By Cook or By Crook by Maya Corrigan

Just finished this new cozy mystery, first in the series of Five Ingredient Mysteries.  I enjoyed reading this one, more than I expected.  The cover drew me in…I know, I’m shallow, but the idea of  5-ingredient recipes is not, on its own, a big draw for me.  The protagonist, Val,  has crashed and burned from her big city life as a cookbook publicist and has arrived at her grandfather’s home, ostensibly to get the house packed up, sold, and him moved, but really to work on her own cookbook and find her footing again.

Her day job is in  a fitness club cafe and on the side she is working on her own recipes.  Her grandfather is somewhat of a typical grouchy old man with a heart of gold.  He seems to have her best interests at heart, although he is not against finding something in it for himself.  There is a lot going on between real estate deals, tennis fanatics, affairs, disguises, gambling rings, fraudulent business practices, and murder.  There is also a romantic subplot with two love interests to choose between.  Aside from the main murder mystery and the romantic subplot, there is also a mystery from Val’s past which  she is trying to work through but can’t quite remember due to the side effects of a concussion.

Lots going on and lots to think about making for a fast, fun cozy read.

And as an aside the recipes were not what I thought.  When I think of the 5 ingredient recipes, I think bland, tasteless food or worse the classic …”start with a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup” recipes and these didn’t seem like that.  I am tempted to try out the crab cake recipe because it really sounds good.

Weekend Cooking ….Swede (Rutabaga)

wkendcooking  This is a meme hosted by BethFishReads found here.  My post this week is not on one specific meal or recipe but rather on….


an unfortunately neglected root vegetable in the US where I currently reside.    Maybe it’s his looks??  In real life, I don’t know anyone who eats them.

In the UK, he would be called a swede, which is short for Swedish turnip.  In some areas, he might just be referred to as a turnip, yellow turnip or neep.  In the US, however his name is rutabaga, this is derived from the original Swedish word Rotabagge.  The vegetable was first noted growing wild in Sweden.  In any case, delicious, hearty, healthy and earthy are all appropriate taglines.

Nutritionally, Swede is a fantastic source of potassium.  People who get leg cramps at night (charley horses) are often told they lack potassium and should eat bananas.  Well 1 medium swede has a banana beat by a mile as a source for potassium.  A banana provides 422 mg of potassium, while the lowly swede comes in at 1,177 or 33% of your daily recommended allowance. Vitamin C?? The banana comes in at 17%, while the swede….160%!  In addition, our swede has no fat, no cholesterol, and includes some protein, B-6, Iron, Calcium and Magnesium.

Swedes often are sold coated in wax, which might be a turnoff for some people looking at the lonely 2 or 3 swedes sitting in the produce bin at their supermarket.  The wax is to prevent the veg from drying out in cold storage.  If you look online there are youtube videos and websites  showing methods to remove the wax from the rutabaga.  Some of these seem entirely too time consuming if you ask me, refrigerating and then scraping?? microwaving and boiling?? Ummm, no.  I have no issue removing the wax and skin from the Swede with these:knives

First, use cleaver (probably any heavy duty kitchen knife would do) to cut swede into quarters, then use your sharp peeler and it works just fine.    I guess if for some reason you wanted just the wax off and to leave the skin on the Swede you could try one of the other methods available on line.

As far as cooking, my standby is simply to cut the swede into chunks.  Then, toss with olive oil, coarse salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven for about 40 minutes, shaking the tray a couple times.  Alternatively, I have been known to throw some chunks into a pot of boiling water with potatoes and mash them up together with butter, milk, salt and pepper.

My family’s favorite is to use Swede and other of his root vegetable friends in a root vegetable gratin.

5 pounds of mixed root veg (including swede, of course)

1  cup of heavy cream

salt & pepper

1 cup vegetable broth or chicken or whatever you like.

