Chatting with Jenny Kales

This is an exciting post for two reasons: first, because it is the first time we’ve had a cookbook author on Reade and Write (and everyone who reads the blog knows I love to cook and I love to eat). And second, because the author is none other than Jenny Kales, who has been here before and whose books are FABULOUS. She’s here to talk about her newest release, The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries Cookbook.

I have read the book and I loved it (you can read my full review here). It’s full of wonderful Greek and Midwestern American recipes, as well as some extra treats from the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries, and I think you’ll love it, too.

Welcome, Jenny!

Congratulations on your new cookbook! I’m so excited to talk to you about it. Here’s my first question: have you always been a lover of Greek food?

Thank you so much! I’m so happy to participate in this interview with you. I have really enjoyed writing my new cookbook. Besides many new recipes, the cookbook contains new scenes as well as book excerpts from the series.  I hope my cookbook gives readers a little more insight into the characters and the series, besides providing some tasty new recipes to enjoy.

Regarding Greek food, I learned all about it from my husband who is a Greek-American. On one of our early dates, my husband took me to Greektown and introduced me to Greek food and the rest was history. I remember having the simple but very tasty dish, tzatziki (Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce) and feeling cheated I’d never had it before. It’s so delicious! Tzatziki is still one of my favorites and the recipe can be found in my new cookbook.

I’m intrigued by the idea of a supper club, which you note is commonplace in Wisconsin. Can you tell me more about them? Do they have memberships, or can anyone eat at a supper club?

Supper clubs are open to the public, and name refers to their hours of operation: any time after 4 pm, aka “suppertime.” They range from rustic charm to old-school elegance, but what they all have in common in that to attend one feels like an “event.” Supper clubs serve good, honest food like steaks, fish, chops and frequently, scrumptious homemade desserts. They also offer house cheese spread and “relish trays” aka crudité, served to every diner. What I love about supper club food is the same thing I love about Greek food: it’s simple, has bold, fresh flavors, and if done right, it’s just plain good.

Wisconsin supper clubs are also known for their classic cocktails, primarily the Brandy Old-Fashioned. Supper clubs often feature live music, always have a Friday fish fry, and are known as meeting places for friends and family to gather. However, their numbers are diminishing, so if you get a chance to visit one, go!

I know from reading your newsletters and various interviews that your husband and his family are great cooks and have inspired some of the recipes you include in your mysteries. Do you always run recipes by them before including them in your novels?

First of all, thanks for subscribing to my newsletter! I always run any new or “tweaked” recipes by the family before I include them in books. However, many of my recipes are my husband’s family recipes, and they are fabulous. So, they’ve already been given many trial runs, such as YiaYia’s Greek Meatloaf and many others. I have altered a few to my tastes and to modern health concerns, such as the spanakopita recipe found in my first Callie’s Kitchen book and in my new cookbook. I think the original recipe called for nearly a dozen eggs. It doesn’t need that many!

What is your idea of a perfect Greek celebration meal?

When you have a Greek meal, it’s always festive! But for a big celebration meal, I have to have a “pita,” aka a dish layered in baked phyllo dough, my favorite being spanakopita. At my house, we also love to have a huge Greek village salad, grilled meats and fish, Greek roasted potatoes, tzatziki and bread. For dessert, my deluxe Greek rizogalo (rice pudding) or Greek cookies with Greek coffee. P.S. A lot of people have asked me about baklava, one of the best-known Greek dishes, and why I don’t have a recipe for it in my books. The reason is that my oldest daughter has a severe nut allergy, so I don’t make it at home, and we don’t eat it at home. However, I love being able to introduce people to lesser-known Greek foods and I hope they enjoy learning about them and trying them.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the cookbook?

That’s a tough one because I love each one and I do make each recipe that I share in the cookbook and mystery books. If I have to pick one, I’ll choose the one I make the most and that’s the paxemathia, aka Greek biscotti flavored with ouzo (anise-flavored liqueur). My second favorite is spanakopita. And my third…just kidding, but it’s hard to pick just one.

I’m sure you have a vast repertoire of Greek and Midwestern recipes. How did you decide which recipes to put in the book and which ones to leave out?

To start, I included every recipe that is found in my mystery novels. I love choosing the recipes that go into the books because they often reflect the action in the mystery or on a character’s personality or behavior. Beyond those, I wanted to feature recipes that were easy to make, delicious (of course!) and that would directly reflect the spirit of the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. I also chose to include recipes that I make for my family. I view the cookbook as a peek not into just Callie’s Kitchen but also into my own.

Are you a see-what-tastes-good cook or a follow-the-directions-precisely cook?

If it’s a new recipe, I will try to follow it exactly and make changes later. However, I will confess that I’ve been cooking so long, sometimes I just “know” I’m going to want to add or delete something, or that the baking time needs to be adjusted. I guess you could say I’m a little bit of both.

Of all the foods Callie makes, which is Detective Ian Sands’ favorite?

