New College Town Cozy Series: Gone with the Wings, a Meera Patel Mystery

Author Leena Clover announces a brand new cozy mystery series set in a small Oklahoma college town. Mystery readers will enjoy this culinary cozy murder mystery featuring plenty of yummy recipes like Masala Fried Chicken and Shish Kabob Blue Plate Special.
Meera Patel is back home with the family after she dropped out of graduate school. Now she shelves books for a living and rustles up fusion recipes at Sylvie’s Cafe & Diner. Everything is fine until her old nemesis Prudence Walker floats up in the local pond. Meera is accused of murder! Well, she did publicly declare Prudence would drop dead.Meera cries foul and screams police harassment. But she has no defense when she is accused of a second crime. Flanked by pals Tony and Becky, Meera puts in the leg work, trying to solve clues and discard red herrings.Fall in Oklahoma has never been more exciting.Cozy mystery fans will love this new mystery series featuring an Asian American amateur sleuth. There is a full cast of characters with a professor father, young sibling, old grandparents, loyal friends and a candid glimpse into South Asian culture.


Character Interview: Meera Patel

Meera, welcome to Island Confidential. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I’m Meera Patel, a 20 something girl from Swan Creek, Oklahoma. My father loves to think I’m some kind of prodigy. I think he expects me to be one. But I love cooking more than hacking computer networks which I’m good at. Really good at. No one really knows why I dropped out of graduate school just a few credits shy of getting my degree. I packed my bags one fine day, bid California goodbye and came back home to Swan Creek. A certain blue eyed guy might have something to do with it. But no one’s guessed it yet. So let’s keep it between us for now.

Who’s the Gone With the Wings character you get along with the best?

That’s a toss-up between Tony and Becky. We’ve been together since first grade. But there’s some things I talk to Becky about that I can’t share with Tony. He’s a guy, after all.

Is there anyone you don’t get along with so well? 

Pappa, my grandpa, is always on my case, I don’t know why. He refers to me as ‘that girl’ all the time, never calls me sweetie or baby like my Motee Ba. He’s just a cranky old man, I guess. Or he just likes ordering everyone around. Colonial hangover!

Just between you and me: What do you really think of Leena, your author?

I think she’s done a fair job so far. She’s kept my secrets. She lets something slip once in a while, but thankfully, it’s been vague enough that most people haven’t caught on. She keeps wanting to talk about my mother though. And my future. What’s the rush, I don’t get it. I’m happy frying chicken at Sylvie’s, for now. Maybe I won’t be doing it two years later. But I’m in no hurry to get there.

What’s next for you?

Have you joined forces with my Dad? That’s all he asks me every few days. He wants me to get on with my life, do something spectacular. But what? Isn’t that the million dollar question?

I’m having a good time back here in Swan Creek. Rustling up new recipes for Sylvie’s Café is rewarding. And then I spend all my free time with my pals. I think I might have to go back to school soon. Maybe even teach a few classes. Or I might become a full fledged PI. Yeah, that’ll be the day. Meera Patel, Private Investigator instead of Dr. Meera Patel, Professor.

Que Sera Sera, right? What do you think is in store for me?


About the Author

Leena Clover is the author of the brand new Meera Patel Cozy Mystery Series, starring a 20 something Desi girl as the protagonist. The series is set in a small Oklahoma college town Meera calls home.

Leena Clover offers plenty of clues for her readers so that they can solve the mystery as they read along. Readers can expect a unique look into Indian/ South Asian culture and plenty of yummy recipes.Author Links

Twitter – http://twitter.com/leenaclover

Facebook – http://facebook.com/meerapatelcozymystery

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16918791.Leena_Clover


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New Tea Shop Mystery: Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs

>>>Enter to Win a Print Copy of Pekoe Most Poison<<<

In the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, Theodosia Browning attends a “Rat Tea,” where the mice will play…at murder.

When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.

The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse…

INCLUDES RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS


About the Author

laura-childs-from-facebook

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Visit Laura’s webpage or find her on Facebook.


