Monday, April 2, 2018

New Cozy Mystery Short Stories Every Month on Patreon!

Hi, Readers!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter! I wanted to let you know that I just launched a page on Patreon, where I’ll be publishing stories every month from Christmas River and my other series! 



If you haven’t heard of Patreon, it’s a website/platform where people are able to support their favorite creators for a small monthly fee, and in return, they get extra content and behind-the-scenes access they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Recently, many authors have joined this site to better keep in touch with their readers and to offer bonus stories and excerpts from upcoming books. I decided to start up my own page where every month, I’ll be publishing a new short cozy mystery (most will come from the world of Christmas River) along with an original recipe to go along with it. I really view it as a short story subscription and have built my page with that in mind. 

You can join my PAGE (called Meg's Cozy Lodge) today for as little as $1 a month and get access to these new cozy mystery stories. There are also higher tiers, where you get more extras, like cozy artwork made by me, additional stories, and book excerpts from upcoming books.

Also, if you join and then decide at anytime that you’d like to unsubscribe, you can without any further obligations. 

And just so you know, this will not affect my regular cozy mystery novel publishing schedule. Mistake in Christmas River: Book 11 is still coming out in late spring. This Patreon page is really just a fun cozy side for readers who are looking for more uplifting, feel-good stories.

There’s plenty of information about it on my page and I hope that you’ll take a look! This is a great way to get more Christmas River in between books. And personally, I really can’t wait to share these new short stories with you guys!

Thanks so much for your support, readers!

Best,
Meg

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Meg's Magic Cherry Pie

Hi, Readers!

If you came here by way of my newsletter, then you know the story behind this pie. But if you didn't, let’s just say that since I’ve been baking pies, I’ve had trouble when it comes to making a basic cherry pie. I can’t explain why, but every time I make it, something goes wrong. But I’m happy to report that a few weeks ago I finally, finally broke the curse and made an amazing cherry pie. So in honor of Pi Day, I thought that I would share it here.

I hope you enjoy!
Magic Cherry Pie



Crust
(This recipe makes enough for a double crust pie, but you can halve it if you plan to use the crumble topping recipe (see below) instead -- which I highly recommend!)

2 ½ cups flour (plus more for rolling)
3/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
8 tbsp Crisco vegetable shortening
½ cup of ice water

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter and vegetable shortening with a pastry cutter until mixture is pebbly (avoid touching the dough with hands as much as possible so that the butter doesn’t melt.) Add ice water, and combine into two dough rounds. If it's too crumbly, add a little more water. Wrap rounds in plastic and place in freezer for at least an hour.

Remove rounds (or a single round if you plan to make the crumble topping) and roll out into a flat disk on a floured surface. Transfer to a pie dish, and press the dough along the edges with the back of a fork. Puncture dough with fork several times (so it can breathe during cooking) then let pie dish chill in the freezer again for about 15 minutes. (I have found that the often times, the freezer is the secret ingredient to getting the perfect pie crust!)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove pie dish from freezer and place on a baking sheet. Let sit for five minutes at room temperature, then bake the crust for 10 minutes in the oven. (This is to ensure that the bottom crust doesn’t get soggy when the filling is added.)

Meanwhile…

Cherry Filling
1 ½ pounds of dark cherries, frozen, pitted
¾ cup to 1 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is)
½ tsp of cinnamon (of course!)
⅓ tsp of salt 
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp cornstarch

Chop cherries into quarters (I find that frozen cherries you find in the grocery store freezer section can be giant, and this makes it so there aren’t big gobs in your pie. Cutting them up also makes it so you can inspect the frozen cherries for pits. Even though the bags of frozen cherries say they’re pitted, I have occasionally come across pits in these bags, so this is a good way to make sure nothing bad ends up in your pie!) Add sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon juice, flour, and cornstarch to cherries. Mix well, and taste. Add more sugar or more lemon depending on the sweet/sour ratio. Place bowl of mixture in the freezer while you prepare the crumble topping so that it doesn’t melt and get soupy.


Crumble Topping 
(Optional -- you could use the second dough round to roll out a top-crust if you like and it will still be delicious, but this crumble topping is super decadent and tasty!)

½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup flour 
1 ½ cups of oats
8 tbsp butter, cut into pieces

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Add all ingredients together in a medium bowl, cutting the butter in with a fork or your hands until the mixture becomes pebbly.

Remove cherry filling from freezer and place in the blind baked pie dish crust. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the filling.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for another 40 minutes or so, checking occasionally.

Remove from oven when crumble topping is golden and bubbly. Let cool for several hours. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!



Have a magical Pi Day!

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!!