Friday, August 1, 2014

Lavender Honey Balsamic Dressing

Lavender Honey Balsamic Salad Dressing
with Missy Tippens

One of our favorite restaurants in a nearby town, One Blue Duck, serves an amazing salad with shaved beets (usually golden) and some sort of bleu chese (gorgonzola, I think). And to top it off, it has this amazing lavender dressing made with lavender they grow out back. So I decided to try to make my own copy at home.

First, I did a search for dressings. I found this recipe that sounded similar at a blog called The Kitchen is My Playground. My photos can't compare to her gorgeous ones, so be sure to drop by to see it. Here's a link to the original dressing recipe (click here).

I made a few small adjustments. Here's my version…

6 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar (will try white balsamic next time)

2 T honey
1 T lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed (I used jarred minced)
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried lavender flowers

First, I took the advice from several of you to go to Penzey's Spices because I needed a trustworthy source of dried lavender.

Once that arrived, I was able to make my dressing.

I used my small, portable Hamilton-Beach smoothie blender. Put all ingredients inside and then blend.

Then I put it in the refrigerator to chill and got to work on the fresh beets.

Wash and peel one small beet. Then either slice thinly and chop into small pieces. Or shave it with a vegetable peeler. I think the shaving is probably better but I didn't think of it until later.

Place greens on the plate. Top with beets and other vegetables as desired. Add crumbled bleu cheese (I didn't have any). Then, after shaking well, drizzle on the chilled dressing.

It makes a beautiful salad!

P.S. My daughter doesn't really like the smell of lavender, so she didn't really care for this dressing. Just a warning. :)


I forgot to do the promised RWA Part 2 post. But I'll post the cowboy photo I mentioned. Mary Curry will kill me for sharing it with her eyes half closed. :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Weekend in Manhattan With The Boys!

Clearly there's been little cooking going on here! The farm is awash in water and veggies, mud is slowing everything down, and I'm having so much fun writing my sweet stories, and there are fresh veggies to munch on, so who needs a stove????

Translation: DAVE IS STARVING!!!!!!

Poor thing, but my theory on that is grab some bread, slap together a sandwich and let's get stuff done!!!!!

I am an annoying wife. I openly admit this. But I'm nice to kids so they keep me around.

MANHATTAN.... The boys treated us to a weekend there, it's one of those grossly unfair situations because it's actually a combo birthday and Father's Day gift for DAVE... but I get to go!!!

How stinkin' cool is that?????  And I get cool stuff on Mother's Day, so I'm grading this a WIN/WIN!!!!!

The cool summer followed us to Manhattan where we park the car in a garage and kiss it goodbye until we leave... First stop?

The Seaport while we waited for Luke to get out of work.

Well, wait, I lied. First stop was STARBUCKS and a venti caramel macchiato which I loved..... iced, because it's fun to have it iced now and again!

Then supper at Harry's Italian, a great little grab a seat on the sidewalk restaurant at 2 Gold Street... Finance boy is on the left and Lawyer Boy is on the right. They looked WONDERFUL!!!!!!

We got to talk with a New Yorker at the next table, a cool guy who must live nearby because we ran into him several times... and he loves the YANKEES!!!!  :)  Check out the bread on that table, as if ordering Italian isn't enough, do you see how thick it is????  I love chewy bread!

Then subway to Yankee game, and I love the subways, it's a people-watching extravaganza and of course the boys think I'm insane.... but seriously, there are stories aching to be told on every single subway ride through New York.... 

If you think I'm kidding, check out this site:

Trust me. Every block, every building, every ride has a story!

Jeter, warming up! We won that night, the only game of the three weekend games we won, so good job Luke picking Friday night tickets!!!!!!

Saturday was different. So different.

We started the day like we often do in downtown Manhattan, at the Pearl Diner. We love this diner, it's so old school, and it has survived the constant barrage Lower Manhattan has suffered in the past 15 years... So it's a tradition to eat at the diner at least once!

We had 9:30 tickets for the newly opened 9/11 Museum.... And when I say that this was the most gripping place I've ever been, I don't use those words lightly.

Beautiful. Poignant. Heart-wrenching. Tragic circumstances, amazing grace.

It was a total experience in remembrance, and so beautifully done that I felt surrounded by grace and peace in the midst of tragedy. Despite the growing crowd as the day progressed, the quiet dignity of this hallowed ground was kept through whispers and prayer and tears...

My kids sang this beautiful hymn in Easter pageants written and directed by Sr. Diane Dennie of St. Lawrence Church... this hymn was what I felt as I walked silently from display to display in the new memorial museum...

I was walking on Holy Ground...

Sanctified, blessed and respected, holy ground.

Dave and I go to Ground Zero at least once a year. We make it a point to take time out of our visits to remember how fragile life is, and how targeted we are by those who hate us...

And to pray.

And then there's THIS!!!!!
Who owns a St. Bernard in NYC?????? These guys, apparently! 

I love eating on Stone Street, outdoor seating, you get a wonderful view of the Humans of New York when you eat outside! It's awesome!!!!!

THEN.... the Highline...

An old train track turned into an elevated park, oh thank you mayors of Manhattan for pushing this through because it's so delightfully wonderful!!!!! You walk above the streets, and the vantage point is wonderful... and there is seating so you can SEE THE STREETS..... the irony was not lost on me, LOL!

Chelsea Market, my first time in Chelsea Market, a great gathering of shops, so NYC because it's casual and yet high end and yet casual and yet... you get it!!!!

Well, I HAD to take a pic of this, LOL!!!!!  Another Ruthy, spelled my way, who makes cakes????

Who'd a thunk it???????


And we finished off the night on Luke's rooftop patio.....

With the Freedom Tower glowing lilac just behind us....

My view of the guys is looking out over the tip of Manhattan towards the Hudson River, I think Luke's head is blocking the river, he's always had a big head!

A great weekend. Beautiful. Poignant. Reflective.

If you go to New York, go to the 9/11 Museum. Spend time there, it's not a quick visit, but you will be blessed by sheer respect and imagery surrounding you in a prayerful presence.

God has blessed us with so much. In there??? I remembered to thank him for it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back East

A number of us were in San Antonio this week for the RWA Conference. I had to travel a bit further than Texan Mindy but it was worth it, as a writer and a reader.  I came back with requests for my manuscripts from agents and publishers and lots of good memories. 

I fell in love with San Antonio back in the 90s and was thrilled to introduce Man O to the city. But wasn't thrilled about this:
Every day!
I was thrilled about the beauty of the city, The Alamo at sunset, the Riverwalk.

ManO photobombed me, of all people.
Numerous meals had this view.

I made new friends and spent time with my friends like my Golden Heart nominated buddy Piper:

Man O and I watched Miss Congeniality, the quintessential San Antonio set movie. Still such fun.

And we knocked Fredericksburg, Texas off of my twenty year old bucket list. I fell in love with it from a magazine article in Southern Living. Can you tell why? So many neat stone houses and the National Museum of the Pacific War. Antique shops. And they grow everything bigger in Texas, including the M&Ms.

Enjoyed the food (will be talking about it more in the future) but I am really glad to be back home in my own home, lower humidity and being able to cook again. That means the vacation did it's job!

Have you been to San Antonio? Do you have a favorite cute little town you like to visit? What places are on your bucket list? 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

RWA 2014, Part One

Tex here, fresh off the heels of RWA 2014 in beautiful San Antonio, Texas.

From the time we arrived, it was obvious that Harlequin was a huge sponsor of this shindig. 
Wherever you turned, there was a Harlequin sign. 
I particularly liked this elevator door, though.
Recognize anyone noteworthy here?

RWA's annual literacy signing was my first event. I was so excited. 
The massive ballroom was filled with energy.

The next night was a party hosted by Amazon.
My roommate, Lindi Peterson, and I decided to go as twins.

I finally got to meet our own Julie Hilton Steele.
That's her on the right. Not the best pic (sorry Julie), but proof that we have met.

This party was packed, but with all the right stuff.
Like roaming cowboys.
Wish this was a better pic, but you get the idea.
That's Mary Curry, one of LIS's newest authors, along with Missy Tippens, Lacy Williams, Laurie Alice Eakes and Deb Kastner there in the lower right hand corner.
I think Missy was kinda likin' that cowboy.

And while he was impressive, you'll notice that I got a better shot of the candy.
Chat balloons with little hearts in them. 
How cute is that?
Luckily they weren't peanut. Otherwise, the bowl would have been empty.

Friday night was biggest event in my book.
The Harlequin party. I've heard about this party for years, but this was my first. 
L-r: Janet Dean, Tina Radcliffe, Lacy Williams, Missy Tippens, Merrilee Wren, Myra Johnson, me, Mary Curry and Debby Guisti.
Does this group clean up well or what?

We piled into cabs and headed to Westin Riverwalk Hotel.
Oh, my. Such a gorgeous place.

After climbing the grand staircase, we spilled into a beautiful lounge area decorated in red and white.
I really wanted to take one of these pillows home with me, but decided to behave.

Lavish displays were everywhere.

And the desserts...?
How I missed tasting this flourless chocolate cake is beyond me. 
I guess I was in such awe.

This was the s'more station, complete with homemade marshmallows. 
They're the square ones on the left, regular and chocolate.
Very, very cool.

But not as cool as this.
Any guesses as to what they're making?

Ice cream.
But not just any ice cream. This was liquid nitrogen ice cream.
See that big silver tank behind the chefs in the fist pic?
I've seen them make this type of ice cream on the The Food Network, but have never tasted it.
How do they make it, you ask?
Well, they whisk their ice cream mixture, then they add the liquid nitrogen until it's frozen.
It is the creamiest ice cream you will ever have.
Personally, I could have taken this big old bowl and huddled in a corner somewhere until it was gone.
Absolutely amazing.

Missy and I having fun in the blond section. :)

I gotta hand it to those Harlequin people. They really know how to throw a party.
And they think of everything.
Remember that red and white table display I showed you above?

They knew 200 women would be ditching their high heels after a couple dances.

This was my first RWA since 2007, and I had a blast.
Now I'm counting the days until they meet in NYC next year. If for nothing more than the Harlequin party. :)

Missy will be sharing more on the conference later this week.
So until then...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sherry Gore's Cooking and Such Magazine

This was a no cooking week.

Zero. Zilch. Nothin'.

It was Vacation Bible School week. If you've ever been involved with VBS, you know it's exhausting, exhilarating, hot and wonderful all at the same time.

And if you've ever been a VBS director, you know why I haven't seen the inside of my kitchen for more days than I like to think about!

But I did get my copy of "Cooking and Such" magazine in the mail!

Published quarterly, "Cooking and Such: adventures in Plain Living," is one of Sherry Gore's many creative outlets. Each issue is chock-full of recipes, stories, quotes, tidbits and beautiful photographs - all having to do with Plain Living (i.e., Amish, Mennonite, etc.)

This summer's issue has some intriguing recipes that I'll try if I ever get back into the kitchen :)

Things like German Potato Pancakes, Tasty Bacon Cheese Fries, Blueberry Watermelon Salad, and - my favorite - Maple Bacon Whoopie Pies. (I can hardly wait to try those!)

Each one of these magazines is a keeper. The magazine's mission is "to provide wholesome, Christian reading as we celebrate God's wondrous gifts of family, food, farming and culture."

For more about Sherry, the magazine, and subscription information, go to her website,

Now I know I wasn't the only one playing AWOL from my kitchen last week! Let us know what you were doing...did you go to San Antonio for the RWA conference? Or a trip to visit family? Or were you doing the same-old-same-old?

I'll make a batch of those Maple Bacon Whoopie Pies, and we'll chat!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Black Forest Cherry Cupcakes

Hi everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a tasty little treat this week. We've had such a great time this week in our little valley. Everything is coming up... delicious!

 Behold,  a little of our 70 lbs of blueberries (Darrow and Olympia, not mixed) These are mostly eating berries, but you can cook with them if you want. Sweet, healthy, organic, and 1.50 a lb! You just can't beat that. We try to eat as locally as possible, living a sustainable lifestyle (not buying things that are shipped out of state or country when we can buy them locally) and summer is THE TIME to get all our food stocked up for the long, cold winters. We've shared about half of them, but the rest are in the freezer, ready to be used in muffins and such right around January!
Yesterday, we went to pick blackberries. Some years, we don't get much. It's a wild patch on the banks of the river near our house. This year? Crazy! Big, plump berries and so many of them! We got about 3 gallons. And I fell in the bushes. Backwards. Hubby fished me back out, but my backside looks like I've been fighting cats. We've shared them, eaten a bunch, made a double batch of cobbler, and the rest are (yes, you guessed it) put up in the freezer for winter.
Now, we did make some cherry pies this year, but we didn't get any canned, so for this recipe, I had to buy a can of cherry topping. This sort of thing always makes me a little leery. I mean, sure, it's got cherries, but this can't be good for us, right?
But then I remember that it's meant for chocolate cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes are not high on the list of the most natural, antioxidant-rich food, either, so I just shrug and plop that can into my cart.

After you open that can, mix it in a bowl with 1/2 tsp of almond extract and 2 TBS sugar. Don't skip the almond, this is important because it gives us that rich layering of flavors and smells divine.
Poke a hole in your cupcake (after cooking- I'm assuming you call can make cupcakes, so we'll jump to the chase) and hollow out a little space. Just enough for about 3-4 cherries and a little goop. (There's probably a word for the stuff, but not sure what it is.)
 The cupcakes are looking fancier already!
 A whole bunch of them, waiting to be topped.
 You can use whichever frosting you like, but since the cherries were so rich, I thought we'd just use whipped cream. It's not so sweet, nice and light, and still covers up the cherries. I topped that with a little toasted almonds.
I won't post any picture of the eating, because frankly, it was sort of gruesome. All that moaning and red smears. *shiver* Like a bunch of zombies devouring cupcakes. But I'll cut one open so you can see how nicely the cherries look in the final product.
I've never made this recipe before, but it's definitely going in the "classic" file. It's easy, interesting, just a bit sophisticated, and absolutely delicious.
Until next time, my friends!

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Time for…Homemade Ice Cream!

Making Ice Cream at Home
Missy Tippens

I've watched so many shows on the Food Network where they make ice cream, including Chopped and other shows. And every time, I would think, man, I want to make ice cream that easily (no salt, no ice, no cranking).

Well, while watching a show recently, I hopped on the computer and started checking out machines. When I realized I could get one for about $50, and saw all the positive reviews, I ordered it.

We decided to make a simple chocolate ice cream for our first try.

**Note! You have to plan ahead. The bowl has to freeze for about 24 hours before you make it. Plus, once you mix the ingredients, it has to go in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Recipe taken from the included Cuisinart manual.

3/4 cup sifted cocoa powder (I used part dark and part regular cocoa)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (I only had light brown)
pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together cocoa, sugars and salt. Add the milk and mix on low (hand mixer or whisk-I used whisk) until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cover and put in fridge for 1-2 hours (or overnight).

In this particular ice cream maker, you start the the container, then add the ingredients. Then 15-20 minutes later...

Voila! This tasted yummy, like a thick Frosty from Wendy's!

Since I used the heavy cream and whole milk like the recipe called for, this left a bit of a  greasy film in my mouth. I think next time I'll try only whole milk, or maybe even use some skim milk.

Do any of you have an ice cream maker? Do you do the old fashioned crank kind?