Category: Cooking/Kitchens

Welcome Guest – Jolene Navarro!!!

Hola! Jolene Navarro checking in from my front porch in the Texas Hill Country. I’m so happy to be here today.

My family has been in Texas for seven generations, so when it comes to telling stories, I can’t help but draw from my own experiences. My family loves getting together for the holidays, and you can see this in all my stories.

Lone Star Christmas is my third Christmas story and the third book for my Bergmann sisters of Clear Water, Texas. The sisters have been so much fun to get to know. Family is everything to them, even when they drive each other crazy.

I have two sisters and a load of aunts. Even though we lost our mother eleven years ago we still get together with her family, including our grandmother (her mother).

A few years ago, my sisters and I along with a cousin or two, thought it would be easier and much more fun to rent a cabin in our family hometown of Leakey. What a perfect place to give thanks by the river and among the hills that we came from. It was one of the best decisions we had made. As a family we love the outdoors, the trees, river, sky the more we can explore the happier we are. And of course, we have the dishes that have been served even before I was born. One of my favorites is the cranberry sauce served in my great-grandmother’s bowl.

Now to be fair there are family fights…sauce from fresh cranberries or the stuff from the can?  Some people will only eat that stuff from the can, but I’m not here to judge. We welcome everyone…no matter how they take their cranberries.

So, hosting Thanksgiving in a cabin on the river became a new tradition. A few of us stay for three or four days to set up, clean up and just hang out. The rest of the family comes in for Thursday. How can I not incorporate this kind of family fun (and maybe a little drama) into my books? In Lone Star Hero, the big family gathering is new to my hero Max and his three younger brothers. They have never spent the holidays together let alone in such a huge setting. 

Click cover to order.

Thanksgiving is just a kickoff of the holidays. My all-time favorite time, Christmas. Therefore, I love writing Christmas stories. It can be a time of such joy and hope. On the other side a person could be swamped in darkness, grief, loss, or loneliness. I work with this theme a great deal just like Max and his brothers. The idea that as the author, I can right wrongs, give people new chances and hand out happy endings to the most broken.

Every Christmas Eve we drive over the hills, through the Frio River and down a long bumpy dirt road to my cousin’s ranch on the Frio River.

Surrounded by God’s creations has a way of healing the bumps and bruises the world leaves behind. How could I not bring this into my stories and share with the world? I love being a country girl.

Like I said, I love writing holidays and I use what I know, but there are so many traditions. I want to hear about some of yours.

Finish this sentence for me: I get that holiday feeling when……

If you leave a comment, you will be entered to win a gift bundle of all three Bergmann sister’s books: Texas Daddy, The Texan’s Twins, and Lone Star Christmas.

Here We Come a Wassailing

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year … Halloween!  Not only did I have a granddaughter born on Halloween and she’ll turn 21 tomorrow, but I love the kids, their costumes, and giving out treats.  I took ten bags of candy to the church today for our annual Trunk or Treat.  So many wonderful memories.

But oh do I love apple wassail to kick off the holiday season.  I didn’t realize the tradition of Apple Wassail, which is a form of wassailing practiced in the cider orchards of southern England during the winter some five centuries ago.  The first recorded mention was at Fordwich, Kent, in 1585.  Groups of young men would go between orchards performing the rite for a reward. The practice was sometimes referred to as “howling”.  On the Twelfth Night, men would go with their wassail bowl into apple orchards.  Slices of bread or toast were laid at the roots and sometimes tied to branches.  Cider was also poured over the tree roots.  The ceremony is said to “bless” the trees to produce a good crop the next season.

A folktale from Somerset reflecting this custom tells of the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, and in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside.  In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard and is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried gold.

Here’s a couple of well know and fun traditional Apple Wassail rhymes.

“Stand fast root, bear well to

Pray for God send us a howling good crop.

Every twig apple big.

Every Bough, apples now.”

                                                                            19th century Sussex, Surrey

“But by far here’s the one we all know.

Here we come a wassailing

Among the leaves so green,

Here we come a wandering

So fair to be seen.

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail too.

And God bless you and send you a happy New Year.

And God send you a happy New Year.”

                                                            Somerset, 1971

The wassail recipe is very easy and fun to make and drink.

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 stick (6 inch size) cinnamon.

Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag.  Add the spice bag and all remaining ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

For a party or a carry-in, heat in a crock pot on low temperature.

Optional:  Garnish individual servings with a cinnamon stick and orange slice.  Serves 24.

My question to you:  What is your favorite holiday beverage?

 

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give away an eBook of my latest Kasota Springs Romance “Out of a Texas Night”.

Updated: October 29, 2018 — 5:31 pm

Family Reunion and a Recipe

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Today is Columbus Day.  About 4 years ago I wrote a post celebrating the day with lots of fun facts and trivia – you can view it by clicking HERE. So, instead of a repeat, I thought I’d talk about something else.

This past weekend was my hubby’s family’s annual reunion. It’s something we always look forward to. It’s an opportunity for him and all of his siblings and cousins and everyone’s extended families to come together and get reacquainted. Those we’ve lost since the last gathering are remembered and additions through birth, adoption or marriage are joyfully welcomed.

We usually gather mid-morning and visit, look at photos and family memorabilia folks have brought with them, update a large family tree chart and just generally enjoy each others company. Then we have a group meal provided potluck-style by the attendees. 
After lunch several of us drive out to visit hubby’s old home place, evoking memories for the adults and nurturing an appreciation of their roots for the younger generation.

All in all, Saturday was a wonderfully lovely day.

Now for the recipe I promised you. I love to experiment with new ideas and combinations of flavors when I cook. For the reunion this year however, I was hampered by the fact that not only did I wait until a few days before to think about what I was going to cook, but doctor’s orders still have me restricted from driving so I had to make do with what was already in the house. The following recipe and accompanying notes will probably give you some insights into how my mind works.  Keep in mind that I developed this on the fly and rarely measure so many of the quantities listed are approximate.

 

Oh, and also keep in mind that I was cooking for a large group gathering (we usually run around 40+ people) – this should be scaled back for smaller groups.

 

Winnie’s Chicken And Sausage Potluck Pasta 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sausage, diced (I used a skinless smoked sausage because that’s what I had on hand, but I think it would be great with andouille)
  • Shredded Turkey (I used leftovers of a roasted turkey, pulled from the carcass and frozen in a 1 quart container in it’s own broth)
  • Dehydrated  seasonings (again using what I had in the pantry, you can substitute fresh) as follows:
    2 tblsp chives
    2 tblsp minced onion
    1 tsp celery flakes
    ½ tsp garlic
  • 3 boxes Pasta Roni (angel hair with herbs)
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
    I put them in the food processor and give it a couple of quick pulses because I don’t like big chunks, but this step is totally optional.
    Also, I like spicy so if I was cooking this just for me I would have used a full can. But since I was cooking this for a mixed crowd, I just used about ½ the can
  • 1 can of small English peas, drained
  • Black Pepper to taste

Note, most of the ingredients already contain salt so you should taste the finished product before adding more

Directions

  • Brown sausage in a large skillet.
  • Add dehydrated seasonings along with turkey (with broth). Continue to cook together until liquid has reduced.
  • Remove meat from pan and set aside. 
  • In the same pan, cook pasta according to package directions, except at the point when the pasta and sauce are added to the liquid, also add rotel.
  • Once pasta is cooked, add meat, peas and pepper and continue to cook on low heat for ten minutes, stirring frequently and adding liquid as needed.

There you go. Not the most complex or elegant of dishes, but believe it or not, I had several folks come up after the meal and ask for my recipe 🙂

 

So what about you? Does your family schedule reunions or get togethers? And have you invented any dishes you’d like to share the recipes for?

Updated: October 7, 2018 — 11:39 pm

My Favorite Time of the Year

By Phyliss Miranda

Between the great autumn fever blogs our Fillies did last week and the weather turning cooler, making the leaves turn to beautiful hues of fall, I can’t help but think about some of the things I like to do in the autumn.

I don’t go out as much this time of the year, so I love to bake and read.  As I’ve said before, and those who have read any of my Kasota Springs contemporary western romances know, I also include a recipe in each book.  It’s always one of my family favorites; and, two of my characters, Lola Ruth and Granny Johnson, use it in the book.  Of interest, Lola Ruth got her name from my mother, Ruth, and my mother-in-law, Lola; while Granny Johnson got her name from well … my own beloved Granny Johnson.  My Granny Johnson’s Chocolate Cake receipt and the history behind it’s five generations is in The Troubled Texan, which is the first of the Kasota Springs books.

Sylvie’s story, which I’m writing now, has a twist and I’ll be using more recipes.  Just gotta wait to read the book to see what twist I give to recipes and characters. But, I’ll give you all a hint. They all come from readers and school teachers.

With cold nights and cool days, I love to read and drink something hot in the evening, so I thought I’d share with you a great recipe. It’ll definitely be in the book. You can prepare this Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for yourself or it’d be a great holiday gift.  It’s easy and quick to fix.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix      

2 cups Confectioners Sugar

1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 cups Powdered Milk or to cut calories use Instant Nonfat Dry Milk

Instructions: In a large bowl, sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa. Stir in the powdered milk and whisk well. 

