Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Coffee Chat!

The Belle, here. Pull up a chair and let's chew the fat. (Do y'all say that up North, or is that just a southern expression?)

While you're gathering around, I'll take your order for coffee, tea, etc. So let me know what you'd like.

For our topic today, I checked another conversation starter website. They offered "Would you Rather..." questions, and I thought we'd have fun with that! So please jump right in.

This one cracked me up and seemed perfect for The Cafe...

Would you rather eat a stick of butter or snort a tablespoon of salt?

LOL! And since that one will take us five seconds to discuss, I wanted to add another one.

Would you rather have your flight delayed by 8 hours or lose your luggage?

Have at it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesdays With the Texan - Mexican Casserole Two Ways

Mindy here. There's nothing I love better than a versatile recipe. Make it easy and that's even better. Add a little bit of Tex-Mex and...well, you get the idea.

This easy Mexican casserole is one of my favorites. And I love that I can make with either chicken or beef to suit whatever I have on hand.

Okay, so here are the basic ingredients:
  • Corn tortillas (I'm not sure how many. I usually buy a pack of 20)
  • 1 can of Ro-tel (diced tomatoes with green chilies-I use the milder version)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 packet enchilada seasoning
  • 1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 C shredded cheese (I use the Mexican blend or sharp cheddar)
Now, depending on which version you're making, you will need:
  • 1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (I used venison)  AND 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • Approx. 4-5 cups of cut up cooked chicken (if I'm really in a hurry I'll pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store, but this is also a good use of leftovers) AND one can cream of chicken soup
Brown your ground beef with the onions. For the chicken, simply saute your onions in a little bit of olive oil. Drain the ground beef.

Add Ro-tel, chicken (if that's the version you're making), and soup. In a separate bowl, whisk together enchilada seasoning, tomato sauce, and 1 1/2 C water (follow directions on seasoning packet, but you don't need to cook it). Add to meat mixture and mix well.

Cut tortillas into triangles. I usually get about 8 per tortilla.

Add a thin layer of sauce to bottom of greased/sprayed 13 x 9 in. pan. Top with tortilla wedges. I took this pic half way through, but you do cover the whole thing.

Add another layer of sauce and top with half of the cheese.

Add remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until top is browned and sides are bubbling.

I can't tell you which version I prefer better, because I love them both. My guys scarf it up. Hubby likes to top his with jalapenos or salsa. Guess I don't make it hot enough for him. 

Another bonus is that you can make this ahead and freeze it. Simply adjust your baking time. This is a great option when you're looking for a dish to take to someone in need. And if you take it unbaked, they have the option to freeze it or bake and eat it right away.

I hope you enjoy your Tuesday. I'm battling a head cold this week. Ugh! I haven't been sick in years and this is my second cold this winter. That's just not fair. Maybe I'll have to whip up some chicken and dumplings.

Happy Tuesday, y'all.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Recipe from Author Sandra Orchard

Missy, here. I'm thrilled to share a recipe with you today from Love Inspired Suspense author Sandra Orchard. If you're a writer about to take part in our upcoming Speedbo book-in-a-month challenge in Seekerville, then these would be perfect to make ahead and freeze for Speedbo month. Great for a snack or breakfast.

Sandra features this recipe in her new March release, Shades of Truth, Book 2 in the series Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line.

In Shades of Truth, youth worker Kim Corbett is determined to save Hope Manor, the Christian-based juvenile detention facility her father founded.
     Now she just has to convince the town of Miller’s Bay, and especially undercover cop Ethan Reed, the justice-driven detective who threatens her mission and her heart. He’s adamant a manor employee is recruiting young offenders into his drug ring.
     But with a vindictive murderer on the loose, Ethan is the least of her worries. Or maybe he isn’t, because the family secrets they uncover will get her killed if Ethan finishes the job he was sent to do.
     If only Kim had paid more attention to the overabundance of yummy banana muffins that continuously appeared at the hospital and detention center, not to mention the church, and every counter in their home, she might’ve realized that her mother’s stress-baking was rooted in something far more disturbing than her husband’s diminishing health.

Shades of Truth won't be in bookstores until mid-March, but if you’d like it now, click here to buy it from Harlequin at 20% off, and use coupon code FREESHIPAFFO to receive free shipping until Mar 31st.

Yummy Banana Muffins 

6 large bananas
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chocolate chips

Mash bananas. Add slightly beaten egg and olive oil. Stir in the dry ingredients just to combine. Bake at 375 °F for 20 minutes.

