to the Caribbean. She is determined to revenge her father’s banishment and death.  When reaching her goal gets her tangled up with the poisoning of the Prince Regent, she joins forces with government agent, Lord Saybrook to help solve both their mysteries.  The story had mystery, adventure, romance, history, and humor (some of it on the bawdy side) as well as chocolate history and recipes.

#2 Historical/Period – Any book that takes place prior to 1940.

The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Witting Albert which I talked about in a previous post.

#3 Animals – Any book with an animal as a main character, subject of the book, book takes place in a pet shop, stable, etc.

Actually, I read four books in the Jane Stuart and Winky (Jane’s cat) series by Evan Marshal for this one so I could could count the fourth one, Icing Ivy for the challenge.  Why four?  I wanted a cozy with a recipe and I like to read series in order and it took till number four to get a recipe for Trinidadian Curried Cascadoo (a fish).

Though the series is billed as Jane Stuart and Winky, the cat really was a minor character who would just happen to sit on the one clue Jane needed.  Really?  I should have used this for the professions category as there were a lot of details about Jane’s job as a literary agent.

#4 Culinary/Cooking – Food themed mysteries.

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames is the second book in the Cheese Shop Mysteries. Besides the expected recipes for fondue and quiche there is one for Porcupine Meatballs.  (Aames’ recipe can be found here: http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/2011/05/kid-friendly-porcupines.html)  I haven’t made her version, but I do have fond memories of eating porcupines as a child.  Sadly, when I made them for my own family, they were not impressed.

#5 Paranormal – Anything centered around the occult, witches, vampires, werewolves, Psychics, ghosts, etc.

Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton also mentioned in a previous post.

#6 Vacation Mysteries/Exotic Locations – Any book that takes place outside the United States and/or outside the country in which you live.

This one took me a while.  I knew I could use a book from Nancy Fairbank’s Carolyn Blue series, but I was hoping to find a new series, but when I couldn’t I ran to the library in the next town (My home library does not have very many books in this series which is why I put it to the side in the first place.  I am too impatient to wait for interlibrary loans.) and borrowed Mozzarella Most Murderous.  It meant reading out of order because the next one on the list that I hadn’t read was set in the U.S., but I didn’t have time to read up to it.

In this title, Carolyn accompanies her husband to a conference in Italy and her sightseeing companion of the day before ends up at the bottom of the swimming pool.  On her way to solving the murder, Carolyn eats lots of delicious Italian food including Insalata Caprese, Lemon Torte and Stuffed Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese.  I have already tried Fairbanks’ Campania-Style Hamburger, which is a breaded burger, covered with mozzarella cheese, tomato and pesto and served on garlic toast.  (The recipe said to drizzle garlic olive oil on toast, but I shortcutted by using some frozen Texas Toast that I fried, grilled cheese-style.)  Though it is supposed to be slow food, my husband gobbled it up very fast.  He really liked it; the kids not so much.  He voted to make it again.

#7 Holidays – Any holiday themed mystery.

Christmas was the theme of the holiday cozy, Gingerbread Bump-Off by Livia J. Washburn.  The chairwomen of the town’s holiday house parade is killed with a blow to the head from a ceramic gingerbread man grabbed from Phyllis’s front porch.  The recipes are seasonally appropriate, including one for Chocolate Mint Coffee Spoons (gifts?), Slow-Bake Gingerbread Ornaments (decorating?), Winter Cranberry Cider (entertaining?) and of course, Gingerbread Boys with Cream Cheese Frosting.

#8 Hobbies – Any mystery that centers around a hobby, craft, sport, etc.

Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton is the second book in the Knitting Mystery series that centers around a knitting shop and the knitters who gather there.  Kelly Flynn, who came home to Colorado from Washington, D.C. to deal with her aunt’s death is now telecommuting to her job, settling in and making friends.  She and another knitting shop friend volunteer to take some out-of-town knitters to a local alpaca ranch only to discover the owner dead when they get there.  The book includes two simple knitting patterns and a recipe for blueberry pie.

#9 Professions/Careers/Jobs/Occupations – Any mystery that centers on or highlights a particular job. Doesn’t matter if the job is that of the person murdered, or that of the amateur sleuth.

Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen is a baker. Yum. (So this series could also fit into the food category.)  Cinnamon Roll Murder, the latest addition to this series has Hannah finding another dead body. (How can one small town have so many murders?) But really, it’s the recipes we care about.  Most are for baked goods, but Fluke will offer up an occasional “hot dish” (what Minnesotans call a casserole), salad or side. This time around the reader gets 22 recipes, including Lemon Cake, Peaches and Cream Cookies and something called Piggy Chicken.

#10 Senior Sleuths – Read a mystery where the sleuth is 50 or older.

I could have used another Fresh-Baked mystery by Washburn as her sleuth is a retired school teacher, but like my Aunt Dimity dilemma, I wanted to use a different series.  I found Biggie and the Poisoned Politician by Nancy Bell.  Biggie’s story is told from the point-of-view- of her 12-year-old grandson who nicknamed her Biggie when he was a toddler. Now everybody in the small Texas town calls Fiona Weatherford Biggie.  When the mayor drops dead in his dessert, Biggie starts poking around with the help of her grandson, her voodoo practicing maid, Willie Mae and Willie Mae’s husband, Rosebud.  Included is a recipe for gumbo.

Overall, what did I think?  I enjoyed the challenge, especially with my extra personal challenge as it got me to seek out new series.  I found some tasty recipes, which is always a bonus.  Next time though, I’ll be sure to start at the beginning, not two months late so I have more time to enjoy the reading and the recipes.

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