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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A retired professor of psychology, mystery author Lesley Diehl divides her time between the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York and the part of Florida that’s home to cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. She’s author of both short stories and several mystery series. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website and blog. -- AP

Sweet and Savory Characters, Sweet and Savory Food, Part 1

In a culinary sense most of my characters have to be considered savory.  My protagonists are country gals with attitude.  They are sassy, bold and even hot.  Hera Knightsbridge, the owner of the microbrewery in upstate New York, is a stubborn woman who doesn’t let the community, the bank, the college or people with important connections  stop her from taking control and tracking down killers in both  A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings.  When her lover, the assistant deputy sheriff warns her to back off, she ignores his good advice.

I decided to create Hera when I visited a microbrewery some years ago.  I wanted a protagonist who engaged in work atypical of a woman.  I knew little about making beer, but I was certain I didn’t like it.  Until I toured microbreweries and tasted craft-brewed beer, my opinion was that beer was blue collar and it was consumed primarily by men.  How wrong I was.  I now know more about microbrews.  They are complex, carefully brewed by master brewers with art and skill.  There is as much written about pairing beer and food as there is wine and food. Lagers and ales won’t replace wine as my favorite drink with food, but I find they go well with many foods including barbeque, boiled shrimp or burgers.  They can be successfully drunk with more gourmet items by those who know how to accomplish the best culinary pairings, but as Hera points out in Poisoned Pairings, there are no rules, so experiment to see what you like.

I knew it was possible to cook with beer, but I thought only of savory dishes not sweet ones.  It’s true my microbrewing series features a savory gal as protagonist, but there’s also Hera’s best friend, sweet little Sally who operates a bakery and tea room.  Sally is the kind of best friend we all want to have.  She’s generous, kind and fun to be around.  Her only fault seems to be how taken in she is by some men.  One of them is the same man Hera has loved since she was a teen.  Instead of competing for his favors, the two women consider their friendship more important.  When Sally’s relationship with him takes an unusual turn, Hera is there to support her.  Sassy protags can be sweet, too.

Good friends who accept and love us despite our cantankerous ways.  Sweet and savory.  I like to have both types of women in my writing and my life.  Do you?

Here’s one of my favorite beer recipes.  It will surprise you because it’s not savory, but sweet.  These muffins are perfect for the cold, snowy weather some of us have been experiencing lately.

Warm Your Honey’s Toes Ginger Stout Cake or Muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tablespoon candied ginger (finely chopped) or 1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
12 ounces stout (Use your favorite stout from a local microbrewery.  I do!
½ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin pans or 13X9 baking pan. Combine flour, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves; set aside.

Beat butter and candied ginger with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add sugars; beat to combine. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Mix stout and molasses to combine and add to wet ingredients. Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions, with the beer mixture; beating until combined and scraping down side of bowl as needed.  Batter will be runny.

Pour into the muffin pans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes over 24 muffins.  If using cake pan, bake 45 minutes.  In both cases, muffins or cake is done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Note: You may also make this as mini-muffins.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes.  Test with toothpick.  Make about 80 minis.
Cake and muffins do not round up when baked.

Try with a dollop of ginger spiced whipped cream or top with a slice of crystallized ginger.

Poisoned Pairings
In this sequel to A Deadly Draft, the threat of hydraulic fracturing, an environmentally controversial technique to extract gas from shale, invades Butternut Valley. Hera Knightsbridge and her fellow microbrewers fear it will pollute the water, their most precious ingredient, as well as destroy the beauty of the valley. Then murder visits Hera's brewery. When investigator and love interest Jake is called away, Hera is on her own and must confront a murderer as well as ghosts from her past.


J.L. Greger said...

Your recipe looks yummy. After everyone eats too many of your muffins, they can start thinking about spring diets and summer's more revealing clothes. I've got the answer. Read "Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight." Oak Tree Press is publishing it in March.

Lesley Diehl said...

That's funny. I'll have to try it. Sounds like an innovative way to diet.

Patricia Gligor said...

I love your series but, for some inexplicable reason, I always get hungry and thirsty when I read your books. :)

Lesley Diehl said...

That's a great plug, Pat. Maybe I can use it for publicity.

Kathy said...

Thanks for that recipe. About the only way I could get my husband to eat a muffin is if I tell him that there's beer in it.

Liz said...

Makes one wonder whence microbreweries in large cities get their fresh water.

Grace Topping said...

Hi, Lesley -- Your recipe sounds fabulous. Anything with ginger in it has to be good. Thanks for sharing it with us. I plan to bake some for my church bake sale. Do you think I should disclose the secret ingredient? LOL. We may have a few happier folks walking about after trying it.

Grace Topping

Lesley Diehl said...

Once that stout is baked at 350 degrees, I assure you no one will get a lift from it 'cuz the alcohol's gone, only the great taste remains.

B.K. Stevens said...

It looks like an interesting recipe, Lesley--I might just give it a try. Does Sally serve these muffins in her tea room?

Lesley Diehl said...

She hasn't served them yet, but she's been pretty busy with her baby. Maybe in book three.