Award-winning mystery author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and multi-published short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she pens the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Learn more about Edith/Maddie and her books at her combined website.
Creating a Series
Thanks so much for having me over to celebrate my book release, Lois!
When I designed my Country Store Mysteries, I knew I wanted to feature a breakfast and lunch restaurant in southern Indiana. As I am originally a Californian, I made protagonist Robbie Jordan a transplant from the Golden State, too. She grew up in Santa Barbara, but loves living and cooking in Brown County, Indiana.
I spent five happy years earning a doctorate in the next county some decades ago and visited Brown County often. The southern part of Indiana is hilly and pretty, and the pace of life is slower and more relaxed that I’ve found on the coasts. It was fun to create an iconic fictional Midwestern village and people it with locals. A couple of them are fond of using quirky southern phrases like, “Welp, that went faster than green grass through a goose,” or, “The fella’s a regular cobweb rig,” for a particularly tall man.
After Robbie’s mother dies suddenly of a ruptured brain aneurysm in her fifties, Robbie is heartbroken but inherits some money. She’s already living in Brown County, working as a chef. She and her Aunt Adele, her mother’s sister, find a run-down country store for sale. Robbie’s mom was a cabinetmaker, so Robbie learned carpentry skills from her. She goes to work renovating the store.
Flipped for Murder, the first book in the series, begins at the store’s grand opening. It’s been fun developing Pans ‘N Pancakes into the village watering hole over the course of six books and a novella. It’s where everybody comes for breakfast or lunch, and where they gossip and talk about the latest murder.
I’ve also enjoyed developing the recipes for the restaurant, some of which I include in the books. I love cooking, and I live with a tall skinny man who loves recipe testing!
For book seven, Nacho Average Murder, which releases tomorrow, Robbie goes back to California to her tenth high school reunion. I created a number of yummy recipes with a Cali-Mex flavor, using avocados and spices like cumin and chili powder. It’s food I love to eat and I’m happy to present one of the dishes here for you.
Flaky Chicken Empanadas
These yummy bits are served at the Chumash High School reunion.
1 large boneless chicken breast
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces grated pepper jack cheese (or regular Monterey Jack)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
1egg + 1 tablespoon water whisked together in a small bowl
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Slice the chicken lengthwise into inch-wide strips. Rub all surfaces with the spice mix.
Heat oil in a skillet at medium high. Lay in chicken strips not touching each other. Sauté for two to three minutes until brown on bottom, then flip them over. Sauté for one more minute. Lower heat to medium low and cook until chicken is done, about ten minutes in all. Remove from heat and cool for an hour. Dice the chicken, ending up with about two cups.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cream cheese, grated cheese, and peppers. Use your hand to mix well.
Lay out one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll out to an approximate dimension of 11 x 15 inches. Cut 3 1/2” circles in the dough with a biscuit cutter, a glass, or a bowl. Repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry. Gather dough scraps and roll out to dimensions to fit additional circles.
Place 1 tablespoon chicken mixture in the center of each circle. Lightly brush the edge of half of a circle with egg wash and fold over, pinch edges tightly to seal. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining circles but DO NOT dip your brush in the egg wash again until your brush becomes dry because too much egg wash will prevent the edges from sticking.
Check each empanada to make sure there is about a finger's width of dough sealed together before the filling starts. Crimp the edges together with a fork. Pierce each empanada two times with a fork so steam can escape while baking.
Spread empanadas apart so they are not touching each other on the baking sheets. Brush the tops/sides evenly with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. Serve hot.
While empanadas are lined on the baking sheets before baking, transfer entire baking tray to the freezer. Once frozen, add individual empanadas to a freezer bag or glass container with lid.
When ready to bake, array desired amount of empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
Nacho Average Murder
A Country Store Mystery, Book 7
While looking forward to her high school reunion back in California, Robbie Jordan’s anticipation is complicated by memories of her mother’s untimely death. At first, she has fun hanging out with her old classmates and reuniting with the local flavors—avocados, citrus, fish, and spicy Cali-Mex dishes. When she gets wind of rumors that her mother, an environmental activist, may not have died of natural causes, Robbie enlists old friends to clear the smoke surrounding the mystery. But what she finds could make it hard to get back to Indiana alive . . .