All About Greek Meze, Plus a Spring Fling Recap and Goodreads Giveaway!

Greek mezeThe Midwest is experiencing a heat wave which has me thinking about Greek meze! What is meze (pronounced meh-zay), you may ask?

Meze is the term for a traditional Greek way of eating — lots of small dishes, served with drinks, and enjoyed with family and friends over several hours. Some people may view this as eating lots of appetizers, but appetizers are meant to whet the appetite, not create an entire meal. Greek meze is so much more than that!

My husband loves to eat the “meze way” — in fact, it took some getting used to. I grew up eating the traditional Midwestern way — large plates of food, in other words. Eating lots of little dishes didn’t seem like a “real” meal, but I soon adapted and now, when visiting a Greek restaurant, especially in summer, it’s meze all the way!

Traditional meze will include both hot and cold dishes and they are usually really simple items with big flavors. Things like feta, olives and tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt dip) will usually be present. Meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, taramosalata (fish roe spread) and grilled octopus, vegetable salads, breads, Greek sausages, spanakopita triangles — these can all be part of a meze meal. With your tasty foods, you’ll drink a nice, piquant retsina wine (an acquired taste with it’s piney, almost minty, aftertaste, but one I like) and maybe even a shot of ouzo. (What do I mean maybe?)

Here’s an example of a lovely and easy “meze” dish for you to try:

Feta and olive oil appetizer with crackers

My next Callie’s Kitchen Mystery (title soon to be revealed) is set in the summertime and of course, I will include a meze recipe or two. More on Book 3 soon! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter today, since I will be sending out a new issue this Friday — and it’s got some subscriber-only info. Don’t miss out! You can sign up by clicking here.

Be aware that it may take a while to get your confirmation email. Gmail seems to take longer than others. If you have problems, let me know.

Culinary Cozy Spring Fling Recap

Thanks to Linda Reilly for joining me and all of our wonderful readers for a successful online Facebook event just a few weeks ago! It was so much fun to connect with all of you and Linda is a gem! In fact, she is one of the first people to encourage me regarding my Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Linda is a gifted writer and a lovely person. I hope you’ve all had a chance to get her latest cozy mystery “A FRYING SHAME.” Plus, Linda’s new series — The Cat Lady Mysteries — is going to be great! The first book in the series is called “Escape Claws.” You can find Linda’s books at major retailers and Amazon. Visit Linda’s website for all the latest news.

My First Goodreads Giveaway

I’m hosting my first Goodreads Giveaway to celebrate the first anniversary of the release of ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK, my first Callie’s Kitchen Mystery. One signed paperback copy of the book is up for grabs! You can enter the giveaway by clicking here. If you are a Goodreads member, please add my book to your shelves and tell your fellow Goodreads friends. And if you enjoy my book, write a review!

 Upcoming Events

Big thanks to cozy author Karoline Barrett for interviewing me for her author newsletter — this interview will be out in June. Karoline asked me some great questions! She’s the creator of the culinary cozy “Bread and Batter” series, so be sure to check out her entertaining books. She will be published by Summer Prescott books in the near future, so sign up for her newsletter for all the latest — including my June interview. 🙂 You can do that by visiting her website.

There’s always lots going on at my Facebook page, so be sure to “like” it to get up-to-the-minute author news,  events, giveaways, recipes — and more!

Until next time, friends!

Jenny

Greek Easter Bread Recipe, Plus a Callie’s Kitchen Paperback Giveaway!

lambropsomo greek easter bread pic

I thought this was the perfect time of year to share a seasonal Greek recipe: Lambropsomo, or Greek Easter Bread. The bread is braided from three ropes of dough, to symbolize the Trinity. The red Easter eggs symbolize the blood of Christ.

If you’ve never dyed Easter eggs red, they really do look beautiful, especially if rubbed with a bit of olive oil afterwards to give them a sheen. These eggs, beside being symbolic, are also used in the Easter egg game, where you crack eggs with your opponent and try not to let your egg break. (My husband has a very effective method — we hardly ever win against him!)greek easter egg game

The following recipe is my mother-in-law’s. Not being Greek herself, she got the recipe from The Santa Monica Evening Outlook in 1969, when the family was living in LA. Why not from her own Greek mother-in-law? As with many Greek cooks and bakers, my husband’s yiayia never wrote recipes down and did not learn how to cook via written recipe. She learned by watching others as well as by doing. Family members got recipes from her by watching her cook or by having her tell them how to make something and then they wrote it down.

