The holidays can be murder! Greek-American restaurateur Callie Costas finds herself on thin ice when a colleague is killed. Recipes included!
The season is bright when Calliope “Callie” Costas agrees to contribute her Greek snowball cookies to a December bridal shower at The English Country Inn in the scenic waterfront town of Crystal Bay, WI. But when Callie finds a colleague dead, she’s sucked into another murder investigation — all while juggling her growing business and staggering holiday workload.
As she reluctantly agrees to help the Inn’s owner track the killer, Callie is soon up to her spiced Greek biscotti in difficulties. For one thing, the hotel staff is freezing her out as she tries to uncover information, helped by her feisty Grandma Viv and her sweet but nosy aunt who’s visiting from Greece. And then there’s her deepening relationship with the suave and mysterious Detective Sands, a British expat now living in Wisconsin, who seems to have a few secrets of his own.
The icing on the cake is a host of simultaneous family mayhem including her father’s surprising fixation on a real estate agent and her ex’s plans to move back to Crystal Bay. As the Inn’s annual Christmas Tea approaches, things are heating up in Callie’s Kitchen, but she’s on thin ice! Will Christmas be a festive celebration this year – or will it be murder? Recipes included at the end of the book.
Celebrating the Holidays with Callie’s Kitchen, Greek Food and a Cozy Mystery
When I started envisioning The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries, one of the things I was most looking forward to was the food. True, this is a cozy mystery series, requiring my amateur sleuth, Calliope “Callie” Costas to find a killer amidst cooking assignments, but she is also a Greek-American and a Midwesterner. The food traditions are rampant and they say a lot about who Callie is: warm, nurturing and kind, but also ready to think on the fly and use kitchen equipment that just might help her in the face of a killer!
Writing a Christmas-themed cozy mystery, I was of course drawn to being able to discuss the magic of the season and Wisconsin’s snowy cold weather that has a beauty all its own. Still, food is what helps keep Callie, her customers and her family together and focused while she attempts to help uncover who perpetrated a distinctly unseasonal murder. You can bet that I included several holiday recipes, including two recipes for Greek Christmas cookies – one is a melt-in-your-mouth “snowball” cookie aka kourabiethes and the other is Greek biscotti spiced with ouzo. OPA! See SPICED AND ICED for these and four other recipes.
One holiday recipe I didn’t get to include in SPICED AND ICED is one for a special Greek New Year’s “pita” or pie. This luscious meat and leek pie tastes amazing! A coin is placed in the pie and whoever gets it has good luck for the New Year. This pie is traditionally served on New Year’s Day and it has many derivations – you can use ground pork, beef or lamb. I’ve included my family recipe for you below. It’s a delicious tradition that you don’t have to be Greek to enjoy!
New Year’s Kreatopita
4 cups finely cut leeks
½ lb. unsalted butter, melted (2 sticks)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs.’ ground beef or lamb
1 -2 tsp. oregano
½ cup grated kasseri (hard Greek cheese – available at many well-stocked supermarkets or gourmet grocery shops) or Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
½ lb. phyllo sheets (pastry sheets), thawed if frozen
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready a large baking pan and a sterilized coin.
Sauté the leeks in a small amount of the melted butter until wilted and golden. Set aside to cool. In a large, wide frying pan, sauté meat in olive oil until browned. Set this aside to cool. When both meat and leeks have cooled, stir in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly mixed. Add cheese and mix gently. Season with oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
On the bottom of a large baking pan, layer 8 phyllo sheets, one at a time, spreading melted butter generously over each sheet, all the way to the corners. A pastry brush works best. Place your sterilized coin on top of the last baking sheet. Work quickly so that the phyllo doesn’t dry out and cover it up with plastic wrap while you do the next step.
Spread filling evenly over phyllo, then cover the top with 8 more phyllo sheets, spreading butter on each sheet one at a time. With a sharp knife, score into even squares before putting into oven (this makes it easier to cut after baking). If any of the phyllo overhangs your baking pan, carefully trim with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the phyllo looks golden brown.
Note: Warn your guests that there is a coin in this pie so that there are no unhappy surprises. We only want good luck! Chronia Polla! That’s Greek for Happy New Year!
About the Author:
Jenny Kales is the author of The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series, featuring Calliope Costas, Greek-American food business owner and feisty amateur sleuth. Kales’ marriage into a food-loving Greek-American Midwestern family inspired the series; the setting of the story, “Crystal Bay,” is inspired by a favorite family vacation spot – Wisconsin’s beautiful Geneva Lakes.
Jenny is an avid reader, cook and baker and she’s addicted to mystery TV, especially anything on Masterpiece Mystery or BBC America. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, she lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, two daughters and one cute but demanding Yorkshire terrier.
ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK: A Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Book 1 http://tinyurl.com/jdamxep
SPICED AND ICED: A Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Book 2 http://tinyurl.com/j4zpygk
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