Ruthy note:  I made these this afternoon... They are delicious! I did add sugar because I'm addicted. I used this recipe with a half-cup of sugar and (sinful!!!) white bread flour.  They are amazing!  I did a few without chocolate chips because a few people gave up chocolate for Lent, but even the plain ones are worth bragging about. Thank you, Sandra!!!


Sandra Orchard writes inspirational romantic suspense set along the northern shores of Lake Erie in the heart of the Niagara region, Canada. In 2009, she won the Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence, and the following year sold her Undercover Cops series to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense. To learn more, visit Sandra online at

UPDATE! Sandra is sponsoring a giveaway on Goodreads! So click here to check that out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sandra Lee Smith's Speedbo Eggplant for Simply Saturday!

Good morning and thanks for having me here at my favorite restaurant run by two of my favorite people. 

Well speedbo is coming up and I have a recipe for some brain food. Did you know that eggplant is considered healthy for the brain? And not only is this recipe good brain food, but it can be prepared early and stored for one of those writing days you don't want to stop and fix a meal for the family. Because it has carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables in it, you have a whole meal in one pot.

Way to go for Speedbo!

Eggplant Casserole (modified from recipe found in Cooking With Gourmet Grains by Charlene Martinsen)

1 cup brown rice (3 cups cooked)

1 large eggplant pealed and cubed

1 onion chopped

1 lb ground beef (or ground chicken or turkey)

½ cup dry sherry or dry wine

1 ¾ cup canned tomatoes, drained (14 oz can)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 ½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp MSG or Accent (optional)

Put cubed eggplant in boiling salted water and boil for five minutes.

Brown onion and ground beef.

Add tomatoes and sherry: bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes.

Add drained eggplant, cooked rice and all remaining ingredients.

Transfer to a 3 quart buttered casserole dish

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (Or I just heat in microwave)

This can be frozen and heated when you need a prepared meal. (Like during speedbo) In my family there are only the two of us so when I fix this recipe we eat half of it for dinner and then I freeze the other half for a quickie meal later on.

This can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator for company coming and you don't want to be in the kitchen.

This is a great recipe for lent or if you have friends who are vegetarians. Simply leave out the meat. The parmesan is what gives it such wonderful flavor. If your friends are vegan, leave out the parmesan, but I would advise you to add some herbs of choice when you saute the onions to give the casserole some delightful flavor.

Well folks, ramp up your brain power and enjoy your eggplant.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup!

Missy, here. It was 77 degrees in Georgia yesterday, so my planned sharing of hot, yummy soup seems out of place! But I wanted to share a new recipe anyway. I tried this a couple of weeks ago and loved it. I first saw it made on Food Network on Ree Drummond's show (click here for the original recipe). She made it look so simple that I grabbed up ingredients I had on hand, modified her recipe and bit since I didn't have exactly what I needed, and made it that night. Here's my version.

1 stick butter
1 diced onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I only have skim)
2 cups half-and-half
freshly grated nutmeg to taste (just a pinch)
4 heads broccoli cut into florets (I had a bag of pre-washed veggies and used all the broccoli plus added some cauliflower to make the equivalent of about 4 heads)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups grated cheese (I had a 4-cheese Italian mix on hand)
Optional: chunks of ham or chopped bacon (I used pre-cooked bacon)

Chop the onion. I wanted to show an easy way I've learned watching cooking shows. Peel it. Then cut off one end, but save the root end. Set it on the cut side, and then slice downward all the way around the onion (see the photo above). Then turn it back on its side, hold onto the root, and slice. It'll come apart in nicely chopped pieces. :)

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent.

Sprinkle the flour over the top. Stir and cook for one minute. Pour in the milk and half-and-half. Stir.

Then add nutmeg, broccoli (and cauliflower if you want), salt and pepper.

Here it is steaming. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer on low until broccoli is tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Add the cheese and allow to melt

I chopped my pre-cooked bacon and stirred it in.

You can mash the veggies some or even put portions in a blender to smooth it. I mashed mine a little with my potato masher. Someday, I'll invest in an immersion blender.

Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Maple Nut Glaze


You doubt me.

Do not doubt the Ruth-meister!  ;)

For this recipe you will need

1 pork tenderloin
Rosemary garlic seasoning

Rub tenderloin with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.