This is a beautiful bread, fragrant with the scents of orange and anise. It is a little time-consuming, but not difficult. Bread baking can be very relaxing in our fast-paced society! I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Joyce’s Greek Easter Bread

Prep time: 2-1/2 hours (this includes time for the bread to rise). Cook time about 35 minutes

Ingredients:

6-7 cups flour, sifted

¾ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp grated orange peel

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup water

¾ cup milk

2 tbsp margarine

2 (room temperature) eggs

½ cup orange juice

½ tsp anise extract (or 1 tbsp ouzo)

3-5 hard-cooked eggs, dyed red (Use bottled red food coloring)

1 egg mixed with one tablespoon water (for glaze, before baking)

Directions:

Note: This method does away with the tricky step of dissolving yeast in warm water. Instead, undissolved yeast is added as a dry ingredient with the other dry ingredients. Most of the beating can be done with an electric mixer.

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, grated orange peel and undissolved dry yeast. Combine water, milk and margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm.

Gradually add liquids to dry mixture and beat 2 minutes in an electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs, orange juice, ouze or anise extract and enough flour (about 1 cup) to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed two minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth, 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn over to grease top of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Shape 2/3 of dough into a rope about 30 inches long. Place in a round on a greased baking sheet, shaping into a ring. Pinch ends to seal. Take the rest of the remaining dough and divide in half. Make each half into a rope about 13 inches long. Place over dough, crossing in the center. Tuck ends underneath dough.

Place a red hard-cooked egg on top of the rope where it rests on the ring. Put remaining hard cooked eggs around the center of dough.

Blend together one egg and 1 tbsp water; brush dough. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake about  35 minutes and cool on wire rack.

When the loaf is finished, brush with melted margarine to make it shine.

Makes one large loaf.

(Photos by Google Images. Put the red egg in the center of the dough for the recipe shown here).

GIVEAWAY!

Please visit my Facebook page to enter my latest giveaway. I’m giving away ONE paperback each to TWO different winners. Winners will choose which Callie’s Kitchen title they want.

callie's kitchen mysteries paperback

Also, see the post pinned to the top of my Facebook page for an e-book giveaway hosted by Henery Press — you can win up to 32 e-books plus a Kindle Fire! An e-book copy of my debut, ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK, is included in this giveaway. Lots of your favorite authors, too, so check it out!

Until next time,

Jenny

Drum Roll Please…The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries Are Now in Paperback! Plus, a Facebook Party Official Invite!

callie's kitchen paperback photos

They’re here! I’m thrilled to be able to offer paperback version of The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries to my readers. Some people just prefer paperback and these are beauties! My cover designer really did an amazing job. I’m very excited about the final product and I hope you will be, too.

back cover of paperback Callie's Kitchen

Paperback versions are great for book clubs and they make wonderful mystery reader gifts. Based on feedback, I know that many of you enjoy a paperback, so I hope you enjoy these!

Linda & Jenny's Culinary Cozy Mystery Spring Fling updated!

Meanwhile I’m busy writing Book 3 and in the meantime, some of you may know about my upcoming Facebook party with bestselling author Linda Reilly, author of The Deep Fried Mysteries and the upcoming The Cat Lady Mysteries with Kensington. Linda and I will be alternating our hostess duties during the two-hour live Facebook party and do we have some good stuff planned! Games, giveaways, prizes, ask the author — and a few surprises. You’re going to have to show up to find out! Here’s our party page link. Especially if you’ve never participated in one, I encourage you to attend — Facebook parties are a blast. Every time I’ve been involved with one, the time just flies!

I’m going to be offering a fun opportunity for newsletter subscribers in the next couple of weeks. How would you like your name to be given to one of the characters in the next Callie’s Kitchen mystery? If you subscribe, you can enter for your chance to “appear” in a cozy mystery! (Don’t worry — I won’t make you the murder victim). Sign up here and check your mailbox for details that I’ll be sharing soon.

I hope you have a wonderful Friday and relaxing weekend!

Until next time,

Jenny

 

 

“Cozy Food Friday,” Wisconsin Supper Clubs and an Upcoming Online Event!

cozy food friday graphicHappy Friday, everybody! I’ m really excited to be featured on Lisa K’s Book Reviews today — her Cozy Food Friday feature is one of my favorites! On her blog, I talk about the wonderful world of Wisconsin supper clubs and include two yummy recipes for Wisconsin Club Cheese Spread and a Brandy Old-Fashioned Cocktail. I include a Wisconsin Supper Club scene in my book, SPICED AND ICED. Here’s the link to check out my post! Be sure to comment and let Lisa know you stopped by!

 

Facebook party with author Linda Reilly and me: My friend and fellow culinary cozy mysteryI party on Facebook author Linda Reilly and I are hosting an online Facebook party on April 13th! Please mark your calendars! Linda is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors. She’s the creator of the “Deep Fried Mysteries” about a charming New England fish and chips shop: Out of the Frying Pan, Fillet of Murder and the soon-to-be-released A Frying Shame. She’s also the author of the upcoming Blue Cat Mysteries. In other words, Linda is a busy author and I’m thrilled she is taking the time to host this party with me! It’s going to be a fun time with giveaways, games, ask the author and much more.

