Vanilla Crackle

So I had a recipe on Gingerbread Wands which I thought would go perfect with Gingerbread Cookie Murder, but I lost the recipe and can’t make them.

So instead I will post a recipe from Joanne Fluke, but if you are interested in Gingerbread cookies, check this recipe out.

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Thoughts Prior to Cooking:

So the recipe comes from Apple Turnover Murder. This recipe intrigued me as it only had a few ingredients and seemed incredibly easy to make.

She calls it Vanilla Crack, but that has negative connotations so I changed the name.

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Ingredients:

  • Non-stick Cooking Spray or Butter
  • 1 Box of Soda Crackers ( I used saltines)
  • 2 Sticks of Salted Butter (1 Cup, 8 oz, 1/2 lb)
  • 1 Cup of White Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup of Salted Nuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Line a 10 by 15-inch cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray or rub with butter.
  3. Cover the pan completely with a single layer of crackers, salt side up. Set aside
  4. Preheat oven at 350° Fahrenheit.
  5. Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a heavy saucepan. Bring it to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Don’t stop stirring.
  7. Pour the mixture over the crackers as evenly as possible. Spread it about if needed.
  8. Sprinkle the nuts on top.
  9. Slide the pan into the oven for ten minutes.
  10. Remove pan from oven and let it cool. When they have thoroughly cooled, peel off foil, and break into pieces.

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VanillaCrackle

Thoughts After Cooking:

When I ate the first piece I thought they were okay. But then, I had to have another, and another, and another…you see why they are called crack. They are addicting! But there is no drugs in it, it is that toffee taste that is so good it destroys your self-control.

These were really good, and there is a chocolate version that I am eager to try.

For more Hannah Swensen recipes, go to Too Easy Hotdish

For more dessert, go to Cherry-Pistachio Tea Cakes

For more recipes, go to How to Make a London Fog

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Too Easy Hotdish

 

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Thoughts Prior to Cooking:

This recipe comes from the Hannah Swenson Mystery Apple Turnover Murder.

Hannah makes this dish for her boyfriend and sheriff deputy, Mike. Now before reading this book I had never heard of a hotdish, other than a hot dish, as in a dish that is hot. Apparently they are big in the Midwest and Northwest, but me being from California we don’t eat “hotdishes”, we eat casseroles. But I was willing to give it a try as to how they described it in the book made it sound extremely tasty.

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Ingredients:

  • Non-stick Cooking Spray or Butter
  • 1 and 1/2 lbs of Lean Ground Meat (such as hamburger, pork, chicken, turkey, sausage, etc. Make sure it is lean as the fat does not drain out of this dish)
  • 2 -12oz Cans of Cream of anything
  • 1 lb Package of Tater Tots
  • 1 Cup of Shredded Cheese (Be sure to use only one cup as too much can become an insulator and keep the bottom layers from cooking.)
  • Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° fahrenheit.
  2. Use the cooking spray or butter to coat a 9 by 13-inch pan.
  3. Put the ground meat in the bottom of the pan, spreading it as evenly as you can. Press it down with your hands or the back of a spatula.
  4. Spoon the two cans of cream-of-something on top of the meat. Make sure to spread it out as evenly as possible.
  5. Put the tater tots on top of the soup in a single layer. Spread them out as evenly as possible.
  6. Sprinkle on the shredded cheese.
  7. Do not cover your hotdish with anything. Slip the pan into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tater tots are browned and crispy.

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Thoughts After Cooking:

In a way this particular hotdish is like the poor man’s Shepherd’s pie. Instead of mashed potatoes, tater tots, and instead of gravy, cream of something. I am not a fan of Shepherd pie at all, I can hardly eat it, but I did enjoy this Hotdish.

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The only thing that I thought was wrong with this dish was that it was rather plain in seasoning. I recommend using the Cream of Chicken and Herb, as the herbs really helped along with adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

It was very easy to prepare and I recommend it for those of you who’s hours are crunched (working moms and college students) and need a fast dish to make and make quickly.

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I didn’t include a picture as it doesn’t photograph well, but do not let it’s looks deter you. It does taste great.

