Category: Cooking/Kitchens

Fall In Texas

I’m from Iowa, and there it’s easy to tell fall has arrived. The trees change to lovely shades of yellow, orange and crimson. A crispness lingers in the air all day. It feels like fall. I love that time of year. Wearing jackets, snuggling under a blanket with a good romance on Saturday. Walking on crunching leaves.

Now I live in Texas, and fall is different from what I knew growing up. In Texas, it’s hard to tell autumn has arrived. Halloween has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Despite what the calendar says, this week’s forecast is for record high temperatures. We’re talking hitting ninety degrees. When the leaves change, they turn a shade of brown and fall off the tress. Not exactly the ooh-ahh fall colors I spotted in the Midwest.

Saying It’s been an adjustment for me is like saying Texas and Texas A&M have a little rivalry. Over the years I’ve learned fall is heralded in different ways in Texas. First and foremost, we know it’s fall because of the arrival of football season. Yes, it’s true. Football is almost a religion here in Texas. From high schools on Friday night to TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M on Saturday. There’s even have a “Red River Showdown” between Texas and OU at the Texas State Fair.

Which brings me to another huge sign of fall in Texas, the state fair. When people start talking about corny dogs, turkey legs, and fried any and everything, I know autumn has arrived. I hear Big Tex’s voice and see pictures of him everywhere. In 2012 when Big Tex caught on fire, it was huge news. We got updates on the progress to rebuild him, including details on changes in his iconic outfit.

But I’ve learned to adjust. I decorate the yard and house for fall, Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. I admit a couple times I had a fire and then turned on the air conditioner because the house got so warm. I bake items that remind me of fall. One of my family’s favorite is pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 C flour
3 C sugar
4 eggs
1C oil
2/3 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin
½ black walnut flavoring
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a “well” in the center. Add eggs, water, oil and black walnut flavoring in well. Mix. Add canned pumpkin. Mix. Place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Now tell me about your favorite fall tradition and be entered in the drawing to win the pumpkin and Home On The Ranch: Colorado.

Updated: November 1, 2017 — 6:28 pm

Happy Halloween!

 

Today is one of the happiest days for children and adults, outside of Christmas and birthdays. Or at least that’s my opinion.  I’m fortunate to share my blog with Fellow Filly Shanna Hatfield.  I’m going to blog about some history and fun facts; before turning it over to Shanna to tell you a little about her special Pumpkins Cookies, yummy!

To my surprise, Halloween has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.  In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns. Around the world, as days grow shorter and nights get colder, people continue to usher in the season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.

In the late 1800’s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration.  In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion, yes with a “B”, annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all about how Halloween traditions fit in with young women identifying their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday…with luck by next Halloween…be married. In the 18th century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

Another fascinating tradition was when young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; and, some also tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water.

One of the beloved events is our church’s Trunk or Treat which is a safe and fun environment for kids to go trick or treating out of the trunk of member’s cars in the parking lot. It’s open to the public, not just the youth of our home church.

I’m happy to have Shanna Hatfield chiming in with one of her favorite Halloween treats.

“I’m a pumpkin fanatic! The fascination with pumpkin treats started with my aunt’s decadent pumpkin roll and ends with pumpkin pie (which I would eat any time of year). This recipe for pumpkin cookies is a fast, easy way to satisfy a pumpkin craving… and a sweet tooth! Happy Haunting!”

From Shanna Hatfield, USA Today Bestselling Author

Pumpkin Cookies

1 box of spice cake mix

1 small can of pumpkin pie filling

1 cup cream cheese frosting

toppings (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix cake mix and pumpkin until thoroughly blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment and drop spoonfuls of the dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bake about ten minutes, until the cookies are just set, but not yet starting to brown.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Warm cream cheese frosting in the microwave for about 12 seconds, or until thin enough to pour. Drizzle over cookies. Top with toffee bits, cinnamon, sprinkles or candied nuts if you want to get all fancy-pants (which I generally do).

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will give away a copy

of any of my eBooks from Amazon!  Happy Holiday, Phyliss

 

And, thank you, Shanna, for sharing your recipe with us. 

 

 

 

 

 

Updated: October 21, 2017 — 10:15 am

Happy Labor Day!!!

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

By the time this post goes up it’ll be Labor Day and I certainly hope you all are able to take the opportunity to have a relaxing day with family and friends.

Around our house, Labor Day usually means outdoor cookouts. But for my family, instead of BBQs and picnics, we like to send the summer out with a seafood boil.  This year it’s going to be shrimp.

I love a good seafood boil.  In addition to the shrimp and appropriate seasonings, the pot this year will contain corn, potatoes, sausage, mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic, lemons and limes- a veritable banquet!

Here’s a photo taken from a prior Labor Day feast – doesn’t it look yummy?