Sear in olive oil in heavy skillet. Brown on all sides. Cover and cook to desired doneness. (Remember they've raised the "ban" on undercooked pork because trichinosis has pretty much been eradicated because pigs are not fed meat. Although pigs like meat. But anyway, you can cook it any way you want now, that's all I'm sayin'!


1/2 cup Maple syrup (real.... Did you have to ask????)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice.

Bring to boil. Reduce water (you can sound fancy and call this a "reduction" because it is. But I like the term "glaze") until mixture thickens, a few minutes of soft boil. Stir in 2/3 cup chopped walnuts.

Either serve over pork or mix with pork drippings and use as a 'sauce'...

The first way gives you a thicker nut glaze. If you water the glaze down with the drippings, you get a sweet/savory sauce that combines all the elements of the pork and the sweetness of the glaze.


Done. Done. Done.

Takes about twenty minutes. Serve with rice or potatoes or baked sweet potatoes (microwave about 7 minutes...)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coffee Chat!

The Belle, here. It's coffee chat day. So what'll you have? A vanilla latte? Hot Earl Gray? Some nice hot cocoa or perfectly spiced chai?

Pull up a chair, and let's chat about (from the conversation starter website)...

What is the one thing you miss about being a kid?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Easy (and Yummy) Chocolate Sheet Cake

The Texan here. This weekend was a special occasion in our house. It's rare that I have all of my kids and grand kids home at the same time, so this was really a treat. Of course, I made sure they were well fed. Naturally, our big meal was Sunday. We had smoked brisket and chicken, corn on the cob, fried potatoes, cabbage, homemade guacamole, and the list goes on. So when I realized I'd forgotten about dessert, I went for an old stand-by. One sure to please every palate. You can never go wrong with this easy chocolate sheet cake.

Over the years, I've seen this recipe called by many different names, with slight variations to the recipe. Usually the fat. All use some butter or margarine. From there, some add more butter, some shortening, others oil. I generally use oil, but the choice is up to you, because the amount does not differ.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1/2 C (or one stick) butter or margarine
  • 3 T cocoa
  • 1/2 C oil (or butter, or shortening--whatever floats your boat)
  • 1 C water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t vanilla
First, read entire the recipe and directions before starting. Y'all have no idea how many times I've gotten myself into trouble because I've failed to adhere to this rule.

In a medium sauce pan, bring butter, cocoa, water, and oil to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently.

While mixture is cooking, add eggs to sugar and mix well.

Be sure to give your cocoa mixture a stir.

Now add buttermilk, flour, soda, and vanilla, to eggs and sugar mixture and beat well. This will be thick and kinda stiff.

Once your cocoa mixture has come to a boil, add to above and blend well, making sure to scrape sides and bottom of bowl.

Pour into greased and floured sheet cake pan, tilting pan until batter is evenly spread.
Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare frosting. For that, you will need:
  • 1/2 C (or one stick) of butter or margarine
  • 6 T buttermilk
  • 2 T cocoa
  • 1 box (or 4 1/2 C) powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 C chopped pecans or walnuts

In a large saucepan, bring butter, buttermilk, and cocoa to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, if not constantly. 

When mixture comes to a boil, add powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Stir in nuts.

By now, your cake should be done.

Pour frosting over HOT cake, spreading to edges.

Voila! An entire cake ready in less than an hour.

However, once cooled, it may not last long.

What a fun time we all had together. That is, until Grammy started taking WAY too many pictures. Oh, but what treasured memories for all. None of which had to do with cake.

Is food a big part of your family gatherings? Is there one person that usually does all the cooking, or does everyone have their part?

Happy Tuesday, y'all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Stir Fry

Missy, here. One night a couple of weeks ago, I had to throw dinner together quickly (I know, what's new about that??) :) So I started grabbing. I would have preferred chicken in this dish, but I didn't have anything pre-cooked or thawed out. So I grabbed the imitation crab that we usually keep on hand (my family loves it) along with a new product I had tried as a sample at the grocery store: flavored cream cheese. I also got to try out my new wok! So it was a great, quick meal.

1 bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
1 package imitation crabmeat (or any meat you'd like to prepare), chopped/sliced
Rice--I use boil in bag 10-minute rice
1 carton Philadelphia Cooking Creme (I used Italian Cheese and herb)
Canola oil (about 1-2 teaspoons)

Put rice on to cook.

