The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook appeared in my mailbox the other day, and I had no idea why it had been sent to me. Fortunately, the mystery was solved with the included letter: I’d won it on a LibraryThing.com giveaway. But were the recipes any good? I began my investigation.
Word to the wise: there are affiliate links in this article. If you click a link and buy a book, I’ll get a tiny sum of money. Thank you. Additionally, because I won this book, I’m under no obligation to give it a good review. Heavens knows not all cookbooks are created equal.
First I looked at the 175-page hardcover book. It’s published by Quirk Books who claims the cookbook features “hard-boiled breakfasts, thrilling entrees, and cozy desserts…” While I know Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, Scott Turow, James Patterson, and others can write like nobody’s business, can they cook? Or write a recipe to satisfy my curiosity? I perused and selected a handful of recipes to explore.
Grand-Mere Marie’s Root Vegetable Vichyssoise by Wendy Hornsby takes some patience what with cleaning the leeks and chopping celery, carrots, and other root veggies like turnips, parsnips, winter squash, and rutabagas. But with a base of thick-cut bacon, a splash of white wine, and a dash of butter, this soup is a winner. Perfect for a late spring when there are brave crocus blooming amidst a spattering of light wanna-be snow.
No, more than that.
It’s to die for.
I couldn’t help myself. It really IS that good.
Likewise the Latvian Solstice Squares while perhaps not totally authentic to Latvia culture, deserve a place in your dessert back pocket. With preparation similar to Eagle Brand’s illustrious Magic Cookie Bars. This version uses a mixture of German chocolate cake mix and butter as a base, then throws in semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, and almond brickle chips. Heck, my German chocolate cake mix included a pouch of dry ingredients to create that luscious coconut frosting – I threw that in with the base mixture and was delighted with the results. Oooeee gooey goodness.
The Mystery Crackers by Sandra Brown are as easy as can be, and certainly tasty. Definitely something you’d want to make if you hate to cook and have some time to spare. Or, as Brown writes in the introduction, “I can make Mystery Crackers while I’m writing. And I keep them in the fridge of my office for snacking. If I’m in a lull, I can nibble a few to ‘spice things up!” While I didn’t go for the suggested cayenne pepper, I did try them with a smoked paprika – yum!
I was also intrigued by the Farfalle with Fennel and Pine Nuts on page 62; this recipe is by author Leslie Budewitz. Unfortunately, my local super-duper mart did not have fennel. I improvised with shredded brussels sprouts and walnuts for me. And with the guidelines in the recipe it still turned out really good. Who knew brussels sprouts worked so well with raisins and cinnamon? My adapted recipe is below.
And finally, I implore you to make Sue Grafton’s recipe for Kinsey Millhone’s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich on page 87. While Grafton urges readers to avoid improvisations, sometimes a tight situation requires quick thinking. I did what I had to do:
Creamy PB, the toasted lower half of an “Everything” bagel, and a five perfect bread & butter pickle chips completed my snack. And I’d do it again.
Case closed. Proceed to the nearest bookstore or click on a link to buy, cook, and eat.
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound brussels sprouts, shredded
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ⅓ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup cold water
- ¾ pound Farfalle (bow tie pasta) or similar
- Toast the walnuts until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside until cooled.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and saute until they begin to turn golden.
- Add the brussels sprouts and cook 15-20 minutes or until softened and starting to brown. Teh longer you take with this step, the sweeter the brussels sprouts will become.
- Add salt, raisins, cinnamon, and cold water. Stir, cover, and continue to cook until the brussels sprouts are thoroughly softened and somewhat browned.
- While the brussels sprouts mixture is cooking, prepare and drain the pasta.
- Toss the hot pasta with the fennel mixture and add the toasted walnuts. Add any optional ingredients as desired and mix well before serving.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup artichoke hearts (not marinated), chopped
1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
*Could use a little more sauce.
*Some may want to add a spice for fire. I was thinking gnger could be interesting, but you may prefer cayenne.