Monday, May 22, 2017

Ravioli Stew

This is a recipe I made quite often when our children were young, mostly because it's one of those freezer recipes (make two, freeze one) that saves bunches of time. And it's so versatile that you can use whatever you have on hand!

Ravioli Stew

ingredients: (double the amounts if you intend to freeze half for a future meal)

1 pound ground beef, sweet Italian sausage, or ground pork - choose your favorite or go meatless
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the kind in the green can)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup chopped onion
canned tomatoes - sauce, crushed, diced - however you like them
1 quart broth - beef or vegetable

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes

1 package frozen cheese filled ravioli

Brown the meat (if you're using it) in a large pot. Drain and return to the pot.

Add the onions to the meat and cook them until they're transparent.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except ravioli) and bring the stew to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or so. Stir occasionally, and add some water if the stew gets too thick.

At this point, you can put half of the stew in the freezer and save it for a busy day.

In a separate large pot, cook the ravioli according to package directions.

Put one serving of cooked ravioli in a large bowl and ladle the stew over the pasta. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and serve with a salad and some garlic bread. Seasoned croutons are also a great addition! Just sprinkle them on the top.

Like I said, this has been a family favorite for years!

This post is actually and two-in-one when it comes to meal ideas. :)

One thing my husband and I like to do on these long spring and summer evenings is to take a picnic to Custer State Park, find a quiet pull-off, and enjoy the wildlife.

A week or so ago, we stopped by a little grocery store and picked up some deli sandwiches. We found our quiet spot and watched the bison and antelope while we listened to the meadowlarks in the meadows around us.

Have you ever heard a meadowlark's song?

Meanwhile, we watched a storm pass by to the north.

The pictures don't convey even half the beauty.

Before long, the storm had passed, we had finished our supper, and we went on our way.

The evening was wearing on and we wanted to get home before dark. As we drove along, we spotted these two young bison making their way down a hill. They must have been grazing on top during the afternoon, but now were on their way to a watering hole and a quiet place to spend the night.

It's always a sad moment when we turn our truck toward home after a foray into the Hills, but the end of the day must come, right?

We'll be back soon, though. Maybe this week....

Don't forget - Naomi's Hope is coming out next month!!!

You can pre-order Naomi's Hope through my website:

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Best Pork Roast EVER

Hi everybody! Mary Jane here. I saw a recipe that was called "Best Pork Roast EVER" and I remember thinking it sounded a little iffy, with its ten cloves of garlic, five different spices, and extended broiler/ flipping after two hours. But I jotted down some of the specifics and decided to try it. Now, my recipe doesn't have the rosemary or parsley or chopped garlic added to the bottom. I also only used carrots and potatoes for the veggies (the original had corn cob pieces, which I thought was odd). 

So, one large boneless pork roast.
2 TBS of season salt
2 TBS of pepper
2 TBS of garlic powder
2TBS of onion powder
-- rub into the top (not the fatty bottom)

Three cups of beef broth in the bottom of a stock pot. 
Add 6-7 chopped potatoes
about two cups carrots
TEN cloves garlic, whole (I KNOW, I was thinking the SAME THING)
One large sliced onion.

Lay the pork roast onto the veggies and broth, cover with foil and roast at 325F for two hours or so. Make sure the foil has a little hole for venting.

 After two hours or when the pork roast is done, take off the foil, turn to broil, flip the roast and replace for ten minutes.
 Eeeek. Looking burned. But I'm standing my ground. I belieeeeeeeeve... Flip again under broil for ten minutes.
I'm wondering if I should stop here after four minutes but I have resolved to follow the recipe. Unlike my usual way of playing fast and loose in the kitchen.
 Now, after ten minutes,  the top is very dark and crispy. Holding onto hope... Flip again.
 Bottom looks more burned. Flip again after ten minutes.
 Top looks VERY dry and I'm pretty sure I ruined the roast. Quietly researching recipes for "dry pork roast leftovers".
Leave it on a plate to rest for 30 minutes. (Like it did anything! I was the one hefting its fatty rump over and over. )
After 30 minutes, I dry my tears and start slicing. Hmmmmm.... Juice is flowing onto the plate. That's promising.
After cutting through the seasoned crust, it's very tender. I take a nibble... and rejoice!!! It is DELICIOUS!!! Tender, moist, flavorful, savory, fragrant, and NOT burned. *whew* HUGE relief!
 A few of the seasoned potatoes and carrots (and garlic, YUM) from the bottom of the pot.

