Chocolate Covered Cherry Delights

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When ever I try to review something that has a titular recipe, such as in Joanne Fluke’s work; I try to do a recipe that matches the title. For instance I made chocolate chip cookies to go with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, strawberry shortcake to go with Strawberry Shortcake Murder, etc. But sometimes when I find myself with a book title of a food I don’t like I find myself in an awkward position trying to search for another recipe to use.

In this case, I HATE cheesecake of all kinds.

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So instead of that I decided to do something different, but still had to do with cherries as that was the theme of the book. I choose the recipes Chocolate Covered Cherry Delights from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

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Thoughts Before Baking:

This recipe appealed to me because I like chocolate covered cherries. I figured they must be as equally good in a cookie.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Melted Butter
  • 2 Cups of White Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup of Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Cups of Flour
  • 2 small 10-oz jars of
  • 1 package of chocolate chips
  • 1/3 Cup of condensed sweetened milk
  1. Melt Butter and mix in sugar.
  2. Let mixture cool and add eggs.
  3. Mix it thoroughly and then add baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and cocoa, stirring after each addition.
  4. Add flour and mix well.
  5. Drain cherries and remove stems, reserving juice.
  6. Roll dough into walnut size balls with your fingers.
  7. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
  8. Press down the on the center of the cookie with your thumb to make an indentation, placing the cherry inside.
  9. In a saucepan over simmering water, combine the chocolate chips and condensed milk. Heat on low until chips are melted.
  10. Add ~1/8 cup of cherry juice and stir into a thick sauce.
  11. Spoon sauce over the center of each cookie, covering the cherry.
  12. Bake at 350 for 10-12 mins. Let it cool.

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Delights

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This was really good but a little too sweet for my taste.

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I ended up having to half the syrup drizzle as I only had one cup of chocolate chips instead of a whole package, but it worked out pretty well. I only missed a few cookies.

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My biggest problem in making these was that there was no picture as to see how much chocolate should I drizzle. I had to guess with some cookies having a little chocolate and others having a whole lot.

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But everyone else loved them and thought they were fantastic. In fact I took them to a party and they were gobbled up instantly.

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For more recipes from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, go to Regency Ginger Cookies

For more Hannah Swenson recipes, go to Apple Orchard Bars

For more cookie recipes, go to Cocoa M&M Cookies

For more desserts, go to Sour Cream Lemon Pie

For more recipes, go to Irish Soda Bread

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Murder (Hannah Swenson #4) by Joanne Fluke

So before I even start reviewing this piece, I thought I would point out something I noticed on the back cover:

In her third top-of-the line culinary cozy…” –Publishers Weekly

Third? Third? I guess Publishers Weekly doesn’t know how to count. This is the fourth book. It goes 1)Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

1.5) Candy for Christmas

2) Strawberry Shortcake Murder

3) Blueberry Muffin Murder

4) Lemon Meringue Murder

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So now to the review!

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So the winter blues have been kissed good-bye, as we now enter the summer months with the upcoming 4th of July.

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Hannah is getting ready to wear her summer slacks, when she finds out that she cannot fit in them.

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That means only one thing, a DIET

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In happier news, Norman calls to let Hannah know that he bought a house! Or rather he bought the perfect land from Rhonda Scharf to build their dream house.

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While Norman is building the house they designed together, he doesn’t ask her to marry him. This tiny nugget becomes a huge part of the plot as Hannah wonders why Norman hasn’t asked her, but yet at the same time doesn’t want to be asked as she doesn’t want to get married. You know what I have to say on that?

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Come on Hannah, Norman knows you better than you know yourself and can tell you would say no. Hearing you go on and on about it is completely boring.

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In fact I find the whole Norman-Hannah-Mike love triangle completely dumb and am over it. Please end it. I mean it is clear that Hannah and Mike are only physical and won’t work long term; just choose Norman and put us readers out of their misery.

