Saturday, February 25, 2017

Quick and easy olive basil focaccia bread

Hi, everybody! Mary Jane here and I have a delicious recipe for quick and easy focaccia bread!
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2.5 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
2 TBS oil ( we used our basil infused olive oil)
3TBS parmesan
1 tsp garlic powder
olive oil for brushing on the edges

Mix all the dry ingredients. Add the warm water and oil. Knead on a flat surface until elastic, then cover in a warm place for about 20 minutes, or until risen. Preheat oven to 450F. 

Roll out the bread dough and poke holes in it with your fingers. Kids love this part!
 We have a few people who don't love olives so we only added the olives on one side. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan and garlic powder.
 You can add different herbs at this time but make sure they're mixed with the olive oil or they'll burn. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
 Mmmmmm. Fresh out of the oven, cut into squares and serve with dipping sauce.
 Our sauce was actually left over pizza sauce. :)
 The bottom was delightfully crisp and the top was just crisped enough to hold the olives in place.
 There! A quick and easy appetizer for these cold February nights when nobody wants a whole meal.
                                      Hoping that everybody is keeping warm. Spring is on the way! Or so I've heard... We had a week of rain and then it turned cold again, but I know the sun will be out soon! Until then, I'll be baking and cooking and writing over here.
Be sure to stop by my author pages at Mary Jane Hathaway or Virginia Carmichael where I have all of my book news!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot...Oatmeal with Toasted Coconut

Missy Tippens

I think I already said this in a previous post: I love my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker! One of my new favorites is to make steel cut oats for breakfast. I really enjoyed this particular recipe.

I discovered this on Pinterest. Click here to find the original recipe on a site called Flavorrd: Mastering the Art of Feeding Ourselves.

I won't list the full recipe but will describe how I made it.

One of the nice things about an Instant Pot is that you can sauté things. So I toasted the coconut and the oats in the pot before adding the liquid ingredients and pressure cooking. Oh! I almost forgot. I also decided to toast some chopped pecans along with the coconut and oats.

I used almond milk because I didn't have any coconut milk (which would have made it even better!).

Once the sautéing is done and you add the other ingredients, it's time to set the pot manually. I only cooked for 2 minutes on high pressure. Then I allowed about 10 minutes for a natural cool down and depressurization. With anything milky or starchy you can't release the steam too soon or you'll have foam shooting out (don't ask me how I found this out!). :)

Here's a zoom in of the mystery photo bomber behind the cooker in the previous photo! :)

Now, after waiting for the pot to cool, I was able to open it and we have fully cooked oatmeal (yet it still has a little bite to it so it's not mushy)!

It's so good with the toasted coconut, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon. Mine isn't nearly as pretty as the website where I got the recipe. I forgot to save coconut to put on top! And I think I got a little carried away with the brown sugar and cinnamon. :) YUM!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ice Cream Cake With The Mighty Finn!

It is with great honor that I introduce today's guest chef in the Cafe' kitchen.... Those of you who aren't familiar with our pastry chef and somewhat short maker of desserts extraordinaire, might know him from his ongoing stint as leader of a mighty kingdom. Born just three short years ago, he's been a teller of tales (okay, sometimes to the extreme, but he does have a marvelous vocabulary!!!) and he's renowned on facebook for his wit and wisdom. Ladies and gentlemen, today I present to you the one... the only "Mighty Finn"!

Finn has been polishing his skills at making ice cream cake using ice cream sandwiches. BRILLIANT. (Mom's note: you need TWO big boxes of ice cream sandwiches for this but we didn't want them to melt as The Mighty Finn constructed his masterpiece

Layer 11 sandwiches in the bottom of the pan. Share 12th ice cream sandwich with little sister, mother or pesky Grammy.

Layer of Cool Whip

Clean spoon:

Drizzle caramel & hot fudge sauce

Clean additional spoon (s). (imperative directive)

Freeze for a bit while continuing to get the house ready for the impending birthday party 
Layer 12 sandwiches (this layer takes more because the bottom of the pan is more narrow)

Drizzle hot fudge & caramel sauce onto the cookies (you can do this on the first layer as well. I realized on this layer that I wanted the Cool Whip on top with the M&Ms, so I "hid" the sauce under the Cool Whip. 

Layer of Cool Whip

Sprinkle with mini M&Ms (or sprinkles, or chopped candy bars)

Or carefully place each little M&M on top while eating a few here or there. Whatever works. Great side shot here, Mighty Finn!

Freeze for a bit to firm up the ice cream sandwiches

Finn likes this because he can help make it and he likes to help with things... And he likes his little sister, Lena. He didn't send any pictures of her, because she didn't help make the cake. Hmm...

Yes, it looks great, but the real proof of any great recipe is the final test!!!

And that's a full approval smile right there! AKA: Cheesy Camera Grin. :)

Finn, thanks so much for being with us today! Great job on the cake and on making it special and those easy-to-follow directions are AWESOME!!!! Well done, little buddy!  And Finn, we are huge fans of your website!!!!

And for those of you who don't know, there are three Kindle books out about our fearless leader "Finn"...

What fun to have such a fun and diversified famous person in the cafe today! He's too short to handle the hot coffee maker, so Grammy Ruthy Logan Herne is your barista for the day, but Finn wants you to know that he loves coffee.... and that the best leaders of the very best kingdoms drink coffee ALL THE TIME.... no matter how tall they are!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Coffee Cake My Way

When my children were young and the house was full, we baked a lot!

Nowadays, if I bake it, I'll eat it, so I generally don't.  Not that I don't want the delicious baked goods, but if they're in the house, I have no willpower.

We have a lovely muffin shop one block away and they make an excellent coffee cake.

So I was looking forward to a week off to write, and coffee cake to have with my coffee while I worked.

Except, suddenly last week..... NO MORE COFFEE CAKE.

Fortunately, I discovered a boxed mix in the supermarket.  

Okay, go ahead and say it again all you "from scratch" bakers. 
Quelle horreur!!!
I know.  But it looked so good.
When we're in Maine in the summer, the local bakery sells a delicious blueberry coffee cake.  I decided to doctor mine. I added an entire bag of frozen blueberries and (way too many) walnuts.

Finished cake!


Fenway and I were out walking yesterday. Look what we saw IN FEBRUARY in NEW YORK!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lemony Delights

Mindy here, probably in my recliner with ice therapy on my shoulder and still under the influence of pain meds, so this post has been prerecorded. ;)

Did you know that with rotator cuff surgery you are not allowed to use the arm on which the surgery is done for 4 months? You cannot lift it, except under the careful watch of a physical therapist. You cannot push or pull with said arm. You cannot carry anything. You cannot brush your teeth or hair with that hand because it involves using the arm. That said, I will soon be able to write and type again, because that doesn't involve arm movement. But, basically, my elbow has to stay at my side. So I have the arm movement of a T-Rex.

I'm not telling you all of this for sympathy, I'm merely letting you know so you'll have low expectations for my upcoming posts.
Oh, yes, just think of the fun things to come as I try to become adept with my left hand.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to share this delightfully, surprising cookie recipe with you.
I first saw these on a Pioneer Woman Christmas special a few years ago, however I never made them until this past December. And even though I'd seen the recipe and bought the ingredients, I was still surprised by them. Probably because most Christmas cookies are super sweet. These are delightfully lemony, so I have decided to rename them Lemony Delights so you can enjoy them year round.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 sticks butter, softened (Ree says salted butter, but I only had unsalted, so I added pinch of salt to the mixture)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted twice
  • green and/or red candied cherries cut in half for topping (this is if you're making them for Christmas, otherwise omit)
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the vanilla, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice and orange zest and mix until combined.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl then mix again.
Add the sifted flour and mix until combined.
Put dough into a zip top plastic bag and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
When you're ready to make the cookies, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Roll dough into one-inch balls and place on baking sheets.
If you're using the cherries, carefully press 1 half, cut side down, into each ball. If you're not using the cherries, you could press them to slightly flatten or make a thumbprint or whatever. Even criss-cross with a fork, like for peanut butter cookies. Just don't make them too thin.
Bake for about 20 minutes, but don't let them brown.
Cool on wire rack.
Okay, so envision these without the cherries. You could even dust them with some powdered sugar, like lemon bars. But these are so light and buttery and that citrus flavor so refreshing.
Can you tell I love them?
I could eat every one of them by myself. But that would be bad, so I will share them with you.