4 Tbsp. butter

chunk of parmesan cheese or about a 3/4 cup shredded.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Use one Tbsp butter to butter an 8 x 12 ish pan (I use a Le Creuset oval baker I have but that doesn’t really matter)
  • peel and slice  veg thin (a mandoline would come in handy…I don’t have one I just slice with a knife)
  • Layer in pan seasoning between each layer (I try to put all one veg in a layer but to each their own)
  • When they are all layered in the pan pour in the broth, put pats of butter on top and cover with foil.
  • bake for about 30 minutes.  veg should let you slide a knife in pretty easily.
  • Take from oven and crank it up to 425. Pour over cream, grate cheese (if not grated) or sprinkle cheese over top of cream
  • Put back in oven for about 20 minutes.

I know my unexactness (is that even a word??) bugs some people (read…my daughter) but I generally just eyeball things.  Exact recipes are all over the web and can vary greatly in the proportions so try a couple.  Here are a couple hints:  if you use a bigger pan then your veg layers will be spread out and thinner, you will have to adjust cooking time, also if you use a smaller pan you layers will be deeper, watch your liquid  and adjust your cooking time.  When you pour the broth in it should NOT be covering the veg, just covering the bottom of the dish.


Weekend Cooking 2.1.14

wkendcooking  This is a meme hosted by BethFishReads found here.

I am cleaning up, culling, packing and moving some items into storage so cooking is on the minimal side this weekend, however I am still trying to use up some ingredients that I have.

Right now as I’m typing there is a chicken soup in the slow cooker.  This is one of those …hmmm what’s left in the house… let’s put it into a soup recipes.I had  3 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, a couple onions, a cooked carcass and chicken breast I had thrown in the freezer for soup, a couple potatoes, some parsley,  a half bag of frozen peas, chicken broth and rice.

  1.  Diced the carrots, celery and onion together and sweated in a pan.
  2.  Peeled and sliced the potatoes
  3. Put the chicken, sliced potatoes, peas and broth in the slowcooker
  4. Added the veggies once softened.
  5. Put crockpot on for 4 hours
  6. Cooked the rice on the side
  7. Served by putting a scoop of rice in bowl and ladling soup over it.

Earlier today I made one of my go-to recipes from Woman and Home. (I love their recipes!)  This is a Fruit Bannock.  My family loves this.  Recipe to be found here. I’ve been making this one for a while and it comes out perfect every time.  I use whatever dried fruit I have available.

Picture from Woman and Home website.

Merry Christmas!!

Hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas and enjoying themselves!  My oldest daughter leaves to stay with family in England tonight (Christmas flights were pretty cheap) and so we are sort of rushing through our Christmas day.

Food today will be all appetizers – to accommodate the flurry of packing and last minute laundry.

  • Drunken Devils on Horseback
  • Quiche Lorraine
  • Chips and Dip
  • Spinach Artichoke Dip 
  • Pate
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Fruit bowl
  • Endive with Creme Fraiche and Caviar

My daughters each bought me perfect presents, one bought me a Fitbit that I had been coveting and the other bought me a mug from Starbucks that entitles me to free drinks for all of January <3.  Awesome!



Christmas Cooking

Getting ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day cooking. One daughter works both days and the other is leaving for Europe Christmas night so all the cooking (and eating) has to fit in around those schedules.

Christmas Eve (sit down dinner)

  • Ginger Ham from Nigella: recipe found here.
  • Mashed potatoes and country gravy
  • Sweet Potato Spoon Custard from Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine cookbook by the Darden Sisters. (My copy is so old and so well used it is actually in pieces and I have to keep it in a ziploc bag)
  • Oven roasted parsnips
  • Brussels and Chestnuts:  recipe from here.  (First time making this at the request of my daughter.  She had it in France and really liked it.)
  • Saveur retake on the green bean casserole: recipe found here. (a family favorite from the Saveur cookbook)
  • Fresh Pineapple
  • Parker Rolls (dough made in the bread machine)
  • Buttermilk Biscuits (trying Alton Brown’s this year)
  • Desserts:  Jack Daniels  Cake – adapted from Maida Heatter’s The Original Kentucky Whiskey Cake; Old-fashioned Coconut Cake from Maida Heatter; Jammy Tarts; Christmas cookies

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and time with their friends and family!