Happy Christmas! I can see you roll your eyes as you tell me Christmas is over, but the Christmas Season lasts until January 6, The Epiphany. You know that song “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Day One is Christmas Day! So, we’re just getting started.
I sense your frustration. (Breathe deeply. It’s going to be okay.) You’ve baked and decorated and crafted your hearts out—some of you starting in July—and here I am telling you there’s more. But really, except for a few Epiphany cakes and Wise Men crafts, expectations are low for the rest of the season.
Now, I want you to go back to that horrified feeling when I first broke the news. That’s how my protagonist, Frankie Chandler, feels all the time. She’s surrounded by cozy mysteries filled with clever crafts and delicious recipes, yet Frankie—how shall I put it—is cozy impaired.
I have a feeling that Anastasia Pollack could whip up a Christmas tree from leftover egg cartons. In my short story, The Kitty Christmas Caper, Frankie decorated her Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree with holiday-themed socks. The kind you wear on your feet. She’s hopeless.
And she’s notoriously inept in the kitchen, too. Joanne Fluke books, with their incredible indexes of recipes, give Frankie the willies. (I love them.) Even non-baking protagonists in cozies have some savvy, like Ellen Byron’s Ricki James-Diaz who loves vintage cookbooks. (And the author includes recipes in the back of the books.)
Frankie doesn’t fall far from the writer. While I don’t consider myself a complete failure in the kitchen, I have had a few botched batches in my time, starting in my childhood. I think I set my goals too high.
There was the time I wanted to make divinity fudge. My parents warned me it was difficult, at least for an eleven-year-old. I can’t quite describe the outcome, but my parents made me eat it. No wasting food in our house. The green brownies were more palatable. Green brownies are what you get when you accidentally substitute green food coloring for vanilla. I ate those, too.
Does Frankie’s lack of culinary smarts and crafting prowess make her feel like an outcast in the cozy world? A bit. But she’s trying. Her sister-in-law June is helping her in the kitchen, and now that she’s a married woman, Frankie just might try her hand at decorating her neglected home. (The happy couple haven’t decided where they will live, but let’s face it. Frankie is going to win that argument because placing the neat Detective Bowers in Frankie’s mess of a home is funnier.)
So, how does Frankie cope? Short cuts. Like making biscotti cookies with cake mix. I’ve included the recipe in case you’re now scrambling to prepare goodies for the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
I’m curious. Would readers enjoy seeing recipes for Frankie’s shortcuts in the back of the books? Let me know in the comments. Everyone who comments on this post by Sunday, January 1, 11:59 PM PST will have their names entered into a hat. The winner chosen will receive their choice of an ebook or paperback copy of A Scape Goat for Murder. The winner will be announced Monday, January 2, in the comment section of this blog!
As for Frankie’s efforts at crafts, I think she’ll leave that to Anastasia.
Frankie Chandler’s Cheater McCheaterpants Biscotti
1 box of cake mix (Any flavor will do. Frankie played it safe with vanilla.)
1 cup of melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of any accents like chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients. Shape into two logs 1/2” tall. (don’t make them too wide as they will spread out.) Place logs on the paper. Bake for 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Cut diagonally about every ½ inch. (I highly recommend an electric knife with a serrated edge for this task.)
Lay out the cookies on the parchment paper. Bake for ten minutes more.
Turn off the oven and leave the cookies inside for another half hour. These are biscotti. If you forget them and they get extra crunch, well, they’re biscotti! If you don’t want them crunchy, take them out now.
At this point, you can melt any kind of chocolate and dip the edges of the cookies to make them pretty.
A Scape Goat for Murder
A Frankie chandler Pet Psychic Mystery, Book 6
A gourmand goat. A mysterious woman. A phone call that will change Frankie’s life.
Frankie Chandler’s upcoming nuptials suffer a devastating setback when her fiancé, Detective Martin Bowers, is injured on the job. How badly injured? The doctors are mum on his condition, and his colleagues are just as evasive, telling her they don’t know what he was doing on the lonely hillside where he fell.
Convinced that the key to Bowers’ recovery lies in finding out what happened, the pet psychic’s only hope for clarity is a gourmand goat who demands payment in pastries before he’ll reveal his secrets. When he does, his responses are confusing…and terrifying.
Then Bowers’ very mysterious, possibly dangerous, and definitely skeptical sister, Edith, arrives, and every step forward becomes a battle. As the dysfunctional duo maneuver through suspects, witnesses, and the occasional corpse, the pet psychic decides to go it alone, because Frankie is determined her groom will make it to the church on time…if the killer doesn’t get her first.