Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year's Eve!

Hello, everybody!! Mary Jane here wishing you a VERY happy New Year's Eve!

If you haven't claimed your prizes, please be sure to contact us by our blogs or facebook pages so we can get those to you. :)

If you have a party planned but still don't know what to cook, check out our list of delicious appetizers, warm and filling easy recipes and melt-in-your-mouth delightful easy desserts!

Also, be sure to stop by Seekerville tonight for their annual New Year's Eve blowout! Lots of fun book chats and (of course) giveaways. Yours truly will be there around (counting backwards an checking time zones) 2PM Pacific Time so come on by and tell me what YOU do to beat discouragement!

I hope to see you there, and may your New Year's Day be peaceful and bright!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Baked Sausage Cannelloni

Missy Tippens

I saw this wonderful, ooey, gooey, cheesy recipe on Pinterest and knew I had to make it. So I pinned it to my cooking board. Then when we were discussing our menu for Christmas Day (and my traditional beef roast was axed), I decided to make pasta and went straight to Pinterest.

The recipe for Baked Cannelloni is from Johnsonville (Who else besides me can't say that name without thinking of the old TV commercial where they call all the neighbors-- "Johnsonville braaaats"?). :) You can find the recipe at by clicking here.

I'll tell you right now that the recipe was delicious. But it was very time consuming. Probably one that I won't make again for that reason. Of course, part of the reason it felt so tiring was that it was Christmas Day, and I'd been up until 3:30 am getting ready. Then had cooked breakfast, gone to church, and then cooked lunch. So maybe I should give it another chance! If you don't mind all the steps, then be sure to try it. Everyone loved it.

You can find the list of ingredients at the original link. A couple of notes:
--I used 1 package sweet Italian sausage links.
--I could NOT find cannelloni pasta at Kroger or Publix so just bought large shell pasta (I was afraid manicotti tubes would break while stuffing them with meat).
--I only baked for 30 minutes and that was plenty.

I'll share my photos...

Cooking the vegetables.

The sausage before removing from the casings (Oops. I bought store brand without thinking about where the recipe came from!)

Making the béchamel sauce. Which is basically the white gravy that I make (with sausage) for our favorite breakfast food. :) For this recipe, you add cheese. :)

Adding the egg yolks.

The baking dish with some of the béchamel sauce for the first layer.

The shells stuffed with the meat, vegetable and sauce mixture.

And, no big surprise, with the craziness of Christmas Day dinner I forgot to take a photo before we nearly ate the whole pan of pasta! Here's the last little bit with the yummy browned cheese on top.

So, if you don't mind a recipe that takes a good while to prepare, you may want to give this one a try. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Apple Strudel with Puff Pastry

Good morning, friends!

I've got my days of the weeks a little confounded here, and almost forgot this was Thursday... and yet, it is!

I've been practicing making strudels (A rolled pastry filled with sweet or savory filling that came to us from Austria and other European countries) using puff pastry. A purist would say that phyllo (fillo) dough is more authentic for strudel, and while that might be true, we like the puff pastry results better. The puff pastry holds together better while using less butter, and it's moister than Fillo dough....

I still use Fillo dough for baklava, but for strudels, I buy the Puff Pastry when it's on sale and keep a few boxes in the freezer. They thaw quickly and I can take a sheet of the dough (two sheets per pack) lay it out, thin it with a few swipes of the rolling pin and lay it on a buttered cookie sheet, ready to fill. Fillings can be store-bought (Poppy seed, lemon, fruit pie filling) but I like to make my own when time allows.

For Christmas I made the apple nut strudel I posted in September RECIPE HERE  but I wanted to try a fruit filling, too. I had a bin of apples that needed some love so I grabbed two large Crispins, peeled and cored them, then diced them. I put them into a smallish saucepan, added 1/4 cup water, covered them and steamed them on medium heat until soft.

While they're steaming (it only takes a few minutes once they get hot) I mixed 1/4 cup flour with 3/4 cup sugar.   Add in 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.  Mix dry ingredients together. 

Stir into hot, softened apples. 

Add 1 tablespoon butter.

If mix is too thick, add a splash of water (probably another 1/4 cup)

Turn down heat and stir gently. Mixture should form a thick apple pie filling, and it takes less than ten minutes to make it.

