Readable Eats: Lane Stone's "Domestic Affairs" and Roasted Vegetable Pizza

Welcome back to Readable Eats, the series where we pair binge-worthy books from Cozy Cat Press with recipes inspired by our favorite authors. This week, we're cooking up roasted vegetable pizza inspired by the vegetable pizza Leigh makes in Domestic Affairs (Tiara Investigations Book 2) by Lane Stone. When not writing, Lane spends her time traveling, playing golf, and pursuing a graduate certificate in Antiquities Theft and Art Crime. You can purchase Domestic Affairs here. For the first book in the Tiara Investigations series, click here.  

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The recipe for the pizza, including dough and sauce, is below.

 

For the pizza dough:

1 packet fast-acting yeast

¾ cup warm water

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1.     In a large bowl, mix yeast and water together and let sit 5 minutes until bubbly.

2.     Add sugar, salt, and oil to yeast and mix with fork to combine.

3.     Add flour and, using your hands, mix with liquid ingredients until a soft dough forms.

4.     Oil the bowl and coat the dough with the oil, then cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for one hour.

 

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons oil

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 shallot, diced

1/3 cup tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

pinch dried rosemary

½ teaspoon each of basil and oregano

½ can crushed tomatoes

1.     In a small saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and add shallot and garlic, sautéing for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper and continue to sauté until fragrant. Then, add tomato paste and stir with shallot and garlic for 2 minutes.

2.     Add spices and tomatoes, then lower heat and allow sauce to simmer 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat. 

 

For the vegetables:

½ eggplant, cubed

½ green pepper sliced

2 tablespoons oil

½ teaspoon each salt and pepper

1.     Heat oven to 400F. Spread eggplant and pepper on a baking sheet, then toss with oil, salt, and pepper, and bake 30-40 minutes, or until browned.

 

To assemble:

1. Heat oven to 400F. Roll the pizza dough into a 10-inch circle on a floured baking tray or round pan. Cover with sauce, then sprinkle evenly with roasted vegetables. At this point, you can add the cheese of your choice, or abstain for a dairy-free pizza. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is slightly browned.

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Readable Eats: Diane Morlan's "Too Dead to Dance" and Coffee Brownies

Welcome back to another series where we pair binge-worthy books from Cozy Cat Press with recipes inspired by our favorite authors. This week, we're baking coffee brownies inspired by the espresso brownies Jennifer Penny's friend Megan makes in Too Dead To Dance (Jennifer Penny Mystery) by Diane Morlan. Diane lives in Illinois and works part-time at the Kishwaukee College Library. You can purchase Too Dead to Dance here. For the second installment of the Jennifer Penny series, click here.  

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The recipe for the brownies is included below.

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Ingredients:
3/4 cup soymilk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons freshly brewed coffee (decaf is okay here)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the soymilk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to thicken for 5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. It's okay if there are some small lumps of cocoa powder.
4. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla to the bowl of soymilk and vinegar and stir well. Add this to the dry ingredients and fold to incorporate liquid with dry ingredients. 
5. Add chopped chocolate, nuts, and coffee to the batter and mix to combine. 
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes. If you like gooey brownies, remove from oven when a knife inserted into the brownies comes out with wet crumbs. If you like your brownies a bit firmer, leave brownies in the oven until a knife inserted into them comes out clean. 

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Don't forget to check us out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on our new releases! 
 

 

Readable Eats: Carmen Will's 'Doubly Departed' and Lasagna with Garlic Bread and Salad

Welcome back to another series where we pair binge-worthy books from Cozy Cat Press with recipes inspired by our favorite authors. This week, we're cooking lasagna with garlic bread and salad inspired by the food Amanda Winters brings to her best friend Dinah's house in Doubly Departed: An Amanda Winters Mystery by Carmen Will. Carmen lives in Arizona and is currently at work on her second novel in the Amanda Winters series. You can purchase her book here

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The recipes for the lasagna, garlic bread and salad are below.

Lasagna

For the tomato sauce:
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon of olive oil
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon each of basil and oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, sautee garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Then, turn the heat down and add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning and cook ten minutes on low until sauce has cooked down and looks thicker. Add vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and continue cooking 5 minutes, then turn off the burner and remove from heat.  

For the bechamel sauce:
1-1/2cups milk (for dairy-free, use unsweetened soy milk)
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (for vegetarian or vegan, use nutritional yeast)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium-sized frying pan heat milk on medium heat until beginning to scald, then whisk in flour and let mixture thicken, 3-5 minutes. Then, add salt, pepper, and cheese, and whisk to combine. Then, take off heat. 

