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ONCE UPON A GRIND by Cleo Coyle (plus lots of giveaways and recipes and… well… just fun!)

A NOTE FROM CLEO

Thanks to Kate for hosting us today and happy holiday greetings to everyone! Once Upon a Grind is not only a murder mystery, it’s also a culinary mystery. Coffeehouse Manager Clare Cosi samples some fascinating New York foods as she tries to solve the crime against “Sleeping Beauty,” and she cooks up some tasty goodies, as well.

Marc and I enjoyed researching unique foods for our latest book, and we’ve included recipes for some of them in Once Upon a Grind. For a quick look at the recipe section, click here. The link opens a free PDF Recipe Guide that you can save, share, or print and tuck into your copy of Once Upon Grind.

Cookie Swap! Today we’re also sharing one of our favorite holiday cookie recipes: Gingerbread Snowballs. (Right now, it’s one of the most popular hits on our recipe blog.) To get the recipe, click here.

We hope you’ll join us for more stops on our Escape Blog Tour. We’ll give you more insights to reading Once Upon a Grind, and we’ll share a few more holiday goodies, too.

To read a special excerpt from ONCE UPON A GRIND, click here.

SECRET CODE: The 3rd of the 9 words in Cleo’s Secret Code Contest is DON’T (Learn how to enter Cleo’s Secret Code giveaway here.)

May your holidays be bright!

~ Alice and Marc (Cleo Coyle)

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

CLEO COYLE is the pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini.  CLEO COYLE grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After earning scholarships to study writing at Carnegie Mellon and American Universities, she began her career as a cub reporter for The New York Times. Now an author of popular fiction and New York Times bestselling media tie-in writer, Cleo lives and works in New York City, where she collaborates with her husband (also a bestselling author) to pen the Coffeehouse Mysteries for Penguin. Together Cleo and her husband also write the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries under the name Alice Kimberly. When not haunting coffeehouses, hunting ghosts, or rescuing stray cats, Cleo and Marc are bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for NBC, Lucasfilm, Disney, Fox, Imagine, and MGM. In their spare time they cook like crazy and drink a lot of java. You can learn more about Cleo, her husband, and the books they write by visiting www.CoffeehouseMystery.com.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Fairy tale fever has descended on New York City. Broadway fans are flocking to Red Riding Hood: The Musical; museums are exhibiting art inspired by the Brothers Grimm; and Clare Cosi and her merry band of baristas give their coffee truck a “Jack and the Beanstalk” makeover for a Central Park festival. Clare’s coffee hunter ex-husband contributes a bag of African beans with alleged magical properties. His octogenarian mother entertains customers with readings of the grinds, but Clare remains skeptical–until she receives a vision that helps her find a young model’s body in the park’s woods.

The police dismiss “sleeping beauty” as the victim of a drug overdose. Then Clare uncovers evidence that points to a list of suspects–from a New York Giant to quite a few wicked witches–and a cold case murder that reaches back to the Cold War. Now Clare is really in the woods with a dangerous predator on her heels and an investigation that leads from a secret Prince Charming Club right back to her own NYPD detective boyfriend. If she doesn’t solve this mystery, those magic beans predict an unhappy ending.

MY REVIEW

Matt brings back “magic beans” from Ethiopia. Coffee beans with special properties. Properties that affect special people like Shamans. And Claire. Will her visions help solve the mystery? This is the kind of book you start in the evening and in the morning you’re found on the couch, snoring with book fallen to the floor.  I suspect Alice and Marc are incapable of writing anything less than a ♥♥♥♥♥ book. And I have read ALL their books (in other series as well). So now you know the book is good, let’s talk about the risks. This lifelong tea drinker now owns a French Press. And I am seriously addicted to Alice’s peanut butter cookies. But what the heck, live dangerously and read this series from book one if you haven’t, and if you are an addict like me, your fix is here!!!

Author Links

Visit Cleo online: www.coffeehousemystery.com

Friend Cleo on Facebook:www.Facebook.com/CleoCoyle

Follow Cleo on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/cleocoyle/

 

IN ADDITION TO THE SECRET CODE GIVEAWAY, YOU COULD WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK JUST BY LEAVING A COMMENT HERE. THEN IF YOU GO HERE, SCROLL DOWN TO THE RAFFLECOPTER, YOU COULD WIN THIS FANTASTIC PRIZE PACKAGE:

 

PRIZE DESCRIPTION:

Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Escape Tour Giveaway – Prize Package Includes…

* An autographed copy of Cleo’s brand new book, ONCE UPON A GRIND, in its beautiful first-edition hardcover format

* A complete set of all 13 Coffeehouse Mysteries published to date, each one personally inscribed by Cleo to the winner

* A durable, custom-designed Coffeehouse Mystery Tote Bag

* A freshly-roasted package of Billionaire’s Blend, a hand-crafted coffee created by One Good Woman Fine Coffees and Teas as a tribute to Cleo’s recent bestseller BILLIONAIRE BLEND.

* A Coffeehouse Mystery cup, featuring a favorite saying of Madame’s, the octogenarian owner of The Village Blend: “Survive everything. And do it with style.”

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

December 3 – Griperang’s Bookmarks – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 4 – Editing Pen (Latte’ Da!) – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 5 – rantinravin’ and reading – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 8 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 10 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 12 – Books-n-Kisses – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 15 – Musings and Ramblings – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 16 – Community Bookstop – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

December 18 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Review with Guest Note & Giveaway

 

 

 

 

STIRRING THE PLOT by Daryl Wood Gerber (and recipes and giveaways!!!)

Daryl Wood Gerber is on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for the release of number three in her Cookbook Nook Mystery Series, STIRRING THE PLOT. Leave a comment below for a chance to win 1 print copy of Winner’s Choice of Final Sentence, Inherit the Word, or Stirring the Plot. And for a chance at a really big prize (all three in this series plus five in The Cheese Shop Mysteries) go HERE.  And here is Daryl to give us one of her delicious recipes:

If you’ve read the Cookbook Nook or Cheese Shop mysteries, you know that they are culinary cozy mysteries, and they have recipes in them that I’ve created. I had no idea when I started writing mysteries that I’d have to cook. Luckily, I did.

In the Cookbook Nook mysteries, the protagonist Jenna isn’t a cookyet. She’s learning. But she adores food.  In the Cheese Shop mysteries, Charlotte is a good cook, and she makes a specialty quiche every day in The Cheese Shop.

This recipe, which is right out of DAYS OF WINE AND ROQUEFORT, the 5th in the Cheese Shop Mysteries, is a perfect fit for Jenna because it’s simple with only a few ingredients. It’s one of Charlotte’s favorite. Jenna, who is an avid reader, stocks culinary mysteries as well as cookbooks in the shop. She could actually find this recipe in her store. Are you seeing how my fictional worlds crisscross? J

Enjoy!

pear

Roquefort Bosc Pear Quiche

(Serves 6)

  • 1 pie shell (homemade or frozen)
  • 2-3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) Roquefort cheese (or good blue cheese)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • Pinch: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger
  • Pinch: salt and pepper
  • 1 Bosc pear, peeled, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Remove the Roquefort cheese from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

In 425 degree oven, bake the pie shell for 12-14 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, mush the Roquefort cheese with 2 tablespoons of the whipping cream. Add the rest of the cream and beat for 1 minute.

Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is blended, but not whipped to a froth. Add the sour cream, milk, spices and mix until blended.

Peel, core, and slide the Bosc pear in 6-8 slices. Arrange the slices on the bottom of the baked pie shell. Drizzle with honey. Put the pan on a baking sheet. Stir the egg and cream mixture once, then pour the mixture on the pears. Carefully move the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the quiche is puffy and lightly brown on top.

Remove from oven and cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.

* * *

Below is a tidbit about STIRRING THE PLOT, the next in my Cookbook Nook mysteries. It comes out September 30!  FYI, though I write a series, each book is a stand-alone and can be read first, even if you haven’t read the others in the series.

SYNOPSIS:

Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster…

Jenna Hart has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder.

When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead under mysterious circumstances, there’s no logical answer and plenty of blame to go around. With her aunt, Vera, unable to call on her ability to foresee the future, Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand and a few magic tricks to conjure up the truth…

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

DARYL WOOD GERBER writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mystery series featuring a cookbook store owner who is an avid reader and admitted foodie, set on the coast of California.  As AVERY AAMES, she pens the Agatha Award-winning, nationally bestselling Cheese Shop Mystery series featuring a cheese shop owner amateur sleuth, set in the fictional town of Providence, Ohio. Daryl’s short stories have been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and other awards. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl has appeared in “Murder, She Wrote” and more.

MY REVIEW

Yet another series I have to go back and start from the beginning. Not that this book does not stand alone, it does, but it was just so good I want to read the rest! Appealing characters. A well crafted mystery. Fun setting. Recipes in the back (need I say more?) Another classic cozy for you to add to your collection, this one is ♥♥♥♥♥

Author Links

Visit Daryl or Avery atwww.darylwoodgerber.com.

“They” blog on www.mysteryloverskitchen.com as well as www.killercharacters.com

http://www.darylwoodgerber.com

http://www.averyaames.com

http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com

http://killercharacters.com

Facebook:

Daryl http://www.facebook.com/darylwoodgerber

Avery http://www.facebook.com/averyaames

Twitter: @AveryAames @DarylWoodGerber

Goodreads: 

Daryl Wood Gerber https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4750535.Daryl_Wood_Gerber

Avery Aames https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3153786.Avery_Aames

Purchase Links
Amazon B&N

Tour Participants

September 23 – Books-n-Kisses – Review, Recipe

September 24 –Brooke Blogs – Review, Recipe

September 25 – rantinravin’ and reading – Review, Recipe

September 26 – A Chick Who Reads – Review, Interview, Recipe

September 27 – StoreyBook Reviews – Review, Recipe

September 27 – Escape With Dollycas – Review

September 28 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Review, Interview, Recipe

September 29 – Back Porchervations – Review, Interview, Recipe

 

 

THE WEDDING SOUP MURDER by Rosie Genova (and a giveaway!)

I am thrilled to have Rosie Genova stop by today on her tour for her latest book, THE WEDDING SOUP MURDER. Rosie is here to tell us about the real Jersey Shore – you know, the one without Snookie. So I hope you enjoy it. And be sure to leave a comment for Rosie, maybe ask her a question about her Jersey, and then go HERE because she is giving away some really great prizes along with signed copies of the book. Take it away Rosie!

The real Jersey shore

It wasn’t that long ago that the words “Jersey shore” were not synonymous with over-tanning, hair gel, bad behavior, and even worse accents. Before the advent of a certain reality television show, the shore towns along the coast of my home state were associated with the natural beauty of sand dunes and sea grass and miles of boardwalk fun. That is the Jersey shore that I attempt to capture in my series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries.

In fact, what is wonderful about the different shore communities is the wide variety of what they offer visitors—everything from history to architecture to beautiful beaches. Many of us who live here go “down the shore” every summer, either as day visitors or renters. In my series, the fictional setting of Oceanside Park is inspired by a number of those towns: Point Pleasant, Ocean City, and perhaps most of all, Asbury Park as it was in its heyday.

Long before a certain guy named Bruce made Asbury Park famous, the community had been a vacation destination since the 19th century. In my family, going to Asbury in the summer had been a tradition since World War II.

rosie insert

Photo credit: Robert L. Erath, courtesy Evelyn and Neil Erath

The photo here was taken with a Kodachrome camera in the summer of 1941. This is the Asbury Park of my mother and grandmother’s time. The old-time cars, the men in their summer whites, and the little girl in her cotton dress and hair bow, all evoke a time that is long gone. But the swan boat in the foreground remained in operation throughout my childhood, as did the Ferris wheel in the background, and in fact inspired the image on the cover of the first book in the series, Murder and Marinara. There’s a scene in the book in which my main character, Victoria Rienzi, takes a ride on that Ferris wheel with an attractive man who may or may not be a murderer, though she is more afraid of the ride than she is of the suspect!

In the real world, of course, things change, and the places we love are no longer as we remember. But they can be preserved in stories. So I hope you’ll take a trip with me to Oceanside Park, where you’ll experience the real Jersey shore—and perhaps solve a murder or two!

BLURB

The Wedding Soup Murder: An Italian Kitchen Mystery
Series: An Italian Kitchen Mystery (Book 2)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Signet (September 2, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451415159
ISBN-13: 978-0451415158

Victoria Rienzi came home to the Jersey Shore to write a new book, learn the family restaurant business, and practice the fine art of Italian cooking. But when delicious dishes are paired with murder, Vic has a little too much on her plate…

When Vic asked her nonna for more responsibility in the kitchen, she didn’t mean making a thousand tiny meatballs by hand for the family’s famous wedding soup. The dish is to be served at the reception for a close family friend at the exclusive Belmont Country Club. And once there Vic has to deal with a demanding bridezilla and clashes in the kitchen—between the staff and servers, between two egocentric head chefs, and between the country club president andwelleveryone.

The wedding comes off without a hitch—until the body of the club’s president is found on the beach below a high seawall. Now Vic will need to use her noodle to find out who pushed whom too farbefore she’s the one who lands in the soup!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A Jersey girl born and bred, national bestselling author Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. Her debut novel, Murder and Marinara, was named a 2013 Best Cozy by Suspense Magazine and is a finalist for a 2014 Daphne Award.  An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She still lives in her home state with her husband and the youngest of her three Jersey boys.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website: www.rosiegenova.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RosieGenova

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6462450.Rosie_Genova

PURCHASE LINKS
Amazon   B&N

MY REVIEW

I missed out on the tour for the first book in this series but now I just have to go back and read it because THE WEDDING SOUP MURDER was just so much fun. And needless to say, I can’t wait for number three. The characters are a lot of fun, people you would enjoy having as friends. The backdrop of a family restaurant in New Jersey works really well. Food always makes a good mix with murder. Especially when there are recipes at the back! Vic should be the next protagonist that makes her way to your TBR pile. This one is ♥♥♥♥♥

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

September 2 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – Review

September 3 – Back Porchervations – Review, Interview

September 4 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book  – Spotlight

September 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Review, Guest Post

September 6 – Brooke Blogs – Review

September 7 – Chloe Gets A Clue – Interview

September 8 – Shelley’s Book Case – Review

September 9 – StoreyBook Reviews – Review, Guest Post

September 10 – rantinravin‘ and reading – Review, Guest Post

September 11 – deal sharing aunt – Review, Interview

 

MURDER IN MERINO by Sally Goldenbaum (and a giveaway!)

