Jackie Houchin, WinR member, photojournalist, book reviewer and theater critic is here to discuss the combination of mysteries and menus. Find out more about her at Jackie Houchin’s News and Reviews.
JH: Why do many “cozy” mystery writers include recipes in their books? Is it because these homey, non forensic mysteries lend themselves to sipping and munching while reading? (Try eating egg salad or spaghetti while reading a Kathy Reich!) Are “cozy” readers more likely to be housewives and moms? And…does anyone ever make the recipes?
Jacqueline Vick: I have to interject here. YES! I’ve made recipes from Laura Child’s Tea Shop Mysteries, and Joanna Fluke is a regular in my kitchen. Her “Sugar Cookie Murder” gave me the best Vanilla Frosting recipe I’ve ever tasted. My husband, who is not a mystery reader, regularly asks me when her next book is coming out because he knows I’ll make some of the cookies. And, after she began to include side dishes, buffet items, and dinner selections, I’ve tried those, too!
JH: Some authors insert the recipes in the text as they write. Others group them altogether at the end. Some list generic ingredients while others suggest name brands. (Is there a product-placement kickback for using brand named ingredients?) Do recipes in mysteries boost sales?
JMV: I have to tell you that I never would have pegged myself as a reader of recipe-inclusive-type mysteries, but now that I have, I’m hooked. Sometimes I’ll flip to the back and look at the recipes first! And sometimes I buy the books just for the recipes. (I’m a cookbook addict.)
In the Tea House Mysteries especially, the mention of the teas and traditions and menu adds to the atmosphere of the Indigo Tea Shop. You can practically smell the lavender scones. And I’ve started experimenting with teas and tisanes. Very relaxing!
JH: Here’s a partial list of recipe-writing mystery authors, with their series, and a few recipe recommendations. (I know I’ve missed many. The list could go on for pages!)
• Laura Childs – Tea Shop mysteries – includes Tea Time Tips as well as recipes
• Melinda Wells – Della Cooks Mysteries – a fan recommended the Funeral Salad in “Killer Mousse”
• Joann Fluke – Hannah Swenson Mysteries – one fan loves her Pecan Pie for a Holiday Crowd in “Sugar Cookie Murder.” http://www.murdershebaked.com/recipe_index.htm lists ALL her recipes
• Cleo Coyle – Coffee House mysteries – check out Dunkin’ Pumpkin Muffin Tops at http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/
• Susan Conant & daughter Jessica Conant-Park – Gourmet Girl Mysteries – great for young adult readers and cooks
• Rochelle Krich – Molly Blume Thrillers – adds ethnic recipes, like Challah and Latkes
• Diane Mott Davidson – Goldy Bear Catering Mysteries
• Tamar Meyers – Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries
• Sammi Carter- Candy Shop Mysteries
• Krista Davis – Domestic Diva Mysteries
Some authors mention recipes in their books, but feature them on their websites.
• Jane Cleland – Josie Prescott Antiques Mysteries – http://www.janecleland.net/htm/fun/mom_recipes.htm
• Kris Neri – Tracy Eaton Mysteries – http://www.krisneri.com/recipes.html
And then there are cookbooks by or about famous mystery characters and writers.
• The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout – author-tested recipes with quotes & trivia – Nancy Nicholson recommends Green Corn Pudding and Blueberry Grunt
• The Cat Who…Cookbook – from Moose County cooking – Susan Duncan recommends Mrs. Cobb’s Meatloaf
• Dining With Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook – connects the famous stories with the recipes – Ethel Grimes recommends the Potato Pancakes recipe for Chanukah
• The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking – recipes that tie in to the mysteries – Jennifer Tretheway says the Whistling Bagpipe Crunchies are delicious.
JMV: I have to promote the Sisters in Crime Desserticide, which includes recipes AND fun facts about crime. I know they also have a Desserticide II, and both can be found at http://www.sistersincrimela.com/ .
Do mysteries with recipes whet your appetite, or leave you cold? Who is YOUR favorite culinary author? What recipe from a mystery book have you tried…and absolutely loved? Please let us know!
JMV: After reading your post, Jackie, I wondered what kind of recipes an author of traditional mysteries would come up with, so I asked our own GB Pool to give us a few of her own. You won’t find them listed in a Ginger Caulfield mystery, but I’m grateful she’s shared them and I plan on whipping up her Fudge Ecstasies this weekend if I can keep the hubby out of the batter bowl!
Courtesy of GB Poole
Praline Cheese Cake
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tbs. Sugar
3 Tbs. Margarine, melted
3 8 oz. Packages Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
2 Tbs. Flour
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
½ cup finely chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350º, combine crumbs, white sugar, and margarine; press onto bottom of 9-inc. springform pan. Bake at 350º, 10 minutes. Combine softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and flour, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and nuts. (I don’t add nuts to the cake; they get soggy; I bake them in the graham cracker crust.) Pour mixture over crumbs. Bake at 350º, 50 – 55 minutes. Loosen cake from rim of pan with sharp knife while cake is still warm so it doesn’t crack as much; cool before removing rim of pan. Chill. Brush with maple syrup and garnish with pecan halves, if desired. Makes 10-12 servings.
1 12-ounce package (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
Grease cookie sheets; set aside. In a heavy, medium saucepan combine 1 cup of the chocolate pieces, the unsweetened chocolate and butter; heat and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Remove from heat. Add eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the pan occasionally. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces and nuts.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and surfaces are dull and slightly cracked. Watch so they don’t get too done because the dark color doesn’t show a slight burn. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. Makes about 36 cookies.
Holiday Fruit and Nut Bars
¾ cup sifted flour
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup cooking oil
2 eggs, unbeaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup dates, chopped
½ cup candied fruit
1 cup chopped nuts
Mix and sift first four ingredients.
Make a well and add in order, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat
Until smooth. Add dates, fruit, and nuts; Mix well.
Turn into greased shallow baking dish (12x7x2 inches).
Bake in moderate oven (350° F.) 20 50 25 minutes.
Cut into bars while warm. Dust with confectioners’
Sugar. Makes 30 bars.