Posted on January 28, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: In Key West in the winter, we get lots of houseguests (no surprise!) Suppose you’re looking for something special to serve your visitors for breakfast? Over a year ago, I made some blue cornmeal pancakes that were to die for (she said modestly.) But when I went back to look at the recipe, I was shocked about how much sodium was involved. In pancakes! Who knew? So this is a revised version, equally delicious, probably under 100 mg of sodium for the whole batch. Next time we’d double the amount and freeze any extras for quick lunches or snacks.
2/3 cups cornmeal (I used Bob’s organic)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Featherweight no-sodium baking powder
1 teaspoon Ener-G sodium-free baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar added (less than 150 mg sodium vs 257 in one cup buttermilk)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing griddle
1 cup blueberries (frozen works fine)
Stir together cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add the blueberries. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until mostly combined.
Heat the pan or griddle and melt some butter to cover the bottom. Add the wet batter to the pan. Cook over medium heat until bubbles pop, then flip the pancakes over and cook the other side, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve with real maple syrup. Next time I would also top with a dollop of plain yogurt.
KILLER TAKEOUT is coming next April, but available for pre-order today!
And you can follow Lucy on Facebook,
Posted on January 22, 2016 - by Lucy
John and I are trying to make a commitment to cleaning out some of our “stuff.” Drawers crammed full of stuff. Closets filled with things I’ll never wear–you get the picture. So when our daughter was last home, I had her go through my tangle of jewelry to see if there was anything she’d like now or later, and also identify things she’d never, ever wear. Those I could turn over to the church white elephant sale.
Then I came across this and just had to share.
I must have gotten the charm bracelet at some point in my teens (note the sweet sixteen.) After that, my mother would give me a new charm for birthdays and Christmas. Multiple cats of course, since she and I were obsessed with a giant yellow tiger named Tigger, plus a German shepherd representing our dogs. You’ll see lots of gifts from the sea because we spent every summer either at the Jersey Shore or the Outer Banks, along with charms of places we’d lived.
I especially love the grand piano, though I was a dud as a student–the top lifts open, can you see? And if you can’t make it out, the one with the telephone says “if you’re ever in trouble, here’s the price of a call.” And a dime fits in the slot! That’ll date you…
Did you ever do the charm bracelet thing? What special treasure still lives in your jewelry drawer?
Posted on January 16, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Since the mayhem of the holidays has finally subsided, I can turn my thoughts to the new year, wondering what I’ll write and how I’ll get it done.
First of all, I always have doubts! Every book. KILLER TAKEOUT will be my fifteenth published book and I still get stuck every time in the middle. Where is this book going??? What’s the point? Why is she doing this? Who will ever want to read this?
A few things help keep me sane in this situation. One is to keep writing. Apply butt to chair and write 1000 words a day. It also helps to write out a sentence or two the night before about what I will cover the next day. Another good tool is brainstorming with my writer friends. They are invariably generous, and fresh eyes can see paths out of my plot when I feel hopeless.
I also heard two wise quotes while I was at the New England Crime Bake in November that I plan to keep right beside my computer. The first from Elizabeth George:
“When your story stalls out on you, you’ve played your hand too soon.”
And Peter Abrahams/Spencer Quinn suggested when a writer gets stuck: “Think about the engine that drives the story.”
How about you dear readers? Do you ever have doubts when you are in the middle of the writing, or other non-writing projects? How do you get past them?
Posted on January 11, 2016 - by Lucy
Lots of folks write to ask me for restaurant recommendations in Key West. I couldn’t do any better than Hayley Snow. So here are a few of her favorites:
from DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS:
Kojin Noodle Shop, Southard Street
“Then I roughed out a review of the Kojin Noodle shop–its light and savory dumplings, irresistible cold sesame noodles with shrimp, and the more adventurous pho and dragon bowl. I pulled the container of dumplings out of the bag, offered one to Wally, and then dragged another through a pool of spicy sauce and popped it into my mouth. Instant ecstasy.”
Latitudes, Sunset Key
“I tweaked my lead-in paragraph, which was all about the setting: the short ride across the harbor to Sunset Key on the private people ferry, the palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights, the flickering torches lining the path that lead to the restaurant, the aura of wealth and privilege. Then I moved on to the amazing, spicy, condiment-laden, bloody Mary–thinking I could use one of them before facing Ava. ”
Coles Peace Bakery, Eaton Street
“The lunch rush was in full swing, including a cluster of women ordering holiday pies and platters of Christmas cookies. I wormed my way to the counter, paid, and grabbed my sandwiches. The tantalizing smells of mustard and roasted pork and dill pickles called to me all the way over to the police station.”
From FATAL RESERVATIONS:
Firefly, Petronia Street
“My eye caught on pimento cheese with spiced saltine crackers and a plate of fried green tomatoes–was it too early in the day for pimento cheese? My mouth watered at the prospect, which I took as a definitive no. Eric and I did the best we could with all the food that was delivered. The fried chicken with a thin crisp waffle and spicy maple syrup was my favorite, although Eric was crazy about the cheese grits and the kale salad.”
Old Town Bakery, Eaton Street
“I drove by the Old Town Bakery this morning and they had a special sandwich on their chalkboard. Italian with ham, soppressada, basil pesto, fontina, spinach, and tomato. On one of their homemade French bread loaves. Doesn’t that sound like heaven?”
“Absolutely. Dessert?” I asked.
“I’m on a diet,” he said, his voice halting and mournful. “I have to tap everything I eat into this smartphone app that adds the calories up on the spot. I think I’m already over the limit for today.”
“So the chocolate OMG brownie?”
And a few more suggestions:
Pepe’s Café, 806 Caroline Street, homey and cute
The Café, a mostly vegetarian place, 509 Southard Street, love their food, setting isn’t much
Salute! On the beach, 1000 Atlantic Blvd., can’t beat the setting
Coles Peace Artisan Bakery, 1111 Eaton St, carry out yummy sandwiches
Santiago’s Bodega, 207 Petronia St, little plates
Blue Heaven, 729 Thomas St, KW classic, courtyard seating with chickens
El Siboney, 900 Catherine St, homestyle Cuban comfort food, filling but not fancy
And here are a few others in a previous post
Posted on January 7, 2016 - by Lucy
I’ll be kicking off the series of author talks sponsored by the Key West Library on January 19 at 10 am–in the library auditorium, 700 Fleming St, Key West FL
Posted on January 7, 2016 - by Lucy
On February 24 at 4 pm, Barbara Ross and I will be talking at the Marathon Branch of the Monroe County Library. We write our series from the two ends of Route One–Key West and Maine!
Posted on January 5, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: In October, my husband went on a dream trip —playing golf in Scotland with his three brothers and four other childhood friends. (Aren’t they so cute?) They had an amazing time, and he came home with small packages of Walker’s shortbread cookies, which they found at every hotel and B and B…
Naturally I became addicted to these cookies and decided I should try making some myself. Neither the brown sugar nor the almond extract are traditional, but they sounded like good additions to me.
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 to 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• almond extract, 1 tsp
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the extract. Mix in the flour on low speed until it’s just combined. (If you work the dough too hard, the cookies will be tough.)
Roll the dough out on a piece of floured parchment into a rough rectangle (no more than 1/2 inch deep), then move the whole thing to your baking pan. Score the dough into the size cookies you want. Bake at 325 until lightly browned.
Once removed from the oven, prick the warm cookies with a fork and cut through the scored lines.
You might want to whip up a batch for National Shortbread Day on January 6!
Posted on January 3, 2016 - by Lucy
First of all, Happy New Year! I’m grateful for each one of you readers. And now, in the first week of the new year, I thought I’d share my resolution…
|John by our post
In Key West we have been assigned a horrible parking space. (I know, first world problem, but hear me out.) The driver must back in, with only about 6 inches of clearance between the car mirrors and two enormous concrete pillars on either side. I confess that I have avoided driving just because of this parking problem. But a couple of
weeks ago, I watched John as he swung gracefully out toward the opposite cars, and then glided backwards into our slot.
“You consider this a challenge, don’t you?” I asked in an accusatory voice.
He grinned and agreed that he did. And right then I decided since I have no other options, I might as well try to take that approach too.
Set that story aside for a minute.
In September, I was diagnosed with a disease called Meniere’s. The experts seem to think it involves too much fluid in the inner ear, resulting in vertigo, nausea, and tinnitus along with some deafness, among other symptoms. Though it could be a virus or any number of other possibilities. It’s not life-threatening, but it is life changing. For example, it’s important to reduce stress. (As one of my “spin” buddies said, “I actually didn’t feel like I was that stressed until I got Meniere’s and uncontrollable vertigo!!!!!”)
There’s no cure at this point, since no one has a good grip on what actually causes it. But the main treatment is a low sodium diet, a diuretic, and staying away from caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and salt. (Maybe you heard the screams as this was explained to me last fall.) And using a list of drugs to help manage the dizzy episodes when they recur. (Which they do.)
|Lucy in 2013
This has been a hard adjustment, as I’m used to feeling healthy. And I love food. I write about food, I talk about food, I get enormous pleasure from cooking and eating good food. I identify as a foodie. I boast that my maiden name “Isleib” means “is stomach” in German. So while I’m trying to do what I was told would help, I’ve done it with a lot of grumbling.
I’m no Pollyanna. I do have days when I feel lousy and tell my hub that maybe it’s time to push me out into the harbor in an old leaky boat.
“But wait,” I say, “I’d better take the old cat with me–he’d be too much for you. You guys don’t really connect.”
“And Tonka will want to go with you, no matter what the circumstances,” says John. “And you aren’t leaving me behind!”
And then we laugh like crazy imagining the Coast Guard or the Navy Seal divers coming to scoop the four of us out of the harbor. And I start poring over the No-Salt cookbooks again.
This is where the story of the parking space comes in. Somehow this year I am going to try to adjust my attitude about having this bizarre chronic disease, and about eating. No salt? No problem.
And that is my resolution, a change in how I view this condition, from yawping and yammering to acceptance.
How about you readers? Are you facing any big challenges this year? Or do you have tips to share about surviving one in your past?
Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries. KILLER TAKEOUT, coming in April, is available for pre-order now.
Posted on December 30, 2015 - by Lucy
I’m so pleased because the third book in my advice column mystery series (written as Roberta Isleib) is finally out as an ebook! Dr. Butterman (AKA Dr. Aster), the main character in this series, including ASKING FOR MURDER, is an advice columnist. Even though I’m a psychologist and an advice column junkie, I found that writing her columns was not so easy. After cranking out three of her books, I figured out how she would describe her approach: “Most people have a pretty good idea of where they’re already headed when they ask for advice. A wise friend simply shines a flashlight on the path.”
But it didn’t come naturally to me, and I realize that other advice-giving professionals struggle too.
Dr. Phil, for example, is not one to stand by on the sidelines holding a flashlight. In 2006 while visiting Los Angeles for the “Sisters in Crime Goes to Hollywood” conference, I attended the filming of one of the shows in the doctor’s live studio audience. A pair of sisters who’d been estranged by boyfriend/husband issues fought like cats and dogs for the better part of their fifteen-minute segment. Even Dr. Phil, an expert on handling catfights, looked defeated by the end of the show. These women had come to Dr. Phil for help as a last resort, but darned if they were going to let him get a word in edgewise. After several attempts to expose the bones of the problem and redirect the sisters, he slumped on his barstool, chin in hand, and rolled his eyes at the audience—as if asking the question “where did I go wrong?”
And Dr. Butterman (aka Dr. Aster) has a very young editor who always wants the columns a little more chipper than feels right to Rebecca. Here’s a little excerpt from ASKING FOR MURDER, showing how she sometimes struggled to hit the right note too:
I used the remaining minutes of my aborted lunch hour to choose a question for my advice column and rough out an answer. I’m a clinical psychologist by day, but in the off hours, I whisk on my advice columnist cloak and write the Ask Dr. Aster column for Bloom! ezine. Sometimes the column feels downright silly; other times, profound. I love it most when it evolves into a Greek chorus of my life, that I didn’t consciously intend.
This month, my twelve-year-old (a slight exaggeration) editor, Jillian, had asked for columns that fit the category “Bloom! In spring!” In other words, no downers, no freaking stages of grief, no miserable housewives in housecoats abandoned by their freshly-vital, chemically-driven husbands. The advice should be uplifting, encouraging, bursting with new life and new possibilities. Sigh again.
