Friday, May 4, 2012

Amy Alessio: Mixing Food and Mystery

Today I welcome my good friend Amy Alessio to Cicero's Children. Amy is a teen librarian, author, and presenter of fabulous programs on vintage recipes, cookbooks, and crafts. She's written several short stories featuring antique mall bookkeeper Alana O'Neill, all of which are available on Amazon.

Alana also appears in Amy's novella Blast from the Past, part of a three-novella romantic suspense book named Hearts and Daggers. (Kindle users can find Hearts and Daggers free on Amazon from May 4th through May 6th at  )

Amy's first young adult mystery will be published in 2013.You can learn more about Amy and her stories at Vintage Cookbooks & Crafts at

Kolacky Traditions: Amy Alessio’s Family Recipes
This is a photo of my Grandma Curtin. She came from Ireland and married my Irish Grandfather, Michael, in the 1920’s and settled on Chicago’s West side. She worked at the Brach’s factory. She loved to bake, cook, sew and crochet, yet left only a handful of recipes. Her fruitcake was famous, and inspired me to write the short story Felled by Fruitcake in my Alana O’Neill series.

But Grandma wrote none of her most famous recipes down. I have mysterious fudge instructions, some clippings, and two versions of kolackys. She had her priorities right. When I talk about her and kolackys at my vintage cookbook shows, someone in the audience always has what they feel is the “best” version.  These include ones made with thumbprints in mini muffin pans, folded ones, ones with melted ice cream, or cream cheese or different fillings.

One of Grandma’s clippings was from the Solo filling can. On the Solo site now, there are several types of kolackys. I believe the cream cheese one is most like the label she saved.

My mother likes apricot filling best, but I run into staunch lovers of prune, raspberry, poppy seed, almond, or cheese fillings.

Here’s another of Grandma’s handwritten recipes. I thought the whiskey was an interesting touch:

1 lb. pound margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg yolks
5 cups flour
1 shot of whiskey
4 tablespoons of sour cream
Filling (likely she meant Solo filling)
Cream butter, sugar and baking soda.  Add flour & egg yolks.  Let stand in frig for a couple of hours.  Then roll out and put filling in center.  Bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

How Cooking Ties In with Amy's Writing
My character, Alana O’Neill, is a bookkeeper at an antiques mall where sometimes she parts with her huge cookbook collection and sells them. She also solves mysteries. All Alana stories contain recipes, though she (much like her author) makes lots of mistakes in the kitchen.

Mary Welk, Margot Justes ( and I put together our first collection of novellas for Valentine’s Day. Hearts and Daggers can be found free from May 4th through May 6th at
In my story, Alana helps run a festival at the mall while trying to make fancy chocolates and solve a murder. She also connects with Mary’s and Margot’s fun characters.

Our next novella collaboration will be Haunted Hearts, a Halloween collection. Members of a famous ghost hunting team will be visiting the antiques mall and will find more than they bargained for in my novella.

Thanks to Mary for letting me put up a guest post on a blog I enjoy reading so much. 

What’s your favorite Kolacky version?