For the roasted vegetables:
2 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise 1/4" thick
1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4" thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 375F.
2. Mix olive oil with oregano, salt and pepper in small cup or bowl. 
2. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil, then place slices of zucchini and eggplant close together and use pastry brush to coat slices on one side with seasoned oil. Bake 10 minutes, then flip slices and coat with remaining oil. Bake another 5-10 minutes until golden brown, then remove from oven and immediately use spatula to place slices on clean plate (this prevents them from sticking to the foil once cooled). 

For the noodles:
2 cups of fusili pasta noodles

1. Cook noodles according to package instructions and drain. 

For assembly:
1. Heat the oven to 350F. In an 8x8 glass baking dish, use a ladle to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of sauce. Then, add a layer of roasted vegetables on top of the sauce, followed by more sauce, half of the pasta, and half of the white sauce. Repeat the process once more, adding grated cheese on top of the final layer of white sauce if desired. Cook 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Garlic Bread

Ingredients:
Half a loaf of french bread
1/4 cup butter (for dairy-free or vegan, use vegan buttery spread)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chilies
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (for vegetarian or vegan, use nutritional yeast)
 

1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt butter. Then, add garlic, sauteeing until it begins to sizzle. Add seasonings and take pan off heat.
2. Cut a baguette in half lengthwise, leaving the loaf connected the the bottom. Spread with buttery mixture and top with parmesan or nutritional yeast.
3. Broil 3-5 minutes until crust is golden.

Salad with hearts of romaine, arugula, tomatoes and cheesy croutons

Ingredients:
1 small head romance lettuce, washed and chopped
1 small bag argula, washed and chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 baguette
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (for vegetarian or vegan, use nutritional yeast)
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
 

1. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 325F. Slice the baguette into small cubes, then toss with 3 tabelspoons of olive oil plus salt, pepper and cheese. Bake 15 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure all sides are evenly browned. 
2. In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and a dash of salt. Set aside. 
2. To assemble the salad, toss the romaine, arugula, croutons and tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. 

 

A feast to fill your belly before you sit down with a copy of Carmen Will's "Doubly Departed."

A feast to fill your belly before you sit down with a copy of Carmen Will's "Doubly Departed."

Don't forget to check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on our new releases!

Eating and Reading: J.T. Toman's Banana Ice Cream and "Picking Lemons"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cat Cooks: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favorite Cozy Cat Authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, Cozy Cat will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cat Cooks will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

This week, we’re whipping up J.T. Toman's Banana Ice Cream, an easy, quick recipe to make so you can fulfill your dessert cravings and be back reading her gripping novel, Picking Lemons, in under five minutes. Picking Lemons is available for purchase from Amazon. Below you’ll find the recipe for this scrumptious frozen treat.

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Ingredients:

3 frozen bananas, sliced    

Directions:  

1. Put sliced banana pieces into food processor.

2. Process on high speed until the banana is smooth and creamy.  **A word of warning. At first, the mixture will look grainy. Keep processing! Suddenly, like a miracle, your mixture will turn smooth, creamy, and delicious!

3. Eat immediately or place in a container in the freezer. 

**For variety, you can add other ingredients (like peanut butter, chocolate pieces, or maple syrup) once the ice cream had become smooth and creamy.             

Two batches of Banana Ice Cream, one with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1/4 tablespoon of cocoa powder, the other with 1-1/2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

Two batches of Banana Ice Cream, one with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1/4 tablespoon of cocoa powder, the other with 1-1/2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

Thanks for tuning in for our "Eating and Reading" series, and be sure to check back in after the new year for more exciting content from Cozy Cat Press!

                    

Eating and Reading: Diane Weiner's Vegetarian Squash Bake and "Murder is Collegiate"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cat Cooks: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favourite Cozy Cat Authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, Cozy Cat will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cat Cooks will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

 

This week, we’re cooking Diane Weiner’s Vegetarian Squash Bake, a hearty meal that is a cinch to make, leaving plenty of time to devour her Susan Wiles Schoolhouse mystery, Murder is Collegiate, available from Amazon.

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Ingredients

One medium-size spaghetti squash

1 ½ cups frozen soy crumbles

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves minced garlic

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (for dairy-free or vegan, sub with vegan mozzarella cheese)

¾ tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup parmesan cheese (for dairy-free or vegan, sub with vegan parmesan cheese, or omit)

1 thinly sliced tomato 

 

1.     Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2.     Pierce the squash a few times with a fork, put in the microwave for 8 minutes or until it’s easy to cut.

3.     Cut the squash in half lengthwise, take out seeds and dark strands.

4.     Microwave soy crumbles so they are defrosted (1-2 minutes).

5.     Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Sauté the garlic, then add soy crumbles and water.

