My first short story won a very prestigious award setting my entire writing career into motion. It was called “The Magic Rabbit” and I won second place in my elementary school short story contest at the brilliant age of seven. Just listen to this prose:
Once in a very far away land there lived a boy named Charlie and he had a brother named David. David had a rabbit named Dayton.
Oh, that. Is. Good. I also feel I should point out at this time that Charlie and David are never mentioned again. In a very Avant Garde George R. R. Martin style, I kill off the protagonist and his sidekick in the first paragraph. I think my teachers could see that I had a gift for writing even then. This is also when I established myself as a writer who shuns most forms of punctuation. My agent will attest that I have kept that style true to this day.
Most of the story is about a rabbit and a mouse who go on a “grand adventchure” in search of snacks. When they finally find carrots and radishes they celebrate with “a snack of reward.” I will point out here that the “snack of reward” was not necessarily the carrots and radishes. So, I think the obvious question on everyone’s mind is – how was I not in therapy for an eating disorder? My food issues started early, but hey – write what you know!
Thirty years, and a few snacks of reward later, I fell in love with cozy mysteries. My favorite cozies are the ones about exercise. Ok, don’t be ridiculous! Of course, they’re about food. I love culinary cozies. Reading about cupcakes and cookies and pies. I love recipes. I always fancy myself as someone who’s going to make all the recipes. I will have a grand adventure and make all the gourmet meals from cookbooks and magazines. Julia Child will be so proud. Then I go have a lie down and order Chinese for dinner. Who has the energy to work all day then shop for, prepare, and roast fig stuffed squabs on a Tuesday?
There is, however, one thing I usually find the energy for. Desserts. I have always loved to bake. Fancy cakes, pies, pavlovas, croissants, you name it! There was a time in my life that I wanted to open a bakery. That was followed by a time I realized I didn’t want to weigh three-hundred pounds. And then by a time I discovered I couldn’t eat gluten and dairy. Then came the crying and pouting, but that’s another story.
So, I had the choice to wallow in self-pity over what might have been or reinvent myself. The second chapter of my life began with the spark of another story.
My protagonist is Poppy McAllister. I could have created someone who had her act together. Someone who gets up at five am to jog six miles then downs a kale shake before heading into the office where she’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Except I have no idea what that kind of diligence is like. So, my Poppy is a sarcastic plus sized middle aged red head with food issues. See, I gave her red hair so she’s not me.
Then I tortured her by moving her in with Aunt Ginny. Aunt Ginny is a bit eccentric. Somewhere in her eighties, she’s a free spirit if you will. If Aunt Ginny wants to wear a fur coat to eat ice cream on the front porch in January, Aunt Ginny gets to wear a fur coat to eat ice cream on the front porch in January. And she doesn’t care what you think about it. If her five husbands couldn’t tame her you sure as heck don’t have a shot. But hey, go ahead and try it. She’s been dying to try her Stone-Cold Steve Austin Stunner move on someone.
If Aunt Ginny wasn’t enough trouble, I gave Poppy my black smoke Persian, Sir Figaro Newton. Fig has a few qualities that make you wonder if he’s been into something stronger than the catnip. Figaro has a way of getting his demands met with a few well-placed bladder punches he disguises as “making biscuits.” He can read Poppy’s mind, and he’s not impressed, but he still loves her. She’d better just hope she doesn’t lose the ability to work the can opener or Fig will sniff out the neighborhood cat lady and make his move.
“Class Reunions Are Murder,” the first book in my series, is about a woman who returns to her home town to attend her twenty-fifth high school reunion, and help her best friend face off against the bullies who made their lives miserable growing up. Her only goal is to fly under the radar, and not run into the one that got away. No one wants their first love to see them fat, frumpy and forty. The class reunion is a disaster and Poppy finds one of the bullies dead in front of her old locker. Uh oh. Then the other bully arrests her for the crime. Well crapalulah!
Poppy is also diagnosed with the same auto-immune disease I have because misery loves company. When she meets the sexy Italian barista, Giampaolo, her attraction to him is obvious. He hires her to make gluten free and paleo friendly baked goods for his coffee shop. Gia will make you wish that I were writing Fifty Shades of another genre.
The second book in the Poppy McAllister series is “Midnight Snacks Are Murder.” Someone is breaking into the neighborhood Victorian houses, stealing precious knickknacks, and helping themselves to the goodies. When the town hero is killed by a perp with the same M.O. it spells trouble for the Snack Bandit. Hmm. I’m just now realizing my food issues might go deeper than I thought. Maybe my next book should be titled Food Addictions Are Murder.
All of my books include Paleo and gluten free recipes. Big surprise.
To celebrate the release of “Midnight Snacks Are Murder,” here is one of Poppy’s favorites.
Paleo Chocolate Orange Muffins
1 cup coconut sugar
⅓ cup + 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons HOT water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup Almond Flour
1/3 cup Tapioca Flour
1 cup Cassava Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons orange zest
¾ cup vanilla or plain coconut or almond yogurt (or sour cream for a non-paleo version)
1 bag allergy free chocolate chips
Make a glaze using ½ cup powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon Orange zest, and add enough juice from the zested oranges to make a thin paste. Drizzle over the muffins when they’re cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a standard size muffin tin with liners; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and oil. Beat on high for 2 minutes. Combine the cocoa and the hot water in a small bowl, whisk until a smooth paste forms. Add to the sugar and oil, beat for 1 minute. Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually alternate adding the dry ingredients and the Yoghurt to the large mixing bowl. Mix well.
Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chip with a spatula.
Using a large scoop, fill each liner. Sprinkle the remaining ⅓ cup of chocolate chips on top and gently press into the batter. Place in the oven to bake for 7 minutes at 400 degrees, then REDUCE THE HEAT to 350 degrees and continue baking for 10-12 more minutes. Until a toothpick comes out clean – except for melted chocolate chips. You may have to poke them a couple times to get a good spot.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle with the orange glaze if desired.
Makes 1 dozen muffins
Libby Klein Author
Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She has worked as a stay at home mom, climbing the ranks to the coveted position of Grandma. She also dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets, and taking out the trash. She writes culinary cozy mysteries from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.
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