Archive for February, 2013


February 21, 2013

The Internet has made so many changes in our lives.  One thing that’s kind of unique, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact I can say something like:  “My friend, John Bohnert, said ………….”   when, in fact,  I have never met John Bohnert, who lives in Grass Valley, California, and I live in the Arkansas Ozarks.  True, I saw his posts on the Internet list for mystery fans called DorothyL for several years, learned he is a retired Navy man, and, (very important) that he loves to cook and probably has notebooks full of unique and tasty recipes.  He often mentions these by name on DorothyL, along with his book reviews and related comments, and, when someone asks, is willing to share a recipe via email.

In 2011 I decided John Bohnert would make a terrific character in my upcoming novel.  Why? My main female character, Carrie McCrite, is a reluctant cook.  (Her husband, Henry King, is more comfortable in a kitchen than she is.)  AND, in this novel-in-progress, Carrie was going to have to create a quick luncheon for a surprise guest, then Henry would have to cook for a guarding sheriff’s deputy and Carrie’s mysterious cousin during a later emergency in the story.  Enter, Chef John Bohnert, “much acclaimed chef and owner of The Grass Valley Bistro, author of the companion GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK.”  Henry meets Chef John on line during a discussion of the heirloom tomatoes Henry grows.

Since all my novels include a few recipes used during the progress of the plot,  several Chef John recipes appeared naturally in  A FAIR TO DIE FOR.  (They are printed at the end of the book.)

John Bohnert has continued to mention recipes on DorothyL, and I recently asked for his recipe for BEEF BURRITOS.  It has been tested in the Nehring kitchen, as well as, of course, by John Bohnert, and is a winner.  I thought you might like to try it too!


2 lbs lean ground beef

1 jar chunky salsa, MED.  (24 oz jar)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz. can)

3 cans diced green chiles, (4 oz cans) HOT.  (I cheated since the Nehrings aren’t up to HOT.  How about MILD for us?)

1 cup chopped onions and 1 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 cans diced tomatoes (15 oz cans)

2 cups shredded Cheddar

2 pkg. 8 count flour tortillas, burrito size

1 pkg. shredded lettuce

2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp Mexican Blend, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper.

(Note:  I couldn’t find Mexican Blend here in Arkansas and learned from John it contains cumin, garlic powder, paprika, white pepper, thyme, and onion powder, so I improvised with those ingredients.)

Saute onions and bell pepper in very large skillet.  Heat until tender. Remove to 6 quart saucepot.

Brown ground beef in the large skillet. Drain off any fat.  Add to saucepot. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and lettuce. Stir and heat on MEDIUM LOW.

Remove saucepot from heat, spoon some of mixture into tortillas.  Top with Cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce.  Fold up ends and roll tortilla.


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February 15, 2013

Last week’s blog explained my own cooking abilities, or lack thereof, and how my husband, after retiring more than twice from the business world, finally learned to warm leftovers and prepare simple meals.  Why? Because I, buried in ideas and unaware of time and hunger pangs, was typing away in my office.

Not that I divorced myself from cooking entirely, not in real life, and certainly not in fiction. My lead female character, Carrie McCrite, says, during her first adventure in A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, that her cooking depends more on the Pillsbury Doughboy than Julia Child. True, oh so true. That’s why I had such fun “cooking up” unusual and unusually simple recipes for Carrie to prepare as part of the plots in each of my seven (so far) novels that she and her husband, Henry King, star in.

After readers of A VALLEY TO DIE FOR suggested that plot recipes be printed in the back of each book, my publishers began doing that. Readers’ favorites thus far are “No Thaw Meatloaf” from A TREASURE TO DIE FOR, and “Baggie Omelets” from A RIVER TO DIE FOR.

I take part in an Internet  list for mystery fans called DorothyL, and a popular poster there, John Bohnert, often mentions recipes he prepares. When I was writing A FAIR TO DIE FOR, I decided it would be great fun to include John and his recipes as an off-stage character in that novel, and, with his permission, he took part as the famous California Chef, John Bohnert, owner of the Grass Valley Bistro, and author of its much-acclaimed cookbook THE GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK.  In the story, Henry King meets Chef John on the Internet during a discussion of the heirloom tomatoes Henry is experimenting with.

When a mysterious relative is on the way to visit Carrie and Henry, Carrie realizes they are going to have to feed this person lunch, and Henry saves the day by appealing to Chef John for a simple sandwich recipe.  Later in the plot, Henry presents Carrie with a copy of THE GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK, and each of them uses it to prepare a meal.

These recipes do appear in the back of A FAIR TO DIE FOR.

Though The Grass Valley Bistro and its cookbook are fiction, John’s recipes are not.  Next week I’ll share one of his new recipes for BEEF BURRITOS.  Until then, happy cooking and reading,




Stories from a writer’s life: RECIPES TO TOUCH THE HEART — PART ONE

February 8, 2013

Beginning with stumbling through recipes and several disastrous experiences (including cracking the coating on my new mother-in-law’s enamel roaster),  I have cooked all my married life. When I got married, that’s what women did. No male admitted to actually cooking unless he was a chef.   (And, back then, “convenience” foods were limited to the new miracle of angel food cake mixes and truly awful TV dinners.)

So I cooked. Not gourmet. Not even fancy. Just meals based on uncomplicated recipes and a strong reliance on ground beef and chicken.

I  worked away from home in “9-5” jobs for the first forty-two years of my married life.  That added to my lively interest in simple and quick.

But, dreaming of future kitchens, future leisure time, I began a recipe collection.  Some fit the easy and simple (but good) category, and were soon easily identified by their worn look and food spots, not to mention added notes like “Cut this in half,” or, simply, “Good!”  Others in my rapidly growing collection spoke of imagined  exotic meals and praise by awed guests.  I began filling ten inch file boxes with categorized recipes on 3 x 5 cards or clipped from newspapers and magazines,  plus recipes hand-written on scraps of paper by my mother and by  fellow employees and friends.   The collection grew until I had  eight  file boxes labeled from “Appetizers” to “Vegetables,” and on to “Misc” and “Meal Planning.”  They were part of my wealth.  I’d never be at a loss for something to cook.

But as years passed, plain and simple cooking,  aided by an increasing number of excellent convenience foods, was what came to the table in my kitchen.   Still, my files of recipes grew.

Over the past five or so years my work load as a multi-published writer using the Internet increased, and my long-suffering (and hungry) husband frequently came to my office door around  5:00 to interrupt my concentration on the latest adventures of Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Hesitating in the doorway, he invariably asked,  “What are we having for supper?”

I was always startled when this happened. Time and hunger  had vanished behind whatever I was putting on my computer screen. Guilt was my most  frequent reaction to John’s question because I still had a long-ingrained opinion of what my housewifely duties were.  Since I rarely stop for a noon meal, John’s question also reminded me that I, too, was hungry.  It was time to–rather frantically–think about what I could prepare for our supper.

Then, slowly, this began to change. John had retired by this time and, when we had viable left-overs, he realized it was easy to begin heating dishes for supper. Then,  little-by-little, we became kitchen companions.

I am doing a much better job of quitting work in my office by 5:00, and now the two of us frequently work as a team on meal prep, with John sometimes doing some of the work before I leave my office.  He is much better than I at what we call “prior planning in advance” so we usually have decided on supper’s make-up by breakfast that day, and have the needed ingredients (and the recipe) all ready to go when we meet in the kitchen around 5:00.

Isn’t marriage–and cooking–fun?

More about those saved exotic recipes, and the recipes that season my novels, next week!

Radine at