Saturday, December 3, 2016

Traditional Almond Cake for Christmas and Book reveal!

Hello, everybody! (Wow, that was bold. But I kinda like it so I'm going to leave it.) The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a recipe I've shared before. Every year since I first brought it to the cafe, in fact. It's sort of a Christmas tradition to make this fragrant almond cake during Advent. Sort of like sugar cookies or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving or Jan's spiced cider. Certain seasons and holidays make us yearn for certain foods. So, although we made it in my new cast iron bundt pan this year, the recipe is still the same! Edna has been retired (but still present in the kitchen to give advice) for several years, but she loves a little bite of fresh almond cake. Happy Advent!

It all started when Edna was thinking on the good old days. She talked about dresses, and aprons and pyrex...

                                                             And utensils...

Which reminded me of something I picked up but wasn't sure what to do with... Ask Edna, of course! She knew what it was right away. It was a hard cheese grater, but you could also use it for grating nuts, like almonds.

But why would I want to grate almonds?? I mean, that's the real question here, right?

Edna was scandalized I had never made an almond cake. And so we began.

I'm a lazy, modern woman and didn't want to spend 3 hours grating almonds. And I have this minor wrist issue. Typing and all that. Ouch. I watch the wrists the same way a model takes care of her face.

(Here I am chained to my desk. I know, a little facial waxing may be in order.)

It's not quite our 'locavore' lifestyle, but a can of almond filling does the trick. You can also find recipes online for making your own if you don't have wrist issues and want to do everything the hard way.

Mix 1 cup of softened butter
        1 cup sugar
        and 3 eggs.  

Wait, this sounds like cookies! Hmmmmm.....

And in the almond filling. (Ugh. Is this a dump cake? I'm still scared to Google that term. Looks pretty close to what I was picturing..)

In one bowl, mix 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp baking powder. THIS IS A COOKIE RECIPE! I knew it!
 Oh, wait. And 1/3 cup whole milk. Edna said to add them, alternating between the flour and the milk, but STARTING with the flour and ENDING with the flour. Got that? I almost rolled my eyes, but I've learned to take dear Edna at her word.

You can add a coin for good luck, or a small porcelain figure, like a tiny baby Jesus. It's tradition that the person who finds the coin or the baby has wealth and happiness... But make sure everyone searches their cake piece BEFORE eating it.
55 minutes in a greased and floured Bundt pan at 350F. My house smelled AMAZING. It was like an amaretto latte being waved under your nose.
Drizzle of basic powdered sugar icing. I wanted to dress it up but Edna said DO NOT MESS WITH THE CAKE. So I didn't. She was so pleased, immersed in happy memories.

I got out some nice china for our cake and tea. I was ready to serve the warm cake and Edna made a strange little sound.
 She was staring at a plate. Not a nice one, either. It was plastic and a little chipped.
Oh, AHEM. Yes. Early art project. Mother's Day, kindergarten, specifically.

See, she's wearing a crown. :) All mamas are princesses, you know. I have no idea if she really had a striped dress like that, or if I just liked red and blue. And I'm fairly sure her hands were NEVER that size.

Edna requested her piece of cake on that old plate. I tried to talk her out of it. Old, yes, but not a nice kind of old! Not pretty vintage! Plastic and scribbled and not safe for the mircrowave kind of old.

She would not be dissuaded. She said that vintage is a matter of time, and treasure is a matter of perspective. In forty years, my grandchildren will think it's a great plate so I should stop sticking it in the microwave.

One big thumbs up from one small person. He also managed to sneak in some blue frosting. Because all food tastes better when it's BLUE.

Now, for the reveal! I started several new projects this year. One was a whole new pen name for Regency books, another took months of my time and I STILL can't say anything about it (ha!), but one long-term project is finally emerging. It's a six author, shared-world series set in Arcadia Valley, Idaho. 

