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Monday, June 27, 2016


The author with Carol Sabala's m#argarita
A reading addict since childhood, Vinnie Hansen is now the author of the Carol Sabala mysteries. The seventh installment in the series, Black Beans & Venom, was a finalist for the Claymore Award. She’s also written many published short stories including Novel Solution in the anthology, Fish or Cut Bait, and Bad Connection, the 2015 winner of the Golden Donut Award. Learn more about Vinnie and her books at her website. And keep reading for a chance to win one of three copies of Squeezed & Juiced Vinnie is giving away.

When I started writing my Carol Sabala mystery series, I was married to Mr. Wrong. I’d made Carol Sabala, my protagonist, a baker in an upscale restaurant, modeled on the place where my husband worked as a sous chef.

My husband was a treasure trove of inside information. Until we got divorced.

What might have been a stumbling block proved to be a step up. My protagonist, like myself, was feeling constricted in the cozy genre. I personally like to read grittier mysteries. Plus, in a small town setting like my Santa Cruz, I faced the Jessica Fletcher problem. How many bodies could an amateur sleuth credibly stumble upon? My series also jumps through time, and I wanted Carol Sabala to grow and change. She gradually morphed into a P.I., while still retaining her bread-and-butter job as a baker.

Having Carol keep her restaurant job not only seemed realistic, but also allowed the established food titles to continue to make sense. While I am neither a sous chef nor a professional baker, I still offer one recipe in each book. Here’s the menu and the connection:

Murder, Honey, Book 1 (now available in the boxed set Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries): Lebkuchen because the victim collapses into Carol’s pan of lebkuchen dough.

One Tough Cookie, Book 2: Crinkles. By the second book, I already realized I needed help with recipes. This one came from a member of my reading group. She often baked them for us until she passed away at ninety-three.

Squeezed & Juiced, Book 4: Margaritas. The old people in the story are “squeezed” and the victim is killed with a deadly injection. Juiced? So I give you the secret to my new husband’s very best margaritas just in time for summer. Recipe below.

Death with Dessert, Book 5: Flan. Carol goes on a manhunt into Mexico. This recipe for traditional Mexican flan I coerced from a Mexican-American colleague.

Art, Wine & Bullets, Book 6: Wine & Cheese Pairings. Fitting for a book set during Open Studios. A professional “culinarian” provided these pairings. Before sampling them all, I’d never even tried a Shiraz or Malbec wine. Writing mysteries leads to amazing experiences . . . .

Black, Beans & Venom, Book 7: Black Beans. Carol Sabala’s last adventure takes her to Cuba. Cuban food is wholesome and healthy, but on the bland side due to the lack of spices (a result of the embargo). But a Puerto Rican friend shared his Mama’s recipe, the tastiest black beans I’ve ever eaten.

Now, you may have noticed Book 3 is not listed. This is not an oversight. Rotten Dates, the third Carol Sabala mystery, will be the last one re-released from misterio press in late 2016. In the book, the “dates” are deadly ones with an evil man. For the recipe, I am looking for a delicious, non-deadly use of dates. Any offerings?

Carol Sabala’s Margaritas
The secret is the freshly squeezed juice!

Put lots of ice cubes in a container for mixing.

Coat the rims of the two glasses with lime juice and dip in salt (ground sea salt preferred). Fill the glasses with additional ice cubes.

Combine in the container:
3 oz. of Hornitos Tequila Sauza (or an upper shelf Tequila of your choice)
3 oz. of Controy (This is Mexican orange liquor that I’ve never found in the United States. A good Triple Sec is a fair substitute, but may give your margarita a slight orange tint.)
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

Stir and pour over the ice in the glasses.

Squeezed and Juiced
Her first real P.I. case, an ailing mother, and a stalled relationship.

As Carol Sabala attempts to juggle the components of her life, they all threaten to crash. Training to be a private eye, Carol wrangles a job to investigate a woman’s will. The more Carol probes the retirement home where the woman died, the more she grasps how easily one could kill an elderly person in such a facility. It is, after all, an expected last address. With Carol’s mother intent on moving to the same retirement home, the stakes are high. Will Carol prevent this facility from being her mother’s final address? Can she keep all the pieces of her life in the air as she enters a world of drug addicts and murder?

Buy Links

Want a chance to win a copy of Squeezed & Juiced? Vinnie is doing a Goodreads giveaway of three copies. Click here to enter.


Kassandra Lamb said...

Loved hearing about the reasons behind why each recipe was connected to that particular book. I adore stuffed dates, especially if the stuffing is something that is creamed cheese based. That's as close as this non-cook can come to a recipe for you. Sorry.

Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said...

I like that idea of stuffed dates, Kass. On the cover couldn't you just see a squished one with the stuffing oozing out?

shannon said...

You two have made me hungry for stuffed dates! I don't have any recipe ideas, I usually just drop a couple in a smoothie or chop them up with some nuts, seeds and chocolate chips for raw cookies.

And I know what you mean about the cozy challenge. I, too, started out writing darker books but they didn't sell as well. I'll have to go whip up one of those delicious margaritas and think about that some more. :-)

Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said...

I'm not actually a big date fan, but dates mixed up with nuts, seeds and chocolate chips sounds delicious. (It's probably the chocolate chips, part.)

Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

So that's how your recipes evolved, Vinnie. For those of you who now crave dates, may I suggest stuffing them with goat cheese and topping with basil.It's just one of the recipes submitted to "Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes." Vinnie's amazing recipe for Lebkuchen to Die For is in it, too.

Kassandra Lamb said...

Dates and goat cheese. Yum. :)

Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said...

Now why didn't I think to check our Cozy Food cook bookA

I'll take a look at that, Nancy. Great idea!

Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said...

That's supposed to be a question mark! Not an "A".

Jenny Carless said...

I'll definitely try the margarita recipe, Vinnie--thanks! And I enjoyed hearing the history behind the recipes, as others have said. I love your heroine and look forward to continuing your series.

Vinnie/www.vinniehansen.com said...

Here's to you, Jenny!

I'm eagerly awaiting your first mystery.