Garden Fresh Recipes or What To Do with all Your Home-Grown Tomatoes

Howdy!

Welcome to my “Home-Grown,” fresh from the garden recipes.  These are tomato recipes.  Easy catsup recipe and easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or hamburger recipe.

For years now, my husband and I have bought 100 lbs of tomatoes from a local farmer, but when he stopped planting and selling the tomatoes, we took to gardening ourselves, and last year our small little garden in our backyard got us almost 100 lbs. of tomatoes.

Red ripe tomatoes growing in a greenhouse. Ripe and unripe tomatoes in the background.

So here we go:  What to do with all those tomatoes.

**  We freeze ours.  This requires a large pot of boiling water, a lot of ice and either some plastic bags for storage or mason jars.

** Preparing the tomatoes.  Probably you already know this, but I didn’t and so let me go through the process of getting the tomatoes ready for storage.  You’ll need:  a) a large pot to boil water in; b) a large pan of ice which usually becomes ice water.

Steps:

  1.  Boil the water
  2.  Cut off any bad spots on the tomatoes and them plop them in the boiling water for about 40 seconds to 1 minute only.
  3.  Scoop out the tomatoes and put them at once into the ice water.  Wait a minute or two.
  4.  skin the tomato (the skin comes off easily this way).
  5.  We seed our tomatoes and an easy way to do this is: once the tomato is boiled and then cooled, squeeze the tomato in the middle so the seeds come out the top or bottom.  This is the easiest way I’ve found to seed tomatoes.
  6.  Put the tomatoes in a bag for storage or if you want, you can put them in a blender and blend them for tomato sauce and put them in a mason jar for storage.
  7. Freeze until needed.

Steps for making easy catsup:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 2-3 cups of tomato juice — or –the mason jar of tomato juice
  2.  Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3.  Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4.  Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Then add:
    1.  1/2 – 3/4 cup red or white wine
    2.   1 teaspoon onion powder
    3.   1 teaspoon garlic powder
    4.   1-2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
    5.   1 teaspoon paprika
    6.   1/2 – 1 teaspoon powdered cloves
    7.   1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
    8.   1 teaspoon salt
    9.   Boil down until it is a consistency you like and also boil 1 or perhaps 2 – 1 pint mason jar(s) for 5 minutes or so
    10.   Let cool in the 1 pint mason jar(s)and refrigerate while still warm and keep it under refrigeration
    11.   Be aware that mold might develop on it if it is kept for longer than a couple of months in the refrigerator.  If so, discard.

Recipe for making easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or meat sauce from home-grown tomatoes:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 3-4 cups of tomato juice — or — the jar of tomato juice
  2. Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3. Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4. Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Add:
    1. 1 teaspoon sugar
    2.  1 tablespoon basil (dried)
    3.  5 tablespoons butter
    4.  1 teaspoon garlic powder
    5.   Boil down to desired consistency

Boiling down the tomatoes makes it into tomato sauce — I usually don’t boil it down too far because I make this for my grandchildren and they like the taste of the tomatoes straight from the garden and so don’t like it too thick.

Hope you’ll enjoy!

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you freeze, dry or can your produce from your garden?

SHE STEALS MY BREATH:

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A Recipe From My Childhood

How they wrapped my finger up at the ER.

I don’t think I’ve shared this fact before, but I’m super clumsy. My father used to tease me and say they should’ve named me Grace. I always joke that even if there was only one piece of furniture in a room, I’d manage to bump into it and end up with a bruise.

Well, I’ve done it again. I got tangled up with my dogs, fell, and broke my left ring finger. As it is hard to type, I’m doing a simple recipe post today. My family has made this Strawberry Dessert as we call it, for years. It’s light and refreshing, a perfect dessert for a big easter dinner. As it’s best made the day before to be completely set, it leaves you time on Easter for church, preparing the meal, and having fun with family. If you’re like me, unless I make dessert ahead of time whenever, we go without because by the time we’re done cooking, eating, and cleaning up, I’m too tired to make dessert!

