My Unintentional Culinary Cozy

People ask me about the recipes in my Crossword Puzzle mystery series all the time, and it always makes me laugh.

I think I’ve told this story here before, so if you’ve heard it, just hum to yourself for this next bit.

When I was noodling over the series, thinking about who these people were, I decided that Georgeanne (the mother of Quinn, my sleuth) loves to cook, but puts a decidedly distinctive spin on every dish. Her kitchen is her studio, and each recipe her canvas.

When I’m developing characters, I find photos of whoever I have in mind. Georgeanne began life as Mrs Cunningham on “Happy Days.” In my notes for her I wrote:

She always wants to feed everyone but she’s not a very good cook. She’s always forcing food tastes on people. “Try it! I think it’s good this time.” She uses a communal spoon from the pot or wherever, which Quinn [who you might remember has OCD] thinks is gross so she always gets her own spoon. When Georgeanne worries that means Quinn’s OCD is flaring up, Quinn protests it doesn’t have anything to do with her OCD … it’s just good common sense. “I don’t know if you’ve dragged the mailman or some rabid dog in here to taste it.”

Everyone loves Georgeanne. She’s hilariously earnest.

PUZZLING INK opens with Georgeanne trying to foist tastes of her Cumin Cupcakes, baked for the town’s 4th of July Festival, on any unsuspecting victim. They are frosted in red, white, and blue. The red, she explains, is smoked paprika, the white is miso, and the blue is just food coloring in cream of mushroom soup.

So that’s the reader’s introduction to Georgeanne.

Elsewhere in book #1 she makes her Comfort Squares (AKA Redneck Ravioli), essentially two-inch squares of pie crust stuffed with whatever comfort food you like—cheesy mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding, cream cheese and olives. The recipe is limited only by your imagination. And common sense.

As a joke, when I submitted that first manuscript to my editor, I included a fake recipe for Comfort Squares. She loved the idea so much that she wanted each book to have two of Georgeanne’s recipes in them.

(That’s not the first time one of my jokes backfired, in case you were wagering.)

So PUZZLING INK includes recipes for “Comfort Squares” and “Pretzel Pancakes.” PUNNING WITH SCISSORS has “Chicken Pad Thai with Grandma’s Dumplings” and “Black Bean Brownies.” And the new book FATAL SOLUTIONS has “Weeknight Funfetti Casserole” and “Pineapple Pot Pie.”

The thing about all these recipes is that they are real recipes I’ve created and—this is important—served to my family, all of whom I love.

When I was trying to figure out what would work in my Comfort Squares, I just opened up my fridge and all my cabinets and started pulling stuff out. Most of it worked. The peanut butter and mandarin oranges did not.  

The Funfetti Casserole, on the other hand, is something I used to make on a fairly regular basis when my kids were young. Georgeanne uses an actual Funfetti cake mix, but my version was basically Bisquick, bacon, cheddar cheese, and maple syrup … and might I say, quite delicious.

And the Black Bean Brownies were actually in the cookbook I published. They are excellent, and perhaps even good for you.

So that’s the story of my foray into writing an unintentional culinary cozy.

FATAL SOLUTIONS dropped on Tuesday, so go scoop up your copy, along with all the fixin’s for your Funfetti Casserole or your Pineapple Pot Pie!

So, readers … which of these recipes intrigues or disgusts you the most? Does it make you clamor for an invitation to dinner at my house? Does it make you want to get to know Georgeanne better? What’s your favorite weird recipe?

Oh, also … I blogged about a different topic in FATAL SOLUTIONS which you might be interested in. Japanese daruma dolls

30 thoughts on “My Unintentional Culinary Cozy

    1. LOL, Tracy! If by “highfalutin” you mean “so easy three baby chimpanzees could do it,” then yes, plan your trip accordingly. And please bring a bag of weird ingredients. I’m sure they’ll come in useful!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. You are so talented! The thought of creating a recipe from scratch is overwhelming.

    There was one phase where I was into making up soups by flinging random things into vegetable broth, but honestly, not a single one was a success.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The thought of these recipes being “from scratch” is hilarious. Actually, the idea that they’re recipes at all is hilarious! None of these spring from the depths of my imagination. Just like there are only seven plots in writing, there are only a handful of ways to make, say, chicken. The thing that makes them unique is that one weird ingredient you add to the sauce, or the way you put it on the platter, surrounded by chocolate-covered pine cones or what-have-you. I’ll take the credit, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I deserve it. As for your soup, I feel your pain. I’m not a fan. Give me chocolate-covered pine cones any day!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Okay, just have to say, that cupcake recipe? BLECCH! Hands down winner for a Yikes! recipe.

