by Cynthia Chow
& Melissa Bourbon/Winnie Archer
This week we have a review of Flour in the Attic by Winnie Archer and a fun Thanksgiving food guest post with a recipe from Winnie Archer/Melissa Bourbon. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Flour in the Attic. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Flour in the Attic A Bread Shop Mystery by Winnie Archer
Review by Cynthia Chow
Baker Ivy Culpepper and her best friend Emmaline Davis are used to long hours that frequently intrude on their personal lives. But it is a double tragedy when the latter’s duties as Santa Sofia’s Sheriff not only interrupts her marriage proposal to boyfriend Billy Davis, it calls her to the body recovery scene of Marisol Ruiz. Marisol was a lifelong resident of the Northern California town and their favorite waitress at Baptista’s Cantina and Grill, which means that Ivy is unable to resist David Ruiz’s admittedly drunken order that she investigate his wife’s death. Ivy and Miguel Baptista have proved themselves to be adept at solving a murder or two, and David is adamant that that the triathlete could never have drowned. It’s an assertion that is soon backed up by forensic evidence, which has them questioning who could have wanted such a well-liked woman dead.
Through rather blunt questioning, Ivy learns that Marisol’s children are not in agreement over their stepfather David, especially in light of the unusual provisions in her will. There’s further dispute over Marisol’s final funeral arrangements, which should bring closure but instead only stir up memories not just for Marisol’s family but for Ivy herself. Luckily, Ivy is able to find comfort at Yeast of Eden, where Olaya Solis mentors her in the in the labor-intensive but always rewarding skill of breadmaking. Olaya and her enemy-turned-mostly friend Penelope Brandford are the gossip mavens who know all within Santa Sofia, and with their immense knowledge and connections Ivy will find her way to the truth, even if that means following the geriatric duo to an illegal gambling room at a bar conveniently named The Library.
This fourth in the series welcomes readers back into the diverse coastal town of Santa Sofia. Having returned to her hometown following a divorce and the death of her mother, Ivy is now steadily building up her dream business as a photographer and artist. The last thing Ivy needs is a visit from her past, but that’s exactly what she gets in the form of her cheating ex-husband, now regretful and determined to win her back. Miguel has a lot of opinion in the matter, but a bomb that Luke Holden drops will most definitely affect their immediate future. Despite the tantalizing descriptions of an infinite-seeming number of breads and pastries, the elaborate steps required to produce them will have readers thankful that recipes are not included. That doesn’t mean that foodies won’t be drooling throughout the novel, especially with meals served out of Baptista’s high-end Mexican seafood Cantina. The complicated relationships between Marisol’s adult children, their father, and their step-father ensure that the plot is compelling while the mystery increasingly complex. Few will see the horrific twist that motivates an all-too-possible crime, but they can rest assured that Ivy and her friends will see justice through and continue deliver comfort through their extraordinary bread and ethnic cuisine.
A Thanksgiving Dressing Tradition
By Melissa Bourbon/Winnie Archer
When I think of Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is cornbread dressing. I once investigated why my southern grandmother called it dressing and not stuffing. Dressing, it turns out, “dresses” another dish, whereas stuffing is actually something that is stuffed into another food. We always make a massive rectangular baking dish full of cornbread dressing, so it is a side dish; only onions, orange slices, and other veg miscellany go into the turkey.
Hence we make cornbread dressing, not stuffing.
Cornbread dressing is a southern thing, and in my family, the tradition of our dressing comes from my maternal grandmother, Laverne Valentine Massie. Actually, it likely goes back farther than that. You see, Bertha Massie, LaVerne’s mother, died when LaVerne was just eleven years old. My grandmother, then married my grandfather Gene when she was just seventeen years old. So in reality, LaVerne probably learned to make the cornbread dressing not from her mother, but from Coleta Montgomery Sears, my grandfather’s mother—who we all called Mamaw. They lived in Santo, a small spit of a town in rural Texas. This cornbread dressing recipe has been passed down through several generations and over multiple states. It is simply part of our Thanksgiving—and our history.
My love of my family’s cornbread dressing made it such that I simply could not abide by my mother-in-law’s white bread and green chili stuffing when my husband and I were first married. That first Thanksgiving away from my own family, I missed our cornbread dressing terribly (and my family, of course). The next year, I insisted—mostly for my own sake—on making and bringing a pan full. I admit, I was incredibly happy and very pleasantly surprised to be asked to make it again for subsequent Thanksgiving feasts. My in-laws were converts.
Over the years, the recipe has evolved. My Aunt Penny started adding sausage. My mother added mushrooms. And I added dried cranberries. No matter what, though, our dressing includes water chestnuts. They are a nonnegotiable. They add a special…something. I love them in this Thanksgiving staple.
My kids adore our cornbread dressing, too. In fact, when they’ve been part of “Frendsgiving” feasts, they’ve asked for the recipe so they can make it on their own. Let me tell you, as a mom, the fact that my kids love certain traditions we have (like our southern cornbread dressing passed down over generations, and our Christmas tamalada, a tamale making party that no one has ever missed) makes my heart sing.
If you haven’t tried southern cornbread dressing, dig in. You won’t be disappointed!
LaVerne Massie’s Cornbread Dressing
2 pans of prepared cornbread, approximately 8×8
1/2 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
6-8 ribs of celery, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tube breakfast sausage, crumbled and cooked (I use Jimmy Dean Sage)
2 cans sliced water chestnuts
1 cup of dried cranberries
4-6 cups chicken, bone, or vegetarian broth
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2–1 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1. Crumble prepared cornbread in a baking pan and allow to bake at a low temperature to dry it out. The cornbread should be a little crusty and toasted. Allow to cool.
2. Sauté garlic, onions, celery, and mushrooms until soft and fragrant.
3. In a large bowl, combine the crusty cornbread with the sautéed vegetables. Stir in cooked sausage, water chestnuts, and herbs.
4. Mix in broth. I like to make the dressing very saturated. Adjust broth amount to your preference.
5. Stir in cranberries.
6. Taste! It’s so good already.
7. Spread in a 9×13 baking dish.
8. Heat through at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. You can cover the pan with foil to retain the moisture, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking, or bake uncovered for a crispier top layer.
** To toast your cornbread: bake at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check and stir several times.
** You can make this recipe vegetarian by omitting the sausage or using vegetarian sausage, and using vegetarian broth.
** You can make this recipe gluten free by using a gluten free cornbread.
I use Krusteaz gluten free mix
To enter to win a copy of Flour in the Attic, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “flour” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 7, 2019. U.S. residents only, and you must be 13 or older to enter. If entering via comment please include your email address which we will only use to let you know if you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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