Full Irish Breakfast

Every Saint Patrick’s Day, I prepare a full Irish breakfast for the family. It seems only fitting that we gorge ourselves in honor of those who left our ancestral home in search of food. I generally make enough food to feed the entire family and have leftovers for one day because the kitchen will be trashed. It’ll take all weekend to get it clean when I wake up from my nap.

Full IrishStarting at the 12 o’clock position and going around the plate clockwise, this includes:

Black pudding. It’s really a sausage. What’s in it? Don’t ask.

Baked beans. I make them myself in a crockpot using dried beans that I had soaked overnight, then simmered for 40 minutes, then dumped in the crockpot with the other ingredients and added a little extra water, cooked on high for 4 hours. Perfecto.

Rashers. It’s bacon, really. Tastes kind of like Canadian bacon.Irish soda bread

Fried potatoes. Skin on, please. All  the flavor is in the skin.

Scrambled eggs.

Fried tomatoes.

Sautéed mushrooms.

Irish soda bread. I use a gluten-free recipe from Annalise G. Robert’s Gluten Free Baking Classics. The thirteen-year-old grandson deigned that he would eat that for breakfast every day.

JuicesThe scribe, Irish breakfast tea and coffee

If you can’t find black pudding or rashers at your local store, you can order them on-line from Food Ireland: http://www.foodireland.com/. I order from them every year and have always been happy with how quick the food came. And, they have Mars bars!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!






Salmon Recipes


King salmon filetIn the continued effort to share tasty things to do with last summer’s fish, I bring you two recipes.




Baked Salmon Filet

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place filet in baking dish or sheet. In this picture, I baked a 1.5 lb. king salmon filet my daughter caught last summer.

Dot the fish with butter. Add salt and pepper, garlic powder and dill.

Loosely tent with foil.

Bake until you can smell it in the next room. That took 45 minutes for this filet. It should look dry in the middle and skin should come off easily.

Note: if you line the pan with aluminum foil before you bake the salmon, when you lift the fish off the foil, the skin will stick to the foil.  Two benefits: You know the fish is done, and it gets rid of the skin (in case you think skin is yucky).

Pirok (Russian Fish Pie)

This recipe comes from my friend Ron Newcome with a post script from Jaime Hidalgo.

6 cups cooked rice

½ medium head of cabbage, diced

5 medium carrots, shredded

1 large onion, diced

1 salmon

6 eggs

Sauté vegetables in butter or margarine.

Line the bottom of a pan with pie crust. Layer with ½ of sautéed veggies, layer salmon next, add salt and pepper. Lightly stir eggs (Jaime says add some Worcestershire sauce), spread over fish, layer remaining veggies, then remaining rice and then put on top crust, seal edges, puncture holes and bake 1 hour at 350.

Note: that’s a lot of food; it would easily fill two pie pans. I baked it without the crusts in a casserole to make it gluten-free. It was quite tasty. But had no eye-appeal so I didn’t photograph it.


Spring Time in Alaska

It’s almost spring in Alaska and a woman’s thoughts turn to using up last year’s frozen salmon. But first a quick tutorial on Alaska salmon – just in case you see some in the market and think you might want to buy it.

shutterstock_1523975 king salmonI’m not a fisherperson, but if you live here long enough, you pick this stuff up as men want to tell you all about the swell fish they brought you. Here’s the thing about free fish: you know when you aren’t young and cute anymore because men quit bringing them. That’s OK – I can buy my own now, thank you very much.

There are five types in Alaska: sockeye (red), humpy (pink), coho (silver), chinook (king) and chum (dog). Why we have two names for every fish, I don’t know.

Sockeye (red) salmon are the best tasting. The first sockeye to hit Alaska swim into Copper River in early summer, where they are caught in mass quantities (fingers crossed), put on a plane, flown directly to Seattle where some happy looking youths toss them back and forth to each other at Pike’s Market Place. It’s just as well because I’m not spending upwards thirty dollars per pound for a fish. I can eat steak for that. Lots of steak. In fact, I could probably pick up a side of beef for the price of one fish.

Humpy (pink) salmon are favored for sport fishing. Once upon a time, I had a “close personal friend” (CPF) who was a fishing guide, and he took me to Kenai River to fish. We were on this boat in the middle of the river with other boats floating around us. There was a nasty old gallon plastic milk jug of which I took little notice. As I looked longingly at the outhouse on the shore, he explained that the milk jug was for his personal use, so he could fish all day long. Moving on. So, he puts bait on a fishing pole and sticks it into a brace-thing that looks like the brace-thing people nail into their houses to display flags, and he points to it and says, “That’s your pole.” Then he does it all over again with another pole and says, “That’s my pole. Now we sit and wait.” Me, him, surrounded by men on the river, and a nasty milk jug. What’s there not to like?

