Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Makes Your “Geiger Counter” Go Off?

Please help us welcome our guest blogger, Cleo Coyle.

"It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do." ~ Stephen King

Nice analogy by King, don’t you think? Me? I “click” whenever I cook…or bake…or read about cooking and baking. This is actually a second love for me. Writing is (and always was) my first love.

I started making up stories at my grade school lunch table. I still remember the one about the giant mouse that lived on the moon and ate astronauts. With tales like that, I actually got the attention of the cutest boy in the 3rd grade—at least for an hour at lunch. After that, he was off kanoodling with the cute blonde in the expensive jeans. (I was the chubby kid in geeky clothes, but I told a mean tale.) Thus the dye was cast for this chunky Italian girl:
Good storytelling = attention from the opposite sex.

And the corollary: Storytelling is always more fun when it involves food.

Some years later I became a journalist. I’d also slimmed down and figured out how to dress. By that time, I was determined to get paid for my stories—in something other than Twinkies and Tater Tots.

The catch was…the stories had to be true. No more giant mice. The male attention was even more interesting now, especially the tough guys who’d covered war zones and police beats. (Be still my heart.) But this time it involved drink. (Hard journalists are hard drinkers. I wasn’t a hard journalist. I drank spritzers then asked for coffee.)

These days I’m a professional, full-time fiction writer. I get paid for telling stories again, albeit tales a tad more believable than astronaut-eating rodents. I even figured out how to get paid for writing about food. Clever me. Here’s how I did it…

Clare Cosi is the gusty amateur sleuth in my culinary urban cozy mystery (how’s that for a sub-genre?). She’s a single mom who used to write a food column for a local Jersey paper, and now—with her young adult daughter attending a famous New York culinary school—she’s moved to Manhattan to be closer to her girl.

Clare, who is now in her forties, ended up returning to the job she’d had in her twenties—managing a landmark coffeehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. Being a former food writer, Clare still thinks about food 24/7 and creates delicious recipes for herself, her man (an NYPD detective) and her coffeehouse customers.

Below, with my happy compliments, is one of Clare’s recipes. It’s also in the recipe section of my latest Coffeehouse Mystery: Holiday Grind, along with a few dozen others. The book features my most ambitious recipe section yet (about 80 pages).
Oh, and as for that male attention? Well, I still have it. My hunky husband, also a full-time professional author, is my mystery-writing partner.

This thing is absolute heaven. It tastes like a rich, warm coffee-infused milkshake. Drink with joy! ~ Cleo (See a photo of this recipe today at )
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup white chocolate, chopped, or white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 shots hot espresso or strong coffee (see note)*
Whipped cream (optional)

Step 1. Combine milk and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan about one-third full of boiling water. (You are creating a double boiler, so the water level should be under the bowl but not touching it.) Stir constantly until chocolate is melted.

Step 2. Using a whisk or handheld electric beater, whip in the vanilla. Continue to whip about a minute until the warm mixture is loosely frothy.

Step 3. Pour the espresso (or strong coffee) into a large mug. Add the steamed and frothed white chocolate milk and stir to blend the flavors. You can top with whipped cream, but I serve it without.

*Cleo's Note: For strong coffee simply make a double-strength version of your regular cup. For instance, in a drip coffee maker, instead of using 1½-2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water, use 3-4 tablespoons.

If you would like more of my recipes and/or to find out more about Clare Cosi & her crime-solving baristas, just stop on by my *virtual* coffeehouse Web site: “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”

And now…I’d love to know what makes YOUR Stephen King “Geiger counter” go off? If you’re a writer, you have to share something other than writing because of course we know that’s your passion. (It’s too crazy a journey for it not to be, right?!)

Comments welcome.