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New Cozy and #Interview: Egg Drop Dead by Laura Childs

In Laura Childs’s New York Times bestselling mystery series, Suzanne, Petra, and Toni—co-owners of the Cackleberry Club café—are back to track down another bad egg…

egg-drop-dead
When Suzanne Dietz, proprietor of the Cackleberry Club Café, stops by Mike Mullen’s dairy farm to pick up wheels of cheese, she’s greeted by the urgent, upturned faces of cows that haven’t been milked – as well as Mike’s mangled body! Stunned by her grisly discovery, Suzanne vows to find out who killed this mild-mannered farmer. Was it the shunned neighbor boy, a strange man transporting horses to Canada, or Mike’s unhappy wife? Juggling multiple suspects, a busy restaurant, tea parties, and a raucous Halloween celebration, Suzanne maintains her good humor and keeps her romance with the town doctor sizzling. In the tradition of all her previous New York Times bestselling cozies, Laura Childs doesn’t let her readers down when it comes to heart-warming humor, a breathless pace, and homespun recipes!

 


Q: Laura, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential. Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Suzanne? 

A: Suzanne Dietz, is the owner of the Cackleberry Club Café along with her partners Toni and Petra. Suzanne is sweet, tough, and imbued with a can-do spirit. She also has a great sense of justice. When some poor character gets murdered, she’s almost driven to bring the killer to justice. Of course, that puts Suzanne in a lot of hot water and can make her quite unpopular with local law enforcement. Suzanne is also a dog lover, horse owner, and excellent cook who tries to source all her fresh ingredients locally. (She also shares her recipes with readers!)

Q: How much of you is in the Suzanne? What do you think would happen if you met her in real life?

A: Suzanne is curious, unafraid to push the envelope, and very much an entrepreneur, so I’d say there’s some of me in her. I started an ad agency (against the advice of a bunch of seasoned ad guys) at the age of thirty and ran it successfully for twenty years. If I met Suzanne in real life, I’d probably buy her a drink and talk about what the next chapter of our lives holds.

Q: Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

A: They change and evolve somewhat, but their basic personalities always shine through. Suzanne’s two partners, Toni and Petra, are probably a little more outrageous now than when I started. Toni is the resident hottie-pattotie with skin-tight cowboy shirts, hot pink extensions, and a bawdy sense of humor. Petra is probably a little less religious now that when we started out. I guess I’m a bad influence on them.

Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life – only on the pages of a murder mystery?

When I owned my marketing firm, there were always certain clients who were cranky and demanding or tried to cheat us. Now I take my petty revenge on them by putting them in my mysteries (Cackleberry Club, Tea Shop, and Scrapbook Mysteries). I either kill them off in a gruesome manner or name a slimy character after them. It’s great fun!

Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

A: I grew up in a small, Midwestern town, so I think my setting for the Cackleberry Club Mysteries is spot on. The mysteries take place in the fictional town of Kindred, which is rural, charming, and filled with quirky characters who have surprisingly dark secrets. Really, just like the place I grew up!

Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

A: No advice, but a very telling story:  Once when I was at the Mystery Writers of American symposium in New York, I was talking with Mary Higgins Clark. She had helped me get started and had set me up with her agent. It was almost noon and I wanted to take her to lunch. But when I brought it up, she got this funny, almost frightened look on her face and said, “Oh, I wish. But I have to go home and write. My publisher wants another 50,000 words in six weeks.” That’s when I knew this whole writing thing was deadly serious – that panels and symposiums and signings are all grand, but until you park yourself in that chair and start cranking out words, you’re not really a professional author at all.

 


About the Author

laura-childs-from-facebook

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Visit Laura’s webpage or find her on Facebook.


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Recipe: Easy Quiche

Here in rural Hawaii, many of our neighbors own chickens. When they’re laying (the chickens, I mean), we have access to really fresh, delicious eggs–and a lot of them.

Here’s a quick way to turn a dozen eggs into a tasty meal. If you’re watching your carbs, this is a great, keto-friendly dish. If you’re limiting your fat intake, this is probably not the recipe for you.


 

Preheat oven to 350.

