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?