by Cynthia Chow
& Daryl Wood Gerber
This week we are reviewing the latest Cookbook Nook Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber and we have a fun Christmas food guest post/recipe from her after the review. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of your choice of any of the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, along with a link to purchase Wreath Between the Lines from Amazon.
Wreath Between the Lines: A Cookbook Nook Mystery by Daryl Wood Gerber
Review by Cynthia Chow
As California’s Crystal Cove prepares for their annual Christmas Festival, not everyone is embracing the holiday spirit. Grinch Emmett Atwater refuses to decorate his home, filing numerous complaints against his neighbor Jake Chapman, who amps up his own decorative efforts in retaliation. Unfortunately, those decorations are put to nefarious use when Jake’s friend Geoffrey is found just outside of Jake’s house, stabbed by a tree topper, and wrapped in Christmas lights. Even if Cookbook Nook culinary store owner wanted to stay uninvolved in the murder, that proves impossible when the last person to have been seen with Geoffrey was her brother-in-law Spencer Westerson.
Jenna’s sister and niece have come to town for a surprise visit so that teenager Lacy could compete in an a cappella Christmas event, but Jenna soon learned that her sister also brought with her fears about her marriage. When this is added to her own experience with divorce, Jenna certainly isn’t growing any more confident in her future with her boyfriend Rhett. She’s about as much in denial as her coworker and best friend Bailey, who is adamant in declaring that she is definitely not pregnant. With a lot of encouragement from her niece Lacy to investigate – and as many warnings to not by Police Chief Cinnamon Pritchett – Jenna begins to look into the history of both Geoffrey and the man he resembled, Jake Chapman. Criminal pasts, lost loves, and a missing stamp all become intertwined as Jenna dodges dangerous cookie swaps and tracks down a deadly Santa.
Although Jenna spends most of the time away from her culinary boutique, she makes up for it by preparing and enjoying a surplus of holiday treats (recipes included!). Jenna’s rock-music a capella singing niece proves to be a delight, and she demonstrates that Jenna may have unexpected maternal skills. Jenna is something of a relentless interrogator, forthright in her questions but not unsympathetic when receiving the answers. The close-knit town comes alive with vivid descriptions that make the characters familiar and warm, perfect for the end of the year holiday season. Grab some hot chocolate, sing a few Christmas carols, and celebrate with this thoroughly fun and sentimental mystery.
by Daryl Wood Gerber
Wreath Between the Lines is the seventh in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and as any fan of the series knows, there are recipes in the book. In this particular book you will find lots of holiday-themed recipes. Today, I’ll share a recipe for Brownie Christmas Trees. I saw pictures of these trees on Pinterest and knew I had to have Jenna, the owner of the Cookbook Nook and Nook Café, serve these to children who visit her establishments during the holidays. They are so darling. I’m sure your little darlings will want to help make them.
But first….the brownies. This is the best darned brownie recipe I’ve ever concocted, and it’s gluten-free!! So chocolate-y, so moist. By the way, “whey” powder helps keep gluten-free baked goods moister longer.
* Note about using regular flour at end of post.
(Use the brownie recipe below, but bake it in two 9-inch cake pans for half the time, so they are ultra thin (or you can split the cake after it’s cooked, which is what I did the first time—a little more difficult but it worked).
Peppermint candy canes with hooked tops
Chocolate frosting (* see recipe following)
Tiny chocolate chips
Vanilla wafers (* not gluten-free; see below)
Red M and Ms
How to Construct:
Cut brownies into wedge shapes (6-8 per cake pan). Set on decorative flat plate.
Carefully insert candy canes for antlers at the top of the long edge of the wedge.
Paint the brownie with a thin coat of brownie frosting (Recipe below).
Cut Tootsie Roll on a diagonal. Set a Tootsie Roll on each side of long edge of the wedge for ears.
Snip marshmallows in half and set in the upper middle of the brownie face. Using a teensy amount of icing, affix tiny chocolate chips to the marshmallows for eyes.
Add a vanilla wafer to the pointed end of the wedge. Then, using a small amount of icing, affix a red M and M on top for the nose. (Note: Vanilla wafers are not gluten-free. If you need to eat gluten-free—the brownie recipe is—then omit this cookie and only use the M and Ms.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa (I like Penzey’s but Hershey’s is quite good, too.)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup gluten-free flour (I like a combo of sweet rice flour and tapioca flour.)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon whey powder
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a round 9-inch pan with parchment paper and rubbed with butter.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add sugar and salt and stir until the mixture lightens in color. Just a pale yellow is fine.
Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Blend in the vanilla and cocoa, and then add the eggs. Mix until shiny, about 1 minute.
Add in the flour, baking powder, and whey powder. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Make sure you spread it to the edges.
Bake for 32-36 minutes until the top of the brownie is set. Insert a toothpick in the center to make sure it’s cooked through. A tad of chocolate at the tip is fine.
Remove from oven and cool 15-20 minutes before cutting. For the prettiest brownies, wait until they are completely cool. No crumbs!
Once cool, cover any that you’re not eating tightly with plastic or store in sealed glass containers.
Note: If you’d like to make this using regular flour, just swap out the flour and you may use any vanilla extract. I’d still use the whey powder.
(makes 1 to 1 ½ cups)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 to 1/4 cup milk
In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until combined. Beat in cocoa and vanilla. Add 1/8 cup milk, adding more if necessary, until the frosting achieves spreading consistency. If you add too much milk at first, it will be runny, so remember, less is more.
What’s Wreath Between the Lines about?
The holidays are Jenna Hart’s favorite time of year, but just as she’s decorating the Cookbook Nook for all the festive events, her imperious older sister makes a surprise visit, anxious that her husband has been more naughty than nice. To make matters worse, her father’s good friend Jake shows up on her doorstep with a frantic report that his friend has been murdered—trussed with Christmas lights and impaled with a tree star. ??Worried that Jake was the intended victim, Jenna makes a list of suspects and checks it twice. Swapping her Santa’s hat for a sleuthing cap, she gets busy investigating Jake’s long-lost sister, his Grinch of a neighbor, and a stamp collector who covets Jake’s most treasured piece. When Jake himself is poisoned and nearly dies, Jenna knows she’ll have to do whatever it takes to corner the culprit before it’s lights out for Jake . . .
Daryl Social media Links:
And even more social media can be found on her website.
To enter to win a copy of a Cookbook Nook mystery of your choice, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cookbook nook,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 22, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE SURE TO MENTION WHICH BOOK YOU WOULD LIKE.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on iTunes and Google Play. The latest episode is set at Christmas time, and we will have an episode featuring one of Daryl’s books in 2019.
You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:
Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.