It's taken months of planning, organization, and work, but our first book (a novella collection) is up for pre-order! Starting in February , one book a month will be released by one of the six authors in the group, for a total of 24 books. (I'm up first with Summer's Glory, and I LOVE the book. But I always love the book I just finished so... take that with a grain of salt. LOL)

 The blurb for my novella, called Spring's Blessing:

Life gets complicated for Charlotte MacGregor when a motherless child and a handsome widower encroach on her carefully laid plans. Will she keep her heart above the fray, or take a leap of faith?

So, that's the almond cake revisit for 2016 and my new book reveal. Can you believe the year is almost over? It went by so quickly!! 
Be sure to stop by my author pages at Mary Jane Hathaway or Virginia Carmichael, or visit my blog at The Things That Last for more news!.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoons around here are...quiet.

The kind of quiet I hated when I was a kid, but the kind I cherish now that I understand.

You see, I take a Sabbath rest. I love this day of rest and worship.

Sunday breakfast is easy-peasy. Bagels. Cereal. Juice. Everybody gets their own.

And now that everyone is older, we actually get to church on time :)

Sunday dinner is easy-peasy. Crock pot. Breakfast tortillas. Sloppy Joes. Pot Roast. Meatloaf.

And all the prep work is done the day before, so all I have to do is heat it up. I don't really cook on Sundays.

Next comes a long Sunday afternoon of reading, playing a family game, maybe taking a drive up into the Hills...until winter arrives.

On chilly Sunday afternoons, I like to keep a crock pot full of hot, spiced cider going - adding to it as needed - and we all sip cider while we're reading, playing games...or watching football!!!

(I'm the only one who likes the football - the others ignore me while the game is on.)

So, who's going to join me for a pot of hot cider this week?

First you need a crock pot. I have two crock pots - one for meals and one for side dishes and cider. It holds about a gallon.

Fill the crock pot with cider or apple juice, add 1/4 cup brown sugar, and then add the spices:

2 sticks cinnamon
10-12 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Put all the spices in a bag. You can make one out of a coffee filter, or you can buy one of these spiffy paper tea bags my daughter found to use with her loose-leaf tea.

I break the cinnamon sticks in half so they fit easier, and fasten the top of the coffee filter bundle with a safety pin I keep just for cider.

Stir the brown sugar into the cider, add your spice bag, and turn your crock pot on high. It will take about an hour for the cider to heat up and get all spicy. Once the cider is hot, turn the crock pot down to low.

You can also use a pot on the stove. Once the cider is hot, just let it simmer.

The bonus is that sweet, spicy, appley fragrance filling your house all Sunday afternoon...

Are you ready for the weekend???

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jiffy Corn Casserole

This is one of my favorite go-to casseroles now.

It all started with my daughter Sarah. Sarah had this somewhere in New Jersey and then made it for a baby shower...

We loved it.

But then we lost track of it for a while, and I didn't think about it until we were helping get things ready for a big autumn party.... and Sarah was making this casserole.


I forgot how good this was, and it's now become a clan favorite.  KAV... this is vegetarian friendly, it keeps well, and you can even freeze it....

So for you, you could divide the ingredients into two 8" square pans or 7" or 8" round pans... and then just bake until done.... then freeze one.

Super simple 5 minute recipe with about a 40 minute baking time:

The Sour Cream declined to be photographed for this interview.

Jiffy Cornbread Corn Casserole

1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 can whole kernel corn, undrained
1 can cream style corn
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine (no seeds)
1 1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheese

Mix everything together except the cheese. Pour into lightly greased 13" x 9" pan or two 8" pans....

Sprinkle  cheese over top and stir in lightly. Bake at 350° for about 40-50 minutes (less for two 8" pans) until casserole is lightly browned and looks more solid....

This isn't a cornbread, it's more of a spoon bread, and it's amazingly delicious.

It is highly addictive.

I would eat this every single day if I could.

In fact, I just might.

And everyone in my family (the vegetarians, too!!!) love this!

I messed up because it was busy and didn't get pics, but I've got two here... so that's what we're going with for today!

But here are some fun holiday pics at the farm:

Zach, moving breakable village houses up to the beams as little ones storm the back door!!!

Eli and Jon peeling potatoes while watching football on Thanksgiving morning:

Finn and Xavier making cranberry orange relish: ALERT!!! Small children operating power tool with grinder! No fingers were lost in this exercise!!!

Floor mini-marshmallows are always the best! It's a win/win: Easy access for baby and efficient dusting by marshmallows!!!

clearly now the holidays are underway in upstate/Western New York because Ruthy has burned her first batch of sponge candy....


And every busy holiday house needs someone to be their Mike Rowe... To do the dirty jobs, like licking the spatula after making chocolate cream pie.  :)

It's a dirty job....  but someone's got to do it!

Hey, I'm still hawking books all over the web.... come visit my website, or friend me on facebook or stop by Seekerville and chat with a bunch of great authors.... and their friends. 

I'm delighted to be sharing this wonderful holiday season with you, and this baby shepherd and I are wishing you the merriest of Christmases!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Of Poldark and Veggie Burgers

Any POLDARK watchers here in the cafe?

I confess a large part of this post was conceived just as an excuse to talk about Poldark.

The season finale was this past Sunday, and although there were times during this past season when Ross was anything but heroic, I stuck with it and in the end I *almost* forgave him.

If you're interested, I found a really interesting podcast interviewing Ross about the whole situation. As a fan of the show, I enjoyed it, but as a writer, it had me thinking about how I create history for my characters. Lovely to listen to him really analyze his character and his relationships.

Poldark Podcast 

So the food connection (bear with me) -

In one of the last Season 2 episodes, Dr. Dwight tells Caroline's uncle that he suffers from the "sugar disease" which I assume is diabetes.

Watching that episode on the Sunday after Thanksgiving having eaten so many wonderful pies (and heading into Christmas cookie season), I was reminded how badly I needed something healthy to eat.

So I decided to play with some healthy foods.

First I baked some gorgeous sweet potatoes.

Then I added some sprouted lentils and toasted sunflower seeds

I had the idea to add in some greens.  At first it looked like I had created an impossible mess, but they actually mashed down quite well.

I baked them for about fifteen minutes.

They made a great lunch. 

I tried adding some dried cranberries for a different flavor.

So let's talk - food or Poldark????

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stuffing, or Dressing, Waffles

So Thanksgiving is over, and if your house is anything like mine, you're still noshing on leftovers. But eating the same old same can get boring after a while, so why not do something a little different.

I saw this last year on some cooking show and decided that I had to try it. We did and loved it. I haven't quite perfected it, though I think I know the problem.

We'll start with our dressing, or stuffing, if you prefer. The majority of Texans call it dressing. Me, I just call it yummy. One of my favorite dishes of the entire Thanksgiving feast.
Around here, we do your basic cornbread dressing, no fancy ingredients. Not that I haven't tried, but I seem get shot down every time. "Don't mess with tradition, Mom."
Okay, okay, I get the point.

Now we're going to scoop some of that beautiful dressing onto our HOT waffle iron that's been sprayed with Pam or some such product, and kinda sorta press it down just a little with our spoon.
Close the lid and press hard. Just long enough to compress things.
I had my waffle iron set between medium-high and high and it took about 5-6 minutes for the waffle to cook.
Crisp outside, moist inside. Though getting it off of the waffle iron was a bit tricky. I ended up picking up the iron and flipping the waffle over onto the plate.
Once you've plated your waffle, simply top with your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers. Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy... The one I saw on TV was stacked high with a little bit of everything.
Okay, so one key here is that you want moist dressing. And while I did achieve my waffle, I think, next time, I'll toss a beaten egg into my dressing before putting it on the waffle iron to keep things together a little better. 

Now it's your turn. Do you have some creative ways with your Thanksgiving leftovers? If so, we'd love to hear about them.

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, November 28, 2016

Winter Sunshine

Jan Drexler (The Mid-Westerner)

Why haven't there been many pictures of Thatcher lately?

Have you ever tried to catch wiggly fur ball?

