Monday, February 10, 2020



The Iowa Presidential Caucus is a casserole of finest ingredients—policy ideas, active candidates, determined local politicians dedicated political activists, and hard-working Iowans. Every four years citizens across the state meet to hash out their differences and make a selection. Seldom is one candidate an overwhelming caucus choice. Instead, several winning candidates combine into a single dish of patriotic participation, ready to share with the rest of the nation.

In Lake Livonia, with holiday season fast approaching and the Iowa Presidential Caucus soon to follow, Susan Stewart’s fledgling Potluck Paradise Cafe is humming with the creation of new and delicious dishes to please the appetites of her community.

But then, a mysterious note included in a Christmas card from her friend and mentor, Hazel Romer, who skipped town in the middle of a July night, raises important questions. What was the skeleton in Hazel’s closet that caused her to run away from the town she loved? And why had she left the restaurant to Susan?

When a blizzard traps strangers in town overnight, the stage is set for a series of life-changing events for Susan, her teenaged children, and her friends, as the Presidential Caucus brings Iowa and Lake Livonia into national prominence.

With 30 family and potluck pleasing recipes for main dishes, vegetables, and desserts.

Book Details:

Title: The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole Mystery

Author: Rae Katherine Eighmey

Genre: cozy mystery 

Published: October 31, 2019

Print length: 153 pages

On tour with: Great Escapes Book Tours



If you could talk to someone from history, who would it be, and what would you ask them?
Susan B. Anthony. February 15, 2020 will be the 200th anniversary of this woman’s rights and suffrage activist. She spent more than fifty years working for these causes as well as those of temperance and against slavery. She traveled on trains back and forth across the country giving more than 100 speeches a year. My question: How did she do it?  Where did she find the physical and intellectual stamina to keep going? How did she think she inspired the droves of other strong women who followed her and achieved the right for women to vote in all elections fourteen years after her death. In short, what is it that makes a strong, persuasive, successful woman?

If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
I would want to be in Philadelphia when the Constitutional Convention voted to accept the language of the new Constitution on September 17, 1787. It would be something to see so many of the founders in one place and witness the result of their summer of discussion.

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?  

A race car driver.  Not that I have the skills, or the nerve, or ever drive above the speed limit, but it would be wonderful to experience the world moving so fast around you and to have the reflexes to manage the dangers.

If you had to do community service, what would you choose?
I have and would continue to volunteer in public schools.

If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet, and what would you talk about?
Mark Twain. As the boy Samuel Clemens, the man who would later invent himself as globe-trotting, white-suited author, lived in small town Missouri in a struggling family. He took off for California, sailed to Hawaii, and then returned to New York. He had a reporter’s eye for detail and frequently used food as a way to bring readers into the scene of his story, or to explain his characters.  I would ask how he selected those real details and if he saw a metaphorical role for them. I would ask him to expand on his famous list of memorable American foods he wrote about while in Europe, and I would ask him what his favorite food was . . . really.


5 things you need in order to write: 

Before I turn to the laptop I need:
    •    number 2 pencils
    •    yellow tablets
    •    research materials with post-it notes
    •    a comfy chair
    •    quiet

5 things you love about writing: 

    •    the opportunity to learn
    •    to discover new things
    •    to see familiar surroundings in a new light 
    •    to find the best way to convey those ideas and emotions
    •    to see the way others react to them

5 things you always put in your books:

I write both non-fiction and fiction. In all my books I try to have:
    •    a sense of humor
    •    a sense of wonder
    •    decent back stories
    •    lively characters
    •    food    

5 favorite books:
    •    Jack Finney’s Time and Again
    •    M.F.K. Fisher collected works
    •    Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales
    •    Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day
    •    Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield    

5 favorite things to do:
    •    garden, especially the vegetable patch
    •    read
    •    cook
    •    find “new” recipes from old sources
    •    share those “discovered” foods with others 

5 things that drive you crazy:
    •    not being able to find my glasses
    •    weeds that seem to sprout right after you’ve weeded the garden
    •    inconsiderate people
    •    not having enough hours to do all I want to do
    •    that great food has calories!        


What’s your all-time favorite movie?  

Shakespeare in Love.

What’s your all-time favorite author?   

Charles Dickens.

What’s your all-time favorite library? 

University of Alabama library. When I had the privilege of doing research there the open stacks were filled with just the resources I needed to track down recipes across the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The special collections department contained the papers and other books I needed to understand the lives of the people in early Tuscaloosa, when it was the capital of the state. And the library and collections staff were among the best.

What’s your favorite time of day? 
The three hours before dawn – which are much easier to enjoy in the winter. In the summer I’d have to cut that time frame back to just half an hour as, at the height of the simmer, the sun is up a 4.

What’s your favorite ice cream? 
Impossible to pick one! Has to be seasonal: in the winter, clearly peppermint; in the summer our local ice cream shop makes fresh peach, and there is the wonderful lemon ice cream I discovered when researching foods Benjamin Franklin served when he was American’s envoy to France during the Revolution. It is easy to make without an ice cream freezer.

Ben Franklin’s Lemon Ice Cream
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ cups half-and-half or heavy whipping cream

Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear.
Set aside to cool.
Combine the lemon zest, juice, and simple syrup. Stir mixture quickly into the cream.
Pour into a 1-quart zippered freezer bag and put in the coldest part of your freezer.
Take it out and knead a couple of times during the few hours it takes for the mixture to turn into ice cream.
Makes about 3 cups. 
Adapted from Lemon Ice Cream Frederick Nutt, The Complete Confectioner, 1780

What book are you currently working on?
Working on the second book in the Potluck Paradise Café series.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: I’ve started working with a “Dyspepsia Bread” that is made largely of whole wheat. The recipe dates back to the 19th-century health food movement.  I’ve used it in my Susan B. Anthony blog
Here’s the recipe if you want to use it. I’m attaching a picture as well:

Dyspepsia Bread

¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup additional warm water

¼ cup molasses
½ teaspoon salt, optional
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl combine the water and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir gently. Set aside until this mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Stir ½ cup flour into this mixture. Pour the ¾ cup warm water into the bowl. Do not mix in. Set this “sponge” aside until it is bubbling, about 10 or 15 minutes in a warm room. Do not rush these two steps. At the end it should look like a mound of whipped cream floating on water.

Next, stir in molasses, optional salt, and then 2 cups of the whole wheat flour into this sponge. You may need an additional half cup flour or so to yield a soft non-sticky dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Lightly butter a clean bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it over so there the buttered side is upright. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set in a warm space to rise until double in size. This may take as long as 3 hours. 

To make the bread:
Punch the dough down, knead quickly,  and put in a greased bread pan. It will fill a large 9- x 5- x 4-inch bread pan. Or for smaller and taller loaves divide between two 8- x 3- x 3-inch pans. Once again allow the bread to rise until doubled. This may take a half hour or an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake until the bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on top, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from bread pan and let cool thoroughly on a baking rack.

Adapted from The New Family Book or Ladies Indispensible Companion and Housekeeper Guide  E. Hutchinson, 1854.
Music: Dave Brubeck Time Out – It is an old album, but I heard one of the pieces used in a commercial recently. Pulled it out and played it and rediscovered how wonderful it is.
Movie: Little Women.
Book: Where the Crawdad’s Sing, by Delia Owens
TV: CNN’s recent biography of Linda Ronstadt The Sound of my Voice is outstanding


Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin

Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen
Food Will Win the War

Soda Shop Salvation

Potluck Paradise: a collection of recipes from community cookbooks  (With Debbie Miller)

Hearts & Homes

A Prairie Kitchen


Rae Katherine Eighmey writes both non-fiction and fiction. Food plays a significant role in the books and the way she works. She often says that her work is like making Jell-O. When the ideas first come it is like picking the box off the shelf. As she develops the plot, or collects the recipes for one of the cookbooks it is like adding the hot water. And at the final stages the cold water and fruit go into the mix. Some pondering and editing and Presto! The dish is ready to unmold and share. Eighmey currently lives in north Iowa, the setting for her new series of Potluck Paradise Café books of which The Great Iowa Caucus Casserole is the first.  

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