6.     Scrape the squash flesh using a fork until it separates and looks like spaghetti. Put in a bowl. Add soy crumbles, ¾ cups mozzarella, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, stir together.

7.     Fill the squash halves with the mixture, top with tomato slices. Place on a baking sheet or in a baking pan, bake on lower oven rack for 10 minutes.

8.     Top with remaining cheese, move to top rack and broil until cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.   

The finished product.

The finished product.

Stay tuned next week for a sweet finish to our Eating and Reading series.

An Interview with Alice K. Boatwright

 Alice K. Boatwright is a full-time author living in the Pacific Northwest. Although she now devotes her time entirely to fiction, her career as a writer has ranged from university teaching to handling communications for non-profit organizations serving the arts, education, and public health sectors.  Her writing has taken her around the world, and she has lived in England and France, experiences that have hugely influenced her fiction. Her Ellie Kent mysteries, set in England, are published by Cozy Cat Press, with the second one, What Child Is This?, released on November 15th. I sat down to talk with Alice about her writing influences, how being abroad inspired her, and her advice on beating writer’s block.

 

1. What inspired you to start writing cozy mystery novels?

I have loved mysteries ever since I was a young reader, and the first adult book I read was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I think I was about 11, and I still remember being captivated, terrified, and shocked by that story. It opened my eyes to what fiction can do. . . and I wanted to do it myself.  The “cozy mystery” as a genre has evolved away from its roots with the classic mystery writers, such as Agatha Christie, so I think my books are closer to what is now called “traditional.”

 

2. What books and other authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

In addition to Du Maurier, I am most inspired by classic mystery writers such as Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, and Margery Allingham. Their prose is always clear and simple, and their stories are intelligent, though they represent a range of seriousness and complexity. I also love European writers, such as Georges Simenon (Inspector Maigret), Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo (Martin Beck), Karin Fossum (Inspector Sejer), and Äsa Larsson (Rebecka Martinsson). And these are just the mystery writers! 

 

3. How do your writing ideas come to you? Do you get an idea for a character first, then the plot, or visa versa?

For me, character comes first. The idea of writing about an American living in England came out of my own experiences as an ex-pat. Also, Americans are usually portrayed very unsympathetically in English literature. They are boorish, loud, uncultured, greedy, etc. The challenge of writing an American character that English readers would enjoy appealed to me. The vicar is also almost universally portrayed negatively. . . so Graham Kent goes very much against the stereotype. The relationship between Ellie and Graham is an important through-line for the series. . . and then there are the murders. Creating the puzzle and the investigation is a lot fun and also very challenging.

 

4. Has your experience living in the UK helped you write the setting and characters for the Ellie Kent mysteries set in England?

Certainly, it has been essential. However, the longer I live in “Little Beecham,” the more my own fictional villages and towns become real to me. So that’s the England I live in every day when I am writing.

 

5. How has your experience of writing and publishing changed between publication of your first book, Collateral Damage and your new book, What Child Is This?

The writing process is the same, but, even in the very short period of five years, the publishing world has changed a lot with the growth of indie publishing and the increase of online reading. Working with Cozy Cat Press has been a pleasure, because CCP’s business model gives authors more autonomy than most publishers in marketing their books. In traditional publishing, authors have plenty of responsibility to help with promotion, but little authority in the process.

 

6. What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule?

I used to write in the early morning before I commuted to my job. Now I am writing “full-time,” so I write first thing in the morning, in the late afternoon, or all day. . . depending on where I am in a project. I have also learned that my job as a 21st century author involves a lot of other tasks in addition to writing, such as keeping my website up to date and communicating with readers through social media and my newsletter.

 

7. What do you want to communicate to your readers?

I want to entertain them with a good story, but also to engage them in the lives of my characters. In addition to “Whodunit?” the Ellie Kent mysteries look at questions, such as what makes a family and what is home. I heard a writer say that you should remember that your murderer thinks he/she is the hero of the story. That really struck me, and I hope my stories convey that nothing about human beings and their relationships is ever black and white.

 

8. Has teaching writing at the university level affected the way that you approach your own writing?

I have taught English composition (essay writing for college students) and all levels of fiction writing. Teaching helps enormously because you have to try to articulate what you do and why.  I also love helping other people to discover the pleasure (and pain. . . ) of writing about their thoughts, experiences, and imaginings.

 

9. Why do you think the fictional setting of Little Beecham lends itself well to a cozy mystery?

Traditional mysteries often rely on a “closed room” – meaning that the range of possible killers and victims is physically limited by virtue of the characters all being in a remote country house, on a train or boat, or. . . living in a village.  In my books, Little Beecham offers a base for the ensemble of recurring characters to which I can add new and different elements each time. I think cozy mystery readers like the “cozy” feeling of returning to a familiar setting.