Then something starts tugging on my pole. He grabs it, reels it in, holds it up in the air and says, “That’s your fish. It’s a pink. Do you want to take it home and embarrass me in front of all my friends who are watching us now?” The CPF is shaking his head with gravitas. I look around to see all those men in their boats looking at us, and I say, “Guess not.” Whereupon he unhooks the fish and tosses it back into the river. Apparently, pink salmon are not highly prized by the guides.

Coho (silver) are good eating. They come into the rivers late in summer and it’s just lovely because the entire town of Anchorage empties out and you can go to Costco and have the place to yourself.

Chinook (king) are giant red salmon. They have more fat, more flavor and more calories. The picture here is of a man with a king salmon which I included just so you fisherfolk can eat your heart out.

And then there’s chum (dog) salmon. I bought a frozen salmon filet once in the middle of the winter, having past the age when men brought me free fish, took it home, cooked it. It stank to high heaven, had the flavor of sawdust and the texture of day-old biscotti. Then I read the label more closely. Under “SALMON”, was the word “chum” in teeny-tiny letters.

Now, I do know the reason why chum is called dog salmon. In western Alaska, the Eskimos feed chum to their dogs because if they run out of food in the winter, they’d rather eat the dog.

So, this is what you do with last-year’s salmon:

1.     Donate it to the zoo,

2.     Bake it in the oven, let it cool, and mix it with a lot of mayo and pickles and whatever else you would put in a tuna salad,

3.     Bake it in the oven, mix it with beaten egg, breadcrumbs and some spices, then cook it up as a burger (my personal favorite),

4.     Make pirok, a Russian fish pie. You use a pie shell on the bottom and top. In the middle goes the flaked fish, breadcrumbs, beaten egg, heavy cream, veggies and seasoning and then you bake it. Kirsten Dixon, the gourmet cook and lodge owner, has a recipe posted on-line: Kirsten Dixon’s Russian Alaska Salmon Pie Recipe

Bake it and give it to your dog. (No garlic or onion.) She’ll love you for it. But don’t eat the dog. All that fur can’t be good for you.

The question today is: How do you cook up the stuff you find in the back of the freezer?

Walking on Ice

When I first moved to Alaska, I had to learn how to walk on ice. As a young lawyer with one baby and then a second, I didn’t have a lot of money for footwear. So, I took the advice of a real estate sales woman who said she wore high heels every day of the year and in the winter, she just jammed her heel into the ice and snow.

Winter Kuskpuk. I got this from an attorney who commissioned an Eskimo lady to make it for his wife. She thought it made her look fat. I thought it made me look warm.

That worked quite nicely but it was hard on the shoes. Then one winter day, I had to walk to a few blocks to court and back more than once which meant my high heels got wet and then got very cold and I got frostbite in a few of my toes. Not enough to make them drop off but enough that every time they get cold, they burn like they’re on fire.

 About that same time, I watched Eskimo women walking on ice and noticed: one, they weren’t wearing high heels, and two, they weren’t lifting their feet. They shuffled. So, I bought boots and I shuffled.  (By the way, shuffling on ice is a great glut exercise). A couple of years ago,  when I went to my granddaugther’s school event, the other grandmother, who is Yup’ik, saw me shuffling across ice wearing my kuspuk, and laughed, saying I looked more Eskimo than she did. Oh, yeah, I blend.

I’ve gone through many boots over the years. I had a pair that was so hairy that they looked like Chewbacca’s feet. They were chic at the time. And I was young and thin and you can get away with a lot when you are young and thin.


Baffin and bogs
Baffins and Bogs


Now I am old(er) and have a variety of footwear depending on the weather conditions. My Baffins, the big heavy ones with the faux fur trim, are great for when the temperatures drop under 10 degrees or there is a lot of snow. They’re heavy so I wear them on short journeys or when I’m shoveling the driveway.

The Bogs are prettier and they’re fine for down to 10 degrees or so. They’re also lighter and easier to go walk around a lot.

When I was still running with the dogs, I went into the fancy running store for a new pair of winter shoes and that’s when I discovered Icebugs, which come studded. You can walk on sheer glass with these babies. They are my favorite. I ran for a winter with one of the dogs in the running pair. Now I walk in the little purple boots during my lunch time walk.

When I hiked, I used a variety of cleats. We call them “creepers”, the rubbery things with cleats that you wrap around your boot. They shoot off while you’re walking — you could put an eye out. We’d go up the mountain losing them and find them on the way back down. 

So I bought the kind with Velcro that wrap around my hiking boots. One time I was coming down the mountain, the front strap came undone, my foot got caught and I nearly tore my leg off when I fell.

I would have gotten cleats put on my winter hiking boots, but I ended up giving up hiking. My hiking buddies all left state and the dogs got too old to walk. In Alaska, you need to have a buddy with you when you go out because of the bears. If nothing else, your buddy can tell the rescuers where to look for your body.

Today’s question, Mysteristas: How have you adapted to your environment? If I was coming to visit your hometown, what should I bring?

Deadly Solutions by Keenan Powell

Today, I get to play guest. It is a dream come true!Deadly Solution cover

What’s your idea of a perfect day?  I would rise at 5 AM, do 30-45 minutes of yoga, breakfast lightly, then deeply profound passages would pour from my fingertips for three hours while I drink Death Wish coffee. After that, I’d go to my law office, speak with real human beings for three or four hours and attend to those things that make my little world go around, come home to a sparkling-clean house, take the dog for a walk in the woods, eat something warm that someone else made for dinner, then spend the evening reading.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal? “Nevertheless, she persisted.” It used to be “tomorrow is another day.”

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most? Hank Phillippi Ryan, who I met at a Mystery Writers University event in Seattle a few years ago, and who is a beacon of light in the long, dark night to the great unpublished. Honestly, had it not been for her encouragement and example, I wouldn’t be here. Charles and Caroline Todd, who showed me that you can grapple with the most profound of issues in the structure of a mystery. Louise Penny, who created a loving community in Three Pines where everyone eats very well and most of them don’t get fat.  Raymond Chandler, a poet in his own right. And Benjamin Black, whose writing is light as a feather, yet he manages to describe the delicate ebb and flow of love and hate, regret and resentment beneath the surface of mundane interactions. And to Hallie Ephron and Rhys Bowen, who served as mentors at Book Passages Mystery Conference a couple of years ago and provided me with priceless critiques.

What made you interested in writing this particular story? DEADLY SOLUTION came to me in a blinding flash when I was sitting in a law seminar. A few years before, twelve homeless people had been found dead during the summer. This was highly unusual as in Anchorage, Alaska, the homeless generally succumb during winter from hypothermia. The medical examiner had ruled that each of these deaths were the results of natural causes, but the public vehemently disagreed. There were many letters to the editor calling upon the police to investigate as it was thought there was a serial killer. The deaths then stopped as mysteriously as they started. During the legal seminar, I learned of a loophole that was large enough for a serial killer to walk through. I slapped my hand on the table, exclaiming “that’s how he got away with it!” disturbing the knitter next to me.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? Injustice, personal responsibility, forgiveness, redemption, atonement, family, friends, community.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters. She has Michelle Obama’s unremitting dedication, Carrie Fisher’s wisdom and boldness, and looks a lot like a young Kate Mulgrew.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include? Raymond Chandler, Douglas Adams, Dashiell Hammitt, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Sayers, Sarah Caudwell. After they’ve had a couple of drinks, I would start taking notes of the witty banter that ensued. Hopefully, I’ll get them out the door before there was too much property damage.

What’s next for you? I’m about to deliver the second in the Maeve Malloy series to my publisher, looking forward my first Left Coast Crime in Reno in March and the gathering of the clans at the Malice Domestic 30 in Bethesda Maryland in April. It’s going to be a blast.IMG_5637

About Deadly Solution

Less than a year after drinking sidelined her career as a public defender in Anchorage, Alaska, Maeve Malloy is asked to defend an Aleut Indian accused of beating another homeless man to death. With no witnesses to the crime and a client who claims to have no knowledge of the night of the murder due to a blackout, the case is stacked against them.

As Maeve works to maintain her sobriety, she and her investigator Tom Sinclair search for answers in homeless camps, roadside bars, and biker gang hangouts. When they uncover more than a few people with motives all their own for wanting the victim dead, they are determined to prove their client’s innocence before he is sentenced to a life behind bars for a crime he swears he didn’t commit.

When Maeve and Tom discover there may be a link to an unusually high number of deaths among the homeless community, the search is on for a killer hunting among the most vulnerable members of society.

Buy link

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for the chance to win a e-copy of Deadly Solution. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends January 20, 2018. Good luck everyone!

What Mystery Conventions Are You Going To in 2018?

I’m definitely going to Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic. Crimebake is a strong possibility. And Bouchercon is “fingers-crossed”.

With the entire year yawning out before me, I decided to cruise through the net and see what mystery conventions are scheduled. I had no idea there were so many! Enjoy some pictures from Malice Domestic 29 as you cruise through the list.

Agatha Tea. Photo courtesy Greg Puhl.

Sleuthfest 2018. March 1-4. Boca Raton, Florida. http://sleuthfest.com/. Guest authors include Hallie Ephron, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), Hank Phillippi Ryan and James R. Benn.

Murder and Mayhem. March 17, 2018. Chicago, Illinois. http://murdermayhemchicago.com/. The keynotes will be Gillian Flynn and Jeffery Deaver and I recognize a few panelists’ names from previous guests on Mysteristas.

Left Coast Crime 2018. March 22-25, 2018. Reno, Nevada. http://www.leftcoastcrime.org/2018/. Guests of Honor are Naomi Hirahara and William Kent Krueger.

Nancy Drew Sleuths. April 25-28, 2018. Key West, Florida. http://www.ndsleuths.com/ndsconventions.html.

Anthology_10 signing
Malice Most Historical Signing. Courtesy Greg Puhl.

Edgar Awards. April 26, 2018. New York City. http://www.theedgars.com/. Grand Masters: Jane Langton, William Link, and Peter Lovesey. Raven Recipients are Raven Bookstore and Kristopher Zgorski.

Malice Domestic 30. April 27-29, 2018. Bethesda, Maryland. http://malicedomestic.org/. Guest of Honor is Louise Penny. Toastmaster is Catriona McPherson. Lifetime Achieve is Nancy Pickard. Amelia Award is David Suchet. Poirot Award is Brenda Blethyn. Special Amelia Award is Joan Hess. Fan Guest of Honor is Janet Blizard.

ThrillerFest XIII. July 10-14, 2018, New York City. http://thrillerfest.com/. Guests include George R.R. Martin, Lee Child, James Rollins and Lisa Gardner.

Pulpfest 2018. July 26-29, 2018. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. http://www.pulpfest.com/.

Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. August 4, 2018. Suffolk, Virginia. http://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

Killer Nashville. August 23-26, 2018. Nashville, Tennessee. https://killernashville.com/. Guests include Ellery Adams, J.A. Konrath and Otto Penzler.

Mysterista alum Cynthia Kuhn with he 2016 Best First Novel Agatha Award.

Bouchercon 2018. September 6-9, 2018. St. Petersburg, Florida. https://www.bouchercon2018.com/. Guests include Karin Slaughter, Ian Rankin, Lisa Unger, Tim Dorsey, Judy Bobalik, Sara Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Mark Billingham, John D. MacDonald, Ayo Onatade.

Book ‘Em NC. September 22, 2018. Lumberton, North Carolina. http://www.bookemnc.org/.

Creatures, Crimes & Creativity. October 5-7, 2018. Columbia, Maryland. http://creaturescrimesandcreativity.com/.  Guests include Jamie Freveletti and Ketih R.A. DeCandido.

Magna Cum Murder XXIV. October 19-21, 2018, Indianapolis, Indiana. http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/centersandinstitutes/ebball/magnacummurder. Guests: Reavis Z. Wortham and Peter Lovesey.

New England Crimebake. November 2018 (TBA). http://crimebake.org/.


Mysteristas: are there any conventions I missed? Which ones are you planning to attend?








The Dipped Hat: Adios to Longmire

longmire the hatDid anyone besides me binge-watch Longmire Season Six? Did you notice how many times Sherriff Longmire dips his hat? Seriously, they worked that image into every just about every scene he wore the hat, sometimes more than once.

So, what’s with the dipped hat? My theory is that if you can’t see his face, you can’t read his mood. Until he lifts his head, you have no indication what he’s feeling, what he may be thinking or what he’s going to do next. And, because he could lift his head at any minute, the dipped hat is a visual cue building up suspense. The filmmakers are training us to expect something significant to happen when Longmire dips his hat.

The dipped hat is more flexible, and so more intriguing, than hiding behind a mask. Darth Vader rarely takes off the mask. He stalks about the scene, cape snapping in the wind, growling threats. Even without seeing his face, after one movie, you pretty much know what he’s going to do. The Lone Ranger never takes off his mask and you have a good idea of what to expect from him. It’s the same thing with the masked super heroes: they don the mask, go out and kick butt.

In Jaws, we had the auditory cue: sinister music forecasting death-by-shark. It worked. But, to my mind, the dipped hat, because it is so subtle, and because the reveal can be anything: laughing Longmire, shooting Longmire, digging-a-hole Longmire, is-he-ever-going-to-kiss-Vic Longmire, the uncertainty of what is about to occur is even more suspenseful.

Mysteristas: What do you think? Is it possible to work in a cue like this into fiction without coming across as trite? Are you aware of a writer who used such a technique, well or otherwise?