Just a Touch Dead - Jordania Sydney Robinson, Author

11:27 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Hazelnut Brownies
(A Bridget Special)

box of 16 Ferrero Rocher chocolates
250g pack salted butter, plus extra for greasing
250g golden caster sugar
225g light muscovado sugar
100g cocoa powder
4 large eggs
100g self-raising flour
85g ready-chopped hazelnuts
4 tbsp Frangelico or Fratello hazelnut liqueur (or Disaronno)

Unwrap the chocolates, place on a tray and pop in the freezer. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Lightly grease and line the base and sides of a 21-22cm square tin with baking parchment.
Put the butter, sugars and cocoa into your largest saucepan and gently melt together, stirring regularly so the mixture doesn’t catch. Once the sugar granules have just about disappeared, take off the heat, tip into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 mins.
Use a whisk or wooden spoon to beat the eggs, one by one, into the mixture. When they’re completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth and shiny, stir in the flour, hazelnuts and liqueur. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 mins.
Remove the tin from the oven and use a cutlery knife to mark the top of the brownies into 16 squares (don’t cut through, it’s just as a guide). Use a teaspoon to push a little dent in the centre of each portion and add a frozen Ferrero Rocher chocolate into each dip. Return to the oven for 3 mins, then remove and leave to cool completely.

Once cool, cut into 16 squares. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

Just a Touch Dead - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

My long, pillar-box-red hair fanned out around my head like a vibrant halo, my fringe artfully covering one eye.  It looked great, really thick and shiny.  Why couldn't I get it to look like that normally?  I looked closer.  No, it wasn't my hair, or it wasn't just my hair, it was a rapidly spreading pool of blood from the back of my head colouring the pavement.  Huh.  But at least my white Christian Dior trouser suite was blood free.  I'd have died it that'd had any bloodstains on it.  Oh, wait.  No, I couldn't be dead.  If I was dead I wouldn't be floating around watching.  I'd just be, well, dead.  Right?

Meet Bridget Sway.  She has been hit by a bus but she isn't really dead.  At least that's what her 'angel' Charon has told her.  She is simply on a 'day trip' giving the doctors a chance to pump her body full of drugs so it won't hurt so much when she pops back in.

Charon had her board a bus filled with a group of crying people.  Something just wasn't right but she agreed to go along for the ride.  Then Charon explained to her that the other people on the bus were actually dead.

This book grabbed me from the beginning.  It's actually a short book serving as an introduction to Bridget Sway.  It has a touch of humor, while giving you a touch of the dark side of what Bridget finds in the afterlife.  For me - I have developed the desire to read the next book in the series... Beyond Dead.

Curse The Day - Annabel Chase, Author

6:13 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Angel Food Cake in honor of Daniel, the beloved fallen angel--

1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cups egg whites 
1 teaspoon cream of tartar 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

Directions

Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and then add cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Repeat five times.
Gently combine the egg whites with the dry ingredients, and then pour into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.
Place cake pan in a cold oven. 
Turn the oven on; set it to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). 
Cook for about one hour, or until cake is golden brown.
Invert cake, and allow it to cool in the pan. When thoroughly cooled, remove from pan.

Curse the Day - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

Daniel carried me in his arms like I'd watched Superman carry Lois Lane countless times, except Daniel didn't wear a unitard.  This time I forced my eyes to stay open so I could watch the town pass beneath our feet.  No easy feat for someone with my anxiety issues.  It was, for lack of a better word, magical.  I saw the church spire on a distant hill and the clock tower in the town square.  The town was bustling with people, or creatures that looked remarkably like people, and the buildings seemed to stretch beyond the horizon.

I still felt the need to pinch myself.  Today I'd met an angel, two fairies, and what I was fairly certain was an elf.  And now I was bout to meet a coven of witches.  It was an amazingly lucid dream and I was sure I'd awaken at any moment.  Never again would I eat the entire bag of Doritos before bed.

Emma Hart, Attorney, was on her way to meet with a new client.  Apparently somewhere along the way she has taken a wrong turn, or was it a turn that was really meant to be?  Whatever the case may be she, being the kind person she is, spotted a man standing on a cliff preparing to jump to his death.  She stopped her car and proceeded to prevent his demise from happening.  In the process she apparently didn't turn her car off before exiting.  She turned around to see it coming straight for her.  Her only means of escape was to jump into the lake.  Not good for a non-swimmer!  But before her own fatal death could occur, the man on the cliff swooped down and headed straight for her.  He flew!  He had wings.

Welcome to Spellbound.  Emma has found herself trapped in a community that housed everything from Witches to Vampires.  She also found that being an attorney put her in the perfect position of becoming the next Public Defender for Spellbound.  It appears that the original defender was murdered.  He was a vampire and someone had 'staked' him.  She now has the duty of taking over his case load as well as finding his murderer.

This book is so funny!  It's book one in the Spellbound Paranormal Cozy Mystery Books and I enjoyed every page.  Someone needs to pick this series up for a TV movie series.  I have no doubts it would be loved by the young generation as well as those of us in the older generation.

A Scone to Die For - H. Y. Hanna, Author

1:18 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Scone Recipe
(From A Scone to Die For)


Scones have a long history, originating in Scotland in the 16th Century, and are said to have taken their name from the Stone of Destiny where Scottish kings were once crowned. They are a “quick bread”, a bit similar to Southern “biscuits” in the United States. the original version was triangular-shaped, made with oats and griddle-baked rather than baked in the oven. They have since become one of the highlights of British baking – no traditional English afternoon tea would be complete without warm scones with jam and clotted cream!

A great debate rages in the United Kingdom over the correct way to pronounce “scone” – those in the North say it should rhyme with “cone” whilst those in the South insist that it should rhyme with “gone”. Meanwhile, people have come to blows over whether you should put the cream on first and then jam… or the jam first and then the cream!

There is now a huge variety of scones, both sweet and savory, made with dried fruit, nuts, vegetables, cheese, chocolate chips – and even a recipe with lemonade! This is a recipe for a traditional English plain scone, but it can be modified with the addition of your favorite treats.

Ingredients
500 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 4-1/4 cups or 17.6 ounces)
4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder*
1/2 cup caster sugar (super fine sugar)**
125 grams butter, room temperature (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon or 4.4 ounces)
150 ml full fat milk (just under 2/3 cup)
2 eggs beaten lightly
Egg and milk wash for the “egg wash” to glaze the scones

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 250C / 400F
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl (this is important to add more “air” to the mixture).
Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers – it is important to coat the flour with butter as much as possible. Keep doing this until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar to the mixture and mix well with your fingers.
(This is the stage when you can add in extra ingredients such as raisins and currants, if you wish.)
Add the eggs and some of the milk – do not add all the milk at once; go slow and check that the dough does not become too wet otherwise the scones will “drop”.
Mix well with your fingers until the dough forms a ball.
Tip the dough onto a floured board, scatter some more flour on top, and then knead lightly. It is very important not to over-work the dough otherwise the scones will become very hard.
When the dough looks smooth, gently pat it out (or use a rolling pin) into a thick slab, about 1 – 1.5 inches thick. This is one of the secrets to great scones – not rolling the dough out too thinly.
The dough should now be rested for at least 30 minutes – unless you are using a single-acting baking powder. Some chefs say that resting the dough for hours, even overnight, is the secret to getting really light, fluffy scones.
Using a cutter of your choice, stamp out the scones from the dough. Be careful not to twist the cutter as you are pressing it down – only twist it gently at the very bottom to free it.
Roll up any leftover dough and spread it out again – keep cutting out scones until you have used up all the mixture.
Place the cut rounds onto the greased baking tray or baking paper.
Brush the tops with the the egg and milk wash – this will give them a lovely golden glaze.
Bake in the hot oven for about 12 – 15 minutes.
Cool the scones on a wire rack.
Serve warm with some jam and butter or clotted cream!

Enjoy!

A Scone to Die For - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"You want a few words, young man?  I'll give you a few words."  Mable stood up from the next table where she and the other Old Biddies had obviously been listening.  The reporter turned to her eagerly, "Yes?  Were you a witness as well?"  "Oh yes, and I even met the victim the day before." Mable nodded emphatically.  "Really?  What was he like?"  The reporter's tongue was practically hanging out.  "Flatulent."  "Er... fla...flatulent?" He looked bewildered.  Mable nodded.  "Yes, I didn't actually hear him break wind, you understand, but I could tell just by the tone of his skin.  Not enough fiber in his diet.  I'm sure of it.  Now, all he really needed was to take a spoon of bran every morning - just like Mr. Cooke does.  My doctor recommended this marvelous stuff for my Henry.  Particularly if you're constipated or if your haemorrhoids are acting up.  No need for laxatives to hurry things along."  She looked at the reporter intently.  "Do you go regularly, young man?"

I don't normally open my reviews with such a long script from the book but this conversation is one that had to be shared.  Mable is one of the group Gemma calls the "Old Biddies."  Gemma is actually from a tiny Cotswold village and has returned to her roots and opened a little establishment called Little Stables Tearoom which is run by her, her friend Cassie and her chef Fletcher Wilson.  The "Old Biddies" are becoming regulars at the tearoom and if you want to know anyone's business, just ask them.  So, when Gemma comes in to work one morning and finds a dead man sitting outside with a scone stuffed in his mouth, the Biddies know exactly what his problem was.

This book was one I would pick up, read a few chapters, put it down just to pick it right back up.  It's full of humor as well as a mystery that kept me in the dark.  I had my suspect and ended up changing my mind several times.  When the real killer was revealed I was shocked.  Never suspected that character to be the bad one.

A Silver Medallion - James R. Callan, Author

11:29 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Callan's Oatmeal Cookies

Start with
            ¾ cup of butter
            ½ cup granulated sugar
            1 cup brown sugar
            1 teaspoon of baking powder
            ¼ teaspoon baking soda
            1 teaspoon cinnamon
            ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ground cloves and beat until mixed and smooth.
            2 eggs
            1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla
Now, mix in the eggs and vanilla until well mixed and smooth.
Next, if you have a good mixer, use it.  Otherwise mix by hand.
            1 ¾ cups of all purpose flour
            2 cups of rolled oats
After all of the above is well mixed in, then add and mix only enough to distribute the nuts and cranberries.
            1 cup pecans or walnuts
            1 cup of dried cranberries or Craisins
Use a teaspoon to put small mounds of dough on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Some like the cookies softer and some like them crisper.  You decide, or make a pan of each.


This will make about 5 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie you bake.  If you have a  large enough mixer, you can double this recipe, cook half of it and put the remaining batter in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.  Then, you can bake the rest tomorrow, yielding hot, fresh cookies on both days, with only one mixing.  Happy eating.

A Silver Medallion - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Crystal's grandmother stood under a maple tree.  Eula Moore was staring at the small storage shed about twenty feet behind her house.  She aimed a double-barreled shotgun at the door of the building.  "Don't make no sudden moves.  I got a nervous trigger finger.  I might just blow your head off."  Nothing moved.  "Now, very slowly, come on out in the open, and keep them hands over your head where I can see 'em."  Crystal crept up beside her grandmother, "What's in there, Nana?" she whispered.  A few moments passed.  Then a single finger came into view. Gradually, it turned into a whole hand, waving in a small arc.  "Por favor, no dispare."  The tiny brown hand fluttered again.  The voice quavered slightly, "Please.  No shoot.  No shoot."

Crystal Moore was paying her grandmother Eula a visit at her home "The Park."  Finding her Nana standing in a defensive stance with a shotgun pointed at one of the buildings wasn't what she had expected to walk into.  She also wasn't expecting the troubles that followed the discovery of a young Mexican woman hiding inside that building.

Rosa was her name.  She had been smuggled across the border to serve as what Crystal called a 'slave' to one of Dallas' most prominent men.  And to keep her under his control she is told that her husband will be killed if she talks to anyone or tries to run.

In Crystal's attempt to help Rosa as well as others in this same situation, she finds herself in the heart of Mexico where family members of those enslaved are being held.  This task is one that could cost her her own life as well as the lives of those close to her.

If you want a twisting road ride, you'll find it in A Silver Medallion.  I thought the first book in this series 'A Ton of Gold' was good.  This second book in the Crystal Moore Suspense Series has taken it a step further.  My word to Author James R. Callan is "hurry up and give me book 3!"

Southern Spirits (The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries Book 1) - Angie Fox, Author

1:42 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Coca Cola Cake
(It’s a staple in the South—and in Sugarland, Tennessee. This Coke cake recipe was contributed by Lee Avery Catts to "Atlanta Cooknotes" and was published by The Junior League of Atlanta.)

2 Cups sugar
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup Coca-Cola
1 ½ Cup small marshmallows
½ Cup butter or margarine
½ Cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 Teaspoon baking soda
½ Cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
½ Cup butter
3 Tablespoons cocoa
6 Tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 box (16-ounces) confectioners' sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Cup chopped pecans

Preparation
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 15 min
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift the sugar and flour. Add marshmallows. In a saucepan, mix the butter, oil, cocoa and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into a well-greased 9- by-13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and frost immediately.

Coca-Cola Cake Frosting
To make frosting, combine the 1/2 cup butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa and 6 tablespoons of Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over confectioners' sugar, blending well. Add vanilla extract and pecans. Spread over hot cake. When cool, cut into squares and serve.


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


"You want to help?" I asked, making sure I reached clear of Lucy as I dumped the contents of the vase over Grandma's rosebushes.  She gave the little pile a sniff and sneezed.  "You said it."  The dirt was loose and dry, which I was glad to see. I'd heard that sort of things was good for the roots.  It certainly couldn't hurt.  When the last of the fine dust had settled out of the air, I hosed out the vase and poured the water on the roses.  

After clipping a rose from the bush, putting it in the vase and adding water, Verity returned to the home she had inherited from her grandmother.  What happened next takes her on a journey that could only traveled by a strong minded southern girl, which she was.

Verity had been engaged to one of the most eligible, prominent members of her hometown Sugarland, Tennessee.  The wedding was planned and she was ready to go through it living happily ever after.  What she learned the day before the actual wedding put a stop on the event and ended up costing her everything she owned.  She had already sold off everything within her grandmother's house, except the dented vase that no one seemed to want.  Unless she found a way to come up with another $20,000 she would also be selling the house which was breaking her heart.

This book is so full of humor!  I'll give you just one hint of what you're in store for when reading Southern Spirits - Lucy is a skunk!  She's had her glands removed so she's safe but so cute you would think her to be a dog or cat.  The problems and events that take place after Verity poured the dirt on the roses leads to even more humor.  Yes, there are ghosts, murder and attempted murder, bringing it all together to make this one of my favorite books.

Kima - Ahmed Amin, Author

11:37 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Bobotie

(Pronounced ba-boor-tea, the national dish of South Africa is a delicious mixture of curried meat and fruit with a creamy golden topping, not dissimilar to moussaka.)

