Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cinnamon's Chocolate Hazelnut Pie

This is not a pretty pie.

This pie is messy. The buttery crust slumps down when cooking. The edges are prone to burning. And basically, when it gets on the plate, it isn't exactly the thing that will impress your friends and neighbors.

Until they taste it, that is.

This pie packs a wallop of hazelnut flavor, is absolutely delicious, and is easy to make. And while the crust tends to be a little tricky to work with, you won't mind once you start eating it.

It's not the prettiest pie in the world, but there's more to life than looks :)


Chocolate Hazelnut Pie



Crust
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup of flour

Toast hazelnuts in frying pan over medium heat until they start browning and becoming fragrant -- about 5 minutes (this part is important because the hazelnuts that come in the pre-packaged baking aisle usually aren't very flavorful unless toasted.) Be sure to keep a close eye on them because they can burn easily. 

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Soften butter in microwave (be sure not to melt completely). In a medium bowl, mix butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add flour until just mixed, then add the hazelnuts. Combine until you can bring mixture together into a ball. Press dough into a tart pan or shallow pie dish and form a crust. Place crust in freezer for about 20 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes at room temperature, then bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, covering the edges with foil if need be. The crust will be ready when it has a nice toasty shade to it. When done, let cool for half an hour.

Filling
1 13-oz jar of Nutella (or any hazelnut chocolate spread)
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
5 oz of Cool Whip (about 3/4 of tub), thawed

Spread about 1/3 cup of Nutella on pre-baked crust bottom. With a mixer, blend the remaining Nutella with the cream cheese. When well-combined, add in Cool Whip. Mix until blended, then pour filling into crust. Cover and chill in the fridge for about 2-3 hours. Serve with scoops of remaining Cool Whip. Enjoy!

Happy Pie Day!!


Sunday, December 17, 2017

5 Things to Know About the Christmas River Series (Updated!)


Dear Readers, 

Today, Mayhem in Christmas River is a featured free deal on BookBub! I figured I’d post this little entry for anybody who has just downloaded the free book and is looking for more information about the series. So without further ado, here’s Christmas River 101!

How many books are in the Christmas River series?



10 books, plus 1 novella. Chronologically, they are as follows:


Plus, The Christmas River Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-3, which includes the first three books in the series is available for only $6.99 and also includes recipes! You save over 35% by buying them all at once in this bundle. 

Also, recently added to Amazon is The Christmas River Mysteries Box Set: Books 4-6which features the next three books in the series, along with the standalone novella, Roasted in Christmas River. This is available for $8.99. You also save big with this deal as well! 

All of these books are available on Amazon as eBooks and on Audible, and all books are also part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Which means that if you're part of the program, you can read ALL of my books for free!

Additionally, if you're looking for recipes from the series, please sign up for the Meg Muldoon Mailing List! Mailing list subscribers receive a FREE recipe booklet with recipes straight from Cinnamon's kitchen! 


How would you describe this series?

The Christmas River Cozy Mystery series is cozy romance through and through, with a good helping of mystery and intrigue to boot. The books center around Cinnamon Peters, a pie baker who has seen her share of tough times, but despite that, remains kind, funny, and sharp as a whip. The mysteries are light, easy, and satisfying reads that will make you laugh out loud, but will also tug at your heartstrings. There's plenty of humor and heart throughout. Not to mention plenty of pooches! Ooh... and pie!  


Where is Christmas River? 


Christmas River is a small town in the Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon. Though it is fictional, Christmas River is based on the real-life quaint, cozy, western town of Sisters, Oregon. 

Are there more books planned for the series? 

Absolutely! Mistake in Christmas River, the 11th book in the series, is due out in Spring 2018. So stay tuned! 

Is Christmas River the only series you write? 


Currently, I write several different series. Please visit my Amazon page to see what other cozy mysteries I write! 

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! If you're interested in more cozy recipes and news, please join me on Facebook or join my mailing list


MM




Friday, October 27, 2017

The Haunted Nutcracker - A Christmas River Scary Story

Dear Readers,

Happy Halloween! Yesterday, I participated in Kathi Daley's Halloween Spooktacular where I shared a short scary story featuring characters from The Christmas River Cozy Mystery Series. I wanted to be sure to post that story here also in case you missed the event! So here it is, just in time for Halloween weekend. Enjoy!

