Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Must-Read Cozy Mystery Series



Book no. 13 is out today!



You know those nights when you can’t sleep? Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Or perhaps you can’t shut your mind off to go to sleep in the first place.


The solution for me is to lose myself in the world inside a book. By visiting a different place and wrapping myself in the lives of characters who feel like friends, I am able to escape the troubles and fears of my own life long enough to relax and believe everything will be okay.

And my number one author of choice is cozy mystery writer Krista Davis.

One warning: Her books can cause one-more-chapter syndrome! The phenomenon where you'll stop reading after one more chapter. 

If you’re a fan of food, friendship, and mystery, then Davis’s Domestic Diva series needs to be on your list. Her latest edition, Diva Spices It Up, was released today, but I was lucky enough to win an advanced copy through a drawing on her Facebook page. 

The book didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it may be the best one in the series! The two recipes I made from it didn’t disappoint, either.

In this book, Sophie Winston, event planner and food advice columnist, takes on ghostwriting a cookbook for a former actress when the previous writer disappears. Is the missing ghostwriter in hiding, or was she murdered? And what about all of the suspicious spy activity Sophie keeps witnessing in her Washington D.C. suburb?

I devoured this story like a fudgy piece of chocolate cake! The plot was intriguing, and the solution was not what I expected.

This was my favorite Davis book to date!

Plus, it was a joy to spend time in Sophie’s world for a while. I like Sophie. Her friends, including an ex-husband, love to gather in her kitchen to solve murders and enjoy good food. Sophie never thinks twice about whipping up a tasty meal or snack for whoever shows up. That skill connects with my own enjoyment of feeding good food to the people I love.

Like all of Davis’s books, there are recipes from the story included at the end. I tried out:





Cornbread with a Corny Twist, which was so good I ate three pieces in spite of each one being 11 points on my WW purple plan!












Roasted Parmesan Chicken Breast, which was crispy and perfect alongside some whole-grain linguini primavera. This photo doesn't do the recipe justice, but I was in a hurry to start eating!  (7 points on WW purple)




Both recipes will make regular menu appearances.

To learn more about Davis, visit her website here. She also has a Paws and Claws series that is perfect for animal lovers, and a Pen and Ink series for the artist in all of us.

You don’t have to read the Domestic Diva series in order, but if that’s your style, the first one is The Diva Runs Out of Thyme.

Trust me, you’re going to love it!

Already a Diva fan? What's your favorite book? Character? Who should Sophie choose for a love interest? 


Monday, April 20, 2020

Steeped is a Handy Way to Satisfies Coffee Cravings





Disclaimer: The nice people at Steeped Coffee sent me free samples to try. However, the opinions expressed here are my own. I will only tell you about the products I use and enjoy!

I hate the Monday afternoon energy slump, but it seems to show up every week. You know the kind, where your brain won’t function and the thought of a stroll in the fresh, spring air requires more energy than you can muster.



My solution was a coffee jolt. However, I didn’t want to brew a partial pot, and anyway, I was craving an iced version. That’s when I remembered the box of Steeped Coffee sent to me quite a while ago. Now seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.

Steeped Coffee is brewed just like a cup of tea. However, unlike some other coffee-in-a-bag brands, this is made with premium beans to give the beverage a coffee-shop flavor. Each Steeped Pack contains hand-roasted, ethically sourced, Direct Trade coffee that’s precision ground to showcase the distinctive flavor profile of every crafted blend. The coffee comes in single-serve bags that are nitro-sealed, which removes oxygen and stops the clock on flavor loss. The packaging made using compostable and renewable materials and non-GMO filters. All it takes to brew a perfect cup is hot water and a few minutes. An added plus, there are no wasteful plastic pods accumulating in waterways or landfills.

I grabbed two bags of the Steeped Coffee Driftwood Blend, which is an extra dark French roast. I poured 16 ounces of hot water over the top and let the bags sit. The instructions say five minutes, but I got busy, so it was more like 15 minutes before I got back to it. I added a little sugar, poured the coffee into a glass filled with ice, and topped it off with a little non-fat milk.

Perfection! The coffee flavor was bold and rich, not harsh or bitter. In fact, it was so smooth I could probably skip the milk next time. And believe me, there will be a next time!

I could see Steeped Coffee bags come in handy on a trip or even when you go to a restaurant that serves sub-par coffee. Just ask for hot water!

To check out all of the Steeped Coffee offerings, pay a visit to 
their website hereFYI: They are offering free shipping on all U.S. orders right now!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Apricot and Lavender Mini Almond Cakes



Is there someplace in the world you’ve always wanted to visit? For me, it would be the Provence region of France. Ever since I first read A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, I’ve dreamed of smelling lavender fields, exploring the market in Apt on a Saturday morning, and sipping a pastis cocktail in a summer courtyard filled with vibrant flowers.



This is why I fell in love with Elizabeth Bard’s Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes. While I enjoyed her first book, Lunch in Paris, where she details her move to the City of Lights and falling in love with her French husband, this second book mirrored my own dreams of being an American adapting to life in a small Provence village. Ah, the warmth. Ah, the beautiful scenery. Ah, the luscious food!

Okay, it’s the food that attracted me the most. Especially the fresh produce and cheeses. Oh, and bread still warm from the boulangerie. And, of course, the wine!



So, what does all of this dreaming of Provence have to do with my new healthier lifestyle?

Everything!!

My primary reason for wanting to lose weight—80 pounds down so far!—was knowing there are so many places in the world I still want to explore, like Provence. I wouldn’t be able to do it at my heaviest weight.

The reason I chose WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) was their promise I could eat the foods I loved and still lose weight. It’s not a diet you go on for a while to drop pounds. WW has changed my lifestyle to one I can live the rest of my life! And I can enjoy any food without ballooning back to my former heavy self.

It’s all about being mindful of what you’re eating.

Bard’s book is full of recipes I will spend the next few months exploring, especially when there is an abundance of produce at the farmers market this summer. In the meanwhile, I enjoyed my French “trip” through the pages of her book while being stuck at home thanks to the pandemic currently harassing our world.

I did make her Apricot and Lavender Mini Almond Cakes for Easter dessert! My pantry had a container of culinary lavender purchased for just such an occasion, and I used canned apricots since fresh aren’t in season. (FYI: One cake came to 8 points on MyWW purple plan.)

These cakes were a lovely treat for the holiday! They were also very easy to make. A perfect south-of-France indulgence to enjoy here in northeast Kansas.

Apricot and Lavender Mini Almond Cakes 


Adapted from a recipe in Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard

Makes 12 mini cakes

7 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups ground almond flour (I used King Arthur brand)
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender grains, plus a few for garnish
12 small apricot halves (I used canned, drained and patted dry with a paper towel)
Light brown sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven for 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 foil cupcake liners. (Must be foil because paper will stick!) Spray each liner with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whip the butter and sugar together until combined and fluffy. (I used a hand mixer.) Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Mix in the almond and vanilla extracts.

Fold in the almond flour until combined. Mix in the salt and lavender grains.

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cupcake liners, about 1 1/2 tablespoons per liner. Lightly press one apricot half, skin-side down, into each cup, followed by a small pinch of brown sugar. Top with 2 or 3 grains of lavender. (Be careful not to go overboard with the lavender or the cakes will taste like soap.)

Place the muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and set on a wire rack to cool. Serve with whipped cream.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

My WW Pantry



Here are some items which have helped me lose almost 80 pounds. (78.2 pounds, to be exact! lol)

FYI: I'm not being paid by any of the products I mention. My opinions are totally my own.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please drop me a comment!