The Critical Element - John L. Betcher, Author

12:35 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves


 
Fresh Sweet Salsa
(A Beck Special)

3 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including seeds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)

Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.

 

The Critical Element - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Rodney slid back in the chair, his hands gripping the armrests.  he cracked his neck to both sides before beginning his tale.  "It was yesterday afternoon," he said.  "Sunday...and I was out on the John Deere checking my fields, you know...and all of a sudden I hear this sound.  It was a kinda weird sound, you know?"  "It was kinda like whoosh-thud...tumble, tumble, tumble," he said.  "So I got up and looked toward the sound."   ..."something was knocking down my corn"... "This thing, whatever it was, knocked down maybe thirty or forty feet of head-high corn stalks, in a straight line," he continued.  "I saw the last ones go down."  He clapped one flattened hand downward onto the other.  "Then all was quiet." 

..."I stand up straight and look around," he said, "my wrench hand at the ready.  But there's no sign of man nor beast." ... So I stoop down and start pawing through the grass and then...just when I'm about to give up, the back of my hand hits something big and solid in the grass."  ..."I decided to give the thing a kick with my boot."  "And voila,... there it was."  "It was a meteor!"

Rodney Holton was a local farmer known in the city of Red Wing, Minnesota for his flim-flammery, so when he recited his story to Attorney James Becker, Beck had his doubts as to how much was true and how much wasn't.  And to assure his belief he and his wife Beth decided to pay a visit to Rodney's farm where he displayed his 'meteor' and charged $20.00 per person to view.  Yep, Rodney was up to his old tricks again.  The taped off area that contained burned grass and what appeared to be a bowling ball dug into the ground didn't quite fit the story he had relayed to Beck.  Yet there was something that just didn't ring quite right that had Beck believing there might be a bit more to Rodney's story.  When the FBI turns up looking for the meteor, Beck's feelings proved true.   What didn't quite fit was the finding of Hoof and Mouth Disease that were found in Rodney's cattle.  This strain appeared to be found only in the South African tribal farming area, so how did it get to the US.  And what is its connection with the meteor? 

The answers to these questions plus, lead Beck and the FBI to suspect North Korea has a hand in at least one part of the mystery.  Their beliefs are reinforced when the meteor turns up missing and is found to have been in the presence of a Korean man who was found dead with traces of a fluffy, white powder that is such a favorite of terrorists world-wide - Anthrax.  After a search of the man's work place Beck and agent Costa discover half of the powder found had been mixed with another white substance.  What was missing was the other half of undiluted powder that could kill thousands if placed in the right venue. 

I've read everything John L. Betcher has written and every time I think he can't get any better.  Well he does.  The Critical Element is by far his best in the James Becker series.  I can't wait to see what Beck will do next.

 

Means to an End - Elizabeth Romero, Author

8:38 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves

 
The word  lagniappe is a Louisiana term which means a small extra gift. This recipe is my lagniappe to you. Hope you enjoy this Cajun favorite - Elizabeth Romero
SHRIMP AND CRAB GUMBO INGREDIENTS AND TOOLS
  • One 4 QUART OR LARGER HEAVY BOTTOM POT
  • One MED SKILLET
  • 2 pounds shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 pound small peeled shrimp
  • 2 cups lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons self rising flour
  • 2 quarts chicken or seafood stock
  • 2 large onions diced
  • 1 small head of garlic minced
  • 1 large bell pepper diced ribs removed
  • 1 rib of celery diced
  • 2 pounds of sliced okra fresh or frozen
  • I can Rotel tomatoes mild or spicy as you like
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons file’
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning to taste I add a tablespoon and then re-season when finished if I need more
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • cooked rice enough for at least one cup of cooked rice per person ( maybe more if you are Cajun)
  1. Place enough oil to season in the bottom of heavy pan.. add okra and cook on medium stir as necessary to keep from sticking..cook until sliminess is not visible Do not burn
  2. Add remaining vegetables and stir well continue sautéing until slightly brown
  3. Add seasonings ,bay leaf and stock
  4. Stir and scrape all bits from the bottom of the pan
  5. Add the small shrimp these will incorporate into the broth and disappear but give the strong seafood flavor needed cook for about one hour on medium ..while this is cooking do step 6
  6. Put remaining oil in a skillet bring to medium heat add the flour stir constantly until it is the color of peanut butter remove from heat immediately This is called roux
  7. Allow the roux cool off until the oil separates then remove the excess oil
  8. Spoon roux into the pot with the stock and other ingredients this will foam a bit but don’t worry cook on med high watching closely until foam subsides
  9. Add shrimp and cook on med /low for another ½ hour then add crab and cook for another 15 minutes
  10. Taste for seasoning and add to taste
  11. Add parsley and stir gently
  12. Place a scoop of rice in a bowl and ladle gumbo over rice
Enjoy!!
Footnote: Some say you can’t do Gumbo with roux and okra. Well my family did and after you try this you will agree. If you have questions go to my email…elizabethromerobooks@yahoo.com
 