 

10. What are you working on now? Can we expect more from Ellie Kent?

I am planning the third and fourth books in the Ellie Kent series, which will be set in the spring and summer of her first year in England. (The first two books are about autumn and winter.)

 

11. From where do you take inspiration?

Everywhere. My whole life. That’s one of the things I love about writing fiction. It’s all made up, but it’s draws on so many things you’ve done, read, felt, imagined, dreamed of. Just to cite one example, I loved writing about Hamlet in my new book. The first job I ever had was as a minstrel at a Shakespeare theatre in Connecticut, and I used to sing Ophelia’s songs, so I was delighted to have them find their way into What Child Is This?

 

12. How do you deal with writer’s block?

I am fortunate to have several writer/artist friends, and we talk each other through our times of fear and insecurity. Sometimes it’s best just to change focus, write something fun, rather than what you are stuck on, or do something completely different. Go for a walk. Bake a cake. Talk to the cat. And then come back to your writing. I’m a great believer in never giving up.

 

 

Eating and Reading: Barbara Jean Coast's Caramel Apple Pecan Scones and "Strangled in Silk"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the oven and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cat Cooks: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favorite Cozy Cat Authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, Cozy Cat will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cat Cooks will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

The authors, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, who make up Barbara Jean Coast

The authors, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, who make up Barbara Jean Coast

This week, we’re cooking Barbara Jean Coast’s Caramel Apple Pecan Scones, the perfect sweet treat to snack on while perusing her mystery, Strangled by Silk, available for purchase from Amazon. Below you’ll find the recipe, which makes between 8-15 scones, depending on what size you cut the dough.

 

Ingredients

For the scones:

2 cups of peeled and diced apples (roughly two large apples)

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. vanilla extract                          

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup light cream  (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 1 cup vegan creamer)                                     

2 Tbsps. baking powder     

1 tsp salt

12 Tbsps. unsalted butter (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 12 Tbsps. vegan buttery spread)

1 cup of pecan halves, toasted

 

For the caramel sauce:

2 cups packed brown sugar            

½ cup cream (for dairy-free/vegan, sub ½ cup vegan creamer)                                     

8 Tbsps. butter, cut into pieces (for dairy-free/vegan, sub 8 Tbsps. vegan buttery spread)

1 tsp vanilla (optional)

 

1.     Make the caramel sauce by adding brown sugar and cream to a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir to combine well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the butter and allow it to melt completely.

2.     Bring mixture to a rolling boil, and then cook until mixture is thickened, about 5-7 minutes. If adding vanilla, allow the sauce to cool 5 minutes before adding.

3.     Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (220 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.

4.     Dice the apples, and toast the pecans in a small frying pan over medium heat or in the oven at 350 degrees F (176 C) for 5 minutes or until just fragrant.

5.     Mix the cream with the vanilla extract and set aside.

6.     Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.

7.     Cut the cold butter into chunks and add to the flour mixture. Using your hands, a pastry cutter, or two knives, mix until it resembles pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the diced apple, gently tossing.

8.     Make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture; pour cream mixture into the hole. Add half of the caramel mixture in as well. Quickly stir it together until it’s blended.

**It’s important to stir quickly here because the caramel can start to harden once it is poured into the cream.

9.     Allow dough to rest for 2 minutes. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny (4-5 minutes) and roll in the pecans while kneading. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and pat into a round.

10. At this point you can choose to cut into wedged pieces or to create smaller rounds. Whatever you choose, be sure to leave space between your scones at least ½ an inch.

11. Bake in the preheated oven 18-20 minutes. Half way through baking, put the remaining caramel sauce on top of each one to glaze. The tops of the scones will be light brown and caramel-covered. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 20 minutes before serving.

 

A few of the scrumptious batch of Caramel Apple Pecan Scones!

A few of the scrumptious batch of Caramel Apple Pecan Scones!

 

Stay tuned next week, when we’ll be cooking up some saucy squash to go with a collegiate mystery.

Eating and Reading: D. Ray Pauwels' Veggie Chili and "Who Iced the Snowman?"

Though cozy mysteries can and should be read at all times of the year, winter brings with it the perfect weather for curling up inside and reading mysteries by the fire. That same weather also makes it the perfect time of year to fire up the stove and experiment in the kitchen, and Cozy Cat’s cookbook, Cozy Cats Cook: Over 20 Authors Share Recipes, will help you expand your repertoire with enticing recipes from your favorite Cozy Cat authors. The cookbook can be purchased from Amazon.