Take

1 dozen eggs
1 pound shredded cheese (cheddar or Swiss style)
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic salt

(Optional) 1/2 cup to 1 cup of whatever leftover cooked meat or vegetables you have in the fridge that might taste good. Chopped Spam, for example.

Mix everything together (I use a KitchenAid mixer) and pour into an oiled or parchment-lined lasagna pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake about an hour and fifteen minutes. Or if you’re using combination microwave/convection, half an hour at 325.


 

Easy quiche

This is for the entire quiche.

 


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SPAM musubis are gluten free, are therefore health food | Recipe with photos

If you’re really on a budget, you can use the Spam can as a musubi mold.

Delicious, inexpensive Spam musubis

SPAM musubis are gluten free, are therefore health food | Recipe with photos.


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Recipe: Mike’s Famous Pork Belly

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to consume more animal fat, then you’ve come to the right place.  Here is the no-longer-secret recipe for Mike’s Famous Pork Belly, star of the potluck table and scourge of your 2015 weight-loss plans.

Pork bellies look like bacon, and in fact it’s the same fatty, boneless cut of meat. The only difference is that bacon is cured or smoked. If pork belly is not available in your area you can buy it online.

Pork Belly: Eerily similar to bacon.

Pork Belly: Eerily similar to bacon. Click to enlarge.

Cooking pork belly is tricky. You want to get it crisp, but not too hard and tough. The secret ingredients? Water, and very particular application of heat.

1) Cut it into thick slices, then sliced through the skin 0.5-1 cm deep, 1-2 cm apart (or 1/4 inch deep, 1/4 – 1/2 inch apart).

Raw pork belly. Click for a bigger picture.

Raw pork belly. Click to enlarge.

2) Season with Montreal steak seasoning (or your salty seasoning of choice).

3) Place on a rack in a roasting pan skin side up, covering some of the larger spaces with foil so the meat doesn’t fall through.

Pork belly arranged in the roasting pan. Click to enlarge.

Pork belly arranged in the roasting pan. Click to enlarge.

Arrange the strips skin-up across the supports of the rack. Click to enlarge.

Arrange the strips skin-up across the supports of the rack. Click to enlarge.

4) Add water to cover the bottom of the pan–about 0.5 cm or 1/4 inch.
5) Bake at 149 C/ 300 F for 4 hours
6) Turn up the heat to 232 C/ 450 F and bake for another 0.5 hours

The finished product. Click to enlarge.

Pork in a Pan

7) Turn on broiler and watch until the pork belly reaches the desired crispness–do not walk away because it can burn very quickly.

8) Slice it into bite-size chunks. You may not even have time to transport it from the cutting board to the serving dish because your guests will swipe pieces of it. Like bacon, it can be considered a finger food.

Crisp, succulent, and very, very fatty. Click to enlarge.

Crisp, succulent, and very, very fatty. Click to enlarge.

You will have a lot of rendered fat in the pan. Pour it out and save it, and use it to fry things. Like your Spam and egg breakfast the next morning.


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Recipe: Easy Pork Butt

Calling this a “recipe” might be a little grandiose, but it’s a great way to get a main dish going with minimal effort and maximal deliciousness.

What we call pork butt is actually the shoulder.

Know Your Pig Parts

1) Buy a pork butt. It will probably be somewhere in the 5-10 pound range. If you’re lucky enough to have locally raised pork available, go for it! If you can get a bone-in butt, you’ll get the benefit of all of that glycine, proline, and other bone-y benefits.

2) Drop the pork butt into your slow cooker.

You should have a slow cooker in your kitchen. I like the latching cover for potluck-friendly portability, and the shallow oval shape for access to the food.

3) Dump Montreal Steak Seasoning all over it.  Make sure it’s on all the surfaces.

You should always have some of this around.

4) Put the slow cooker on medium or auto and leave it to cook until it’s fork-tender, about 8 hours.

4a) Obligatory Spam reference: Leftovers can be pan-fried until crispy in the same pan as diced Spam for maximum pork-y goodness.


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Two-Ingredient Super Healthful Tomato Beef Bone Broth

I’m very lucky to have access to meat (and other products) from grass-fed Hawaii cattle. Once in a while soup bones become available at the local grocery store. If you see these, buy them. Six big pieces, if you can get them.