 

Of course, no feast would be complete without a great dessert.  So  today I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite summer treats. It’s a sort of trifle that my family calls a punch bowl cake.  It’s super easy to make and as a bonus, especially on these hot summer days, it’s no bake!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pre-made angel food cake
  • 1 large tub of whipped topping
  • 1 package of either vanilla or cheesecake flavored instant pudding (6 serving size)
  • Approx 1 lb berries of your choice (I prefer strawberries but I’ve made it with mixed berries as well)

Directions

  • Prepare pudding according to directions.
  • Mix together with whipped topping and set aside
  • Tear cake into bite-sized pieces
  • In a large bowl, layer ingredients as follows:
  • 1/3 each of angel food cake, berries and then cream mixture
  • Repeat twice more
  • If desired, garnish top with additional berries, nuts or grated chocolate
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve

So what about you? Do you have any special Labor Day traditions? Any favorite end of summer foods?  Share your answers and I’ll put you in the running for a copy of any book in my backlist.

Updated: September 5, 2017 — 2:11 pm

Game Day! ~ Tanya Hanson

Football enters our homestead every August with our family’s Fantasy League. My team Wild Thang usually ends the season in last place. Mostly I like the smack-talk. We culminate things with a big Chili Cook-off on Super Bowl Sunday, and following this post, you’ll find the recipe I am entering this year. In the meantime, here’s some fun football facts.

Early leather helmets were replaced by plastic ones in the 1950’s

This early helmet with its nose guard is kinda Hannibal Lechter-y.

Anyway, back to the game. Beginning in 1827, Harvard started holding the “Bloody Monday” mob game between freshmen and sophomores–a mash-up of soccer and rugby that kind of presaged modern football’s violent nature. While there were certainly competitions using balls among our country’s first nations, today’s American football got its start from Europe’s historic soccer and rugby games.

Early balls were round, reminiscent of rugby, leather and laces over inflated pig bladders. In 1875, the egg-shaped ball was introduced.

In November 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played the first recognizable football game, although the ball was round. By the 1880’s, Yale’s great rugby star Walter Camp morphed the game into what we know today as football. He developed the line of scrimmage and “downs” and helped legitimize interference—otherwise known as blocking and highly illegal in rugby. Teams had been limited to 20 players in 1873.

Walter Camp (1859-1925), the Father of American Football

Later college coaches such as Knute Rockne and Glen “Pop” Warner helped introduce the forward pass. Football’s popularity grew and grew, with fierce rivalries between colleges, and popular “bowl’” games developed. The “Big Game” between Stanford and University of California at Berkeley in 1892 has long been considered the West’s first big face-off.

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Upon the development of professional teams, paying players for their time and talents was considered unsportsmanlike. William “Pudge” Heffelfinger (1867-1954) became the first professional player in America in November 1892 by accepting $500 from a Pittsburgh ball club. In 1897, the Latrobe Athletic Association became the first pro team to complete an entire  competitive season.

Pudge Heffelfinger (1867-1954)

The 1932 National Football League playoff game was the first to introduce hashmarks and was played indoors due to Chicago’s grim weather that winter. In 1946–the same year Jackie Robinson made baseball history–two of his teammates from UCLA, Woody Strode and Kenny Washington, became the first African American players in the NFL.

Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, and Kenny Washington pictured together on the 1939 UCLA team. All three made sports history.

Early padding looks like gramma’s quilt.

The first Super Bowl took place in January 1967 and my hubs—just a kid—was in attendance! Now we’re getting ready for our big game day shindig. Not long ago he and I went to the football exhibition presented by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library~it was full of great info and lots of photo ops.

How about you? Any football lovers out there? Anybody ever enter a chili-cook-off?

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Here’s my easy-peasy chili recipe. I promise you it’s good.

Rancho Taco Crocko

2 pounds ground beef or turkey (I use turkey), cooked.

1 envelope taco seasoning

1 ½ cups water

1 can (15 oz) chili beans

1 can (15 oz) corn, or a bag of frozen corn

1 can (15 oz) jalapeno pinto beans. Best to drain these. You can use regular pintos but we like spice around here.

1 can (15 oz) stewed tomatoes

1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes—recommend a southwest version that includes green chilies or similar additives. Do not drain.

1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies

I envelope ranch dressing mix. This is the secret ingredient.

(I will be adding pickled jalapenos, too.

Dump into crockpot (mine is shaped like a football LOL), and mix well, cook on high for a while stirring occasionally, then set to warm. Serves about 8, makes about 2 quarts. Calories unknown.

 

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When it rains it pours….I have two books coming out later this month. Details next time.

Updated: January 30, 2017 — 6:42 pm

Sourdough–My New Project

I have a new project: sourdough bread. [the pic on the left is from King Arthur Flour–not me!] I say project because this isn’t pick up a loaf at the store, or even wake up early on Saturday and decide I’m going to bake a loaf of bread. No, to make sourdough you have to plan ahead.