The Haunted Nutcracker


Kara Billings didn’t remember much about her grandfather except that the old man was ornery and hardly said much except to complain about his sore hip.
But there was one thing that Kara’s grandfather said that stuck with her years after he passed away.
“In life, there are some doors you have to kick your way through, girly,” he’d said to her once. “And then there are others that are closed for a reason. Leave those be.”
At the time, Kara didn’t understand what her grandpa meant.
But now as she stood in the corner of her ornament store on a dark and dreary night in November, taking in fearful breaths and trying not to scream, Kara began to understand.

Some doors were indeed better left closed.
***

It had all started a week earlier at the estate sale.
Old Hattie Blaylock, Christmas River’s resident witch, had died of natural causes at her home just after Halloween. The old woman was a recluse and though nobody knew for sure whether she really was a witch, some locals in the quaint mountain town breathed easier when they heard that she had passed on.
One morning shortly after Hattie’s death, Kara was driving to work and saw a cardboard sign.
“HUGE ESTATE SALE! GREAT DEALS!”
Kara, the owner of Christmas River’s most popular ornament store, was never one to pass up a sale. She hooked a fast left, following the cardboard signs all the way to Hattie’s old house, where she found a surprisingly vast array of antique furniture scattered across the dead lawn.

***

Kara had been studying the 3-foot-tall nutcracker standing on a sideboard when she heard a voice.
“Oh, I see you found him.”
Kara looked back to see a stylish woman standing there with a clipboard.
“Beautiful, isn’t he? A classic example of German craftsmanship. It’s an original Gaunerei doll, you know.”
“Oh, really?” Kara said, not knowing what that was, but pretending like she did.
“Yes, absolutely. Hattie’s older brother brought it back from Germany after World War II. It’s a true antique.”
With each passing moment, Kara felt herself more and more transfixed by the wooden sculpture.
The nutcracker was dressed as a soldier and was elaborately painted in rich shades of maroon and gold. Though the passing years had left a layer of dirt on him, his teeth were still white and prominent, and his eyes were--
Kara knew it sounded silly. But she could have sworn that she saw a sadness in the nutcracker’s eyes.
“How much for him?”
The woman consulted her clipboard.
“$345.”
Kara felt her eyes bulge.
“Normally, that is,” the woman said with a slick smile. “But since you’re the first one at the sale today, I can give you a deal. How about $100?”
The next thing Kara knew, she was writing a check and gently placing the nutcracker in the trunk of her car.

***

“Don’t you just love him?”
Kara had positioned the nutcracker to stand at the entrance of her ornament shop and greet the customers. Already, people had started commenting about how great he looked.
“I wish I had one just like him for my pie shop,” Cinnamon said, gazing at the doll. “He could sure help with all those hazelnuts I have to crack for my pies.”
“The sales lady let me have him for a steal,” Kara said, taking a sip of her Pumpkin Maple Latte. “I think it must have been on account of all that witchy business. But personally, I don’t really believe that Hattie was a witch. I mean, not really.”
“Me neither,” Cinnamon said. “Hattie was just an elderly woman who kept to herself. I don’t believe the stories that people told about her.”
Cinnamon glanced at the time.
She wished she could have stayed longer, but she needed to get back to her pie shop. Locals and tourists alike would be wanting pumpkin pecan, cranberry cinnamon, and chocolate hazelnut pies for their November tables.
“I better get going,” Cinnamon said. “See you later, Kara?”
Cinnamon noticed that her best friend was staring at the nutcracker with a faraway look in her eyes.
“Kara?”
“Oh, sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “Yeah, see ya, Cin.”
Kara suddenly felt a little strange.

***

That night, Kara was carving a wooden dove ornament in the back room of her store when she thought she heard a strange noise coming from the front door.
At first, she thought it was just the wind. It had been awfully windy in Christmas River this November.
But then, she heard the strange noise again.
It sounded like a young boy crying.
Kara got up and walked into the display room. The lights from the many Christmas trees flickered, casting shadows on the walls.
She flipped on the lightswitch and scanned the room, looking for what could have made that strange sound.
Her eyes eventually fell on the nutcracker.
That was odd, she thought.
She could have sworn that she’d set the doll on the right side of the entryway. Not the left side. But there he was, standing where she hadn’t left him.
Kara shook her head.
She hadn’t had dinner yet and hunger was starting to make her see things.
She went over, moved the nutcracker to the right side of the door where he belonged, and then headed into the back room.
She reckoned it was time to go home and get some food and--
Kara stopped dead in her tracks as a loud wail echoed through the store.

Her blood turned to ice.

***

The same thing happened several nights in a row. And each time that Kara tried to find the source of the crying, the sound all but vanished. It left her feeling frightened and desperate.
She thought about getting rid of the nutcracker, but then remembered the money she’d forked over for it.
She couldn’t just throw an original Gaunerei nutcracker away like that.
By the third night, she’d had enough. She placed a few phone calls and the next day, a woman named Evelda Madison arrived at the ornament shop. Evelda was dressed in a long black lace gown and looked exactly how Kara imagined a real psychic would look.
When Evelda was done investigating the shop, the psychic told Kara of her findings.
“You are right about the nutcracker, Kara. It really is haunted.”
Kara felt a little nauseous as the psychic confirmed her worst fears.
“There’s a spirit of a young boy attached to the nutcracker,” Evelda continued. “The doll was his before it was taken away and sold during the war -- just like the estate saleswoman told you. The witch kept the boy’s spirit trapped in this doll, and that’s why he cries.”
Now Kara knew why the nutcracker’s eyes were so sad.
“How do we help him?” Kara asked.
The psychic handed her a small bottle of soil.
“Sprinkle this around him and say ‘you are free’ three times in a row tonight at midnight. This will allow the boy to cross over into the light.”
Kara took the soil, nodded thanks, and then handed the psychic a check for her hourly rate.

***

Kara waited that night in the shop, listening to the sound of the wind howl outside.
The rain had turned to ice and the trees had frozen right in place. Every time the wind blew, their branches groaned and creaked like a sinking ship.
When midnight rolled around, Kara went over to the nutcracker, sprinkled the soil around, and whispered “you are free” three times in a row.
When she finished, she felt the heavy energy of the shop lift.
She let out a sigh of relief, kneeling for a moment to look at the nutcracker. His mouth was hanging open, the way it always was, ready to crack a nut.
“You’re free now, little boy,” she said, putting a hand up to its cheek. “Go your way in peace--”
The nutcracker’s jaw sprang up suddenly without warning.
Then, the lights in the shop went out.
Kara screamed and ran out into the storm.

***

The Next Day…

Cinnamon placed the nutcracker in the display window of her shop. She stepped back to get a better look at him.
No. That wasn’t quite right either.
She’d been having trouble finding just the right place for the old nutcracker.
Maybe by the door, she thought.
She picked him up, and as she did, something floated down to the floor.
It was a golden, weathered sticker that said “Gaunerei, Made in Germany.”
She flipped the nutcracker upside down and was about to re-apply the sticker to its base when she noticed something else.
The sticker had been covering up another one.
The original sticker.
“Holiday Crafts Inc., Product of California, 2008.”
Cinnamon smiled sadly as she put two and two together.
Poor Kara had gotten swindled at the estate sale. Maybe that was why she’d given Cinnamon the nutcracker out of the blue that morning, saying she wanted nothing more to do with it. Kara probably didn’t want it after finding out it was a fake.
But it didn’t matter to Cinnamon whether the nutcracker was an original or not. He had character and spunk and would be a useful addition to her pie shop. She had noticed that his jaw was a little warped and could snap up without warning, but other than that, he did a good job cracking nuts.
Cinnamon set the nutcracker down by the front door and tossed the golden sticker in the trashcan. She backed away to get a good look at it.
Yes, she thought. Now that was the perfect place for him.
She dusted her hands off on her apron and headed back to the kitchen to finish making a batch of chocolate hazelnut pies.

Happy Halloween, Readers!! 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Autumn Apple Green Chile Pie

I bet I can guess what you're thinking right now -- Green chiles... in a pie? Did I read that right? Sounds weird.

But you'd be surprised at how delicious this pie actually is! 

I was lucky enough to live in New Mexico for two years, where warm fall days are filled with the magical smell of chiles roasting. When I lived in Oregon, I was oblivious to the cult of the green chilies and I didn't really like the peppers all that much. These days, I'm a convert and I can't get enough of them. Especially when autumn arrives and the days start turning chile. Haha. (Bad joke.) 

Anyway, I made this pie recently with chiles I picked up in Hatch (the chile capital of the world!) This was inspired by a recipe from the book The New Mexico Farm Table Cookbook. The chiles give the apples a tasty roasted flavor and just a hint of heat. If you can't find freshly-roasted chiles where you are, they are available at Trader Joe's in the frozen section or in cans at the grocery stores. Just be sure to taste the peppers beforehand to gauge their level of heat. Sometimes the labels (usually, mild, hot, and extra hot) are not accurate. 

This pie will also be featured in Meltdown in Christmas River (Book 10), which will finally be out this fall!

Apple Green Chili Pie
(makes one 12-inch pie)

For the Crust   

3 cups flour
9 tablespoons cold butter
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon of salt (or more, if you like your crust a little saltier)
½ cup of cold water

Mix flour and salt together. Cut butter and vegetable shortening into small pieces, then add to flour mixture. Cut butter and shortening into flour with a pastry cutter until mixture is pebbly. Add water a little at a time until it forms a dough. Split dough into two and roll into balls. Cover in plastic wrap and place in freezer for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and roll out one of the dough halves into a disc. Place and form into pie dish. Cut off excess edges and poke crust several times with a fork. Place back in freezer for 10 minutes, then place dish in heated oven for 10 minutes to pre-bake.


For the Filling


6 to 7 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons of mild roasted green chiles, chopped with most of seeds removed (adjust amount depending on heat of chiles.)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup of pecan pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 large egg
Vanilla ice cream (for serving)

Pre-heat oven to 375. Add the sliced apples and chopped green chiles to a large saucepan (test the chiles beforehand to gauge heat level -- if too spicy, reduce amount to only 2 tablespoons.) Saute over medium heat for about 12 minutes, adding a little water to pan if necessary, until apples are slightly tender. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes. Add flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and lemon juice to the apples and chiles, and stir until well combined. Pour mixture into pre-baked pie crust. Roll out second ball of dough and make a lattice topping over the filling, weaving strips of dough over and under each other. Beat egg in a small bowl and brush egg wash over lattice topping. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When bubbling, add the pecans. Toast about 4 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from heat. 

When pie is ready to serve, sprinkle slices with toasted pecans and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy! 



Happy Fall!! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Meg's Christmas in July Reading Deals!

Dear Readers,

I hope all of you have been having a wonderful July so far!! I love July for many reasons... it usually means vacation, it happens to be my birthday month, and it gives me an excuse to bring a little Christmas spirit into the middle of summer! I find the last part in particular quite fun (which shouldn't come as a surprise since I write about a town where it's Christmas year-round!) With some mid-year Christmas spirit in mind, I thought I'd compile a list of my Christmas books for those of you who might not have read my Christmas-themed books. Any of these would make a great Christmas in July read:

MURDER IN CHRISTMAS RIVER (A CHRISTMAS COZY MYSTERY) BOOK 1

The flagship of the 9-book Christmas River Cozy Mystery Series! When a Gingerbread Junction Competition judge ends up dead behind pie baker Cinnamon Peters' shop one snowy evening in December, Cinnamon discovers she has a lot more to worry about than gumdrops and frosting. Over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads!

$2.99 on Amazon through the end of the month!





MAYHEM IN CHRISTMAS RIVER (A CHRISTMAS COZY MYSTERY) BOOK 2

Book 2 in the Christmas River Cozy Mystery Series takes place in the summer, and makes for one explosive Christmas in July read! When a arsonist dressed up as Santa Claus starts burning down Christmas River businesses, Cinnamon Peters finds herself drawn into a mystery full of dark small town secrets.

