Archive for the 'Foods' Category

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, which means time to grab a little reading pleasure and sample some locally grown produce to go with whatever you’re putting on the grill. And don’t forget dessert.  My mind is already spinning with ideas.



Hanging out in the hammock calls for a book, so if you haven’t already snagged a copy of A BEELINE TO MURDER, get your e-book today through May 30 for a great price from KOBO Books. Here’s the link:




The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015

The first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series, Kensington Books 2015





For your grilling pleasure, choose some sweet corn to grill to go with the barbecue ribs or chicken. Here on the Henny Penny Farmette, our corn won’t be ready until July, so we’re going to pick some up locally grown corn at the farmers’ market in downtown Concord.




This corn has just started growing

This corn has just started growing




We’ve got more than a dozen heirloom tomato plants with fruit on them. Vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes for a cool Caprese salad are also available from the farmers’ market. And as I consider salads for our weekend meals, a red-skin potato with pesto and shredded basil leaves sounds almost as good as a conventional country style potato salad. But then again, I’d love a fresh broccoli-carrot salad with an Asian sesame-seed dressing or a simple cold slaw.








We’ve got plenty of zucchini and sweet snap peas in my garden that are ready to eat. These taste divine tossed into a garlic and butter shrimp pasta with a little shaved Parmesan cheese. Add a nice chardonnay or a traditional Cuban lime mojito along with some fresh baked bread and you’re ready to head for the table in the orchard.




Sunflower-design bundt pan makes this cake pretty enough to eat without the icing.

Sunflower-design bundt pan makes this cake pretty enough to eat without the the caramelized pecan frosting.




Desserts are on my mind too–a simple cake or a plate of berries or watermelon rings my chime. But then again, with company, I could bake some linzer torte cookies with home-canned apricot jam. Or make a rhubarb-strawberry pie. The rhubarb stalks are cherry red and ready to cut.



These are some of my ideas of simple pleasures for Memorial Day to get you thinking about yours. Wishing you a peaceful, blessed Memorial Day weekend.



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If you enjoy reading about keeping bees and chickens, raising heirloom vegetables and fruits, and other aspects of modern farmette life, check out my series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing (New York).




A BEELINE TO MURDER, available in hardcover, will be released in paperback format in October.  THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE will be released October 1, 2016. Find these titles on,, and other online bookstores and retailers as well as in traditional bookstores everywhere.



First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries




Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

















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Spinning Liquid Gold

Author: Meera, May 10, 2016

Honey is the liquid gold that we harvest from our backyard honeybee hives. Until recently, I had to take frames out of the hives, open the cap cells, and drain the honey through a strainer into a bucket.




Electric 4-frame honey extractor

This electric honey extractor holds four frames of the liquid gold





Just before Mother’s Day, my hubby purchased an electric honey extractor. He set it up in the kitchen. This weekend, we plan to open the hives and harvest some frames, giving our new machine a test run.




A hand-cranked or electric honey extractor makes it much easier to get honey out of the wooden frames. After the capped cells are opened with a hot knife, the frame goes into the machine. It spins honey against the cylinder walls and the sweet liquid then drains out the spigot.




Me with a frame of honey from the hive

A frame of honey from the hive




I use a fabric paint strainer taped over a five-gallon honey bucket (also with a spigot) to filter the honey and fill the jars. The jar of liquid gold is then labeled and ready to distribute to customers and friends.


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If you like reading about keeping bees and chickens, harvesting honey, and creating delicious recipes, check out my novels in the Henny Penny Farmette series.  Besides offering an intriguing cozy mystery, these books are chocked full of farm sayings, tips for gardening, yummy recipes, and much more.


My novels are published by Kensington Publishing and are available through online stores of Barnes & Noble,, Walmart, Kobo and conventional bookstores everywhere.

The first two novels in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing.

A BEELINE TO MURDER is the debut novel and THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE is the second  book in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing.






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Rainy Day Treat–Tea and Cake

Author: Meera, March 14, 2016

The storms have been steadily sweeping over the farmette, thanks to the El Nino effect. And on rainy days, I like to ride out the battering rain and blustery winds with indoor work. Invariably, a tea break calls for cake.



I’m particularly fond of apple cake and this recipe adds a cream cheese layer which makes the cake super moist. The praline frosting with toasted pecans partners perfectly with the apples and spices.




Sunflower-design bundt pan makes this cake pretty enough to eat without the icing.



William Tell’s Never Miss Apple Cake



Ingredients (for the cream cheese layer):


1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg



The combination of apples and carrots make for a dense, moist cake

The combination of apples and carrots make for a dense, moist cake



Ingredients (for the cake)


1 ¾ cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

3 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith apples

1 cup shredded carrots

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted



Ingredients (for the icing):

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup butter, cubed

2 tablespoons whole milk

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted




cream cheese mixture

Cream cheese, sugar, and egg mixture is layered between two batter pourings





Directions for the prep:


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Grease and flour a 10-in. fluted tube pan.

3. In a small bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and then beat in egg.



Directions to make the cake:


1. Fit the large bowl to an electric mixer.

2. Add to the bowl the sugar, oil and eggs and beat to blend well.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

4. Add gradually the flour-and-spice mixture to the sugar-oil mixture.

5. Stir in apples, carrots and toasted pecans.

6. Pour one-half of the batter into the prepared pan.

7. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the batter and spread it evenly into a layer.

8. Add the remaining batter to the cream cheese layer.

9. Bake 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cake portion comes out clean.

10. Cool cool completely before inverting the fluted pan to remove the cake.



The praline icing drizzled over the top tastes great but diminishes the contours lines of the sunflower petals

The praline icing drizzled over the top tastes great but diminishes the contours of the sunflower petals




Directions to make the praline icing:


1. Combine brown sugar, butter and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Boil the mixture, stirring constantly, for 1 minute and then remove the pan from heat.

3. Use a whisk to combine confectioners’ sugar with vanilla until smooth.

4. Drizzle the frosting over the cake.

5. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.



Serves: 12


For more delicious farmette recipes, folksy sayings, farming tips, and a cozy mystery, check out A BEELINE TO MURDER and the forthcoming THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE (Kensington Publishing), available on Amazon, and other online and traditional bookstores everywhere.





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Pomegranate seeds add sweetness and crunch to salads but can also be juiced or eaten fresh

Pomegranate seeds add sweetness and crunch to salads but can eaten fresh, or you can extract the juice to make a lovely sauce.



Use fresh pomegranate juice if you would like a delicious sauce to use in salad dressing or other culinary creations. Pomegranate sauce made into a warm salad dressing dresses up a plain spinach salad like nothing else.



The warm pomegranate dressing is made by combining to blend 1/2 cup pomegranate sauce (recipe below), 1 Tablespoon of honey, 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger, 1 cup California extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts. Warm the dressing and pour over over a pound of freshly washed spinach leaves, 1/2 cup red onion, and 1 orange (peeled, seeded and with segments quartered).



Here’s how to make and preserve the pomegranate sauce.






5 cups of pomegranate juice (reamed from about 10 large fruits)

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup sugar






Wash thoroughly ten large pomegranates.

Cut in half and use a reamer to extract the juice from the seeds, discarding the membrane.

Strain the juice through cheesecloth several times to obtain 5 cups.

Combine the juice, lemon, and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reduce the sauce by half.





Have ready 4 half-pint jam jars that have been washed on a hot cycle in the dishwasher and dried.

Fill the canner with water, place on heat, and bring to a simmer.

Simmer jar lids and rings.

Fill the jars with the pomegranate sauce, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Affix hot lids to the jars and screw on the rings.

Lower the jars on the rack into the canner (water must cover the jars by at least an inch) and boil the water for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars of sauce and allow to cool.

Check seals, label, and then store until needed.


For more delicious recipes, farming tips, and beekeeping strategies as well as a cozy mystery, check out the first book in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Books in New York. Available on,, and in other online and traditional bookstores everywhere.




The book cover for my debut novel, the first in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series






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Can You Say Duck?

Author: Meera, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! What are you planning for your New Year’s Day dinner? Here on our Northern California farmette, we love a New Year’s meal of cracked crab, sourdough bread, and a crisp winter salad, but this year I think we’ll have duck instead.


Crab season in Northern California has been put on hold thanks to an unprecedented algae season. Our local Dungeness crab has become infected with domaic acid, a neurotoxin produced by the microscopic algae that can cause human illness and death. Testing continues until the crab is safe to eat.


In the meantime, crab is being imported to local stores and restaurants, but it is expensive. With other issues with salmon, sardines, shrimp, and tuna, a seafood shopper might turn to Safeway. The store now offers Fair Trade Certified seafood, in an effort to reduce the seafood/fishing industry’s human rights abuses. But if there’s crab, it’s not local.