Sally Goldenbaum is a sometime philosophy teacher, a knitter, and an editor, and the author of more than thirty novels. Sally became more serious about knitting with the birth of her first grandchild and the creation of the Seaside Knitters mystery series. Her fictional knitting friends are teaching her the intricacies of women’s friendship, the mysteries of small-town living, and the very best way to pick up dropped stitches on a lacy knit shawl. Sally is stopping here today with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours because she has a new book in The Seaside Knitters Mystery series, MURDER IN MERINO. She’s giving away a hardcover copy (US only) so be sure and leave a comment for her below. Welcome, Sally.

My Irish mother is, for whatever reason, into the old Nordic or Fair Isle type of knits. I am traditional Aran with my cables and bobbles, although with some rather modern designs. So what type of knitting do you like to do?

I would love to see samples of your knitting. I suspect it’s more sophisticated than my own. I like fairly simple knitting with soft, silky, lovely yarns. I don’t like to have to think a lot. I DO like cables, though I’m not very good at Fair Isle. I have trouble keeping the colored strands from looking messy.

Where do you get your plot ideas?

Sometimes I get ideas from walking she shores and small towns that dot Cape Ann, where the Seaside Knitters Mysteries are set. I listen to the people, ‘hanging out and keeping my eyes open.’ The area is populated by wonderful and interesting folks—fishermen, artists, shopkeepers and people who left the bustle of cities to enjoy the beauty of seaside living. They are all inspirations, along with the situations that make up their lives.

Things I see while spending time in the area are also fodder for plots. ANGORA ALIBI, for example, was inspired by a walk my husband, daughter, and I took along Niles beach where we spotted an abandoned infant car seat. It was there in the same spot for several days and made us all very curious—even slightly concerned because we never spotted a baby or a mother. Hmmm. Where were they….? And so the mystery in ANGORA ALIBI began.

I rarely if ever know the whole plot when I begin a book. I have a ‘seed’ of an idea (like the infant car seat in ANGORA ALIBI or the mysterious stranger in MURDER IN MERINO who never knew her past). I usually know who is going to be murdered before I get very far into the story. But most often I don’t know why or who did it. I depend on my characters to lead me along. Some days they are more cooperative than others, but they always come through in the end.

What is your daily writing routine?

I try to structure a normal workday for writing—9 to 5.  Usually I retreat to a library, a coffee shop, my back porch (in perfect weather) or a writing friend’s deck (when we are both on similar schedules). When deadlines loom, my days grow longer and weekend are no longer for leisure, but I suppose that is true of many professions.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It’s a little like a pregnancy. Appropriate, I think! Not every minute of the nine months is spent writing, though. I mull over ideas, brainstorm with a couple of friends who know the series well, research online, etc. Sometimes I write essays about new characters, trying to get to know them as I place them in situations and see how they work their way out of them. I talk to myself sometimes, too, (though not in the library; they frown on that!) I usually take breaks for long walks and hope no one sees the crazy lady talking to herself as she walks through the park.

Now three things I ask everyone:

  • What is your favorite food?  As you can probably tell from the seaside knitters mysteries, I love to cook AND to eat. (Nell’s kitchen is my dream kitchen.) And you can probably also tell that I love pasta, anything with lemon, seafood and fresh vegetables (especially grilled or roasted). I guess that’s more than one favorite, isn’t it? Oh dear….
  • What is your favorite TV show?   The Good Wife. SO good!
  • What is your favorite music?  My husband is a classical violinist and guitarist and because of that, I have been exposed to the Spanish compositions that Julian Bream and Segovia play. But I also love oldies—the Beatles, Paul Simon, etc. And I like Norah Jones, Adele, Sarah McLachlan. And depending on my mood (and what scene I am writing in a book) I often listen to Soundtracks from movies like As Good As It Gets, When Harry Met Sally, etc.  (And my granddaughter Ruby has introduced me to Frozen, insisting I download it onto my iPhone….)

It’s been great to have you here today. Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers before you go?

Kate, you are wonderful for inviting me to spend time here. Connecting with readers is one of the very best parts of writing. Readers’ support, helpful notes, and expressions of interest and caring make what is sometimes a lonely profession, a most satisfying one. I enjoy hearing readers’ thoughts after reading one of my mysteries. I will be most interested to hear you weigh in about Jules Ainsley, a woman who wanders into Sea Harbor in the newest mystery, MURDER IN MERINO. I didn’t like her at first.  But then…

Well, let me know what you think. And thank you for being here!

BLURB 

It’s autumn in Sea Harbor and as the tourists leave a mysterious guest arrives. When she’s implicated in a crime the Seaside Knitters must quickly table their knitting project and search out a motif for murder.

Fall is usually a relaxing time in Sea Harbor, but it’s turning out to be a busy season for Izzy Chambers Perry. Not only is she helping the Seaside Knitters make a magnificent throw to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of her aunt and uncle, she and her husband are finally selling the cottage she lived in before they married and had a darling baby girl. To Izzy’s surprise, newcomer Julia Ainsley seems determined to buy the home—although she’s never set foot inside.

But on the day of the open house, things take a tragic turn. A body is uncovered in the cottage’s backyard. When the police find Julia’s name and phone number in the victim’s pocket, this slender thread of evidence makes her a person of interest. Soon the spotlight of suspicion widens to include old friends and town leaders, as a tragic happening, long buried in the sleepy seaside town, is slowly brought to the surface.

Before the Endicotts’ joyful anniversary celebration can be realized, the Seaside Knitters must work to unravel the real reason Julia Ainsley has come to their town and the tangled and tragic ties from the past that bind friends and townsfolk together.

AUTHOR LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/authorsallygoldenbaum?ref=hl

twitter.com/sallygoldenbaum

www.sallygoldenbaum.com

PURCHASE LINKS 

AMAZON        B&N 

MY REVIEW 

I read an earlier book in this series but somehow, never found the time for any others. After reading this latest installment, I will go back and read them all. There are wonderful characters and I want to see where they started and how they evolved to this point. These are people you would want to know. There is also a wonderful sense of place, wonderful description. This is a place you will want to visit. Enough talk of food and knitting to be interesting without being overbearing. I was at about page one fifty something when I was sure I knew the killer. Getting closer to the end, I was sure I had been right about who, just wrong about why. Turns out I was wrong on all counts! And that always makes a mystery more fun, when I’ve been fooled. There is a cast of characters in the front. Handy, I know so many readers like that. And in the back you will find a recipe and a pattern for the afghan talked about throughout the book. This one is ♥♥♥♥♥


TOUR PARTICIPANTS

May 6 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review, Giveaway

May 7 – Our Wolves Den – Review, Giveaway

May 8 – Books-n-Kisses – Review, Interview

May 9 – Griperang’s Bookmarks – Review

May 10 – rantinravin’ and reading – Review, Interview, Giveaway

May 12 – Books Are Life – Vita Libri – Review

May 13 – deal sharing aunt – Review, Giveaway

May 14 – Back Porchervations – Review

May 16 – Community Bookstop – Review

May 17 – Booklady’s Booknotes – Review, Interview, Giveaway

May 19 – Watching the Words – Review

May 20 – A Chick Who Reads – Review

May 21 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Review

May 22 – Brooke Blogs – Review

 

 

 

 

 

Death on Eat Street – a Biscuit Bowl Food Truck mystery (and a giveaway!)

