Fire and Ice Cream – cooking in books

In his book On Writing, Stephen King observed that people love to read about work. That’s why Tom Clancy novels are thinly disguised manuals about how things work, yet people read them by the truckload.

The cozy mystery crowd is the same way. Is there knitting on the cover? There’d better be technical knitting stuff in the book. In one of my Facebook groups, a reader complained that Silence of the Flans didn’t actually have any flans in it.

When I read mysteries that involve the victim being poisoned via blueberry pie, I want to know about that pie. Did it have a normal crust? Or was it a Marie Calendars sour cream blueberry pie? Is there some twist to baking it, like all the tricks it takes to make a perfect cheesecake? How do you hide a bitter poison in a sweet confection, anyway?

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The cozy mystery genre is hot right now, but it’s been flooded by a lot of indies who don’t really understand the genre. They promise a culinary cozy, then the dessert in question is barely mentioned. Does the heroine run a cupcake bakery? Tell me about cupcakes. I want to know the sizes, the types of batter, the way the icing is piped. Does the heroine sell those tiny cups of frosting that were so popular a few years ago?

When I set out to write a culinary cozy with dragons, I picked ice cream, since it’s my favorite dessert. I love eating it and I love making it. In the book, the heroine debates things like almonds vs walnuts in rocky road. She constructs the perfect coffee ice cream.

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I looked up tons of recipes as I wrote. Having never made Rocky Road before, I checked that out. Turns out it’s a kind of frozen chocolate pudding with nuts and marshmallows folded in. I researched coffee ice cream. You make a custard with coffee in it, the higher quality, the better.

This book is packed with cooking. When the heroine isn’t interviewing people or eavesdropping on conversations, she’s mixing up ice cream or batches of brownies. At home she cooks breakfasts worthy of a restaurant.

Food is comforting. Eating it with friends is comforting. In all my books, across all genres, my characters experience downtime and safety with food. I guess I have too much hobbit in me.

My first dragon cozy, Fire and Ice Cream, launches today. I hope people like it, because I want to write twenty more of these. The characters are adorable and the mystery is fun to figure out. And there’s so much food.


fire-and-cre-cream-coverTianna Tokala is starting a new life in Carefree, Arizona, working in an ice cream parlor. She also has the magical ability to turn into a small dragon called a drake. All she wants is a quiet life where she can make ice cream with her wonderful ice breath.
But when her manager is found dead with a bowl of Tianna’s Rocky Road ice cream beside her, Tianna springs into action. With a knack for observation and her enhanced drake hearing, she delves into her manager’s smoky draconic past.
Aided by a secretive drake, a single mother, and a four-year-old dragon shifter, Tianna must unravel the web of lies that surround this dragonic death … or there may be more fire than ice cream.


 

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Feeding ravenous kids

It’s a warm, breezy afternoon here in Arizona. I tried to get a picture, but it’s hard to get pictures of the wind.

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President’s Day took me by surprise. I was expecting to get up and do school today … then it turned out that every other child in our apartment complex was out and wanting to play. So I kicked all five kids outside.

We also built Legos and did other fun stuff. Basically, it was a vacation day. I feel like I should make some kind of special dinner, but I can’t think of cooking when my fridge is full of leftovers. Does that ever happen to you? It’s like writer’s block, only … chef’s block. I think it will just be leftover night.

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Yesterday I made hamburgers using a meatloaf recipe. I was afraid my little package of hamburger meat wouldn’t feed us all, so here’s what I did:

1 lb hamburger
1 cup leftover stuffing
a vigorous shake of garlic powder and diced onions
Several good shakes of Worcestershire
A hearty drizzle of steak sauce
1 egg

I mixed that all up, made the patties, and fried them in my trusty iron skillet. The stuffing disappeared into the meat, and the burgers tasted wonderful. Because of the stuffing, they were also a bit lighter than burgers usually are. It was a perfect dinner. I also made potato wedges and a fruit and veggie smoothie on the side.

As the weather warms up, and the kids are out in the sun more, they’re starting their summer growth spurts. And they eat like CRAZY. It’s like feeding black holes, seriously. Cookies? Gone. Grapes? Gone. Box of eight yogurts? Gone. Oranges? Gone. Apples and bananas? Gone. I try to ration one kind of snack for each day, so we don’t go through them so fast. But man, by Friday, I’m frantically cooking extra cookies and handing out peanut butter pops. (This is a scoop of peanut butter on a spoon, covered with raisins.)

If you have kids, how do you keep them fed?

How to toast hazelnuts

Nutella and hazelnut coffee are my only experience with hazelnuts. I didn’t even know what they looked like.