    When Eliza was little, the Sneaky Chef-type recipes were popular, so I created my own version – cupcakes with cauliflower, which is such a mild flavor it’s easy to sneak in pretty much anywhere. We had a blast bringing them to school, watching the kids devour them, and then saying, guess what you just ate? Oh, the screams from the kids when they realized they’d unintentionally digested a vegetable, lol.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. LOL, Ellen! For dinner one night when my kids were little I made veggie burgers and mashed cauliflower. Without missing a beat, my youngest said, “Great. Fauxtatoes and prime fib.” Still makes me laugh.

      For the record, those cupcakes are NOT in recipe form. Purely fictional because, as you say … BLECCH! Can you imagine?? Cumin cupcakes with BLUE mushroom soup frosting?? I’m just glad my editor didn’t want me to create that one!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m not so sure about that cupcake recipe either. Also, I’m semi-intrigued but also uncertain about that Funfetti casserole. (I keep thinking it’s supposed to be savory and not sweet.)

    Anyway, Georgeanne is an amazing character! I don’t think I could pull off these wild recipes. If I threw together stuff from my fridge and made it for my family…well, I think we’d end up having take-out.

    Congrats on your latest book, Becky!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. But by Funfetti you mean the little sugar pieces that come in a packet with the birthday cake flavor cake mix, right? I used to tuck those packets into my kids’ lunchboxes (not kidding). My son got the dino shaped ones.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always hated food snobs and I will eat (or at least try) most anything someone cooks, so I think all of these recipes you mention (with the exception of the cupcakes–they seemed fine until you got to the mushroom soup) sound fun and even tasty!

    Your funfetti casserole sounds especially delicious and, coincidentally, I made Brussels sprouts with bacon and maple syrup last night for dinner!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, that’s really the only way to eat Brussels sprouts, as far as I’m concerned! I’m with you about tasting everything. I’m a very adventurous eater as well. If it’s weird, I wanna try it! I was so disappointed when we were in Iceland I couldn’t find a plate with all their unusual regional foods. Puffin, horse, and this really nasty sounding fermented shark dealy. And fried crickets is on my list too. Some day ….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Like you, Vickie, I’ve spend my life avoiding Brussels sprouts like it was my job! But also in my cookbook I had a recipe called “Brussels Spouts That Don’t Make You Say Ewww.” Cut them in half and zap in microwave for 5 min or so. Add butter, syrup, and pepper and toss until butter melts. It made me change my mind about them. But next time I’ll be sure to add bacon too!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Fun post, Becky! Let’s have a Chicks’ potluck. You bring the Funfetti casserole and I’ll bring the fauxtatoes! We’re on Keto currently and I’ve become well-acquainted with cauliflower in all it’s many guises.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And Leslie can bring the Brussels sprouts, Liz can bring the Tomato Soup cake, Ellen can bring cauliflower cupcakes (cream of mushroom soup frosting optional), and Cynthia can bring her world famous soup! We’ll ask Jen to keep her finger on the pizza delivery app, just in case.

      Like

  6. I need Comfort Squares. Immediately. I’m also veeeeeeeeeery intrigued by Funfetti Casserole.

    I used to make dump cakes. It involved, well, dumping ingredients into a 9×11 pan, swirling them around and baking. Just my style.

    Love Vickie’s idea for a potluck. And I love the backstory to your unintentional culinary cozy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not a carb craver, but there’s something quite delightful about leftover mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese encased in pie crust, warm from the oven. Comforting indeed! And go ahead and brush melted butter over the top. I won’t tell.

      I love the ease of dump cakes too. If a recipe has too many ingredients or makes me use too many pans—especially without giving me a good reason—then it doesn’t deserve my attention. So there.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. BECKY,
    I remember the Comfort Squares…I thought some of those ingredient combos were hilariously awful! And a definite NO to the cumin cupcakes, ugh. Sorry Georgeanne!

    But the funfetti cake and black bean brownies actually sounds edible or even tasty, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

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