Shredded chicken

Prepare ahead for future meals – and one suggestion

I must admit, some of my best ideas come from Ann Fulton in her newspaper column, Fountain Avenue Kitchen. Today I have two recipes inspired by her. The first is how to cook up several chicken breasts to create shredded chicken. The other is one way to use part of that shredded chicken.

Shredded Chicken 

6 large chicken breasts
3/4 cup chicken broth or stock
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp salt or seasoned salt
1 tsp black pepper

Place chicken in slow cooker. Sprinkle spices on top, then pour the broth over all. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 hours on low, or 2 to 3 hours on high. (The chicken will shred easily when done.) Shred with two forks either inside the cooker, or on a cutting board.
Use amount desired in your favorite recipe. Freeze the remainder in one and two-cup amounts. Add some of the liquid to each air-tight, plastic bagged portion. To use, thaw and drain liquid, reserving it to add to any liquid required.
Note: As I have a smaller pressure cooker, I used half of this recipe.

Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas

8 ounces sliced mushrooms (any kind)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup roughly chopped spinach
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp butter
6-inch or 8-inch flour tortillas
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
up to 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mexican blend, or mixed)
sour cream and salsa to serve

Saute and brown mushrooms in olive oil for about 8 minutes. Continue cooking until any liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic, cook and stir for half a minute. Add the spinach and saute until it is wilted. (You may warm chicken in microwave.) Keep warm ingredients warm. Prepare tortillas by toasting in butter on one side (medium heat fry pan), then flipping. While the second side is toasting, add to one side mushroom mixture, chicken, and cheese. Fold other side over top. As cheese melts and bottom browns, flip to other side to complete browning. Quesadillas may be kept in 300 degree oven until all are ready to serve.

Note: Using 2 cups of shredded cheese, this recipe will fill eight 8-inch tortillas. I used less cheese and divided all the other ingredients between five 6-inch tortillas. (Good either way!)

I may make it differently the next time. (I always do.) So feel free to change everything. What would you add or subtract?


Mystery Aboard

Mysteries, Boats, and Boaters

Two of my favorite mystery authors are boaters. So, what else do they do but set their mysteries aboard? Actually, not only do I love their stories, they inspire me. (Okay, I have a mystery aboard.  Not a series yet, but I’m writing as fast as I can.) So, here they are: Jinx Swartz and Christine Kling.

Some recipes fail

Cheeseburger Muffins – NOT

Not a recipe day. Not a “save time, serve a delicious meal” day. No, not at all. How about a “Forget it. Let’s go to Burger King,” day? 

I had a half pound of hamburger and high hopes. The recipe sounded interesting. The “come on” sounded even better. Oh, yes! Words like, “when we’re dying for a yummy cheeseburger,” and “family favorite!”

I’d started with a pound of hamburger, planning a meatloaf, our personal family favorite. Yummy meal and several cold sandwiches in the future. But I succumbed to another idea. Must admit that was a stretch. Filled pepper. But that’s another story about something we did eat, but don’t plan to try again. Back to today’s disaster. First thing, it took an hour of my time. Second thing, it took a lot of other groceries that could have been better spent. Two eggs, a quarter of a pound of butter, two, count them, two cups of shredded cheese, ketchup, mustard, milk, flour, sugar. Sugar?

The recipe made way more than two of us could eat. (Especially since hubby ate only one.) I soldiered on, not sure why, and ate three. Or was it four? Nope, I’m sure I filled up with three. However, a few of those good words were, “freezes well.” So now I have at least a dozen of those little nuggets of delight in the freezer. Perhaps I’ll serve them to grandchildren, naturally using words like, “a go-to snack when you’re dying for a yummy cheeseburger!” I won’t show them the picture from the recipe book that shows them plump and rosy without those singed edges that resulted from the minimal cook time.

I Love a Mystery – Historic Mysteries

Three Favorite Historic Mysteries

My favorite books are mysteries, true, but I like to read in several genres. When I find a delightful historic mystery, I’m doubly thrilled. In fact, I so love historical mysteries, I have to showcase three series. 