J.J. Cook writes award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. And I am very pleased that Joyce is here today to tell us about the research they for the book. (Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.) Welcome Joyce.

Doing research for the Biscuit Bowl Food Truck Mysteries was both delicious, and amazing. We spent time with several food truck owners, shadowing them through their days. It’s incredible what they can do in such small spaces.

Food truck drivers get up early for the best spots. Getting there first can mean the difference between a good sales day, and a day where you don’t break even. So most people get up at four or five a.m. They usually get some of the food ready in a stationary kitchen before they leave for the day, like Zoe bakes her biscuits before she leaves her diner.

Inside a food truck, everything is very compact. Owners have to know where each item is so they can find it quickly and easily. They know they can be checked at any time by health inspectors so they have to be very careful with their refrigerators and cooking utensils. Sometimes the space in a food truck is at a premium, especially when there is more than one person working in the kitchen.

Most food trucks pick specific menus for each day. They don’t have enough space to change the food they’re making. If the menu says chicken salad, that’s probably what you’re going to get. But because they are only making chicken salad – wow! It’s the best!

Zoe picks one or two types of savory fillings for her biscuit bowls each day, and one or two types of sweet fillings. She can’t make exceptions because that’s all she has with her. Her biscuits are deep-fried and kept warm, but only in small batches. They will go soft quickly. She usually only carries one type of drink.

We tried to pattern Zoe and her Biscuit Bowl food truck on real-life food truck owners. Of course, Zoe’s life is fiction, so sometimes that shows up. We didn’t meet any food truck drivers that had large cats like Crème Brulee with them when they went out – although we did meet a few foodies who brought dogs with them.

Zoe is a hard worker, as are the food truck operators we met. For many of them, they are hopeful that their food truck is a stepping-stone to a restaurant. Not all feel that way. Many are just happy following their dreams, working for themselves with their favorite food. 

Death on Eat Street (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck)
BRAND NEW SERIES
COZY MYSTERY
Series: Biscuit Bowl Food Truck (Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (April 1, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-0425263457
E-Book ASIN: B00F9EZAUW

Synopsis
Zoe Chase always wanted to own her own restaurant—but first, she’ll have to serve up a heaping helping of meals on wheels, with a side of mystery. When she’s once again passed over for a promotion at work, Zoe decides to take the big leap and go for her dream. She quits, gives up her fancy digs, and buys a fixer-upper diner in a shady part of town. To keep above water during the renovation, she buys a used food truck to serve the downtown and waterfront of Mobile, Alabama. Zoe starts to dish out classic Southern food—but her specialty is her deep-fried biscuit bowls that blow traditional bread bowls away. After a promising start, things start to go downhill faster than a food truck without brakes. First, someone tries to rob the cash register. Next, Zoe is threatened by the owner of a competing food truck for taking their spot. And when the owner ends up dead inside Zoe’s rolling restaurant, Zoe and her sole employee, Ollie, find themselves hopping out of the frying pan into the fryer. They need to find the real killer, before both of them get burned.

My Review

I have only one complaint about this book. Well, two. It is going to cost me time and money. Time experimenting making biscuit bowls and money for the groceries. Oh yeah, there is a third thing. Listening to my husband complain about how good they are so please stop making them or he will have to spend half the day in the gym. In other words, I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! And my husband loves biscuit bowls. As a fan in real life of food trucks, I knew they would soon become part of a cozy series. And what a great start this food truck mystery is off to. Zoe is an appealing character. And all the secondary characters are interesting and you know you will want to see them all again. Most of all, it was a good mystery. I thought I had guessed the killer (and a pretty good twist if I do say so) but alas, or gladly, I was wrong. Bigger, better twist and better ending. From the wonderful cover to the recipe at the end, this is a solid ♥♥♥♥♥ and I can’t wait for the next in this new series.

 Author Links

www.tellingstoriesthrupictures.blogspot.com

www.jjcook.net

@authorjlavene

https://www.facebook.com/BiscuitBowlFoodTruckMysteries

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18492486-death-on-eat-street

Purchase Links
AMAZON       B&N      Book World

Tour Participants

March 31- Psychotic State Book Reviews – Review, Interview
April 1- fundinmental – Review
April 2- Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – Review
April 3- Brooke Blogs – Review
April 4- Beth’s Book Reviews – Review
April 5- Books-n-Kisses – Review, Interview
April 6- Steph The Bookworm – Review
April 7- Deal Sharing Aunt – Review
April 8- Thoughts in Progress – Interview
April 9- Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – Review, Interview
April 10- Community Bookstop – Review
April 11- Queen of All She Reads – Review, Guest Post
April 13-Cozy Up With Kathy – Review, Interview
April 14 – rantinravin’ and reading – Review, Guest Post
April 15 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Review

 A Book Excerpt

It hadn’t been more than thirty minutes or so since I’d climbed out of the food truck. How did Terry get there after me? And what was he doing here? Had he followed me back to give me more grief over parking in “his spot” on Dauphin Street?

“What’s up out here, young ’un?” Ollie came out of the diner, still holding the sword.

“I don’t know. This is Terry.”

He nodded. “From the infamous tacky taco truck?”

“Yes. I don’t know what he’s doing here. I think he may be drunk or something.”

Ollie bent down and put his hand on Terry’s neck. “I don’t know either, but he ain’t goin’ no place else.”

“What do you mean? I can call him a taxi or something.”

“No, Zoe. You don’t get it. The man’s dead. A taxi won’t do him any good now.”

Dead? That made even less sense to me. Maybe I was too tired to think straight.

Why was Terry—alive or dead—in my food truck?

“We gotta hide him somewhere.” Ollie glanced around. “We gotta get rid of him before someone sees him here.”

“We can’t do that. We should call the police. That’s what you do when you find a dead body.”

“Oh? ’Cause you’ve got so much experience finding dead people?” He chuckled. “You better believe me, Zoe. You think you got trouble now, tell the police there’s a dead man in your food truck. You’ll be in for a heap more trouble.”

I knew he was wrong. If something had happened to Terry, regardless of how he got into the Biscuit Bowl, the police needed to be informed. If there was one thing I knew besides cooking, it was the law.

My mother was one of the most prominent attorneys in Mobile. There was even some talk of her getting a judgeship. She’d fed me the law with my pureed carrots and pears when I was a baby. She’d hoped I was going to follow in her footsteps someday.

I was kind of a disappointment in that area.

I took out my cell phone. “I’m sorry, Ollie. I have to call. If you’re worried about being here, you should go to back to the shelter. I can handle this.”

“I ain’t worried about me, Zoe. It’s you I’m concerned for. What do you think the police will make of you having a dead man in your vehicle?”

I thought about it. “What can they make of it? I didn’t do anything. Someone must have put him here. Or he climbed in and died. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

Famous last words.

 

GYRO GYRO GYRO!!!

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while so I thought I’d give the books a break today. Ya gotta eat. The first time I lived in Florida, I lived near aaz-Gyros little city called Tarpon Springs. It started life as a Greek sponge diving village. Seems the sponges in Greece had some sort of blight and a large group of Greek sponge divers went to Tarpon Springs which was rich in sponges. Hey, I could relate. The potatoes had a blight and the Irish emigrated. Down by the sponge docks they have the best restaurants. I like all Greek food but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Gyros. Back to Ireland and there were two things I missed. Gyros and Pizza. Not easy to find in Ballaghaderreen at the time so I had to learn to make both.

The hardest to perfect was the TZATZIKI SAUCE. No internet at the time so no Google. I had to experiment and remember the taste. What I came up with was to peel one regular size cucumber (and by that I mean not the small pickling ones), split it lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds. Then I cut it in small chunks and ever so briefly put it through the mini food processor. Some people just dice it fine but I like my sauce smooth. You can’t over process it, and that is easy to do, because cucumbers have a very high water content. And even when I get it just right, I let it sit in a strainer to get as much water out as possible. Then I take a small onion and put through the processor. Once again don’t overdo. Mix the cucumber and onion into one cup of plain Greek yogurt along with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Then add garlic powder, dried dill (my husband prefers mint), salt and white pepper to taste. Put in covered container and into the fridge so the flavors all gel together nice. I usually make in the morning but at least a couple of hours ahead.

Next comes the BREAD. Don’t use a pocket pita. That is sooooo wrong. It is a softer, thicker flat bread. I happen to live near several very good ethnic markets that sell it but to make it, this is a good recipe.

  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 yeast packet
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. butter melted

Heat the milk until warm to the touch (about 110 degrees F). Add in the sugar and yeast. Once the mixture is foamy, pour the mixture the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix well to combine. Continue adding flour gradually in small amounts, until a soft dough is formed that cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough by mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rest at room temperature, covered lightly with greased plastic wrap, for about 2 hours. After the dough has rested, turn it onto a lightly floured surface  and divide into 12 equal pieces, rounding each into a ball shape. Cover the pieces with a towel and let them rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and put a pizza stone in the bottom. Once the dough has rested, roll each piece into a circle about 6-8 inches wide. Lay the circle of dough on the hot pizza stone and spritz lightly with water. Close the oven and bake for 2-4 minutes, until it is lightly puffed and brown spots begin to appear on the top. Remove from the baking stone and place on a cooling rack. Brush lightly with melted butter. Stack each round on top of each other as it comes out of the oven. Cover with a towel and let cool completely. Warm slightly when ready to serve the gyros.

And now the most important part, the MEAT.

  • 1 1/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 pound lean ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup oregano (dried but fresh smelling!)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 tablespoon ground pepper or more
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

on grillTo cook in the oven as a meatloaf, proceed as follows: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes then slice. Or if you are lucky enough to have a rotisserie: Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place on top of 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap that are at least 18 inches long. Roll the mixture in the plastic wrap tightly, making sure to remove any air pockets. Once the meat is completely rolled in the wrap, twist the ends of the plastic wrap until the surface of the wrap is tight. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, to allow the mixture to firm up. Preheat the grill to high. Place the meat onto the rotisserie skewer. Place a double-thick piece of aluminum foil folded into a tray directly under the meat to catch any drippings. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees F. Turn off the heat and allow to continue to spin for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees. Slice and serve on gyro bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Wrap the individual gyros in foil just like you get them in a restaurant – an art form in itself.

This entry was posted on September 8, 2013, in Recipes.

Reading cozies can be very hazardous – to your waistline and your pocketbook

There is just something about cozies. Even if it is not one where the setting  is a bakery or a coffee shop. Even if it is not a cozy that has recipes at the end. Cozies just mention food. Frequently regional favorites. To give the reader a sense of place, I suppose.

This past week I discovered Pimento Cheese  Sandwiches and Fried Green Tomatoes Caprese.

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

I had never heard of pimento cheese so you know I had to Google it. Well then I had to make it. I did a cross between Craig Claiborne’s recipe and Paula Dean’s. It is soooooooooo good. But I will be eating the sandwiches for days. Because one was sufficient for my husband and I do not throw away food. Only make a batch if you are having a party or you have a large family.

Since moving into the condo, I no longer have a garden so I am at a loss as to where to get green tomatoes.

Fried Green Tomato Caprese

Fried Green Tomato Caprese

They don’t sell them in the store. This is going to take a trip to a farm and telling the farmer I want green tomatoes, not ripe ones. Because I love a Caprese salad and I love fried green tomatoes so I have to try the combination.

french pressAnd you just cannot read a Cleo Coyle mystery without trying some of her recipes. And it is not just the food with her, it is the coffee. You can almost smell it. I had to go out and buy myself a French Press and a coffee grinder.

And I think it was in Vicki Doudera’s last mystery (about a real estate agent) someone was constantly drinking Constant Comment Tea. Of course I had to go out and get some. Immediately. Loved it.constant

Obviously I am very suggestible so I’m just glad someone doesn’t write a cheesecake mystery series. Richard Simmons would have to come and do an intervention. Um… No one does write a series about someone who bakes cheesecakes, do they?

If like me, you love culinary themed cozies, you can find lots more at Cozy Mystery List which is where the list I have below comes from. It is also one of the most useful resources for finding all kinds of cozies if you haven’t already discovered it. Besides listing cozies alphabetically by author, you can find them by theme, region, occupation and all sorts of other breakdowns.

CULINARY – COOKING THEMES:

Mysteries with Recipes AND Recipe Books by Mystery Authors

Cozy Mystery Authors with Culinary Themes: A – D

Cozy Mystery Authors with Culinary Themes: F – K

Cozy Mystery Authors with Culinary Themes: L – R

Cozy Mystery Authors with Culinary Themes: S – W Plus Some!

Cozy Mystery Authors with Culinary Themes: Even More!

Where to Start with Culinary Cozy Mystery Series…

Visiting with Wendy Delaney, author of Trudy, Madly, Deeply

I ‘met’ Wendy in the Mystery Most Cozy group on Facebook. I fell in love with her book cover when she posted it and invited her here to be wendy delaneyon the blog. Leave a comment for a chance to win Wendy’s wonderful book. Welcome, Wendy.

Thanks, Kate. I’m delighted to be here.

Since it was the reason I first noticed you, tell us about your cover. Great cozy cover. Did you have any input or was it presented to you? Who was the artist?

Thank you for the nice compliment on my book cover! I met with my cover artist and presented him my rough (and I do mean rough!) concept of the look I had in mind and asked for a comedic tone. My talented cover artist, Adam Linstad, then took my ideas and ran with them, creating the fun cover for my humorous cozy mystery.

Keep in mind, as I ask his question, I am sometimes a bit dense. In the first book of the series, the victims are seniors who certainly aren’t working. Where does the  Working Stiff name of the series come from?

The Working Stiffs Mystery Series name comes from a story element that each book in this series will have in common: A dead body (a “stiff”) will be reported to the County Coroner’s office, and in turn, will come to the keen attention of my sleuth, Charmaine Digby, who works as an assistant to the County Prosecutor/Coroner. Since Charmaine and her childhood buddy, Police Detective Steve Sixkiller, will both be working these cases, I thought “Working Stiffs” captured both the lighter tone and the essence of their stories.

Duh. Coroner. See what I mean about dense…

Do you know “whodunit” before you start your book, or does that sort of evolve and get clearer as you write?

Oh, no, I’m a plotter through and through. I always have a clear vision of who and why they “dunit” well before I have an opening line. As the story develops, what evolves for me is the red herrings—the short list of possible suspects. Although my mysteries are intended to be fun and light-hearted, there is still a murder mystery to be solved, and I want my readers to enjoy the process of discovery throughout the book.

Other than Nancy Drew (or Hardy Boys, etc.) that everyone answers with, what was the first mystery series you fell in love with?

As a teenager, I loved The Thin Man movies and that brought me to the novels of Dashiell Hammett. Around the same time I discovered Daphne Du Maurier and fell completely, utterly in love with the genre.

How does your family feel about your writing and the time it takes you away from them? Do you also have a day job?

When I started writing, I had teenagers at home as well as a demanding day job, so time to write was limited. Fortunately, I had an understanding husband, who knew how important my writing was to me and didn’t mind the fact that I sometimes had to disappear into my writing cave. He knew I’d come out eventually! I still have the day job, but not for much longer. Yes, that means that soon, I’ll happily have the job of full-time writer! Can’t wait!

Other than your husband, who has been the biggest supporter of your writing and how does that make you feel?

My mother has been a life-long supporter, really of anything I’ve wanted to do. She’s very biased when it comes to her daughter and thinks that everything I do is “absolutely wonderful” (her favorite word pairing), but isn’t it nice to have someone in your corner who feels that way about you? If ever my writer’s ego is bruised, I definitely know where to go for a kiss to make it all better, and I know where she keeps the cookies!

Now that the book is out there, what do you enjoy the most and what do you really hate about all the promoting you have to do? And did you realize how much hard work it was going to be once the book was done?

I truly enjoy hearing from readers. After sixteen years as an unpublished writer, it’s pure bliss to receive feedback that my book brightened someone’s day.

And yes, I’d done my homework prior to publication and knew that I’d have some very busy days ahead of me once my book hit the online retail sites. Now my challenge is to make the most of every hour of every day. Pages first; promo/social media second is my new mantra. I have readers who are already impatiently waiting for book two in my Working Stiffs Mystery Series. I don’t want to disappoint them, or me!

Now three things that have nothing to do with writing:

What is your favorite food? I’m on a low carb diet so at the moment it’s blackened prime rib—heavenly!

What is your favorite TV show? Breaking Bad with Castle as a close second

What is your favorite music? Classic rock from the 70s & 80s — Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leopard. I crank up the volume and sing along—badly!

Thank you so much for being here today Wendy and good luck with your new book. Before you go, is there anything else you would like to tell your readers or have them know about you?

I do have one last thing I’d like to share. Much like Char, my protagonist, I LOVE to bake (and eat, hence the diet!). Since something is always “cooking” at Duke’s Cafe, the greasy spoon where Char hangs out, I’m constantly on the lookout for tasty recipes to feature on Duke’s menu as well as my website. I invite everyone who has a favorite dish to email me the recipe. Not only will you be entered in a monthly drawing for a fun gift, your winning dish (as judged by the men of Delaney Manor) could be featured in an upcoming book!

Thanks again, Kate! It was wonderful to join you today.

Thanks again, Wendy. I’ll be looking for the next book. Readers, you can read chapter one down below my review and be sure to leave a comment for Wendy to let her know what you think.

BIO

Wendy Delaney writes fun-filled cozy mysteries and is the author of Trudy, Madly, Deeply, which kicks off her Working Stiffs Mystery series (July 2013). A long-time member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America, she’s a Food Network addict and pastry chef wannabe. When she’s not killing off story people she can be found on her treadmill, working off the calories from her latest culinary adventure. Wendy makes her home in the Seattle area with her husband and has two grown sons.

trudy madly deeplyBLURB

Human lie detector Charmaine Digby is having a bad year. After eating her way through a divorce, she’s out of work and up to her eyeballs in debt. In need of a life makeover Char comes home to the senior citizen haven of Port Merritt, Washington, and is ecstatic when she parlays her eye for lies into a job as the County Coroner’s new assistant. But her joy is short-lived when a hunky doctor at the hospital reports the suspicious death of Trudy, Port Merritt’s beloved Story Lady. Even more stunning, Trudy isn’t the only recent patient whose heart mysteriously stopped.

Is it mad to think that dear old Trudy could be the latest victim of a serial killer?

With no physical evidence of foul play, Char’s on the case, much to the irritation of Detective Steve Sixkiller, who doesn’t want her to stick her pretty nose for trouble in his investigation. But she’s a woman on a mission to uncover the truth, and she’d better keep her eyes open or the next body on the way to the morgue could be hers….

MY REVIEW 

Usually I have read the book before I would invite an author on my blog. Or they come as part of a tour. But to invite an author whose book I had not yet read? Based on a cover? Oh my. What if I don’t like the book? Well I dodged that bullet. I loved the book. Hard to believe this is Wendy’s first. Well drawn characters, that for the most part you like. Tightly written plot. It has good character back story without letting it overshadow the mystery. Just enough so you want to see how the characters’ lives will progress and want to read the next mystery in the series. And well researched. I know because as I read a book, I always have Google at hand. Charmaine Digby being a “human lie detector” is not some amazing skill/superpower made up by the author. 1 in 1000 people have this skill, some to an amazing degree. I knew about eidetic  memory but this is something I didn’t know about. And a cop named Steve Sixkiller? That struck me as a made up name, sort of to be funny in a cozy. Nope. I looked it up. A real name with a history in law enforcement. Wendy got the idea for the story from watching a piece on 60 minutes about an “angel of mercy” serial killer. Well she took that premise and ran with it and created a wonderful book which is the first in a series that I hope will have a very long run. I highly recommend this book. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

WENDY’S LINKS 

READ CHAPTER ONE

My life of crime began at seven twenty-eight this morning.

Nothing hard-core. But judging from the steely-eyed gaze Chimacam County Prosecutor, Francine “Frankie” Rickard, was leveling at me, I knew some hard time could be in my immediate future.

“What the hell are you doing?” she asked as I entered her third floor office in the stately courthouse overlooking the Port Merritt waterfront.

She’d asked the question du jour-what I’d been asking myself ever since I hijacked her Friday morning doughnut order.

I’d been a good girl, never before prone to vigilante acts against pastry. But after a year without a regular paycheck, I was done with playing it safe.

I needed to make the most of this golden opportunity for some one-on-one time with my potential employer, so I shot Frankie my best smile and set the Duke’s Cafe bakery box on the corner of her oak desk. “Special delivery!”

Leaning back in her desk chair, she squinted at me over her wireframe bifocals. “Duke has you making deliveries now?” she asked, a wary glint in her slate-blue eyes.

In the last two decades, the population of the former mill boom town of Port Merritt, Washington, had dwindled to a tight-knit community of just over five thousand. Like Frankie, most everyone who frequented the waterfront was well-acquainted with my great-uncle, the Duke-Darrell Duquette, owner of Duke’s Cafe, the best breakfast and burger joint in town.

The fact that Duke had me around this summer for cheap, temporary labor was supposed to be working in this delivery girl’s favor. Instead, I felt like I’d been caught with a sticky-fingered hand in the tip jar.

“Deliveries, waiting tables. I’m just filling in wherever I’m needed until I can find something full-time,” I said, hoping she’d take the bait I was dangling in front of her.

Despite the August sunshine filtering through the arched window behind her, haloing her upswept auburn-gray hair, sixty-year-old Frankie didn’t look the least bit angelic as she folded her thin arms against the pleats of her cranberry-red jacket. “Well, I have to admit I’m disappointed, Charmaine. Since I could use someone with your . . . ability in this office, I’d hoped to entice you to work for me.”

My ability had earned me a local reputation that had been following me around like a chain-rattling ghost ever since Heather Beckett labeled me as a freak back in sixth grade. If it could also pay off in the form of a steady salary, I wasn’t too proud to do a little rattling of my own.