Then I was at the store, and they had little bags of shelled hazelnuts!

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Hazelnuts via Wikimedia Commons

They also had dried currants. But one new food at a time.

So I tried them out raw. They were eh. Kind of oily and bitter. Where was that lovely Nutella flavor?

Then I happened across the blog Chocolate and Zucchini, and she has a lovely section on roasting hazelnuts. All you do is:

Toss the nuts on a cookie sheet under the broiler

Broil until the skins turn black and crack off. (I messed with them about 10 minutes.)

Then pour the nuts into a dish towel and rub them to flake off all the bitter skins.

You’re left with a pile of delicious golden brown Nutella-tasting hazelnuts. They’re completely different than their raw flavor. Like how almonds change when roasted.

Now I have to figure out what to do with them! I might do granola. Or baked oatmeal. Or just candy them. Mmmmm!

Bone broth healed my cold

Like the rest of the human race, I came down with a post-holiday cold. Too much candy and cookies finally did me in.

All I wanted was some good, hot soup. Fortunately, Nourished Kitchen posted a recipe for bone broth. I bought some beef bones and cooked up some stock. (It takes at least 12 hours, so into the slow cooker it went, overnight.)

Beef broth by Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia Commons
Beef broth by Rainer Zenz via Wikimedia Commons

Beef bone stock is one of those unsung super foods. It’s loaded with minerals, gelatin and good fats, and it heals a damaged intestine. What damages your intestine? Sugar.

Meanwhile, my cold worsened into the sneeze-and-blow-nose stage. In my experience, nothing beats it once it progresses that far.

The next day, I cooked up a pot of beef stew with the beef stock. We had it for lunch, and boy was it good. I positively stuffed on it. Then I laid down with the baby for a nap.

When I got up, zero sneezing. Zero runny nose. Minimal sinus pain. I was astonished. All afternoon and evening, lots of energy and no cold. It just vanished. I warmed up the stew and had it for dinner, too.

The next day, I felt so good, I went for a mile-and-change walk. This caused a relapse. Yay me! Not. Also I ate some chocolate that I should have left alone, and the cold came roaring back.

If I’d left sugar alone, I’m sure I’d have recovered much faster.

Also, as I was making/drinking lovely beef broth and stock, I was also making smoothies. Here’s the one I have to fight the kids for:

1 or 2 big green kale leaves
1 carrot, cut in small enough pieces that the blender can grab it
1/4th cup coconut milk (my favorite is first pressing unsweetened)
dash of orange juice
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Throw it all in the blender and do your own Will It Blend commercial, although hopefully with fewer explosions.

I also summoned all my courage and tried spreading bone marrow on toast. It tasted exactly like the stock did and was quite pleasant. Very fatty and rich. I was afraid it’d be very strong, like liver, but it wasn’t.

Moral of the story: Beef broth and veggies are good for you! Have you had any luck beating bugs with broths and things?

Duck, duck, goose

It being the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking of how tired I am of turkey. I mean, seriously, Thanksgiving is quite enough turkey for me, thanks! We still have leftovers in the freezer.

Ham is a big seller, but we eat ham all the time on sandwiches. I can’t get real excited about cooking 10 pounds of ham.

So, as I circulated around our grocery store’s meat department, I happened to glance into the fridge bin and spotted … DUCK. And GOOSE, even!

I’ve never had duck or goose. No idea if I can cook them or if I’d like them.

I did find this really good article (with pictures) on how to cook a duck. And a big website of how to cook wild duck and goose!

Duck and goose seem to be considered red meat, because you do things like pan-sear breast meat to medium rare. But I’ve never had it, and I’m unsure how to cook something I’ve never tasted.

Anybody ever tried duck or goose? How do they taste? Any recipes stood you in good stead?

Thanksgiving recipes!

I always try to cook something for Thanksgiving. We always go to family’s on the day of, and I like to contribute, even if its only a dessert.

This year, what with a new baby (who insists on being held at all times), I’m limiting myself to just a pie. What pie, do you ask? Why, my sister in law’s decadent chocolate mousse pie!

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I had a hard time finding this recipe–apparently mousse is usually made with whipped egg whites, not heavy cream. But I wanted the heavy stuff. Plus it’s really easy to make.

Then hubby came home from the store saying they were out of pre made Oreo pie crusts. HORRORS! Wait, can you make those from scratch?

Yes you can!

So, if the store is still out, I can make my own delicious chocolate cookie crust. I’d rather just buy it–new baby and all–but desperate times and desperate measures. 🙂