Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween in Brooklyn





BOO!


Last week Mindy remembered that in the past I've posted photos of my neighborhood at Halloween.

That gave me an idea, so I took some new ones to share with you this year.




When did Halloween lights become a thing?


Some go for the simple, natural look.



Zombie lights


More lights.







When my girls were little, and we were heading off to the neighborhood parade, I always made a hearty pot of stew to have for dinner so we'd be well fortified.

Do you have a Halloween meal or is just another day in your household? I confess that this year I've been reminiscing about those sweet days when the girls were little and my family was all together.


And one more thing - with due apologies to Ruthie -

GO RED SOX!!!!!

It was a bittersweet World Series in my house, but I'm choosing to believe that my husband finally got to watch his beloved Red Sox win the World Series along with his father who never lived to see the end of the "Curse of the Bambino." There were rainbows shining over Fenway Park. I like to believe it was the Curry men smiling down.






Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Savoring Fall with My Favorite Oatmeal Cookies

I am thrilled that fall has finally come to the ranch. And after a stretch of gray, rainy weather, we're finally enjoying some glorious autumn days. We've had some beautiful sunrises...
And the weather has been perfect for getting out and enjoying all the ranch has to offer.
 Yes, these pictures were taken just a couple of days ago.
I know what you're thinking, though. It's so green. Well, here on the coastal plains of Texas, we don't get a lot fall color. Post Oaks aren't known for their changing leaves, Live Oaks are evergreen, then there are pines and cedars... You get the picture. 

Speaking of Live Oaks, there are some massive ones in our area and a good many here on the ranch. So many that we occasionally stumble onto one we've never seen before. Like this one we spotted the other day.
Notice how there are some big ole limbs stretching out from the main trunk. That one spreading to the right is almost as big as the trunk itself. Live Oaks can be some gnarly trees, but, boy, are they interesting or what? Just think of the tree house one could have in this thing.

This fall weather has me craving some autumnal-tasting cookies. Something with those fall spices we all love so much. Cinnamon and cloves...

And Oatmeal Raisin cookies fit the bill.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 2/3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup dried berries/raisin blend
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugars.
Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves, then, with the mixer on low, lest we send flying everywhere (experience talking), add flour mixture to shortening mixture and mix until blended.

Now stir in your oatmeal.
So about those nuts and the berry/raisin mixture.

First, I like to see and taste the nuts in my cookies, so I coarsely chop them.
And pecans are always my nut of choice. That said, you are allowed to use whatever nuts you like and chop them as finely as you prefer.

As for the berries and raisins, I had just a small handful of raisins on hand and about a half a cup of this dried berry fruit mix that had golden raisins, cherry flavored dried cranberries, regular dried cranberries and blueberry cranberries. Honestly, I loved it so much, I will probably make these cookies strictly with the berry blend from now on.
Add the fruit and nuts to the rest of the mixture
Stir to combine.
Then drop by large tablespoons onto your prepared baking pans.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. If you like them crispy, let them go the longer time, if you like them chewy, go with the lower time.

I ended up with a mixture of both.
Either way, they were so delicious. The spices, the berries... It was the perfect balance and had that delicious fall flavor I was craving.

Well, I got my book turned in a few days ahead of schedule. Now it's time to catch on some chores around the house before diving into the next one. And can you believe it's time to start thinking about Christmas. I have a lot of people on my gift list, so I'm always eager to get an early start.

Now it's your turn. When you're craving the flavors of fall, what your favorite thing to make to fulfill that craving?




Three-time Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. 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 www.MindyObenhaus.com 

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Lowly Cabbage and Wrinkled Rocks

If you're like me, whenever someone mentions "cooked cabbage," I'm immediately transported to a neighbor's house from my childhood and a steamy winter kitchen reeking of sour, smelly, unappetizing cabbage.

But I do love cabbage, as long as it isn't boiled to death in vinegar water!

Give me some raw cabbage, sauteed cabbage, fried cabbage, roasted cabbage, and I'm in heaven. Add a little butter, some onions, and some cilantro, and it's even better.

So when I ran across this recipe on Pinterest, I had to try it. The original recipe is from the peaceloveandlowcarb blog, but I adjusted it to serve two. I forgot to take pictures, but believe me, it was delicious!

Fried Cabbage with Kielbasa for One or Two

ingredients:

1/2 pound kielbasa (or other precooked sausage), sliced in 1/4" rounds
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. malt vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 big handfuls coleslaw mix, or shredded cabbage (enough to fill your frying pan)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
parsley

Melt one Tablespoon butter in a large frying pan, then add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant (I love that part - the garlic smells so good!)

Add the vinegar to the pan and stir.

Add the sliced kielbasa and saute until it is slightly browned.

Add the second Tablespoon of butter, paprika, salt and pepper, and stir. Then pile the shredded cabbage on top until your pan is almost overflowing.

As the cabbage starts cooking down, toss the mixture carefully. Continue to cook and stir until the cabbage is soft and beginning to brown.


So, what's so great about cabbage?

It's full of vitamins and fiber, it's low calorie (1 cup of raw cabbage has 15 calories), and is found in many varieties. If you don't like the flavor of green cabbage, then try red cabbage, or bok choy. Napa cabbage is another variety, and even Brussels sprouts are an option (another veggie that is often boiled to death! Try slicing the sprouts thin and using them in a recipe like this or added to a salad - it will change your Brussel-sprout-loathing mind!)


Now we come to the wrinkled rocks. Have you been wondering about them?


Wrinkled Rocks is the name of the area of the Black Hills that is immediately behind Mt. Rushmore.


It's a popular area for rock climbing because the spires aren't as tall as some other spots (like Cathedral Spires), so they're great for learning how to handle the ropes and carabiners.


When we hike there, we just enjoy exploring the rocks.



It isn't a difficult hike, and it isn't a long one, but it sure is beautiful.
Especially on a fall afternoon.




I have a feeling this was our "goodbye autumn" hike this year, because the weather is changing. Our hike a couple days later was quite different...


Winter is coming!

Back to the cabbage - What is your favorite way to eat it?




Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan Drexler.com.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Seafood Night!

Missy Tippens

I'm sharing this today because I felt really clever when I made these dishes! :)

I decided to have a seafood night and picked up some good shrimp (I was craving shrimp cocktail) and a couple of lobster tails on sale at the grocery store. When it got to be time to cook, I had to figure out how I was going to cook everything. And I came up with an idea.


First, I seasoned a pot of water with Old Bay and the juice of a lemon. I put the water on to boil.

Then I added the shrimp. It only takes 2- or 3 minutes to cook them (until they're pink). These were huge, so I think I did it more like 3-4 minutes.


Then I scooped the shrimp out of the water and put them in the refrigerator to chill. I poured off about half of the water and put the rest of the nice shrimpy/spiced water back on the stove to keep boiling. I put a steamer insert into the water.

Then I laid the lobster tails into the steamer basket.


I covered the pot and steamed the tails (they were pretty thick so I let them steam for a few minutes but kept a close eye on them). While they cooked, I melted butter in small bowls for each of us.


I took them out when they looked done (no longer translucent).

I felt very clever for re-using the flavored water this way! And it really did give the lobster tails a great flavor.

Here was our seafood feast for two!


www.MissyTippens.com

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Winding Down on the Farm!

Pumpkin season is almost over....

The end is in sight!

I can tell because I was able to wash the bedding from two beds, top to bottom.

I was able to sweep floors.

I was able to spot wash the family room carpet.

And next week I will keep cleaning because when farm season walks in the door, cleanliness flies out the window. There are only so many things a body can do and no one pays us to clean so other than absolutely necessary tasks.... A lot gets put on hold.

So now it's kind of fun to do "spring cleaning" in the fall... and next week is window washing week. And more inside tweaking between writing times.  And I actually have my writing time back again.

Oh, saints be praised! Hallelujah chorus!!!! :)

I love clean windows. Clean windows are a must. I know why I love clean windows... because I grew up in a house where the windows were really dirty and smoke-crusted. There were no curtains. Some broken blinds...  And the windows were all dirty.

Now I don't expect it was that way when my Grandma Herne lived with us. Myrtle Swarthout Herne loved to garden...

So do I.

She loved to work outside.

Me, too.

And her windows were always clean!  But she moved out of our house when I was five, so I don't really remember the time with her there.

So did the love of clean windows get passed down from her? Or was it simply my reaction to growing up with really dirty windows, so now I like to keep them clean.

Washing windows is extremely satisfying.

Now, before you laugh, think about it. There is something very nice about greeting the change of seasons with clean windows. It makes the sunny days brighter and the gloomy days less foreboding.

A clean window is like a gift. Like a mirror of the soul. I've mentioned that in a couple of books, people liking their windows clean and that's totally me injecting myself into the plot...

This house is 164 years old. It isn't like a lot of old houses. It has LOTS of windows.

Now you would see that in village houses and city houses circa 1900 and on, but not so much in farmhouses because windows were expensive (and still are) and farms needed to invest in seeds. Equipment. Barns. Stock. Hired help.

Who had money for windows?  But as people have owned this house, they've made a few nice adjustments with each owner and each one added more windows. (I added twelve myself when we put the family room on.... so I'm just as much to blame!!!)

We have to replace some next year. A few years ago we replaced the three in the attic. Then we replaced all five of the basement windows....

And we added the family room with twelve windows.... I wanted the little ones to see the world around them without having to climb on anything. (I might have wanted to think about how CHILLY the west wind gets in winter. Ooops...)

On the second floor we have some very drafty windows that need TLC, plastic sheeting in winter, and maybe replacing if it's priced right... but each bedroom has four windows. Yep. Four. There is even a window in each closet. Trimmed in gorgeous oak.

WHO DOES THAT?????

The former owner. I could turn one of those closets into an office and still have a window! That's so New York, right????

Anyway, the point of all this is that I love clean windows and I don't mind cleaning them... because then when I start putting up Christmas swags and candles, everything just glows with sweetness....

I LOVE THAT SO MUCH!

So there you have it.

I love windows. I love cleaning windows. And I love getting that done before decorating because it makes everything look so very special.

Sparkling clean windows are like a light unto our souls....

I used a quote like that in "Running on Empty" and when Beth Jamison got to that, she was like... "Yup. That's Mom. Clean windows are a must."

I always figured if the windows are clean and a twenty minute pick up takes care of most of the mess, the house really isn't all that dirty. Is it?

Laughing, but you know it's true!  So here are a few farm pics from this week:

Great YMCA field trip yesterday. We did an easy-up tent because we have no barns... and it was sprinkling lightly and then "Misting" as we went to meet the donkeys and sing songs....


And they seem to have had a good time!







And our first BIG BUS school trip:



And a group shot on the front steps:



:)

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne does seem to get odd enjoyment out of unlikely things like cleaning windows and taking care of donkeys, but we try to overlook that here at the cafe... where the windows are very, very clean! :)

You can find her website at ruthloganherne.com or friend her on facebook or follow Ruthy on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Salvage Soup

I was teaching my class about alliteration this week, so salvage seemed like a good word to pair with soup.

We've frequently been open about our cooking disasters here in the cafe.

Today's post is sort of a disaster turned success.

The background - go ahead and laugh at me, but I'm a novice in this pet owning thing. Fenway is the only dog I've ever had and my experience is limited. So when I found a dead flea next to him last week, I kind of freaked out. Because of his cancer and chemo, and some skin issues, the vet and I had discussed flea med options, but nothing seemed right.

Until the flea arrived. Then the need to eradicate them overrode other concerns so Nexgard entered the picture.

Fast forward to Saturday. I'd bought a good organic chicken breast at the market and was set to make a nice harvest meal.

And then I began vacuuming and cleaning and washing, etc.

And while the chicken was cooking, I noticed Fenny scratching. Oh NO!
Yes, I found a live flea on him. It must have been affected by the meds because it was easy to catch and kill, but in the process...

I FORGOT ABOUT THE CHICKEN.

By the point I remembered, this is what it looked like!


I wrapped in up and stuck it in the frig, but by the next day, I had the idea to try to salvage it by turning the charred carcass into soup!

And it worked!

First I simmered the chicken breast with herbs and garlic. That softened the meat. I added carrots and celery, but the best addition was ............. drumroll............  APPLES!

I chopped a couple of apples and threw them in.

The result was. The chicken had softened enough that it was quite tasty again.

And the apples... they gave the soup a gently sweet flavor.

So, all is not lost. The soup was salvaged.

Have you had to salvage a meal when your attention got diverted?











On another note, my neighborhood is getting ready for Halloween.

This was so cute. I
I passed a mother walking with her small daughter. The girl looked at this tree pit and solemnly informed her mother that someone was buried there. When I passed, the mother was trying to explain it was only decorative.


Is it Halloween or Christmas?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Little Bit of Pumpkin (Cake)

So last week was about soups and some other fall weather favorite meals. But it dawned on me the other day that here we are, more than midway through October, and I have not eaten or made anything pumpkin.

Hmm...

Time to remedy that. 

Actually, I've shared this recipe before and I really do love it. First, it's delicious. And it's small, only an 8x8 or 9x9 pan's worth. Meaning you're not munching on cake for the rest of the week.

Here's what you'll need for this Pumpkin Cake:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened cream cheese
  • 2 Tbs butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium to large size bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until well combined.
Add pumpkin and oil.
And beat a medium speed to combine.
Love that color.

With your mixer on low, add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
And beat for one minute.
Yes, the batter will be thick.

Spread batter into greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan.
Bake until cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.
Allow cake to cool, then make your frosting.

In a medium size bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla.
And beat until fluffy.

Spoon frosting onto cake.
And spread evenly, using knife or offset spatula.
Delicious!
A taste of autumn in every bite. And what's not to like about that.

We've had a pleasantly cool and rainy week here in south central Texas. Perfect weather to stay inside and finish the second book in my current contract. I'm excited about the way it turned out. Those characters can sometimes throw you curve ball, but it usually makes things turn out better. Now it just needs a little spit-shine before I send it off to my editor.

So what are you up to this week? Writing? Reading? Making the most of autumn before winter sets in?





Three-time Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. 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 www.MindyObenhaus.com