 MMMMM, with a little of the "gravy". The original recipe had something about making it into a dark roux. I thought it was perfect the way it was.
So, there it is! The most perfect pot roast ever!! I hope everyone is having a wonderful week. 
Be sure to stop by my author pages of Mary Jane Hathaway and Virginia Carmichael for more author news!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Quick Fried Okra

Missy Tippens

The Belle, here, sharing another recipe for fried okra. I shared the regular way to make it before here.

But the other day I had a nice bag of fresh okra from Sprouts but didn't want to spend much time fixing it. Sooo...

Here's what I did:

Fresh okra, sliced
Olive or canola oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
Panko bread crumbs (mine were herb, not plain)

Here's my beautiful batch of okra, washed.

Then I cut off the tops and sliced.

I heated an iron skillet, then added a few drizzles of oil. (Not deep. I didn't even cover the bottom of the skillet.)

Then sprinkle on some bread crumbs and a few pinches of salt and grinds of pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until desired tenderness. Be careful not to burn your bread crumbs! Mine got a little too dark but tasted okay.

The breading doesn't stick very well this way, but it tastes very similar (my breading often falls off while cooking anyway since I don't have a deep fryer).

This was a good substitute for the more time consuming dish!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie


Cute Bald Baby Alert... Actually a toddler  now, Laney Ruth is 18 months old!!!

And then there's this:

This is decadent.

It is beyond decadent, actually. It is so good that we kind of stared at one another in wide-eyed appreciation when we tasted it.

Jan Drexler inspired this with her pie a few weeks back... and I love my dark chocolate cream pie RECIPE HERE.....

There is something so rich and perfect about a dark chocolate pudding, isn't there???? 

And I thought a Peanut Butter Whipped Cream topping would be amazing instead of whipped cream, so that became the goal: Peanut Butter decadence, like better than a REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUP!!!!

For this you need a handy dandy pie crust either frozen or packaged or fresh... Ruthy's Favorite Pie Crust Recipe Here (This makes 4 BIG pie crusts, for 10" or deep dish 9" pies. I use one or two and freeze the others as "lumps" and then thaw as needed!)

So here's what I did to make this amazingly delicious topping.... And it's simple, really:

1 cup custard pudding  
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
2/3 cup Peanut Butter

Fold together.

Pile on top of dark chocolate pudding. Chill.

Custard filling:
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in 2 quart saucepan. Remove from heat. Blend corn starch and sugar together and then blend with butter. Whisk in the milk and egg yolks. Heat over medium/medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until mixture is thick and bubbling. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla flavoring. Chill

(You'll have an extra cup of this from this recipe... Now you can eat it (my preference) or feed it to kids or... No. Just eat it. Or cut the recipe in half.)


Note to all: Food is the great equalizer. :)

Okay, so for all o' youse out there who know that spring has finally come to WNY, yes, it is planting time!!! Baby plants, seeds, dozens of acres of beautiful veggies and fall fun stuff....

Which means we'll be throwing Zweigle's or Hebrew National or Burgers on the grill on a regular basis... 

So if you have any wonderful quick summer fixes you want to share, give us a shout out either here or e-mail me!

I'd love to feature your summer-fun-friendly recipes here in the Cafe!!

The Yank, also known as Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet books.... She loves God, her family, her country, cute kids, not-so-cute kids, dogs, chocolate and coffee... You can friend her on facebook where she LOVES to talk, visit her blog or visit her in Seekerville... or stop by her website She'd love to see you!

Also, for the next month, Ruthy is part of the big "BOOKSWEEPS" giveaway.... She's in BOTH of these, all you have to do is click through and say how much you love Ruthy, love clean fiction, love food (okay, that is NOT there).... Whatever you do gets you more chances in the drawings, and there's over 100 prizes... Check it out, no harm, no foul! My book for sweepstakes #1:

Inspirational Book Sweepstakes Link Here!!! 

And then for "Their Surprise Daddy" from Love Inspired, we've got this link!

Sweet and Wholesome Sweepstatkes Link Here!!!

And that's it from the farm! Wishing you all a wonderful week and abundant blessings!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Reshare: Black Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dressing

With any luck, this week marks the end of the worst of my school year. Fun stuff ahead and only a couple more days of state testing.

But that means, until I get through this week, not much cooking is happening. My daughter took me out for barb-e-que for Mother's Day and I had leftovers. My husband ordered takeout (well, he had me order it actually) for dinner, so I had meatball parm leftovers for days.

Hear that cafe folk? I had lots of meat this week. I should be running marathons.

Not.  The school day takes enough energy.

I went looking for a post to share and found this one that I posted almost exactly a year ago and that was copied from a guest blog that was also from May.

I guess it's a theme, so here we go again.

What to cook?

What to eat??

What to post about???

It's that time of year (here at least) when we're in between seasons - too early for summery stuff, too tired of all the wintery stuff.

Just blah.

Apparently this is an annual affliction for me.

I was looking through the old food blog I used to do at Healthy Writer and found this from May 13, 2013.

Blizzards in April, snow storms in May.
We have a freeze warning tonight!
All of which is just an excuse for why it’s taking me so long to get into my spring/summer healthy mentality.
The allure of soups has worn thin as winter dragged on
and on
and on.
Roasted vegetables, so delicious back in November, are getting boring.
Still, it’s hard to drum up enthusiasm for those summer salads when you’re still wrapped in sweaters and winter coats!

Sound familiar?

I know some of you in other parts of the country are well into the warm weather, and we've had a few days, but they don't seem to hang around.

So I settled on this summery dish to pick up my spirits. I may have actually posted an in-progress rendition of it a few years back, but it seems just what I need right now.

A health food restaurant in my neighborhood sells an amazing Black Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dressing that my daughter and I love. I wanted to try to duplicate it at home. Most of the duplication was easy; only the dressing gave me fits.

So here’s the easy part:
Quinoa – Do you cook with quinoa? It’s easy to make, so healthy, and has a nice nutty bite.
Black beans – I used Goya canned beans.
Corn –Have you ever tried cooking corn on the cob in the microwave with husks still on?  Missy Tippens taught me about that right here at Yankee Belle Cafe. For this recipe I nuked it, then cut it off the cob and chilled it.
In my opinion the corn was the best part!
Greens – I used a package of mesclun greens because they’re my favorite salad greens. I love the variety.
Red onion thinly sliced – This gives the salad a nice zing.
Tomatoes – I used little red grape tomatoes.
Avocado slices for the salad – yum
Toasted tortilla strips – for these, I decided to make my own. Sort of. I bought corn tortillas. My daughter chopped them into thin strips and then we toasted them in the oven. (Note: for this part, it’s better to toast longer on a low temperature. I did it on a higher temp and they got mostly chewy. I lowered it so they could just sort of dry out.)

Onwards to the salad
That first part is all pretty basic.  Just cook the quinoa and chill, prepare the beans however you like (I always cook them because it seems to make them easier to digest) and then chill.
Wash the greens.
When everything is chilled you’re ready for the dressing. This is where my copycatting fell apart.  What I made tasted good, but it wasn’t exactly right.
I took another avocado and juice from a lime and blended with some cilantro. I wasn’t totally thrilled with that version so I did some after the fact googling and found this recipe from  Trader Joe’s. I think it would have been better so I may try it tonight.
So mix the dressing in with the cold quinoa and arrange on the bed of greens, add the beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, avocado, and top with the toasted tortilla strips.

Isn’t that pretty?
Delicious too! Which is why I’ve been craving it.
Do you ever try to duplicate meals you’ve had in restaurants? How does it work for you?

*Sad note since I originally wrote this - the health department closed that restaurant!!!!

An even better reason to make it at home.

Apparently I took no pictures.  Sorry.

I'll do better next week.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Preparing for Moving Day

The big day is only two days away!

Yes, edits for my holiday book have finally been turned in, so I've had no choice but to plunge headlong into packing. As we ready for our move to the ranch, the entire house has been turned upside down.
The den has been deconstructed.

The dining room has become a work room.
And the living room is now for storage.
(By the way, Kav, the dogs are starting to get a little weirded out)

However, there's always time for a baby break.
Max wanted to stop by for a first glimpse of Grammy and Big Daddy's house before they move.
He even brought one of his big sisters along for the trip.
Big sisters can get annoying, though, always trying to steal your thunder.
Fortunately, Big Daddy swept in for the rescue.
A good thing, too. All that visiting can wear a little guy out.

So there's a glimpse into our crazy, wonderful week.
Join me back here next week when I'll be coming to you from the ranch, hopefully with some food.
Until then...

Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and the last of her five children. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jan's Copycat Pasta Salad

It just isn't summer without a good pasta salad, is it?

Or maybe I feel that way because my husband and I set up housekeeping in the 80's...and that's so last century!

We remember the 80's, right? When everyone was talking about Princess Di and Prince William instead of Kate Middleton and Prince George? When we thought men looked good in pink shirts? When we were so happy those 70's fashions were behind us? When every restaurant, including KFC, had a salad bar?

And when no one even thought of showing up at a family or church get-together without a pasta salad!

Pasta salads are still pretty popular, especially on restaurant salad bars. There's one restaurant that still has a huge salad bar - Ruby Tuesday - and I adore it! And my favorite salad on their spread? Their famous pasta salad, of course!

For some reason, my husband doesn't want to head off to the restaurant every time I get a craving for their pasta salad, so I've come up with my own version.

It's perfect for family and church get-togethers all summer long.

Jan's Copycat Pasta Salad


1 lb box rotini pasta (or your favorite pasta shape)
1 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons horseradish sauce (or 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 green pepper, diced (optional if you're like me and green peppers don't agree with you)
2 Tablespoons diced red onion
2 cups ham, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (the kind in the green can)

At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to take pictures of this recipe! You'll just have to let your imagination illustrate the process!

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water - you want to chill it down as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ranch dressing, mayo, horseradish sauce, salt, and pepper. Add the green pepper, onion, ham and peas, and stir to combine.

Add the cooled and drained pasta, and stir again.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Just before serving, stir in the 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

All that's left is to enjoy your throwback to the 80's!

Meanwhile, we're still enjoying spring here in the Black Hills.

Because this happened:

We planted this cherry tree a few years ago. The first year it bloomed beautifully, but I let the birds eat all the cherries (aka, I didn't get them protected in time). Last year we had a late cherries. But this year, well, we'll see if the birds get all the fruit again. I can't really complain. We planted it mainly to attract birds to our yard!

And then this happened:

The Holt Medallion Contest finalists were announced over the weekend, and Mattie is on the list!!! I'm so happy for this favorite heroine of mine. :)

And our own Cate Nolan shared a picture of Mattie at her local Barnes & Noble! She sure is traveling!

Don't forget that the e-book versions of both Hannah's Choice and Mattie's Pledge are on sale, just in time to catch up with the series before Naomi's Hope releases on June 6th! Go to my website,, for links to your favorite on-line retailer.

So, let's chat! It's throwback time! What is your favorite memory from the 80's?