Everything is looking pretty great for the three co-owners of the Cackleberry Club, a cozy place that hosts a tearoom/cafe, knitting store, and bookstore all under one roof. Petra is happy dishing up delicious—and deceptively healthy—concoctions, while Toni charms the guests and Suzanne keeps an eye on everything else, including their relationships with suppliers. It’s this last that has Suzanne heading out to Mike Mullen’s dairy farm one October morning to pick up a cheese order. Alerted by unhappily lowing cows and nervous horses, Suzanne heads into the barn with caution only to stumble across Mike’s viciously slashed corpse.
Shaken, she immediately contacts the police. But concern for Mike’s wife, Claudia, causes her to ignore the police dispatcher’s urging for her to get away from the crime scene. Suzanne thinks she sees someone disappear into the woods before her nerve breaks at the thought of being out there alone with a killer.
Fortunately, the police arrive quickly, as does her fiancé, Dr. Sam Hazelet, who occasionally helps with coronary work in their small Midwestern town. Unfortunately for Suzanne, both he and the sheriff want her to stay out of investigating Mike’s death, but she feels she’s already too involved, a conviction that will find her facing serious danger as a killer uses the upcoming Halloween festivities to get murderously close to her.
I enjoyed how Laura Childs seeded the clues as to the murderer’s identity and motive throughout the novel, tying it all together in a cinematic finish. I also enjoyed Suzanne’s loving, if occasionally prickly, relationships with her loved ones: I can certainly understand how your friends can exasperate you with their terrible personal life decisions. You just love them anyway and get ready to help them pick up the pieces afterward, as Suzanne large-heartedly does.
Egg Drop Dead included nine diverse and seemingly simple recipes. I chose to try the title soup as well as one other egg dish:
Egg Drop Dead Soup
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
2 small green onions, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, bring chicken broth, ground ginger, and soy sauce to a simmer. Slowly stream in beaten eggs while stirring soup in one direction. Add chopped green onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yields 4 servings.
This was so good! I’m a big fan of making American Chinese staples at home, but it had honestly never even crossed my mind to try this soup, despite (or perhaps because of) my fondness for making congee. This egg drop soup recipe is so easy to make that I’ve done it once more already to dose a family laid low by cold winter weather.
I did dial it back a bit on the soy sauce the second time around, using only one and a half teaspoons instead. I also didn’t find a need for additional salt and pepper, as the original amount of soy sauce listed made the soup a touch too salty for both my lovely assistant Karin and myself. This is a much faster soup to prepare than a fresh chicken noodle, and the ginger and green onion certainly helped ease everyone’s cold symptoms. I’ll definitely be adding it to my regular repertoire.
And because that had been so simple to make, I decided to try this as well:
Cheddar Breakfast Strata
6 slices bread
Butter, as needed
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice crusts from bread and butter one side. Place slices butter-side down into baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over bread. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over bread. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake strata for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and bubbly. Yields 4 servings.
This also turned out to be amazingly simple to make. I used potato bread and did not expect the result to be such a light and savory custard. It was quite a good experience for my first strata, and it’s something I’m interested in experimenting with by adding different ingredients in the future. Unlike the soup, however, this definitely benefited from adding a dose of salt and pepper.
I’m taking next week off for the holidays, and I hope you’ll all be keeping merry as well. I’ll be back in the new year to bake some old-fashioned snickerdoodles while solving mysteries down south. Do join me!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.