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This winter, the Cozy Cat Blog will be publishing four installments of an “Eating and Reading” blog series where recipes from Cozy Cats Cook will be paired with one of Cozy Cat’s mysteries.

 

This week, we’re cooking D. Ray Pauwels’ “No Fire Without Smoke” Veggie Chili sin Carne, a delectable vegetarian chili bursting with rib-sticking flavor. Pauwels’ dish is an easy one-pot meal that goes well when paired with his funny, wintry mystery, Who Iced the Snowman?, available for purchase from Amazon. Below you’ll find the recipe.

D. Ray Pauwels enjoying his chili. 

D. Ray Pauwels enjoying his chili. 

Ingredients:

2-3 cloves garlic or more     

1 large white or red onion 

2 Tbsp. chili powder             

1 Tbsp. cumin powder 

1 Tbsp. cocoa powder or mole sauce     

1 dash liquid smoke   

1 cup textured vegetable protein (hydrated) 

Vegetables: any combination of…  1 large carrot, peeled              

1 stalk of celery   

2-3 small bell peppers (any combination of yellow, green, red or orange)   

1 jalapeno or chipotle pepper (from a can, e.g. Herdez brand) 

1 large white potato, sweet potato or yam    

½  pound of mushrooms 

½ cup water

1 large can of diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, chopped or equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes) 

2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce                            

1 cup of corn kernels 

2 cans of kidney, pinto, or black beans 

optional toppings: chopped red onion, grated old cheddar/Monterey jack/queso, guacamole, sour cream/yoghurt, or hot sauce   

 

Directions:

1.     Chop the vegetables to your preferred level of  “chunkiness” (smaller or larger).  Set aside in a bowl. 

2.     Heat the oil in a large pot just below medium heat on a large burner. Add diced onions and crushed garlic, sauté. 

3.     Add powdered spices, liquid smoke, and cocoa/mole.    Stir a few minutes until onions are translucent .

4.     Add TVP or tofu (if using). Stir another few minutes to blend with spices.

5.     Add all vegetables and the ½ cup of water. Raise heat to medium-high and cook for 5-10 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

6.     Add tamari sauce, tomatoes, corn and beans. 

7.     Stir well and cover. Bring to a boil and turn head down to low.    Let simmer at least a ½ hour, but longer is better. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a can of tomato paste. If you have a slow cooker, you can transfer the chili to it and keep it warm at low heat.

8.     Optional: Serve in shallow bowls and sprinkle cheese on top so it melts. Put a dollop of guacamole in the middle followed by a smaller dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, making a multi-colored target. Dash a bit of  hot sauce in the very center for a dramatic bull’s eye and garnish with red onion. 

 

*This recipe goes great with some zucchini bread on the side, a favorite of the Easter Bunny in Who Iced the Snowman?.

The finished veggie chili with a slice of homemade zucchini bread. 

The finished veggie chili with a slice of homemade zucchini bread. 

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we’ll be exploring a sweet recipe paired with a fashionably cozy mystery.

Sitting down with Teresa LaRue

 

Teresa LaRue has held many professions, but currently she works as the author of cozy mysteries. Her first novel with Cozy Cat Press, Fatal Fall, explores an unexpected death in a small town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, scenery with which she is intimately familiar from her upbringing.  I sat down to ask her how she got into writing, what influences her, and what she’s working on now.

 

Q: What inspired you to start writing cozy mystery novels?

A: I started writing cozy mysteries mainly because I love to read them. I love the small-town atmosphere and all the quirky characters. Plus, the sleuth has to piece together who the killer is using her knowledge of the town and its inhabitants. 

  

Q: What books and other authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

A: I fell in love with reading in the fourth grade, so I’ve consumed a lot of books. Each author has strengths and weakness that I try to learn from. But my biggest inspiration came from Phyllis A. Whitney. I’ve read her books since I was a kid. I even wrote her a fan letter once and received a hand-written reply.  

 

Q: Your website says that you’ve worked in a variety of fields over the years. Has interacting with people from different backgrounds in different settings helped you better understand how to develop your characters?

A: I’ve run into all types of people working with the public and I find them endlessly fascinating. I enjoy hearing about their lives and trying to figure out what makes them tick. Of course, the downside is I’ve also had to deal with a few nasty characters, which helps me understand why someone might want to murder them.   

 

Q: How do your writing ideas come to you? Do you get an idea for a character first, then the plot, or visa versa?

A: I usually start with a character. What they like, and dislike. What caused them to be the way they are. Only then do I tackle plot. After I figure out who gets killed, I work out who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime.