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Later Jed and Freddy stop by Hannah’s shop. Freddy is a developmentally disabled adult and Jed is his cousin. Freddy’s parents died and Jed has been helping take care of him ever since. The two form a handyman service, one of their regular customers being The Cookie Jar. Along with being paid, Hannah always gives them some treats.

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Hannah notices that Jed seems to be spending quite a bit lately. Wonder where he is getting all the dough?

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The next day Mike returns from a trip and is mad that Norman is building a house for Hannah and that Norman proposed. All I can say Mike, if you weren’t such a rover maybe you would have the sense to ask Hannah yourself.

But the problem is, you just can’t give up other girls. But Hannah still likes this dude, and assures him she is engagement free. Mike is pleased and tells her “I don’t want to change anything. Everything’s great just the way it is.” Great for who? You. And with that attitude you can’t blame Norman for being a man and trying to move the relationship forward. But enough on that stupid drama.

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Oh yeah, so in this mystery Hannah says that her pies are something she changes up every week. Pie? Funny that was never mentioned in the previous books. And it won’t be mentioned again, until Key Lime Murder.

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So Norman, Delores Swenson (Hannah’s mom), and Hannah head out to the Rhonda’s house so Delores can pick over any pieces she wants for her antique shop before the wrecking balls destroy it.

When they get into the house they discover one of Hannah’s pies covered in ants. She also notices two takeout containers with osso buco. And inside the house are two wineglasses and a Chianti bottle. Sounds like someone had a party.

While Hannah and Norman are clearing things upstairs, Delores heads down to the basement and discovers a dead body, Rhonda’s.

AAAAHHHHH

So Hannah reassures everyone that she will not be investigating.

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Whatever Hannah, you know you can’t help but put your nose into everything.

So while Hannah is “determined” to stay out of it, Delores wants to investigate, and urges Hannah to join her team.

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Hannah tracks down who purchased her pies, three going to Claire who owns the boutique next to The Cookie Jar. There she discovers that Claire gave Rhonda one of her pies, and that Claire is dating the Reverend.

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Later, after catering and other duties, Hannah returns to The Cookie Jar where she runs into Jed and Freddy, looking to get paid for their hard work. Through some very clunky, (and bad), exposition, we find out that Jed used to be in prison. He was supposedly only an outside contractor, and received a huge check which allows him to buy all these things he has been purchasing lately.

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Hannah and Mike meet up that evening for dinner. They talk about the case which then leads into a discussion on Freddy and Jed. Hannah doesn’t like Jed as he introduces “ideas Freddy can’t handle.” Like buying a new truck or getting interested in girls.

Oh no Hannah, the horror! Freddy likes a new truck and will be riding around in it. Next thing you know he will be getting involved in drugs and end up in jail.

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 And girls? Developmentally disabled people can get married and do regularly. Obviously Fluke doesn’t know anyone developmentally disabled. Although we really know why this is introduced, Fluke wants to establish Jed as the villian and killer.

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SPOILER, you say? As soon as they announced Jed used to be in jail it is clear that he is being set up as the murderer. Totally obvious.

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Hannah then goes on the trail of the osso buco, trying to find out who Rhonda’s boyfriend was. One person who ordered take out was the Reverend, Hannah goes over to talk to Claire and finds out that he brought dinner for their night out. She also is told by Claire that Claire wants to be the Reverend’s wife. The only thing stopping her? She doesn’t know how to read sheet music or play the organ.

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Now it is things like this that really makes me question whether Fluke is living in the present time. This book is published in 2003, not 1962. Most churches do not have an organ anymore, they have switched to pianos or keyboards. And if they do have an organist, they hire someone. It is not a requirement for a minister’s wife. And how should I know such things? From experience, I’m a minister’s daughter.

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Hannah does manage to track down Rhonda’s boyfriend, figuring out that it is the high school principal. He apparently went there to break it off, not staying very long and Rhonda very much alive when he left. So it it wasn’t the boyfriend? Then who is the murderer.