A Main Dish From Leftovers

Stacks for Two – A leftover delight

4 6-inch four tortillas
1/2 cup cooked meat, chopped fine
1/2 jar salsa
shredded cheese

1. Reserve 1 tablespoon of salsa. Mix salsa and chopped meat in fry pan and heat together.
2. Place one tortilla in the bottom of a small casserole dish.
3. Spread one half of the salsa mixture on the tortilla.
4. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
5. Repeat 2-4 (placing another tortilla on top of the one below, then covering with cheese.
6. Place last tortilla on top, spread the reserved salsa, then sprinkle more shredded cheese.
7. Heat in 350̊ oven 20 or more minutes until cheese bubbling and top slightly browned.
8. Cut in wedges and serve with sour cream, chopped lettuce, and chopped tomato.

Notes: Any meat may be used – beef, pork, chicken, ham, even fish.
Cheeses may include cheddar, mozzarella, Colby, Parmesan, Mexican blends, or others. You may prefer to place a different cheese in each layer.

Variations: Use pineapple salsa and include pineapple tidbits with the meat.
Use a chopped, cooked vegetable instead of meat, or with meat.

Laugh Out Loud Mysteries

Two humorous mystery series

A good mystery may keep me up late at night as I follow an exciting story and try to uncover clues that lead me to who-dun-it before the sleuth. If I’m surprised, that’s an added benefit. Nail-biting? You bet. Fear for the safety of a totally imaginary hero or heroine? Oh, way sure! But laugh all the way through until tears flow? Sometimes that’s exactly what I’m looking for. And two of my favorite series fit the bill.

Tamar Myers is one author. Her Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries (with recipes, even) follow Magdalena Yoder as she solves mysteries while running her own PennDutch Inn. Some books in the series were published twenty years ago, and others more recently. One reviewer of Too Many Crooks Spoil The Broth said, “Part Agatha Christie, part Keystone Kops, with a few tantalizing food stops along the way.” Some titles are: Play It Again, Spam, The Crepes of Wrath, and Custard’s Last Stand. True story: She sold each book on the title alone! Okay, maybe not the first one.

Kaye George is another author who fits the bill. Choke, Broke, and Smoke, are the titles in her Imogene Duckworthy Mysteries. One reviewer said: “Question: If you combined Lucille Ball with Inspector Clouseau, what would you get? Answer: Imogene Duckworthy, amateur PI…” Immy, the amateur sleuth who really wants to be a professional, is one of a kind. She tries her darndest, while the reader wonders how she can possibly succeed, but cheers her every effort anyway. I could add, the reader also enjoys her unexpected detours from those detecting chores.

Both authors have other series as well, series I greatly enjoy, maybe not just when I’m in a silly mood. Do you have a favorite funny mystery or series? I’d love to add to add to my, ahem, overwhelming pile of BTR (books to read).



Sloppy Joes – With a secret ingredient

Sloppy Joes with Red Cabbage

1 pound hamburger (more or less okay)  
1 tbsp oil
1/4 to 1/2 head red cabbage, grated
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cloves (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the hamburger in oil, chopping and stirring it with a plastic spatula, until no red remains.
Add all the other ingredients. Stir and bring to a simmer. A little water may be added if it is too thick. Keep at a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes – with or without a lid.
Serve on buns.

Note: All ingredient amounts can be adjusted to your personal taste. (I tend to measure by eye.) The best part of this recipe? No one has ever guessed my secret ingredient!


Favorite Mass-Market Mysteries

Favorite Mystery Reads of The Past

Do you remember going to the bookstore when there were two main ones in the big shopping center and mass-market paperback copies of all the books in a mystery series on the shelves? You’d buy the next one in the series and know all the others would be waiting for your when you came back. Even after one store closed or moved to a remote location, there were still those rows of books by your favorite author.

I got whole series, one at a time. The first would be available as well as the fifteenth and all the others in between. The Cat Who and Mrs. Pollifax mysteries were my favorites. I traded away most of the Cat Who books when we were sailing, passing them on to the next reader in exchange for a fresh mystery. I kept all the Mrs. Pollifax books and still have them. I’ve read the entire series twice. Must be due for a third reading!

Those books and others kept me entertained while my children grew up, and went off into the world. I followed Mr. Qwilleran and his life as his amazing cats helped him solve mysteries. I relived the life of Mrs. Pollifax as she traveled around the world—as a middle-aged, unexpected secret agent. Both series pure fantasy, of course. Did I care? Nope, I ate them up.

How about you? Did you have favorite series that grew along with your family? Gave you moments of pleasure amid chaos? And, like me, perhaps they inspired you to write stories of your own. My first mystery owes a lot to Mrs. Pollifax. And cats? Well, my amateur sleuth does have an imaginary cat. You see, Clyde, the yellow-striped tom, came with the territory. But that’s another story.