 

Q: What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule?

A: I usually devote mornings to housework and errands, then write in the afternoons. After I lay out the plot, I take one scene at a time, close my eyes, and imagine what’s going on. At some point, inspiration hits and I sit down and begin to write.

 

Q: Has your writing process changed for Fatal Fall versus your first book, A Talent for Murder?

A: Actually, I wrote Fatal Fall before I wrote A Talent for Murder, but my process has remained consistent. I keep a notebook with all my character sketches, plot notes, etc. Unlike some, I enjoy the rewriting process. Once I have something to work with, it’s so much easier to add details that make the scene come alive.

 

Q: The scenery of Fatal Fall is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where you yourself are from. Did having a personal connection to the setting of the story making writing easier?

A: Since I knew the landscape and history of the area, it definitely made the writing easier. While some people are at home in the mountains, others, in the desert, I feel most at home near the water. I love the tang of salty sea air, the warm sand beneath my feet, and the sound of waves rolling into shore.   

  

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I just finished the second book in the Flower Patch series and have sketched out characters and the basic plot for another book about a woman who has to solve the murder of the business partner of her best friend’s boyfriend, while also dealing with the grief of losing her husband.

    

Q: What do you want to communicate to your readers?

A: That family and community are important, and sometimes you have to work a little harder to get along with difficult people.

Chatting with Laura Shea

Laura Shea, a professor of English at Iona College, has her first cozy mystery with Cozy Cat Press coming out this fall. The story is the second in a series featuring detective Erica Duncan, a smart, honest woman transitioning from a career in academia into the world of theater. I caught up with Laura Shea to learn more about her reading influences, her favorite books, and what we can expect from her new novel.

 

Q: What inspired you to start writing mystery novels?

A: I grew up reading Nancy Drew, and I loved those kinds of books. And I read some mysteries along the way--I liked Amanda Cross, that kind of mystery. But it wasn’t until I was in graduate school and I was a TA in a course on mystery (it was a course that began with Oedipus Rex and then went on to Dickens’ Bleak House and then hard-boiled detectives and cozies) that I actually got interested in the idea of writing a mystery and one in an academic setting.

 

Q: How do you feel like your experience in academia have helped you write cozy mysteries? Did you draw on your own experiences when writing?

A: In some ways yes, though not literally. The people you meet who are faculty, the range of personalities, and also the types of issues that they have that maybe aren’t issues to other people, the whole publish-or-perish thing, influenced me, but the first book is definitely not a literal translation of my experience. I started teaching full-time in 1983 and before that I was in graduate school, so it reflects a lot of that [experience].

 

Q: What is your writing process? Do you have a schedule or a time of day you like to do your writing?

A: I don’t have a schedule. Most of the writing I do gets done in the summer. I think about it for a while and then sit down and write and I revise as I go. I’m not one of those people who writes a full draft. I revise as I go rather than writing the whole draft and going back.

 

Q: What books and authors inspire you? Have you taken any inspiration from other cozy mystery authors or other kinds of writing?

A: I don’t know that I have. One of the books I read recently is Sycamore, by Bryn Chancellor, and I was really impressed by that. I think it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while, and what I liked about it was not just the fact that it’s a mystery, but it really shows the consequences of the death, and then you find out how the death happened at the end. I’m always more interested in why people do what they do. My novels are much more character-driven, although I would say that the way my writing has evolved, I’m more aware of plot, I mean, in mystery there has to be one, but I’m more interested in what people do, why they do it, what brought them to this point in their lives.

 

Q: How did you get the original idea for your last book? Was the process of writing that book different than your upcoming book?

A: For the first book, I’d definitely been ruminating on it for a while, slowly but surely. It didn’t come all at one time. I didn’t necessarily know where it was going to end up. With Murder at the People’s Theatre I knew the scene I wanted to write at the end. But with A Dying Fall, I knew the death, but I wasn’t sure how it would go and I did it piece by piece, putting it all together.

 

Q: When does the Murder at the People’s Theater come out?

A: Later his fall, but I’m not exactly sure what the date is.

 

Q: What else do you want to communicate to your readers?

A: The theatrical setting of the second book is interesting to people because it’s different from the first book, which is the world in which I live currently, but it’s interesting to see the detective in a different setting, one [academia] in which she’s really comfortable in that world, and one [theater] in which she’s not part of this world. Even in the first book she was an outsider looking in, whereas in this, she’s one step removed but still an outsider looking in.

 

Q: Did you write Erica’s character knowing she would be a strong female?

A: I don’t know that I was conscious of that, but I certainly wanted to make her that. She’s smart and she’s clever and she has a moral compass. She’s the moral compass in a place [academia] where they’re supposed to have and teach values.