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For more Hannah Swenson recipes, go to Christmas Cheese Rounds

For more cassaroles, go to Ratatouille

Apple Turnover Murder

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Apple Turnover Murder (A Hannah Swenson Mystery #13) by Joanne Fluke

I finally get to post this book. This was the first book I read in the Hannah Swenson series, so my views might have changed since then. It was was the first review I ever wrote, and has just been sitting in the wings until I had caught up with the rest of the series.

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Poor little review

So let’s see if the review will stay the way it is, or my having read the previous books & rereading it, will alter it.

Read it today!

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Plot Synopsis:

So Carrie has just been married and Norman is leaving for a dentist conference, his cat, Cuddles, will be staying with Hannah. Hannah settles in for quiet times, but of course whenever we think of all will be well, that is when the shizz hits the fan.

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Mayor Buscombe’s wife, Stephanie, stops by Hannah’s cafe, The Cookie Jar, and asks for cookies for the charity event she is in charge of.

Hannah is shocked that they would ask her for such a large order, that close to the event, and for cookies that take a lot of time to prepare.

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However, Lisa suggests apple turnovers which Stephanie heartily agrees to. However, Hannah has no clue how make one!

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Lisa assures Hannah that her mother-in-law has an old family recipe they can use and all will be well.

It can't be that easy, can it?

It can’t be that easy, can it?

So Hannah starts to feel good about the charity event. She is especially excited for the brother sister dance team who will perform. The two grew up in foster homes and have a great talent. Sadly, the sister seems to be getting sick.

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But they hope that she will be well by the time the curtain rises.

Everything seems to be working out…that it until Lisa’s husband, Herb, asks Hannah for a favor. Herb has an amateur magic act, of which Hannah has assisted him in before. He asks her if she will be willing to do it again, as Lisa is claustrophobic and can’t do all the tricks. Hannah doesn’t want to, but agrees.

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To make things worse, Hannah has to once again wear the purple nightmare that clashes with her red hair. Otherwise known as her costume.

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At rehearsal, Hannah encounters Professor Bradford Ramsey. Bradford Ramsey was the professor that Hannah was studying under when she attended college. He would write her special “love poems”, and spend hours with her. Only problem is, he forgot to mention he had a wife. Hannah has been lucky so far, as  Professor Bradford Ramsey hasn’t recognized her. That all changes tonight, as he finally put the pieces together and tries to get Hannah to become a Swenson sandwich, as he is also seeing her sister.

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Hannah is enraged at his behavior and tells him to leave her sister alone, and then goes off to get ready to perform. Everything is ready for the actual show, except one thing. No one can find Bradford Ramsey. Hannah spots him backstage asleep and yells for him to get moving. When he still won’t budge, she goes to shake him, knocking him over, and realizing he is dead.

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Yep, once again Hannah has discovered a dead body and is on the case. This won’t be an easy mystery to solve as Bradford had many mistresses and many enemies. The suspect list has many of the townspeople on it; including Hannah’s own sister Michelle!

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Adding to her troubles is that Norman has returned and is acting strangely; almost as if he doesn’t want to see her anymore…

Is it over for these two?

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Thoughts After Reading:

So I originally when I first read this I thought it was a cute mystery, but easily solvable.

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After the death of Bradford, I immediately knew who the killer was. I did not think this ruined the book though, as I found the characters charming and enjoyable.

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Now how do I feel?

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I couldn’t stand it. Hannah was always going on about this or that, her random lectures seem to be getting longer and longer in every book…

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They keep making Andrea stupid about little things, but smart about harder things. It reminds me of what he says in After the Thin Man:

Nick Charles: At 3:30 Anderson threw this note into my window. He was planning to use some of the information he had gotten…Dancer, how do you spell Topeka?

Dancer: None of your business

Nick Charles: This note is a poor attempt at illiteracy. The easy words are spelled wrong and the hard ones right…

That’s how I feel about Andrea. I her attempt to make Hannah smarter and Andrea dumber, she makes easy things “too hard” for her to do or understand; but she can grasp difficult things. I hate it, it’s annoying.

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And something else that really bothered me, was that the are going to make the apple turnovers, an “old family recipe”, but instead of making their own dough for the pastry they went with pre-made biscuit dough. I found that odd for an “old family recipe”.

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I mean even IF they were just “using” it to save time, why wouldn’t they include an alternate dough recipe?

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It was not very good. I’m not sure why it hooked me the first time.

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For more Hannah Swensen Mysteries, go to Plum Pudding Murder

For more book reviews, go to Paper Roses

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #1)

So this is the first book in the series but not the first I read. I was introduced to the Hannah Swenson Mysteries by Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #13)And I am glad I did because if I read this book first, I probably would have quit the series.

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Yeah this book was a clunker. I thought it was messy, the characters unrealistic, and the mystery too easy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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So the book starts off by introducing us to Hannah Swenson. Hannah is in her 30s and was studying English Lit at school. While she was in the midst of going for her masters, she has a bad experience at school and her father dies.

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She heads back to her small town, (Lake Eden, Minnesota) , to help her family out, starts a coffee and cookie shop, buys a condo, and adopts a huge orange cat. Things seem to be going good as she is building her business and life.

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Her only thorn? Her mother’s constant drive to marry her off. She is constantly setting her up with men, the latest being the son of her best friend, Norman Rhodes D.D.S. Hannah has barely met him but is rude and judgmental toward him. She thinks he is a loser because he is a dentist and therefore must be obsessed with teeth. And he is horribly ugly because he is balding. How rude Hannah. Like you’re such a prize with your constant judging and criticizing people.

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Besides just because he is a dentist doesn’t mean that’s all he thinks about. For real girl you need to give him credit that he is a person with actual thoughts and feelings rather than thinking he is the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

And it’s not like he wants to be balding or can control it. Jeez, girl! I’m sure he wishes he has a full head of hair too.

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Anyways, it’s an average day for Hannah. She’s heading over to open her store and passes Ron LaSalle, a deliverer for the local dairy farm. Ron LaSalle is a loyal customer buying a box of cookies every morning.

Hannah also runs into her friend Claire, the owner of the fancy boutique shop and Hannah’s next-door business neighbor. Claire convinces Hannah to come over and shop for a dress, but Hannah doesn’t want to wear one. She is one of those cliché characters that hates dressing up/doesn’t realize how pretty they are/don’t understand why women act they way they do/etc. I’m really tired of that character and wish authors would stop writing it and do something new.

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Andrea, Hannah’s sister, comes by and drops her daughter off with Hannah while she gets her hair done. Now this is where I have a huuuuuuuuuuge problem. Andrea’s daughter Tracey is great in the later books but in this one she is only four but conversing like a twelve year old! Now I’ve known a lot of four-year olds, and even the precocious ones DO NOT speak that well. I don’t think this author has been around real children if she writes her that focused and well-behaved.

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Anyways, so Tracey saw Ron outside in his car and thinks it is weird. Hannah assumes that Ron is having car trouble and goes out to check when she discovers that he is dead!

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And not just dead but:

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Ron was shot in the head.

Hannah’s brother-in-law, Andrea’s husband, is a deputy with the Sheriff’s department and is heading up the investigation. He gets Hannah’s statement, and while they are discussing what happened, Hannah realizes something important. Ron was behind schedule. This is really odd as Ron was a stickler for being on time.

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Bill then asks Hannah to help with the investigation, as he wants to solve the case and get promoted to detective.

Now here is where I have a huge problem again. There’s no way as a law enforcement he would ask for help in his investigation from a civilian! Come on!

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And to be honest, if he can’t solve it than he doesn’t deserve the promotion.

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He should be telling her not to investigate as she is a civilian.

Now I’m not saying that I do not want her to investigate, I love stories with amateurs, it’s just that there is no way a cop would ask a civilian for help. No way!

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Anyways, at a catering event at the school she discovers that when Ron dropped off the milk, he had a women with him. Apparently the school leaves coffee for him every morning, and when the secretary came to clean it up she found two cups, one of which had lipstick on it.

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Hannah and Bill set out to track it down, with Hannah finding it being sold by an Avon-like woman. There she discovers that the lipstick belongs to Danielle Watson.

Hannah meets up with Danielle later and discovers that she is a gambler going to Gambler’s Anonymous and that Ron was her sponsor. She received a check from her stocks and headed over the casino, running into Ron who was passing out GA flyers. He got her out of there, following her home to make sure she was safe, and the two went to his apartment to talk and make sure she didn’t give in again. He got up late and took Danielle with him on his deliveries.

Hannah also finds out that Ron had a toothache and was going to the dentist that day. She calls around seeing who worked on him, ending up with Norman Rhodes. She tries to ask him questions, but he refuses as he wants to see her in person to discuss everything.

