Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Case of Merry Christmas and Butternut Squash Risotto

A 4-D puzzle of the Toronto cityscape and a Star Wars origami book in a toy store Christmas flyer! I bent down the corner of those two pages and made sure to clip the coupon offering a ten-dollar gift card with purchase of $50 or more. I also noted there was free gift wrap.

The store is about an hour's drive south from Black Currant Bay and on the weekend Karl and I decided to make the trip on behalf of the Black Currant Bay Regional Toy Drive. Surprisingly the store wasn't too crowded when we arrived. We proceeded to look around the large-surface store for the two items.

Darn if we didn't come up empty. Not to be discouraged, I asked a store clerk for assistance. She in turn brought in her manager. The very helpful manager listened carefully to me explain myself again as I pointed to the items I'd marked in their flyer and then I trotted along behind him as he went to the area where he thought one of the potential gifts might be hiding. Still, he seemed doubtful. In the end, he didn't find it either. He peered at the flyer, flipped a few pages. And then his face cleared.

"We might not have these items," he said.

"Oh?" I said. This seemed odd to me.

"Yes, this flyer isn't for our store."

Happy holidays everyone!

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/6 cup grated Parmesan (plus a wedge of Parmesan from which to make decorative ribbons)
2 cups butternut squash, chopped
2 cups boiling water
2 rounded tsps (for 2 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
1 shallot, minced
2 tsps butter
1 tsp olive oil
2/3 cup Arborio rice
1/6 cup white wine
Take the Parmesan out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Boil the butternut squash with a pinch of salt, in enough water to cover, for 15 min. or until tender. Drain and mash.

Prepare a bouillon with the 2 cups boiling water and vegetable bouillon powder.

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the shallots in the butter and olive oil for 2 min. Add the rice and sauté for 5 min. Add the white wine and stir until it's nearly absorbed. Add the squash and 1/3 cup of the bouillon and stir and continue to simmer until liquid is nearly absorbed. Continue adding 1/3 cupfuls of the bouillon and stirring for 25 min. or until the rice is creamy and firm but not hard (you will need to add 1/3 cupfuls of water toward the end).

Swirl in the grated Parmesan. Salt to taste.

Plate. Garnish with ribbons of Parmesan made with a vegetable peeler and grate pepper on top.

Serves 2.


Friday, November 23, 2012

#97 The Case of Spaghetti Low Carbonara Footprint and What it's Like to be the Sidekick in an Amateur Sleuthing Duo

Spaghetti Low Carbonara Footprint

enough whole-wheat spaghetti for two people (I have a bright yellow spaghetti measure, do you?)
enough regular spaghetti for two
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup simulated bacon chips
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cook the spaghetti (add the whole-wheat spaghetti to the pot first, bring back to a boil and cook for 1 min. before adding the regular spaghetti).

Whisk together the eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.

Just before the pasta is al dente, sauté the garlic and rosemary in the olive oil.

Drain the pasta (saving 1/4 cup pasta water) and toss it in the fragrant oil.

Whisk the reserved pasta water into the egg mixture.

Toss with the spaghetti until the sauce thickens.

Mix in the simulated bacon chips.

Plate and sprinkle with the parsley.

Serves 4.

PS "What it's Like to be the Sidekick in an Amateur Sleuthing Duo" is on Dru's Book Musings. Click on the screenshot below.

♥ Becki

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#96 The Case of Spicy Hummus and a Sexy Vintage Car

"They just don't make cars like this anymore," says my husband. He's licking his lips.

We're at the Black Currant Bay Antique and Vintage Car Show and I really must agree with him. Although I doubt if I'm looking at the displayed vehicles from the same perspective as Karl is.

See, I'm willing to bet the words in his thought cloud look a lot like this: horsepower, engine, torque... Manly, manly words.

My artsy-fartsy, womanly designer thought cloud includes words like: curves, Flamingo Pink, Elvis-suit White, chrome...

But we both agree these are magnificent machines. Ever notice how you can't beat an original?

Seamlessly transitioning to the topic of my recipe for Spicy Hummus, I've tried modernizing my original Spicy Hummus recipe with the addition of roasted red pepper, puréed pumpkin or even beets but that genuine Mediterranean taste of chick peas, lemon juice and garlic disappears. So here's my original Spicy Hummus, which is judiciously enhanced (not disguised) with a little Tabasco.

Although I usually post a picture of each dish I write about, you don't need a photo of my Spicy Hummus because you can picture it. It looks exactly like the 54 Dodge Mayfair above—authentic.

Spicy Hummus

1 cup dried chick peas, soaked for 24 hours, drained, then rinsed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
drizzle olive oil
chilli pepper flakes

Purée all the ingredients (chick peas to salt and pepper to taste) in a high-speed blender.

Spread in the bottom of a pasta dish and drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle with chilli pepper flakes.

Serve with cucumber slices.

Serves 3 as an appetiser, 2 as lunch.


PS Leave me (and Cynthia) a message by clicking on the comment button below.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

#95 The Case of Cajun 3-bean Salad

There's much more to be found at a local farmers' market than just fruits and vegetables. I bought Hot Mamas Cajun Spice Rub when it first caught my eye earlier this year. And I discovered this spice blend is just the spark a bean salad needs.

If Hot Mamas is not available at your local farmers' market or your market has closed for winter like ours in Black Currant Bay, here's the company website: Of course, there are other Cajun spice blends on grocery store shelves. You could also make your own!

Cajun 3-bean Salad

Sweet Mustard Vinaigrette
1-1/2 cups green beans, cooked and chilled
14-oz can kidney beans, rinsed
14-oz can chick peas, rinsed
1 cup minced onion
1 cup minced celery
Cajun seasoning (Hot Mamas Cajun Spice Rub is perfect)

Toss all the ingredients together, including salt and Cajun seasoning to taste.


Makes 4 kickin' side dishes.


Monday, October 1, 2012

The Case of All-dressed Baked Potato and Corn on the Cob

You notice I follow the blog What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway? What a great title! I'm sure there are plenty of folk just as baffled by what a vegetarian eats. Furthermore, as I continue to participate in the Black Currant Bay Writing Club, I learn that the smallest details about a character are important. What does a certain character believe in? Is her navel pierced? Who asked her to his graduation prom? Did she used to have braces? Well I may not be willing to divulge stuff like that here... But hey, there's nothing more personal than what a person eats and I blab about that here all the time!

What one eats is controversial. Some people think one doesn't eat enough. Some people think one eats too much. Some people think one doesn't eat healthy. Others think one obsesses too much over organic food.

Wait 'till you admit you're a vegetarian. "There's not enough protein in a vegetarian diet," you'll hear. "Human beings are meant to be carnivores."

Anyway, this is what I eat. And I'm proud of it!

The lunch above consisted of a hot baked potato seasoned with salt and pepper, garnished with a generous dollop (okay maybe two dollops) of low-fat sour cream, sprinkled with crunchy, salty, smokey Club House Simulated Bacon Chips and chopped green onions from my friend Kathleen's veggie garden; paired with buttered, salted, fresh corn on the cob, which also would have been from Kathleen's garden except she said raccoons destroyed her corn stalks.

Look appetising? What would you add to the baked potato?


Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Case of Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad

Just like "My Canada includes Québec," my recipe books include photos. To me they're essential.

Yes, I do like the artistry and whimsy of drawings but I prefer the combined beauty and practicality of photos. I want to see exactly what food will look like when I make it.

Interestingly, in the Case of Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad, I'm reminded of tapioca. And even if I've never liked tapioca, I love this salad! Light, tender, addictive, fun little beads of pasta. And let's not forget the veggies, roasted to bring out their natural sweetness.

Get the recipe here.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Case of a Picnic in Newfoundland

Up until the very last day of Karl's and my vacation in Newfoundland we enjoyed atypical weather—warm and sunny. On the last morning, we drove south from St. John's to Ferryland. We couldn't see the coastline for the fog. We had to stop and ask where our lighthouse destination was because we couldn't see it. We parked the car and walked uphill in the direction we were told to go, and still nothing. Not until we were very, very close did this 1870 building appear.
We heard waves crash all around.
We ordered our picnic lunches and ate them in the little coal shed attached to the back of the lighthouse. Mango curry chicken salad on light-as-air grain bread, subtle orzo salad, the best home-made lemonade I ever drank, gingerbread cake with vanilla sauce. Not one wrong note.
Okay, so the sandwich wasn't vegetarian. Travel allowance.
When we got back home to Black Currant Bay, I created a salad similar to the one we enjoyed so very much before the fog lifted and we were able to explore our surroundings. To see the ocean rollers roar to the rugged shore at the base of those cliffs.
Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad

1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
vegetable seasoning
2 cups pearl couscous, cooked
1 sprig basil, chopped
2 tbsps lemon juice

Toss the zucchini, red onion, yellow pepper, orange pepper, red pepper, olive oil, and vegetable seasoning to taste on a rimmed cookie sheet. Broil for 5 min. Transfer the roasted vegetables and juices to a bowl and stir in the couscous, basil and lemon juice. Salt to taste. Chill. Serves 4.