We’re planning on 7-9 EST but it that changes, I’ll let you know. Linda and I will be sharing a lot more information soon, so check our Facebook pages and this blog to keep updated! Also, I hope you’re on my email list — I’ll have full details going out in an upcoming newsletter. You can sign up for it by clicking here, or visit the landing page of this website for a link.

PAPERBACK NEWS: I am thrilled to say that paperback versions of my Callie’s Kitchen series will soon be available. They are in final proofs, so stay tuned for the official release.

It’s Spring Break for my kids next week and this year we’re staying put, but I still have some good stuff planned with the family and some outings with my husband. I’m looking forward to a little bit more of an open schedule so I can tackle some more chapters in Book 3 of The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. It’s coming along — so far, so good!

See you next time,

Jenny

Welcome to Fictional “Crystal Bay,” Wisconsin! Here’s a Look at the Inspiration Behind the Setting of The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries!

Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, the setting of my Callie’s Kitchen series is a fictional place, and an amalgamation of several Wisconsin towns. However, there is one REAL place that gives me a lot of inspiration as I sit down to write Callie’s latest adventures: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. lake geneva wisconsin summer view from library park

I’m so thrilled when readers share with me their mutual love for Lake Geneva — whenever I mention this is an inspiration for my books, those familiar with the area get really excited about it. I have visited the Geneva Lakes my entire life and one summer, I thought — why not set a cozy mystery here? The rest is history, lol.

For those of you not from the Midwest, let me share some pictures and thoughts with you about the inspiration behind the fictional waterfront town that Callie Costas and crew call home.

Located in Southeastern Wisconsin, near the Illinois border, Lake Geneva is home to a large natural lake (hence the name), which made it an attractive prospect for wealthy Chicagoans (Wrigley, for one) in which to build their summer homes. Many of these homes were built in what is known as “The Gilded Age.”baker house summer view lake geneva

The influx  of rich Chicagoans to the Lake Geneva area began in the mid-19th century but it increased greatly in the 1880s following the Chicago fire of 1871. Many people who could afford it hurried north to seek refuge while the city was being rebuilt. In the meantime, they built and occupied some stunning homes, which are still around to this day — and they’re worth millions.lake geneva mansion condostwo lake geneva mansions summer view from the lake

Mrs. DeWitt, a character in ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK, my first book, lived in one of these homes. Drew, Callie’s ill-fated boyfriend in my debut mystery, lived in one of the lake homes, but not one of the “historical” mansions — I picture his home as being built more recently, but in a style keeping with the neighborhood.

lake geneva boat tour summer mansionsYou can take a boat tour and learn the fascinating history of these mansions and the people who built them and I highly recommend you do so if you visit the area. There is even a mail boat tour, as many of these residences still get their mail via boat. How cool is that?

In Book 3 of the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries (title to come soon — I think I have it but want to be sure! :)), I will be using some of the history of the region to motivate my characters and story. I am beyond excited about this and am hoping to give you some really fun surprises.

Beyond the mansions, the town is filled with natural beauty, a charming downtown, restaurants and shops galore. Drive a little further out of town and you will find resorts, working farms, more waterways and beaches. It’s a colorful and beautiful place and that’s why I chose it to inspire the Crystal Bay of my imagination.Lake Geneva Wisconsin downtown summer scene

To be clear: Crystal Bay is not an exact replica of Lake Geneva. I leave Crystal Bay to your own imaginations, as well, which is part of the fun of reading (and writing). But I thought you’d enjoy this inside scoop at the setting for my books, especially since so many of you have told me you really enjoy the setting. That makes me very happy, since I think of Crystal Bay as a character in its own right.

FYI: I will be blogging more frequently. It’s been crazy around here with working on Book 3, developing the print versions of my first two books and the general chaos of having two teenagers. Be sure to visit back, soon, though, because I have some really fun stuff planned for the blog. You can follow my blog and always check my Facebook page for info, too. Also, my newsletter will keep you up to date on everything book related!lake geneva beach sign summer

Mark your calendars for next Friday,  March 24th! I wrote a guest post for Lisa K’s Book Thoughts popular feature: “Cozy Food Friday.” I  will be talking about the magic of Wisconsin supper clubs and I share two delicious recipes — one is for a cocktail — well, it is Friday, after all. 🙂 For those of you who’ve read SPICED AND ICED, you will remember a scene with Callie and her BFF Sam in a Wisconsin supper club — these wonderful eateries are a Wisconsin tradition that more people need to know about! Be sure to visit Lisa’s blog if you haven’t already! She’s got all the latest cozy mystery book reviews, author interviews, giveaways and recipes. You’ll love it.

See you next time!