Means to an End - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
 
Just as she was wrapping it around her, her stepfather appeared there in the doorway.  She almost screamed because he startled her so.  He had seen her naked before but not this way, only when he would sneak into her room in the dark.  She slapped her hand to her mouth to keep from crying out as he slowly leaned back on the door that separated her form the hall.  "What...what are you doing in here?  Momma will hear you," she said.  "That ole cow won't hear a thing.  She done took a couple of her little pills and she is snoring up a storm.  It is just you and me. "  She suddenly realized that he was cold sober.  She tried to reach for the doorknob, but he caught her arm.  He was scary when he wad drunk but not as quick.  Somehow this was different, and it was worse knowing he was in complete control now.  He pulled her near him and said, "You know we could be good friends if you weren't so uppity.  I've been feeding the three of you since me and your momma came to Carolina.  I reason you owe me a good time once in a while."
Ashby, her twin brother Danny and her mother Marie Boudreaux were sent to their own living hell when Ashby's grandfather sent her mother off to marry, not the twin's father, but Garrett Devereaux when he found she was pregnant with the twins.  He made them leave New Orleans and sent them to a rundown home with forty acres of land that he had won in a horse race many years before.  And he did this just to save face in the community. 
Garrett, who required Ashby and Danny to call him Poppa, were in for the abuse that only a monster like Garrett could inflict.  His hobby seemed to be getting drunk and then giving the kids and their mother a good beating.  Danny finally had enough and ran away, Ashby assumed to New Orleans so she was left to protect herself.  Her mother, who should have taken steps to keep her children safe spent most of her time popping pills and sleeping.  So now at the age of 17 Garrett has added another abuse to his list...  Sexual.   
Following Ashby as she deals with not just Garrett but also the 'popular girls' at school who added their own abuse through calling her names and passing rumors, gave me a feeling of heartbreak and pain that a child like Ashby must go through just to survive.  From what happens to Garrett to Ashby's chance of escape I had a hard time not reading just one more page and then just one more page in hopes that she would find some relief in her life.  The events that take place through her survival makes this one of the most unforgettable books I've read in some time and I'm happy to say that there are at least 2 more books that will allow me to spend even more time with Ashby and her life.

Convenient Marriage - Maggie Tideswell, Author

4:55 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves


Mini Chocolate Kahlua Pots
(A Maggie Tideswell Special)

100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
150 ml single cream
2tablespoons Kahlua liqueur
4 glasses or ramekins


Place chocolate in a large bowl.
Heat cream just until it comes to the boil, then pour it over the chocolate and leave to stand.
Whisk until smooth, then add the Kahlua.
Spoon into the glasses/ramekins.
Leave in the fridge for 1 hour
Serve with crème fraiche and top with a coffee bean.


Convenient Marriage – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

‘Joshua skimmed down the page, not registering what he was reading, when a tiny advert squashed between Lost and Found and Obituaries jumped to his attention.  It simply read:

Husband needed.
Call Holly Turnbull 021 768 9223
No pranks please

Joshua read it a second time before he scrubbed both hands over his face, his elbows crumpling the newspaper on the table.  What was the world coming to, if women had to resort to dailies to get them a man?  he wondered.  Would this poor, misguided soul even want the kind of man who was like to respond to this silly ad?...  Surely this Holly woman didn’t think she was going to get a bona fide offer of marriage from this tiny advert, did she?... He waited for his laptop to boot up, then typed ‘Holly Turnbull’… Holly turned out to be a journalist and not bad to look at either.  He was impressed, even though it seemed odd that a woman like her would advertise for a husband.  Oh, well, each one to her own.  She would do nicely in his newly formed plan.’

Joshua Jordan has found a way to push Nicole, his fiancée of four years, into making the final commitment by scheduling a wedding.  He will give her an ultimatum of time and if she doesn’t find it within herself to meet the deadline, he will take this Holly woman up on her marriage proposal for just long enough to bring Nicole to her senses. 

Holly Turnbull didn’t actually place the ad for a husband in the daily paper, her three best friends and roommates did.  Holly’s ex-husband Donald has refused to allow her to see their two boys for long enough.  The girls believe that with a husband, Donald will have no excuses for not allowing her to see the boys.  The girls also believe Donald’s wife Gwen is the one that is really behind him not allowing Holly to see her kids.  So when the marriage proposal comes in from Joshua Jordan, Holly sees that this just might be the answers to her problems with Donald.  But with the proposal comes something that no one would have guessed... Moragh.  Moragh is a spirit from the past who starts sending Holly messages demanding that she ‘tell her story’ and to her surprise, the story starts at the very home belonging to Joshua.

This book has it all… murder, mystery, love, hate, ghosts, spells and the supernatural.  The tale is so twisted that you think you have it all figured out only to find that you’re wrong.  The characters are strong and if you believe in ghosts, very believable.  I really didn’t want this book to end but to just keep on going.  Convenient Marriage is a very entertaining book.  I loved it.