 

Look out for Erica’s newest novel, Murder at the People’s Theater, this Fall.

 

 

 

Automobiles in Booker Falls, ca 1920

This is the third in a series of monthly blogs about the places, people and events that appear in my novel, Strangled in the Stacks, the first book in the Booker Falls Mystery Series. This month’s topic is “Automobiles in Booker Falls, ca 1920.”

Numerous automobiles passed through Booker Falls during the first two decades of the twentieth century on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. But it was not until Myrtle Tully’s arrival in town in the fall of 1919 in a twelve-year-old Model N Ford that any had taken up permanent residence.

The most well-known of Ford’s vehicles was the popular Model T. But for five years before that model hit the road in 1908, The Ford Motor Company had produced eight previous models: A, B, C, F, K, N, R and S.

 The Model N—Myrtle’s car—built at Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, was introduced in 1906 as Ford’s entry into the inexpensive car market, and was priced at five hundred dollars. During its two years of production seven thousand cars were built. This included two other upgraded models of the Model N, the Model R, which was a more expensive version of the N with a larger body and other perks such asrunning boards and oil lamps; and the Model S, with even more unique features such as an optional extra, third, mother-in-law seat (and what red blooded American husband wouldn’t want that?).

The Model N came only in maroon, the Model R only in red. I have seen pictures of the Model S in both colors. And that quote by Henry Ford regarding the Model T? “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Not only did he probably not say it, but the Model T was available in a wide range of colors, including hunter green and fire-engine red—and black.

These three models were the last ones produced by Ford for sale in the United States with right-hand drive (such as is now used in Europe).

 In 1920, motivated by his desire not to rely on Myrtle to have to drive when they went on a date out of town, George Salmon, the town mayor, purchased a new Briscoe, manufactured by the Briscoe Company located in Jackson, Michigan. The touring model, priced at eleven hundred and eighty five dollars, was elegant. 
 

Like Myrtle’s Model N, the Briscoe boasted a convertible top, leather covered seats, headlights and a horn, and came in a variety of colors: George chose robin-egg blue, which matched the color of the bow tie he wore when he came to pick up Myrtle to go to Red Jacket. He’d purchased the car at the plant, but to get it to Booker Falls, he had to cross the Straits of Mackinac at Mackinaw City. Since there was no bridge there at the time, the crossing was made by ferry, a sometimes dicey ride.

In spite of his aversion to these new “infernal machines,” Henri de la Cruz, the town constable, decided that if he were to compete with George for Myrtle’s attention, he also needed an automobile. His choice was a 1920 Packard Town Car, which he had shipped from a dealer in Dayton, Ohio. To outfit it as a police car, Henri made several modifications, including the word “POLICE” painted on either side, and a bell mounted on the front of the hood that he could ring using a chain attached to a lever next to the steering wheel.

The Packard Motor Company was regarded as one of the top three automobile manufacturers in America, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New York and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio. Like George’s Briscoe, the Packard Touring Car came in a variety of colors. Not known to be ostentatious, Henri chose black.

In 1920 there were over 200 manufacturers were producing automobiles in the United States (not including truck and motorcycle manufacturers). Today, there are less than 50, including about a dozen major ones, and three dozen minor ones. 7 ½ million vehicles were on the road in this country in 1920, compared to 250 million today.

 Next month’s blog topic is “What’s In A Name – Red Jacket, Calumet, Laurium?”

 I invite you to visit my website at kenngrimesauthor.com, where you can learn more about me and also purchase my books.

From Author Kenn Grimes

This is the second in a series of monthly blogs about the places, people and events that make up the Booker Falls Mystery Series. If you would prefer to no longer receive these blogs, please let me know and I will remove you from the list.

The Booker Falls Mystery Series, including Strangled in the Stacks, is what is known as historical fiction. What that means is that the stories are made up, and set in a time other than the present. It also means that the characters—at least most of them—are fictional—not real.

The main characters in Strangled in the Stacks—Myrtle, Henri, Daisy, Mrs. Darling, Mr. Pfrommer, George—are all fictional characters.But there are also many real people who are mentioned and two who appear as characters. They include: (musicians), (Franz) Schubert, (Felix) Mendelssohn, (Ludwig van) Beethoven, (Johann) Bach, (Wolfgang) Mozart; (religious), St. Patrick, St. Barbara, St. James, Mathias, St. Paul, St. Anne, St. Joseph, Salamon clericus, St. Henry, Alojzije Stepinac, Virgin Mary; (authors) Booth Tarkington, Friedrich Nietzsche, Beatrix Potter; (politicians) Ambrose Burnside, Chase Osborne, Woodrow Wilson, (Kenneth Ingalls) Sawyer; (artists) (Paul) Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Renoir; (performers) Rita Romilly, “Slim” Jim Austin, “Spareribs” Jones, (miscellaneous) General John J. Pershing (military), George Gipp (athlete), Queen of Croatia (royalty).

