Monday, May 7, 2012


A short 24 hours ago the guests began to arrive.  The rule was my husband had to complete the last dish when the final guests pulled into the yard.  He was to speak to no one, and no one was to watch him prepare the food.  I escorted everyone downstairs to our family room where the other food was set out on display in heated servers.  The cold foods on a separate table.  

One guest noticed the candles around the fountain and quickly counted them to see if the number matched the number of guests.  He was familiar with Agatha Christie's book Ten Little Indians. He gasped when one of the candles flickered out and wondered who would be the first of the group to have his or her light flicker out......

Curiosity was everywhere.  I gave permission to snoop through the carefully prepared food.  Without hesitation lids were lifted and the aromas filled the room.

"It looks like normal food," came one comment from across the room.  

"It smells like normal food, too," was the response.

Ahh...but looks can be deceiving.  I smiled as I watched the guests whisper among themselves.  The final dish joined the others on the hot food table.

"Okay, let's eat," I said.

One guest handed a plate to me.  I declined and said, "No, that's okay, you first."  

A plate was then passed to my husband who responded with the same words, causing uneasiness among the group.  

I suggested since Josh Mackey the radio personality was celebrating his birthday, that he should go first.  He bravely went forward, followed by his significant other, Danielle.  

Since Josh was the only public figure present, we'll follow him through the dining process.  He followed the rule and put a portion of each of the six dishes on his plate.   He took his place at the table and waited on everyone to be seated.  I, of course, was last.  

"Please start without me, " I said.

Josh sniffed his plate of food, he turned each item over with his fork to study it.  He tasted a fried wonton, whose ingredients were unknown, dipped in a sauce that was also curious.  

He liked it.  

Next, a bite of a round, fried, what appeared to be bread or hushpuppy like food.  He dipped it into a creamy mixture that I had spooned onto his plate. 

 Again, he liked it.  

The pizza looked the most strange, the final dish that my husband had brought to the dinner.  We watched as Josh lifted the green topping from the pizza and tried to guess what it was.  Spinach?  No.  Some sort of green vegetable.  Danielle suggested it was kale.  She was right.  The contest was on.

Next were the meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce.  But wait.  There was something strange about them.  Josh carefully at first, cut it open with his fork, then gave in and tore it apart with his fingers searching for an answer to the contents.  He tasted, he searched, he tasted, he searched.  "Could there be rice?" he asked.  

"Yes," I replied.  "Brown rice."  

He sampled the toasted baguette bread with what he thought was a seafood spread over the top.  But then he wasn't quite sure.  

Finally, he sampled the final dish, he recognized they were potato skins, and quickly noticed the avocado bits on the top, mixed with other veggies.  

"Okay, everything tastes good.  What's in it?"

I then read the ingredients to each item the guests were astonished to learn that each item deliciously gourmet, with flavors that were creating wonderful sensations in their mouths, were vegan.  Not just vegetarian, but vegan.  

So I suppose if you are a meat eater and gag at the thought of vegetables, you might feel like the meal was deadly.  Vegan cooking has no meat, no dairy, no eggs.  

The guests were pleasantly shocked.  

We had fried wontons in apricot/Dijon mustard sauce.  The wontons had cashews, scallions, garlic and mushrooms.  They were delicious.  

The potato skins were crispy with avocado salsa, made with onion, cilantro, tomato and avocados.  

The meatballs consisted of brown rice, lentils, walnuts, onion and fresh herbs, fried and smothered with sweet and sour sauce.

The crostini was baguette bread toasted in the oven then spread with a mixture of artichoke hearts, parsley and walnuts processed into a spread.

The jalapeno poppers were made with corn meal, almond milk, flour and jalapenos rolled into balls and fried then dipped in a maple butter.

Finally, the pizza, everyone's favorite.  A homemade pizza dough, topped with fresh basil pesto, with oven roasted sweet potato cubes and then topped with wilted kale drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction.  

Everyone went back for seconds, filled their plates and chattered about how good the vegan food was.  

Then for dessert we had a three layer almond mocha fudge cake and chocolate mousse.  Both made vegan style with no eggs or dairy and the mousse which is amazing, was piped into tiny chocolate cups with raspberry sauce drizzled over the top.

So this murder mystery writer's dinner was a success when the guests agreed the food was to "die" for.  

A special thanks goes to my vegan daughter Dawn from CA who introduced me to Chloe Coscarelli's gourmet vegan cookbook.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


In just a few hours the guests will be arriving at my home.  Why you ask?  Because I've invited a handful of unsuspecting victims who, for some unknown reason, actually trust me.  All they know is that the food they are about to eat has mystery ingredients.  Would you come if I invited you?  Remember, murder mystery writers are a twisted bunch.  How would you know I wasn't working out some sort of plot?  Would you be certain I had the antidote if needed?  Would you be willing to taste everything no matter how strange or how innocent it looks?

I've been preparing food all week for this event.  The table is set, the food is ready for the last minute heating and final preparation.  A quick run of the vacuum through the house is complete. I'm ready.

My house cat is not feeling well.  She's locked in the main level bathroom, she has trouble standing upright, she walks with her head tipped to the side and sometimes just falls over.  Is it possible she slipped into the kitchen and sampled something I'm unaware of?  After consulting with the vet, she's on meds to help her, but under quarantine for her own good.  Can't have her falling down the stairs or off of furniture.  So she's in a very large bathroom, with her bed, food and water, her litter box and the television on the Animal Channel.  

Speaking of television and movies, I'm certain my guests are unaware that one of my favorite movies is Agatha Christie's Ten Little IndiansI even have a copy of the original play.  Would they be able to draw a connection to today's events?  Ten guests invited to a mysterious weekend at the home of a mystery host.  Do they leave alive?  That's for those of you who haven't read the book, the play, or seen the movie to find out.  

I'll write more tomorrow to let you know how the mystery ingredient secret sampler party turns be continued.