“You did. I submitted an application for the open position you told me about last week,” I said, trying to ignore the telltale quirk of irritation pulling at Frankie’s lips.

After completing the online application process, I’d spent the next ten days jumping at every ring of my cell phone like I was once again a teenager in need of a prom date. Much like fifteen years earlier, when Frankie called to ask me to babysit that Saturday night, my phone had rung just once about a job.

The offer had come from an old classmate who managed the Roadkill Grill, home of the You kill it-We grill it t-shirt that all the line cooks wore.

“Free t-shirts!” he said as if this were a coveted job perk that every thirty-four-year-old woman should have her sights set on.

Seriously, if I’m ever that desperate to save money on my wardrobe, I want someone to shoot me.

I met Frankie’s gaze, my heart pounding with anticipation. “But since I never heard anything back about the job . . .”

She puckered, accentuating the fine lines surrounding her frosted strawberry lips. “No one called you for an interview?”

I shook my head.

Frankie pushed back from her desk, rising to a height almost eye level to my five foot six with the aid of the two-inch heels on her taupe pumps. “Come with me.”

I followed her past the cluttered desks of two watchful assistants clicking on computer keyboards to a smaller office four doors down a threadbare hallway, where Ben Santiago sat in front of a laptop dwarfed by his massive mahogany desk.

“Ben,” Frankie said as she and I stood in the doorway. “May we interrupt you?”

It was obvious from the cordial smile that didn’t reach his hooded walnut brown eyes that the Deputy Criminal Prosecuting Attorney thought we already had.

Ben Santiago’s gaze tightened when it landed on me, making me regret opting for the ponytail instead of taking an extra ten minutes with my blow dryer to tame my raggedy brown mop of curls. At least my white chambray shirt was clean. If you didn’t count the smear of egg yolk on my right sleeve.

He removed his horn-rimmed glasses and pointed with them at the two black leather captain’s chairs facing his desk. “Please.”

The leather chairs appeared to be cheap and utilitarian, like they’d been ordered out of a discount office supply catalog along with the bank of black file cabinets to his right. Aside from the red tones in his desk, the worn rust-brown carpet, and the windowless eggshell-white wall featuring two sepia-tinted street scenes of Port Merritt in its late nineteenth century heyday, the monochrome office looked as warm and inviting as a loaf of five-day-old white bread.

And that included an unsmiling, fiftyish Ben Santiago-a burly, onyx-haired fireplug in an off-the-rack charcoal gray suit.

Frankie sat in the chair to my left. “Have you met Charmaine Digby?”

Standing a couple of inches taller than me, he reached across his desk and shook my hand with a firm, warm grip, projecting professionalism blended with a dollop of guarded disinterest. “Not officially.”

I’d served this guy lunch at Duke’s at least a dozen times in the last couple of months while I filled in for one of the waitresses on maternity leave. He took his coffee black, preferred ranch dressing with his fries, and wanted his double beef bacon cheeseburgers served without a side order of conversation, so I wasn’t surprised to hear I hadn’t made the grade of official acquaintance.

“Charmaine is interested in the level one assistant position we have open,” Frankie said.

Especially since it was the only employment nibble I’d had in the last nine weeks that didn’t require me to have Rocky Raccoon roadkill stretched over my C-cups.

Unfortunately, although Ben Santiago smiled and nodded, the crinkle of annoyance etched between his thick eyebrows suggested that I should ring my buddy to give him my shirt size.

“She’s the one I was telling you about, but it appears she was never called for an interview.” Frankie dismissively flicked a wrist. “Probably because of some clerical error.”

Ben’s mouth flatlined for a fraction of a second.

Clerical error, my ass. Clearly, some barrel-chested prosecuting attorney with a receding hairline had played a part in that error.

“Since you’ve been conducting the interviews, I thought you could take this opportunity to chat with her,” Frankie stated, making it abundantly apparent that an answer of no wasn’t advisable.

“Sure. I’d be happy to.” Ben sounded as enthusiastic as my then-husband the last time I suggested we head up to the Pacific Northwest and spend the holidays with my grandmother.

“I’ll sit in on this if you don’t mind.” Frankie smiled, folding her arms and sending her deputy prosecutor the none-too-subtle message that she didn’t care what he thought. “Just to expedite the process.”

With the tug of displeasure at the edge of his tan lips betraying his emotion like a tell in a poker game, Ben turned his attention to me, his pinstriped tie rising and falling with each deep breath he took.

“Charmaine, I’m sure you’re busy and need to get back to work, so what do you say we get right to it?”

Obviously, Frankie wasn’t the only one who wanted to do some expediting.

“Since I haven’t seen your resume . . . .” He glanced at Frankie like he wanted to convince her of that fact, making it ring less true. “Tell me about your work history, Charmaine, aside from being a waitress.”

“Most recently I worked as a process server for a private investigator in San Mateo, California.”

The PI was the father of a friend I met at culinary school. She and I had both worked in four-star restaurant pressure cookers-probably why she thought I could handle the door-to-door verbal abuse, usually inflicted by irate soon-to-be-ex-spouses, pissed at being served with notices to appear. But it had its upside. I got to exchange being yelled at by the resident kitchen czar for a daily dose of California sunshine while I waited for my divorce to become final.

“I did research and ran background checks,” I said, making sure that I hit some of the key duties of the level one assistant job description, “and I served as the assistant office manager.” Which meant that I was the low man on the totem pole in charge of picking up the PI’s dry-cleaning, but at least I had a title.

“And before that?” Ben asked, sounding like a food critic with zippo interest in the menu I’d just offered him.

“I co-managed an Italian bistro in San Francisco. Supervised the kitchen, handled the payroll.”

Actually, I collected the staff’s timecards and handed them over to my former mother-in-law, who wouldn’t let me touch her computer. But to get myself into an office at the courthouse, I figured a sprig of creative garnish could only help my cause.

A flicker of disdain at the corner of his pursed mouth signaled that I was wasting his time. No doubt because I’d served him a double beef bacon cheeseburger last week.

“Before that, I was a pastry chef for ten years,” I volunteered to cut to the chase.

Blowing out a breath, he stared at his boss as if she were forcing him to eat his vegetables.

“She has other skills, Ben,” Frankie stated. “One in particular that could come in very handy around here.”

The Criminal Prosecuting Attorney shot me a fake smile. “I’m sure you do.”

I hadn’t had this kind of confidence boost since my husband won a top chef contest on TV, then came home to announce that he was trimming the fat in his life-namely me.

Frankie peered at me over her bifocals. “You’d better show him.”

“Okay.” It wasn’t the first time someone had trotted me out as if I were their trick poodle, but I could guarantee this guy wasn’t going to like the show.

I scooted my chair closer to sit directly across from Ben Santiago, and he scowled like I was invading his space.

“Is this going to take long?” he asked Frankie. “I’m due in court in ten minutes.”

Doubtful. Until now he’d shown no indication that he was in a hurry. No surreptitious glances at his wristwatch. Nothing.

“Sorry, Mr. Santiago, but I think the truth is that you just want me out of here.”

Getting into a man’s face and calling him a liar is a lot like poking a bear-often not good for the one doing the poking. Since I didn’t want the grizzly behind the desk to toss me out of his office, I thought it best not to use too sharp a stick.

His tie slowly rose and fell while a crease between his thick black brows punctuated his thoughts.

