by Kathleen Costa
& Jenny Kales
This week we have a review of the latest Callie’s Kitchen Mystery by Jenny Kales, and a fun guest post from her about Thanksgiving, and it includes a recipe. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either a print or ebook copy of Secrets and Pies, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Secrets and Pies: A Callie’s Kitchen Mystery by Jenny Kales
Review by Kathleen Costa
It is such a delightful experience connecting with a favorite author, talking about their book, their motivation, style, and process, but when you are lucky to become part of that process, it just adds to the wonderful experience. I “e-met” Jenny Kales over a year ago, you know meeting someone online, when I read and reviewed her Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series highlighting On the Chopping Block and Spiced and Iced. She has been such a delightful Facebook buddy, and when she took me up on my offer to help in anyway I could with her next book, I was thrilled to become a beta reader for Secrets and Pies. After three years in retirement, my red pen was itching to do something, and channeling my inner teacher turned out to be very rewarding. And seeing my name in the Acknowledgements? Priceless! I had so much fun being a second set of eyes, and hope to reprise this role with her next book.
Secrets and Pies earns 5+/5 Greek Delights…and Murderous Fun!
Jenny Kales has penned another exciting adventure starting with Callie Costas enjoying her kitchen’s popularity, but she laments that it surely cuts into any free time to properly enjoy her family, daughter Olivia, and boyfriend/detective Sands. She just can’t say no to any request for her delicious Greek treats, especially from her daughter’s favorite teacher who wants to treat the cast members of a murder mystery play in which she is a performer. Callie had planned to stay for the play and enjoy a relaxing time with Sands, Grandma Viv, and her BFF Samantha.
Just what you would expect from an entertaining cozy, Jenny gets us squirming in our comfy chair anticipating who will be the victim. Callie receives a next day phone call from her ex-husband. It sure would save him some time if she met him at an upcoming restoration site to pick up their daughter Olivia. Getting out of the kitchen is a relief since she is dealing with Max’s dilemma that he might have to leave to help his father on the family farm. He is such an integral part of the kitchen’s success and losing him would be devastating, but the problem adds a delightful dynamic when Callie’s dad steps in to offer his assistance. Arriving before her ex, she is very curious about the once marvelous mansion on the lake and decides to take an unauthorized tour. An unlocked door provides entrance, and footprints on the dusty floors are curious, but it’s the dead body in the garden that seems the most disturbing. Her daughter’s teacher strangled.
Whew! I loved it, and couldn’t put it down. Her daughter’s teacher has been strangled, and the rest of the mystery is riddled with more than a few motives, suspects with and without verifiable alibis (some too close to home), and then an additional victim seemingly without connection. Of course, finding the body is always looked at with suspicion by law enforcement, but Callie just can’t say no to the pleas from her daughter to find the killer of her favorite teacher…enter, boyfriend Detective Ian Sands. It is his job, not Callie’s, but Jenny shows our character has much to offer in strength and intelligence with her witnessing arguments, discovering additional motives, devising possible scenarios, and even falling prey to the killer’s attempt to stay undiscovered.
But the mystery is not all that makes this a great story. Jenny provides a myriad of events that enrich, maybe frustrate Callie’s world: exploring the dynamic between her and her father who himself owns a popular restaurant, her friendship with her grandmother Viv, the dilemma her right-hand employee Max is dealing with that might have him leaving her employment, and the frustration and worry as substitutes take over in her kitchen. Jenny brings readers a tangible experience with Callie’s kitchen including recipes for several Greek delicacies: Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup (Avgolemono), Squash Pie (Kolokethopita), Greek Cheese Honey Pie (Melopita), Callie’s Perfect Pie Crust, Callie’s Sour Cherry Pie, Beats on the Bay Blueberry Pie, and Greek Rice Pudding (Rizogalo).
A Callie’s Kitchen Thanksgiving
By Jenny Kales
Tradition is a big theme at the holidays, especially with regard to Thanksgiving foods. I’ve always loved the classic Thanksgiving holiday meal, and when I married into a Greek-American family, I got to enjoy the addition of some Greek specialties alongside the stuffing and turkey. Many times my crew has traveled to Michigan to join in the festivities with my husband’s family. Sometimes we hit a snowstorm and sometimes it’s smooth sailing all the way, but the one thing we can be sure of is that we will be treated to a legendary meal cooked by my mother-in-law.
