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Five Favorite British Mystery Series (by Women Writers)

MYSTERY SERIES (1)

 

As you may realize by now, I start to hyperventilate if I don’t have something to read.  I feel aimless and lost, and I wander around the house  But I also know that not every book can be the latest tour-de-force that has taken the world by storm. That’s one reason I love mysteries. They’re usually relatively short, easy reads (for when tackling that 800 page monster just seems too daunting), they’re usually reasonably smart, and most importantly, they come in series. I’ve mentioned my love of series before. A series means that there’s always (often) another book to pick up, that you’re reasonably likely to enjoy reading, before you start on the hyperventilating. I’m always excited when I find a new mystery series I like, because it gives me backup books for days. Everyone knows about Agatha Christie (and if you haven’t, she wrote 80 books! That should keep you busy for quite some time), but here are five other great mystery series to check out.

(These all happen to be by women writers. I didn’t set out to make this one of those “women writers” list, but when I was jotting down my favorite mystery writers, I came up with a bunch of women writers. So there you have it.)

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Rhubarb Cheesecake

Rhubarb Cheesecake_txt

It’s springtime!  Which means rhubarb!   Which means #YARROSF (Yet another rhubarb recipe on The Domestic Front).  Do you think I can get that trending?  If you’ve been reading my blog for the past five years, you know I am a rhubarb apologist.  It’s not too tart, it’s not too weird, and no, I don’t want to mix it with strawberries.  I love the flavor of rhubarb and every spring around this time I want to get into the kitchen with those rosy stalks.

This spring I’ve been trying to cut a lot of carbs out of my diet (more on that later, if you’re interested), and so after thinking about some new ways to use rhubarb, I hit on rhubarb cheesecake.  Pairing rhubarb with creamy custard is classic, and the almond crust plays a nice crunchy counterpoint to the creamy filling.  What I especially love about this recipe is that it’s so versatile for this time of year – the rhubarb cheesecake would be a beautiful addition to your Easter table, or, given that it’s gluten- and grain-free,  a great Passover treat.  I’ve provided both the low-sugar version (I used a sugar substitute) and the full-sugar versions below.

The cake is great on its own, but serving it with the remaining rhubarb compote really punches up the springtime flavor.  Both of my kids were fans, and repeated words that were music to this rhubarb-loving mama’s ears:  “More rhubarb, please!”

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Baked Scotch Eggs

Baked Scotch Eggs TXT

When you are a working parent, each weekday can feel like a battle, and each working day, a war.  Mornings are especially chaotic – the opening shots are fired at 5:45 am, when the alarm goes off (better – at least I can drink a cup of coffee in peace) or the toddler goes off (No chance of snoozing with that one.)  From then on, it’s a full charge ahead – getting two children and two adults awake, dressed in some semblance of reasonable clothing, fed some semblance of breakfast, out the door with all the appropriate gear (lunches, snacks, permission slips, changes of clothes, diapers, two matching shoes, laptop computers and wallets) requires, skill, strategy, manpower, and a great deal of cunning. By the time I actually (drive to daycare, drop off toddler, get to work, park and then) settle into my desk, I feel like my quiet cup of tea is a truce before the workday really begins (and then the whole process must be rendered in reverse).

Weekends, therefore, must be dedicated, not to rest, relaxation, or socializing, but to TACTICAL PLANNING.  Meal planning and grocery shopping are crucial, but so is the Sunday cook up, whereby I stock the kitchen for the week ahead.  I roast a tray of veggies and another of chicken legs (great kid foods), boil a dozen eggs, chop up and wash salad.  If something happens on Sunday to derail the preparation, I know that the weekday war can quickly spin out of control.

Breakfast is a keystone to my strategy. I know my kids and I all do better if we eat a good, solid breakfast – something with protein, that will last us reasonably well until lunch. There’s no time for pancake flipping and omelet making on weekday mornings, but I will stash pancakes and french toast from the weekend in the freezer, for a quick run in the toaster oven.  My favorite weekday breakfasts are portable – there’s no guarantee that I will get a chance to actually eat something before that cup of tea at the desk, and the kids can eat SO SLOWLY that taking breakfast in the car is essential to avoiding the tardy bell.