You can add miniature marshmallows to the mixture if you’d like.  Drop in a few chocolate chips to make it even more rich. When ready to use, mix ½ cup hot water with ½ cup cocoa mix, stir and enjoy. 

If you have small kids or just want something special for yourself, make Red Velvet Hot Chocolate, by adding red gel food coloring; and dip the rim of your favorite cup in sprinkles. Use gel instead of regular food coloring, since it’ll give the drink a darker red look.  I can see this being a really fun treat during the Christmas season.

 

So what is your favorite drink during cold weather?

To one reader who leaves a comment today, I will give you an eBook copy of Out of a Texas Night.  

Updated: October 1, 2018 — 5:25 pm

Good Gravy By Crystal L Barnes

Howdy y’all! Thanks for having me back on Petticoats and Pistols. It’s always a treat. And speaking of treats…when was the last time you treated yourself to some good old-fashioned home cooking? I’m talking Texas-style comfort food, y’all. Steak and taters. Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits. Black-eyed peas and cornbread. Mmmmm…I think I’m getting hungry. 🙂

If you haven’t figured it out, I love to cook and bake (just not clean—praise God for dishwashers!). Like many of the characters you’ll find in my historical western romances or other old-time westerns, I was reared, for the most part, on what my family grew, raised, or hunted. Pretty much still am. In my kitchen you’ll find anything from venison to home-grown chicken to home-canned veggies and fruit preserves. Through the years my table and taste buds have enjoyed rabbit, squirrel, wild hog, and even steers from our pasture, to name a few.

                                  

I love to intermingle these types of tidbits into my stories, and I thought some of you authors and history lovers, who don’t delve into these delicacies 😉 often, would enjoy a few fun facts about this type of down-home cooking.

For example, did you know…?

  • A squirrel is all dark meat and tastes a lot like chicken. They are very lean, but go great with dumplings.
  • A rabbit is all white meat. 🙂 Just don’t eat one in a month without an R in the name. (I can tell you why from my dad’s personal experience, but I don’t want to test those with weak stomachs.)
    • In my family, we joke when we eat rabbit and say we’re having “furry chicken.” My favorite is BBQ rabbit. Only don’t smoke them on the pit too long or they’ll be like eating cotton-candy bunny—it practically dissolves in your mouth.
  • When cleaned properly—if no one punctures a scent gland—deer meat actually does not taste gamey. If a scent gland does get hit/cut, you can soak the meat in salt water to remove the gamey smell and taste. Venison is leaner than beef and higher in iron too. (It’s my favorite! 🙂 )

Now that I’ve shared a few tidbits, why don’t you take a turn? What unique or country-style dishes have you eaten? What is your favorite comfort food? Were any of these tidbits news to you? Leave a comment and let me know.

I’ll be giving away a FREE copy (ebook or paperback) of one of my stories to one of this post’s commenters, and I’ll give a second FREE copy (ebook or paperback) to the first person that correctly answers the following question.

What is the most integral ingredient in any country-cooking kitchen?
(I rarely cook a meal without it.)

Winners may select one of the following titles:
(Paperback for contiguous US winners only.)

 

 

An award-winning author, bona fide country girl, and former gymnast,  Crystal L Barnes tells stories of fun, faith, and friction that allow her to share her love of Texas, old-fashioned things, and the Lord—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not writing, reading, or singing, Crystal enjoys exploring on road-trips, spending time with family, and watching old movies/sitcoms. I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie are two of her favorites. You can find out more and connect with Crystal at http://www.crystal-barnes.com

Find her also on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author Page, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, or her Facebook Author page.

Want to be notified of her latest releases and other fun tidbits? Subscribe to her newsletter.

 

 

 

Updated: August 17, 2018 — 8:26 am

Let’s Talk Tea

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

In my books, when company comes to visit, they are more  likely going to be offered a cup of tea rather than a cup of coffee. I suppose this is because I’m a tea lover myself and am not much on coffee (which makes me pretty much an outlier among my south Louisiana family ? )

I enjoy experimenting with tea flavors – green, black rooibos, herbal, chais. Some of my favorites are Hartney’s Hot Spicy Cinnamon and Bigelow’s Vanilla Chai.  I also have a small collection of tea cups that I’ve collected – I’ve sprinkled images of some of them throughout this post.

