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

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

Direc­tions
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

Ingre­di­ents
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

Direc­tions
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

Ingre­di­ents
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

Direc­tions
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 Mystery.net. That’s where I found this pic­ture of her.

A Recipe to warm your tummy!

Spicy Maryland Crab Dip Recipe

1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
garlic powder to taste
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 pound fresh crabmeat
3 dashes hot sauce and 2 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 quart baking dish.
In a medium bowl, mix sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, garlic powder and about 2 tbsp of the Cheddar cheese. Fold in crabmeat, hot sauce and seafood seasoning.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining Cheddar cheese. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.
Serve with crackers, bread pieces, or pretzel sticks.

In Mary­land, the blue crab is king. This recipe is includ­ed in my newest book, The Desert­er and Oth­er Sto­ries. Two of the sto­ries take place on Chesa­peake Bay. I absolute­ly had to add a col­lec­tion of crab appe­tiz­ers to the book. (They are also on my recipe page.)

Look for a new recipe here every Wednes­day. On Sat­ur­day, look for a post of inter­est to readers—especially read­ers of cozy mys­ter­ies.