Guest Debra Goldstein, plus #giveaway

Edith/Maddie here, so happy to have Debra Goldstein back on the blog. Her new mystery, Three Treats Too Many, comes out next week, and it’s a treat to read!

For someone whose greatest culinary skill is ordering takeout, Sarah Blair never expected to be co-owner of a restaurant. But while Sarah and her twin sister, Chef Emily, are tangled up in red tape waiting for the building inspector to get around to them, an attention-stealing new establishment—run by none other than Sarah’s late ex-husband’s mistress, Jane—is having its grand opening across the street.  Jane’s new sous chef, Riley Miller, is the talk of Wheaton with her delicious vegan specialties. When Riley is found dead outside the restaurant with Sarah’s friend, Jacob, kneeling over her, the former line cook—whose infatuation with Riley was no secret—becomes the prime suspect. Now Sarah must turn up the heat on the real culprit, who has no reservations about committing cold-blooded murder . . . Includes quick and easy recipes!

Take it away, Debra!

Includes quick and easy recipes!

Let me begin by stressing the last sentence of the blurb: “Includes quick and easy recipes!” This sentence is there because my publisher and those of many cozy mysteries require recipes. If I could leave them out, I would. As it is, I include fewer than many cozy writers.

Why? Because like my protagonist, Sarah Blair, being in the kitchen petrifies me. It is far easier to heat up an already prepared packaged food or pick up take-out or curbside service than it is for me to cook. But I didn’t have a choice if the Sarah Blair series was going to see daylight. Not only did each book have to have recipes, they had to work.

In the first book in the series, One Taste Too Many, I combined quick and easy, humor, and research, to come up with two of my favorite recipes: Jell-O in a Can and Spinach Pie made with Stouffers Spinach Souffle

Staying within the confines of Sarah’s cooking abilities, I included Sarah’s Sweet Potato Puffs the Convenient Way in Silver Falchion Finalist Two Bites Too Many, but I gave more page space to recipes for a Classic Wine Spritzer and the Howellian Catnip.

Writing Three Treats Too Many, I began feeling guilty about leaving out recipes from some of the other characters. Sarah may find being in the kitchen more frightening than murder, but her twin, Emily, is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, Sarah’s nemesis, Jane, professes to be a professional cook, and Jane’s sous chef, Riley, specializes in vegan recipes. Consequently, to assuage my guilt that recipes illustrating their talents didn’t come to me naturally, I did my homework and included quick and easy recipes each of them might make. For Jane, the recipe is Jane’s Chilled Zucchini Soup; Emily is represented by Emily’s Lasagna Casserole; and Riley’s recipe is Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins.

Don’t worry, though. There is one recipe tailored to Sarah’s abilities: E’s Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup. All a cook of convenience like Sarah or me need to make the soup are a Crock-pot, a bag of cut butternut squash, one box of vegetable stock, a can of coconut soup, and an onion, apple, and red pepper. For a chance to read the entire recipe by winning a copy of Three Treats Too Many, leave a comment.

Readers: Are you are a cook of convenience or a master chef (new easy recipes are also welcome)?

Judge Debra H. Goldstein authors Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series, including recently published Three Treats Too Many, 2020 Silver Falchion finalist Two Bites Too Many, and January 2019 Woman’s World Book of the Week One Taste Too Many. Debra also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories have been chosen as Agatha, Anthony, and Derringer finalists. Find out more about Debra at .

56 Thoughts

  1. I wondered if you were a master chef! Jell-o in a can is wonderful and reminds me of things my mom (who was a gourmet cook) used to put together for me and that I still make as comfort food.

    Since my husband has developed a sensitivity to salt, I’ve had to set aside convenience cooking for the real deal, but all shortcuts are gratefully accepted and I’m in love with anything that says slow cooker or five ingredients!

    1. Maya Corrigan has a series that is all recipes of Five Ingredients or less … I’m not a cook and much as I like prepared meals, I’ve been trying to make healthy things during the pandemic. Most everything is low in salt as I’ve never been one to use much in the way of salt or seasonings — think very bland, which is why Joel probably always wanted to eat out.

  2. Survival Crockpot Recipe: Canned vegetable, canned protein, pasta or rice, canned soup, water.
    Layer the ingredients about a half a can at a time with the pasta/rice and add from 1/2 to 1 cup water to about an inch below lid of crockpot.
    Low will take several hours, high about one hour.

  3. Congratulations on the new book Debra!

    While I love mystery series centered around food themes and used to watch a lot of stuff on the Food Network, I am AT BEST a cook of convenience. And most of the time, even using that description for myself is being overly generous.

    1. Appreciate the congrats… You know, it is funny, I read cozies and love to watch food competition shows like Chopped and Top Chef, but I think being honest, it is the competition that I enjoy.

  4. Convenience for me. Due to disability I can’t stand for long so have to prepare things that are fast and easy. My husband does most of the cooking unless there is something that I want to try or he has to go out of town. I do try some of the recipes in some of the cozies I have read. Thank you for this chance!! pgenest57(at)aol(dot)com

    1. That’s one of the beautiful things about most of the recipes I’ve been finding – They don’t require a lot of time so there is limited standing and most have few ingredients so they can be prepared while sitting. Have a good day!

  5. I’m definitely a cook of convenience. That Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup recipe has me intrigued though. I love squash, and this sounds like a recipe even I could cook. Congrats on the new book!

  6. Huge congratulations on the new release, Debra! Sarah is great and it’s wonderful to have her back again.
    I’m very much a cook of convenience, which is probably the main reason recipes don’t appear in my books. lol

    1. I’m jealous that you get away without having recipes, but I love your Allie character and i can understand that her profession might not be anywhere near the kitchen. Thanks for the congrats!

  7. Congratulations on the upcoming release of “Three Treats Too Many” Most definitely on my TBR list and can’t wati for the opportunity to read it.
    Although it has a few ingredients, the Apple Magic Dessert is more of a dump and go type recipe making it super easy.

    Apple Magic Dessert
    Cooking spray
    2 1/4 cup apple pie filling
    1/4 cup caramel sauce
    1 Betty Crocker Super Moist Golden Cake Mix
    1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
    1 tsp apple spice
    1 cup butter, cold, divided
    whipped cream, for garnish, if desired
    Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
    Spread apple pie filling on the bottom of baking pan. Pour caramel sauce evenly over top.
    In a large mixing bowl, stir together cake mix, apple pie spice and walnuts. Add in 1/2 cup butter and stir until crumbly. Pour mixture on top of apple pie filling.
    Slice remaining butter into 1 inch long pieces. Place evenly on top of mixture.
    Bake for 1 hour or until top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top of each piece if desired.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of your amazing new book!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  8. When my kids were little, I was all about convenience. Now that they are older, and it’s often just me and the husband (and as of Friday, when The Boy goes off to college, it’ll be the two of us full time), I can take a little more time with dinner. But there are nights when you just can’t beat take-out!

    1. Let me hear from you in about six months, after the pandemic calms (I hope) and empty nest syndrome has passed — bet convenience and ease will be the rule of thumb. Thanks for stopping by…

    1. Thanks.. Hope we get to sit next to each other again at something in the future… and if the chicken marsala is that good, I’d love you to send me the recipe.

  9. Hi Deborah–As you know, exactly like you, if I didn’t have to put recipes in my Maine Clambake Mysteries, I would leave them out. My original proposal for the series didn’t contain recipes until my agent caught me out. I was, when my kids were at home, a cook of convenience, and now I never cook at all, except for a few family favorites on demand. The situation is further complicated by the format of the Snowden Family Clambake, which serves the same meal to every customer every day. Fortunately, my husband is a great cook and he’s been contributing the recipes, which focus on local and seasonal. I figure out the occasion and the participants and he figures out what they would cook and eat.

    1. Would you like to loan him to me? The books are fun to write… coming up with edible (and now amusing) recipes is my torment. At least I can have the meals come from different settings and people. Having read your blog, hope you are feeling better…

  10. Hi, Deborah, I guess I’d describe myself as a hybrid cook–sometimes I go for convenience, other times, for complicated, depending on what my life is like at the moment. Right now, because of the pandemic, I lean toward convenience, because I can’t run out to buy all the ingredients some of the more complicated recipes call for. I’m also influenced by what I have growing in my vegetable garden in the summer. I’ve probably tried every zucchini recipe under the sun. This summer it’s cucumbers, which I’ve never grown before, and probably never will again, though I do enjoy a cucumber every now and then. When my son and his girlfriend became vegetarians, this impacted my cooking in a big way, and I found myself trying more complicated recipes, but now that we no longer have meals together, again because of the pandemic, I’ve lapsed back into convenience cooking. So it goes . . .It’s refreshing to hear from a cozy author who balked at including recipes.

    1. It wasn’t so much a balk as a genuine fear of providing recipes people would enjoy. Your garden sounds lovely. Tomatoes to go with the cucumbers?

  11. The pandemic has encouraged my husband and me to cook even more. We have been baking our own bread using our bread machine that had been collecting dust in the pantry and making most all of our meals from scratch. The caveat here is that we like EASY recipes and have found some good ones from cookbooks I like to collect and “read” and from online sources. This is our favorite really easy dessert:
    Crazy Quilt Pie from Gooseberry Patch Christmas Pantry Cookbook 2000
    2 Cups milk
    4 eggs
    1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
    1Cup flaked coconut
    1 Cup sugar
    1 stick butter, softened
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Place all ingredients into a blender. Turn the blender on medium speed and count to ten. Pour into a 9 inch deep dish pie pan. During the baking process the flour drops to form the crust and the remaining ingredients form the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.This is like a custard pie and if you don’t like coconut, you could probably leave that out and just have a custard pie…but we have not tried that to tell you that it works. Keeps in the refrigerator for one week if it lasts that long at your house.

    PS Your series sounds like a good one! Good luck with the newest book.

    1. Thank you for the recipe and your good wishes. I hope you try one of my books — the second one, Two Bites Too Many, will be on special from August 21-24 for only $.99 in its ebook format. Of course, I’m partial now to Three Treats Too Many which debuts on August 25.

  12. I’m in assisted living so no longer cook but enjoy reading recipes if they include ingredients that I like! Your book sounds like it’ll be a real treat to read.

    1. The goal of my books is to include recipes that are fun and that fit in with the characters who they are attributed to — but you can bet anything Sarah makes is going to be easy and might even be funny.

  13. I found while I worked, I was a cook of convenience with an occasional from scratch meal. We are trying to keep salt to a minimum so I now cook many meals from scratch. This book sound wonderful & looking forward to seeing the butternut soup recipe.

    1. Hope you enjoy that recipe and some of the other vegan ones. This book brings a mixed bag of recipes. When I worked, convenience was often the name of the game – especially with family members going in all directions.

  14. I love all of your Sarah Blair mysteries covers, especially this one. I enjoy cooking, but am gravitating more and more toward more simple recipes. If a recipe calls for 30 minutes or more prep time, it isn’t for me anymore. I have recently started roasting vegetables using different spice combinations I order from World Spice Market that have been a lot of fun and delicious. Congratulations on your new book!

    1. I like the idea of roasted vegetables. Sarah may have to look at that in the near future. When it comes to 30 minutes or more prep time, I’ve avoided those for years.

  15. I’m in the middle. Sometimes, convenience cooking is ideal especially on a very hot day (we’re having triple digits; more than two weeks according to forecasts). I do like cooking from scratch most of the time, but I appreciate recipes that don’t have a lot of ingredients. I enjoy reading cookbooks and the recipes. When I don’t feel like spending time cooking, I will make sandwiches. Egg salad is a favorite of my husband.

    1. I’ve been more imaginative since we’ve been sticking close to home. Whew, two weeks of triple digits! I’m a dish rag after high double digits (which is where we are) so I can imagine you not wanting to be in a hot kitchen. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. Somewhere in-between the two. When I’m in a hurry, I’ll pick up cut vegetable from the salad bar and a protein for a quick stir fry.

    1. Funny, I bought a wok about eight years ago, but I neve think of stir fry. I sometimes make something similar in a large fryer/pot I have but usually it is a kit like thing (vegetables and protein and sauce that I’m dumping in to heat).

  17. Although I’m no master chef, I do enjoy trying some complicated recipes. But with some of the limits lately on products, I’m turning into a cook of convenience. LOL

  18. I like easy and fast recipes. I don’t cook as much as I used to. I’ve gotten really good at grilled cheese sandwiches.

    1. LOL… we went through about two weeks of grilled cheese sandwiches (once I learned how to make them), but now it isn’t top on our list. We seem to be eating in cycles.

  19. I really am a good cook, but I don’t enjoy it all. Thus, convenient, easy foods are what we mostly live on. Fortunately, my husband is extremely easy to cook for. Take out is great, but we used to eat out a lot, so now I fix more meals, but they are mostly just putting things together without the help of a recipe.

    I love cozies that involve food, but only once fixed any of the recipes – for a book club meeting. Keep writing them and I’ll keep reading. Look forward to book #3.

    1. We’re the same way. We tended to eat out, but now are cooking home more. I rarely make the recipes in the books I read, but I enjoy glancing at them.

  20. I’m a pretty good cook (just an ok baker.) But with my chronic pain and fatigue from several chronic illnesses, I never know how I’m going to feel. So I keep my freezer and pantry full of things I can make pretty easily without much notice if I’m feeling decent or total convenience foods (that I try to stay away from) if I’m not up to really cooking. My best helper in the kitchen—I use a cute stool to do the majority of things, and I’m not ashamed of it. It saves some pain and energy when possible.

    1. Sounds like you have figured out how to balance things to make the kitchen work for you no matter how you are feeling. Thanks for stopping by today.

  21. I am an eater not a baker or a cook! But I do love good cozy mystery series like yours!

  22. Not everyone is cut out to cook/bake, nor to love doing it. I’m the oldest of 6 kids, so when I was little we ate a lot of spaghetti, our homemade sauce was tomatoes, onions, garlic sauteed in butter until near translucent, then water added & seasoned to taste. We also had a lot of My grandmother taught me how to cook & bake, so in my adult life I have always cooked/baked mostly all from scratch. Now 3 of my 4 grown kids can cook/bake from scratch, 1 loves it all the time & baking is her livelihood, 1 likes doing it on the weekends, 1 does it if he has to, 1 wants someone else to cook for her! I love crock-pot cooking!!!! Throw it all in and walk away! Dump dinners are easy & tastes good too. Congratulations on your new book, I am looking forward to it.

  23. My husband does the cooking and I do the baking. I also do the clean up most of the time. I love recipes and do read alot of cozy mysteries that include them like Cleo Coyle, etc.

  24. I make simple things. I’m definitely no Master Chef. If a recipe has too many ingredients I don’t even try.

  25. I am definitely a cook of convenience. Whatever is easiest and better if someone else will cook for me.

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