As I mentioned, two actually appeared as characters in the story. Myrtle tells George of her meeting Renoir at the Louvre in August, 1919, as she was studying his painting, Madame Charpentier and Her Children. Renoir did actually visit the Louvre that month, and that painting was being displayed there. He passed away four months later on December 3rd. Renoir is the only actual person who had dialogue in the book. When George and Myrtle go for dinner in Red Jacket, they spot George Gipp walking down the street. Gipp, a famous football player for Notre Dame, was a native son of Laurium and was actually in the area at that time. Three months later, on December 14th, he died at the early age of twenty-five of a throat infection (remember “Win one for the Gipper”?).

Mention must be made of two other individuals listed above. Myrtle thought Mr. Pfrommer’s muttonchops reminded her of Ambrose Burnside, whose own muttonchops were so famous they became known as burnsides—a term later converted to sideburns. And that Parisian apartment at number eleven, Boulevard de Clichy where Myrtle spent the night with Thomas, who told her the painting on the wall had been done by a previous tenant—Pablo Picasso? Well, Picasso really did live at that address twelve years earlier, in 1905. That’s fact. The painting? Okay, that’s fiction.

Next month I’ll be writing about automobiles in Booker Falls ca 1920.

Tomorrow, Saturday, February 4th, I will be selling my books at the Ancestral Trails Historical Society Book Fair in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, at the Prichard Community Center, 404 S. Mulberry St. from 10 AM to 4 PM. If you’re in that area, stop by my table and say hi—and maybe buy a book!

 

Mystery Writer Goes Trucking

Cozy Cat Press author Joyce Oroz has been writing a book a year for the last eight years, creating her popular Josephine Stuart Mystery Series. Oroz sees no end in sight but has taken a few detours along the way, including her latest project––illustrating a bilingual children’s book written by Nancy Weitzel.

Sammy the Dump Truck is the book just released to the public. The colorful pictures beg to be seen, but the best feature is the sweet story in two languages. The book is geared for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking non-readers and beginning readers. Each page has a paragraph written in English and one in Spanish.

Sammy the Dump Truck is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and will be in libraries soon.

 Eight cozy mysteries by Oroz are available on Amazon: Secure the Ranch, Read My Lipstick, Shaking In Her Flip Flops, Beetles in the Boxcar, and published by Cozy Cat Press: Cuckoo Clock Caper, Roller Rubout, Scent of a $windle, and her newest release, Who Killed Mary Christmas?

Two Cozy Cat Press Authors Nominated for Book Awards

Cozy Cat Press, today announced that two of its authors––Alice K. Boatwright and Vicki Vass––have been announced as finalists in Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem Novel Writing Contest for 2016. Boatwright’s mystery Under an English Heaven and Vass’s Murder by the Spoonful are the books being honored. 

According to Cozy Cat Press publisher, Patricia Rockwell, “We are extremely proud of Alice and Vicki.  The Murder and Mayhem contest is one that is quite meaningful to us because it honors cozy mysteries specifically.  The fact that two of our authors have been selected as finalists for this prize, is especially gratifying.” 

Alice K. Boatwright’s book, Under an English Heaven, is her first Ellie Kent mystery and her first book with Cozy Cat Press. She is also the author of Collateral Damage, three novellas about the long-term impact of the Vietnam War, which won the 2013 Bronze Award for Literary Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. She formerly lived in the Cotswolds for several years, and now divides her time between the U.S. and Paris.

Vicki Vass has written more than 1,400 articles for The Chicago Tribune as well as Women’s World, The Daily Herald and Home & Away. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, was inspired by her journeys in the jungle of Sudan, Africa, while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief. She has also authored Killer Finds, Pickin’ Murder, and Key to a Murder in her Antique Hunters Mystery series with Cozy Cat, as well as a new series Gem Hunter. She lives outside Chicago, with her writer, musician, husband Brian, their 20-year old son Tony, kittens Pixel and Terra, Australian shepherd Bandit, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

For more information about these and other cozy mystery authors, and about Cozy Cat Press, readers may visit the company’s website:  www.cozycatpress.com. For more information about Chanticleer’s Murder and Mayhem contest: http://www.chantireviews.com/2016/08/18/the-mms-chanticleers-mystery-mayhem-novel-contest-official-finalist-list-for-2016/.