Jenny

A Peek Inside Book 3 and a Delicious Baked Oatmeal Recipe That Callie Would be Proud to Serve in Her Kitchen

 

vintage typewriter magnifying glass and paper for web site

I just released BOOK 2 in The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries, (SPICED AND ICED) but I’ve been working on plotting and writing BOOK 3 — no title as of yet, but I’ve got a few ideas!

One thing I do know is that, unlike the frigid cold and troublesome snow in SPICED AND ICED, BOOK 3 will take place in warmer temps. It’s fun to think ahead to balmier days — and Callie’s latest adventure.

Many of you may know that the setting of fictional Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, is inspired by the Geneva Lakes area of Wisconsin, specifically Lake Geneva, a popular tourist spot for Wisconsin and Illinois residents.

Lake Geneva is home to spectacular and massive mansions that were built along the lakefront. You can take a boat tour to view them — many of the mansions were built decades ago by famous titans of Chicago industry (the Wrigleys, for example) as vacation homes.

jenny-baker-house-lake-geneva

A few “lesser” homes also survived (still pretty spectacular), near the water but close to the downtown area. Here you can see me pictured with one of these homes — The Baker House. This Victorian-style home now houses hotel rooms, a restaurant and a bar with a 1920s theme. Doesn’t it look like the perfect spot for a mystery? Its “sister home,” known as The Maxwell Mansion, is  also used as a hotel and events space and also with a 20s theme.

I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say both of these places have given me a LOT of inspiration for my new cozy mystery.

In my travels through the Geneva Lakes, I also came across a spot called The Coffee Mill, run by a mother and her adult son. They reminded me quite a bit of Callie and Max! The barista (the son), of course serves your latte with a little heart on top. I could see Max doing that — maybe I’ll include that in my next book.

latte-with-a-heart

Besides great coffee, this small coffeehouse serves delicious pastries and a blockbuster breakfast specialty: oatmeal in a mug. You would not believe the number of people who line up to buy this — to the point that they’ve sold out! Yeah, it’s that good.

Since January is Oatmeal Month (no really, it is!)– I decided to feature an oatmeal in a mug recipe. The recipe below is very similar to what I was served at the cafe in Fontana, Wisconsin. I didn’t ask them for the recipe, but I think I came pretty close. It’s good any time of year but especially on a cold day. P.S. It’s really hot when it comes out of the microwave, so be careful. 🙂 Also, be sure to use a large mug — that way the ingredients won’t overflow.baked-oatmeal-in-a-mug-cropped

Baked Oatmeal in a Mug

½ cup oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned

1 egg

½ cup milk – can be dairy milk or soy, etc.

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ of an apple or ¼ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen, raisins, Craisins or whatever you want. I wouldn’t say no to chocolate chips.

2 tsp honey or brown sugar

Add oats, egg and milk in a mug. Stir well with a fork. Add cinnamon, your fruit of choice and honey or brown sugar. Stir again until fully combined. Cook in microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Stir in a little extra milk, if the oatmeal looks too dry and/or top with cold vanilla Greek yogurt. If you really want to have it “Greek style,” use plain Greek yogurt and drizzle with honey to taste. Let the oatmeal “set” a little bit before eating.

Serves 1.

 A quick note! Thank you all for your support of my Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries! If you’ve enjoyed my books, please tell your friends and consider writing a short Amazon review. You can also “follow” me on Amazon — simply visit my Amazon page. The more people who follow me, the more Amazon will “show” my books to potential readers. Both of my books have been Amazon Hot New Releases and bestsellers in the culinary cozy mystery category — all thanks to readers like you. Your support means the world and it keeps me writing! THANK YOU!

Want the latest news on giveaways, sales, exclusive recipes and events? Sign up for my newsletter here.

Happy Holidays, Readers! What a Year!

 

Vintage silverwareI wanted to take this opportunity to say Happy Holidays to all of you! This year — well, 6 months, really — has been an amazing time of sharing my debut cozy mystery with all of you, followed by Book 2 just a couple of weeks ago!

Thank you all for the warm reception to my books! I’m thrilled that so many of you have enjoyed your trips to fictional Crystal Bay, Wisconsin and the antics of Callie Costas and her warm, wacky, wonderful family and friends.

I am already working on Book 3  as well as other writing projects, so 2017 is gearing up to be another busy year of writing, publishing and interacting with you, my fabulous readers!spiced-iced-ebook-1

My last blog tour appearance of 2016 will be at Dru’s Book Musings (Dru is the recent winner of Mystery Writer’s of America prestigious “Raven” award). I’m so happy to have been asked back to Dru’s blog — I’ll be sharing an updated “Day in the Life” with Callie Costas — SPICED AND ICED edition.

I wish you and yours a happy holiday season and I hope you will keep reading and spreading the word about The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries!