Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Howling Cliffs - Mary Deal, Author

 (A Mary Deal Special)

1 lb. fresh jumbo mushrooms
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup Olive oil
6 Crumbled saltine crackers
1/2 cup Bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp Chopped walnuts
1/2 cup Red wine
Pinch Basil
Pinch Thyme

Wash mushrooms. Remove stems, set caps aside. Chop stems and combine with chopped onion. Sauté in olive oil until tender. Remove from heat.

Add saltine crackers, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, pinch of basil and thyme. Add chopped walnuts and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour wine in shallow baking pan. Carefully stuff mushroom caps with crumb mixture. Arrange in pan with wine, cap side down, stuffed side up.

Bake in moderate oven until tender (depends how many in pan). Do not overcook. Serves 4-6.

When served, crumbly mixture should be kind of crunchy or dry to hold everything together so you can pick them up to eat, if you choose. If overcooked, or if too much wine is used, mushrooms and everything may be soggy.

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

Ka'imi's ears rose rigid.  She gave a short whine.  The howling of dogs came from a distance.  It seemed to fill the valley.  It was the howls of two dogs.  No wonder the locals wanted to ban noisy dogs from the trail.  Ka'imi pulled hard on the leash.  Sara picked up the pace.  Ka'imi seemed onto something.  A winding ascent later, they crested the plateau.  The round hewn rocky trail on the plateau was well-worn, wide and rimmed a canyon. Trail did not get too close to the edge, which was marked by low brushes and other grown.  Sporadically the trail simply dropped off sharply into the valley.  Foot-tall signs warned hikers to stay away from these areas.  The foliage, clouds and mountain views would be a photographer's heaven, easily distracting the unwary close to the precipice.  Ka'imi was very agitated.  She paced, pulling on the leash, turned and paced and turned back and paced.  She sat facing the canyon.  Her head went back and her neck stretched.   She howled mournfully and kept howling.  She was evidently sensing what other dogs did. 

Sara Mason has just bought a home in Hawaii where she plans to make an R and R camp for members of  her team who search for MIA vets whose bodies have never been recovered and returned to the states.  Her soul mate Huxley Keane is in search for his brother's remains along with her best friend Esmerelda Talbot who is searching for her daughter's remains. Both were taken prisoner, along with others, by the Viet Cong and their bodies had never been recovered.  The work was stressful and a resting place in Hawaii would be perfect for all involved in the search.

Sara also works missing cold cases.  After meeting her new next door neighbor Birdie, Sara learns that the neighbor on the other side of her had a sister who turned up missing ten years earlier.  The child was in the watch of her brother Maleko when she simply disappeared.  The girl had Down syndrome and it apparently hurt the boy more than anyone realized.  Sara also learned, through Birdie, that there was a section of the mountain that they called The Howling Cliffs.  When hikers traveled with their dogs along this area the dogs stop and howl into the wind.  Sara found this to be true after taking Birdie's dog Ka'imi along with her on a hike to the area.  The howling along with the anger shown by Maleko when she tried to communicate with him, have both peaked her curiosity enough to solve the two mysteries.  But along with answers come attempts on her life.  Someone doesn't want her to find the answers to either mystery.

Author Mary Deal has a way of writing mysteries that will keep you turning just one more page to see what happens next.  I found myself in this position way up into the night as I had to read just a little more.  After finishing the book, I also found that I had learned a lot about the Hawaiian Islands as well as the Viet Nam War.  This was an enjoyable book filled with action, mystery and history.  I loved it.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Romance Under the Oaks - B. J. Robinson, Author

Louisiana Seafood or Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
(A B.J. Favorite)

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 pkg. beef smoked sausage
Add crabs or oysters if you like.

One large onion
One large bell pepper
Several cloves of garlic
A Couple stalks of celery
A half bunch of green onions

Wash and chop onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, green onions (leave out or add other seasonings according to taste).

A large tablespoon of flour
A large tablespoon of butter or cooking oil

Make a roux using flour and oil.  (This makes enough for a small family, but increase if you want a larger serving.)  Brown flour and slowly add the chopped veggies and saute. 

You can add chicken broth or use water and season with butter, Worcestershire sauce, kitchen bouquet, and Tony Chachere's to taste.  I use about a tsp. of the sauces and a couple dabs of butter.  Drop in two bay leaves, if you like them.  You may also add ground cayenne pepper if you like your food hot New Orleans Cajun style.  Salt and pepper to taste.  2 Tsp. ground gumbo file  may be included toward the end of cooking.  Bring to a boil.  You may cook as is or add vegetable such as corn and peas or a frozen vegetable package if you like gumbo with veggies, or you can leave this part out and have just the shrimp and sausage.  Let simmer until meat and veggies are done.  You can also slow cook it in a crock pot.  I like to include veggies, but this is up to you.  Cook a pot of rice and serve over rice.  Have crackers on hand.  If you don't know how to make a roux with oil and flour, you can cheat and buy packaged gravy, but homemade is better.  I have cooked it with just shrimp and smoke sausage as well as with veggies.  It's good both ways, depending on your family's taste.  This is a brown gravy recipe, but you can add tomatoes or tomato paste if you like red gravy.  Enjoy.  Freeze leftovers for later. Experiment with different veggies and seafood and make your own style to please your family.

My mother-in-law taught me to cook this recipe when I was a young bride.  I've experimented with her basic shrimp and smoke sausage one over the years and found you can use it with or without veggies.
You can make the recipe to include various seafood such as shrimp, crab, crawfish, and oysters, or use only shrimp and smoked sausage, according to taste.

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

Jacques Roman had the place picked out for a home as well as his woman, but the problem was getting the love of his life to see his dreams.  She was a socialite, used to being seen in the high-society, ritz, and glamour of old New Orleans.  She adored grand balls and was often the belle of them.  It'd be only fitting that she should have the belle of the ball when it came to plantation homes.  He'd give her the grand dame of them all.

Celina Pilie didn't want to talk about bayou swamp land.  It had to be infested with mosquitoes.  Weren't they bad enough in the city?  Hope dashed with each word Jacques uttered.  If he did get around to asking her to marry him, Jacques expected her to live fifty miles from the New Orleans she loved.  Didn't he realize she was born for the city?

Finally.  Jacques stood, got down on his knees, pulled a black velvet box from his coat pocket, opened it, and asked, "Celina, will you marry me?"  She clapped her hands together like an excited child.  "Oh yes, Jacques, yes, yes, yes.  I can't wait."

Well, she did have to wait.  She waited two long years while Jacques built her a home that would take away her breath.  but... she is a city girl and sees no way she can be happy living so far away from her family, the balls and the many stores she loved to shop.   Even though her father had given her Zelie, a slave she had known her whole life and loved dearly, she was lonely for other female friendship.  Her life seemed to evolve around reading the many books that filled the library.  And through her reading she ran across a book titled "Uncle Tom's Cabin" which stems an idea that will keep her busy as she actually helps people.  But what she does must be kept a secret.  With the Civil War coming she could lose everything if anyone found out her secret actions.

This is such a beautiful story.  I've always loved reading Civil War history and when an author gives us this history in the form of a family's involvement, it makes it even more interesting.  Through this book Celina, Jacques, Zelie and many of the other slaves become people that you end up feeling that you know personally.  You hurt for them as they struggle to make adjustments as their lives change.  But you also feel happiness as their struggle through the war brings them out with families of their own.  And you cry with them as they lose those that you too have come to love.  This is truly a story that will bring out all of your emotions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pandora's Succession - Russell Brooks, Author

Curried Chicken
(The dish that Parris and Fox ate at the Tea House in Tokyo)

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
1 bulb of garlic, more if you desire
4 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cloves
3 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. yellow mustard seeds, ground
2-3 ounces curry powder (suite to your taste and color)
1 chicken bouillon cube (if you'd like to salt your curry)
2 potatoes
1 eggplant

4 cups flour
hot water
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp. salt

Cut chicken into bite size pieces.  Add garlic and mix into chicken.  In a separate bowl mix all of the spices and curry powder together (but not the bay leaves)  Slowly add spice mixture into chicken/garlic while mixing by hand to ensure even coverage.  Set the mixed chicken aside while you prepare the Roti.

Boil water and let cool until you can handle it with your hands (you'll be kneading the Roti dough).  Mix 4 cups of flour with the salt and then add the hot water until it is moist but not sticky.  You want the consistency of a flat dough that will be rolled out using a wooden rolling pin.  Take a little more than half a stick of room temperature and add it to the flour and water mixture.  This will keep the dough form sticking to your hand and itself.  Use judgment for rolling consistency.  Flour flat surface and rolling pin and form dough into balls.  Roll balls out to flat and thin consistency, about 5-7 inches.  Heat up your frying pan to medium-high heat.  (This can be done using 2 pans to make it go faster)  Take a paper towel and use oil to rub onto pan before each roti that you cook.  The roti will form small brown spots on each side when done.  Do not overcook, it should never be stiff.  When done in the pan, put on a plate lined with paper towels and cover with a dish towel to keep it warm.  After the Roti is done, start making the curry (both can be done at the same time if you like.)

Pour just enough oil to cover the bottom of a large pot.  Place 4 big bay leaves into the pot and warm oil on medium for a few minutes (before the bay leaves turn brown).  Turn heat to high and add chicken.  Cook at high heat stirring every minute for 10 minutes, then turn to medium/medium low heat.  Use your judgment when cooking at high heat because you don't want the chicken to stick or burn.  If the pot is lacking any liquid form the high temperature, add small amounts of water or chicken stock.  As the chicken cooks longer, the juices are released.  5 minutes after turning the heat to medium/medium low, add the cubed potatoes and eggplant.  When potatoes are done, the curry is done.  Make sure the eggplant is dissolved into the curry.  You'll all finished!  Use the Roti to scoop up your meal.  No silverware required!

Pandora's Succession - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

His partner stood beside the open briefcase.  "You couldn't have been more perfect."  He took the fluorescent-green vial and let it drop gently on the ground without breaking.  He then hit the alarm button.  The siren was heard for miles.  It was not too long after, that ten of the guards burst through the doorway with their assault rifles in position.  They fanned out to cover the inside of the dome.  "What's the emergency?" yelled the leader of the two scientists, and then he saw Cole's body with the dagger protruding from his stomach.  His assault rifle shot up immediately.  "Both of you, hands in the air.  Do it, now!"  Within seconds, they had encircled the two scientists.  "I repeat," yelled the leader to the two scientists.  "Put your hands up, or we will be forced to shoot you."  The two white-coats didn't obey him, but instead looked at each other and smiled.  "For The Promise?"  The partner already had the vial under the heel of his shoe.  As he slowly raised his hands along with the assailant, he breathed his last breath and crushed the vial.  It wasn't long before what felt like millions of microscopic teeth tearing away at the flesh, starting with his foot and then moving to the rest of his body. 

Ridley Fox was a former JTF2 operative who has since been recruited into the CIA. He has the job of his life and should he fail, the whole world, as we now know it, will be at risk from the deadly "Pandora."  At the time a group known as the "Arms of Ares" which is made up of former intelligence operatives, originating from the former Soviet Union, has Pandora and plans to sell it to the highest bidder... but Hexagon Pharmaceuticals has their own feelers out to acquire it for their own use. 

This book is designed for the need for action reader and believe me, it fulfills that need.  There is barely a page that is turned without fast, pack energy and suspense.  And the best part is that Fox has no idea who he can and can't trust.  Hexagon has its hands, or should I say mind, into many high places through its mind control cult making no one safe to deal with. 

When reading this book I found myself being like Fox... not believing anything anyone said nor did, except Fox and I was beginning to worry a bit about him.  This is a 'man's' book but some of us women who like a good action will love it too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Wrong Side of Memphis - Claire Applewhite, Author

(A Claire Applewhite Speciality)

1 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 lb. seedless red grapes, halved
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Position knife blade in food processor bowl and add cranberries. Cover with top and process 20 seconds or until cranberries are coarsely chopped. Combine cranberries and sugar in a glass bowl, and cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries for two hours. Discard liquid. Combine cranberries, grapes and chopped pecans, and fold in whipped cream. Yield: 8 servings.

The first time I ate this fruit salad, it was so good, I asked the hostess for the recipe. She pointed to an energetic little blonde lady in the kitchen. "Mom made it, better ask her," she said. "I don't cook." Well, "Mom" told me that she just "threw it together." Hmm. The following year, I found this recipe in a cookbook published by Southern Living. It tasted just like "Mom's." So, every year, by popular request, I "throw it together." Now, you can too!...  Claire

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

 After ELVIN'S wife CHERIE left him and their home in Memphis, he decides to take a break and visit his longtime friend, DIMOND, "DI", in St. Louis. What he walked into wasn't really what he had expected.  There had been a murder in the Jewel Arms Apartments where Di lived, with more murders to come. When the bodies start stacking up, Elvin decides to stay, for Di's sake. When he becomes a "person of interest" in the murder of his ex-wife, he decides to find the killer. Alibis, lies and suspects lurk in every corner.

DI hung up the receiver (from talking to CHERIE) and glanced at the clock - 8:30 a.m.  She pulled out the nightstand drawer and fumbled for some note paper and a pen, but none was to be found.  Oh well, she thought. She'd remember to tell ELVIN that his ex-wife called. Sure, she would.  She laid her throbbing head on the mattress, and sheltered it with a pillow. The sound of buzzers and bells blared from the television next door, while EDITH MARS savored the morning game show.  Despite the noise, Di slipped into a drugged, foggy sleep, oblivious to the activity surrounding her. 

Upstairs, ROSE was busy with the endless routine of caregiving, while ANNIE SILVER nursed another hangover.  Once again, she was unable to report to work, a fact that she successfully concealed from her husband (BEN), who had spent the night on call at the hospital.  Alone, DENT scoured the personal ads, hoping and searching for the ideal companion.  MYLES LaMOUR was finally meeting with TASHA WEEKS at his office, though he had to admit, PARRY's case did not look promising.  It was to be a very short meeting.  Around 10:00 a.m., VALERIE Gains awoke to face a new day. She was dying for a cigarette.  She had just lit up, when she was startled by men's voices in the apartment next door. 

This book took so many twists that I had no idea who was doing the killings.  Good people ended up dying as well as some of the bad. I actually found myself wrong all the way to the last few pages.  This one kept me turning the pages. See if you can guess which of the above will survive and which will die.

Claire Applewhite is a St. Louis author and songwriter. Her novel, TENNESSEE PLATES ('Nam Noir series) was released in December 2012, and  her CD, "NIGHT RAIN" was released in November, 2013.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Power of Food - Bonnie Raffel, Author

Crunchy Cookies

1/2 cup margarine, softened (trans fat-free)
1/2 cup Splenda
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups high fiber cereal, slightly crushed
1/2 cup dried cranberries, currants or raisins
1/2 cup coconut, shredded (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Mix on medium-high the margarine and sugars, until well combined.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Lower the speed and add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Continue to mix until combined.  Stir in the cereal, coconut, and dried fruit with a wooden spoon.  Use a cookie scoop (I just used 2 spoons, 1 to scoop and one to scoop it off) place dough on cookie sheet.  Bake at for 10 - 15 minutes, or until starting to brown on edges.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies with 1 cookie per serving. 

Nutritional Facts per serving:  138 calories, 29 calories from fat, 3.4g total fat, 11.1 mg cholesterol, 149.9 mg sodium, 95.9 mg potassium, 27.1g carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, 8.6g sugar, 1.8g protein.

Recipe Tips:  Diabetic Exchange 1 starch & 1 fat.  Cranberries are rich in antioxidants, and provide vitamins C, K, manganese, and fiber.  Whole wheat flour and high fiber cereal, provide B-vitamins and fiber.  Eggs provide protein and choline, which strengthens the nervous system and decreases inflammation.

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

Author Bonnie Raffel is a Registered Dietitian who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  After being put on a series of costly medications she decided to learn everything she could regarding her condition and how it can be controlled without all the medicines. 

What she found is now in her book The Power of Food.  What I've found is not only a great cookbook  but I've also gained an education. I've learned how different foods help my body fight inflammation as well as what foods to avoid and how they can be harmful to my body.  And this works whether you are fighting MS or not.

The recipes, such as the one above, is just one of over 275 that can be found in her book.  I've tried the Crunchy Cookies and I as well as 4 of my food testers loved them.  They taste great and are healthy!   I've tried her Spicy Shrimp and her Crunchy Chicken Bake.  Both are great tasting and healthy.  You don't usually find taste good and healthy too in very many recipes. 

Something else that impressed me was her "Recipe Tips" where she breaks down the ingredients telling you how each benefits your health.  That's something I've never seen in other cookbooks.  I don't have MS but I do have pains from other conditions.  If I can eat as well as I have using this book you can bet I'll continue, especially if it will help my aches and pains.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Murder a la Christie - Marilyn Levinson, Author

Honeyed Walnuts
(A favorite of Lexie)

1 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 Tbsp. honey
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine walnuts, honey and salt in a bowl.  Toss to coat, and spread in a single layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake, tossing occasionally, until toasted, about 15 minutes.  Let cool.

Murder a la Christie - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

"Write that book if you dare, but you won't live to see it in print!"  I stared at the two older women - the usually subdued Gerda Stein, her face flushed with anger, and my dear friend Sylvia - but neither seemed aware that I'd entered the kitchen.  Sylvia shook her head in dismay.  "I've no wish to upset you, but your father's story is the keystone of my book.  He was a Nazi, Gerda, and responsible for killing thousands of innocent people."  "I know what my father was!"  Fury made Gerda's German accent more pronounced.  "But I told you about him in confidence.  Not so you'd write about it and expose him to the world!"

Sylvia and Gerda are members of the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club led by Professor Lexie Driscoll.  The group will be discussing the works of authors such as Agatha Christie.  Lexie's walks in on Sylvia and Gerda's heated discussion just before the club's first meeting.  Hopefully the two will tone down their anger enough to get through the discussion and even contribute a bit.  This isn't to be.  When Sylvia starts to complain of stomach pain, the meeting is brought to a halt.  Sylvia dies, and Lexie suspects she's been poisoned.  She finds herself following Christie's methods of solving the murder of not one but several of the club's members.  Could someone be living out Christie's book And Then There Were None?

I loved this Author's style of writing.  It was like reading an Agatha Christie book in the way it kept me guessing.  I would come up with a suspect that actually had a motive only to change my mind when I found one that had an even greater motive.  I kept remembering the Christie books I'd  read in the past, and the murderer seemed to always be the one person I didn't suspect.  This made it hard for me to put this book down until I found the guilty person.  This was truly a fun read.

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