* * * * * I’m a big fan of dragonflys – here are some cups that reflect that

Now for some trivia and fun facts related to tea:

  • Not only is tea delicious but it is actually good for you. One of the things contained in tea are polyphenols which are antioxidants that repair cells. Because of this, consuming tea might help our bodies fend off cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus and other maladies.
  • It is estimated that there a 1,500 different types of tea.
  • On a per capita basis, Ireland is the largest nation of tea drinkers. Great Britain comes in second
  • Approximately 85% of tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea.

* * * These cups are some of the ones I received as gifts – my friends know me well 🙂

  • The United States imports over 519 million pounds of tea annually.
  • Tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage worldwide.
  • The annual worldwide production of tea comes in at over 3 million tons.
  • Tieguanyin, an oolong tea, is the most expensive tea in the world at a cost of about  $1,500 a pound.

    * * * * * These belonged to my grandmother – I cherish them dearly

  • The United States invented both the tea bag and iced tea. Not everyone thinks the tea bag is a good thing as connoisseurs consider tea brewed from loose leaves to be richer in flavor.
  • A cup of brewed tea on average contains less than half the caffeine of the same amount of coffee.
  • The Twining family opened their teashop, the Golden Lyon, in 1717. That shop is still open today.

    * * * * *I like to collect mugs from places I’ve visited – here are some of my faves

  • If a scene calls for an actor to drink whisky, they usually substitute watered-down tea, which has the same look as whisky.
  • The action of tea leaves uncurling as hot water is poured over them is called “the agony of the leaves”.
  • Loose tea stays good for about two years if you keep it away from moisture and light. Tea bags, however, are only good for about six months before they begin losing their flavor.

    * * * * * And of course, as a Winnie The Pooh fan, I couldn’t pass these up

  • Black, oolong, green, and white tea all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference comes in how the leaves are treated after they are harvested.
    For black tea, the leaves are left to ferment until they turn black, then dried and packaged.
    Oolong tea follows a similar process to black tea, but each individual stage in the process is not as long.
    Green tea isn’t put through a fermentation process, rather it is either steamed or pan fried.
    White tea is the least processed of the four. It is made from younger leaves that are usually only left to sun dry briefly before being prepared for packaging.

    * * * * * And finally, here are two of my favorite writer-related mugs

  • Herbal “teas” are technically not teas at all, but rather, something called a tisane.
  • Guinness World Records associated with tea (as of 2016)
    Largest Tea Bag – 551 pounds, 9.8 feet wide by 13 feet high.
    Largest Tea Cup – 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide
    Most Cups of Tea Made in One Hour – 1848 (made by a team of 12 individuals)

And finally, my favorite tea quote:
You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S.Lewis

So, are you a tea drinker? Do you have a favorite flavor? And did any of the above bits of trivia surprise you?

 

Updated: June 4, 2018 — 12:37 am

CHOCOLATE: A VICTORIAN TREAT? OR MORE? by Charlene Raddon

Today we have guest author Charlene Raddon with us here at the Junction. Charlene is not only discussing one of the best things in this world–chocolate!–she is also giving away two books! One lucky commentor will win an e-copy of To Have and To Hold and another will win an e-copy of Divine Gamble. Take it away, Charlene!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am thoroughly addicted to chocolate. Dark chocolate, to be precise. I rarely eat milk chocolate. Dark varieties have less calories and are good for the heart (that comes straight from my doctor).

Almost everybody loves chocolate, right? But how long has it really been around? The Victorians adored drinking the liquid version, but did they invent, grow, develop chocolate? No.

The first chocolate house in London opened in 1657, advertising the sale of “an excellent West India drink.” In 1689, a noted physician, Hans Sloane, developed a milk chocolate drink, which was initially used by apothecaries. Later Sloane’s recipe was sold to the Cadbury brothers. London chocolate houses became trendy meeting places for the elite London society that savored the new luxury.

But chocolate goes back much farther than the seventeenth century. The fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao (chocolate), can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of cacao beverages dating back to 1900 B.C.

The Maya are credited with creating a drink by mixing water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and ground cacao seeds. The Aztecs acquired the cacao seeds by trading with the Maya. For both cultures, chocolate became an important part of royal and religious ceremonies. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. Chocolate was so revered the Aztecs used it as both a food and currency. All areas conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.

In 1521, during the conquest of Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors discovered the seeds and took them home to Spain. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. The result was coveted and reserved for the Spanish nobility. Spain managed to keep chocolate a secret from the rest of the world for almost 100 years. Once discovered, the drink spread throughout Europe.

