The Best of 2016

Quail Veronique by Mary McHugh

Serves six.

6 quails
3 tbsps. flour
2 ½ tsps. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
5 tbsps. butter
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup seedless green grapes
4 tbsps. blanched, sliced almonds

Mix the salt and pepper with the flour.
Dip the quails in the flour, salt, and pepper.
Brown the quails in the butter in a deep skillet.
Add wine, cover, and cook for about fifteen minutes over low heat.
Add grapes and almonds.
Cook until quails are tender, about five minutes.



A Real Maine Clambake by Barbara Ross

People often ask about the inspiration for novels and for me it was when fellow Kensington author Lea Wait (Twisted Threads, Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone) told me her daughter celebrated her wedding reception on a private island where a family ran a Maine clambake. Lea and I are neighbors in Maine (where neighbors means she lives at the other end of the peninsula where I live) and we love to get together to talk books, writing and lobster.

ea’s story marinated for a while before I wrote the first Maine Clambake Mystery, Clammed Up(which takes place, not surprisingly at a wedding). At that point, I’d never been to the real Cabbage Island Clambake where Lea’s daughter’s wedding reception had been held. I wrote the early drafts of Clammed Up over most of a snowy New England winter when the clambake was shut down for the season. I actually think that was a good thing, because it ensured that everything about the Snowden Family Clambake—the family, the island, the tourists—came out of my imagination.


White Chocolate Mocha by Joanne Fluke

5 and ½ ounces white chocolate chips (Michelle used half of an eleven-ounce net weight bag of Ghirardelli Classic White)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 and ½ cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules (Michelle used Taster’s Choice)
Sweetened whipped cream to garnish
Freshly grated nutmeg to sprinkle on top

Place the white chocolate chips, along with the vanilla extract, in a microwave-safe bowl on the counter.

Heat the milk and the cinnamon in a saucepan on the stove at medium low heat, stirring constantly, steam and bubbles form around the edges of the saucepan. Do not let it boil! Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of instant coffee granules over the top of the heated milk and stir them in until dissolved.

Pour the simmering mixture over the white chocolate chips in the bowl. Stir once, and then cover it with a clean dishtowel, a lid that’ll fit it, or a piece of heavy-duty foil tucked in around the edges of the bowl and let sit for five minutes.

Remove lid and whisk briskly until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour the White Chocolate Mocha into mugs and top with sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg.



Scrapbooking including Party Advice with Mollie Cox Bryan


As the author of scrapbooking-themed mysteries, I’ve been asked this question a lot over the past several years: Why scrapbooking? Of course, I’ve given it some thought and here are my top ten reasons.

Community. I’ve been around different craft communities in the past. I don’t know if any other crafters get together as frequently as scrappers do. But it seems integral to the craft to get together and share. What better reason to bring a group of individuals together on a regular basis on the page.

A lens. Scrapbooking provides an intimate lens into my character’s lives. We see the importance of their family, their achievements, and the other facets of their lives, like cooking and baking. In my first book Scrapbook of Secrets, my croppers make scrapbooks for children belonging to a woman who has mysteriously died. They piece together more than photos and pretty paper. They piece together a life full of depth and secrets.

Puzzles equal mystery. Have you ever thought about the puzzle aspect to scrapbooking? Looking for the right picture, embellishment, paper, and so on and putting it all together is one aspect of it. But in my second book, Scrapped, we puzzle out another character’s personality by looking through her mysterious scrapbook of shadows. To me, more than any other craft (except maybe quilting) scrapbooking lends itself to mysteries.

Remembering the past. In Death of an Irish Diva, one of my characters discovers an old scrapbook that relates to an event happening around her. The past leaves footprints everywhere, including scrapbooking. I wanted to explore that through scrapbooking in fiction.



Recipes from The MacGruder Brothers with Diana Cosby


2 cups flour
2 eggs
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup natural unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup chopped pecans
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 grated peel of an orange (zest)
2 tbsp. orange liquor
1⅛th cup sugar
½ cup butter
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Beat eggs and sugar. Add salt, baking powder, orange zest, orange liquor, chopped pecans, chocolate, butter, and unsweetened baking cocoa. Mix well. Stir in 2 cups of flour until well blended.

Dust remaining flour on a kitchen towel. Put biscotti dough on floured towel, then flatten out to a 12 inch long x 1 inch thick bar. Move bar onto a greased baking pan.

Bake biscotti for 30 minutes, and then remove from oven. Cut into 1 ¼ inch bars and separate about ½ inch apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes longer.



Ruth’s Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies by Kate Pearce

After a turbulent childhood, the Morgan brothers went their separate ways, leaving the family cattle ranch and their cowboy days far behind. But now, one by one, they’re being called back home to California. Have they been summoned to save the land—or to start a new legacy?

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Soften butter until melted.
Add both sugars to melted butter and stir until combined. Add salt, vanilla, and eggs, stirring until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and baking powder until just combined and a soft dough forms. Fold in chocolate and pecans.

Scoop dough in desired cookie size onto lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Leave room between cookies for some spreading.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake cookies until golden around the edges but a little soft in the center. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookies. Smaller cookies (2-inch diameter) bake for 13-15 minutes. Larger cookies may require up to 18 minutes.

Cool on baking sheets on wire racks for a few minutes. Then, transfer from baking sheets to wire racks to cool completely.



Colorado Blueberry Coffeecake by Lynn Cahoon

I’m sure you could substitute huckleberries for the blueberries in this recipe if you live in an area where they are available.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar

**Cream together until smooth. This is easier if the butter is soft.

Add to butter mixture-

3 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix in –

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Add – then stir until smooth –

3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup milk
Lastly add two cups of fresh or frozen blueberries.

Pour into a 8-9 inch baking pan.

Mix together the following –

1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour

This should be a crumble texture. Spread over the top of your mix without stirring. Pop into a hot 350 degree oven and bake for 60 minutes or until a tooth pick stuck in the center comes back clean.



Country Store Mysteries by Maddie Day
How did I come to write the Country Store Mysteries?

Back in the late seventies and early eighties, I spent five happy years earning my doctorate in linguistics at the flagship Indiana University campus in Bloomington, one that generations of Maxwells attended and of which my great-great-great grandfather was one of the founders (also: my great-grandfather was first dean of the IU Medical school, my grandfather was captain of the IU basketball team in 1916, and my own father was an undergrad there). Think huge university in a small town. You can walk or ride a bike everywhere. People are friendlier and talk more slowly than in the northeast. And neighboring Brown County is as hilly and pretty as Vermont.

When I was looking for a new cozy mystery series to write, I remembered a fellow grad student named Benjamin who dropped out of the IU Linguistics PhD program in the late 1970s. With his girlfriend he bought a run-down country store in the Brown County town of Story, and fixed it up into a breakfast restaurant as well as a bed-and-breakfast establishment. They served whole-wheat banana walnut pancakes, which I make to this day. I decided to write a made-up version of their adventure, and the Country Store Mysteries were born. The Story Inn still exists, although my friends don’t own it any longer, and the inside serves as the model for fictional Robbie Jordan’s breakfast and lunch country store, Pans ‘N Pancakes.



Butterscotch Cashew Bars by Charlotte Hubbard
These thick, chewy bars are rich and satisfying. They have a place on my Christmas cookie trays every year!


1½ cups flour
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
¼ tsp. salt


½ cup light corn syrup
1 11-oz. pkg. butterscotch chips (2 cups)
4 T. butter
2 T. water
½ tsp. salt
3 cups cashew pieces

Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a 9″ x 13″ pan with nonstick spray. Combine crust ingredients with a mixer until you have coarse crumbs. Press firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile combine all filling ingredients except cashews in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stir; repeat until smooth and blended (OR melt over low heat in a pan on the stovetop, stirring often). Stir in cashews. Spread filling on the partially baked crust and bake another 10 to 12 minutes or until bubbly and just starting to brown. Cool completely. Cut into 20 squares, and cut each square into 2 triangles.



Molasses Taffy by Aimie K. Runyan
One thing I love about this recipe is that, unlike many historical recipes, little has been done to alter it to fit the conveniences of the modern kitchen—you can replicate the dish in your own home much as the Sisters and the filles du roi would have made it 350 years ago. If you meet me at a signing or book event, I just might have some on hand for you to sample!


1 tablespoon butter (plus extra for your hands and the cookie sheet)
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Take a cookie sheet and coat it with lots of butter. You don’t want the taffy to stick

2. Set aside the baking soda. It goes in last.

3. Combine all the other ingredients into a large, thick-bottomed pot. I found my 3 quart enameled Dutch oven was ideal.

4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then either attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot or have an instant-read thermometer at the ready. Stir frequently and bring the mixture to 250°F for soft taffy.

5. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the baking soda. Mix thoroughly and be prepared for the taffy mixture to expand quite a lot at this stage.

6. Pour the taffy on the buttered cookie sheet and let it cool enough to touch.

7. Butter your hands and, working quickly, take handful-size chunks of taffy and pull by stretching them into a long cylinder, halving them, and twisting. Repeat until the taffy is a solid, lovely golden color. You may want to enlist helpers for this phase, as you need to get it pulled before the taffy hardens and becomes unworkable.

8. Cut the taffy into bite-sized chunks and wrap in wax paper if desired.

9. Eat and enjoy! The taffy can be stored in an airtight container for up to several weeks.