Monday, April 29, 2013

Jo Hiestand: Everything's Going Swimmingly & Recipe for Halibut in Honey

Today I asked a friend--mystery author Jo Hiestand--to share a recent bit of pre-marketing mayhem that shows Murphy's Law is alive and well. Learn more about her work at 

Everything's Going Swimmingly
By Jo Hiestand
I write a British mystery series called the McLaren Cases.  The book features Michael McLaren, an ex-police detective who quit his job over a great injustice.  He repairs dry stone walls for a living, and investigates cold cases for victims and their families.
Sometimes these victims’ voices call out to me.  Not for justice (I leave that to McLaren), but in music. 
Like the murdered singer in my third book, TORCH SONG.  She was so real, I could hear her singing the song for which she was famous.  I thought readers needed to hear her, so I asked a university music student (already renowned locally for her blues/torch/jazz vocals) if she’d write an original tune to the lyrics that were part of the story.  She did, and “Never Leave My Side” was created and recorded on CDs.
That collaboration was so enjoyable I continued the original-song-featured-in-a-McLaren-novel for the next book, HIT SONG.
I contacted a folk duo, also at the same university, with the song proposal.  They said it sounded like fun and we set a time and date for them to come to my house to talk about the project.
Super!  I had my folk singers, I’d written the lyrics, I knew the traditional tune I wanted them to use…everything was going swimmingly!
Well, on the day we were supposed to meet, the ole adage came true.  Around 6:45 a.m. the float arm broke off the toilet!  There was nothing to lift to make the water stop running.  Within seconds the water overflowed the tank and cascaded onto the floor.  There’s no shut off valve on the water line going into the toilet, of course.  And in the utility room, behind the hot water heater, there were six valves, some for the radiant floor heating system that no longer worked. I couldn't figure out which valve to turn and some I couldn't even get to due to the water heater being in the way.  Panic!  
By now the water covered the bathroom floor and was about a half inch deep.  I got old towels and scatter rugs and placed them on the floor to sop up the water.  I got a saucepan and scooped water out of the tank and poured it down the sink.  As soon as I removed one saucepan of water, the tank immediately filled.  I frantically scooped out more water and got it below the stack’s top.  I assumed I'd bought myself a few seconds to leave the room.  I raced into the kitchen and phoned the emergency service number of the first plumber I could find listed in the phone book.  Sure, they could help.  They'd send someone out between 8 and 10 a.m., but until then I should phone the non-emergency number of the fire department and they'd send out a guy to turn off the water.
I did that.  The fire department non-emergency office wasn't "open for business" at this early hour.
Well, when all else fails, you phone your city police.
I explained the problem.  The dispatcher said she'd send an officer and contact the fire department for me.  I hung up and dashed back into the bathroom to bail some more.  The floor was sopping, the towels and scatter rugs were sopping.  Water still poured out of the tank.   I had no more dry towels or rugs to lay down.  Do I next put down quilts and clothes?
I was saved searching for my thick, fuzzy knee socks, for a minute later the rescuing, protective police officer arrived.  He sauntered into my house, a model of Calm in a Sea of Untranquility, and hunted in the utility room for the water shut off valve.
While he was doing that, one glorious yellow fire truck and three handsome, knowledgeable firefighters arrived, resplendent in protective coats, helmets and boots.  The five of us crammed into the bathroom and stared at the commode and the tank, watching the water deepen on the floor.  They eventually headed for the utility room, the sodden scatter rugs squishing beneath their heavy rubber boots.
In the kitchen, one firefighter turned on the sink faucet and the others twiddled with knobs crowding the utility room, and finally the water flow from the faucet stopped.  Which meant the water flow from the toilet tank stopped.  Their job done, all four left.
One hour later the plumber arrived.  He looked at the toilet and the water line and mused, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” which wasn’t a yearning for the good ole days.  Simply stating all new toilet water lines now have a shut off valve -- required by law.  But of course I buy the house that was made before code compliance…  He replaced the float and arm, and installed a shut off valve in the water line running to the toilet.  All to the tune of $339.  But that was actually music to my ears.   Nothing against the police officer and firefighters, but I'd rather meet them in a more social setting.
And all this going on prior to Hannah and Nick arriving at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the song “Your Parting Glass.”  Funny, but that morning while I was playing with the saucepan, I figured Hannah’s and Nick’s recording should more aptly be “Wade in the Water.”

I don’t have a great recipe for Sponge Cake or Watercress Sandwiches, which seems to be called for here.  But in keeping with the watery theme I’ll give you this recipe just for the halibut.

Halibut in Honey
¼ cup honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp black pepper
6  8-oz halibut steaks

Prepare the marinade in a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag: combine honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, mustard pepper flakes and black pepper.  Add the halibut.  Squeeze the air from the bag, seal, and turn the fish several times to coat with the marinade.  Refrigerate one hour, turning the bag occasionally.  Preheat oven broiler.  Drain the marinade into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Broil the fish 8-10 minutes, turning once and brushing with the marinade.  Broil until the fish flakes when tested with a fork.
(Recipe from my cookbook Cider, Swords and Straw, published by L&L Dreamspell, 2012)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Getting the Feeling with Mini Pot Pies

Getting the right feeling in your writing is essential to the story. The reader needs to feel as though they are in the story and not watching from a distance. Getting this right isn’t easy sometimes. For me, I have to imagine myself as the person whom I’m writing. I have to tune out the world and place myself in the scene, imagine the sun on my skin, the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet. If it’s a scene where the reader will need to understand their feeling, I have to picture myself being chased, dodging bullets, hiding from a monster. That panic, heart pounding fear that would go along with it. My husband hates when I have to write a fight scene between a couple because I may take it out on him and give him a stink eye for a day or two, forgetting that it‘s not him I‘m mad at but a character in my story. When I do this, I have to make nice with the hubs, so I make him one of his favorite dishes to say sorry, it’s not him. It’s my crazy writers mind. (I’m sure I’m the only one who is this odd)


Mini Chicken Pot Pies

  • 2 cups COOKED chicken breasts diced  (I use 2 larger cans of chicken, like the ones you get by the tuna in the store)
  • 1 can cream chicken soup
  • 1cup FROZEN veggies
  • 1cup shredded cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 can Pillsbury (any brand really) biscuits


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

2.  In a large bowl, combine the chicken, soup, frozen veggies, cheeses, and seasonings.

3.  Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin and place the biscuit dough into each cup, pressing into the bottom and up the sides.

4.  Evenly spoon the soup mixture into each biscuit cup. Place filled tins in oven and bake for 15 minutes, Check at 12 minute mark.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Deborah Terra Weltman: "Veggie" in a Carnivore World & pumpernickel rye bread recipe

I met Deb at my Dec. 21, 2012, End of the World Age party promoting my novel ZERO TIME. Since then, I've learned about her amazing trek of Spain's 500-mile Camino de Santiago (her book is in the works!), and how she's trying to help others reach their "Big Dreams." In fact, her next class starts this Saturday, April 6 (scroll down this link to see Guided Class). I've also come to appreciate her spirited advocacy for healthier food, even taking on a favorite Midwestern burger joint like Steak 'n Shake.

Guest post by Deborah Terra Weltman

This column is dedicated to providing vegetarians with decent alternatives at “normal” restaurants, and to supplying restaurateurs with feed-back from the “veggie” perspective.

Imagine the plight of the poor vegetarian who lives among carnivorous folk and is inclined to be social, to dine out, with meat eaters. There are often lunches and dinners to be eaten out at establishments where veggie alternatives have not been considered by the restaurateurs (or by the restaurant chain): where options are not plentiful, are boring at best, at worst, are laden with heavy cheeses, sugars, or (Eeek!) iceberg lettuce.

Case story:

Quickie dinner out with my parents, my sister and my son at Steak n Shake….
Because we live in different parts of town (South county and Creve Coeur), we decide to meet at the Steak and Shake on Kirkwood Road, a good mid-way point. We’ve all eaten at a Steak n Shake at some point in our lives, so we all are clear what’s on their menu. While Mom, Dad, and sister, Sallie, ordered Steakburgers, fries, chili, and shakes, my son, J.T., and I (the vegetarians) were looking for creative alternatives. In the past, my son had been under the impression that the chili three-way could be created without meat. He had ordered this on quite a few occasions on the advice of a friend who had previously worked there. After further research we found out that his friend had simply served him from the top of the chili pot…with the meat having sunk to the bottom. So…we were looking to find real vegetarian options. Note to Steak n Shake: the seasonings in your chili are wonderful! How about creating a vegetarian version? Besides us vegetarians, you would also draw the Kosher and Halal crowds, not to mention the health conscious!
On to the “alternatives:" Of course there are salads on the menu: green or taco (minus the beef) to name a few, but they are made with iceberg lettuce…hardly healthy or interesting enough to bother with. There are no burger alternatives and, given that cooking “veggie burgers” on a grill with beef burgers would render them “beef grilled veggie burgers” not a practical plan. So, we settled: J.T. had a BLT without the B. He subbed cheese for the bacon. I went for the “sides”: baked beans and coleslaw. They were good. I didn’t ask, but kept hoping NOT to find a hunk of meat in the bean pot. The coleslaw was fresh and crisp, but excessively creamy for my taste. Another note to Steak n Shake: more cabbage and other veggies, less mayo…a “half-creamy” slaw…another more healthful option?! My son, who can handle the calories, had a shake…as usual…delicious. I made a wimpy attempt to watch my calories and had a yogurt shake… with real raspberries. It was exquisite and I don’t plan to research the calorie count!
Vegetarians and appropriate others: what about a write-in (or e-mail-in) campaign to the Steak n Shake headquarters suggesting they add to their menu. I’m all over the idea of a “veggie chili” alternative. Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Meanwhile, if you happen to be dining out at Steak n Shake, know the limits (it is limited) and try those yummy yogurt shakes!

NOTE: You can contact Deb at or check out her blog: Queen of the World

Deb’s Healthy Grain Spring Pumpernickel Rye Bread
How about a bread-maker recipe? This would be a great bread to serve with a green salad and an egg dish….scrambled eggs, egg-salad, or a crust-less quiche.

Following your bread maker’s directions, here are the ingredients:
½ cup + 2 tbls. warm water
1 ½  tbls. molasses
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup rye flour
1 tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder
1tsp. salt
2 tbls. butter
1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. caraway seed
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dark raisins.
Put all ingredients except sunflower seeds and raisins in the bread-maker pan following the manufacturer’s directions.
Set the bread-maker on the whole-wheat cycle.
Add in the seeds and raisins about ½ way through the kneading cycle.
Makes a dense 1 pound loaf. It smells so good! Best to schedule your meal for about 15 minutes after the end of the baking period or it may be gone…
Happy emergence of new life! This is my favorite time of year. I love to see the green sprigs coming up out of the ground! Enjoy!