Freddy comes by The Cookie Jar the next day. He drops off a surprise for Jed, that he “lost” in the trash. Hannah agrees to hold it, once again being clunky thrown in.

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As Hannah is investigating, another mystery crops up. Old bills from a bank robbery about 30 years ago have resurfaced. Who could be behind it? Is it connected to Rhonda’s death?

Hannah returns to Rhonda’s old house and takes some photographs in the basement. When they look at them again they discover that there is something wrong with the jam jars. They are not organized as they should be, with the jam on the wrong shelves. That means someone was over there and there must be something important there.

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There is also this moment when Andrea is planning on making red, white, & blue jello; but in the end can’t as they don’t make blue jello. I distinctly remember eating it when I was a child, and when I looked it up blue jello was invented in 1992. Andrea totally should have been able to buy it.

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Hannah gets caught up in a storm and finds herself at Beatrice’s and Ted’s apartment complex, the place that Rhonda rented from. Hannah comes in to call and let her family know she is safe. Beatrice offers to give her Rhonda’s clothes. Hannah uses that time to snoop and discovers a letter to Rhonda’s great-aunt.

The letter is from a prison inmate, Speedy. He talks about a treasure hunt they would go on and her peach jam.

suspicious Hmm

The 4th of July comes and everything seems great. That is until they find a bludgeoned Freddy. Luckily they get him to the hospital in time. There Freddy is in a coma, but will be brought out. Jed is disheartened, and Hannah tries to cheer him up telling him about Freddy’s surprise.

Hannah heads to the bakery the next morning to work on some dough. As she does she starts thinking about the note, Rhonda, etc and puts it all together. Speedy hid the money in Rhonda’s house, the one that used to belong to her aunt. Rhonda found it when she was cleaning things out. From there Jed found it and is the murderer as he he is spending a ton of money.

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To me that seems like an awfully big leap.

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Jed comes to get the “surprise”, but Hannah manages to beat him to it. He then locks her in her cooler. He admits it all, just as Hannah figured it out. Hannah tries to get out, becoming some super electrician and figuring the right wire to cut that will make someone investigate. How does she know such complex things?

What?

At least when Nancy Drew did it, she always explained where she got such knowledge from, and how she has done it before. Not just a casual conversation with her father 20 years ago.

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In the end Lisa and Herb get engaged and Hannah discovers she switched pants with Andrea. She never had to diet after all.

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Thoughts After Reading:

As you can tell I didn’t really care for this mystery. There were a lot of plot pieces left out, such as how Jed figured out about the money. And some things didn’t make any sense. To be completely honest, to me it seemed like a slapped together, overly complicated mystery.

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Blueberry Muffin Murder

For more midwestern mysteries, go to Thorns of Rosewood

For more reviews, go to The Princess Plot

 

Strawberry Shortcake

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Thoughts before cooking:

In Strawberry Shortcake Murder, they give a recipe for Hannah’s shortcake. But like in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, I didn’t like the recipe they gave for their titular treat. It just wasn’t how I like my shortcake. So here is recipe my family likes to use.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Boxes of Fresh Strawberries
  • 1-2 Cans of spray Whipped Cream
  • 2 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons of White Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/3 Cup of Shortening
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 2/3 Cup of Milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease and flour one 8-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour; baking powder, and salt.
  4. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk.
  6. Stir until combined.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until brown.
  9. Let it cool.
  10. Wash and slice your strawberries
  11. Slice cake in half, horizontally, making two layers.
  12. One one layer, place strawberries, covering them with whipped cream, and another layer of strawberries.
  13. Place the second layer of  cake on top of the strawberry/whipped cream. Cover in whipped cream, and top with strawberries.

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Thoughts after cooking:

It was my first time making this cake and I loved it. I made for my niece’s birthday, and our only problem was that her birthday party occurred on cake one of the hottest days of the year. The cake melted, but it was so good we ate the whole thing.

