Believing humor to be good therapy, former psychologist Lesley A. Diehl has published several not-your-usual cozy mystery series and short stories featuring sassy, zany protags. Protagonist Emily Rhodes is only one of the characters to emerge from Lesley’s somewhat sane yet peculiar mind. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website and blog.
To Cook or Not To Cook
I love to eat, and I love to cook. The combination of these has gotten me into trouble throughout my life. But mostly it’s my passion for eating that has been an issue. Several years ago, I gained enough weight that I decided I needed to reduce, especially because I have back issues and don’t need to carry around more pounds than necessary. I returned to my tried and true diet approach. I used WW. For me it’s a sane way to reduce because it’s easy and provides a balanced approach to food. In my younger years, it took only several months for me to diet and reach goal weight, but because I cannot exercise the way I used to (even walking is difficult now), and my metabolism is wonky, it took 9 months for me to lose 15 pounds. My husband can attest to the fact that I do not cheat when I diet, so the slow rate of loss was frustrating, but worth it.
I have kept off the weight for over a year, and I’m terribly proud of myself. Recently, I visited a spine specialist who said he’d be happier if I was 10 pounds lighter! I told him it was not going to happen, so he finally backed off when he learned how long it took me to get to the weight I now am. Of course, he’s in his forties and very buff. His philosophy is that we should eat only to have the fuel to do what we really like doing. For those of us who are older, what we like doing is eating, having a glass of wine and talking about our medical issues. Why are all our medical people mere children who think they will never end up where we are? Didn’t I, a few years ago, scoff at those who talked about their illnesses all the time? Funny how a few years changes one’s perspective.
I now practice moderation because it is necessary, but not fun.
As for the cooking passion, I still do it and make healthy, but tasty meals. Now here’s the odd part: none of my protagonists are cooks. Most of them don’t cook, and some of them can’t cook. For those who try cooking, they usually fail at it. It may be that I want to be better at something than the characters I’ve created who are younger than I, blonder than I, taller or thinner than I, and with the exception of the psychologist modeled after me, none of them have ever had weight problems. Do you suppose there’s a connection between their lack of weight issues and not cooking?
In the Big Lake Murder mystery series, the protagonist, Emily Rhodes is shorter than I, but much tinier. She was a preschool teacher who came to Florida and retired early, found she needed money because her life partner upon whom she was financially dependent died and left her not a cent. She took up a new career as a bartender and does a smashing great job of mixing drinks, which is kind of like cooking, especially if you load the drinks down with several olives or a lot of fruit. But here’s the interesting side of Emily’s life—she lives next door to a woman who loves to cook and bake and who makes Emily and her friends goodies daily. The most recent book in the series is Scream Muddy Murder, and it contains some of the neighbor’s recipes. None of them are healthy, but all of them are yummy. If you’re yearning for the best Key Lime pie, the recipe is included in the book.
Years ago, crockpots were all the fad. I have the one I bought in 1970 something. It still works, and I have discovered it is great for chili and for pulled pork. The wonderful thing about it is that it makes cooking easy. You throw the ingredients in with minimal preparation and let the pot, unwatched, do the rest. I understand there are updated versions of the slow cooker that do everything for you except eat the food. Although I’m tempted to buy one of these new cookers, I don’t feel like dedicating the space to it because both of my homes, New York and Florida, are small.
Assuming Emily can find her slow cooker, I think this recipe for Pork Chili Verde might be something even Emily Rhodes could accomplish, or she could suggest it to her cooking fanatic next-door-neighbor.
Pork Chili Verde
2-3 pounds boneless pork country ribs
Half an onion
16 oz jar of salsa verde (I prefer mild, but go hotter if you like)
1 small can tomato sauce
16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans, drained and added the last hour of cooking
salt and pepper
Optional seasonings: I use Cajun seasoning, but you can add what you like: oregano, paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cilantro
Cut the pork into 1-inch chunks, season and brown in a large skillet. Place in crockpot.
Peel the little papery jackets off the tomatillos, cut into half inch pieces and add along with canned tomatoes and tomato sauce to the large skillet.
Add the jar of salsa verde, cook down the concoction (about 10-15 minutes), then add to the crockpot. I then cook all on high for 6 hours. Your slow cooker may need less time or more. The pork comes out very tender, and the other ingredients blend together well. You know your croc pot, so test for tenderness.
Serve like chili in a bowl with shredded cheese on top if you like and warm corn tortillas on the side. If you have some left over but not enough for another full meal, add the heated leftovers to cooked macaroni or brown rice.
*Tomatillos look like green tomatoes with papery, beige jackets on them. Be certain you peel off the jackets. If you can’t find them, increase the amount of salsa verde. The dish will not taste as bright and fresh without the tomatillos, but it will be good.
While your chili verde is cooking away, I have another special treat for you. The first book in the series is only .99 cents until the end of November. Read it while you smell your evening meal cook.
Emily Rhodes came to rural Florida for the cowboys, the cattle, and to do a little country two-step, not to fall headfirst onto a dead body in a dumpster. Ah, the golden years of retirement in the sunshine state. They’re more like pot metal to Emily, who discovers the body of the county’s wealthiest rancher in the Big Lake Country Club dumpster. With her close friend accused of the murder, Emily sets aside her grief at her life partner’s death to find the real killer. She underestimates the obstacles rural Florida can set up for a winter visitor and runs afoul of a local judge with his own version of justice, hires a lawyer who works out of a retirement home, and flees wild fires hand-in-hand with the man she believes to be the killer.