Recipe – Garlic Chicken with Peanut Sauce

First, a quote from Yesterday’s Body

“What’s for dinner?” I asked.
“There’s half a barbequed chicken left,” Mel said. “I planned to heat it up.”
“Right,” I said and started opening cupboard doors. “You really want dried out leftovers?”
“I’m testing your skills,” he said. “You haven’t disappointed me yet.”
“You’re taking advantage of my good nature.” Of course he wasn’t, and he knew it. In my
customary life I was an innovative but often haphazard cook, however, Mel was such an
appreciative audience. And face it, I did need a break from outdoor research now and then.

# # # #

I found a package of ramen noodles, a few nuts, a can of mushrooms, and a half jar of peanut
butter. I lined up his spices, decided which bits of veggies from the crisper in the bottom of the
refrigerator were usable, and did my magic.

* * * * *

But before I wrote those words, I experimented with the food in my refrigerator. And, ta da, I came up with this recipe!

Garlic Chicken with Peanut Sauce, Noodles, and Vegetables

Leftover rotisserie (barbecue) chicken
Noodles (rice noodles, egg noodles, ramen noodles or any pasta of your choice)
Veggies (broccoli florets, onion chunks, carrots sliced thin, mushrooms, celery, or any others of
your choice) Note: You won’t find any peppers in Jo’s recipes because she doesn’t like them – but
feel free to use them as well.
Garlic – 1 clove minced, or 1/2 tsp of canned chopped or minced (or more if you prefer).
Peanut Sauce – see recipe below
Peanuts – unsalted dry-roasted – may be chopped

1. Whisk peanut sauce ingredients together.
2. Cut bite-size chunks from left-over barbecue chicken.
3. Prepare veggies. (Peel &/or chop. If necessary, zap in microwave until done to tenderness you
prefer.) Note: many veggies, especially frozen peas and mushrooms, may not need extra cooking.
4. Break noodles into 2 to 4 inch lengths then cook according to box instructions (rice noodles,
egg noodles, ramen noodles, etc.)
5. Sauté garlic in the peanut sauce for 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken and heat for another 2 or 3
minutes. Add cooked noodles and veggies. (Or add veggies earlier.) Stir and heat through.
6. Stir peanuts in before serving, or sprinkle a handful of peanuts on the top after serving.

Peanut Sauce
For 2 people (use multiples for more people – all measurements are approximate)
Whisk together
1 TB creamy peanut butter
1 tsp hazelnut oil (or any oil)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 shakes ground red pepper
6 twists of pepper mill
3 shakes onion powder
3 shakes ground ginger

* * * * *

Yesterday’s Body was first published by a small e-press and is an EPIC mystery finalist and part of the Jo Durbin Mystery Series.

Book Talk – Agatha Christie

The Grand Dame of Mystery – Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

When I think of all the variety of mystery novels, I have to begin with Agatha Christie and her amateur sleuth, Miss Marple. I read quite a few of those, but I never figured out “who dun it” before the end. And that’s only one reason why I love those books. Another is the wide variety of writers she spawned. But I digress—I’m talking Dame Christie here. And, although I think of her as the  author of mysteries involving that nosy lady Miss Marple, her first detective was Hercule Poirot. She wrote many more books about him, but after a few years, she thought him “insufferable.” However, she knew her readers loved him, so she wrote more.

Just recently, I read Christie’s first published mystery (but the seventh mystery she wrote) The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Although I’d seen many Poirot TV shows, I had never read any of the books starring him. In this book, he was a retired detective, with his later sidekick Hastings as the narrator and someone who had met him earlier. Hastings, after watching him at work, thought he must surely have lost his great detecting skills. Inspector Japp was there as well. Dame Christie laid the ground work with her characters, then, in later books, used them to their best advantage. (In other words, read them in any order!)

Although Agatha Christie tired of Poirot, she never tired of Miss Marple who she’d patterned after “the sort of old lady who would have been rather like some of my step grandmother’s cronies – old ladies whom I have met in so many villages where I have gone to stay as a girl.” Definitely, her readers never tire of Miss Marple of  St. Mary Mead.

What is your favorite Agatha Christie mystery? Did you know Dame Christie has a Facebook page?  She also has an author page on That’s where I found this picture of her.