Saturday, August 29, 2015

Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies!

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and a friend gave me a delicious recipe for peanut butter and jelly cookies. I make peanut butter cookies about every three years so i was little skeptical on how great these could be. But she promised they weren't too hard, weren't too sweet, and were perfect right out of the oven. So, we had to try!
(We used our little cookie press on a few. So cute!)
 1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1.2 cups flour

 Blend the eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, and peanut butter together. Mix the dry ingredients together, then add to the egg and sugar mixture. Form balls and bake at 350F for six to eight minutes. Any longer and they start to get crispy, which is fine if you want crispy... but these are supposed to be like a PB&J sandwich.
 When the cookies have cooled a little but are still warm, fill the indentations with jam or jelly. We used our strawberry jelly (from a previous post!).
 The smelled amazing and tasted even better! A real treat!
 The morning glory in our garden is blooming. I had no idea this was considered a weed in some places! Here, we try to get the seeds started inside in the spring and then carefully transplant them outside. Facebook friends told me they take over the property in some regions and have to be ripped out!
 And our seedless champagne grapes are ready. Maybe I already posted about it. Well, they're super yummy and I can't post about them enough. Grape season is so short here that we revel in it while it lasts.
 My neighbors zinnias! Really, they just had to be on the post. Too pretty not to share!
 And my polydactyl kitty is helping me with my new book. He's a great content editor! He goes to sleep if it's too boring...
And have to share this funny shot of our other kitty. He was yawning, I swear, but it looks like he's yelling, "M-om! He's TOUCHING ME!" 
I hope everyone has a wonderful last weekend in August! I can't believe it's almost September already!! Summer has just flown by!
Come visit me on my Mary Jane Hathaway facebook page or on my blog!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fried Okra with The Belle (revisited)

I'm sharing this 2013 post once again since it's one of my favorite things! :)

Fried Okra
Missy Tippens

Yes, folks, you read that title right. Today you're going to have to try to make fried okra! Okay, I know some of you are thinking it's slimy and gross. But I promise you it is NOT slimy if you fry it. So please humor The Belle and give this a try!

You'll need:
FRESH okra (thank you to the McDonalds for sharing their harvest at the church office!)
Buttermilk (I didn't have any so used a little lemon juice to "sour" half & half
Buttermilk Cornbread mix (or some kind of cornbread mix--which contains cornmeal and flour)
Vegetable oil (I use canola)
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a skillet on medium to medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, rinse and dry the okra. Cut the ends off, then evenly slice into bite sized pieces.

Put buttermilk into a bowl and cornmeal mix on a plate.
Generously salt and pepper the cornmeal mix.

Dip a handful of okra into the milk.

Shake off excess.

Then toss it in the seasoned cornmeal mix.

Fling a bit of the cornmeal into the skillet to see if it's ready (it'll sizzle).

Transfer the coated okra to the hot skillet in a single layer, working quickly and in batches so you don't over-fill the skillet.

Here's batch one. Flip when it's golden to cook the other side. Or if you're not picky about how evenly it cooks, you can just kind of stir it around.

Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a plate with paper towels.

Salt to taste.

Adjust heat as needed to prepare the second batch (Oil had gotten pretty hot, so I turned it down).

Cook batch two...

An then remove to a second layer of paper towels. Oh, and try not to eat the first batch while the second batch cooks!

Oh, you say you wouldn't have thought to do that?? Oops. I guess I'm guilty as charged! :)

YUM! Any Belle worth her salt can cook this. I challenge you to give it a try!


Visit The Belle at

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Eggplant Harvest Time on the Farm!

Okay, first... before I do food, let me tell you this, and yes, it's a shameless plug... For a beautiful, heart-wrenching story:

This book is available now. Like right now. It was released early and I'm thrilled because it is such a beautiful story... and I'm not saying that lightly, I'm not bragging, it's just... I know it's a beautiful story. I know it's special, that it's got a quality and feel that only happens sometimes. And it happened with "Refuge". If you want a beautiful, inspirational story, hop on over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and buy it... we'll wait.

Lena's story... and her love and respect for hard-won freedom... will touch your heart and soul. And I hope you love it just as much as I do!

I have never made eggplant Parmesan because I'm the only one who eats it.


But like most of us, I don't fuss over something that only I'm going to eat. Honestly, if that's the case, I'll have a bowl of cottage cheese and write a book!!!

I'm not even kidding, I love writing stories that much, but...

Then there was THIS:

And dozens more will join this happy table tomorrow! So what could I do? I was forced to play with eggplant, which means I'm forced to eat-- and enjoy!!!-- the results!

So this was fun. First I hopped onto facebook and asked for help.

I LOVE MY FACEBOOK FRIENDS! They gave me all kinds of advice and that rocked it!

First, I washed the eggplant... dried it... and sliced it about 1/3 of an inch thick. Now some folks like it thicker, some thinner, but this worked great.

Then a fun part! It starts oxidizing like instantly, like old apples, so don't let that bother you...

Lay out a layer in a big colander, sprinkle heavily with salt.

Re-layer and salt again. Repeat until all eggplant has been salted. This helps make the veggie less soggy after cooking.

They say 30 minutes is fine. Someone told me overnight... Who thinks that far in advance???? Anyway, I left it sit there in the colander while I made next week's post:

Chocolatey-Caramel Walnut Bars!!!!!

Oh my stars, you will love them, I promise! But back to eggplant. Rinse well, lay out on paper towels to dry...



Egg wash (two eggs whisked in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water)

Bread crumbs (I used Italian Seasoning mix and salt with fresh bread crumbs, but any crumb/panko will do)

Dredge (I love the sound of that word...) in flour, then beaten egg thinned with water, then seasoned bread crumbs. Heat a thin covering of olive oil on griddle. Fry each side until golden brown.

Set out on paper towel to drain, and enjoy!

Now at this point you can eat them just like this... or you can layer them with sauce and mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and bake them... or you can serve with pasta and cheese.

I loved them.

I loved them so much... I can't even...

I mean that!

So Finn was ready for lunch (I will not tell you how late lunch was that day, it's probably illegal to starve a child that long, but I gave him cookies. And his mother was here, and his aunt, and so we all will go to jail together. These days I shouldn't joke about that, eee gads, we are not helicopter parents here. We are so wretchedly normal.) and I gave him a piece of eggplant to try.


Look at him, curling his lip!!!

So we substituted peanut butter and Nutella:


Happy toddler!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Donuts to Hemp Hearts

So last week I was talking about donuts. I mentioned this to my daughter and she told me about a cool donut shop in Portland, ME called The Cookie Jar. My daughter is usually reading work-related texts, but when she gets to read for fun, she enjoys a series of books by Joanna Fluke that are centered around a bakery called The Cookie Jar. This bakery in Portland is called - you guessed it -
The Cookie Jar. They serve vegan cupcakes so we decided to visit. Of course we got caught in a torrential rain, but they did have delicious donuts. I had a chocolate sugar cruller. Yum.

Technically the bakery is in Cape Elizabeth (part of Greater Portland) just a short drive from the famous Portland Head Lighthouse.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. After 2 weeks in Maine eating tons of lobster and fried clams and haddock (not to mention all the chowder), it's time for this writer to get healthy again.

So today I'm going to begin a discussion of some easy healthy staples to add to your diet.

One of my favorites of the "new fad foods" is hemp seeds aka hemp hearts.

A couple of years ago we were shopping in Costco. You know how they have those stands with people sampling foods? Well, at one of them, they were sampling something called Hemp Hearts.

Hemp Hearts. I wasn’t going to sample something I’d never heard of, but I picked up the package to investigate. This testimonial from the company founder was on the back.
In 1995, I was unhealthy and unhappy. At over 300lbs, I was unable to live the active, outdoor lifestyle I desperately wanted. Then, a friend introduced me to hemp foods. With omegas, digestible proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber, hemp replenished much of what my body was missing. Before long, I had enough natural energy to climb a mountain…and a message to spread once I got there.
It interested me enough to copy down the company website info. And then I went back to shopping.
Fast forward 20 minutes and my 23-year old daughter (now 26!) who had been wandering the aisles showed up and dropped something in the basket.
Yup. Hemp Hearts.

We brought them home and I’m really glad we did. They taste (and look) pretty much like chopped up sunflower seeds. I can nibble on them from the bag, add to a smoothie, or sprinkle them on just about anything.
I hope you’re asking, why would you want to eat that many hemp seeds?
Good question!
Here’s a short video about them.

Or if you'd rather just read, according to the company website – these are some of the reasons to incorporate hemp hearts into your diet:

Some of the benefits of choosing hemp include:

Hemp is packed full of protein
Hemp contains all 10 essential amino acids and is vegan friendly! It’s also easy to digest as hemp easily assimulates into your body.
Good Fats Galore!
Hemp is a rich and balanced source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 including the rare form of GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid). GLA has been shown to help maintain heart health, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels and aid in hormonal balance. The essential fatty acids (EFAs) in hemp are both short and long chain making for a broader spectrum and working together to ensure your body has an effective metabolism.  According the World Health Organization the ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is 4:1. Hemp has a ratio of 3.75:1.
Stacked With Other Nutrients
  • Chlorophyll and Vitamin E.
  • Important B vitamins.
  • Folic acid (important for women who are trying or may become pregnant)
  • Phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are involved in energy metabolism, protein and bone synthesis.*

So what do you think? Have I convinced you to give it a try?
What if I tell you that a few weeks ago when I was dipping everything in melted Ghirardelli dark chocolate, I made patties of hemp mixed in with the chocolate? They were actually tasty - and felt totally guilt-free. Unlike donuts. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Weekend of Fun and Firsts

Well, school is officially back in session here in Texas and my baby actually drove himself to school for the very first time. Sniff, sniff. Now I can only pray he made it to class on time.

With school fixing to start, it seemed only logical that we have one last hurrah for summer. For us, that means escaping to the ranch for a couple of days. There was even a welcoming committee.
Honestly, I could have done without this particular visitor, but since banana spiders are harmless and their only desire is to eat other bugs, I allowed it to stay. 

Of course, there's always some sort of work waiting at the ranch. Remember Tropical Storm Bill back in June? There were no less than three trees that had fallen prey to Bill's strong winds. And when one's blocking the path or sitting on a fence, that usually takes top priority.

Fortunately, these beautiful Spanish-moss-laden Live Oaks have stood the test of time.

All that work means you're bound to get dirty.

Still, there's always time for fun. Like shooting tennis balls from a potato launcher.

So much fun and hard work wore my babies out, though.
They slept all the way home.

But the weekend wasn't quite over. Our oldest son had a privilege of playing Ultimate Frisbee at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Yep, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Ryan is the one in the maroon shirt.
Gearing up for black team.
Let's play. 
My boy. On the field where the Cowboys play. Whoda thunk it.

The only thing more incredible than that, was the I got to be there, too.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Beef Jerky

I'm going to be talking westerns around here for the next couple weeks. Why? Because release day for "A Home for His Family" is only a week away!

Since I'm knee hip neck deep in Amish history and life as I work furiously to meet my September 1 deadline, I'm glad for a refreshing look at COWBOYS!

And what isn't there to like about cowboys?

Open country, horses, saddle leather, boots, hats...but what makes a real cowboy?

Here's how my heroine, Sarah MacFarland, describes a cowboy she's just met:

"Mr. Cooper’s voice was gentle, his manner courtly. He smiled as he spoke, his eyes sharp and surrounded by fine lines, as if he spent his days gazing across the prairie in the bright sunlight."

There's just something about a real cowboy. Something that makes him look natural wearing a Stetson at Sam's Club. It's the soft wear on his boots. The slim, slightly bowed legs. The lean lines of a body that can only come from hours spent in the saddle.


A sense that he sprang out of the prairie grass fully formed and ready to face a blizzard to save a fall calf.

The epitome of the American West.

But as much as we love cowboy lore and the romance of the western life, what makes it even better is that I know people who are really like that. 

My cowboy characters are based on real people just as much as my Amish ones are. After all, reality is so much more interesting than mythology, isn't it?

But enough waxing eloquently on one of my favorite subjects, let's get to the food!

I thought I'd share a quintessential western food - beef jerky. This has been made as long as people have been eating meat. Before freezers and refrigerators, the only way to preserve meat was to smoke it or dry it. Jerking the meat is a way to dry it with seasoning.

We love this beef jerky so much that we never buy the commercial stuff anymore...

Beef Jerky

There really isn't a recipe for this. You need meat. I use a cut called "London Broil" in some places, but you can use any lean cut of beef or chicken.

I also use this commercial seasoning kit. It comes with both the cure and the spices, so you're all set. Why mess with perfection?

And you need a bowl to mix it in (glass or stainless steel), and a glass casserole dish for the middle step.

One of these is also handy:

If you don't have a dehydrator, your oven will work well. Just set it at the lowest temperature it will go - somewhere around 170°.

First, slice the meat into 1/4" slices.

Don't worry about uneven edges or scraps, Wynter and Thatcher will take care of those for you!

Put the sliced meat in a bowl.

Four pounds of meat is all I have room for in my dehydrator, so I just keep slicing until I think it's about there. In the picture above, I'm about half-way done.

But be sure to weigh the meat after slicing it. You want to use the right amount of cure and seasoning.

I mix the cure and seasoning together in a small bowl, then sprinkle it over the meat about 1/3 at a time.

This is a dry rub process. Some people use a wet cure - basically the spices and cure are mixed with water and the meat is soaked in the marinade for 24 hours.

With the dry rub, just mix until all the slices are coated with the spice/cure mixture, Then place the slices in a glass dish.

This part is important! You want the spice/cure mixture to touch every piece of meat, so lay them out in the dish, one layer at a time, until they're all out flat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 24 hours.

Be sure to wear your cowboy boots while you're waiting!

The next day, take all those spicy pieces of meat and lay them out on your dehydrator trays or baking sheets, if you're using your oven.

Go ahead and crowd them together, but not overlapping. The meat will shrink some during the drying process.

It takes about six hours in our semi-arid climate to dry the meat. You want it to be slightly pliable and chewy. If you let it dry too long, it turns crispy. Still tasty, but not as satisfying.

Once the jerky is dried and cooled, go ahead and enjoy it! We keep ours in the freezer for two reasons: First, just in case I misjudged something, the freezer keeps the jerky from spoiling. Second (and most important) it keeps the tasty treat out of sight.

It is so easy to take "just one more piece" when you're feeling munchy!

I'll leave you with one last look at cowboy country, this time near the Big Horn Mountains. Ah, that view makes me homesick for Wyoming!

So here's the question for today: What is your favorite part of the Cowboy culture? Don't be shy - tell us what you really think!