UPDATE: photo of Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad here.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Case of Imajin Books

Did I tell you that, upon release of the paperback, A PURSE TO DIE FOR flew to #5 on the Women Sleuths Bestseller list? Needless to say—but I'll say it anyway—I was ecstatic! Co-authors Cynthia and Melodie shared my enthusiasm. As well as Imajin Books. Imajin Books is a small, independent publisher based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

This August, as part of the Summer Sizzles with Imajin Books event, Cynthia guest-blogs on the Imajin Books blog. She starts off with a question.

"What does every self-respecting amateur detective need?"

My hand is up, Cynthia, my friend! I know the answer!

A sidekick.

In A PURSE TO DIE FOR, I'm that sidekick in question. Here's what Cynthia has to say about me: All good, I think. Anyway, at the end of her post, Cynthia shares (with my blessing) my recipe for Thai Green Curry. I invite you to take a peek.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Case of Nighthawk Talks

Being a character in a bestselling book (A PURSE TO DIE FOR went to #5 on Women Sleuths) brings with it a certain notoriety. Even if you're not looking for it. Even if you're not the main character.

Here's proof. Just recently, I was invited to be interviewed by Nighthawk. Yes, THE Nighthawk. On Nighthawk Talks.

I've never been interviewed before. I checked out previous interviews by Nighthawk and I thought, what fun! I said to myself, "Why not?"

Here's the link to the interview: I invite you to tell me what you think. Will Cynthia and Melodie be happy with me? Am I helping to promote their book? Will the interview bring additional clients to my design store in Black Currant Bay? Wait...I don't think I talked about design.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Case of Roasted Vegetable Salad

This rainbow is only missing purple and blue. I suppose you could add purple eggplant. I don't like eggplant. Weird for a vegetarian not to like eggplant, I know. Kinda like not liking brown rice or something. Which I do, by the way—like brown rice. But what would you add for blue? Not blueberries!

Roasted Vegetable Salad

2 zucchinis, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 tbsps olive oil
vegetable seasoning
2 tbsps lemon juice

Toss the zucchinis, yellow pepper, orange pepper, red pepper, olive oil, and vegetable seasoning to taste on a rimmed cookie sheet. Broil for 5 min. Transfer the roasted vegetables and juices to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice. Salt to taste. Chill. Serves 4.


Friday, June 1, 2012

The Case of Split Pea Soup

My girlfriend gave me some pansies for a hostess gift the other day. She wasn't the least bit surprised when I told her I ate them.

Split Pea Soup

2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
8 cups water
8 rounded tsps (for 8 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
2 cups split peas
2 tbsps soya sauce
6 bay leaves
2 tsps oregano
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp pepper

Cover and simmer the first 11 ingredients (onions to pepper) for 45 min. or until the split peas are tender. Remove the bay leaves. Blend. Return to pot. Add more water if necessary. Salt to taste. Serves 5.


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Case of Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad

By manipulating a few of the measurements in my Tomato Cucumber Salad, and adding some al dente rigatoni, I've created an equally delicious, value-minded pasta salad that's ideal to take on a summer picnic. Especially if Karl and I leave the gas guzzling Blackmobile behind and pump up the tires of our bikes. 

Tomato Cucumber Pasta Salad

1 cup seeded, chopped cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes, the larger ones halved
2 cups rigatoni, cooked and rinsed under cold water
1/2 cup Greek olives, pitted
1/8 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps olive oil
vegetable seasoning

Toss together all the ingredients, including vegetable seasoning to taste, then chill. Serves 2.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

#83 The Case of Curried Tofu Kebabs

Curried Tofu Kebabs

2 tablespoons ginger root, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons soya sauce
4 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon chilli pepper flakes
1-1/2 lb extra firm tofu (cut in squares)
2 red, yellow or orange peppers, cubed
4 zucchinis, thickly sliced
1/8 cup olive oil

Soak at least 8 wooden skewers in water.

Mix together the ginger, garlic, lime juice, soya sauce, turmeric, curry powder and chilli pepper flakes in a large bowl.

Add the tofu and vegetables and marinate for an hour or more.

Because the marinade will stain your fingers, wear rubber gloves to thread the tofu and vegetables onto the skewers.

Baste with the olive oil, and grill on the BBQ or broil on the middle rack of oven.

Serves 4.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Case of Back Cover Copy

Imajin Books just released back cover copy for A Purse to Die For. That's the book I'm in! Because they can't talk about everybody on the back cover, you won't see my name. But every self-respecting amateur detective needs a sidekick. In A Purse to Die For that's me!

What’s more treacherous than navigating a pack of society matrons at a designer sale? 
Stalking a killer…

When fashionista and television celeb Gina Monroe goes home to attend the funeral of her late grandmother, the last thing she expects to encounter is murder. And the reading of the will is anything but fashionable as unanswered questions arise. Who is the dead woman in the woods behind the family house? And why is she dressed in Milano designer clothes?

With help from her cousin Tony and Detective Rob Dumont, Gina investigates the not-so-model citizens around her. When another murder occurs, a pattern slowly emerges and Gina wonders if her grandmother's death wasn't so natural after all.


Monday, April 2, 2012

#81 The Case of Strawberry Coconut Milkshake

What a beautiful colour!
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 tablespoon raw agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 ice cubes

Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender, in the order given, and blend.

Serves 1.


PS Lately I've been using cashew milk instead of coconut milk. Because cashew milk already has a slight vanilla taste, I cut the vanilla in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon.

PPS Sharing straws buttons are below.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Case of Braised Baby Bok Choy

Have you ever wondered how to prepare some of the less familiar vegetables on Canada's market shelves? Me too! So I experimented. I had some ups and I had some downs. Okra didn't end up a winner. But tender-crisp and juicy bok choy is a big hit!

Braised Baby Bok Choy

8 heads baby bok choy, trimmed, and halved lengthwise if large
1 tbsp canola oil 
3/4 rounded tsp (for 3/4 cup) vegetable bouillon powder
3/4 cup water

Sauté the bok choy in the canola oil for 2 min. Add the vegetable bouillon powder and water. Cover and simmer 5 min. Serves 4.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Case of Rigatoni and Neatballs

Like everyone on planet Earth, I often wish my life were more laid back than it is. There's my decorating store to run, my home to manage, and the occasional murder to solve. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to make meals from scratch. In that case, I boil up some pasta, simmer some jarred tomato/basil pasta sauce with some frozen vegetarian meatballs, toss everything together, and grate Parmesan on top. Works for me! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Case of Sautéed Rapini

There are worse things to be addicted to than a leafy green vegetable.

So I can safely admit to being smitten with rapini. There's just something about its sturdiness and its complicated bitter taste that dares me to obsess over it.

I have this great recipe for Pizza with Rapini and Chillies, but you know, I most enjoy rapini as a simple side.

Sautéed Rapini

1 bunch rapini
2 tbsps olive oil
vegetable seasoning (the seasoning I use for Grilled Veggies)

Trim 1/3 off the bottom of the rapini while still bunched.

Cut the remaining rapini in half.

In a colander, rinse the stem ends under cold, running water. Drop into boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil then drain the stems in the colander. Dry the bottom of the pot.

In another colander, rinse the leaves and buds under cold, running water and drain.

In the pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.

When the oil gives off its aroma, stir in all of the rapini. Sprinkle with vegetable seasoning to taste and sauté until three quarters wilted.

Serves 4.


PS So easy to join the conversation! Click on the comment button below.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Case of Orange Banana Smoothie

I doubled the recipe!

Orange Banana Smoothie

1/2 large orange (approximately 1/2 cup)
1/2 banana
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup ice

Fill a high-speed blender with the ingredients in the order given then blend until smooth.

Serves 1.


PS If the button below says "No Comments", start the conversation yourself by clicking and saying hello. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Case of Veggie Burger and Fries

Vegetarians make fast food. Every now and then. I go so far as to top my veggie burger with Big Mac fixin's. If I remember the old ditty, it goes like this. "(Hold the two whole-beef patties), special sauce (mayonnaise and relish), lettuce, (oh ya, hold the cheese too), pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun." This patty is an Yves Veggie Cuisine Veggie Bistro Veggie Burger. It's totally gone now. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

#75 The Case of Waldorf Salad

Just like an apple, this salad is super crisp and juicy.

Waldorf Salad

1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup feta, chopped
2 Empire apples, chopped
1 recipe Olive Oil and Lemon Vinaigrette

Combine all the ingredients.

Makes 2 meal-size salads.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Case of Cream of Cauliflower Soup

I bet it's the caraway seed that hints of cheese on my taste buds. And it must be the carrots that contribute the slight cheddar hue. 'Cause there's no cheese in this soup. What I'm lovin' is the garnish of fresh, chopped dill.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsps olive oil
3 potatoes, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
7-1/2 cups water
7-1/2 rounded tsps (for 7-1/2 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
2 carrots, chopped
1 cauliflower, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill plus more to garnish
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp mustard seed
1/4 tsp caraway seed
1-1/4 cups evaporated 2% milk

Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the potatoes, celery, water and vegetable bouillon powder and simmer for 10 min. Add the carrots and simmer for 10 min. Add the cauliflower, fresh dill, lemon juice, mustard seed and caraway seed and simmer for 20 min. Blend. Return the purée to the pot and stir in the evaporated 2% milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped, fresh dill. Serves 6.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#72 The Case of Nicer Niçoise

Nicer Niçoise

1/4 cup cooked, chilled and sliced potatoes
1/4 cup white kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 cup green beans, cooked and chilled
1/4 cup Tofurky Italian-style Tofu Sausage with Sun Dried Tomatoes, diagonally sliced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, the larger ones halved
1 hard-boiled egg, quartered
1/4 cup Greek olives
Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar Vinaigrette

Arrange the ingredients (sliced potatoes to Greek olives) on a plate.

Generously drizzle with Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar Vinaigrette.

Serves 1.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

#71 The Case of Landscapes and the Proposed Mega-Quarry

This appeals to me as a vegetarian because it touches on the local food movement; as a tree-hugger because it highlights a serious environmental issue; and as an artsy-fartsy because it's a fine, fine book. Donna and Sarah Wells, you are to be congratulated!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Case of Caribbean Vegetable Soup

To disprove any preconceived notion that vegetable soup is boring, I offer Caribbean Vegetable Soup, just two posts after offering Black Bean Vegetable Soup. There are just SO many ways to switch up soup!

Caribbean Vegetable Soup

5 cups water
19-oz-can kidney beans
1/4 cup light coconut milk
1-1/2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp allspice
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 carrot, chopped
1 potato chopped
1/2 sweet potato, chopped
2 rounded tsps (for 2 cups) vegetable bouillon powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
1 green onion, chopped
1 cup peas

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the kidney beans, light coconut milk, salt, pepper, allspice, onion and carrot, and simmer covered for 10 min. Add the potato and sweet potato, and simmer for 15 min. Add the vegetable bouillon powder, thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper, and simmer for 20 min. Remove the Scotch bonnet pepper, and stir in the green onion and peas before serving. Serves 4.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

#69 The Case of Caprese Salad

You've heard the advice about fashion that if you haven't worn an item in your closet during the last year, you should revise it or reject it.

Is it surprising to you that this counsel works as well in the kitchen as it does in the dressing room?

The reason I bring this up is I looked over my recipes the other day and realized I hadn't made my Caprese Salad in a year or more. What? It's a totally yummy, healthy, easy recipe! Why was I depriving myself?

My conclusion was that the presentation was a little too fancy for me. Most of us need inspiration for every day, not for entertaining. Moreover, I don't know about you but even the meals I host for guests are meant to feel laid back, comfortable, homey and welcoming. So I ditched the fancy.

Here's my new and revised Caprese Salad. I eat it more often.

Caprese Salad

4 tomatoes, cored, ends trimmed, sliced
2 large globes buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini, sliced

1 cup fresh basil leaves
olive oil for drizzling

balsamic glaze for drizzling

Arrange the tomato slices on two plates. Top with the cheese slices, tucking a few of them under the tomatoes. Aim for a pleasing, random look. Scatter on the beautiful, intense, fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with the olive oil, then the balsamic glaze. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2.