Okay, I thought, I’m a planner. I can do this. Truthfully, I’m a haphazard baker at best, but, since we’re trying to eat less pre-packaged foods—read foods with less ingredients I can’t pronounce—I decided to start making my own sourdough bread. It’s a simple bread, using only flour, water and time. But sourdough has to be tended, culled, and fed.

Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Translation: this stuff is ALIVE!

Or, lordy, what have I gotten myself into.

“The origins of bread-making are so ancient that everything said about them must be pure speculation. One of the oldest sourdough breads dates from 3700 BCE and was excavated in Switzerland, but the origin of sourdough fermentation likely relates to the origin of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent several thousand years earlier… Bread production relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history; the use of baker’s yeast as a leavening agent dates back less than 150 years.” (Michael Gaenzle, Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology)

Bread is older than metal; even before the bronze age, our ancestors were eating and baking flat breads. Until the time of the development of commercial yeasts, like brewers yeast, all leavened bread was sourdough, with it’s slower raise. One reason given for the importance of unleavened bread in the Jewish faith is that at the time of the exodus from Egypt, there wasn’t time to let the dough rise overnight.

Sourdough became a staple in San Francisco during the California Gold Rush of 1849. And the sourdough tradition was carried into Alaska and the western Canadian territories during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Other leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda were much less reliable in the conditions faced by the prospectors. Experienced miners and other settlers frequently carried a pouch of starter either around their neck or on a belt; these were fiercely guarded to keep from freezing—even though freezing does not kill a sourdough starter; excessive heat does.

Sourdough had to have crossed the American west to get to California. Cookies certainly couldn’t take the time to allow a yeast bread to rise—all that bouncing in the wagon…

Even with it’s dislike of heat, it stands to reason sourdough would have appeared in the American West, maybe in leather pouches tucked into saddlebags, or beside the water jugs or barrels. A traveler wouldn’t always need a large loaf of bread, and to make a sourdough loaf you only need an amount in proportion to the size of the final product.

I’ll keep researching to see if cowboys and settlers took sourdough along on their journeys. For the moment, though, I’ve got to go feed the newest member of my family—SOURDOUGH!

The 19th Century Table: Parker House Rolls (including recipe)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Harvey D. Parker, father of Parker House Rolls

Harvey D. Parker (sculptor John D. Perry, 1874), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

When 20-year-old Harvey D. Parker arrived in Boston on a packet from Maine, the young man had only $1 in his pocket. Even in 1825, $1 wasn’t enough to sustain him for more than a day, so Parker took the first job he could find: caring for a horse and a cow at a salary of $8 per month. A series of other subsistence jobs followed, until he found one that set him on a career path from which he’d earn a fortune.

While working as a coachman for a wealthy socialite, Parker frequently ate his noon meal in a dingy basement tavern. In 1832, he bought the tavern for $432 and renamed it Parker’s Restaurant. Excellent food served by an attentive staff soon made the place a popular dining spot for the city’s newspapermen, lawyers, and businessmen. By 1847, the restaurant was one of the busiest and most well-regarded in the city.

In 1854, Parker and a partner bought a boarding house that once had been a grand mansion. They razed the structure and built an ornate, five-story brick-and-stone hotel on the site. The elegant hotel, named simply Parker’s, opened with great fanfare on April 22, 1854, and quickly became the establishment for upper-crust travelers. Notable guests included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and Charles Dickens. John Wilkes Booth stayed at Parker’s only days before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Parker's hotel, where Parker House Rolls were born.

Parker’s (19th century photo by Leander Baker)

At the time, the few existing hotels (most travelers took lodging in taverns or boarding houses) operated on “the European plan,” which included meals in the cost of a room. Meals were served family-style at given hours; if a lodger missed the hour, he went without food.

Parker’s hotel introduced a new concept: Rooms and meals were priced separately. Guests were offered menus appropriate to the time of day and ate virtually anytime they pleased. The upscale food was prepared by a kitchen staff and served in a grand dining room, where members of the public were invited to dine at their convenience, too.

The restaurant introduced dishes that remain popular today, including Parker House rolls and Massachusetts’s state dessert, Boston cream pie. According to legend, the rolls resulted when an angry chef tossed unfinished dough into the oven, accidentally creating a bread diners demanded ever after.

Parker's dining room, where diners demanded Parker House Rolls

Parker’s dining room, ca. 1910

Today, the Parker House is part of the Omni Hotels chain of high-end lodging establishments. Omni chose to maintain the original property’s lux décor, for the most part. The walls remain burnished American oak; lobbies, bars, and the restaurant resonate with the deep colors of yesteryear; massive crystal chandeliers sparkle in the public areas, and elevator doors are overlaid with a patina of burnished bronze.

Recipes for the hotel’s signature dishes reportedly remain unchanged, as well. Understandably, Omni Parker House doesn’t reveal its culinary secrets, but intrepid cooks and bakers take that as a challenge. Recipes for Parker House rolls began appearing in cookbooks in the 1880s. Fanny Farmer revealed what she claimed to be the original in her 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.

Here it is, with baking instructions for modern kitchens.

Parker House Rolls

Parker House Rolls

Parker House rolls, courtesy King Arthur Flour

1¾ cup scalded milk

¼ cup lukewarm water

2 Tbsps. active dry yeast

1 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 large egg

6 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

1. Dissolve yeast in water.

2. In large bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, sugar, and salt.

3. Stir in water/yeast mixture, milk, and egg.

4. Add 3 cups flour and beat thoroughly. The mixture should resemble a thick batter. Cover and let rise until at least double.

5. Stir down sponge, then stir in enough flour to make a soft dough (about another 2½ cups).

6. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about ½ cup) while kneading.

7. Shape dough into a ball and place in large, lightly greased bowl, turning so that top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until doubled, about 1½ hours. (Dough is doubled when 2 fingers pressed into dough leave a dent.)

8. Punch down dough by pushing the center of dough with fist, then pushing edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make smooth ball, cover with bowl for 15 minutes to let dough rest.

9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

10. In 17¼-inch by 11½-inch roasting pan, melt remaining ½ cup butter over low heat; tilt pan so melted butter coats entire bottom.

11. On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough ½ inch thick.

12. Cut dough into circles with floured 2¾-inch round cutter. (Note: The dough may be cut into rectangles instead of circles.) Holding dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted butter pan; fold in half.

13. Arrange folded dough in rows in pan used to melt the butter. Each roll should nearly touch its neighbors. Cover pan with towel; let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

14. Bake rolls for 15 to 18 minutes until browned.

 

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Pie Trivia and a Giveaway

WG Logo 2015-04

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Labor Day.  I hope you all are able to take some time to kick back and enjoy this holiday that’s set aside to celebrate the working man and woman.

The other thing I’m celebrating today is the release of my newest book in the Texas Grooms series, Texas Cinderella. The heroine of this book, Cassie Lynn Vickers, has a dream to one day open a bakery. Her specialty is pies (strange because I love to bake but am no good at pies). So I thought I’d have fun today and give you some Trivia and Fun Facts on the subject of pies.

  • Pies have been around for a very long time. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all made pies of one sort or another.
  • The first pies were mostly of the meat pie variety. The earliest published pie recipe came from the 14th century Romans and was a rye-crusted honey and goat-cheese pie.
  • The thick crusts on medieval pies were known as coffyns, which at the time simply meant basket or box.
  • In A Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare includes a recipe for pies that includes ginger, mace, prunes, nutmeg, raisins and, for a hint of color, saffron.
  • Pumpkin pie wasn’t present at the pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving, but it was at the second in 1623
  • The most popular flavors of pies purchased in America are, in this order: apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry and Dutch apple.
  • A 2008 survey by the American Pie found Americans consider pie more than just a dessert. 35% have had pie for breakfast, 66% have eaten it as their lunch and 59% have eaten pie as a midnight snack.
  • At one time Kansas had a law on the books that made it illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie.

So, what is your favorite pie? And do you have any fun facts to add to the list?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Texas Cinderella.

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Here’s an excerpt from Texas Cinderella:

22 TC- smallMaking up her mind, she decided to share her plan. “I do have an idea about how I might get around this.”

Mrs. Flanagan straightened. “Well, bless my soul, you do have some gumption, after all.” She leaned back with a satisfied nod. “Let’s hear it.”

Cassie Lynn took a deep breath. “It appears the only excuse my father will accept is if I was spoken for. So that’s what I intend to do—find a man to marry.”

The widow’s brow went up. “Just like that, you’re going to go out and find yourself a suitor?”

“I didn’t say it would be easy.” Cassie Lynn tried to keep the defensiveness from her tone. “And it’s not as if I expect anything romantic.” She didn’t have any notions of finding a fairy-tale prince who would look at her, fall instantly in love and whisk her away.

After all, she’d already contemplated a businesslike marriage once upon a time, so she’d already come to terms with that kind of arrangement.

But Mrs. Flanagan was frowning at her. “You’re much too young to be giving up on love. Don’t you want at least a touch of romance in your life?”

“Romance is no guarantee of happiness. And even if that was something I wanted, in this case there’s no time for such schoolgirl notions. So a more practical approach is called for.”

“I see.” Mrs. Flanagan crossed her arms, clearly not in agreement with Cassie Lynn’s argument, but willing to move on. “Is there a particular bachelor you’ve set your sights on?”

“I’ve been pondering on that and I have a couple of ideas. The main thing, though, is I’ve decided what requirements the gents need to meet.” She’d given that a lot of thought on her walk home.

“And those are?”

“Well, for one, since I want to continue pursuing my goal of opening a bakery, the candidate will need to be okay with having a wife who does more than just keep his house. And it would also require that he live here in town so I can be close to my customers, for delivery purposes.”

“Surely you also want to consider his character.”

“Of course. He should be honest, kind and God-fearing.” She didn’t expect affection?after all, this would be a businesslike arrangement?but she did hope for mutual respect.

“And his appearance?”

Cassie Lynn shrugged. “That’s of less importance. Though naturally, I wouldn’t mind if he’s pleasant to look at.” Like Mr. Walker, for example.

She shook off that thought and returned to the discussion at hand. “But none of that matters unless I can find someone who’s also open to my proposal.”

“And you’ve thought of someone who meets this list of qualifications?”

“Two. But I don’t really know the men here very well, so I was hoping that perhaps you could give me some suggestions.”

“Humph! I’ve always thought of matchmakers as busybodies, so I never aspired to become one.”

“Oh, I don’t want a matchmaker—I intend to make up my own mind on who I marry. I’d just like to have the benefit of advice from someone who knows the townsfolk better than I do. And who has experienced what a marriage involves.”

“Well then, much as I’m not sure I approve of this plan of yours, I don’t suppose I can just let you go through it without guidance of some sort.”

“Thank you so much. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”

“Now don’t go getting all emotional on me. I said I’d help and I will. Tell me who these two gents are that you’re considering.”

“The first name that occurred to me was Morris Hilburn.”

“The butcher?”

Cassie Lynn nodded. “From what I can tell, he meets most of my criteria. Of course, I won’t know how he feels about having a wife who runs a bakery until I talk to him.”

“Morris Hilburn is a God-fearing man with a good heart, all right. But he is not the smartest of men and he’s not much of a talker.”

“Book learning and good conversation are not requirements.”

“Think about that before you rule them out. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a man whose idea of conversation is single syllable responses?”

Cassie Lynn paused. Then she remembered the fate her father had in mind for her. “There are worse things.” She moved on before her employer could comment. “The other gentleman I thought of was Mr. Gilbert Drummond.”

“The undertaker? Well, I suppose he might be someone to look at. Then again, he strikes me as being a bit finicky.”

“There are worse qualities one could find in a man. Besides, a woman in my position doesn’t have the luxury of being choosy.” More’s the pity. “But I’m open to other suggestions if you have any.”

“I’ll need to ponder on this awhile.”

“Unfortunately, my time is short.” She hesitated a heartbeat, then spoke up again, keeping her voice oh-so-casual. “There’s actually a third candidate I’m considering.”

“And who might that be?”

“I met a newcomer to town while I was at the livery. He just arrived on today’s train.”

“A newcomer? And you’re just now telling me about this? You know good and well part of the reason I hired you is to have someone to bring me the latest bits of news.”

Cassie Lynn laughed. “And here I thought it was for my cooking.”

“Don’t be impertinent. I want to hear everything. How did you meet him? Is he a young man or more mature? Is he handsome? Is he traveling alone.” She waved impatiently. “Come on, girl, answer me.”

She decided to respond to the last question first. “He’s traveling with two children, a niece and nephew. I met the little boy first. Noah is about seven and such an endearing child—intelligent, curious, outgoing. The little girl, Pru, seems shy and quiet.”

“Enough of the kids,” Mrs. Flanagan said with a grumpy frown. “Tell me about the uncle.”

Cassie Lynn paused a moment to pull up Mr. Walker’s image in her mind. “He has hair the color of coffee with a dash of cream stirred in, and his eyes are a piercing green.” A glorious shamrock-green that she could still picture quite vividly. “He’s lean but muscular, if you know what I mean, like he’s used to doing hard work.”

“And his age?”

“I didn’t ask.”

Mrs. Flanagan made a disapproving noise. “Don’t be coy with me, Cassie Lynn. Take a guess.”

She hid her grin. “I suppose I’d put him around twenty-four or twenty-five.” Though there was something about the look in his eyes that spoke of experience beyond his years.

“How did you come to meet him?”

Cassie Lynn explained the circumstances as she crossed the room to retrieve an apron that hung on a peg near the stove.

“So what was it about him that made you decide after only ten minutes in his company that he might be the husband you’re looking for?”

“I only said he might be worth considering.” Then, under Mrs. Flanagan’s steady gaze, she shrugged. “I suppose it was the fact that he had two young children in his care—it made me think he might be a man in need of a woman’s help.”

“I agree with you there,” Mrs. Flanagan said. “A single man in charge of two young’uns sounds like a gentleman in need of a wife if there ever was one.”

Purchase at Amazon here: Texas Cinderella

 

 

Updated: September 4, 2016 — 11:17 pm

THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE.

 

DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE NOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY.

Before I wrote my novella for Be My Texas Valentine (several years ago), I had to do some research on how laundry was done in the late 1800’s, so I went to my bookcase literally filled with reference books not only on the craft of writing, but books about everything anyone would ever want to know about the 1800’s. I’d totally forgotten about a CD I’d purchased with a number of works on it, including a piece written in 1832 and simply titled The American Frugal Housewife by a woman only identified as Mrs. Child.

After reading a while, I decided in today’s economy it might be fun to visit some of Mrs. Child’s philosophy and guidelines from yesteryear.

The author’s premise is simple: “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost … Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be … every member of the family should be employed either in earning or saving money.”

Here are some of her tips.  Please note that I left much of the spelling, punctuation and length as it was originally written to truly reflect her authentic voice and the era.

•           In this country, we are apt to let children romp away their existence, till they get to be thirteen or fourteen. This is not well. It is not well for the purses and patience of parents; and it has a still worse effect on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early is the great maxim for everything in education. A child of six years old can be made useful; and should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done to assist others.  They can knit garters, suspenders, and stockings; they can make patchwork and braid straw; they can make mats for the table, and mats for the floor; they can weed the garden, and pick cranberries from the meadow, to be carried to market.

•           Provided brothers and sisters go together, and are not allowed to go with bad children, it is a great deal better for the boys and girls on a farm to be picking blackberries at six cents a quart, than to be wearing out their clothes in useless play. They enjoy themselves just as well; and they are earning something to buy clothes, at the same time they are tearing them.

•           ‘Time is money.’ For this reason, cheap as stockings are, it is good economy to knit them. Cotton and woolen yarn are both cheap; hose that are knit wear twice as long as woven ones; and they can be done at odd minutes of time, which would not be otherwise employed. Where there are children, or aged people, it is sufficient to recommend knitting. Run the heels of stockings faithfully; and mend thin places, as well as holes. ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’

 •           Patchwork is good economy, but it is indeed a foolish waste of time to tear good cloth into bits for the sake of arranging it anew in fantastic figures; but a large family may be kept out of idleness, and a few shillings saved, by thus using scraps of gowns, curtains, &c.

•           In the country, where grain is raised, it is a good plan to teach children to prepare and braid straw for their own bonnets and their brothers’ hats.

•           Where turkeys and geese are kept, handsome feather fans may as well be made by the younger members of a family, as to be bought. The sooner children are taught to turn their faculties to some account, the better for them and for their parents.

ODD SCRAPS FOR THE ECONOMICAL

  • Look to the grease-pot, and see that nothing is there which might have served to nourish your own family, or a poorer one.  Look frequently to the pails, to see that nothing is thrown to the pigs which should have been in the grease-pot.
  • See that the beef and pork are always under brine; and that the brine is sweet and clean.
  • Preserve the backs of old letters to write upon. If you have children who are learning to write, buy coarse white paper by the quantity, and keep it locked up, ready to be made into writing books. It does not cost half as much as it does to buy them at the stationer’s.
  • The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads. Do not have carpets swept any oftener than is absolutely necessary. After dinner, sweep the crumbs into a dusting-pan with your hearth-brush; and if you have been sewing, pick up the shreds by hand. A carpet can be kept very neat in this way; and a broom wears it very much.  When a carpet is faded, I have been told that it may be restored, in a great measure, (provided there be no grease in it,) by being dipped into strong salt and water. I never tried this; but I know that silk pocket handkerchiefs, and deep blue factory cotton will not fade, if dipped in salt and water while new Keep a coarse broom for the cellar stairs, wood-shed, yard, &c. No good housekeeper allows her carpet broom to be used for such things.
  • Suet and lard keep better in tin than in earthen. Suet keeps good all the year round, if chopped and packed down in a stone jar, covered with molasses. Pick suet free from veins and skin, melt it in water before a moderate fire, let it cool till it forms into a hard cake, then wipe it dry, and put it in clean paper in linen bags.
  •  An ox’s gall will set any color,—silk, cotton, or woolen. I have seen the colors of calico, which faded at one washing, fixed by it. Where one lives near a slaughterhouse, it is worth while to buy cheap, fading goods, and set them in this way. The gall can be bought for a few cents. Get out all the liquid, and cork it up in a large phial. One large spoonful of this in a gallon of warm water is sufficient. This is likewise excellent for taking out spots from bombazine, bombazet, &c. After being washed in this, they look about as well as when new. It must be thoroughly stirred into the water, and not put upon the cloth. It is used without soap. After being washed in this, cloth which you want to clean should be washed in warm suds, without using soap.
  • The covering of oil-flasks, sewed together with strong thread, and lined and bound neatly, makes useful tablemats.
  • Never leave out your clothes-line over night; and see that your clothes-pins are all gathered into a basket.
  • After old coats, pantaloons, &c. have been cut up for boys, and are no longer capable of being converted into garments, cut them into strips, and employ the leisure moments of children, or domestics, in sewing and braiding them for door-mats.
  • An ounce of quicksilver, beat up with the white of two eggs, and put on with a feather, is the cleanest and surest bed-bug poison. What is left should be thrown away: it is dangerous to have it about the house. If the vermin are in your walls, fill up the cracks with verdigris-green paint. Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with lime-water, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. The cheapest time to lay down eggs, is early in spring, and the middle and last of September. It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them.
  • If feather-beds smell badly, or become heavy, from want of proper preservation of the feathers, or from old age, empty them, and wash the feathers thoroughly in a tub of suds; spread them in your garret to dry, and they will be as light and as good as new.
  • Feathers should be very thoroughly dried before they are used. For this reason they should not be packed away in bags, when they are first plucked. They should be laid lightly in a basket, or something of that kind, and stirred up often. The garret is the best place to dry them; because they will there be kept free from dirt and moisture; and will be in no danger of being blown away. It is well to put the parcels, which you may have from time to time, into the oven, after you have removed your bread, and let them stand a day.

I don’t know about you, but I became exhausted by just reading about the do’s and don’t’s of a frugal frontier housewife.  Many of her tips are still used today. To follow up on Tracy’s blog on Monday, based on the chores I selected from by-gone years and those of today what chore do you find the least pleasant and which one might be fun?

For one lucky winner, I will give away a copy of any of my books or anthologies from Amazon.com!

Out of the Texas Night

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover of my second book in the Kasota Springs Romance series due out later this year.

Updated: May 2, 2016 — 8:55 pm

Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

Phyliss Miranda sig line for P&P BluebonnetAs lot of you know, I’ve been away from P&P for a few months due to a knee replacement. I’m certainly glad to be back and thank everyone for the wonderful cards and words of encouragement.

My stint away and the experience gave me time to think.  Basically, about the improvements in medicine amongst other things.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with my college grandson about what is the best oils to use for cooking. His argument was something on the line of which is better to buy olive oil or coconut. I told him he didn’t have to buy anything, because I had both in the pantry.  He was shocked and said he thought I probably still used shortening. That gave me food for thought. My grandmother was born in the late 1800’s and she used lard then later shortening.  I know one thing her fried foods couldn’t be beat.  Then I thought about the path from lard (pig fat, used since prehistoric times) to olive and coconut oils. I’m doing this by memory, so I’m probably showing my age, but from shortening, I remember going to plain ol’ vegetable oil, and later a zillion kinds of vegetable oils, corn, soybean, and sunflower.  Of course, we had to adjust our baking recipes accordingly.

Crisco ShorteningCrisco, arguably was the first popular national shortening.  It began being manufactured in the late 1800’s and it’sLard still on the grocery shelves today, as is lard.  There are some older recipes for cakes in particular that are just not the same without shortening.

This took me back in time to a lot of changes that have been made in the kitchen in particular that make our grandchildren think of their grandparents growing up kinda like we think of the pioneer families.

One thing we have in common, to a degree, was simply being able to come home from school, and yes I walked then took the public bus when I got in high school, getting our homework done and playing outside.  I remember how much I enjoyed smelling supper up and down the street.  Meatloaf and baked beans could really catch my attention.  We didn’t have storm doors but plain jane ol’ screens where the scents could escape.   During supper, there were no distractions like television, phone especially cellular ones, no iPads or game machines.  It might sound odd to many of the younger readers, but we didn’t have those distractions. We talked, unique as it may seem today. Of course we had phones but most everybody had a party-line.  You had to carefully pick up the phone and not make any noise in case there was a conversation going on.  I think the party-line was shared by four households.Telephone

After dinner, we washed the dishes and then we’d go to our rooms, shared by other siblings, and read and play our record player.  Our parents would sit out on the front porch with neighbors and talk.  Oh yes, and the reason we didn’t sit in front of a television was because we didn’t have one!  I vividly remember the day we got our first black and white TV and had only one channel!  Yep, one local channel.

Life was truly more simple.  Mother and Daddy didn’t have to worry about my driving because I wasn’t allowed to drive.  We only had one automobile (and you’re not gonna catch me on my age by my revealing the model or year of our brand new Chevy).  If we wrecked it, Daddy couldn’t have gotten to work.  Mama kept it once a week to do her grocery shopping.  I don’t know about you guys, but Monday was washing and Wednesday was grocery shopping, because that was the day for the “new deals” to come out which meant Mama got more grocery store trading stamps.

Hanging Clothes on the lineI can remember the smell of clothes hanging out on the clothes line, but didn’t necessarily like to hang them.  Nothing is better than sheets dried outside.  In the summer we always had a gallon of tea for sun tea on the porch.  Add one cup of sugar and water to the top and we had southern sweet tea paradise. I still make it to this day except I boil the water and steep the tea in a pitcher.

