Monday, August 31, 2015

Brisket revised, but still A Western Tradition

You can preorder Hannah'sChoice here!
Jan here, with a recipe rerun. That's what happens when you're on a deadline! But the book is in good shape, and I'll be hitting "send" to start "Mattie's Pledge" winging its virtual way toward my editor tomorrow afternoon (I hope!).

This book, the one due tomorrow, is the second one in my Amish historical trilogy from Revell Publishers. The first in the series, "Hannah's Choice" is coming out in January!

You can order "A Home for His Family" here.
Meanwhile, my third book from Love Inspired Historical, "A Home for His Family," is releasing tomorrow!

So exciting stuff is going on around here, and cowboys are going to be the center of attention!

Western style brisket is on the menu today. This is a repeat recipe from a while ago, with an update because in cowboy country, once you let people know you want to fix a brisket, you get loads of advice.

I would be reluctant to change my original recipe from The Pioneer Woman (below), but then I tasted the brisket my friend, Mel, fixed.

Oh, my, was it tender, moist and delicious!

So I made some slight changes in the recipe I shared last year, and they'll show up in bold italics as we go along.

So here's the amended post:

Even though I'm "The Midwesterner" at the cafe, right now we live in the western part of the Midwest.

Cowboy country.

Open spaces, big skies, antelope, coyotes...

...and cattle. Lots and lots of cattle.

What do you think happens when you add multiple-thousands of acre sized ranches with tens of thousands of cattle?

Branding time.

This is what the western prairie looks like in April. By June the grass
is knee-high and emerald green.

Once the grass starts greening up and the spring calves have all arrived, each rancher needs to round up the cow/calf pairs and bring them in to a central location. The calves are roped, vaccinated, given a quick once-over and branded...all in about a minute each.

Starting late April through Memorial Day, ranchers meet at each other's spreads to join in the work - and fun - and the traditional branding day meal.

This branding day spread is a big deal. This is where the rancher's wives can really show off what they can do - I mean besides working alongside their husbands day after day.

One of the traditional meals is brisket.

I don't have a branding crew to feed, but I did get a brisket with the half steer we put in our freezer last January. I knew that somewhere along the way, I'd have to fix it.

So I went to the internet to look for recipes. I could have "corned" it, and had corned beef. (Yes, that was tempting!) Or I could have smoked it (but we don't have a smoker, like Mindy did when she fixed her brisket. You can read her post here.).

I ended up at the Pioneer Woman's website, and found a recipe I could fix in my kitchen. Here's the link to the original recipe.

Of course, I had to change things up a bit so I could use what I had in my pantry. Here's the recipe I ended up with:

Braised Beef Brisket

1/2 envelope onion soup mix (like Lipton)
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cups Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke 
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
4-6 pounds beef brisket

Now, to begin with, the brisket is a pretty tough piece of meat. It comes from the chest of the steer, and is tough and stringy.

That is, until you prepare it correctly. That's why corned beef is so popular - the pickling breaks down the fibers of the meat. This marinade, combined with hours of slow roasting, does the same thing.

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large roasting pan. (Don't do what I did and try to make do with your 11x13 baking dish - but it was the only one that would fit in the refrigerator.)

Put the brisket in the liquid, turn it once to coat both sides, position the meat with the fat side up, and cover the pan tightly with foil.

Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

Read that again: refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours!

Remember all those tough fibers? This cut of meat needs that much time.

If you were smart and used a large roasting pan, you can just stick in the oven as-is.

But, of course, I needed to transfer mine to a larger pan.

Set your oven for 250°, and let that meat s-l-o-w-l-y roast for about eight to ten hours. 

This is where I changed the recipe after tasting Mel's version - extend that time to twenty-four hours.

Yes, you read that right!

(Is anyone adding up the time? If you want to serve this meat for Thursday dinner, you need to start marinating it on Tuesday morning. This dish takes some planning ahead!)

Amended time: start roasting the meat on Wednesday night for Thursday dinner - and start marinating it on Monday morning.

About ten minutes before serving, take the meat out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes.

Slice it thin, across the grain.

Serve it with some of the juice from your pan, and you have a delicious main dish! 

And be sure to plan for leftovers!!!

When you're ready for the leftovers, take the cold brisket out of the fridge, and slice it.

Heat it up with some of the leftover juice and a few tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce...

Ever since living in the Kansas City area many years
ago, we've become BBQ sauce fanatics. This brand
is from Blue Springs, Missouri, and delicious!

...and you have Sunday night supper all set to go.

Wait! I forgot to tell you the best part! 

Even though these two meals were hours (and days!) in the marinating and cooking time, the actual prep time was only about ten minutes!

When you're on a deadline, that's priceless!

Jan here again - what is your favorite last-meal-before-the-deadline recipe?

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!