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 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:

A word about process…

Sometimes my mom will call me up and ask me for a recipe. At times I have it and will give it to her. At times, she has to deal with a bit of karma when I answer, “Well, I do this and put enough of this in to make it whatever, and bake it until it’s done, you know”. My mom has given me that answer plenty of times so it serves her right.

So here’s the thing. The way I cook vs. the way I bake is a lot like the way I write vs. the way I handle the non-writing part of my life.

When I’m baking, I follow a recipe. You have to worry about timing and proportions and things like leavening and consistency A LOT. So if I’m making cake or cookies or breads – anything with yeast, baking powder, baking soda, etc….I follow the recipe. But when I’m cooking a dinner dish – a casserole, something in the crockpot, roast, whatever…I usually don’t follow a recipe. I might sometimes use a guideline if it sounds good, but I often throw stuff together. Last week I thought the recipe for Turkey Meatball Chili needed to be saucier, so instead of 2 tbsp of tomato paste I put in the whole can. If I don’t have a certain veg I’ll throw another in – or add extra. Seasoning numbers? That’s a guideline only. Seriously. I wing it. A LOT.

When I’m not writing, my life is like a recipe. There is a schedule (writing is on it), and there is a list. Things are in a certain place and happen at a certain time. It’s very orderly and it works.

But when I’m writing, my process is like making chili. Or a better analogy – my Kitchen Sink Soup (recipe on my webpage). I start with a base – 2 characters with a goal, motivation and conflict and a happy ending by the last page. But everything else?

You got it. I’m what they call a pantser.

This wasn’t always easy to accept. I tried doing a synopsis ahead of time, or an outline. I tried doing up GMC charts. Tried writing to a three-act structure thinking it would make it easier when I got into trouble. Know what happened? I got into MORE trouble. Finally, finally, I came to accept that you know what? THIS IS MY PROCESS. And it works. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t get a tweak when it’s necessary – I totally think processes evolve with the writer. But I stopped fighting it. I embraced it. After I did that, I wrote faster and with less stress because I LEARNED TO TRUST IT.

Recently a friend was lamenting her word count compared to mine. I told her to stop. She has a certain process and it’s OKAY. She writes fabulous books, so what does it matter if it takes her a little longer, or if she has to have the front end of the book completely solid before moving on? You can’t judge yourself next to someone else’s process. And if yours works, why would you want to? Some people write a dirty draft and go back and do an overhaul. Some people write out of sequence. Some write a methodical word count every day and others strike when the iron’s hot. Some do extensive planning first and others “write into the mist” as Jo Beverley once said.

The key thing is to realize that your process is yours and it’s not right or wrong. It just is. I have learned that in every book there will come a time when a character surprises me. When a piece of dialogue or internal monologue will come out and be so powerful I will probably cry – and I haven’t planned it. That I COULDN’T plan it. That characters will take me in directions I never knew and make the book so much better than what I could have outlined. That is where the magic of my stories comes from. I know it will happen because it always does.

So if you’re a writer reading this – trust your process. Claim it, love it, embrace it. And I promise – things will be so much better when you decide to work WITH it rather than against it.

And if you’re a reader, you just got a glimpse into my rather twisted writer-mind. Meanwhile, in case my first analogy made you hungry, you can check out my recipes on my recipe page at



Jell-O: What’s not to love?

Family dinners, pot lucks, buffets–they always feature at least one Jell-O salad. Something red with marshmallows and fruit — or green with pineapple and whipped cream — or at holidays — a cranberry mold. Each of us remembers Jell-O from our earliest years.It’s just always been there. Open the little box, pour the granules into boiling water, and refrigerate. What could be easier?

Years ago I actually bought a fish bowl and created a seascape with blue gelatin and Gummy fish and Gummy worms.It was a laborious task, took a mountain of Jell-O, and the kids all thought it was pretty weird. Yeah, well, that’s me. Every once in a while I still poke holes in a cake and pour Jell-O over it. Chocolate cake with raspberry gelatin is my favorite. How about that time-consuming seven-layer Jell-O? One of my favorites is strawberry pretzel dessert.

My easy strawberry shortcake recipe goes like this:  Bake an angel food cake from a mix. Slice strawberries, mix up a box of  strawberry Jell-o, pour both over the cake and refrigerate. Smear with Cool Whip. You’d think I’d done something brilliant, because this is always a hit.

Am I making you hungry? Bringing back fond food memories?We take gelatin for granted, but our forefathers–or foremothers–went through a much more complicated process to do what we do in minutes.

Before the turn of the century gelatin was a functional food item rather than a treat. Since the days of ancient Greece, jellies and aspics had been used to bind, glaze, and also to preserve foods—like the canned hams we buy today.

To us gelatin is a dessert, but past cooks flavored their gelatins with vinegar, wine, almond extract, and other items to produce a tart product. The foods they glazed were more often meats than sweets.

As long ago as the Renaissance, chefs took pride in constructing elaborate gelatin molds, and no dinner party was complete without at least one jelly construction worthy of the best modern-day wedding cake baker. In the nineteenth century, the most popular mold designs were castles and fortresses complete with doors, windows, and crenellated turrets.

Before this century, the glue needed for gelatin, called collagen, had to be laboriously extracted from meat bones. In the Middle Ages, deer antlers were a popular source of the glue; and later, calves’ feet and knuckles. Housewives in the nineteenth century used isinglass, made from the membranes of fish bladders.

Gelatin-making was a daylong affair, requiring the tedious scraping of hair from the feet, hours of boiling and simmering with egg whites to degrease and clarify the broth, and careful filtering through jelly bags or “filtering stools.” The transparent finished product was then dried into sheets, leaves, or rounds.

In 1890, Charles B. Knox of Jamestown, New York was watching his wife make calves’ foot jelly when he decided that a prepackaged, easy-to-use gelatin mix was just what the housewife needed. Knox set out to develop, manufacture, and distribute the granulated gelatin, while his wife invented recipes for the new kitchen staple.

In 1897, Pearl B. Wait, a NY carpenter and cough medicine manufacturer, developed a fruit-flavored gelatin. His wife, May Davis Wait, named his product Jell-O.Because of the development of the icebox at the end of the century, America was ready for gelatin desserts.

Wait’s product found its way to few American tables before it was bought by the food tycoon Frank Woodward, who was already marketing a coffee and tea substitute named Grain-O.Within a few years the genius in packaging, mass marketing, and advertising turned Jell-O into a household word. The 10 cent carton advertised a delicious dessert that was delicate, delightful, and dainty, and the Jell-O trademark of a young girl with carton and kettle in hand soon appeared on store displays, dishes, spoons, and other promotional articles.

To show the housewife how versatile the product was, Woodward’s company distributed free booklets with Jell-O recipes. One booklet alone ran to a printing of 15 million copies!

By 1925, Jell-O was a big-money industry. In that year Jell-O joined Postum to form General Foods, today one of the largest corporations in America.By the 1930’s, Jell-O had become a way of life. No Sunday dinner was complete without a concoction known as Golden Glow salad, Jell-O laced with grated carrot and canned pineapple and served with gobs of mayonnaise.

Knox Gelatine tried to discourage the rush toward Jell-O with ads warning shoppers to spurn sissy-sweet salads that were 85 percent sugar. While Knox stressed the purity of their odorless, tasteless, sugarless gelatin, Jell-O highlighted their product’s versatility.

As for the belief that gelatin is good for the hair and nails, the only claim made by either Jell-O or Knox is that their product may do some good for some people’s hair and nails. Sugarfree gelatin is popular among dieters.

In the field of photography, gelatin was introduced in the late 1870s as a substitute for wet collodion. It was used to coat dry photographic plates, marking the beginning of modern photographic methods. Gelatin’s use in the manufacture of medicinal capsules occurred in the twentieth century.

Golden Glow Salad

1 package (3 ounces) orange gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple

1 tablespoon lemon juice Cold water

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

3/4 cup finely shredded carrots

In a bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Add lemon juice and enough cold water to pineapple juice to make 1 cup; add salt if desired. Stir into gelatin. Chill until slightly set. Stir in pineapple and carrots. Pour into an oiled 4-cup mold; cover and chill until firm. Unmold.

Yield: 6 servings.

<—- Hold everything: You can buy Jell-O on amazon .com.

In my search I discovered Jell-O shots, Jell-O wrestling, Jell-O spokesperson Bill Cosby, Jell-O Jiggler eggs (the kids stepped on one of these on my carpet one Easter – not good) and of course Jell-O molds.

What is your favorite gelatin memory?

Do you have a standby recipe?

If you want to share, post your favorite Jell-O recipe for us.

Christmas Cookies and Changed Lives

Have you ever been to a cookie exchange? I went to my first one last Sunday and had a blast. All those treats!  Even better, the exchange was part of a bigger program. The Women’s Ministry at Centerpointe Christian Church here in Lexington used their December event to support a ministry called the Refuge for Women. The Refuge is a safe place for women who want to leave the adult entertainment industry. It’s an awesome program and one that is much needed. Yesterday’s event was a combination of education for those of us attending, gift giving to the women and children at the Refuge, and . . . cookies.

I’ll get to the cookies, but they weren’t the best part of the day.  The best part was seeing changed lives. As the women spoke, I thought of the Old West, brothels and how few choices women had then and sometimes even now. Today we have many more options, but once a person goes down a rabbit hole of abuse, drugs and the allure of quick money, it’s as hard to get out as it was for a woman in the Old West who found herself alone and in need for whatever reason.

The subject’s been on my mind a lot lately.  My current project has an 1894 story line about a crusading young woman from Indiana who goes to Cheyenne, Wyoming to teach school. Her story isn’t pretty. The handsome outlaw she meets is alluring but not hero material. Not at all. She goes down that rabbit hole of abuse and is afraid to go home. She’s about as low as a woman can go when her father comes to her rescue. Things turn around for her, just as they are turning for the women at the Refuge. It was pure joy to share the holiday with a mom recently reunited with her son and another woman thriving in a new career. It was sweet indeed . . .

Which leads me to the cookies! There must have been 50 different kinds, everything from decorated sugar cookies to ooey-gooey concoctions of pecans, caramel, peanut butter, coconut and every other ingredient in the baking aisle at the grocery store. The cutest were the reindeer cookies. I brought Christmas Tree Spritz. They’re super easy. I had planned to bring something else, but I’ve been in the hurt locker with a tooth problem. If it weren’t for the tooth (which included a trip to the ER for pain meds and an antibiotic shot), I would have made “Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents.”  Just for fun here are the recipes for both.

Super Quick Spritz Cookies

  • 1 lb. butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour.  Use a small cookie press on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes or until bottoms are just slightly brown. Makes about 10 dozen little cookies

Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents

  • 1 lb. butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lb. raw almonds, ground fine in a food processor or blender
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add almonds and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour. Shape into small crescents, about 2 inches long. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Merry Christmas to all! I hope your holidays are filled with bright lights, beautiful music, reindeer on your roof, cookies, love and good cheer.

Dessert Week with the Fillies … Day Three




By Cheryl St. John


1/2 cup rice

1 quart milk

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine rice, milk and salt. Cook in a double-boiler until rice is tender.

Beat egg yolks until light and lemon colored. Add these, 1/2 c sugar, margarine and vanilla to the rice. Stir vigorously as you add the egg mixture. Cook slowly until pudding becomes the consistency of custard.

Pour into casserole and top with meringue made of the 4 egg whites beaten stiffly and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Brown in oven 10 to 12 minutes.




 By Karen Kay


 1)  Fill a quart jar with almonds half full.  Fill another quart jar with pecans half full.   Fill jar with water and salt and let soak overnight.  (The purpose of this is to deactivate the anti-nutrients — phytates — in the nuts.  Phytates impair digestion and prevent the body from assimilating important nutrients like calcium, magnesium, etc.)

2)  Pour off water and salt and dehydrate the nuts in the lowest setting on your oven — or dehydrate them in a dehydrator if you have one.


 5 tblsp. soaked and dried raw organic almonds

5 tblsp. soaked and dried raw organic pecans

2 tblsp. raw organic cacao

2 tblsp. raw organic coconut flour

4 tblsp. raw organic butter or if raw butter not available, regular butter

1/4 teasp. pure organic stevia

1-2 tblsp. vegetable glycerin — or substitute 1-2 tblsp. maple syrup

1 cup raw organic cream or if raw cream not available, one can substitute regular cream — hopefully non-homogenized

1 teasp. vanilla

Put almonds and pecans in a food processor and grind until nuts are the consistency of a coarse flour.  Add raw cacao, coconut flour, butter, stevia and vegetable glycerin (or maple syrup) and blend until a dough forms.

Drop by spoonfuls onto the dehydrator or cookie sheet and press to form a flat cookies.  Dehydrate for 3-4 hours or put in oven at lowest possible heat and heat for 2-3 hours.  Whip raw cream with a couple of pinches of stevia and organic vanilla.

Place a spoonful of cream onto the cookie and place another cookie on top — making a cookie sandwich.  Makes about 16 cookies.



By Phyliss Miranda

Grannie was a cake baker for one of the first cafeterias in downtown Amarillo, Texas, during the 50’s and this is her original recipe she made every Thursday for the lunch crowd.


2 c.      Sugar

1 c.      Shortening

4          Eggs, separated

2 ½ c.  Flour

½ tsp. Salt

1 tsp.   Soda

1 c.      Buttermilk

4 squares Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Dissolve chocolate in ½ cup hot water. Set aside. Cream sugar and 4 egg yokes (beaten).  Add 2 ½ cups flour and ½ t salt, alternating with buttermilk in which soda has been dissolved.  Add melted chocolate. Beat 4 egg whites till stiff, but not dry, and fold mixture into egg whites.

Bake 350 degrees for approximately ½ hour.  Makes 3 round pans.

German Chocolate Cake Icing

1 c.      Sugar

1 c.      Canned milk

½ c.     Chopped pecans

1 c.      Coconut

½ stick Butter

3          Egg yolks

Pinch of salt

Vanilla to taste

Combine ingredients.  Cook over very low heat until mixture spreads smoothly.  Ice cake.

Frying Pan Bread or Bannock

I’ve got a true frontier bread recipe for you to try today. I wish I could claim this was handed down from mother to daughter from my great-great-grandmother, but I can’t. Since Linda beat me to biscuits, and Cheryl has a delicious-looking cornbread recipe coming on Friday–and I rarely plan far enough ahead to make yeast rolls–I had to go hunting. Luckily, there are some excellent cowboy cooking sites on the internet. So here’s Frying Pan Bread, from the Legends of America site, to go with Pam’s Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup and Elizabeth’s Stampede’s Comin’ Chili. I added a few suggestions of my own [in the brackets], but the link for the original recipe is at the end. Enjoy!

Frying Pan Bread [also called Bannock]

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt


Thoroughly mix dry ingredients. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff dough. [something under ½ cup for me]. Now let the dough rest while you heat up your skillet to medium, then add a little butter or bacon fat so the bread doesn’t stick.

Working dough as little as possible, form a 1-inch thick cake. Lay the cake on a greased, pre-warmed skillet. Brown the bottom of the cake lightly and flip or turn with a spatula to brown the other side. When both sides are lightly browned, prop the skillet in front of the fire [or slide it into a 375-400 degree oven] and let it bake [for 10-15 minutes]. Test for doneness by thumping the cake with a spoon handle or stick. A hollow ringing sound indicates doneness. An alternative test is to jab the cake with a twig or matchstick. If the twig comes out clean (no clinging dough), the cake is done.

Grandma’s Pumpkin Bread

Old fashioned in every way (except the healthier olive oil choice), you won’t be disappointed with this yummy no-fail recipe for the best pumpkin bread you’ve ever eaten.  Tip: If you use fresh nutmeg, cut the recommended amount in half.

Grandma’s Pumpkin Bread

4 cups sugar

1 cup virgin olive oil

1 large can pumpkin

Stir the above three ingredients together

Sift together and add:

5 cups flour

4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Chopped nuts, if desired

Mix well. Pour into greased bread pans.

3 large loaf pans: Bake at 350? for 1 hour 15 min

5 small loaf pans: Bake at 350? for approximately 1 hour

Serve warm and top with whipped cream.

Loaves will keep well if placed in plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator.

Christmas Fruit Pizza

elizabethlane.jpgChristmas Fruit Pizza

one pkg yellow cake mix

 (orange, butter pecan & fudge work too)

two eggs

one-fourth cup water

one-fourth cup butter

one-fourth cup packed brown sugar

one-half to one cup chopped nuts


Mix together, it will be thick. 

Spread in a circle on large cookie sheet and bake 10 -12 minutes at 350, or until golden brown. 



Spread top with whipping cream (Cool Whip works, too). 

Use any kind of fruit to top the whipping cream. 

Melt apricot jam and brush on the fruit.


Ideas for Christmas: 

Kiwi slices cut in half for leaves. 

Strawberries cut in half for poinsettia leaves and pineapple tidbits for center of flowers. 

Green grapes work well, too.


See examples below.




Merry Christmas! 


What Are You Having For Thanksgiving Dinner?

momlogolihI love Thanksgiving! If my mom heard me say that, she’d laugh. Starting in 1960, it became tradition to have Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents’ house.  My mom cooked Thanksgiving Dinner every year for close to 40 years. By the twentieth time or so she’d had enough, but she kept going until I took over.  Considering we always bought the biggest turkey in the store, I’m guessing she baked close to a half-ton of turkey. thanksgiving-turkey

That’s a lot of white meat. And a lot of drumsticks! It’s also a tradition I want very much to continue in our new home. My sons love my turkey, a skill that came directly from my mom. She passed away in July and I’m miss her a lot. I also know she’s quite happy to not be baking yet another turkey! 

Here’s how she taught me to do it.  I bake the bird on a rack so the drippings get nice and brown. That makes for wonderful gravy!  I also cover the turkey with a tent made of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  I have no idea what the tent does, but the turkey comes out great.

My stuffing recipe came from my dad’s side of the family.  It includes Farmer John pork sausage, onion, celery, Mrs. Cubison’s stuffing mix (or Pepperidge Farms if I can’t get Mrs. C’s), giblets diced down to powder and–most important of all–a grated green apple.  It all gets mixed together the night before, cooled in the fridge and then baked in the bird. 

thanksgiving-mrs-cubbisonLet talk gravy.  Any tips to get rid of lumps?  My trick is to mix the flour in cold water until it’s the consistency of thin pancake batter and lump free. When I add the mix to the drippings, I have a glass of cold water on hand.  If the flour mix sticks, I pour in a bit of water.  It works!  No lumps.

thanksgiving-rhuttabagaHere’s a Bylin family tradition that usually makes people say, “Huh?”  Does anyone else have rhuttabagas as Thanksgiving?  They’re also called yellow turnips.  They’re good when mashed with lots of butter and a little sugar.

The rest of the menu is pretty standard. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Green beans or peas and carrots.  For dessert, though, I switch out pumpin pie for cheesecake. That’s another of my mom’s recipes. She cut it out of a newspaper back in the 1950s.  Here it is.

Mom Bylin’s Cheesecake

 Graham Cracker Crust

My mom use to grind up crackers with a rolling pin. I follow the directions on the box of ready-made crumbs.  Trust me, the box kind is much easier and just as good. I use a 9-inch glass pie plate and follow the directions for the baked crust. You’ll need butter or margerine and sugar.  Be sure to keep out about an 1/8 cup of the butter/sugar/crumb mix for a topping.


9 oz regular cream cheese (This used to be 3-3 oz squares, but I haven’t seen those in years)

1 8 oz carton of sour cream

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla


Soften the cream cheese. (My mom used to let it sit on the counter. I do it in the microwave on the lowest power, being very, very careful not to liquefy it.) Blend the cream cheese and the sour cream in a small bowl until it’s lump free (or as close to lump free as you can get it; tiny lumps will melt when baked.)  Set this bowl aside.

In a bigger bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add the cream cheese / sour cream mix and blend thoroughly.  Pour into the already made graham cracker crust and baked at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the middle looks done.  Let it cool.



1 8 oz. carton of sour cream

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 tsp vanilla


Blend in a bowl, then spread gently on the baked cheesecake.  Sprinkle with the leftover crumbs from the crust.  Bake for 5 minutes (sometimes less) at 450 degrees.  Refrigerate overnight and enjoy!


What about you having for dinner today?  Are you checking out Petticoats and Pistols after getting your turkey in the oven?  Or maybe you’re going out to eat? That’s fun, too. Either way, Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful time to count our blessings.  Here’s wishing everyone a time full of peace, love and the joy of family and friends.

Cheryl St.John: Church Ladies, Drug Dealers & Tornado Insurance

stjohn.jpgYears ago a friend from a writer’s listserv sent me a copy of a cookbook her grandmother had given her. Little did she know that all these years and books later, I would still be gleaning helpful tidbits from a booklet titled COOK BOOK compiled by THE LADIES of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Eureka Kansas, 1896.


From this little gem, I have used names, recipes and tips, and created businesses for the fictional towns in my stories. Cookbooks are pieces of history, especially those put together by the women of those early towns and cities. The advertisers who paid for space and thereby funded the ladies’ project were a diverse group. Leedy’s Dry Goods and Clothing House for example boasts the lowest prices guaranteed and quality unexcelled. Their tag line: Good cooking is most appetizing on neat linens. We have them. Chas. A. Leedy sold dry goods, boots and shoes, fancy goods, clothing, and men’s furnishing goods. I have no idea what a men’s furnishing good was, but I am confident Mr. Leedy sold only quality in that line.


Interesting that listed among the directors of the First National Bank was none other than C.A. Leedy. Seems men’s furnishings were making him a tidy profit.


1_1241462477740H. C. Hendrick called himself a dealer in pure drugs—my how the times have changed. No one admits to being a drug dealer nowadays. H.C. sold medicines, chemicals, oils, varnishes, glass, putty, fine brushes (my husband swears a little putty and a fine brush can conceal anything; he must have descended from the Kendricks). They also sold a full and complete line of fancy toilet articles, fine stationary, choice perfumes, books, dye stuffs and all other articles usually kept in a first class Drug Store. Prescriptions were accurately compounded.


Then there was H.C. Zilley, dealer in hardware, stoves and tinware who sold agricultural implements and wagons, with sidelines of furniture and undertaking. Why not get into the undertaking business? He already had the shovel and wagon.


Lewis’ Art Studio did photography in all its branches; proofs are shown and all work guaranteed. VIEWING A SPECIALTY. I don’t know what that means either, I’m just telling you how their ad reads. YOUR PATRONAGE SOLICITED. Those printers liked their capitals, and they had all kinds of fancy fonts. This place was opposite the courthouse, FYI.


1874Now, Frank B. Gregg, he sold Fire,…Lightning and Tornado… Insurance – and he liked effusive punctuation. Okay, this was Kansas, so that tornado insurance probably came in handy. Suppose Aunty Em took out a policy with Frank?


A.Frazer’s Transfer and Bus Line: Meets all Trains, All Calls Carefully Attended

Your guess is as good as mine here.


Miss Nellie Smith was pianist, teacher of piano and organ and a pupil of Rudolf King, Kansas City. Her terms were moderate.


W.W. Morris was another dealer in pure drugs and medicines. Also advertised were paints, oils, varnishes school and  miscellaneous books, stationary, window shades, wall paper, musical merchandise, jewelry, fancy and toilet articles. “We manufacture the following specialties and guarantee them to be the BEST articles for the purposes recommended: Calla Cream, Castole, Excelsior Compound.” They were located NO. 23 OPERA BLOCK


The church ladies who contributed to this publication had wonderful names like Madella Smith, Eva Downard, Katie Addison, Olive Sample, Hattie Kelley, Lydia Thrall, Cornelia Newman, Mabel Mueller, Lulu Kendrick and Lizzie Bell.


eurekaA big percent of the recipes contain lard, and many of them, like biscuits and Boston brown bread, ginger cake and ginger snaps  are items we could whip up in our kitchens today, with the exact ingredients and directions. Others—not so much. Like suet as an ingredient. I’ve only fed suet to the birds. And what is black mustard? It’d required to make cucumber catsup. Another example:


Scrapple: Scrape and clean well a pig’s head as directed in pig’s head cheese, put on to boil in plenty of water, cook 4 or 5 hours, until the bones will slip readily from the meat :::are you shuddering yet?:::  take out, remove meat, skim off the grease from the liquor in pot and return the chopped meat to it, season highly with salt and pepper and a little powdered sage if liked, and add corn meal till of the consistency of soft mush; cook slowly 1 hour or more, pour in pans and set in a cool place. This is nice sliced and fried for breakfast in winter and will answer in the place of meat on many occasions.


As you can see the Methodist Episcopal Church Ladies have given me plenty of material for my stories. Since receiving this book, I’ve lost touch with Karen McKee, but Karen, if you get a google alert for your name: THANK YOU!


Tonight I’ll draw names from the comments for THREE advance copies of my December book HER COLORADO MAN – so leave me a comment!