Somewhere along the way, some European decided a special pot to serve the beverage in was needed. The earliest pots were silver and copper. Later, European porcelain manufactures began producing them as well. These pots had a right-angle handle and a hole in the lid in which a wooden stirrer, called a molinet or molinillo, stirred the mixture. Rather than a log spout which began in the middle of the side of the pot, like coffee and tea pots have, the chocolate pot has a flared spout at the top.

If you look on e-Bay, you’ll see pots of both styles, those with the long side spouts offered as combination coffee or chocolate pots. Prices vary considerably, but a good pot can run as much as $1,000.00, and a set, with cups and saucers and sometimes sugar and creamer, can be as high as $3,000. Although none of mine are this valuable, my personal assortment of chocolate pots numbers around thirty-five. The photographs shown here are from my collection.

The origin of the word “chocolate” probably comes from the Classical Nahunt word xocol?t (meaning “bitter water”) and entered the English language from Spanish. How the word “chocolate” came into Spanish is not certain. The most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word “chocolat,” which many sources derived from the Nahuatl word “xocolat” (pronounced [ ?o?kola?t]) made up from the words “xococ” meaning sour or bitter, and “at” meaning water or drink. Trouble is, the word “chocolat” doesn’t occur in central Mexican colonial sources.

Chocolate first appeared in The United States in 1755. Ten years later, the first U.S. chocolate factory went into production.

I learned all this doing research for my historical romance, To Have and To Hold. In the story, the heroine has a friend who owns a bakery in town and, when Tempest comes to visit, Violet serves her hot cocoa with a chocolate pot.

Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma of Spain published the first recipe for a chocolate drink in 1644 by in his book, A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate. The spices included hot chiles, and the recipe goes as follows:

  • 100 cacao beans
  • 2 chiles (black pepper may be substituted)
  • A handful of anise
  • “Ear flower”  *
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 ounces cinnamon
  • 12 almonds or hazelnuts
  • pound sugar
  • Achiote (annatto seeds) to taste –

Ingredients were boiled together and then frothed with a molinillo, the traditional Aztec carved wooden tool. The achiote was used to redden the color of the drink. *Also known as “xochinacaztli” (Nahuatl) or “orejuela” (Spanish).

“Chiles and Chocolate” goes on to provide another chocolate recipe published in France 50 years later. This one has significantly reduced the amount of chili peppers. The recipe was published in 1692 by M. St. Disdier of France, who was in the chocolate business:

  • 2 pounds prepared cacao
  • 1 pound fine sugar
  • 1/3 ounce cinnamon
  • 1/24 ounce powdered cloves
  • 1/24 ounce Indian pepper (chile)
  • 1 1/4 ounce vanilla

A paste was made of these dried ingredients on a heated stone and then it was boiled to make hot chocolate.

Today, the main difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is that hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, which lacks the fat of cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate bars mixed with cream.

Charlene Raddon is the award-winning author of nine American historical romance novels and a book cover artist at http://silversagebookcovers.com. She began writing in 1980 and first published in 1994 with Zebra Books (Kensington Books imprint). Her work has received high reviews, won contests and awards. Her latest book, Divine Gamble, is currently up for a Rone.

Find Charlene at:

http://www.charleneraddon.com

http://www.twitter.com/CRaddon

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1232154.Charlene_Raddon

http://www.facebook.com/charleneb.b.raddon

http://www.silversagebookcovers.com

Christmas Confections by Shanna Hatfield

Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.

A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.

One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.

Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!

I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.

Sugar Cookies

I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.

Cinnamon Rolls

I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.

But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.

The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.

Confection long

The Christmas Confection is book 6 in the Hardman Holidays series, set in the old western town of Hardman, Oregon.

2017 Christmas Confection

Will a sweet baker soften a hardened man’s heart?

 Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.

Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.

Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.

Excerpt:

“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him.  “There are two other things I’d like.”

“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.

“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”

Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”

The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”

Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”

“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.

“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.

Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”

Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”

He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”

~ Giveaway ~

red bowed packages on white background

Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!

button enter now

Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!

What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing, as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:

“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups

Wineglass=1/4 Cup

Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones

Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup

Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons

Dash=1/8 teaspoon

Pinch=1/8 teaspoon

Dram=3/4 teaspoon

Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon

Gill=1/2 Cup

Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons

Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon

2 Coffee Cups=1 pint

As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.

                                                                Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

 

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement

Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp

Passle-1/2 tsp

Pittance-1/3 tsp

Dib-1/3 tsp

Crumble-1/8 tsp

A Wave at It-1/16 tsp

Heap-Rounded cupful     

Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls

Bunch-6 items

However you measure it,

here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 

For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure

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Updated: November 12, 2017 — 9:29 am

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
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