My husband grew up with a Greek-American father and a Greek grandmother (yiayia) born in Greece, so Greek food is always part of the holiday repertoire. For example, spanakopita, baked by the church ladies, usually makes an appearance on the table alongside the turkey and traditional American sides. I can remember many years where Greek cookies such as koularakia and paxemathia (also baked by the church ladies—they’re busy, let me tell you) would show up alongside the pumpkin pie. A few times baklava made an appearance until we learned of my daughter’s nut allergy.
Both of my husband’s parents are from the Midwest, specifically Detroit, and so they are very fond of the traditional Midwestern foods at Thanksgiving. The meal at their home is a traditional one with Greek embellishments. The traditional Greek foods are simply there because, well, they’re always there. Thanksgiving is no reason to give them up, and, in fact, the addition of the Greek foods means it’s a real party! I love partaking of this traditional Thanksgiving with a Greek twist, an embrace of a North American holiday with the addition of some cultural deliciousness.
This embrace of American traditional foods combined with traditional Greek cuisine was really summed up for me when I received a special family cookbook as a new bride. Every newcomer to the family receives this fabled tome, which originated at a Detroit Greek Orthodox Church in 1957. It’s called Hellenic Cuisine: A Collection of Greek Recipes.
The book is a classic! I have turned to it again and again, as it provides traditional Greek recipes along with “regular” American foods, as lovingly prepared by a Greek mother, yiayia or even a non-Greek wife. My husband’s yiayia is listed as a contributor.
Just to give you an idea of the competition among Greek cooks, there are five or so recipes for Greek classics like spanakopita. Everyone has their own exact family recipe for the classic Greek dishes, and those are always the “right” ones, as you will soon find out if you attempt to alter the dish. The book also contains recipes for things like good old American “barbecued beef” and cocktail appetizers on a toothpick (very 1950s).
This is exactly the spirit I wish to convey in my Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Callie embraces her Greek heritage, but she is also a proud Midwesterner who can whip up a great cheddar cheese dip or a cherry pie.
The following recipe seems to me the perfect blend of Greek cuisine and traditional Thanksgiving fare: Greek Pumpkin Pie. It is exactly the type of thing Callie would serve at Callie’s Kitchen.
Happy Thanksgiving! Charoúmeni Iméra ton Efcharistión!
Greek Pumpkin Pie
Recipe adapted from Hellenic Cuisine: A Collection of Greek Recipes
1 box pastry sheets aka phyllo dough.
Phyllo is found in the frozen section of the supermarket, usually near the desserts. Be sure to allow at least two hours to thaw dough before beginning. Once thawed, place dough on a board or cookie sheet, and cover with plastic wrap and a damp tea towel. Phyllo will dry out quickly and be difficult to work with if left uncovered.
3-4 sticks unsalted butter, melted
6 cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, NOT canned pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, chopped.
I use a packaged brand to make things easier.
Note: I make all of my pastries nut-free because of my daughter’s allergies. If this is not a concern for you, you can also use walnuts.
Preheat oven to 375° F. Have ready a 9 x 13 baking pan.
For the filling:
In a large bowl, mix pumpkin puree, one half stick of melted butter, sugar, and spices until well blended. Set aside.
Brush bottom of the pan with melted butter and add first sheet of phyllo dough. Brush with butter again and sprinkle with chopped pumpkin seeds. Add six more phyllo sheets, brushing each one with butter before adding the next.
Pour pumpkin mixture in the center and spread evenly. Lay one sheet of phyllo pastry on top of filling and brush with butter. Sprinkle with chopped pumpkin seeds before adding next layer of pastry. Repeat this process with six more sheets of phyllo, the melted butter and the remaining pumpkin seeds. Last layer should be plain phyllo dough.
Trim edges of pastry if necessary, and cut through pastry with a sharp knife into diamond pieces. Brush any remaining butter over the top of the pastry.
Bake at 375° F for approximately one hour, until golden brown.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
While pastry is baking, boil sugar and water together until clear, thin syrup is formed. Stir in the honey and take off the heat. Cool. Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot pastry when it is out of the oven. Let pastry cool a bit to allow filling to firm up before serving.
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To enter to win either a print or ebook copy of Secrets and Pies, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “pies,” or comment on this article–be sure to state which you prefer, print or ebook. A winner will be chosen November 25, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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