Monday, September 16, 2019

A Visit to Amish Country

Hi everyone! Jan here, with a trip to Amish Country where the food is fabulous!

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Last week I told you about Ada, the heroine of my story in the collection, An Amish Christmas Kitchen. 

This week we'll learn a bit about the hero of the story, Matthias Yoder. 

Matthias is a quiet young man, a skilled wood worker, and the newest employee at Ada's family's business, Heritage Amish Furniture in Shipshewana, Indiana. Of course, the business is fictional, but it is based on the many family owned furniture shops in Indiana's Amish Country.

Matthias remembers Ada from their days together at school, but his family moved to Wisconsin soon after they both graduated from the eighth grade. Now that he is back and living in Shipshewana again, he is becoming reacquainted with the old neighborhood. He especially is happy to learn to know Ada again.

Ada's father sees Matthias' talent, and gives the young man more responsibilities. He takes Matthias along on a visit to a customer's house, and then to lunch afterward.

If you're familiar with Shipshewana and the many fabulous restaurants there, you might be surprised that they went to a little nearby town - Topeka, Indiana - to a restaurant that isn't as well known among the tourists.

Tiffany's is usually busy. There are some four-top tables, but most of the tables are long, with at least fifteen chairs on each side. Groups sit where they can, and often strike up conversations with the folks sitting nearby - strangers or not.

To do a lunch at Tiffany's justice, you need to start with the salad bar (it comes with your meal!) Matthias did, and filled his plate.

Next is the main course.

Matthias ordered roast beef and mashed potatoes. The last time we were there, I ordered the chicken and noodles while my dear husband got a turkey Manhattan.

Both are delicious!

And you can't leave without pie. You just can't!

You can choose from a dozen kinds, made fresh each day. We chose pecan...

...and custard.

You know the pie is good when your plate ends up looking like this!

Matthias enjoyed lunch at Tiffany's with his employer. He came away from the meal with...well...I better not tell you. I don't want to spoil the story!

But there's a problem when you write a scene during a meal for your characters...I've been craving a Tiffany's lunch ever since then! We haven't stopped in Topeka during our last couple trips to Indiana.

What about you? Do you think you'd enjoy an occasional Amish style meal? I know I do!

Jan Drexler spent her childhood dreaming of living in the Wild West and is now thrilled to call the Black Hills of South Dakota her home. When she isn’t writing she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills with her husband of more than thirty-seven years.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Chocolate Truffles Cooking Class!

Missy Tippens

My daughter and I took a truffle making class last weekend and made some delicious and pretty candies! We took the class at Cook's Warehouse with Chef Thomas Numprasong--who was a great teacher.

I thought I'd share some photos today. The chocolates turned out so pretty!

First, these are bags of the couverture chocolate (real chocolate made with cocoa butter) that we used--milk and white. There was also a dark chocolate, also from Barry Cacao, that we used to make candy kisses. You need to make sure you're buying a good chocolate. I looked up this brand when I got home. An 11 pound bag is around $90! So it is good quality, not the candy bark I've been buying at the grocery store.

Side note: the chef brought samples of regular chocolate chips and white chocolate candy bark so we could taste and compare. I have to say they're very different.

With the chocolate, we had to temper it, which is what gives it a nice sheen and flavor. (You don't have to temper chocolate if you're just melting it to eat on ice cream or something like that.)

There are different methods for tempering. Chef Thomas showed us two. One is the seed method (using a big hunk of already-tempered chocolate). The other is heating it to a certain temp, which we did over a double boiler, and then pouring it out on a cool marble/granite surface. Both help the chocolate re-establish the original crystals. You can read more about it here. I won't go through all the steps. It's pretty time consuming!

We also made our fillings. For the milk chocolate: peanut butter caramel. For the white chocolate: pomegranate molasses. YUM.

Here are our dark chocolate kisses that we piped using disposable pastry bags. It took us a a few rows to get the hang of making pretty kisses. The first ones looked... well, you can see one that looks more like a Tootsie Roll. Yep, I admit I made that one. Oops. LOL 

Here are some photos of the making of the milk and white chocolate truffles. The peanut butter caramel while cooling...

Chef Michelle (aka my daughter). :)

Okay, so here's the real chef. He actually worked to get the chocolate to the perfect temp.

While he did so, we decorated our molds with red and white cocoa butter and gold dust.

When the chocolate was ready, he poured it into our molds, banged it to help it settle, then poured it back out (this step was to lightly coat the molds). Then we let them sit to harden. Once ready, we piped in the caramel and pressed a peanut or two into the caramel. (I don't have photos of that.)

Then the chef once again poured chocolate on top to close them up. Once it was poured over the whole tray he scraped off the excess. We let them cool (and hurried it a bit by putting it in the freezer since class went long). Once they were cool, it was time to pop them out.

See how pretty!! The hearts are the ones my daughter and I made in our tray. We made milk chocolate ones. There are two white chocolates and also some other shapes also in our tray since we all shared.

More close up.

Oh, y'all, these tasted so good! The class lasted almost four hours, so it'll be interesting to see how long it would take to make these at home. I think I might try making them for gifts at Christmas. We'll see how crafty I get! I might just buy some at the wonderful local chocolate shop, Chocolaterie. I will no longer complain about the cost at stores like that! Because now I know the cost of the supplies as well as the time spent to make them. If I ever make them by myself, I'll be sure to share the endeavor here!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Well, as you can see by the timing here, Thursday crept up on me again.

Some day I will be one of those amazingly organized people who blogs three months in advance, dyes her roots before they show and has clean fingernails 24/7/365.

I will most likely be in heaven before any of those things happen, but there was THIS last night:

Isn't that stunning? I saw that moon through the misty heavens and the tree branches and I just marveled at the beauty of our planet. The gift of so much!

This was my first shot. The moon, playing peek-a-boo through the tree. Almost haunting, right? But so absolutely lovely.

And I waited until the moon rose a little more to get a better shot of the moon itself, but I didn't want to miss the aura. You know if the moon loses the angle, the aura fades away...

That's parabolic with so many things in life, isn't it? To wait until the direction is clearer, but not so long as to lose the wonder of the moment.

So this was supper:

Grilled chicken on salad... I did mine with chopped apple and dried cranberries and cukes and tomatoes and cheese.

Farmer Dave doesn't do fruit on salads! :) So his was meat and veggie-style with peppercorn ranch dressing.

Homemade dressing. By that I mean that I opened the Hidden Valley Ranch jar and spooned out two tablespoons and added a cup of milk and mayo.


Then I added about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and a lot of restaurant grind black pepper.


Pepper Parmesan Ranch dressing.

Still crazy busy here, which isn't abnormal, it's good! But I can't believe I'm late with this post while I've already written two October posts for other blogs. Forgive me!!!!!


Slightly crazed and still beloved inspirational author Ruth Logan Herne is raising pumpkins and writing sweet stories on her farm in Western New York where the beauty of God's season is reflected in her yard and in her heart... most days. On the occasional day she sneaks away and hides in a rabbit hole past the third hollow tree north of the Big Woods. Friend her on facebook or follow her on Twitter and visit her here or on her website

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Yank Take on Quesadillas

This past summer, when we were in Maine, my daughters and I visited a fascinating restaurant that had a variety of interesting globally-inspired, locally sourced dishes. By far, the best thing I tasted was the cheese quesadilla appetizer. Had I known how good it was, I'd have ordered two and skipped the main course. I also would have taken a photo so you could see what lives on in my memory.

I imagine the quality of the ingredients had something to do with the flavor, but what won me over was the cheese crust on the outside!

You know how when you make grilled cheese, you get the crispy parts where the cheese melted off the bread and toasted on its own? The entire crust of this was like that. I'm not entirely sure how they did it, but it was amazing - an entire cheese crust on the outside - and then there was the cheesy goodness inside.

I'd also had a veggie quesadilla recently that was okay (though it looked like it had been made with frozen veggies).

I decided I wanted to try to combine the two.

The result wasn't particularly pretty (my technique in crust-making left something to be desired), but it sure did taste good!
 First, I tried putting shredded cheese on the outside of the tortilla. Once it was melted, I flipped it to add the fillings - shredded pre-cooked chicken, veggies, and more cheese.

It didn't hold together well once I flipped it because I always tend to overfill with yummy fillings.

It's not a great photo, but you can get a bit of an idea about how the cheese crusted the outside.

Edited because I came up with a better plan.

After typing this up, I was hungry, but I had to take Fenway for a walk. SO, as we walked, I pondered how to improve on it.

Problem #1 was overstuffing. Not necessarily a problem if you prefer taste over appearance.

so - just cheese and chicken this time

Problem #2 was the cheese not spreading well.

Solution - I put the tortilla in the pan and put the cheese on top to melt at low heat. Once the cheese was melted, I flipped it for the crustiness. Then I put in the cheese and chicken.

For the top part, I decided to experiment with melting the cheese in the microwave. That was still pretty good, but not as good as the first way.

Then I tried the pan solution, but folding it over. I think that worked best.

Photographic evidence:

So, what do you think? Would you like a Yank Quesadilla?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Quick and Easy Fall Dessert

September has arrived and, with it, my urge for all things fall.
Sure, it's still hotter'n blue blazes here in Texas, but that doesn't mean I can't surround myself with that autumnal feel.

My youngest son gave me this cute crate last Christmas. And while it has been used for other purposes throughout the year, it's now perfect for a fall apple arrangement.
So as I'm transforming the inside of my house into a fall paradise, I started craving those fallish desserts. Things with apple or pumpkin... Except, I wasn't exactly in the mood to spend a lot of time prepping something either. I wanted easy.

Dump cake to the rescue!

Dump cakes are wonderful things, because you litterally dump everything in the pan and bake it. So prep takes virtually no time at all, they're super easy and they require minimal ingredients. You can also get as creative as you like.

Since I wanted something with the flavors of fall, I started with a can of apple pie filling. Just one because I was making a small dump cake, lest I be tempted to eat half of a 9X13 pan all by myself.
Now, canned apple pie filling can be kind of bland, so I emptied the can into a small bowl, then added about a teaspoon of apple pie seasoning. If you don't have apple pie seasoning (which I wouldn't have had I not received it as a free sample when I order some other spices), just stick with cinnamon, maybe a little nutmeg, if you like.
I stirred the seasoning in instead of sprinkling it on top of the filling after it was in the pan so that the spices would be incorporated evenly. Then I simply "dumped" it into my buttered baking dish.

Next, I sprinkled half of yellow cake mix over the apple mixture. (Remember, I'm making a half batch. Use the entire box for a 9x13. Oh, and two cans of pie filling.)
At this point, I was wishing I'd had a spice cake mix on hand because that would have been really tasty with the apples. So, I did the next best thing. I sprinkled a bunch of cinnamon over the cake mix.
Then I topped that with 6 tablespoons of butter. (That would be a stick and half for a 9x13 pan)
BTW, that one that looks more yellowish than the others in simply an end piece. 

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.
Cool slightly (or completely) before serving.
Served in a pretty dish, no one would ever think this dessert so simple. The extra spices had those fall flavors shining through in every bite.

I mentioned getting creative with dump cakes. When my boys were in scouts, one of their favorites was the Black Forest Cake version using cherry pie filling and chocolate cake mix. You could do spice cake with peaches or what about pumpkin pie filling? 

I'd better be careful or I'm going to talk myself into another dump cake real soon.

What combinations can you come up with? And is it feeling like fall in your neck of the woods or are you simply longing for it like I am? I sure wish I could head up the Ruthy's farm about now. That place is truly a fall paradise and can't wait to see all her pictures from this year.

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 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 a

Monday, September 9, 2019

Celebrating a Book Birthday with a Special Recipe!

Jan here, announcing a first for me: my first novella!

You can order this book here!
It is such a privilege to be part of this collection from Bethany House along with Leslie Gould and Kate Lloyd! Christmas stories are so much fun to write, and I found that I do love writing novellas. I hope to do more in the future!

My story in this collection is "An Amish Christmas Recipe Box." Ada, a shy girl who loves to bake the items she sells in the family furniture store, has her heart set on Amos, one of her father's employees. The problem? Amos doesn't seem to notice that she exists. Then Ada's outgoing sister comes up with a plan - The Great Cookie Campaign! Even though Rose's plans rarely work the way she thought they would, Ada agrees. Together they come up with four favorite cookie recipes for Ada to make for the furniture store's employees in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, culminating in a very special recipe for Christmas Eve.

Will the plan work? You'll have to read the book to find out!

But you don't have to wait to find out what Ada's special recipe was, because I'm going to share it with you now. Who knows? Perhaps this will become your family's favorite Christmas cookie!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies
(Ben's Favorite)

Mix together in a small bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground almonds, or commercial almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together in a medium bowl:

3/4 cup butter, softened (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat into the butter/sugar mixture until fluffy:

1 egg

Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.

Form the dough into 1" balls and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 350° for twelve minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are no longer shiny.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, then quickly and gently press your thumb into each cookie to make a depression. Put a scant 1/2 teaspoon of raspberry jam (or other red jam or jelly) into the depression.

Return the cookie sheet to the oven for another 5 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack.

Makes two dozen.

In other news, we're settling into our new home. By this time next week, we'll be bringing home our new corgi puppy, Jack, and the place will be complete!

There's nothing like preparing for a new puppy!

Jan Drexler spent her childhood dreaming of living in the Wild West and is now thrilled to call the Black Hills of South Dakota her home. When she isn’t writing she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills with her husband of more than thirty-seven years.