"Don't give me any turkey leftovers. All I want is some of your mother's vegetable salad." I hear similar requests after every holiday dinner. Alas, the vegetable salad recipe has more than five ingredients, so it doesn't belong on this page. You'll find the recipe in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White.
By Cook or by Crook, the first of my Five-Ingredient Mysteries, includes eight recipes, two of them perfect for a Thanksgiving dinner: Just Small Potatoes and Easier-than-Pie Apple Crisp. Here are those two recipes and an easy herb stuffing recipe.
Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Please mention it in a comment.
Just Small Potatoes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
6 medium to large potatoes
¼ cup flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons melted butter
Pour the melted butter into a glass baking pan (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Combine the flour, cheese, and salt in a plastic bag. Peel the spuds and cut each into eight pieces. Dip ‘em in cold water, throw ‘em into the plastic bag a few at a time, and shake. When the pieces are coated, plunk those babies in the pan, flat side down, nestled in a single layer. Bake for an hour, turning them after half an hour to brown another side.
You can serve them in the baking pan and add parsley sprigs for garnish.
Easier-Than-Pie Apple Crisp
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
5 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (about 5 medium or 3 large apples)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup softened (not melted) butter
[Optional: cinnamon sprinkles]
Put the sliced apples in a shallow, square baking pan (8 or 9 inches) and, if desired, sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Cover the pan with foil and bake the apples for 20 minutes.
Mix together the flour, sugar, and nuts. Mash the softened butter into the mixture with a fork if you’re finicky, and with your fingers if you’re not. When the apples have baked for 20 minutes, cover them with the crumb mixture.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
Cool the apple crisp for at least 30 minutes. Serve it warm or cold, by itself or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
As the designated holiday dinner makers in our family for the last 25 years, we've experimented with different types of stuffing, starting from scratch or using various stuffing mixes. We've settled on a 5-ingredient one as the favorite, a modified version of the recipe on the Pepperidge Farm® Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing package.
1 stick of butter
2 cups of chopped onions (approximately 2 large onions)
2 cups chopped celery (4-6 celery stalks)
2 cups boiling water (or low-salt chicken broth)
1 14-ounce package of Pepperidge Farm® Herb Seasoned Classic Stuffing
Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions for five minutes or until tender. Add the celery and cook for another 3 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in the skillet with the vegetables. Stir in the stuffing mix. Add hot water or broth slowly, mixing it with the stuffing until moist, using less liquid if you prefer stuffing on the dry side.
Stove-top stuffing: Cover the skillet, remove it from the heat, and let it stand five minutes. Fluff the stuffing with a fork and serve.
Casserole stuffing: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the stuffing into a 2-quart casserole. Bake 30 minutes or until hot.
For in-bird stuffing: Loosely spoon the mixture into the turkey or chicken cavity before putting the bird in the oven. Don't overfill the cavity. A stuffed bird takes longer to cook than an unstuffed one. Put any remaining stuffing in a casserole dish and bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Scam Chowder (Five-Ingredient Mystery #2) is out. Here is a preview of the opening chapter from Val, the sleuth in the series.
Cook and run—those were Granddad’s instructions to me this evening. I was supposed to make the chowder for his dinner guests from the retirement village and get out of the kitchen. Then he would add the final ingredients and claim credit for the whole meal. This ruse was part of his campaign to win the heart of Lillian, the Village’s most attractive widow, whose husband had made her gourmet meals. To convince Lillian of his cooking skills, Granddad has no qualms about passing off my recipes and my dinners as his own creations. By eavesdropping, I discovered that more than a romance was at stake tonight. Granddad, egged on by Lillian, planned to confront a dinner guest who’d scammed retirees out of their savings. But someone beat him to it, making tonight’s chowder the last thing the scammer would eat.
Val makes two types of chowder for her grandfather's guests. When writing the book, I found a helpful video on cooking chowder: How to make three kinds of clam chowder, with Providence chef Michael Cimarusti. The 5-ingredient clear chowder meets Granddad's standards for a recipe.
Which type do you prefer: clear chowder, red chowder, or creamy chowder?
Book #2 in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series has a mouth-watering cover . . . with a missing ingredient.
The first book in the series had a cover image that set the style for future covers: the five ingredients needed for a dish in the forefront. This book's title made it clear what dish's ingredients would have to appear on the cover.
When my editor asked me to suggest images for the cover, I proposed the tureen with the series name on it and the bay view. I also listed five chowder ingredients to depict. For whatever reason, possibly aesthetic, one of the ingredients doesn't appear on the cover.
Any chowder cooks reading this? What other ingredient would you put in your chowder that's not shown here?
Enter to win an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of By Cook or By Crook on Goodreads.
Over the weekend I poked around Goodreads to see what it was like before becoming a member. A social media procrastinator, I signed up Facebook only a few months ago, fifteen years after the rest of the world, and waited until Goodreads had 20 million members before exploring it. To my surprise, I discovered my forthcoming book joined Goodreads before I did.
Kensington, has made 25 copies of the book available for a Goodreads giveaway. Enter to win one before September 30th on the By Cook or By Crook Goodreads page.
The first book in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series, By Cook or by Crook contains eight delicious five-ingredient recipes. Learn more about the book.
My brother's reaction to my book cover image, "Will they produce an edible version of it?" made me laugh. But it's not a bad idea. When the book comes out in November, I promise to serve an edible version at my book launch party.
My brother correctly guessed what the ingredients on the book cover would make. Do you know a recipe that uses the ingredients depicted? Can you name other books with covers that look good enough to eat? Or books that made you hungry as you read them? If so, please leave a comment.
By Cook or by Crook comes out November 4, 2014, from Kensington Publishing.
"Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." --C.S. Lewis
The culinary mystery, a popular form of the traditional whodunit, combines murder, food, and humor. Cooking and eating are comforting routines that make murder more palatable, at least on the page. My forthcoming mystery, By Cook or by Crook, like many culinary mysteries, includes recipes for the dishes the sleuth makes while solving crimes. Those dishes make murder even more palatable.
When I tell people I write culinary mysteries, a fair number of them say, "Oh, I love reading those kinds of books." Others say, "I've never heard of a culinary mystery. Did you come up with that idea yourself?" Old though I am, the culinary mystery predates me. Rex Stout, who created gourmet detective Nero Wolfe, is a pioneer in the genre. His 1938 publicity tour for the fifth Nero Wolfe mystery, Too Many Cooks, included giveaways of book-shaped boxes containing recipes for 35 dishes mentioned in the mystery.
The current Buy-It-Now price on eBay for a recipe "book" signed by Rex Stout is $600. He signed the page containing this description:
Wherein vagrant tastes and fugitive flavors are sniffed to their hideouts, fingerprinted and imprisoned in savory dishes—by that celebrated Nemesis of crooks and envy of cooks, NERO WOLFE, private investigator.
This blog, like the books and stories I write, combines mysteries, food, trivia, and a bit of humor to leaven the grim subject of crime. Sometimes random subjects intrude here .