2 slices white bread
2 onions, chopped
25g butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg packet lean minced beef
2 tbsp Madras curry paste
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
3 cloves 
5 allspice berries
2 tbsp peach or mango chutney
3 tbsp sultana
6 bay leaves

For Toping:
300ml full-cream milk 
2 large eggs

Method
Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Pour cold water over the bread and set aside to soak.
Meanwhile, fry the onions in the butter, stirring regularly for 10 mins until they are soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and beef and stir well, crushing the mince into fine grains until it changes colour. Stir in the curry paste, herbs, spices, chutney, sultanas and 2 of the bay leaves with 1 tsp salt and plenty of ground black pepper.

Cover and simmer for 10 mins. Squeeze the water from the bread, then beat into the meat mixture until well blended. Tip into an oval ovenproof dish (23 x 33cm and about 5-6cm deep). Press the mixture down well and smooth the top. You can make this and chill 1 day ahead.

For the topping, beat the milk and eggs with seasoning, then pour over the meat. Top with the remaining bay leaves and bake for 35-40 mins until the topping is set and starting to turn golden.

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

'I was alone, sitting under a tree, when I saw for the first time, a strange bird.  At first, I thought it was a raven, but it turned out, after I understood what the birds were calling him, that he was a Black Seagull.  He was as tall as you two, but that wasn't the strange part.  What was odd, was the birds asking him an unexpected question'.... 'They asked him if he could look into their future, and tell them how long can they stay here and make their living.  And he said, for six nights you can live free, and for two other nights you will have to hide, for I see clouds, rain, and lightning approaching from afar...'

Many years earlier when Kima was much younger than she is now, she learned she had a special gift.  She could understand what animals were saying as they communicated with each other.  This was also when she met the Black Seagull who could see farther than anyone else and by doing so he could predict and warn the animals of what was to come.  Now in her older years, Kima has met Alex and Alice after Alex finds a beach full of dying whales.  These two youngster will find that they have the fate of themselves as well as the animals on their own shoulders.

I can best describe this story as a Fable.  You travel with the Black Seagull, a Gray Wolf, a Dolphin named Shells and a Whale as they try to prevent the destruction of their planet as they know it as well as their species.  But what will cause this destruction?  The best answer is 'Man.'

Are we, as humans, really causing the destruction of the animals we share the planet with?  I found my answer to this question at the very end of this book when Author Ahmed Amin talks about the annual event of the whales that have been committing 'suicide' on the beaches of South Africa since 1928.  The cause?  Possibly magnetic fields created by humans.

The book was sad yet happy as most Fables are and ends with a lesson that we all need to take notice of.  Very enjoyable reading.

Snow Falls - Bobby Nash, Author

11:22 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Snow Ice Cream
(This is a simple recipe if you live in an area where it snows).

Snow
Sugar
Vanilla extract
Milk

When the snow starts to fall, place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the snowflakes. When full, all you have to do is stir in the sugar and vanilla to taste then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency. It will begin to melt quickly so once you make it, serve it and enjoy. Perhaps you can even enjoy it while reading a Snowy adventure.

(I remember eating this when I was a kid. Martha)


Snow Falls - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

Abraham Snow wasn't the superstitious type.  That said, but spending so much time undercover, always under the threat of being found out, had made him sensitive to his surroundings  It was little more than intuition, a hunch that started as a tickle at the base of his brain.  He had learned to listen to those hunches.  More than once they had saved his life.  Standing in the middle of the lobby of that beautiful five-star hotel, surrounded by enough security to protect a small nation, that familiar warning make itself heard.  Whatever it was that set him on edge wasn't readily apparent.  Maybe his subconscious had picked up on something that his conscious mind hadn't yet detected.  He couldn't explain it, but there was danger lurking nearby.

Like his grandfather Archer Snow, Abraham Snow was one for excitement that took him deep undercover for any job he undertook.  But all things must come to an end so when someone sells him out to the target he was trying to get close to, his life almost came to an end, leaving him no choice but to head to his grandfathers' home for a little R&R.

What Snow didn't expect was the hotel his grandfather's family business was protecting to be hit by a sniper.  Their target being no one other than Owen Salizar, owner of Salizar Biotechnix.  A man the U.S. had been after for some time for laundering cash and supporting multiple terrorist groups and militant governments in exchange for business favors.  So far they haven't had enough proof to shut him down.

This book took me one night to read.  It is a short book but it's also one that was packed with action and I had a bit of trouble putting it down until finished.  It is book one in a series and left me wanting to know more about the man that almost killed Snow, as well as the sniper who went after Salizar.  You can bet I'll dig into book two in the near future.


Union of Friends - Glenn Sartori, Author

1:01 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Jiffy Bar-BQ
(Glenn's Mom's Recipe)

My mom’s Jiffy Bar-BQ (Sloppy Joe) was a staple at family get-togethers.  All my aunts made it, but I think Mom’s was the best.  The addition of chili powder was the special ingredient.

