featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KATHLEEN KASKA & #CHILE RELLENOS

Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story was published in 2012. Learn more about Kathleen and her books at her website and blog

I’ll Have Mine with Pecans, Olives, and Raisins

Welcome to Day Two of my blog tour “Travels to Austin: A Trip Back in Time” where I write about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital. I’m celebrating the upcoming release of my fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill (Austin, Texas) by sharing one of my favorite recipes--Chile Rellenos, a dish I discovered at one of the city’s most famous Mexican restaurants. Getting me there the first time wasn’t easy. Read on.

Sausage, kolaches, sauerkraut, and veggies from my family’s garden are what nurtured me in the small Czech town of West, Texas. When I moved to Austin in 1977 to attend the university, some friends invited me out for Mexican food. Till then, the only Mexican food I’d tasted came frozen in an aluminum tray: “I’ll go, but I really don’t like the stuff.” Boy, was I in for a surprise.

A white stucco building on East First housed Matt’s El Rancho. Matt Martinez and his wife opened the restaurant in 1952, and it soon earned Mr. Martinez the title, “King of Mexican Food.” That first visit taught me why.

While my friends dug into chips and salsa, I perused the menu with the skepticism of a food snob. My plan was to order a salad and hope for the best. But aromas wafting from the kitchen were too enticing, so I ordered their signature dish, Chile Rellenos. With platter before me, I regretted not sticking to my salad order. Under a slather of sour cream topped with the most ungodly food combo—chopped pecans, green olives, and raisins—was a deep-fried thing called a poblano. And with it was stuffed with cheese. I mustered my courage and took a bite. The melding of those odd flavors exploded in my mouth. Before I knew it, I’d scraped my plate clean.

That was also the night I had my first “real” margarita.

Back the next week and numerous times thereafter, Chile Rellenos is still my favorite, although I’ve tasted other dishes. Seems I’m not the only one who got hooked. The story goes that LBJ often called in to-go orders, which were picked up and flown to the White House.

In Murder at the Driskill, protagonist Sydney Lockhart’s cousin, Ruth Echland, goes on a date to El Rancho. If you’ve read my other Sydney mysteries, you might expect that Ruth loved the food and drank the margaritas mightily. And that she later insisted on Sydney stocking her apartment with tequila and limes, instead of gin and olives.

Chile Rellenos

Ingredients
4 large poblano chile peppers
1 cup of grated pepperjack cheese
2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped green olives
2 tablespoons of chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of raisins

Grill chile peppers on both sides until the skin turns black and starts to blister. This can be done on the stovetop if you have a grill pan or in the oven. If you choose the oven, turn the setting to broil and set the rack about six inches from the heat. Place peppers on the baking sheets lined with aluminum foil. It should take about ten minutes to char peppers on both sides.

When peppers are cool to the touch, rise them in cold water and peel off the blacken skin. Cut a slit along the side of each pepper and remove the seeds. Pat each one dry with a paper towel.

Mix the pepperjack cheese, onions, jalapeno, and cream cheese. Stuff each pepper with a quarter of the mixture.

Beat the egg whites with an electric beater until they form stiff peaks. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Spread flour into a shallow dish.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Dredge each pepper in the flour and shake off excess. Dip the peppers into the egg mixture. Gentle lower each into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown. About five minutes.

To serve, top each pepper with a tablespoon of sour cream. Sprinkle with chopped green olives, pecans, and raisins. I like to serve the dish with a side of beans and rice and sliced avocado.

If you’ve ever been to Austin, tell me what you liked best about the city whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.” At the end of the tour, I’ll give away a signed copy of the book. To be eligible, leave a comment on each blog.

Yesterday Condo Douglas kicked off my blog tour at Conda’sCreatIve Center. On Friday you can find me at Cyndi Pauwell’s blog.            

Murder at the Driskill
You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.



Monday, November 24, 2014

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HANDPRINT TURKEY PLACE CARDS

Keep the kids busy making table place cards while you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner. This craft is easy enough for even preschoolers. As a matter of fact, it’s a preschool oldie but goodie craft project with a bit of a twist.

Materials (for each place card):
8-1/2” x 11” card stock, pencil, ruler, crayons or colored markers, 5mm wiggle eye (optional), black marker (optional), tacky glue, tape

Draw a line across the long end of the copy paper 1” from bottom edge.
Place hand in center of copy paper with wrist along pencil line. Trace hand.

With marker or dark crayon, write a name across the palm. Color the turkey. Your kids will know exactly how, but for those of you who don’t remember your preschool days, the palm of the hand is the turkey’s body, the thumb is the neck and head, and the four fingers are turkey feathers. Add a yellow triangle for the beak and a red inverted heart for the wattle.

Glue a wiggle eye to the head or draw an eye.

Cut out along pencil lines.

Fold the short ends of the 1” strip to the back of the turkey. Tape the ends together, overlap 1”.

Friday, November 21, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR LINDA O. JOHNSTON

Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has published 38 romance and mystery novels, including the Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries and Pet Rescue Mysteries as well as stories for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne.  Her latest cozy mystery series, the Superstition Mysteries debuted in October. Learn more about Linda and her books at her website and blog.

Superstitions and Writing

My fingers are crossed that you enjoy this blog post.  Why?  Because I write the Superstition Mysteries!

My first Superstition Mystery is Lost Under a Ladder, an October 2014 release.  In it, protagonist Rory Chasen is a superstition agnostic.  She isn't sure she wants to believe in them, but she needs closure after the loss of her fiancĂ©, who died after walking under a ladder.  Rory therefore goes to Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions.  She brings her black and white dog Pluckie along... and Pluckie almost immediately senses an ill woman at the back of the Lucky Dog Boutique and saves her life.  The woman, Martha, knows she'll be fine, since she's sure that black and white dogs are lucky!  Soon, Martha asks Rory to stay and run the Lucky Dog for her while she gets better.

And when Martha becomes a murder suspect, Rory has to help her--of course.  Meanwhile, Rory the skeptic is surrounded by sidewalks with cracks that the tourists must avoid while picking up lucky heads-up pennies.  She stays at the Rainbow B&B and visits stores and restaurants like the Broken Mirror Bookstore, the Heads-Up Penny Gift Shop, the Apple-A-Day Cafe, and the Shamrock Steakhouse as well as the Break-A-Leg Theater.

Yep, the town is full of superstitions.  And I've had a whole lot of fun researching them.

Some of the research I've done involves superstitions of writers--of course, since I'm a writer.  Am I superstitious?  Well, I've become a lot more aware of superstitions since I started this series.  I've always knocked on wood a bit as well as crossed my fingers.  To me, though, 13 has always seemed a lucky number despite the taint on it.

What are some superstitions that involve writing?

Well, some writers will not end a story on Chapter 13.   Others--or sometimes the same writers--cannot have 13 pages in a chapter.  Still others must end each chapter on an odd  --or even--page number, whichever works for them. 

Some writers must write something every day, even if it's just one word.  Others have a special pen that they must use to sign all snail mail letters and contracts or whatever.  Then there's the superstition that they can only use one pencil for writing or editing per manuscript.  Sometimes they'll break that pencil when they're done with that particular manuscript.

Some writers must sit down at their desks at the same time every day.  Or drink the same kind of coffee from the same cup.  Or wear a particular piece of clothing--a jacket, slippers, or whatever--all the time while writing.

Some must have a cat around, or several.  Me?  I've got my two dogs.  Are they lucky?  Yes, I think so.  They're also distracting since they have me trained to get up a lot to take them outside--and feed them treats.  But they're there for me and inspire me, so, yes, they're lucky for me.

What happens if superstitious writers fail to follow their superstitions?  They don't want to find out!  Perhaps their writing will be terrible, and/or will be buried in a slush pile and fail to attract an agent or sell to a publisher--and if it is published, readers will hate it. 

How do some superstitious writers choose characters' names?  One superstition is that they'd better not have the same initials as someone the writer knows or that person will be doomed to bad luck. 

There are writers who refuse to eat anything sweet, and may choose to eat something totally sour when they're writing about the villains in their stories, or those villains might wind up as likeable characters.

And if some writers are traveling, they might not get a whole lot done because they believe their best work can only be achieved at their usual work station and computer.  Can they transfer the luck by memory stick to a laptop or tablet?  That depends on their superstition!

So... if you're a writer or know one, please share any writing superstitions with me.  It'll surely bring you good luck.  I'm knocking on wood now to ensure that's true.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

#TRAVEL WITH SERENA--GUEST AUTHOR LYNN CHANDLER WILLIS ON WINK, TEXAS

Rig Theater, Wink, Texas
(photo by Whole is One)
Lynn Chandler Willis is the first woman in ten years to win the St. Martin's Press/PWA Best 1st PI Novel competition. She lives in North Carolina with Sam the cocker spaniel. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

 There Really is a Town Called Wink

When I was researching settings for Wink of an Eye, I knew what I wanted. I knew I wanted heat, desert, dirt, and rugged mountains. Throw a couple cacti in for good measure. I probably could have settled for any small town in New Mexico, Utah, or Arizona, but I was drawn to Texas.