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Pi Day Pie Round Up

Pi Day Collage

It’s Pi Day!  That happy day when bakers and nerds collide!  Fun facts about Pi:

1) Pi is a number with an infinite, nonrepeating number of decimal places.  The first few are 3.1415926535 (which is why, incidentally, March 14, or 3.14 is known as “Pi Day” amongst a small, geeky subset of the population.  And food bloggers.)

2)  The circumference of a circle is calculated by multiplying the radius (halfway across the circle) by 2 and pi (2*pi*r).  Coincidentally, pies are circles, and 2 pie are better than one!

3) The area of a circle is calculated by multiplying the radius by itself and pie, (pi*r squared).  However, we know that in reality, pie are round.  (Except for slab pies).

OK, enough with the corny pie pi jokes.  Pi is cool, and Pie is cool.  Below are a roundup of pies we’ve made at The Domestic Front.  Go bake a pie! It’s Pi Day!

 Fresh Fruit Pies

Plum Pie

Blueberry Corn Pie

Fresh Cranberry Marzipan Pie

Fresh Grape Pie

Peach Almond Slab Pie

Dried and Canned Fruit or Vegetable and Nut Pies

Maple Walnut Pie

Mince Pies

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

 Fried Dried-Apple Hand Pies

Cream Pies

Nesselrode Pie

Mini Key Lime Yogurt Pies

Spiced Cocoa Buttermilk Pie

Rice Pudding Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Savory Pies

Chicken Cobbler Pot Pie

Chicken Kale Pizza Pie

Corn and Tomato Pie

Supper Onion Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup and How to Add Flavor to Quick Soups

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup txt

When it comes to dinner, I’m an obsessive planner.  With a full time job and an hour commute and two kids, my dinnertime meals are regimented.  But lunch is more spur of the moment.  Not exactly an afterthought, but definitely more of a “What do I feel like eating today?” meal.  And sometimes what I feel like eating is soup.

And when I feel like eating soup, I don’t mean soup-three-hours-from-now-after-simmering-0n-the-stovetop, but soup within the next thirty minutes or so, like this Chicken Tortilla Soup.   It comes together quickly without sacrificing flavor. Without the long simmering, I’m looking for ways to add flavor fast.  Some of my favorite ways to add quick flavor to soups are:

  1. Use good broth.  You CAN make soup from water, but if you’re looking for a fast soup, a good broth is essential.  Making your own is great, but I also like the flavors of Trader Joe’s Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth (Not reduced sodium), and Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock (Reduced Sodium OK in this case).
  2. Use add-ins that add a lot of up front flavor.  A carrot will yield its secret over time, but if you’re looking for fast, you want to add ingredients that carry a lot of flavor from the start.  This Mexican-inspired soup uses salsa and chilies to add a big punch of flavor.
  3. Toppings!  Plain soup is just that – plain.  Toppings take the soup to a whole new level, like in this cauliflower soup recipe.   This Chicken Tortilla Soup gets tortillas, cheese, avocados, cilantro – the possibilities are endless.

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Speculoos-Dipped Strawberries

Biscoff Strawberries TXT

Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  Some of us dismiss it as a cheesy Hallmark holiday.  Some of us revel in the traditional chocolate and champagne.  Some are happy to celebrate their loved ones, some are unbearably lonely, and some are just plain angry.  Love does that to us.

I’m no expert, but as I get closer to middle age than youth, I can tell you this about love:  love is surprising.  Sometimes the beginning of love is surprising – it can come when you don’t expect it to.  And sometimes the end of love is (sadly) surprising.  But there are a lot of surprises in the middle, too.

The surprises can be good – a grand romantic gesture you never expected from your significant other – or great – the way your heart fills to bursting when a child enters your family, and then fills even more when another child comes along.  They can be bad – discovering that your spouse has been behaving in a way that you never would expect, that shocks and hurts you – or just sad – realizing your relationship isn’t where you thought it would be.

Don’t mean to go all Richard Curtis on you all – I can get a bit maudlin this time of year – but I hope you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with people you love – your spouse, your girlfriends, your children, your family, or your dog (because is there any purer love?  I don’t think so.)  And treat them to something a little surprising.

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Crispy Chinese Garlic Chicken Wings

Chinese Garlic Chicken Wings

I mentioned recently that I’ve been trying to cut out starches and sugars, and it has made a huge and positive impact on my energy levels. It’s pretty easy to eat regularly – lots of salads with homemade dressing (which I make anyway), lots of tasty meats, and cheese. But what is missing when you’re trying to clean up your eating is junk food.

I think junk food is an important part of every healthy diet. Eating should be enjoyable, and you should feel like you can cut loose from time to time or you’ll pick back up on your unhealthy habits. The key for me is to find food that feels indulgent or fun without including a lot of starches and sugars and kicking my cravings back into high gear.

Chicken wings are a great alternative – they’re food you eat with your fingers, with friends, while watching football. They feel like an indulgence, like fun food, but most recipes you see are battered and deep fried, or covered with sweet and gloppy sauces. I wanted to create a recipe for wings that still seemed like fun food – something you would eat while watching the Super Bowl – but still remained fairly healthy. These soy garlic chicken wings, inspired by one of my favorite dishes at a local Chinese takeout restaurant – do the trick.

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175* Recipes to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

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It’s three weeks into January.  How are your new year’s resolutions going?

I’m making a concerted effort to cut down on sweet and starchy things in my diet.  I know I have a crazy sweet tooth, and I’d love to get the best of that, so there have been lots of protein and vegetables in my life.  The good news is that, after a week or so, the sweet stuff seems a little less tempting. There are some days when I think I might kill someone for a brownie, though.

Chances are, you are reaching that point where everything doesn’t seem new and fresh any more, and you’re looking for some inspiration.  Well, you’ve come to the right place! Below is a list of The Domestic Front recipes that should provide some new resources and inspiration, whatever your resolution!
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Miso Pork Tenderloin with Apple Ginger Relish

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Ginger Relish

The holidays are over and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I love the lights and the cookies and the carols and the cocktails and the feasting as much as (or more than) anyone else, but I admit to welcoming the calm space of January, when a little austerity doesn’t go amiss. In the new year, we are all looking for food that’s a little lighter and fresher.

Lighter and fresher doesn’t have to be less flavorful, however. In the last year I’ve made a dedicated effort to cook more with fruits and vegetables, and I’ve been thrilled with the flavor and variety they’ve brought to my diet. That’s why I’m pleased to be partnering with Opal Apples and Kitchen Play to bring you this fresh and flavorful recipe for the New Year.

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Slice and Bake Buckwheat Chocolate Shortbread

BUckwheat cookies

I love the holiday season – I really do.   I keep a nested to do list on my phone to keep track of Christmas presents.  I drive out of my way to find houses with the best light displays.  And I bake a lot of cookies.   But there’s a point in the season (and this year, it’s right about … now) when the merrymaking starts to feel a little forced.   I consult my calendar, and it reads something like “Holiday Performance (school):  10 am.  Holiday Performance (after school program): 2 pm.  Coworker’s Party:  4 pm.  Family Movie Night:  7 pm. ”  It should be followed by “Mom falls asleep on the couch: 7:30 pm.  Kids get into Christmas candy dish and smear chocolate on said couch:  7:34 pm.”  I’m a little burnt out, and when every single event on that calendar asks that you bring “a homemade dessert to share!” I start to consider putting my head under a pillow until January.

Fortunately, there are Christmas cookies that come to the rescue.  These are not the decorated, iced, hand painted, seven layered sugar swirled confections that usually constitute Christmas cookies.  These are a little more … austere, when austerity provides a welcome counterpoint to the mad festivity.  (And don’t  suggest just forgoing cookies altogether, BLASPHEMER.  It is Christmas and there will be cookies.)  These are easy to make – the dough comes together seamlessly, the ingredients aren’t too difficult to track down, and the log sits happily in your refrigerator (or freezer), ready to be sliced and baked whenever the calendar demands it.
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