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That afternoon Hannah finds herself being manipulated again, giving into Claire and purchasing the gown picked, planning on wearing it to the Woodley’s annual party.

So Hannah and Andrea head over to have lunch with Norman, Hannah planning on keeping his attention while Andrea snoops. Hannah discovers that Ron got his tooth taken care of , but even more interesting is that Norman is a funny, sweet, nice guy. She agrees to go with him to the Woodley party.

Hannah continues her investigations and discovers that Danielle’s husband Boyd has been dropping a lot of cash on glitzy gifts, too much for his job as a high school football coach. She also discovers that he was gone for the window of the murder. Could he be the killer?

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Hannah and Lisa decide to go investigate the casino where Ron was passing out GA flyers as he got into a fight with a bouncer. While there we get this long rant on how stupid gambling is and how Hannah doesn’t understand the drive for it. Or the superstitions that people have. Another cliché as guess who wins the grand prize, her of course. I understand not liking gambling or believing that one should do it, but not understanding the draw? Come on, everyone knows what draws people in, is the hope for winning!

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Then we get a flashback as Hannah reminisces about her and her sister’s lives growing up and how things changed when she went to college. Here is where we get the whole story of why Hannah left. She had a fling with her professor, only to discover that he didn’t love her but was actually engaged to be married, his fiancee walking in on them.

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Hannah goes to the Woodley party and has a lot of fun with Norman. Unfortunately, Benton Woodley, son, heir, Andrea’s ex-boyfriend, and the bane of Hannah’s existence is back in town. He says he missed the small town experience and loves Lake Eden, but something is fishy to Hannah. He always hated being here before and swore never to come back.

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At the party, Hannah talks to the dairy secretary, Betty, to get more info on Ron and finds out that Max, the supervisor is missing. He was supposed to go to a convention and give a speech, but he never checked in and no one has seen or heard from him. Could Max have killed Ron for some reason and gone on the run?

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Hannah mentions Max to Norman and discovers he can’t stand the guy. It turns out that Norman’s father, who was also a dentist, needed money to get improvements for his practice but all the banks turned him down. Max lent him the money, if the Rhodes put their house up for collateral. The Rhodes took the deal and when they were only one payment away from owning their house, Max called in the full loan. Luckily, Norman was able to get a loan from a bank, which he gave his parents, who paid Max. But clearly Max was a shark up to no good. But, is he a killer?

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Hannah decides that of they can’t get the answers they need from Max, as no one can find him, that she is going to break into his house. Andrea comes with her and the two break into the garage first. There they find Max’s car, with everything needed for his trip to the convention. Odd, as that must mean he didn’t leave. They check his house but there is no sign of him. Hannah steals his keys and decides the two need to set out to check the dairy.

When they get to the dairy, they find nothing. Hannah has not given up yet and decides to check out the remains of the old dairy. The building was burned and rebuilt with only one section of the original left. They head over there and find Max…Dead

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They also find his stash of loans. This means someone killed him over it, but who? And how is Ron connected? Did he see something? Did he walk in on them?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really didn’t enjoy this book at all. The characters were all bland and generic Midwestern clichés. The main character was annoying, judgmental, cocky, and rude.

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The police were incompetent, but what made it really sad was that they knew they were incompetent. I mean it is funny to see them match wits when the police officer is arogant and totally missing something, or, as in Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple; over time and succesful stream of solved mysteries they realize that this is someone much smarter and one they should work with. But when someone is incompetent and knows it, asking for help to get PROMOTED when they clearly stated before that they were not ready as THEY CAN’T DO IT ON THEIR OWN BUT NEED HELP FROM AN ENGLISH LIT AND COOKIE BAKER (that’s right, she doesn’t even read mystery novels, or teach psychology, or do something slightly relevant) it is just sad, just sad indeed.

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The mystery was extremely obvious as to what they answer is. Now it is one thing if you have a mystery where it is easily solved, but the characters are fun and adorable so you don’t care. This was neither, it was just a disappointment. And the recipes weren’t all that intriguing either.

This one was a stinker, but some of the later ones are actually really good. I guess you just have to decide how invested do you want to get.

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For the previous book review, go to The Emperor’s Edge

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted