Monday, November 27, 2017

Cookin’ Up Christmas with a Little Murder on the Side

Lorraine Masonheimer is cooking up a mysterious Christmas...

What’s not to like?  An adorable romance, an idyllic small town dressed in its holiday best, a bakery loaded with mouthwatering sweets and a murder to add spice.  The Hallmark movie Murder, She Baked:  A Plum Pudding Mystery mixes the right ingredients to serve up a fun who-dun-it just in time for Christmas.  

Hannah Swenson, owner and baker extraordinaire of the town’s hub-bub The Cookie Jar Shop stops by Larry Jeager’s Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot to pick up her check for a cookie delivery made earlier that day.  She finds her check clutched in Larry’s very dead hand, an empty bottle of booze and blood as red as a crimson Poinsettia.  Hannah stays one step ahead of the very handsome love-interest Detective Mike Kingston to help solve the crime.

The plot is filled with many plausible possibilities for motive, opportunity and ultimately identifying the murderer.  The characters are charming and beloved in Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson series now topping at 21 books.  The romance is nicely woven throughout the movie with visuals of every cookie and pastry imaginable and shots of peaceful winter scenes about town.  This movie will bring on the holiday spirit and inspire a move to Eden Lake, Minnesota to open a bake shop.  However, the murder is never far from the action throughout the movie.

The soundtrack provides suspense and the clever use of graphics keeping the viewer clued in throughout the movie. The end shot has all the sights and sounds of hearth and home with family and friends gathered ‘round the Christmas table until the next time Hannah stumbles across a dead body.  The movie is equal parts romantic Christmas and mystery.  It is available On Demand throughout the holiday.

It is clear author Joanne Fluke is a baker at heart and so is her lead character Hannah.  In the movie Hannah states a true baker “always adds a twist to a recipe to make it her own.”  In honor of Hannah’s spirit of baking, here’s a savory twist on the Italian classic pie recipe known as a Crostata.  This base recipe is a creation of Chef Giada De Laurentiis with my own twist.  I used roasted shallots.  

Savory Butternut Squash Crostata

One 1 1/4-pound butternut squash, sliced into 1/3-inch thick rounds
10-12 shallots sliced 1/4-inch thick (or 1 red onion)
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Kosher salt 
One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, chilled 
Half 5.2-ounce container herbed cheese, (Boursin is good)
1 tablespoon rough chopped pistachios
1/2 cup baby arugula 
1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds 

Preheat the oven to 3750. Scatter the squash and onions on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss well to coat evenly.

Roast until the squash is tender all the way through and the shallows are soft and turning golden brown, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Unroll the pie crust onto a nonstick baking sheet. Crumble half of the cheese over the crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Top with the roasted onions and then shingle with the squash in circles. Fold the crust borders up and over the filling, crimping every 2 inches or so. Sprinkle the exposed squash with the pistachios and the remaining cheese.  If desired, brush melted butter and sprinkle salt and pepper over the crust to brown and add flavor.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle with the arugula and pomegranate seeds.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.  This dish fills the home with the scent and sight of Christmas.

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