“Happy people don’t ask for advice,” I told her.
“You’ll come up with something!” she chirped back. “I’ll check in with you later in the week.” (Scroll all the way to the bottom to read the column she came up with.)
LUCY AGAIN: I read every advice column I come across, but my favorite is Philip Galanes, who writes “Social Q’s” for the New York Times Style section every Sunday. He’s funny and sensible and pulls no punches. Dr. Aster could definitely learn from him!
ASKING FOR MURDER is now available for Kindle. You can download it right here.
PS My favorite advice column fangirl moment? Our friend Pat Kennedy introduced me to Margo Howard, Ann Landers’s daughter, and a stellar columnist herself. She kept writing as she was reading DEADLY ADVICE, wondering if she’d sussed out the murderer: “I think it’s XXX. No it must be YYY.” And so on. And here was her blurb:
A really plummy mystery, flawlessly plotted, that I especially loved because the heroine is an advice columnist – and a good one! Margo Howard
“Dear Margo” on Yahoo! News and in 200 newspapers.
(Formerly “Dear Prudence”)
Dear Dr. Aster:
I volunteer at a local charity that fights mental illness. I got involved because I believe in the cause, but I also hoped it might be a way to meet a nice guy with similar interests. (Isn’t that what you always recommend to your readers?) The people on my committee are smart, caring, dedicated–and all married, except for one widower who’s slightly older than me though smart and attractive. Lately the married folks take every opportunity to push us together. There’s a lot of winking and elbowing going on, and it’s very embarrassing. He’s a nice guy, but there’s no chemistry between us—certainly not on my side! What can I do to stop the matchmaking? I’d hate to ditch the committee to escape the man.
Yenta’s Volunteer Victim in Vermont
Dear Yenta’s Victim:
Gold stars are in order—I do recommend exactly the path you’ve taken. But oh dear, I had not anticipated this particular roadblock. One question: does Mr. Wonderful seem to feel the same lack of chemistry that you do? If so, it might be easy enough to enlist his help in shrugging off the well-meaning nudges. However, if he appears to have feelings for you, you’ll need another tactic. How about dropping a few not-so-subtle hints about the recent social whirl your new BOYFRIEND has swept you up in?
And here’s one more thought: Since you signed your letter “Volunteer Victim,” don’t overlook your possible contribution to the drama that’s unfolded. Your fellow workers might be reacting to your subtly-sawing violin strings. Check to be sure you haven’t been moaning about your single status without being aware of it! If that’s the case, dost thou protest too much?
Keep up the good works and Happy Spring!
Posted on December 20, 2015 - by Lucy
This recipe was tweaked from one filed by Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times. I made her version and then revised for my second attempt, which we modestly judged delicious. The recipe is quite flexible and can absorb about any vegetables you have lying around. You’ll notice that I added no salt, though of course some of the ingredients have sodium naturally occurring. We did not miss it! And I’m very, very fussy! I’ll list the approximate sodium content at the end for those interested. (And I have to watch sodium these days…)
For this version I used the following ingredients:
Two ears corn, kernels stripped off the cob, or frozen, 1 cup
2 to 3 cups fresh spinach
Half a green pepper diced
One small onion diced
4 to 5 okra pods, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh basil
Half cup milk
2 to 3 ounces lower salt Swiss cheese
1 ounce Parmesan, grated
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8 x 8″ pan well.
Sauté the onions, peppers, okra, and chopped spinach until the vegetables are tender but not overcooked. Mix in corn, dill, and basil.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Then stir in the vegetables and the grated Swiss cheese. Scrape this mixture into the prepared pan and top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until sides and top are starting to brown. Let the dish sit for 10 minutes before serving with a green vegetable and salad.
(Now for the sodium count: Eggs, 62 mg per one medium egg. Spinach, 24 mg per one cup. Low sodium Swiss cheese, 4 mg per ounce. Shredded Parmesan, 85 mg per one Tbsp. Fresh okra, 411 mg per one cup-wow! One ear of corn, 262 mg. Half cup 1% milk, 53 mg.)
KILLER TAKEOUT is coming next April, but available for pre-order today!
And you can follow Lucy on Facebook,