Another smell I’ll never forget is perked coffee. It’s just like the Mr. Coffee but there’s something special perk-o-lator pictureabout the water running over coffee once verses it being perked up and over the coffee grinds again and again until it’s just the right color.  There was no fixin’ one cup of coffee at a time, after you’ve gone through a couple of dozen flavors.

As writers of historical westerns, for those of us who are, I’d really be interested in the changes that we made from 1850 to 1950, and especially those from 1950 to today.  Many of the changes came about when women began working outside of the home, plus taking care of the children, cooking from scratch, grocery shopping, sewing clothes for both boys and girls, being Boy Scout and Girl Scout leaders, Sunday School teachers, homeroom mothers, plus being a loving mother and wife, and the hostess of the home.  And a home is what I grew up in … not a house.

What are some of your greatest memories from growing up … and no iPads, Xboxes, or cell phones, please?

 

The Troubled Texan GoodTo one lucky winner I will send you a gift certificate to purchase my latest book from Kensington The Troubled Texan and watch for my next Kasota Springs, Texas, contemporary Out of a Texas Night.

Updated: February 1, 2016 — 9:38 pm

Welcome a New Guest to the Junction – Pamela Howell!

HowellChilly, winter nights, a blanket of stars and a crackling campfire conjure up stories of the American West and its quintessential icon — the cowboy — better for me than almost any setting I know. Throw in some great camp cooking over an open flame and it’s possible to almost smell the smoke from the fire as it tinges the night air with a distinctive smell of mesquite or coals. Ah, nothing quite like it.

Growing up in the wide, open spaces of West Texas, I’ve stood around my share of campfires with bubbling pots of venison chili or homemade peach cobbler, but I’ve never been the pot stirrer, always just the pot partaker, so I thought it was interesting to learn that there is an organization devoted to the art of black pot, or Dutch oven, cooking.chuck wagon

The Lone Star Dutch Oven Society (LSDOS) has chapters throughout Texas who work to preserve the historical aspects of black pot cooking, a way of preparing food that dates back several hundred years. LSDOS members provide classes for greenhorns like me who want to learn how to cook in a Dutch oven. Members also participate in historical re-enactment events, recreational expositions and education activities in their communities.

To whet your appetite for cooking the black pot way, the LSDOS offers many recipes on its website at www.lsdos.com. Here’s a tasty sample:

Spicy Black-eyed Pea Soup
Mary & Gale Merriwether
SALTGRASS  CHAPTER of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society

12 inch well-seasoned Dutch Oven                Serves 6 to 8

INGREDIENTS

4        cups Black-eyed peas (dried)

1        cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

4        tablespoons bacon drippings

2        can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (10 oz.)

2        cup beef broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

1        large onion, chopped

Tortilla chips


DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse and cook black-eyed peas according to package directions.  When tender, drain off most of the water and retain in case you need more liquid for soup broth.
  2. Sauté onion in bacon drippings until soft.  Mash the peas with potato masher and add to onions in the pan.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beef broth and cheese.  Simmer until the cheese has melted.  Salted and pepper to taste.
  4. If needed, add retained water from cooking black-eyed peas to make soup the desired consistency.
  5. Serve hot and garnish with tortilla chips.

Note:  You may substitute 2 small, peeled fresh tomatoes and a minced jalapeno pepper (seeds, stems and ribs removed) for the Ro-Tel tomatoes, if desired.

 

Until next time, here are a few photos of West Texas which were taken by my husband on a recent day trip around Ft. Stockton. These photos really speak to my heart as a writer and I hope you enjoy them, too.

 

FtStocktonBOQ DSC_0313

 

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**Giveaway Alert: Pamela will give away one free, autographed, paperback version of her novel A RIDE HOME. One reader’s name will be drawn at random. You can connect with her at www.pamelarobertshowell.com or on her Facebook fan page Pamela Roberts Howell.ARideHome_BookCover

Pamela Howell is an author, teacher, and freelance journalist. She has won numerous state, national and international awards for her writing as well as her marketing leadership skills. A native Texan, she lives in San Antonio with her husband of 26 years where she enjoys writing Christian fiction, scrapbooking, reading and crafting.

 

Her novel, A RIDE HOME, is set in West Texas and tells the story of college student Kayla Hartley who accepts a ride from a stranger, a handsome cowboy named Mark Lawson, who charms his way into her heart. But, is it the best decision? It’s 800 miles across an unforgiving, barren landscape from San Angelo, Texas, to her hometown in Arizona, and as night falls and the road becomes more desolate, Kayla begins to wonder if she’s made a mistake, a terrible one that might cost her dearly.

A RIDE HOME Book Trailer —

 

This is Pamela’s first blog on Petticoats & Pistols. We’re happy you joined us, Pamela!

 

 

Updated: January 26, 2016 — 6:31 pm
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