Spread a thick layer of filling over the middle third of your thinned puff pastry on the cookie sheet. Fold one side up and over. Repeat with second side. Score the top by making half a dozen diagonal slashes with sharp knife so steam escapes.

Brush with two tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (Mix one tablespoon of sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to make cinnamon sugar).

Bake at 400° for about 15-20 minutes. Pastry is done when it puffs up, turns golden brown and appears "dry". Remove from oven and let sit, then drizzle with glaze below:

Vanilla glaze:

2 Tbsp. soft butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add enough milk (not much!!!) to mix with whisk.... Drizzle over strudel.

And this is what they look like with drizzled glaze on a Christmas platter! Needless to say they were enjoyed by all!

Total prep time for this is about twenty minutes (and that made two strudels) including peeling and chopping apples and thinning the pastry dough by rolling it into a bigger rectangle.

I did notice the apple filling made the puff pastry "spread" a little more. The dryer nut filling kept a classic rectangle shape... but the apple pie filling spread into a more oblong shape. But it was filled with delicious apple-y goodness, so we didn't care!

And Mary and Joseph made it to the stable as hoped and planned! And she brought forth her first-born child and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn....  and you can see from the bits of yarn, our manger is soft and warm to welcome the baby!  During Advent, kids get awarded a piece of yarn for going out of their way to do something nice and kind and good... The more yarn you see, the nicer the little ones have been! Their good deeds "warm" the manger for Jesus. :)

Wishing you the best possible New Year's weekend... I treat myself on New Year's to a quiet weekend of writing and hosting the Seekerville Rockin' It New Year's Eve party over on our Seekerville blog. The party starts at 6:00 AM on 12/31 and goes ALL DAY until midnight Pacific time! 

Hourly prizes, fun conversations and giveaways, and virtual food, dancing and fireworks!!! :)

It's a great place to hang out if you don't have a hot date for New Year's!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Shepherd's Pie - the vegan way

What do you think of when you hear Shepherd's Pie?

I picture a cozy country cottage (probably in the English or Irish countryside) and a family gathered around the hearth eating a meat pie covered in a thick layer of mashed potatoes.

Hungry yet?

Cook's has a video. Here's hoping it plays. (You probably have to go to the page.)

I attended a Christmas party last week at a German restaurant and one of the items listed for the buffet was Shepherd's Pie. I was so excited.

Turns out German Shepherd's Pie is very different. The meat is bratwurst and beneath the potatoes was a layer of sauerkraut. Different, but delicious still.

The next day while I was waiting for my daughter's coffee drink to be ready, I picked up a magazine that had Shepherd's Pie on the cover - but it was a chicken one. The drink took awhile to be ready, so I got to read a lot. Apparently there was a lot more to changing the recipe than just switching to chicken. I wish I'd noted which magazine it was in.😟

Onward to Christmas Day.

My husband and eldest always have Thanksgiving Turkey and Christmas ham, but my vegan daughter always selects some new dish for us to try. This year we made a vegan Shepherd's pie.

The reason I'm sharing it today is because I think substituting black-eyed peas for the lentils would turn this into a rib-sticking New Year's Day meal.

(I can hear all you carnivores screaming NOoooooooo!)😱😱😱😱😱

We started with diced onions, carrots, parsnips and garlic.

Fresh thyme and sage.

 Mushrooms go in next.

Simmer everything for a while in the Dutch Oven.

The recipe called for a covering of whipped cauliflower, but my daughter had been eating so much cauliflower lately that we decided to substitute mashed turnips.

The turnips rest lightly on top.

After it's all baked.


It looks like mush here, but it's the perfect comfort food - and not an unhealthy ingredient in there!

To give proper credit, the Shepherd's Pie we made was a mish mash of these two online recipes.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Mashed Cauliflower


Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Parsnip and and Potato Mash

Do you have a favorite Shepherd's Pie recipe?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew

Jan here, revisiting a favorite recipe.

Christmas at our house was delightful. :) With a blizzard warning for Christmas Day, we moved our festivities to after church on Christmas Eve. We had our Christmas Tea (see this post for details) and then did what we have never done since I've been married - - we opened presents on Christmas Eve!

(This is an inside joke between my husband and I. When the right time is to open presents has been a topic of discussion for thirty-five years! I say Christmas morning is the only time to open presents, and he, well, has a differing opinion.)

And then the blizzard hit early Sunday morning, starting with freezing rain and quickly turning to snow. Church was canceled, and we hunkered down. The wind really picked up around 2:30 in the afternoon, and by 4:00 the interstate was closed from the Wyoming state line to the Missouri River. That's half of a very large state!

The biggest problem was that we were in the house...with lots...and lots...and lots of food. Remember all those Christmas treats? The Christmas dinner? Fudge? Pies? Cookies? More fudge?

Oh, it was a wonderful feast. :)

But now - even before the New Year arrives - I'm ready to go back to reasonable eating. In fact, if I never see another grain of sugar again, it will be too soon.

(I say that now, but we still have fudge around...)

Anyway, to help combat the Christmas goodie woes, I looked up this soup recipe I shared a few years ago. I still love this one for its savory goodness. And it's so easy to make!

Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew

The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful!

Winter has finally come to the Black Hills with a bit of snow and cold temperatures. But we're ready! The wood pile is full and overflowing, the pantry is stocked, and new soup and stew recipes are lined up for tasting!

This recipe was delicious! The flavors wrapped around each other in a delightful savory blend.

Now, if that description doesn't make you want to try this stew, maybe the easy preparation will...

Sausage, Kale and Bean Stew


2 pounds bulk sausage (I used turkey sausage)
1 cup chopped carrots
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (optional)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 16-oz. can tomato sauce
8 cups broth (I used 4 cups vegetable broth and 4 cups chicken broth)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin

beans (see below for the explanation of this ingredient)

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh kale, or 1 1/2 to 2 cups frozen chopped kale

The beans: You can use any bean you like in this stew. I used lentils when I made mine. The only prep was to rinse the lentils and put them in the stew.

For other types of beans, you will need to soak and cook them first, or use canned. Some varieties that would be good are black beans, Great Northern beans, Navy beans, or Small Red beans.

The amount of beans you use depends on the type of bean. You'll want more of the small ones, like lentils or black beans, and fewer of the larger ones, like Great Northerns or the Small Reds. In general, I would use 1 - 2 cups of dried beans or 2 cans of canned beans.

The amount also depends on your own preference. Do you like lots of beans? Add more! Not so much? Keep the beans to a minimum. :)

You could make several batches of this stew, vary the beans you use, and it will turn out different every time!


In a large Dutch oven or soup pot (I used my 8 quart stock pot), cook the sausage, carrots, garlic and onion over medium-high heat until the sausage is no longer pink, breaking up the sausage as it browns. Drain the fat, if needed. Since I used turkey sausage, there wasn't any extra fat.

Add the tomato sauce, broth, bay leaf, cumin, and beans or lentils.

Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes.

Stir in the kale and cook for 10-15 minutes more.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

This stew freezes well, which is good, because it makes a large batch!

And a bonus: If you're following "Trim, Healthy Mama," this is a hearty "E" meal when you leave out the optional potatoes. That means it's lower fat and filled with healthy carbs. The non-sugar, stick your ribs kind of carbs. And packed with protein. A win/win, right?

Now it's your turn! How was your Christmas celebration? Whatever chaos ensued, I hope you took time to contemplate the surpassing wonderful news of Christ's birth!

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:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wishing You a Blessed Christmas

The Cafe is closed from Saturday, December 24th thru Monday, December 26th so we may all celebrate Christmas with our families and friends.  We wish you all the most blessed of holidays, and thank you for spending your time with us each day.

Love, Cate, Jan, Mary Jane,  Mindy, Missy, and Ruthie.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Chocolate-Butterscotch Holiday Treats

with Missy Tippens

I wanted to share one of my favorite holiday treats for our last day of the 12 Days of Christmas Treats. Thank you so much for taking part! If you're listed as a winner, please contact the author on her Facebook page or website. Our winners for the week are:

Friday: The winner of one of my books of choice: Terrill R.

Saturday: From author Mary Jane Hathaway...Trixi is the winner of Season of Hope and Lisa Hudson wins the Cookie Swap Christmas cookbook. 

Monday: The winner of Jan Drexler's prize of a signed copy of Mattie's Pledge is DebH.

Tuesday: Mindy Obenhaus's winner will receive 'Tis the Season Cookbook  and a copy of Falling for the Hometown Hero. The winner is Wilani.

Wednesday: Cate Nolan's winner of Christmas in Hiding is Debbie Rhoades. Choice of print or e-book.

Thursday: The winner of Ruthy Logan Herne's Cowboy Christmas Homecoming is...TBA! I'm posting this before she's had a chance to draw a winner. :) Stay tuned to the comments for the announcement.

And now my recipe!

Missy's Chocolate-Butterscotch Treats

I started with Mindy's recipe for Chocolate Peanut Bliss: click here. But I doctored it up, mainly to make it stretch further.

1 pack vanilla almond bark
1 pack chocolate almond bark
1 pack (4 oz) Baker's German Sweet Baking Bar (I'm convinced this is the secret ingredient making it so yummy)
1 bag semi-sweet chips (12 oz)
1 bag butterscotch chips (12 oz I think)
32 oz. dry roasted peanuts
½ of a large bag Chow mein noodles

Chop the chocolate bark and bar. This was taking me forever, so I just started digging the tip of the knife into the chocolate to break it up in chunks.

Toss all the chocolate and chips into the Crock Pot. I turned it on high to start the warming but then turned it down to low.

While the chocolate melted (stirring occasionally), I gathered the other ingredients along with my silicone baking sheets and parchment paper.

When the chocolate was melted (don't over-cook it!), I used a whisk to smooth it out (some of the chips didn't want to melt really well).

Once smooth, stir in the nuts and noodles. Then spoon onto the paper/silicone mats and let sit until hardened. This step took a couple of hours, so be sure to leave time--especially if you're planning to pack them up as a gift.

These are definitely something kids can help make. I guarantee everyone will love them!

Merry Christmas y'all! I hope you enjoy the time with friends and family. And also remember the Reason for this season. We'll be closed through the long weekend but will see you back next week!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brown Sugar Fudge (Penuche)

Hello, my friends! Ruthy here, "The Yank" and all of us up here in the cold, snowy North are wishin' all o' youse a very Merry Christmas!
A baby shepherd has been sighted! :) This is Finn, when he was one year old... He didn't quite make it into the Living Nativity picture. We decided he was a wandering shepherd... a nomad, mayhap?

I love fudge. I love stopping by places with signs bearing "FRESH FUDGE" because fudge-lovers know what that means: Old fudge just isn't as good.

So the trick with fudge (to me, anywho!!!) is to develop recipes that taste great... and keep tasting great!

This one is perfection. I used Maple Syrup with mine, but if you wanted a more "brown sugar" taste you could use molasses and just cut the amount in half because molasses is a much stronger flavor.

Basically I took the recipe from the small Fluff jar and played with it. Most often I find that if you have a good basic beginning, changing the elements might change the taste, but keep the quality. So that was the goal.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
6 oz. evaporated milk (half a big can) Or if you're using a 5 oz can, add cream or whole milk to go to six ounces. That silly little extra ounce makes the fudge creamier and stay creamier longer. 
4 TBSP (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 tsp. salt
1 jar Marshmallow Fluff
1/2 cup real Maple Syrup (or use 2 TBSP molasses instead)
1 12 oz bag white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (if desired)

In large saucepan combine both sugars, milk, butter, salt, Fluff, syrup or molasses. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. (I like a medium-medium/high heat.) Don't worry if marshmallow gets golden... it's supposed to! Make sure you're stirring all edges of pan. 

Cook to soft ball stage (235° to 238 ° on a candy thermometer) 

To kick the thermometer to the curb, test fudge by drizzling a spoon full of fudge into a coffee cup half-filled with cold water. If the fudge schlurps together into a ball, but flattens when you remove it from cup, you're at "soft ball" stage! Go you!!!!

Add in the 12 oz of white chocolate chips and nuts if desired. Stir until all is melted together and pour into foil lined 13" x 9" pan. Cool completely before cutting.

This fudge is amazing. I keep it sealed in a cool room or in the freezer and it loses no quality even two weeks later.

Air "sugars" fudge, making it crusty and taste stale. Keep it sealed and cool.... and while refrigerators are great tools, if your kid leaves the fudge open in the fridge while helping themselves to a piece, then the fudge takes on the smell of the fridge...

So I usually keep it out of the fridge for my own sake because yes... I love fudge!!! This is two weeks later and as sweet and creamy as the day I made it... 

And here's a little catch-up from the farm! Punch and cookies for the kids who call this home before and after school:

And remember the living room floor project? Well, here are the before and after shots!

Hey, in keeping with our 12 Treats of Christmas, I have a copy of this beautiful historical collection "Cowboy Christmas Homecoming".... I had the pleasure of working on this with Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman and Anna Schmidt, and what a good time that was! Four historical novellas in one sweet book! 

And when you love cowboys like I do.... :) Going back in history with a cowboy or two was a natural thing to do!

They've weathered a lot worse than winter. For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She'd call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can't help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart.

Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. Some hired help over the holidays doesn't change that. And even if Roy does take care of her, that doesn't mean he cares for her or that he'll stay past Christmas.

Pastor Colton McCabe is having the opposite problem. He's not sure he'll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can't seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart.

And no one longs for a home more than Connie Lancaster. She's determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she's been waiting for isn't to a place but a person.

Leave a comment below (or if Blogger gives you a hard time, then leave a comment on my facebook page Ruth Logan Herne....) and we'll count it! 

May God bless you... May the king of all that's good and holy shine upon you and yours and may your heart be healed from any sadness or grief... And may you feel God's love rain down upon you during this beautiful holy season... and all through 2017.

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne has over a million books in print, and still pinches herself each day to make sure this is real... and it appears to be!

Visit her website or friend her on facebook (Ruth Logan Herne) or swing by her blog  She loves getting to know folks!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Butter Pecan Turtles from the Land O Lakes Butter Box aka Caramel 'N Chocolate Pecan Bars

One of my favorite candies is Pecan Turtles whether they come prepackaged like these
 or in one of those lovely boxes of Sees chocolates - these are called Pecan Buds.

My neighbor always brings me Sees as a thank you for taking care of her cats when she is away. Nice kitties. Even nicer neighbor!!!

So one of our very favorite holiday treats has always been the Butter Pecan Turtles recipe I got off the Land O Lakes butter box many years ago. I saved that battered old piece of cardboard for a very long time before it just disappeared (or possibly disintegrated).

Fortunately, there is Google. I found the recipe.

(The site was really slow to load for me, so I'm giving you the recipe here.)

When I told my daughter I was doing it for this post, she remarked, "Oh, you mean those incredible bars I used to eat way too many of until I felt sick?"

Um, yeah. How's that for a ringing endorsement?

So, here you go -

There are two parts to the recipe. First you make the shortbread cookie part.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½cup Land O Lakes Sweet Cream Butter, softened (I always used salted)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 3-quart bowl combine crust ingredients. Mix at medium speed, scraping sides of bowl often, 2-3 minutes or until well mixed and particles are fine. Pat firmly into ungreased 13 x 9 x 2" pan.

    *** Now you need 1cup whole pecan halves (not chopped) ***

    Then you have the caramel layer.
  • ⅔ cups Land O Lakes Sweet Cream Butter(again, I used salted)
  • ½cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1cup milk chocolate chips

    Caramel Layer: In a heavy 1-quart saucepan combine brown sugar and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until entire surface of mixture begins to boil. Boil 1/2 to 1 minute, stirring constantly.

    Now it's time to assemble:

    Sprinkle the pecans over the unbaked crust.  I know it says to use them whole, not chopped, but I liked them broken up. It seemed to allow the gooey caramel to cover them more.

    Pour the caramel evenly over the pecans and crust.

    Bake at 350 degrees  for 18-22 minutes, or until entire caramel layer is bubbly and crust is light golden brown. Remove from oven.

    This part is fun. Immediately sprinkle the chips over the hot bars. Allow the chips to melt slightly (2-3 minutes).  Then slightly swirl the chips as they melt; leave some whole for a marbled effect.

    Cool completely; cut into 3-4 dozen bars.

    Just try to wait until they're cool to eat them!

    A cookie that masquerades as candy! Can't beat that.


    I have another copy of Christmas in Hiding to give away.