$3.99 on Amazon!






THE SILENCE OF THE ELVES (A HOLLY HOPEWELL COZY MYSTERY) BOOK 1

The Devil Wears Prada meets the movie Elf in this cute and cozy Christmas read. When Mrs. Claus banishes elf Holly Hopewell to work in a department store in the small town of Mistletoe, Oregon, Holly finds that not all is as it seems in the small town. Especially when the hated department store owner turns up dead...

.99 cents on Amazon for only one week this July!!





MISCHIEF IN CHRISTMAS RIVER (A CHRISTMAS COZY MYSTERY) BOOK 5


Book 5 in the Christmas River Cozy Mystery series and a true fan favorite. When dogs start disappearing in Christmas River right before Christmas, Cinnamon Peters finds herself on the trail of a serial dog kidnapper. Fully of cozy Christmas spirit, this turned out to be one of my favorite books also!

$3.99 on Amazon!





THE CHRISTMAS RIVER COZY MYSTERIES BOX SET (BOOKS 1-3) PLUS RECIPES!

For the ultimate Christmas in July reading pack, Books 1 - 3 of the Christmas River series feature almost 600 pages of cozy Christmas magic! Includes delicious recipes straight from Cinnamon's kitchen!


$6.99 on Amazon for a limited time! (40% off retail price of buying the books individually!)




Hope you find some good books in there, readers! And if you do enjoy these books, reviews left on Amazon are very much appreciated by the author.

Additionally, look for Book 10 of The Christmas River Cozy Mystery Series -- Meltdown in Christmas River -- later this summer on Amazon!

Wishing you a very merry Christmas in July!!

MM

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ginger's Bewitching Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Happy June, Readers! 

With the recent release of Ginger of the West, I thought I would throw in a fun recipe that wasn't included in the book (but definitely belongs.) It's for a grilled cheese sandwich, and while that might not sound so luxurious to you, believe me -- this is the fanciest grilled cheese you'll ever try! It's something I imagine Ginger offers at her cafe to the many tourists who frequent it during the lunch hour on long summer days at the coast. 

Whenever I announce that I'm making this sandwich, people in my household tend to freak out (in a good way). Make sure to grill up lots of extras!


Bewitching Grilled Cheese Sandwich
 (Makes 8-plus sandwiches depending on size of bread slices)


2 small to medium shallots
5-6 tablespoons white wine (more may be necessary)
5 oz Gruyere
8 oz Brie
8 oz of white cheddar
¾ stick of butter
1 loaf of sliced sourdough bread
1 package of bacon
2 tomatoes, chopped

Peel and chop shallots. Melt ¼ stick of butter in frying pan. When butter is melted, add shallots to pan. Saute until golden brown and the house smells delicious (about 5 minutes or so) Remove from pan and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, remove the rinds of the various cheeses and chop the good parts into cubes. Add cheese cubes to food processor along with 5-6 tablespoons of wine. Blend until it becomes a paste (you may need to add more wine if it gets stuck processing.) Then add cooked shallots to paste. Blend again until shallots are fully incorporated. Set mixture aside. 

Cook bacon according to package. (For bacon that’s crispy and not hard on the teeth, I prefer baking it in the oven as opposed to frying it in a pan.) Drain cooked bacon on paper towels. Set aside. 

Lay out sourdough bread slices, buttering the outside of each slice with softened butter. Spread a healthy layer of the cheese mixture in the middle of the sandwich (the non-buttered sides should face inward), then top with bacon strips and tomatoes. When all sandwiches are assembled, begin frying them on a griddle, two at a time. Cook about two minutes on each side, until the outside is golden brown and the inside is gooey and melted. (Keep a close eye on them because they can burn fast!) Remove from griddle, cut in half, and serve with a glass of white wine.

Be prepared to make many more! 


This recipe is inspired by Ginger of the West: A Witches of Broomfield Bay Mystery, available on Amazon.com.