Each state in these great United States of America has its own personality, its own quirks and charms. Most states are known for one thing or another that is unique to that particular state. And often, a state's residents, especially the native-born, share certain characteristics. In Texas, one of those characteristics is Texas pride. Every Texan I've ever met or talked to loved their state. “Texas” isn't just a physical place—it's a way of life. Whether it's the ultra urban cities like Dallas and Houston, or the smaller towns, like Wink, Texans are proud to call the Lone Star state home.

I started my search looking at the smaller towns. Google became my friend. I wanted a town with a population under 2,000, a few mom-and-pop businesses, and at least one somewhat odd-ball fact. And then I found Wink, Texas. Home of the Roy Orbison museum (call for an appointment to visit), sidewalks, and two giant sinkholes. My main character, Private Investigator Michael “Gypsy” Moran, was coming home.

To learn more about the town Gypsy was running home to, I continued my research and discovered the little town of Wink, Texas has a weekly newspaper—and it was online! I immediately subscribed and with each new edition of the small town paper, I fell more in love with the tiny town. The people of Wink, Texas weren't the oil barons of Dallas or the country club golf pros of Houston; they were down to earth, working class people. They were the people I wanted Gypsy Moran to call family.

Although fiction takes the reader to a make-believe world, the characters need to be real enough for the reader to be able to relate to them in some manner. In Wink of an Eye, the main characters are everyday people. They get up and go to work or school, they eat dinner together at a cramped kitchen table, and they're more likely to drink a cold beer on their back deck than a dry martini in a penthouse.

They're the people of Wink, Texas. A place Gypsy Moran is proud to call home.

Wink of an Eye
When twelve-year-old Tatum McCallen finds his father, a deputy sheriff, hanging from a tree in their west Texas backyard, he sets out to restore his dad's honor and prove he didn't kill himself. He and his disabled grandfather hire reluctant Private Investigator Gypsy Moran, who has his own set of problems. Like a double-cross that sent him fleeing Vegas in the middle of the night.

Gypsy agrees to help the kid and his grandfather Burke because he feels sorry for them. Burke, a former deputy sheriff now confined to a wheelchair, is all Tatum has left. When Tatum shows Gypsy a private file his dad had been keeping, Gypsy knows the kid's father was on to something when he died. Eight missing girls, a cowardly sheriff, and undocumented workers are all connected to the K-Bar Ranch.

Gypsy is quite familiar with the K-Bar Ranch. Before running off to Vegas, he spent his summers as a teenager working for ranch owner Carroll Kinley while romancing Kinley's beautiful daughter Claire. But Claire, now married to a state senator, is managing the ranch now and is more involved with the case Tatum's father was secretly investigating than Gypsy wants to admit.

Aided by adolescent Tatum and reporter Sophia Ortez, Gypsy begins pulling the pieces of the puzzle together, but it could end up costing him his life. Or worse—Tatum's life.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THIS DAY IN HISTORY--NOVEMBER 19TH

Every once in awhile we need to shake things up a bit here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. After some brainstorming we came up with a few ideas we plan to introduce to the blog every so often. One of these new features is This Day in History. Why? Because it’s fun to learn what happened on a particular date in years gone by (and sometimes we just can’t think of anything to blog about!) Today we kick off This Day in History with some of the notable events that have taken place on November 19th.

1492—Christopher Columbus discovers Puerto Rico on his second voyage

1620—the Mayflower reaches Cape Cod and begins to explore the coast

1805—Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Ocean

1861—Julia Ward Howe writes “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

1863—Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address

1895—the pencil is patented

1916—Samuel Goldwyn and Edgar Selwyn form Goldwyn Pictures

1919—the U.S. rejects the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations

1959—“Rocky & His Friends” debuts on television

1965—Kellogg’s introduces Pop Tarts

1969—Apollo astronauts Conrad and Bean become the third and fourth humans to walk on the moon

1985—Regan and Gorbachev meet for the first time

1997—the first set of septuplets to survive infancy are born

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--SKILLET APPLE-BLUEBERRY CRISP

Skillet Apple-Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 large or 6 medium apples
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Core, trim, and chop apples into bite-sized pieces, leaving skins on.

Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in large skillet. Add nuts, lemon zest, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Toss to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove from pan.

Melt remaining butter in pan. Add apples and blueberries. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are soft but not mushy. Mix topping back in. Stir together. Serve warm by itself or over vanilla ice cream.