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For more recipes inspired by the Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Butter Berry Cookies

For more dessert recipes, go to Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cupcakes

For more recipes, go to Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Pesto

Strawberry Shortcake Murder

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Strawberry Shortcake Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #2) by Joanne Fluke

So as I have mentioned before, I didn’t read this series from book one, but came in the middle and am backtracking my way to the beginning. I’m glad I didn’t start at the beginning as these early books are bad.

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Like really bad. If I started at the very beginning I would have passed this series on by.

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So the first clue that this book would stink was the dedication.

For my kids.

You asked for your favorite recipes.

Here they are in novel form.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

You never, ever, ever, write a book based around recipes. That’s extremely stupid.

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So Lake Eden has been chosen for the first ever Hartland Flour Bake-Off. Hannah isn’t competing, but in between deliberations creating concoctions for the judges and how to do it for the viewers.

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One of the judges is Coach Boyd Watson, the wife beater from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, is especially cruel and harsh in his criticisms, upsetting many promising cooks.

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One night Hannah comes upon Coach Boyd Watson’s dead body, and facedown in her Strawberry Shortcake!

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The police think his wife is the killer, but Hannah believes in her innocence. She then sets out to discover the real murderer.

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Thoughts After reading:

I did not like this. I know I said before, but it bears repeating.

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So let’s start off with the first problem of the novel. It begins with Hannah hearing a crash  in her condo and “going after that person.”

really?

She decides that she isn’t a “Miss Priss” and would rather go after them with a bat instead of being a “sissy girl” calling the sheriff.

really?

Of course it turns out to her cat, (saw that one a mile away), but what if it wasn’t her cat? What if that was really a burgler or murderer. They could have a gun! It’s nice to think you can handle things, but much better to actually call the cops to have them do their job.

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And then we have the same old same old complaining about mom.

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I guess as the second book it is for the “new readers”, but it still bothers me. It’s like when The Baby-sitters Club would always review the same thing in the second chapter. It gets old, fast.

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And then there is Hannah’s niece Tracey. Once again Joanne Fluke has never been around small children, or at least doesn’t remember what it’s like. I know precocious children, but none of them speak as well as Tracey. Fluke just made her waaaay too advanced for a four-year old.

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So Boyd’s a jerk, but honest in his review of the bake off. So what? We are already hate him for being a wife beater, isn’t that a little overkill?

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Then we get the Hannah’s commentary. Ugh I hate this as it is always BORING!

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She wishes that they still made Big Chief notebooks. But they can’t because they aren’t P.C. to have Indian notebooks. Well Hannah now you will get my commentary.

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They aren’t Indians Hannah. I know you want to be ignorant and call them that, but they aren’t from India. And while you are right, most don’t wish to be called Native American, it’s not because their “family walked over the land bridge from somewhere else,” which by the way:

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But because they prefer to be called by their tribe name.

Okay, so this book was published in 2001 and is supposed to be set in modern times, but a lot of times she acts like she is from the past. A girl kicked out of college for being too “wild” [sexually]. They don’t kick you out for being “wild”, they kick you out for not doing your work, paying rent, or causes issues because of alcohol, drugs, etc.

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Plus Hannah is really rude and judgmental. She realizes that having a good relationship with her sister Andrea is fun and that she shouldn’t have said all those horrible things when she was younger, “even though she deserved it.” She called Andrea an idiot for flunking her math test, when she should have helped her study. Uh, no! No one deserves that. Just because she isn’t that good in math you shouldn’t call her stupid. Rude Hannah, rude.

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Then there is when Hannah is all high and mighty about her crime solving skills. She’s all ” yeah Mike and Bill are good cops and would have eventually figured everything out, but what I did actually helped.” Well, let’s see why your way helped? Hmm? YOU BROKE INTO AN APARTMENT. The police can’t just do that stuff. They have to follow certain rules because of the rights our forefathers wanted to protect. What you are doing is EXTREMELY WRONG!

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The book was horrible, and Hannah was horrible.

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For more Hannah Swenson mysteries, go to Candy for Christmas

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

For more book reviews, go to The Black Echo