I love this question! After a hard day of crime solving, he loves her comforting home cooking like the Greek Beef Stew with red wine in A Stew to a Kill. He also likes the Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake and the Loukoumades aka Greek drop doughnuts– two breakfast-type foods sold every day in Callie’s Kitchen. The sugar gives him energy what will most certainly a busy day in Crystal Bay.

Can you share what’s next for Callie?

Yes! Well, I had planned to have her travel abroad. I don’t want to say too much because there are some new scenes in my cookbook that deal with some breaking developments Callie’s life. Regarding having her travel, I considered the current situation with the worldwide pandemic and travel restrictions, and decided that I would still have her travel, because after all, this is fiction and she would have already left on her trip. I’m not sure how or if I will incorporate current events into the book. In the end, I will do what feels right for the story.

And what’s next for you?

I am on a second round of edits for a brand-new mystery with series potential. I really love the premise and characters, one of which is a more mature (retired) female sleuth who starts an online fan group and gets involved in a mystery! I hope to have that one out later this year. I am also turning 50 in May, which is prompting me to want to get busy with some projects I’ve been putting aside. Right now, I’m trying to get my current book finished and enjoying the unexpected time with both of my daughters, who are both home e-learning right now. One is in college and one is in her junior year of high school.

Where can readers connect with you?

I love to connect with readers! You can find me mostly on my Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/jennykalesauthor/ and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jennykales_author/?hl=en. I also publish a newsletter for readers, often featuring recipe exclusives, giveaways and more. You can sign up for that at this link or on my Facebook page. My website is www.jennykales.wordpress.com. Stop by and say hello!

Where can readers find your books?

You can find my books on Amazon, in both paperback and for the Kindle (click to be redirected). My Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries are free with a subscription to Kindle Unlimited. I am looking to expand into other formats, such as Nook and iBooks, so stay tuned!

Thank you, Amy, for such featuring me on your blog and for such great questions. I also want to thank the readers, who are so important to us authors, especially now.

It was my pleasure, Jenny. 

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for June

I’m writing this on a perfect June day, with the windows open and the temperatures in the high 60s. And, as usual, my thoughts are turning toward dinner.

I’m sharing three dinner recipes with you this month: a vegetarian dish, a grilled pork tenderloin, and a big salad.

* * *

Red Thai Veggie Curry

1 T. coconut oil (olive oil can be substituted)

small onion, chopped

1 T. fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced

2 T. Thai red curry paste

1 can (14 oz.) regular coconut milk

1/2 c. water

1/2 T. brown sugar

1 T. soy sauce

1 T. rice vinegar

sliced fresh basil

Melt coconut oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add peppers, carrots, and zucchini; cook for about 5 minutes. Add curry paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add coconut milk, water, and sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are cooked to your preference.

Remove curry from heat and stir in soy sauce and vinegar. Serve over rice and garnish with basil.

* * *

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

1/2 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

6 T. soy sauce

4 T. toasted sesame oil

2 T. fresh grated ginger

1 pkg. pork tenderloin (1-2 pounds)

In a large gallon-sized zip-top bag, combine all ingredients. Squish it around to coat the pork and refrigerate for 6-24 hours, turning occasionally if possible.

Preheat grill to medium-high and discard marinade. Grill tenderloins over indirect heat for 20-35 minutes or until thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloins reaches 145 degrees F. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

* * *

Greek Salad

Salad:

1 head Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 large cucumber, seeded, peeled, and chopped

1 medium red onion

1 yellow pepper, sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 c. Kalamata olives, halved

3/4 c. feta cheese

salami, thinly sliced, optional

Dressing:

6 T. olive oil

2 T. red wine vinegar

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1 t. dried oregano

2 t. fresh parsley, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. If you want a heartier dinner, add the salami (coarsely chopped deli ham is also a good choice).

In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients. Just before serving, pour over salad and toss gently to coat.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

A Halloween Treat: Jenny Kales Returns!

Happy Halloween! My guest today is Jenny Kales, who writes the Callie’s Kitchen cozy mystery series. She visited Reade and Write once before, when her debut novel, On the Chopping Block, was released (if you’d like to read that post, you can find it here).

Jenny’s back today to talk about her newest release, Book Three in the series, Secrets and Pies. Welcome, Jenny, and congratulations on the new release!

Tell us about your new book.

My new book, SECRETS AND PIES, is the third book in The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries, my culinary cozy mystery series. It takes place in fictional Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, a picturesque waterfront community that many readers say is a character unto itself. This time around, Callie Costas, my Greek-American food business owner and amateur sleuth, is faced with a murder that hits really close to home. A Murder Mystery Night at a spooky old house, a motley crew of suspects, personnel issues and a busy summer tourist season add to the intrigue. Along the way, secrets pertaining to Crystal Bay’s colorful past may provide clues! As always, my book contains mouth-watering recipes, both Greek and Midwestern favorites.

How long did it take you to write the new book?

About 6 months, with a few months of post-production, including editing, beta readers and book design and layout. So altogether, 9 months or so.

Do you write linearly, or do you write each scene separately and then piece them together like a puzzle? Or is there some other path you take to writing a novel?

I create a pretty detailed outline and write linearly. Things do change as I go along, but I start with whodunit and construct the novel around that.

Tell us a secret about one of your characters- something that’s not in the book.

Max used to have a crush on Callie.

Do you have any writing rituals?

If I’m working on something that needs a lot of concentration, I go the Quiet Room of my local library. It’s a beautiful space with a fireplace. I also like to be surrounded by books when I write – it’s inspirational. Something about that room tells my brain to get to business!

What time of day do you do your best writing?

Probably the morning, but I also write in the early afternoon before the kids get home from school.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? And if so, where did you go?

Yes, I went to a summer writer’s retreat hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my alma mater. However, I have not been on a writing retreat in a very long time and I would love to do that in the near future.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m planning to work on a new series idea for NaNoWriMo. I’m about five chapters into a new book and I love it. It’s a traditional mystery with cozy elements and the protagonist is a hoot! I’m also developing an idea for a Callie’s Kitchen short story and the next full-length novel in the series.

Tell us about the dedication in your new book, if you wish.

This one didn’t have a dedication, but it did have two epigrams. One is from Homer and one is from F. Scott Fitzgerald and they both tie into the novel. That’s all I can say!

Do you prefer to read a physical book (with paper pages that really turn), or do you prefer an ereader, or perhaps audio books?

I used to prefer print books and I still really like them, but I tend to go for my tablet with the Kindle app. I can adjust the type to be larger or smaller and it gives off some light, which is great because I read a lot at night and I don’t want to keep my husband awake.

If you had an unlimited budget, is there something special you would do for your readers?

I would love to go across country for a book tour where I served Callie’s Kitchen specialties and met my readers. A lot of what I do is online, which is a great way to connect, but I would love to host in-person book parties with my readers. Hopefully, someday!

Remind us where we can connect with you.

You can find me on Facebook, my website, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. You can also follow me on my Amazon author page. And be sure to follow me on Bookbub, too!

Where is the new book available?

SECRETS AND PIES is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book, as well as Kindle Unlimited: The paperback version looks beautiful! I have a really wonderful cover designer.

I also want to add that I have a Christmas cozy mystery, which is the second book in my Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series, SPICED AND ICED (you can find it here). So if any of you are in the Christmas spirit a little bit early, check out this cozy mystery with festive holiday recipes included. I’m also happy to be a part of the Christmas-themed cozy mystery event with you, Amy! My day is December 2 and I am looking forward to some cozy holiday fun.

  

Thanks again, Amy, for hosting me on your wonderful blog!

Thanks, Jenny. As always, it’s been a pleasure having you here. 

For those of you who may not be aware of the Christmas-themed cozy event Jenny mentioned, she’s talking about The 12 Slays of Christmas Release Week Extravaganza, which takes place from November 28 until December 5. If you haven’t seen my posts about the set before, it’s a set of twelve cozy mysteries by twelve authors. You can find the website here and the Facebook event here.

One more thing….

There’s one more boxed set I want to tell you about. It’s called Christmas Babies on Main Street and it’s a collection of stories of Christmas, love, and babies from around the world. It’s only 99¢ and you can find it on Amazon.

 

My Bucket List

One of my daughters is a consummate list-maker.  She has lists for everything you can imagine, from her favorite foods to her favorite Disney movies to places she wants to visit.  I’m taking my cue from her today and making a list.  My bucket list.  I’m going to stop myself at ten items because that’s a nice round number and because I don’t want to bore you to death.

When I thought about writing this post, I realized I don’t really have a bucket list.  But when I actually tried to decide what might be on it, I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten.  I imagine most people have that same problem.  

Here goes.

First, I’d like to travel to Greece.  I want to see the postcard places with the white buildings and cerulean ocean in the background.  I want to taste real Greek cuisine.  I want to see all the places I’ve only read about in history books.

Second, I want to take a class at the Culinary Institute of America.  It doesn’t have to be any particular kind of class, though I’m partial to desserts.  

Third, I would love to learn French.  I took French in high school, but I remember almost nothing and if I had to have a conversation, I would be limited to “please” and “thank you” and “shut your mouth” and “I love cheese.”

Fourth and Fifth, I’d like to take two kinds of vacations:  an eco-vacation and a volunteer vacation.  The eco-vacation doesn’t have to be anywhere specific, but it would be nice if it were in a warm place.  And I’d like to take a volunteer vacation in South America. 

Sixth, I want to see a performance at Carnegie Hall.  In all the years I lived in and near Manhattan, I never visited Carnegie Hall and it’s one of the few things I regret about that time. 

Seventh, I want to go to Scotland.  I want to see the mountains and the plaids and the lochs.

Eighth, I want to go to Ireland.  I want to taste honest-to-goodness Irish pub food and see lots of green and lots of sheep.   

Ninth, I’d love to go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.  I don’t even know why.  It just looks so cool in pictures.

And last, but not least, I’d like to see the Northern Lights.  Preferably from Norway.  

So that’s my bucket list.  I hope it inspires you to come up with your own if you haven’t yet, and I hope it inspires you to let me know what’s on yours. 

Until next week,

Amy