“I see that I’m right about when you’re needed in court,” I said.

“I’ll mention that to the judge when I see him.”

“When? In an hour or two?” I was guessing, taking a wild swing with my stick.

His eyes narrowed into a squint worthy of Dirty Harry.

Bingo. “Right again, huh?”

“I see what you’re trying to do, but trust me, I don’t have time for games.”

“Really? You seemed to be playing one earlier when you said that you hadn’t seen my resume.”

His tie stopped moving. “I-”

“Lied to me. You saw that I lacked the depth of experience you’re looking for, and you didn’t want to waste any more time on me. Would you like to tell me I’m wrong?”

His lips thinned. “You’re awfully sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

Not lately. But I still had faith in my bullshit barometer. “I’m only telling you how I’m reading you.”

He tapped a thick index finger several beats against the surface of his desk. “Listen, I appreciate that you have . . . some skills,” he said with a headshake that told me otherwise. “And this is nothing personal, but-”

“Nope. Sorry. I think it’s very personal and has a lot to do with the fact that I’m the one who’s been taking your lunch orders at Duke’s.”

“That has nothing to do with this.”

“Sure.”

His mouth quirked. “Okay, maybe it has a little bit to do with it. A waitress isn’t exactly a natural fit for someone working in this office.”

I couldn’t disagree with him. “But I’m a natural at identifying deceit. I’ve been shown hundreds of interviews and correctly interpreted thousands of flashes of expression in two university studies to prove it.”

I’d participated in the deception detection studies as a favor to my former sister-in-law, who was working on her doctoral thesis in clinical psychology, but the results validated Heather Beckett’s claim. Compared to the perceptive abilities of the average person, I really was a bit of a freak.

Ben’s eyebrows arched with interest. “That may be true,” he said, “but-”

“I’m a hard worker and a quick study.” I would have added that only one percent of the population had my level of deception detection accuracy, but I didn’t want to sound like a used car salesman trying to make a hard sell. “I might fit in better than you think.”

The look he gave his boss told me that he still wasn’t sold.

“You already know how I feel about this,” Frankie said. “But as head of the Criminal Division, your team would also work with her, so it needs to be a joint decision.”

He leaned back, his desk chair creaking under his weight as his gaze swept over me.

I placed my hand over the yolk stain on my sleeve. “I’m good at what I do, Mr. Santiago.” Despite all appearances to the contrary.

The pinstripes on his chest rose and fell. “Call me Ben. And we’ll see about how good you are.”

Not the most enthusiastic job offer I’d ever received, but every fiber in my being was singing a hallelujah chorus.

He looked at Frankie. “Thirty-day trial?”

“Fine,” she agreed without hesitation.

Ben shrugged. “Then it looks like you just found yourself a new assistant.”

TURNING AROUND A DISASTER, MY LAST MINUTE WATERMELON CAKE

I make great cakes. Which is funny because I am not that fond of cake. But even though I am not a great cake lover, even I know when I come up with a to die for cake. And when people ask me for the recipe, I always gladly give it. But then the complaints start. Their cake isn’t as high, or moist or whatever and I must leave something out so my cakes will be better. Not so. I bake all the time. So my flour, baking soda, baking powder, etc. are all always fresh. Ingredients get stale. Flour that has been in that flour canister for a while will not perform like fresh flour. So I started making cakes with a basic white, yellow or chocolate cake mix and then adding my other ingredients. It doesn’t always work, some things just have to be done from scratch. But a lot of times it does work. Or put it this way, it is much better than if you made it from scratch with less than fresh ingredients.

384737_476459932364104_1234352707_nThe other day I was baking a blackberry cake. This is one that has to be blackberriesfrom scratch. I was going to do the baking on Saturday and frost on Sunday just before dinner.  Went to my son’s house to pick the blackberries on Saturday.  Between my son, his roommates and the birds, most of the biggest ones were gone. Sure there were a ton of unripe ones so there will be plenty over the summer, but I did manage to get a sufficient amount, even if a bit smaller than I would like. But I had to go in, under, climb over and work for those blackberries. And it was like ninety seven degrees. And the thorns were massive. I could have used a machete getting through the weeds. I was too hot, cranky and tired to bake when I got home. So… put it off to the last minute.

The next day I got all my ingredients assembled. Then because I happen to love blackberries, I figured I could eat a few. OMG! They were sooooo bitter. No time to get dressed and run to the store. What did I have in the house? Well, I had a box of white cake mix and four boxes of watermelon jello. I like watermelon. Experiment time. Be sure and read the notes below the recipe. 

slice

Ingredients:

CAKE BATTER***Cake***

1 package (2 layer size) white cake mix

5 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup club soda

2 packages watermelon Jello

red food color

FROSTING***Frosting***

1 cup heavy cream

1 carton (8-ounce size) frozen whipped topping

2 packages watermelon jello

green food color

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Set aside.

Mix all  cake ingredients together with electric mixer in large bowl. Pour into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cake tests done when wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean. Place pan on rack and cool slightly; remove cake from pan and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Beat heavy cream until stiff. Add Jello and beat adding green food coloring as you beat. Add in the whipped topping and beat until all incorporated.

FROST IN MIDThen frost that cake.

It was the most intense watermelon flavor and got rave reviews!

I wasn’t sure jello would work. I had tried it once before but in very different SLICEDcircumstances. This is a base recipe I have done for other people so they didn’t have to make from scratch but I did it with pudding mix (two in the cake, one in the frosting) in various flavors, then adding my special ingredients. But I like to experiment. The cake did not rise as high using Jello. It was slightly dense but very, very moist. I had it on hand which is why I used two in the frosting. It made the most intense watermelon flavor. I was worried there might be a grainy consistency to the frosting since the Jello wasn’t melted in hot liquid but not at all. Watermelon Jello is pale pink so I added food coloring until I got the colors I wanted to make it look like a nice red watermelon with a green rind.

The only thing that would have made it 100% perfect would have been if I could have figured out something to replicate watermelon seeds!

watermelon seeds

ANOTHER RECIPE WEDNESDAY

I did a recipe last Wednesday so I thought I would do another today. My son is not a big sweet eater but he likes pound cake. After trying different store bought ones and different recipes and variations thereof, this is what we settled on.

Vanilla Pound Cake

Tony’s Favorite Pound Cake

1 (18.25-ounce) package Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix *
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  3. Combine cake mix, oil, sour cream and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Butter a bundt pan or two loaf pans and sugar coat the inside of pan (this creates the crisp crust found on the old fashioned pound cakes). Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until cake tests as done. My oven is a bit off so yours may take more or less and the loaf pans take about 10 minutes less than the bundt. Good rule of thumb is if you can smell it, you better test it for doneness.

* Since I started making this many years ago, the size of the cake mix is no longer 18.25 ounces. Just like everything else, they give us less and we pay more. It still tastes as good but it does not rise up the way it used to. It used to rise up like a golden mountain over the pans. Now it stays pretty flat on top. First time it happened, I thought I screwed something up, forgot something. Second time, I noticed the box and the ounces. But hey, it tastes the same and my son, and everyone else, loves it.

SERVING TIP: This is how we love to have this. Nice thick slice of cake, scoop of French vanilla ice cream, drizzle with Moosewood Hollow Sweet Heat. That is maple syrup infused with hot peppers. Unless you live in Vermont you’ll have to buy it online, it is delish.