There are many other options, but I wouldn’t mind a farm-raised (mind you, I don’t mean “factory-farm raised,” which I’m against), free-range duck for dinner. I was raised on a farm and my grandparents (who raised me for a period in my life) kept chickens, cows, pigs, and horses. Meat (like Boone County ham and, yes, pickled pigs feet) was part of our diet along with all the delicious vegetables and fruits my grandmother grew and in her various gardens and preserved in myriad ways.


Maybe the rest of our duck meal could include a winter salad with citrus, pears, goat cheese, and sugared pecans; roast potatoes, green beans, and a chocolate sheet cake. We’ve got sparkling cider and wine. That sounds pretty good, but it isn’t crab, which is really the meal with which we wanted to start 2016. So, I guess duck will have to do.



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Raisin-Walnut Molasses Cookies

Author: Meera, December 27, 2015

I’ve been going through my mom’s old cookbooks, organizing recipes she’d written down on scraps of paper and tucked inside. Finding one for molasses cookies on a holiday card inside her Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook, I decided to bake a batch. They turned out lovely so I packed a few in festive boxes along with sugar cookies to give as gifts between Christmas and New Years.



These cookies benefit from a dusting of turbinado or muscovado sugar while still warm

These cookies benefit from a dusting of turbinado or muscovado sugar while still warm


Raisin-Walnut Molasses Cookies





3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (softened)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup molasses

1 egg

3/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped


Directions for Mixing:


Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a bowl.

Put butter and sugar in a medium bowl of an electric mixer and cream together until fluffy.

Pour molasses and egg into the butter/sugar mixture.

Add 1/3 the flour/spice mixture at a time to the creamed butter and sugar until all has been added and well blended.

Add the nuts and raisins and mix well.


Directions for Baking:


Set oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until ready to sue (at least 1 to 2 hours)

Divide the dough into thirds.

Work with one ball of dough at a time to roll and bake the cookies.

Place dough onto a work surface that has been sifted with flour.

Roll out the dough.

Cut out the cookies with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Space cookies 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool.


*Optional: dust with turbinado or muscovado sugar while cookies are still warm.

Store in an air-tight container.





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Peanut Butter Cookies

Author: Meera, December 11, 2015

I sometimes have to resort to bribes to get a helping hand with farmette chores. A bribe that nearly always works is the promise of freshly baked , homemade cookies.



These cookies are characterized by a golden brown color and lovely texture

These cookies are characterized by a golden brown color and lovely texture



The old standard peanut butter cookie is a family favorite. These cookies are easy-peasy to make and bake. Best of all, they’re delicious. If they aren’t devoured the same day they’re made, they tend to get a little crisper with time.


Peanut Butter Cookies




8 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup chunky peanut butter

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (or foil)




Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Cream the butter and peanut butter with the sugars until smooth.

Add one egg at a time to the mix, beating after each addition.

Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture of wet ingredients.

Make each cookie by rolling 1 teaspoon of the dough at a time.

Place cookies about 2 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.

Flatten with  the tines of a fork or bottom of a jar.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

Slide paper from pans to racks and let cool.

Store in a cookie tin or a container with a tight-fitting lid (place wax paper between cookie layers).




For more recipes, farming tips, and craft ideas, check out my newest book, A BEELINE TO MURDER. This hardcover book makes gift-giving easy. Available online and a brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere. See,




The book cover for my debut novel, the first in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series





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Family and friends may love the hustle and bustle of holiday activities but often are too tired at the end of the day to cook. There’s a simple solution. Before leaving the house, someone needs to assemble a stew or meal that simmers all day in a slow cooker.





A hearty bean and beef stew is garnished with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and fresh Italian parsley

A hearty bean and beef stew is garnished with a dash of extra virgin olive oil, Italian parsley, and coarsely ground black pepper



The process is simple. Choose your meal, put the ingredients in a slow cooker, turn it on, and forget about it until you are ready to feed your gang at the end of the day.



Slow cookers are terrific tools for making tasty stews like apple chicken, Mexican pork and hominy, and red beans with Cajun  sausages. Or, make a corned beef and cabbage dish with carrots and potatoes. Beef stroganoff, pepper steak, and even clam chowder or a fish stew taste sublime when cooked slowly for several hours.


Serve your hot meal alongside a simple salad. Choose perhaps broccoli slaw with chopped apples and pears, segments of seedless tangerines, and a handful of sliced almonds. Drizzle or spritz with Asian Sesame Ginger dressing. Put out slices of French bread and possibly a platter of cheese.