Ingredients
1 ½ - 2 lbs. ground beef
1 medium onion
2 stalks of celery
1 green pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of chili powder
1 small can of tomato paste
3 cans of water


Brown the meat in a heavy skillet. Drain. Finely chop the ingredients and add to the meat:  Add a small can of tomato paste with about 3 cans of water.  Cook until onion and celery are soft or until desired thickness.

Union of Friends - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"Union was murdered two years ago."

He felt a contraction in his heart and a cold tingling in his face, and couldn't utter a word.  Two years Travis thought.  He lost the power of sight for an instant, but he conquered his emotion by a strong effort of willpower, almost a transport of rage.  Why had she waited two years before telling him?  He felt numb, lost, and as if he had just awakened from a coma and was being downloaded with events he missed.  The words two years rolled through his mind - Union has been dead for two years.  He heard her say something about coffee, and he followed her into the house, his mind returning to reality.

Union Miller and Travis Gibbs had grown up together.   They were best friends.  Yet, he had been dead for two years and Travis never knew until he received a letter from Union's mother stating 'My Union was murdered.  Please come.  He didn't do it.'  So he went to Riverfield to find out who killed Union and why.

According to the police Union killed Patti and Patti's husband killed Union.  But why?  This simply wasn't the Union Travis had known the better part of his life.  And because of this, he was determined to find out what really happened.  With the help of an old schoolmate Travis started his investigation through which the name Global Friends kept popping up.  Could there be a connection?  Could Union have found information regarding this company that needed to remain hidden?

Union of Friends is one book that kept me in the dark until the end.  I never knew where it would lead me next nor which character could really be trusted.  Author Glenn Sartori let nothing slip which kept me turning pages as I tried to decide how everyone connected.  I'm now looking forward to the next book in this series.

Lights, Camera, Murder - Nikki Haverstock, Author

9:13 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Blended Pomegranate Margarites
(One of Melissa's favorite drinks)

1/4 cup pomegranate juice, store bought is fine, plus seeds for garnish
1/3 cup Tequila Blanco (about 4 ounces)
1/8 cup Triple Sec (about 1-ounce)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 ounces)
12 ounces ice cubes
Blend and serve!

Lights, Camera, Murder - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of :  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"Everyone in my family has their life together, and I'm a total mess.  Mom's this well-respected writer, and Dad built up a super-successful business.  They are all set even if they do nothing else in life.  My older sister ran this huge resort and now is building the resort out there."  I hooked a thumb toward the window and the construction site visible.  "It will be a success because everything she does is amazing.  My brother, the middle child, is an entertainment lawyer back east, and his business is taking off.  He has these amazing clients.  One of them wrote the book that last summer space movie was based on.  And then there's me."

This is Melissa McBallister's description of her life.  Her whole family is a success, that is except her.  Then comes her chance to change that.  She's been cast to play in the new reality TV show Sexy Socialites of Fishcreek Falls which was being filmed in her own town.  She would be one of five that would meet for events and discuss themselves and their lives.

The filming started out rough on the very first day.  One of the other ladies, Heather, took an immediate dislike to Melissa.  Seems that her friend Stacey was scheduled for the part and Melissa took the part away from her.  So when there is a murder that takes place just before a filming, Heather decides to blame Melissa.

This book started out just a little slow for me but when it picked up speed it really took off.  I had decided about half way through that I knew who the real killer was but I have to admit that I was wrong.  I stayed entertained not only with Melissa and the other girls but also with the dog Bubbles.  It seems that Bubbles got its name through a natural bodily act that he can't seem to control.

If you want a fun, fast read murder mystery with a touch of humor, I highly recommend this book to you.  I enjoyed it and want to read more by this author.

Sheba: From Hell to Happiness - Brian L. Porter, Author

3:52 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves



SLOW COOKER BEEF STEW WITH DUMPLINGS
(The furry ‘people’ usually enjoy any leftovers too)

Ingredients
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 medium parsnips, cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces
1 large leek, cut into 1cm (½in) slices
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 kg (2lb 2oz) braising steak, cut into 4cm (1½in) chunks
Plain flour, to dust
200 ml (7fl oz) red wine
600 ml (1 pint) beef stock
3 fresh rosemary sprigs

FOR THE DUMPLINGS
Ingredients
125 g (4oz) self-raising flour
60 g (2½oz) suet
1 tbsp dried parsley

Method
Put the oil, vegetables and tomato purée into the bowl of your slow cooker. Dry the beef pieces with kitchen paper and dust with the plain flour (tapping off excess). Add to the slow cooker together with the wine, stock, rosemary and some seasoning. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on high for 5hr or until the beef is tender.
After 5hrs of cooking, make the dumplings. Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the suet, parsley and lots of seasoning. Add 100ml (3½fl oz) cold water and stir to make a soft (and slightly sticky) dough.
Remove the lid and discard the rosemary sprigs. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough, gently roll into a ball and place on top of the stew, spacing apart. Recover and cook for 1hr more. Check the seasoning and serve with mashed potatoes.


