featuring guest 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.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Julia Buckley is our Book Club Friday guest today. Julia is a Chicago area writer.  Like her character Madeline Mann, she enjoys food more than she should.  Her first mystery, The Dark Backward, was released in June of 2006 and earned high praise from Crimespree and others; her next book, Madeline Mann, received glowing reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal.  It is now available for the first time on Kindle.  The second Madeline Mann mystery, Lovely, Dark and Deep, will soon be available, as well. Julia is currently at work on a new mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth and English teacher. Visit Julia at her writer’s blog  where she interviews fellow mystery writers and at her website. You can also find Julia blogging at Poe’s Deadly Daughters and Inkspot. -- AP

The Mystery of April 1st and the Joy of Food

Happy April Fools’ Day, everyone!  It seems appropriate to note on a mystery blog that the origin of this holiday is, in fact, a mystery—although there are many theories.  Mention of the 1st of April can be traced all the way back to Chaucer’s Canturbury Tales, but references to the playing of pranks on this day came later. 

The most popular theory, according to this National Geographic article is that the holiday originated in France, which changed to the Roman calendar in the 1500s and no longer celebrated its New Year on the first of April or May, with the dawn of spring.  However, (so the story goes), the country rubes didn’t get word of the change, and so they became the APRIL FOOLS who still celebrated in the old fashioned way.

Whatever its origin, April Fool’s Day is celebrated in many nations.  Some countries suggest that pranks can only be played until noon—after which the prank players become April Fools.  Other countries  (including ours) encourage the silly jokes all day long.  Even the “serious” mediums of government bodies, television programs, newspapers, and websites have joined in the fun with various “prank” announcements over the years.

My own theory is simply that people have always been so giddy with the arrival of spring that they are encouraged to do silly things, and that at some point the term April Fool could have sprung from the idea of spring shenanigans.

May you have some giddy spring fun of your own today!

And since I don’t have a book to offer as a giveaway today, I’d like to share a recipe.  In my book Madeline Mann, Madeline repeatedly asks her German mother to make Rouladen, her favorite since childhood.  Her mother never finds the time—until a frightening event makes her dote on her daughter with home cooking.

This traditional German dinner is made up of onion and bacon-stuffed beef rolls in gravy.  Delicious!  But you’ll need some time for preparation.

German Rouladen, Madeline Mann’s Favorite Dish

  • 8 (4 ounce) pieces round steak, pounded 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (can also add chopped pickles)
  • ½ cup chopped red cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beef broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or as needed)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or, in Madeline’s case, a cup)
  1. Sprinkle the onion, cabbage, paprika, salt, and pepper evenly over the steaks. Lay one slice of bacon on each piece. Roll the steaks jelly-roll style and secure with toothpicks.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook meat on all sides until browned. Add the beef broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the meat rolls. Strain the broth mixture and return liquid to the skillet. Whisk together the cornstarch and 1 cup of water. Slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the skillet, stirring continually until the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the sour cream. Return rolls to the sauce; serve immediately.
  4. Tastes best with German dumplings (spaetzle) or egg noodles.
  5. Madeline prefers a pat of butter on the dumplings.

Thanks for sharing with us today, Julia! Readers if you make Julia’s recipe and like it, she’d love to hear from you. Contact her through her website. -- AP

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