Right before serving the meal, sprinkle the hot food with some fresh herbs, a dash of olive oil, some shaved cheese, or coarsely ground black pepper. What could be easier?




For more delicious farmhouse recipes, tips for keeping honeybees and chickens, growing heirloom vegetables, and tending fruit trees, check out my latest book, A BEELINE TO MURDER.




Released in hardcover, the book makes a great gift for holidays, birthdays, and other celebratory events. Available online and a brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere. See,




The book cover for my debut novel, the first in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series

The first cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette mystery series by Meera Lester, from Kensington Books







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A Hispaniola-Inspired Halloween Soup

Author: Meera, October 31, 2015
Pumpkins are quintisenstially asociated with autumn

Pumpkins are quintessentially associated with autumn




My husband hails from the Dominican Republic, located on the east side of Hispaniola. Haiti occupies the west side of the Caribbean island. In the DR (as it is commonly called), Halloween today is celebrated much like it is in the United States. But it hasn’t always been that way.



Some who were born in the Caribbean do not celebrate Halloween, primarily because of religious convictions and a belief that Halloween has no roots in the history, cultural traditions, or even relevance to African-Caribbean folklore. But others have accepted the holiday and enjoy its fun-loving activities such as cavorting in costumes, consuming candy, and carving pumpkins.



As for superstitions in the DR, there are many. Did you know, for example, that a pregnant woman should not go to the ocean? I know, it seems a little strange since DR women live on an island surrounded by ocean. Another superstition is that a toddler who looks into a mirror will never speak (also strange since many youngsters in the DR today are educated as bilingual). There are witches spells, too. And ghosts and goblins abound. All part of the fun.



When my husband Carlos was growing up in the DR, Halloween wasn’t celebrated, however, Dominicanos did celebrate the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) with sugar skulls, festively painted. The holiday honored one’s loved ones who’d passed away and their ancestors.



At Sagrada, in Oakland, sugar skull mold, icing colors, meringue powder, and more can be purchased with directions for making those treats. See,




If you’re not into whipping up a batch of sugar skulls, how about a pumpkin soup? Rich and complex with Dominican flavors, it’s a dish my husband fondly recalls from the days around Halloween/Day of the Death during his childhood. A bowl of tasty, nourishing soup can fortify the entire family before they don their costumes and head out for a little Halloween fun.




Dominican Pumpkin Soup





2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin may be used or West Indian pumpkin, calabaza)

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 cups unsweetened canned coconut milk





Melt the butter in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden brown.

Add pumpkin puree, chicken broth, allspice, and crushed red pepper.

Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat.

Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree the soup in a blender (do this in batches).

Return to pureed soup to the cooking pot.

Add the brown sugar and the coconut milk in batches of 1/2 cup each time until the desired consistency has been achieved.

Season with salt and pepper, according to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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Desert Gold early peaches

Desert Gold is an early ripening peach cultivar that grows well in the southwest and in western gardens





Summer remains weeks away but already the Northern California farmers’ markets are in full swing, selling apricots, cherries, strawberries, and early-ripening peaches. The early peaches I grow on the farmette are Desert Gold.



Peaches taste great eaten fresh, prepared in cobblers, and added to homemade ice cream. But you can also use fresh peaches to make a lovely, slow-sipping brandy-and-wine drink.



Eau de vie is French for “water of life.” Basically, it is a brandy made of fruit with no added sweetener and not aged. It is best consumed chilled and sipped after a meal as a dessert or digestive drink.



Making your own eau de vie is fairly straightforward and you’ll find many easy recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruit flavors. Basically, just add prepared fruit to pure grain alcohol and then distill it. Or, mash fresh fruit, ferment, and distill it. Here’s an easy recipe for a summer drink that combines purchased eau de vie with white wine and peaches.







6 ripe peaches


4 cups dry white wine


1 cup superfine sugar


1/4 cup Eau de Vie (brandy made of fruits)





Skin the peaches and slice each peach in half.


Pour the wine into a stainless steel pan.


Gently simmer the fruit in the white wine until tender (about 15 minutes).


Cover the fruit and let stand overnight to impart its full flavor to the wine.


Remove the peaches from the wine.


Strain the wine through a fine sieve or paper filter.


Add the eau de vie to the peach-flavored wine.


Add the sugar and stir well to dissolve.


Pour the blended beverage into sterilized dry bottles and cap or cork.


Keep refrigerated. Use within two weeks.




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