Ideal on a cold winter’s day, and usually some tasty leftovers for the dogs. This tasty dish can be thickened even more by adding a handful of pearl barley while cooking. 

Sheba:  From Hell to Happiness - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of: Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"Can you tell what breed it is?" Juliet asked me, quietly.  "I'm not sure.  It's hard to tell, but at a guess, I'd say it's a little Staffy," I replied.  "It looks close to death's door," my wife said, choking back her own tears at this terrible sight, this symbol of man's in-humanity towards an innocent living creature.  "I want to ask Lisa about it."  

Lisa smiled as we walked back into the warmth of reception.  "Bet you've found something you like, haven't you?" she said with a knowing look in her eyes.  "Maybe," Juliet replied.  "What can you tell us about the little dog in the stables, the one under the heat lamp?"

The little dog that Author Brian Porter is talking about is Sheba.  She was underweight, her hair had been shaved off.  She had skin abrasions and deep ligature marks around her neck.  She had been thrown on a rubbish pile and was barely alive.  The cause of these injuries - she had been used as bait to train fighting dogs.

I'm an avid animal lover, especially dogs.  I've always had one and can't imagine my life without one of my best friends.  When I started reading this book I couldn't stop the tears and the anger that would build up inside me.  How can anyone be so inhumane?

I've read all of Author Brian Porter's books about the dogs he has rescued and I can't say enough about the kind heart he, his wife and daughters all have.  In my book, they are all some of the great ones for bringing these babies out of their living and sometimes dying hell into a beautiful, loving, comfortable life.

If you're a dog lover as I am, this is another one of those books that you simply must read.  It will really open your eyes to the cruel life these dogs live just for what some really sick people call a 'sport.'  I would love to put them through what they put these loving babies through.

Holidays Can Be Murder - Connie Shelton, Author

8:50 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Connie Shelton's Green Chile Stew

1 to 1-1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, cut in 1/2” cubes
2 cans stewed tomatoes, crushed
1 small can mild whole green chiles (4 to 5 chile pods), cut into stew-sized chunks
Hot green chile to your taste (1-2 T. diced is usually good)
1 medium onion, cut into stew-sized chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 c. beef bouillon
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Place all ingredients except the potatoes into a large stew pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours. About 30-45 minutes before you plan to serve, peel and cut the potatoes and add them to the stew. Serve with corn bread, warm flour tortillas or other favorite bread. 
    For a somewhat different taste, I’ve made this with either pinto beans or hominy in place of the potatoes. The meat can, alternately, be beef or wild game.

Holidays Can Be Murder - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; and A Book and A Dish

"Hold it right there, ma'am," a sharp voice commanded.  A rough hand gripped my shoulder and spun me around.  "Charlie?"

"Kent?  What's going on here?"


He dropped his hand and stood firmly blocking y way.  "This is a crime scene.  Neighbors of yours, I gather?"

Uh, yeah.  I live right here,"  I said, indicating our house with a vague wave.  "What kind of crime?"  I knew it was a stupid question the minute it slipped out.  Kent Taylor only worked one kind of case - homicide.

Charlie Parker lives in a quiet neighborhood in Albuquerque.  She has lived there since childhood and now enjoys the home that was once her parents' with her husband Drake and their dog Rusty.  When Drake informed her that his mother would be coming for the Christmas holidays her red flags went up.  She had only briefly met Catherine and had no idea as to how they would get along.  Entertaining her would be just one more thing to add to her holiday activities.  Then came the call from her newest neighbor Judy, asking for help with the list of decoration required by the community every year.  Coming from Chicago she wasn't even sure what luminarias were.  Yet another addition to the do-do-list.  And on top of this, she still had to keep up with the private investigation agency she and her brother Ron owned.

Christmas came and went but the day after brought the celebrations to a stop when a neighbor was found murdered.  The police have their suspect but Charlie knows deep down that they are wrong and it's her job to prove it.  And prove it she does.

This book is a quick, easy read that takes you on a few curvy roads along the way.  It kept me turning pages while giving me very little clues as to who the murderer would turn out to be.  It also has me wanting read more of this author's work.

Mobsters in Mount Dora - De Miller

11:48 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves




Slow Cooker Chili
(One of Trent's Favorite Dishes)

2lbs ground beef
1 can black beans
1 can dark red pinto beans
1 can cannellini beans
1/2 onion
1 green bell pepper
1 to 2 tb honey
black pepper
white pepper
paprika (or smoked paprika for more flavor)
cayenne pepper
garlic powder (or minced garlic)
chili powder
optional - kielbasa, smoked sausage or bratwurst

Start by browning the beef. While it's in the skillet, dice the onion and bell pepper. Get them in the bottom of the crock pot. Drain your beans and put them in the pot on top of the onion and bell pepper. Once the beef is done, drain it and add the spices to taste. There is no right or wrong amount, only how hot you can stand it. Add the seasoned meat to the slow cooker, then finally drizzle the honey over all of it. That little bit of sweetness will help balance out the heat. If you decide on a little extra variety, put your sausage in last. Often, these are fully cooked, so there is no need to brown, unless you like that extra snap from the casing. Leave the slow cooker on low for at least four hours, but don't stir until an hour has passed. The longer you go with the lid on, the moisture will make it "soupy". Four hours is plenty of time to get everything nice and warm and allow all those juices to mingle and get to know each other. Shredded cheese and sour cream are great to add to your finished bowl.

Mobsters in Mount Dora - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

"So, let me get this straight.  All you want me to do," Trent said, ticking off the items on his fingers, "is prove there was an attempt on the life of the ex-President when he was here in Mount Dora; prove that your grandfather who died long ago aided in the thwarting of this hushed-up attempt; prove that President Coolidge promised the deceased a congressional medal of honor and get congress to act on all this.  That's about it, right?"

How is Trent, and his 'partner' Horatio, supposed to prove that any of this happened when there are no records of an attempt on the ex-President's life.  Everyone who would have lived at the time is dead.  Or so he thought.  Turns out that there is one person still living from that time.  He's 98 years old but it turns out his mind is still very active and clear.  But this too brings up another problem.  The man in question worked for Scarface Al Capone.  According to him, the attempt was to murder Coolidge and frame Capone for the killing.  Hearsay!  No proof.  In fact, there isn't even any evidence that Capone ever visited Mount Dora.  So, with no proof, Trent and Horatio have to prove something that Trent believes never took place.  And this has to be done while someone is determined to keep him off the case and away from the area where it was to supposed to have taken place.

This author has done it again!  History, history, history.  He has filled yet another book with history pertaining to Al Capone, his brother 'Two-gun-Hart', Coolidge and the area surrounding Mount Dora, Florida.  As I've said before, I've never indulged in this time era.  It's never interested me.  But, after reading De Miller's books I've found it very interesting.  I've even looked up some of the names and found that his 'quote of history' is correct.  So again, as I've said before, this author has either done an intense search of history or 'he has connections.'  You can't help but enjoy this book and learn a little history along the way.


The Deadly Gambler - An Alexander Steele Murder Mystery - Lawrence Johnson, Sr.

12:22 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Squash with onion and Tomatoes
(Click on the link and watch the video of this dish)

Peel and slice 3 medium squash 
Place in shallow baking pan lined with foil
Add 3 to 4 cherry tomatoes
Add 1/2 onion thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil 
Seal foil, add a couple of small holes to help vent the steam
Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees


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


What the hell's going on here?"  Steel stumbled to the window and tried opening it but it was shut tight.  In fact none of the windows would budge.  By now the room was engulfed with the strange, intoxicating, sweet, fruity smell.  At the window there was a more familiar odor, glue.  Someone had super glued all the windows shut.  The murder had finally made his move to take Steele out.  As he stumbled toward the bedroom door he tripped on the brown, oriental carpet and fell to his knees.  Steele began coughing and wheezing.  The air closer to the floor was a bit more breathable.  Steel crawled back to where he had left his gun.  The time it took to cross the room seemed like hours but had only taken a few minutes.  Expecting the culprit to come in and finish the job any minute Steele reached up and grabbed his Glock  He crawled to the door and giggled the handle.  The door had been locked from the outside with a skeleton key.  Steele cursed under his breath as he struggled to stand.  It wouldn't be long before the gas would completely overtake him.  Steele was close to passing out.

Alex Steele, P.I. has been investigating the murder of a millionaire's wife and the pool boy.  Their murder is quite a suspense.  They were found inside the pool house with the doors locked from the inside.  There was no evidence showing how anyone could have gotten inside.  And then there was their actual deaths.  No gunshot nor knife wounds and it appeared that neither victim had been beaten to death.

At present his suspects consist of the chef, the gardener, the maid, the butler, the sister-in-law and, of course, the millionaire himself.  So with his list of possibilities and lack of evidence, how will he ever solve the mystery of who killed the rich wife and her pool boy lover?  Especially now that someone has him locked in a room with vapors that can only leave another body.

I've read all of the Alex Steele novels and each one takes me on a journey of murder, suspense and scratching my head for clues.  But in the end, Steele always shows me that he is a much better detective than I am.  Hoping to see more of him in the very near future!

The Insanity Plea - Larry D. Thompson, Author

10:01 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves



Desdemona's Cheesecake -  Lemon Vanilla  Cheesecake
By Victoria Thompson - Larry's wife
This recipe takes all day so I consider it a Special Occasion Dessert only! It is gorgeous and tasty when done.

Shopping list:
6 vanilla beans
6 medium lemons
1 1/2 c. flour & 1 1/2 Tbl flour
2 1/2c. sugar & 1/3 c. sugar
8 eggs
1 3/4 c. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
2  8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
8 oz. ricotta cheese or small curd cottage cheese
1 small container of vanilla yogurt
31/4 c. sour cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
21/2 c. whipping cream
31/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Crust: Approx. 45 min. prep, 1 hour chill, 15 min. bake

2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 egg yolks (save whites for filling)
1 c. butter diced into 4 pats
1/4 tsp. salt
 Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. during the chill

1. Split vanilla beans and scrape seeds into a medium bowl;
2. Stir in flour, sugar and zest.  Add egg yolk, butter and salt.  Cut in until crumbly.
3. Knead until a smooth dough ball forms, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Lightly spray springform pan with butter flavored spray.  Press dough on bottom and sides to 1/8th to 1/4 inch thickness.  Spray a sheet of foil with butter flavored spray, careful place the foil on top of the dough to line the pan.  Add beans into the foil lining to hold sides of dough in place while they bake.  Bake in the center of oven until lightly golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully lift the foil full of beans out of the crust.  Cool.





Filling: Approx. 1 hour prep time – 2 hours baking time – 3 hours cooling time

2 eight ounce packages of cream cheese softened
8 oz. ricotta cheese or small curd cottage cheese
1 container of vanilla yogurt
1/4 c. sour cream
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c. powdered sugar 
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1/2 c. whipping cream
4 lg. eggs separated and one egg white retained from crust prep.
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Boil water for the baking bath.

Three bowl method to very fluffy and light cheeses cake.
1. In a small bowl, whip cream until lightly peaking, split vanilla beans and add seeds to cream as well as the extract, continue whipping until firm peaks form;
2. In a second medium bowl, beat egg whites until lightly peaking, add powdered sugar and continue beating until firm peaks form;
3. In a large bowl, cream egg yolks, zest, sugar, sour cream and yogurt.  Blend in cream cheese and finally the cottage cheese.  Do not over blend - should be light and fluffy.
4. Fold in (bowl#2) whites and (bowl#1) whipping cream, blend on low with a mixer just until smooth. Do not overbeat.
5.  Cover the outside of the springform pan (the cooled crust) with foil that goes above the edges of the pan (to be sure water stays out).  Pour the cheesecake mix into the crust/springform. Place the springform into a roasting pan, fill with boiling water to half way up the springform.
6. Bake in the center of the oven 45 to 60 minutes, until the perimeter of the cake is light brown and set and the center jiggles.  Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar for 1 hour.
7.  Take cake out of the oven and remove from the roasting pan.  Remove outside foil and continue to cool on a wire rack.  When the bottom is cool to the touch place the cake in the refridgerator for 3 hours before topping.

Topping:  3 layers

Lemon curd:  Approx. 30 min. prep time plus time to chill.

2 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 Tbl. lemon zest
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice 
3 Tbl. chilled butter in three pats

1. In the top of a double boiler, whisk eggs until smooth, whisk in sugar, zest and lemon juice.
2. Place over the bottom of the double boiler when the water is simmering and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thick and pale yellow, 7 to 10 min.
3. Stir in butter one pat at a time until thoroughly combined and smooth.
4. Remove top of double boiler and set into a bowl of ice, stirring occasionally until cool.  Refridgerate.

Sour Cream topping: Approx. 10 minutes prep time plus time to chill

3 c. sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
seeds of 1 vanilla bean

Beat all ingredients and chill.

Lemon Vanilla Whipping cream topping: Approx. 10 min. prep time plus time to chill.

2 c. whipping cream
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
seeds of 1 vanilla bean

Whip cream until peaks lightly form, add other ingredients and continue to whip until firm peaks form.  Chill. 

Assemble:

Spread sour cream topping evenly over the cheesecake.
Spread a very thin layer of lemon curd over the sour cream layer.  Do not use all of the curd, just enough to make a very thin layer.

Pipe the whipping cream in peaks to cover the top of the cheese cake.  Decorate with the lemon zest curls, chill and serve.

The Insanity Plea - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

The killer held her with his left hand while he retrieved a knife from its holster on his waist.  He flipped open the blade and pulled it from right to left against the soft flesh of her throat.  Blood spurted from both carotid arteries and spilled from her neck.  She was breathing more and more slowly when she slipped to the concrete.  Her fluttering eyes became fixed as life drained from her body.  The killer smiled with satisfaction as he bent over and used his knife to slice the running shorts from her lifeless body.

When he started his slow jog back to the hotel, he felt a few drops of blood, trickling from his cheek.  He used her shorts to stem the flow.  I'll probably have to explain a Band-Aid on my cheek to my audience this morning as a shaving cut, he thought.  As he continued his job, he smiled.  She was number three.  Forty-seven to go.


State v. Little - The State of Texas arrested Dan Little for the murder of a jogger found thrown over the seawall in Galveston.  Dan, ex-football player, ex-attorney, had begun to hear voices and see people that only he could see and hear. He had been living on the streets for years.  He had also been in and out of institutions for many of those years.  So could it be that the voices had started telling him to kill.

His brother Wayne knew Dan's condition.  He also knew that the State of Texas shunned pleas of insanity but with the DA going for the death penalty, insanity was his only way out.  But, did he actually commit the crime?  According to his confession he did.  But did he know what he was saying when he confessed?

This was a 'don't put me down book.'  I read a few pages, told myself I would finish the next chapter and then come back later just to find myself reading the next chapter and the next.  This would make a great movie!