 

Strawberry Dessert

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake

2 packages of # ounce strawberry Jell-O

2 Cups boiling water

2 10 oz (approximately) frozen strawberries in syrup, not the unsweetened kind

1 pint whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Tear angel food cake into bite size pieces and place in a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir boiling water and Jell-O until dissolved. Add frozen strawberries. Stir until strawberries are separated and mixture has started to thicken. Place in refrigerator for fifteen or so minutes until much thicker but not set.
  3. Whip cream to a thick but not stiff stage. Remove strawberry and Jell-O mixture from refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour over angel food cake. Refrigerate until firm.

Growing up Lutheran in the Midwest, Jell-O was a staple at family events and church potlucks. I can’t even count how many salad and dessert recipes I have that require this ingredient. This one is one of my spring and summer favorites. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.

To be entered in my random giveaway for the Hanging With My Peeps T-shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment about your favorite Jell-O recipe or the oddest one someone you know has made.

Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition

Happy mid week between Christmas and New Years. I’m sorry to be late with this post. The holidays have been rather hectic this year. Then again, when aren’t they 🙂

I hate to admit it, but holiday traditions were something I paid little attention to until I grew up and had a family of my own. Only then, when making the holidays special for my own children, did I fully appreciate all the wonderful things my parents did for me and my brother. It’s really amazing, but whenever I get together with one of my cousins, we always talk about the great times we spent at each other’s houses while growing up and what fun we had doing the simple things like singing songs, crafting homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and, of course, eating incredible meals that included Auntie June’s secret recipe cranberry sauce and Grandpa’s spiced tomato soup cake.

My mom was a great cook. I often wish I’d inherited her skill. One of her many talents was taking leftovers and turning them into something different for the next meal. She didn’t just reheat all the various food containers, she created brand new and delicious meals. One of my favorites was her turkey soup. The secret, as she told me many times, was to have no specific recipe. Just put in some of this and a little of that. Whatever is in the refrigerator. I’ve been told that’s often what the best cooks do.

 

 

So, here’s how I make my mom’s turkey soup. As best I can put it down in writing. And don’t forget to add a little love all during the cooking process. Oh, and a heads up. This is entire afternoon project for me, so allow yourself plenty of time.

Ingredients:

1 turkey carcass
Chicken or vegetable stock (two cans or one box)
1 small to medium onion (white is best)
1 green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, it doesn’t matter)
1 large or two medium tomatoes
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cup diced carrots

Any other vegetables you have around. Some nice additions are corn, peas, diced mushrooms, broccoli or spinach (both will disappear in the cooking but add flavor), diced green beans and cubed zucchini.
Egg noodles – as much or little as you want. I use about 2 cups. Can also substitute other pasta, like elbow macaroni or broken up spaghetti. Rice is another option, I use about a cup. Also, cube potatoes or barley for a different starch. Or, you can leave out the starch altogether for a low-carb version.

Seasonings to taste. Some examples are salt and pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Be creative and always taste as you go.

Cook the turkey carcass fully submerged in a large pot of stock and water. Add the finely chopped onion about thirty minutes in. Continue cooking the carcass until the meat is falling off the bone. At that point, remove the carcass and set it aside on the counter to cool. Remove any bits of bone, gristle, etc. from your pot of stock until what’s left is clear. Small bits of meat are fine. Some people let the stock cool and blot off the fat for a healthier version. I don’t, preferring the flavor added by the fat.

Add all the remaining chopped vegetables that you sliced and diced and chopped while the carcass was cooking to the stock. Start seasoning, slowing at first as seasonings will become stronger during the cooking process. Bring to a simmer (small bubbles). When the carcass is cooled, remove all the meat. Separate good meat from the bad and being careful to avoid small bones. Add the all the lovely choice meat back into the vegetables and stock.

At this point, add your pasta or rice and continue cooking for another hour or so until everything is super tender. Continue to taste and season.

I can still picture my mom standing over the stove, stirring the turkey soup, taking a taste, and adding a dash of something. I never make a pot without thinking of her and appreciating the traditions she lovingly passed down.

What are your holiday cooking traditions? I would love to hear them. Sharing a meal is such a lovely way to bring people together.

Celebrating Holiday Traditions

During my growing up years, the holiday traditions in my family were part of what made the Christmas season so wonderful.

The first tradition came Thanksgiving evening. My sister and I would haul out leftover Christmas wrapping paper from the previous year, cut strips and glue them together into a paper chain. It hung on the fireplace in our living room and we took turns removing the paper links, counting down the days until Christmas.

On the second Saturday in December, regardless of the weather, we piled into four-wheel drive vehicles and headed to the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. A few times, my dad and brothers took advantage of being up there to cut a big truck load of wood. Other times, they brought the snowmobiles and zoomed around the mountains in search of the perfect tree. One of my favorite tree-hunting adventures was the year my oldest brother brought an assortment of soda pop and made snow cones. The craziest expedition to the woods would be a tie between the year the snow was so deep, only Dad, brother #2, and me were brave enough to make the trip. I think I was eleven that year and the snow was so deep, Dad couldn’t get off the road. Since everyone else was smart enough to stay home where it was safe and warm, he parked on the road and we waded (the snow was waist deep on me!) to the first tree we could find and cut it. The second crazy trip was the year I had a broken foot. Instead of staying home like a normal, sensible person, I pulled on three pairs of Dad’s wool socks over my cast, wrapped it in a garbage bag, and went along for the fun. When the cast came off in mid-January, it was full of pine needles. Huh! Wonder how those got in there!

Mom had a big box of Christmas decorations she got out as soon as the tree was set up in the living room. If I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath, I can almost smell the scent of bayberry that lingered in the box and wafted out each year when it was opened.

We always sent Christmas cards ( a tradition I’ve also kept each year).

One family tradition my grandma passed to my mom and she passed to me is making holiday goodies. Grandma made the best fudge with Hershey’s bars. My mom made so many yummy treats like divinity, peanut brittle, hand-dipped chocolates, and toffee. I tend to make more cookies than candy for sharing during the holiday season, but each creation is baked with love.

I loved to bake when I was a kid and received my first Easy Bake oven when I was 5. That was a great Christmas. I remember whipping up something to give to my grandma who had come to stay with us for the holiday. Experimenting with recipes was something I did, and still do, enjoy. It was this love of experimenting that led me on a quest for the best sugar cookie when I was in my early teens. It had to be soft and moist, light and flavorful. After many, many trials and errors, I came up with this recipe that never fails to deliver soft, delicious cookies. I’ve been baking it every Christmas since I was 17!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of lemon juice

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Frosting

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix dry ingredients together and gradually add into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin. Scoop out half the dough and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. You want to work fairly quickly at this point because the warmer the dough gets the stickier it becomes and you don’t want to add more flour. Cut into shapes and bake about 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just set. You do not want them to get brown at all. Cool in pan for one minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate then watch them disappear.

You can use a royal icing if you are of a mind to stir up a batch or, if you are a lazy slug like me, I whip out a can of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting and frost away. I also like to use decorator gels, especially the sparkly variety, along with sprinkles!

NOTE: If you are in a rush, you can press the dough into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the edges are just barely starting to brown. Remove from oven, cool, frost, and cut into bars.

 

Gingerbread Bars

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 ¼ cup butter, softened

1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 17×12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment cut to fit and coat parchment with spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and molasses. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Store in an airtight container.

 

The first time I tasted these, my taste buds did cartwheels. My aunt made them for a holiday gathering and I probably ate far more than my share, but they were so good. When she shared the recipe with me, I started making them every year for Christmas. They were one of my mom’s favorite treats!

Nut Goodie Bars

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag butterscotch chips

1 bag peanut butter chips

1 large bag mini marshmallows

1 small can (about 1 1/2 cups) cocktail peanuts

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and set aside. In a large microwave safe bowl, mix chips. Microwave 45 seconds. Stir. Continue heating in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chips are melted. Stir well. Mix in peanuts and marshmallows then spread in casserole dish. Let cool and cut into bars.

 

 

As 2021 comes to an end and we look forward to a new year with anticipation, I thank you for reading our blogs, commenting on our stories, cheering us on, and offering encouragement and friendship. Here’s to a fabulous 2022! May it bring you happiness, health, and abundant blessings and love!
Happy New Year!

 

 

Christmas Time Sweets!

My great gift as a cook is……….easy.

I’ve actually written a cookbook and published it on Amazon. A fact I forget quite often but it just occurred to me now.

Faster Than Fast Food

This title is true unless you have a McDonalds right on the way. Still, they’re fast.

Here are some of the Christmas sweets…maybe they’re in the book. I forget.

CANDY

Connealy Crunch

2 pound package Almond Bark (melted)

Melt in microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Melt 1 ½ minutes. That should be enough. You might need slightly longer. Almond bark doesn’t lose its shape when it melts so you have to stir it to see if it’s enough. Add:

3 C. Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal

3 C. miniature marshmallows

3 C. Rice Krispies

3 C. mixed nuts

Spread out on waxed paper. Let cool. Break into bite sized pieces

Baby Ruth Bars

½ C. white sugar

½ C. brown sugar

1 C. white syrup

Mix together in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Add:

1 C. peanut butter

Mix thoroughly. Pour over:

6 C. cornflakes

1 C. peanuts

Press into 9 x 13 pan.

Frosting:

1 C. chocolate chips

1 C. butterscotch chips

Melt in microwave. 1 ½ minutes, then stir. 1 minute then stir. Should be enough.

Spread over cornflake mixture.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 ½ C. peanuts (optional. I prefer no peanuts. I think the microwave is hard on them)

Pick out unpopped kernels as best you can to avoid extensive breaking of teeth. Put popcorn in large brown paper sack. Set aside.

1 C. brown sugar

½ C. butter ¼ C. white syrup

½ t. salt

Microwave 3 – 4 minutes. Stir each minute until it boils. Cook 2 minutes more. Add:

½ t. baking soda – stir

Pour over popcorn, shake, microwave on high 1 ½ minutes. Shake. Microwave 1 ½ minutes more. Shake.

Holiday wreaths

1/3 C. butter

10 ounces marshmallows

Microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Microwave again 1 ½ minutes. Continue until smooth. Add:

1 t. green food coloring

Add:

6 C. cornflakes (crushed)

Wet hands work as well as buttered hands to prevent sticking. Roll into balls. Poke thumb through center or make snakes and form a circle. (Balls work better) Decorate with red hots.

 These four recipes will keep you cooking for like…a half hour!

These recipes, the caramel corn is by far the most work.

Merry Christmas!

Coming next week, more Christmas fun!!!

A country Christmas wreath.

 

 

The Traditional Christmas Fruitcake – Western-Style

I don’t know about you, but when I think of fruitcake, I think of the currant version, with almost sickly-sweet candies instead of real fruit, soaked in enough sugar to make a person vibrate out of existence if they eat a slice.

So, when I was writing a scene for an upcoming book, A Sugar Plum Christmas, and I needed a good, honest-to-goodness pioneer sweet…fruitcake really didn’t top my list. Does it top anyone’s? I was skeptical until I started watching videos on how these things were made.

traditional fruitcake

Enter the Way-Back machine…

Firstly, historians aren’t wholly certain how far back fruitcakes go (is that really a surprise?). They know cakes like these were used as rations for the Roman Army, right around 27 BC. For all we know, those are still in existence. I kid…sort of.

Even then, the Romans knew that soaking the fruit, and the cake when it was complete, in alcohol, would make it safe for eating much longer than other breads. Plus, it’s calorie dense. I’ll skip the joke where I say it’s pretty dense in other ways…that’s just too easy.

From the Roman Empire to a Rancher’s Table

Well, like the Roman Empire, the Old West didn’t have many options for keeping food, especially sweets that weren’t hard candy, from spoiling. Age-old methods are tried and true and fruitcakes became the dessert of choice for Victorian homes during Christmas.

The cake was often made three months ahead of time, using the berries and fruits collected from the year before to make room for ones just collected. They would be soaked in whatever alcohol was readily available. Despite the feeling about alcohol now, feelings were different then, even children occasionally drank and women often used alcohol for homemade tinctures, so the ingredients were often right on hand.

fruitcake ingredients

Wherefore Art Thou, Orange

With the advent of the Transcontinental Railway in the 1880s, the one ingredient that might have been hard to come by, suddenly wasn’t. Oranges. The recipe calls for the peel of one orange and I can imagine that, prior to the availability caused by the railroad, that made the fruitcake taste much differently. Perhaps they found a way to dry and save the peels when they were more readily available during the summer months. I couldn’t find any site to confirm or deny that.

What’s interesting to me is that orange peel is one of the few items in a fruitcake recipe that doesn’t change. The spices seem to vary, the amount of flour fluxuates, what type of alcohol doesn’t matter, the types of fruits and nuts are loosey-goosey. But the orange peel is a staple.

Recipe Time

My mother-in-law has a recipe for fruitcake from her mother and she and her sisters have not shared it yet, but they do get together annually (barring weather or the illness that shall not be named) to make one or three. I do not have that recipe, but I hear it’s pretty good. The cake is usually gone by the time I hear about it. However, here is a fabulous recipe, that I might even try:
Cite: The Old Farmer’s Almanac

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 pounds fruit and nuts:
  • 1 pound dark raisins
  • 1 pound white raisins
  • 1/2 pound currants
  • 1/2 pound candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound candied pineapple
  • 1/4 pound candied citron
  • 2 ounces candied orange peel
  • 2 ounces candied lemon peel
  • 1/4 pound blanched whole almonds
  • 1/4 pound whole pecans
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the raisins and currants in a large bowl, add the Madeira and the rum and let stand, covered, overnight. Then add the candied fruits and mix well. Sift the spices and soda with 1-½ cups of the flour, combine the remaining flour with the nuts. Add all to the fruits, mixing lightly.

In another large bowl, beat the butter until light and cream in the sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and almond extract. Add the fruit and nut mixture to the batter and stir well. Turn the batter into a well greased tube or spring mold pan. A 10-inch pan will do for this 5-½ pound cake, or two smaller cakes may be made. Bake the large cake in an oven preheated to 275 degrees F for 3-½ to 4 hours, or until a cake tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out dry. The smaller cakes will take half the time.

Let the cake stand in the pan on a wire rack for half an hour, run a knife around the pan, if a spring mold, loosen it and remove the cake gently to a piece of heavy aluminum foil large enough to enclose it completely. Fold the closing double to seal the cake completely. Once or twice before Christmas, open the foil and pour a little additional rum or wine on the cake.

When ready to use, decorate the top of the cake with a wreath of pecans and maraschino cherries and thin slices of candied fruit.

Lessons From My Grandmothers

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.

 

A Cowboy is an Appetite Ridin’ a Horse – by Pam Crooks

Almost all of my western romances revolve around cattle or cattle drives, one way or another.  Having grown up in western Nebraska, cattle were everywhere, a common sight along the interstate or highway.  Roll down the car window and get a whiff?  Ah, we used to say.  Smell that money.

But cattle need cowboys.  And cowboys need to be fed.  On cattle drives, the chuckwagon cook spent his days feeding an outfit of fifteen or twenty hungry men.  His wagon became their home away from home, a place to gather in the middle of nowhere.  It was here a man could get warm by a fire, swap a tall tale or two, and fill his belly before hitting his bedroll for a short night’s sleep.

He’d wake again to the smell of strong coffee. His meals were three squares of beef, sourdough biscuits and coffee.  Maybe a dessert of raisin pudding, a popular standby.  Or dried apples.

Cowboys loved sourdough and so did the cook. He started the sourdough before leaving the ranch, mixing flour, salt and warm water in a crock twice as big as the mixture.  He added a little sugar or molasses to help it ferment, and voila!  Sourdough starter. Cared for right, (warmed in the sun to aid fermentation and replaced what he used with more flour, salt and water) a cook could keep sourdough going for eternity.

Pretty amazing if you think about it.  Versatile, too.


Since today is National Apple Pie Day, how about a cowboy’s version of apple pie on the range? I’m happy to share an authentic chuckwagon cook’s recipe for Dried Apple Cakes.

  • 3 cups dried apples, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • –Dry Baking Mix as follows–
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tb. Sugar
  • 1 Tb. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup lard or shortening
  • Sift or mix dry ingredients.  Cut in lard or shortening until mixture resembles fine meal.
  • 1 1/2 cups Sourdough Starter (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter

Cook dried apples in the water until tender.  Drain and save the juice.

Measure 2 cups juice, adding water if needed.

Mix 1/4 cup sugar with the above recipe of Dry Baking Mix.

Stir in Sourdough Starter to moisten flour.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Pat or roll to a 12 x 18 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle with apples.  Roll, starting at short end.  Cut into 12 slices. Put remaining sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and the 2 cups apple liquid into a large deep skillet.

Bring to a boil.  Gently lower slices of apple-sprinkled dough into hot syrup.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes.  Makes 12 servings.