Now it's your turn.
So what has everyone been up to? Are you still in the throws of winter or is spring trying to spring?

Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and kids. 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, February 20, 2017

Nachos for a Crowd (or only a few)

I'm not sure I've seen a happier bride.

(all photos by Megan of MNM Photography)

The groom had a few nerves, but not too bad,

Especially when he and his best man got a chance to have some fun for the photographer before the wedding. :)

But Jacob and Katie are married now, and the wedding was perfect.

We even had the groom's favorite for the wedding cake - Cheesecake!

I didn't get a picture of the nachos, though. I remembered to take the emergency kit to the church: needles, thread, double sided tape, duct tape, stapler, bandaids, alcohol wipes.... But no camera.

So you'll have to use your imagination!

This is Katie's recipe, and it was super simple and delicious!

Nachos for a Crowd (or only a few)


ground beef
taco seasoning
nacho cheese

tortilla chips

sour cream
chopped onions
chopped tomatoes
shredded cheese
jalapeno slices
black olives

The amounts you use depends on the number of people you are serving. We were planning for 80-100 people, so we used 12 pounds of ground beef. For a family, you'd use only one pound.

Brown the ground beef until it's thoroughly cooked. Add the taco seasoning (1 package per pound of ground beef) and cook according to the package directions.

Add the nacho cheese - the canned stuff. We used one #10 can per 6 pounds of ground beef.
So one pound of cheese, or a 12 ounce jar or can, per pound.

Heat the cheese and ground beef together and keep warm while serving. We used my big roaster.

Serve buffet style with the chips and toppings.

This was a hit. So informal, and everyone just helped themselves.

A great day, all around.

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, February 18, 2017

Fish fillet tostadas with spicy cilantro cream sauce

Hello, everybody! Mary Jane here and I have a delicious recipe for fish tostadas. (Actually, this could be set on rice or salad, too, but I like some crunch with my veggies.)

One package of breaded fish fillets, or bread and fry up your preferred fish
two cups corn
two cups black beans
four avocados
3 small tomatoes, chopped
4 tsp chopped onion

Veggie sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
3 tsp honey
4 tsp lime juice
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne pepper

Cream sauce:
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp fresh cilantro fresh cilantro
4 tsp lime juice
1 cup mayo
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 oz canned green chiles, mild
salt to taste

4 or 5 corn tortillas
salt to taste
Oil for frying

So, chop the avocados, tomatoes, onion and add to the corn in a medium bowl. 
 Mix the lime juice, cayenne pepper, honey, salt, and garlic together and add to the veggies above.
 Random pictures of chopped tomatoes. *sigh* These were from a store. How I miss fresh tomatoes right now!
 Prep the cilantro so it's ready to add as a garnish. I'm NOT a cilantro fan. Even the smell of it makes me queasy. But my husband loves it, so here we are... lots of cilantro. Because love.
 I love fresh limes. :)
Heat about 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil in a small pan until hot enough to crisp corn tortillas. 
I also made some corn chips for those who preferred mostly veggies and just some chips for a garnish.
As soon as the tostada is out of the oil and cooled, pile on the veggies and beans. This is a bit of a deceptive photo since the reality was almost all the ingredients were separate because I have picky eaters, so people were adding what they wanted, with or without sauce.
 Now, add the mayonnaise, garlic, lime juice, cayenne pepper and cilantro to a blender and blend completely. Add salt to taste.
 The fish should be cooked or near cooked by now. I picked up the wrong fillets so these weren't as crunchy as I wanted, but they were still good.
 Add the cilantro cream sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro.
A shot of the tortillas. If I wasn't so scared of hot oil, I'd make fresh tortilla chips every day!

Enjoy! I hope everyone is surviving the dark days of February. :) We haven't been felled by sickness yet  (knock on wood) and I have a dream of escaping the winter without any terrible colds or stomach flu! Be sure to stop by my author pages of Mary Jane Hathaway or Virginia Carmichael where I share all my book news and announcements.
Until next week!