I love to cook. So, it makes sense that one or more of my characters in my novels love to cook, also. Their recipes? Mine of course. And many of my recipes have been handed down from my mother and grandmother. In this blog, you’ll meet Victoria Elizabeth Marin, aka Vicki, the love interest in Gemini: The Sign Behind The Crime, who becomes Vicki Trenton, the wife of the protagonist, Dr. John Trenton. You’ll also meet Esther Trenton, John’s mom, who BTW, is also my mom. What was on Esther’s mind was on her tongue, in real life as my mom, and as John’s mom, on paper. You’ll read some excerpts from the first meal Vicki had cooked for John, and another how Esther deals with it. Even though Gemini is a psychological thriller showing dire circumstances, there is some comedic relief so the reader doesn’t get tired and overwhelmed.
Oh, and I write recipes very simply. I could never write in cookbook format.
From Vicki’s first dinner.
1. Squashed cauliflower: Simple. Easy. Delicious. I make it with broccoflower, a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. Simply wash and cut the vegetable into pieces. Steam it. Then with an old fashioned potato masher, smash it with butter. Do not add milk.
2. Almond crusted tilapia: Beat 2 eggs. In another bowl mix any Italian breadcrumbs and crushed almonds, not slivers. You can use a food processor to get them to a crumb consistency or a little more chunky. Coat the pieces of fish with egg, then the breadcrumb mixture. Do that twice if you’d like for a thicker crust. Coat a baking dish with a tiny amount of oil, not olive, and place the fish in the baking disk. Bake at 35o degrees for 20 min. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with lemon juice, optional.
3. Italian dressing for salad. Mix olive or avocado oil with balsamic vinegar. Add garlic, thyme, basil, oregano. Shake well.
4. Pumpkin muffins. OMG are these the best muffins you’ll ever eat. I didn’t mention it in the novel, nor the recipe, but if you find Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Muffin Mix, you’ve got it made. OK, so Vicki cheated. I’m letting the world know now.
From Vicki’s breakfast.
1. Oatmeal pancakes. They’re chewy, thick and heavy. 1 C raw oatmeal, 2 eggs, 1 C no salt, low fat cottage cheese, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix it all together, until all the ingredients are blended, but don’t overdo it. Let the mixture sit, so the oatmeal absorbs the liquids. Use a non stick pan. You can add oil if you’d like. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of milk to get the consistency you can manage. Heat oil in a frying pan, again, not olive. Drop the batter by spoonfuls into the pan until it spreads out to be pancake size. Brown on both sides. Serve with any syrup you’d like. Vicki would use fresh fruit.
If you think this is a strange way of recording recipes, it is, and let me explain why. I’m of Romanian descent. We usually do not use cookbooks. At least in my family, we didn’t. I’ve never seen my mother or any of my aunts use them. Cooking was done purely by smell and taste. My generation, my cousins and me use cookbooks.
With that being said, following is a recipe for roasted stuffed turkey for which my mother was renowned. This recipe was ‘Ronnie modified’ and will be in one of the meals in Scorpio. The cooking vessel is the pan in the banner of this blog. There was nothing like these black and white speckled pans for the most tender and juicy turkey you’ve ever eaten.
Turkey: A fresh turkey with a pop-up thermometer. Clean under cold water. Remove and discard insides. Into chunks, cut carrots, onions, mushroom, fresh garlic. As much as you think you need for the size of the bird. Put in pan. Sprinkle with garlic, paprika and curry (optional, but I love the curry). Add one to two cups spring water, or bottled, anything but faucet. (The one to the left, got a little overcooked because my company was late. But it was still delicious.)
For stuffing: Shred two carrots, finely chop one white onion, one half box mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until slightly brown, don’t burn. Remove from heat. My mother used Premium Saltine Crackers. I use the ones with the unsalted tops. Dampen two sleeves with water, more for a bigger bird. Smash the crackers with your fingers, put them into a bowl. Add two to three eggs, mix, add the sautéed veggies with oil from the pan. Some people like to add raisins and apples. That’s optional. Stuff the bird.
Topping of the bird: My mother only used granulated garlic and paprika. I add curry powder and sometimes smoked paprika. Coat generously. Put the bird into the roasting pan. Cover. Pre-heat oven to 400. Baste after about an hour. About 45 min. before being done, figure 20 min. per pound, remove the cover. Roast until thermometer pops.