Meanwhile, heat oil on medium high. Add frozen vegetables and cook until crisp-tender. Add in crabmeat and the Cooking Creme. Stir until well mixed and warm. Serve over rice.

Can you think of anything quicker than that?!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's Romantic Spaghetti Night with Romance Author Myra Johnson!

Myra Johnson's Romantic Spaghetti Night

Thanks for inviting me to the café, Ruthy & Missy! So happy to be here during Valentine’s week! To introduce my recipe, I’d like to share a short romantic excerpt from my novel Autumn Rains. The heroine is Valerie Bishop, whose late husband owned an Italian restaurant. In this scene, Valerie is helping her sister-in-law, Ellen, prepare spaghetti for dinner.

The back door swung open and Connor [Valerie’s brother] breezed in. “Mmm, Italian. My favorite.” He planted a noisy kiss on Ellen’s cheek.

“Come back here,” she demanded when he turned away. “You can do better than that.” Grabbing a chunk of his blond hair, she pulled his face to hers and kissed him passionately.

The color rose in his face as Ellen released him. “It’s the marinara sauce,” he said, winking at Valerie. “Always does that to her. You know, Italian, the food of romance?”

Well, I’m not Italian, and these days (cooking for just my husband and me) I usually buy marinara sauce in a jar. But back when I cooked for a family of four, one of our favorite meals was spaghetti with my homemade sauce. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s my recipe. Amounts are approximate because I typically cook using the “a little of this, a little of that” method. This is one recipe you can tweak any way you like!

Servings: about 3-5

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
½ white or yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
½-1 4-ounce can mushroom pieces and stems, with liquid
½ cup red wine (optional) OR ½ cup water
¼ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. basil
½ tsp. garlic powder (or use 1-2 crushed cloves)
¼ tsp. summer savory
¼ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. fennel seed
1 tbsp. sugar
2 or 3 bay leaves (remove before serving)

Brown meat and onion in a large skillet; drain or blot off fat. Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce becomes too thick during cooking, add more liquid. Serve over spaghetti or the pasta of your choice.

About Myra: Myra Johnson never thought she’d leave Texas, and she’ll always be a Texan at heart, but sometimes you just have to go where the grandkids are. Nowadays she and her husband are enjoying the beauty of the Carolinas and living near three of their six grandchildren. Empty-nesters, the Johnsons share their home with two lovable dogs. Myra’s first Heartsong Presents romance, Autumn Rains, won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript and was a 2010 ACFW Carol Award finalist. Find Myra on the Web at and

About Autumn Rains: Healy Ferguson, a redeemed ex-con, arrives in town searching for the friend who led him to Christ, but he isn’t prepared for the news of his friend’s death, much less to find himself falling in love with his friend’s widow. Valerie Bishop’s life was shattered the night her husband died, but the man who begins to fill the empty place in her heart holds the key to a buried memory that could destroy her all over again. If their love is to survive, they must each confront the fears imprisoning them and trust in God’s healing mercy.

Autumn Rains is currently available through limited markets only, but you can also find it in Myra’s 3-in-1 collection Gateway Weddings, available through and wherever Christian romance is sold.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Favorite Friday--Salmon!

Missy, here. And I've been dying to share my favorite salmon recipe with you. I've been making it this way for several years, and my family loves it! I first saw the recipe on Ina Garten's show, The Barefoot Contessa. Click here to see the original recipe. It's SO EASY! And quick. And better than anything you'll get in a restaurant. we go...

Salmon filets (try to get them similar in size)
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh-ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Use a heavy skillet that can also go in the oven (mine is 18/10 stainless steel). Preheat the skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. It'll be smoking hot. You're doing it correctly. :)

While it's heating, rub both sides of the filets with olive oil, then season the tops generously with salt and pepper. Once the pan is heated, place the filets seasoned side down in the pan (skin side up). Turn heat down to medium high. Cook for EXACTLY 2 minutes. (I have to set a timer or I'll get sidetracked.) And don't move the fish before 2 minutes because it'll stick. After the 2 minutes, it'll release.

Flip them over, and you'll find a gorgeous brown crust. Pop the pan into the preheated oven and bake for 5-7 minutes. I do 7 minutes since I don't like mine rare. If they're unusually thick, you may need another minute or two.

I have a nice thin spatula that I can slip right between the meat of the fish and the skin to slide the fish right off. This makes the most tender, moist salmon with a perfect crust! And it's so, so easy and quick.