There's my handsome boy! I had to bribe him for this one... :)

On to today's recipe - -

A couple weeks ago, our own Cate Nolan shared a post about turmeric. If you missed it, go read it now, but then come back! Here's the link.

This recipe is how I get my turmeric, my vitamin C, and lots of other good stuff.

And it's so tasty!

I have to give credit to a couple other people, though. I didn't think this one up on my own!

The core of this recipe is from Trim Healthy Mama's Singing Canary. (also delicious, but a little more complex).

Then last spring, my friend Martha Greene of Marmee Dear & Company, shared a simpler version on her Facebook page. (Check out her Facebook page!)

I tweaked her recipe a little, but not much.

You need some special ingredients for this drink, but they're easy to get thanks to the internet.

The Daily Sunshine Drink

If you have one of those handy stick blenders (I love mine!), combine all the ingredients in a 1-quart mason jar and blend them there.

Otherwise, put the ingredients in your blender...


1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 teaspoons stevia sweetener, or 3/8 teaspoon pure stevia
1 teaspoon Vitamin C powder
1 scoop integral collagen
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon orange extract, or 8 drops orange essential oil
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract, or 4 drops lemon essential oil
pinch mineral salt

Blend together, then add 4 to 6 ice cubes and more water to make one quart, and your drink is ready to enjoy!

Now, about those special ingredients...

These two are your Vitamin C powerhouses. The lemon juice is in your local grocery store. I buy the Vitamin C powder on-line. Each teaspoon of the powder provides 450 mg Vitamin C. Here's the link to this powder on Amazon.

I buy my Integral Collagen from the Trim Healthy Mama website. What is this stuff? Here's the link from THM to tell you more about this product. Basically, it's gelatin broken down into shorter amino acid chains. You can substitute gelatin powder for the collagen without affecting the benefits. Here's a link to gelatin powder on Amazon. Or you can use Knox gelatin (those orange boxes from your grocery store).

Benefits? It's supposed to soothe joints, your nervous system and help your skin, nails and hair. I know my nails are stronger and my hair is thicker since I've been using this.

It's just another form of my mom's remedy for brittle nails from the 1950's - Jello. :)

Sorry about the fuzzy picture...  Be sure to use a good quality turmeric. Some of the cheaper brands have been found to be less than pure, triggering a recall a couple months ago.

I use stevia as my sweetener of choice. You can also use sugar, but that tends to defeat the low sugar lifestyle I'm trying to maintain...

The Truvia, on the right, is a blend of stevia and erythritol (a natural zero carb sugar alcohol). The erythritol lessens the bitterness that some people taste in pure stevia.

The stevia package on the right is from Trim Healthy Mama. I haven't found it to have that bitter edge, but different people have different tastes.

I use 3 teaspoons of the Truvia, or 3/8 teaspoon of the pure stevia. (In THM language, 1/8 teaspoon is called a "doonk." So 3 doonks.) :)

The flavorings. Katie, my future daughter-in-law, is my supplier for doTerra essential oils. I really only use this one and the lemon for this drink. They add a zing!

But you can also use extracts from the grocery store to achieve the depth of flavor that makes this drink sing. I'm not into essential oils, and I'm sure there are benefits from using them instead of the extracts, but I'm really looking for flavor here.

Real Salt from Amazon
There has been a lot of talk about salt lately. Between the pink Himalayan Salt and the black salt from India, and every color in between, you can go crazy trying to figure out which is the best. And some of those gourmet salts are pretty spendy...

Some people will say that salt is salt. Good old sodium chloride is all you need.

But I figure that if I can increase my intake of beneficial minerals while I'm salting my food, why miss that?

I use Real Salt as my mineral salt. The price is reasonable (especially when you buy it in bulk), and it's been around for years.

And one more thing - - If you like cold drinks in a Mason jar, don't forget to put a sock on it.

Clean orphan socks love to find new purpose as a drink cozy!

This drink is one way I stay healthy during cold and flu season. What are your favorite tricks?

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: