Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halloween Book Club with Snacks: A Catered Costume Party by Isis Crawford

Lorraine Masonheimer has been working on a delicious book club party for us with tasty treats, yummy drinks and a delightfully frightful Halloween inspired cozy mystery...

On a gorgeous fall day in the woods, a woman stands at the Hudson River’s edge taking in the autumn colors. Her killer is nearby thinking “third time’s the charm” as two previous attempts flopped big time. After bashing her with a pipe, the killer checks to see if his manicure survived the murder as his hands weren’t meant for killing.  

In honor of his wife’s disappearance and possible death, Darius Witherspoon moves forward with the annual costume Halloween party—his wife Penelope’s favorite holiday event.  In step the Simmons sisters, caterers by profession and amateur sleuths on the side. As the party approaches, Darius hands a sealed envelope to the ladies, Bernie and Libby, instructing them to open the envelope should he end up dead. Chandeliers sparkle, hardwood floors gleam and the French doors open to welcome the scents of the garden indoors. Masked and costumed guests arrive to a fog-laden ballroom floor with cocktails, appetizers and a hearty fall-themed buffet.

When Darius is found swinging from a rope outside the ballroom’s French doors, the sisters set out to expose the killer despite the Police Chief’s belief it was a suicide. When the body count increases the sisters find links between past crimes, the posh upstate New York Berkshire Arms property, hidden treasure and treachery.  

This light-hearted affable story is the 13th book in Isis Crawford’s Catered series. No need to read the books in order as the narrative holds up on its own. The solution is revealed late in the book and will keep the pages turning.  The sister’s distinct personality differences play well off each other. Their father, a former police officer, lends plausibility.  
The Halloween setting complete with real ghosts, a murder of crows, top hat skeletons, a treasure hunt and sumptuous food and drinks makes for a festive autumn read. Given the sisters own a bakery in addition to a catering business, I could almost smell freshly baked scones, spiced nuts baking in the oven and trays of colorful fall food.

Halloween is coming. Grab a serving tray, set out your glassware and throw your own posh party. Go all out. Invite guests to don their best costumes and bring their favorite Halloween appetizer or dessert to share. Decorate as the book describes using black crows and ghosts. Dress a skeleton with a top hat and orange scarf holding the sign “Welcome to Hell” and set outside the front door. As a nod to the book, place a crow on each shoulder of the skeleton.  Readers of the book will step into the house with a chuckle.  Set the table with an orange tablecloth, dusty pink gerbera daisies with green foliage and red plates. Scatter chocolate coins between trays. Rent a dry ice fog machine placed just inside the front door. Serve up a signature cocktail, a book-themed appetizer and let the tricks-and-treats party hardy.

Blood Orange Martini
2 oz. Blood Orange Vodka (EFFEN)
1 oz. Pomegranate Liqueur (PAMA)
1 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice (TROPICANA or PURE found in liquor stores)

   Orange twist & black sanding sugar, optional
Run an orange slice around the rim of a chilled glass and dip in black sanding sugar.  Combine the vodka, pomegranate liqueur and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.  Shake to chill.  Strain into the prepared martini glass.  Garnish with an orange twist.

For a non-alcohol drink, serve Blood Orange Italian Soda which can be found at Whole Foods or online.  The skeleton-shaped shot glass and skeleton hand champagne glass is available at Pottery Barn.

‘Welcome to Hell’ Skeleton Cheese Bites

Provolone Cheese, slice (any white cheese will work)
Colby Jack Cheese, slice
Sopressata Dry Salami, slice
Dark Pumpernickel Bread, slice

Print the template or draw a skeleton with top hat and scarf and cut out. Place the skeleton onto the dark bread and cut the shape out. Repeat using the Provolone cheese. Using the template, cut off the top hat and the scarf then cut out the skeleton’s eyes, nose and mouth. Place the skeleton template onto the Provolone cheese and carefully cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Place the top hat template onto the salami and cut out. Place the scarf template onto the Colby Jack cheese and cut out.  

Place the bread onto the tray. Top the bread with the Provolone cheese. Place the salami on top of the Provolone slice to become the top hat. Seat the Colby Jack cheese on top of the Provolone slice to become the orange scarf and serve.

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

1 ¼ lb Cashews, salted
2T Rosemary, fresh and coarsely chopped
½ t Cayenne pepper
2 t Brown sugar
2t Salt
1T Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 3750. Place the cashews onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes until the cashews are warm and fragrant. Combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and melted butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.

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