Some say bone broth is good for joints, digestion and general health. What I can say for sure is that the bone, meat and marrow will make your soup taste rich and delicious. Now for the second ingredient: Arrabbiata Sauce.

Napa Valley Bistro - Arrabbiata Pasta Sauces

You should always have a few jars of this in your pantry. (I happen to like Mezzetta, but the SF Chronicle’s taste testers preferred Rao’s. Safeway Select is a good inexpensive choice if you have that available.)

Put the bones and sauce into a slow cooker with enough water to reach the top. Add some salt, because you just watered down the sauce. Cook for 12-24 hours.

You’ll get a lot of meat from the bones, and some of the marrow will soften and dissolve in the soup.

The bones are going to fall apart so make sure to fish out the bone pieces before you serve this. You don’t want to get hit with some ungrateful dinner guest’s dental repair bill.

[OPTIONAL THIRD INGREDIENT: A BAG OF FROZEN VEGETABLES]

Asparagus Stir Fry

After you take out the bones, you can dump in a bag of mixed mushrooms or Westpac asparagus stir fry and cook until the vegetables are done.

Obligatory Spam mention: cut up leftover Spam into cubes and boil in the soup for extra flavor.

This is wonderful for a cold day. (The temperature here has plummeted to 71 F /22 C.  Brrr!)

 

 

Recipe: Turkey Carcass Stock

In my quest to bring you the easiest (laziest) recipes possible, I present: Thirty-Second Stock. (Thirty seconds to get started, that is. The part where you pick the meat off the carcass at the end takes significantly more time.)

Sure, you could go online and find a respectable recipe like this one, but maybe you don’t want to spend a lot of time chopping celery and quartering onions and trying to figure out where the heck you’re going to find “sprigs of thyme.”

A bonus: You’ll get a lot more meat. When the turkey cooks to the ideal temperature for eating, the legs and breast are perfectly done, but the meat nearest the bone is still tough and hard to remove. When I did this last night (of course my recipes are all kitchen-tested, you think I’m making this stuff up?) I liberated another four cups of meat (!) from our sixteen-pound turkey.

Here we go:

1) Upend the turkey carcass and stuff it into a big pot. It might stick out the top a little. Wash your hands and mash it down if you can. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. It’ll loosen up and collapse as it cooks.

Excelsteel 16 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot With Encapsulated Base, 4.5 stars on Amazon

Something like this one.

2) Sprinkle lots of Montreal Chicken Seasoning all over the carcass.

Contains sulfiting agents, so if you're allergic, just use garlic and onion powder instead.

Contains garlic, onion, orange peel, red pepper, and a bunch of other stuff I’m glad someone else put together so I don’t have to

2a) Optional: Add turmeric for color and brain health. Throw in the giblets if you have them.

3) Fill the pot with water and cook on a low boil for at least 3 hours.

4) Wait for it to cool off so you don’t burn your hands (at least a half hour). Lift the carcass into a baking pan or a big platter, pick the meat off and save for later. Strain the broth into a container.

I like glass containers, because I don’t really trust hot liquid and plastic.

4a) Did you remember to throw in the giblets? Now you can eat them! Consuming the heart of the turkey is said to endow the eater with the bird’s legendary bravery and cunning. The liver is delicious. And if you want to do some fancy gizzard thing, more power to you.

5) Obligatory Spam mention: Serve with a side of fried Spam.


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Recipe: Bacon Coconut Spam

Inspired by Leslie at Custard and Clues, I’m going to start posting my favorite recipes. Of course, Leslie is a gourmet chef and I am a lazy (and also terrible) cook, but I do know how to make a few things, and this thing is delicious .

1) Buy Bacon Spam. Not the regular blue can kind, and absolutely not one of those awful low-sodium/chicken parts abominations. Bacon Spam in the red can.

2) Cut it into matchsticks.

3) Fry it in coconut oil on low heat until the edges are translucent

4) Bring it to a potluck and watch it disappear. Try not to eat the whole pile yourself.


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