Sourdough Starter

  • 1 quart lukewarm water
  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose four

Put water in large crock. Add yeast, sugar and flour. Cover with a clean cloth. Let rise until mixture is light and slightly aged, about 2 days. As you use the sourdough, replace it with equal amounts of flour and water.


What is your favorite apple recipe?  Have you ever worked with sourdough before?

Tell me if you love (or hate!) apples and you can win an e-book copy of UNTAMED COWBOY, Book 1 of my C Bar C Ranch series.

http://amzn.to/2TPWiJg

Carina Lockett is driven to build a legacy for her young daughter, and she doesn’t need a man to help her do it.  But when her precious child is lured away and held for ransom, she must swallow her pride and ask for Penn McClure’s help.

Penn McClure has no intention of playing cowboy for any woman, especially one as strong-willed as Carina.  But driving a herd of cattle to Dodge City is no easy task.  And he has a score to settle with the man waiting for them at the end of the trail.

Along the way, he discovers Carina is pure female–and that her legacy has become his own.

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Happy Valentine’s Day–A Little Early

I know Valentine’s Day is eleven days away, but I never seem to think about the day soon enough. That means I end up running around like crazy trying to do something special. In order to keep that from happening this year and in case you need ideas, I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day facts and one of my favorite (and easy dessert) recipes for tiramisu.

  • Over 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold every year.
  • Men spend about twice money as much on Valentine’s Day gifts as women.
  • Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by kids, then moms, wives and girlfriends.
  • More than one-third of men are okay not receiving anything on Valentine’s Day.
  • The only other day when more flowers are sold than Valentine’s Day is Mother’s Day.
  • Candy hearts were invented by a pharmacist and were originally medical lozenges! Not only that, but 10 new sayings are introduced every year.  
  • People prefer receiving candy over flowers.
  • Caramels are the most popular candy in a box of chocolates.
  • 40% of people prefer an “experience gift” such as concert tickets or an evening out.
  • 3 out of 10 people say they skip celebrating Valentine’s Day, though they might treat themselves to a small gift or a night out with friends.
  • It was bad luck to sign Valentine cards in Victorian times.
  • 3% of pet owners will give their pet a gift this Valentine’s Day.
  • In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystavapaiva which translates to “Friend’s Day.”

I think making Valentine’s Day about celebrating everyone we care about and appreciate in our lives is fabulous! That could prevent the holiday from being one where so many people feel excluded. This year, let’s all reach out to one person who might feel left out or despondent on Valentine’s Day—a single friend, a widow or widower immediately come to mind. I’m reminded of the song “Love is Something if You Give it Away.” For the lyrics click here. The more love we share, the more we create in this world.

Now on to dessert!

Ingredients—

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

½ C powdered sugar

½ tsp run extract

1 C heavy whipping cream

Lady fingers

½ C coffee

2 tsp cocoa

Directions–

1. Place Mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and run extract in large bowl. Whisk by hand or with electric mixer until smooth. Don’t over mix.

2. In separate bowl, beat whip cream until stiff peaks form. (If the whip cream isn’t stiff you’ll get a runny filling.) Fold into cheese mixture until combined.

3. Place lady fingers in 8 x 8 dish. Spoon coffee over ladyfingers making sure to cover completely. Top with half the cheese mixture. Layer more ladyfingers on top of this and cover with remaining cheese mixture. (Recipe calls for 3 layers using 1/3 each time, but I only do 2 .) Sift cocoa powder over top.

4. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

5. Top with whip cream, or not. Enjoy with a friend or family!

To be entered in today’s giveaway for a valentine T-shirt and a copy of Home On the Ranch:  Colorado Rescue leave a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day treat.

Christmas Crispies

Don’t you just love all the decadent goodies at Christmas time? I do. Probably more than I should. But, hey, that’s what New Year’s is for, right? No counting calories until January 1. It’s a Christmas law. Or should be.

My hubby always buys Christmas M&Ms to fill my candy bowl and, of course, I have to have the Christmas-wrapped Dove dark chocolates on hand.

Some of my favorite things to bake at Christmas include snickerdoodles, butter toffee, and shortbread. But the one goody that gets made every year without fail are my Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies. Super easy to make and scrumptious to eat.

I hope that you and your family had a marvelous Christmas holiday whether together in person or in spirit. Keep enjoying those leftover goodies, and go ahead and make a few more. Don’t forget . . . calories don’t count until January 1!