Gravy: Simple. No Flour. Put the cooked veggies from the pan into a blender. You can remove the top layer of oil from the pan, if you’d like. Add very little of the pan dripping. Blend all the veggies. The gravy will be thick and delicious!
Two excerpts from Gemini
He laughed at her possessiveness, studying her every move, quite impressed with his wife to be. Vicki pulled a tray of oversized orange-brown pumpkin muffins with crispy tops out of the oven. The aroma filled the air with sweet cinnamon and nutmeg. She gingerly placed them on a matching platter and put them onto the table. She scooped mashed cauliflower and spaghetti squash from pots on the stove, and put them into a two-in-one sectioned serving stoneware, topping both of them with a pat of butter. Then the main course, a sizzling almond-crusted baked tilapia, came out of the oven.
“This is amazing. And you cooked all of this in an hour?”
“Yes, darlin.’ I love, love, love to cook.”
“Ah domesticated? I can get used to that.” He enjoyed the salad. “And this stoneware pattern, it’s nice.”
“I love everything to match. That’s why I need so much cabinet space. I extended the kitchen into here.” There were eight feet more of cabinets, top and bottom with a counter in the middle, extending one foot out from the wall right in the dining nook.
“I’d like this stoneware for my place. But in a different color,” he said, delving into a muffin. “Wow, these are amazing,” he moaned with delight. “Oh man! You can spoil me with dinners like this.”
“That’ll be my pleasure. What are the colors you’d want?”
“Black, gray, with yellow.”
“It does come in that.”
“Yes, darlin’ and if you’re a good boy, you’ll get this set for Christmas.”
Her eyes widened.
“Is that a problem?”
“Not at all. Jaimie’s Jewish. With your last name it didn’t sound…” She served him the fish and veggies. “It’s cauliflower, not potatoes.”
“Never had that before. My dad converted after he and my mom got married. Are the boys going to be bar Mitzvah?”
“I honestly don’t know. They do celebrate both holidays though. Does it matter to you that I’m not Jewish?”
“No, not at all. This is fabulous. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.”
He devoured everything on his plate. “I’m going to need to do twenty laps to burn this off.”
“No, you won’t. It’s low carb. But save room for dessert later.”
“Dessert has no calories but burns over three hundred an hour.”
She scowled at him. “You actually know the statistics?”
He hiked his eyebrows, winked, and shot her a wickedly sexy grin. “Yeah. So you do know the kind of dessert I’m talking about.”
John and Vicki carried in the trays to Esther and Sam’s house, to find his father standing in front of the immense refrigerator with the door open. Vicki took it all in with envy. It was a huge modern space with rich dark mahogany cabinets and a luxurious expensive brown-grained granite island in the galley style kitchen. There was every up to date appliance.
“Dad, what are you doing?”
“You didn’t want to go to the country club for dinner, so I’m trying to figure out what Mom should make.”
“Problem solved. Vicki made you dinner. Where’s Mom?”
Esther entered from another room. “What smells so good?”
“Vicki made you dinner, too. I’m going to get a suit and towel. We’re going to the pool.” John dashed into his master suite.
“Oh, how thoughtful, sweetheart. Thank you.”
His father set the table and Esther examined Vicki’s every move. Vicki positioned everything on the table carefully and removed the lids.
“Oh, my! This looks wonderful. You better not be as good a cook as I am.”
So that’s what John meant by fangs coming out. No, Esther darlin’, I’m definitely a better cook than y’all.
“Enjoy.” Vicki laughed at Esther’s comment as if she accepted it teasingly. She already knew she had his father where she wanted him, now she had to work on his mother.
John called her from the door. “Vicki, I’m ready.”
“I’m coming. Bye, see you soon.” She scooted off to John, but not fast enough.
“It’s a very nice salad.”
“Yes, it is and these biscuits are fabulous. Melt in your mouth delicious. Try one.” Sam urged.
She accepted begrudgingly. “Oh, my God. These are wonderful.” She tasted the cauliflower and squash. Then the fish. “This is very, very good. Okay, so she’s a balabusta. I’ll give her that. John needs someone who’s a fine homemaker too.”
Where you can purchase Gemini.
Oh, and before you leave, please look at my author central page where you can view my book trailer and see my upcoming appearances.
Please feel free to leave comments and questions. If you need anything clarified from my recipes, just ask. What is your favorite recipe that was passed down in your family? Care to share?
The Sign Behind The Crime,