Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tiramisu and book reveal!

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and it's so good to see you all! My break from YBC flew by and although I didn't get as much done as I wanted on my new book, I did do a lot of cooking, a lot of visiting, a lot of relaxing, and  some traveling. I had guests from out of town, out of the country and some I hadn't seen in twenty years. I wrote blog posts (including one for a hero who has initials HH, squee!), caught up on my e-mail and got a big start on a brand new series. In all, it's GOOD TO BE BACK!
But first... a book reveal. :) The dedication to my last Love Inspired book, for my friends Mike and Terri Neal, who give their hearts so freely to children in need.

I love me a box o' books!
So, let's make a celebration cake! I've always wanted to make tiramisu but was afraid to try. I wanted it to be fabulous! (Stop groaning. We all know how this is going to end.)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Okay, the eggs.... My pretty farm eggs! I love my Americuna chickens!
I made two cakes. A friend was having a birthday. Anyway, here are 12 yolks. Can you tell the store-bought eggs? They're the lighter ones!
 The first part is a standard pudding type recipe. Mmmmm. So hard not to eat it straight out of the pan!  So, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Boil  for 1 minute, then take it off the stove.  Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.
Meanwhile, we'll start on the cake. We cheated and used a box (Mostly because my daughter had a feeling this was going to fail if we had too many variables.) So, parchment paper for the bottom of the pan. Pour in the pound cake. Cook according to instructions.
When it's done, flip it over and peel it off. Now, in a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth. I have no idea why I don't have a picture of this. I swear it has nothing to do with the next photo.
 You'll have some delicious whipped cream (do not eat!) and some amazing marscapone with custard (do not eat!).
When we we are the beach, I found these little bottle of liquor at the store. how cute! Here, they give you the five gallon size. Who needs that? You're supposed to mix this with the coffee and drizzle on the cake, but the kids protested. So it never made it in the cake. Some day it will probably make its way into my coffee. Some day soon.
Mmmmmm, coffee drizzles pound cake. I want to eat it right now!! Take both coffee soaked layers and put them side by side (not across the kitchen like I did, so I dripped goop on my nice clean floor). Layer the first slice with marscapone custard, then a layer of whipped topping. Gently lay on the second layer. (GENTLYYYYY!!) Put the second of half of the marscapone custard on top, then the second half of the whipped topping. It looks a little wobbly.
So, we never did find lady fingers at our store. A friend offered to send me some all the way from Portland. Isn't that sweet! I love cooking pals! But in the end, my kids wanted to use pirouette cookies.
But now we're going to put on the pirouette cookies. (Usually this would be the rest of the lady fingers.)
Decorate with fresh fruit!
Layer fresh fruit on top... This can be chilled another few hours or eaten immediately. Of course we ate it! In our defense, we had guests coming over. But we'd probably have eaten it at midnight. It was amazzzziiiiiiing!

 OK, my friends, I hope you enjoyed the fabulousness that is tiramisu and I'll see you all again next weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Make it at Home: Chipotle Burrito Bowl with Tina Radcliffe

Make it at Home: Chipotle Burrito Bowl with Tina Radcliffe

I love Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl, and I have discovered how to make it fast, healthy and delicious at home.

This recipe is for two. Double or triple as needed.


I used 1 large chicken breast, but I have also used steak and you vegetarians can use cubed zucchini and strips of fresh red onion. I’m sure shrimp would work and pork.

Pinto or black beans (I like black beans, hubby likes pinto so we open both)
Pico de Gallo  
Prepared guacamole
Sour cream
Grated Pepper Jack Cheese
Minute Ready to Serve,  Brown Rice –one cup serving per person (each package comes with two serving size cups)
Chopped romaine or bib lettuce- optional.
Chips and salsa on the side-optional.

Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with Taco Seasoning and then grill the chicken. I use a Hamilton Beach Indoor Grill because it’s still 106 degrees here at dinner time.

While the chicken is cooking to 180° (per cooking thermometer), prepare your ingredients and heat your beans.

Chop the chicken into nice ragged squares. 

This is half a chicken breast. Plenty for one person.
Heat the rice for 90 seconds.
Add one rice container to your bowl. Then add beans of choice and top with chicken. Then I let everyone add the toppings themselves. You can individualize this with your family’s favorite toppings.

This is absolutely delicious and good for you as well.

Tina Radcliffe writes fun, inspirational romance for Love Inspired. She is a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist and a 2014 Carol Award finalist in the short novel category, with her first Paradise book, Mending the Doctor’s Heart. Her latest Paradise book, Stranded with the Rancher is a September release.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash (Harvest Spectacular at Ruthy's Place!!!)

Oh be still my heart when the time draws near of all the butternut squash I want to eat to my heart's content!

Enter farm full of veggies, stage right!

Enter, sharp paring knife for peeling....

And yon oven, through what does shine? 'Tis the flame of roasting time!

Good morning, peeps, I can tell it's almost September because the tomatoes are begging to be canned and sold, the acorn squash has taken on a deep gold underbelly and my favorite of all favorites....


Is ripening!

Oh, Hallelujah Chorus up here!!!!!

So this is easy peasy and so delish that it can be used for a meal, a side dish, an appetizer or a snack:

Peel a couple of butternut squash. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. (My chickens think they died and went to chicken heaven when I toss these seeds into their pens!)

Slice the squash into wedges:

Peel the squash if you didn't already do it when I mentioned it above and sure, I could just go back and change the direction.... But it's more fun this way!

Cut squash into cubes, slices, about 1/2" thick.

Put in bowl. Drizzle with about 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Toss. Pour squash onto cookie sheet or roasting pan. Salt the squash liberally. (Think "potato chip" liberal)

Roast in 450 degree oven (hot oven!) for about 20-30 minutes. Turn once if you want to, but it's fine if you don't.

Now you're wondering what it looks like, aren't you?


I can't believe I'm saying that, that I forgot to take a finished picture.


What kind of an internet hostess am I??????

I made a carrot cake on Sunday and ate 2/3 of it.


I'm ridiculously hungry this week.

But since I didn't snap that picture, let me show you this one!!!!


This is how I'm celebrating Labor Day Weekend! With some peace and quiet while staring at this adorable cover that I love, love, love!!!!! Max and Tina's Excellent Christmas Adventure will be here in December, and what a fun thing that will be!

Happy dancing in upstate!

So to celebrate this, I think we should have a neighborhood end-of summer party here in the cafe! I've got chicken wing pizza for everyone..... Let me know what you'd like to bring to the party and we'll get a menu going!

Happy Labor Day weekend to all of us who labor.... May God bless us, everyone! And here are a few local pics to make you smile as summer draws to an end....

From "Cousin Palooza" a fun pic of giant (and youngest) son Luke (NYC Finance Boy) holding Elijah.... When 'Lijah goes to visit his NYC uncles, he thinks the entire seaport, helicopters, boats, planes are THEIRS.....

And adorable two-year-old granddaughter "Annie"....

She's stinkin' adorable, speaks in complete and very long sentences, loves to talk, tells stories and is sweet and bossy....


And this came to me from my West Coast buddy Keli Gwyn, and I died laughing!!! PERFECT, KELI!!!!


And then there's this when I was walking into the house the other day.... An "aww..." moment.....

Kittens and tomatoes for sale! $1.00/basket!!!!  How stinkin' cute is that???? (notice she didn't go to sleep in the portable roaster oven behind her.... Mmm.... Roasted squash and kitty!!!!!! )





Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Great Eat All The Candy You Want Experiment

When I was little, I used to tell my mom I wished candy was good for us so we could eat all we wanted and steak or green beans or beets, whatever I did NOT want to eat for dinner, were bad. I think I was this age when I said it.
Gotta love the dress, huh? I think the rubber band in my hairdo was too tight.
I grew up and got to control what I ate. Did I choose all the candy I wanted? Nope, for me it was bread. Give me bread and butter over chocolate any day.

Fast forward to 2003/4.  A bad bout of the flu a year earlier left me with bruises all over my body, pretty close to bedridden. Every time I ate a bagel I would almost collapse and be unable to move. Doctors wondered if I had leukemia or severe diabetes. Yikes!

Fortunately, in the loosest form of the word, blood tests and biopsies revealed my body wasn't processing vitamin B-12 and I was allergic to wheat and corn.  A celiac disease blood test turned up negative.  Trips to the nutritionist got me on the road to "clean" living with no bread (whaaaaa!) and no processed food since most contain corn.

For ten years I've done pretty well, but still deal with osteoporosis, anemia and other absorption issues.  With our medical fun this year, turns out it's a good year to have anything done that I've been putting off (nothing like reaching your out of pocket medical expenses by April). My doc and I decided it would be best for to re-visit my wheat allergies since those celiac tests of a decade ago and even allergy panels were notoriously inaccurate.

Guess what? For a month, I got to relive my modified childhood dream. I got to eat things like this every day:

I didn't go overboard. After all, it wasn't just celiac we were looking at but how allergic I was. A cracker one day, a roll in San Antonio, a pancake at the local breakfast place. Why, you ask?  Well, gluten in wheat affects the small intestine villi that absorb nutrients. Doing a biopsy is the only way to tell if you have celiac since the blood test can go false negative. As much as I eat carefully, if I do have celiac, then I need to go extreme on the clean eating, the whole separate pans for cooking, no cheating on eating route. 

I didn't notice much, except bloating, when I started. By the end of the month, I couldn't move. Deja vu all over again! Did you know a sign of a food allergy can be extreme fatigue? I was never so happy to have my last meal of a croissant and bacon scone from the local french bakery.   An aside: One of the employees told me they discovered he had a gluten sensitivity after he developed pneumonia from working in the back with the flour.

I'm still waiting for the biopsy results but whether I turn out to have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity in addition to a wheat allergy, I'm sticking with my diet of extremely "clean," no-processed foods unless they are wheat and gluten free. So I will eat things like this:

And this:
And this:

As you see, living wheat, corn and gluten-free could be a lot worse. Looking forward to exploring  gluten-free fall recipes with you in the coming weeks.

So, if you could eat anything you wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner, what would it be? Have you ever had to give up one of your favorite foods for health reasons?             

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just Keep Swimming...

It's been an interesting week around our house. One filled with lots of good things, yet really nothing at all. And definitely no cooking. In this 100 degree heat, it's been nothing but salads, salads, salads.

At the beginning of last week, my husband called a guy about refinishing our pool. The white plaster was stained and quite unattractive and we'd need to redo it anyway before putting the house on the market in a couple years. May as well do it now and enjoy it.

So the guy comes out, takes some measurements, gives us some samples and, later, calls with a quote. Pleased with his price, we call him the next day to let him know our choice of finish. He says he's in the area and will be over in an hour.


When we asked him when he thought they could start, he told us he had a crew on the way.

What? But, it's 100 degrees. I won't be able to swim for at least a week.

Well, by the end of the day, our pool was completely drained, acid washed, bad spots were chiseled out and they'd added a bonding coat.

Early the next morning, this was sitting in front of our house.
You mean all those bags are for our pool?

Yep. And they've got their nifty mixer and pump on the back.

This is how our pool looked at they prepped for the new surface.

For a time, I thought we were getting a zipline.
But no.

Of course, Maddie had to inspect everything.

Finally, it was time for the new finish.
Well now, this was interesting. They ran a hose from the pump on their truck all the way to back of the house and SPRAYED the new surface.

Then they smoothed it.
The guys were all wearing rubber boots with giant spiked plates affixed to the bottom. 

They got everything smoothed out, then, as it dried, tiny pebbles began to appear.
Keep in mind, this all within the first 24 hours of saying, "Let's do this."
Talk about instant gratification.

By noon Saturday, we were filling it back up again.

And yesterday, it looked like this.
If only everything in life were that quick. Like, say, writing a book.

Speaking of books...

I am delighted to announce that the September LIs are now on Walmart shelves.

Like I told Tina on FB, we get to hangout together all month.

She says we can talk about food and boobs and girl stuff.
Her words, not mine. I would not make that up. 
Nor would I use the word boobs on FB, but that's just me. :)

I gotta tell ya, though, I'm loving this lineup. Three hunky cowboys, cute kids and a snowy scene that's sure to cool me down during this heatwave.

Oh, and there's one more thing...

Pool party's at my house!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Story of Poverty and Redemption

A few weeks ago, I shared about my grandmother Ethel's family and the rich tradition my cousins and I inherited from her. You can read about that family here.

But today I have a different story to tell. It's about my grandfather Guy - the one who married Ethel.

Guy didn't have a happy childhood.

Etta Maude, around 1900

Guy's mother, Etta Maude, was an orphan. She and her brother were raised by a childless Swedish couple who lived northwest of Topeka, Indiana. When Etta Maude learned she was pregnant in the spring of 1901, one of the men she had dated, Eugene, went ahead and married her. He didn't know who the baby's father was, but there was a possibility it might be his.

Guy was born in 1902, and his brother Orville in 1903. In 1908, against her doctor's advice, Etta Maude became pregnant again. She died on November 4, 1908, not knowing she had given birth to a daughter the previous day.

Guy (left) and Orville (right), 1905.
Don't you love the curls and dresses?

Grandpa Eugene did as many others did in those days and in his situation. He placed the baby and his two sons in an orphanage. The baby was adopted and the boys remained in the Rogers Home for the rest of their growing up years.

Grandpa Eugene, Orville (left) and Guy (right), just a couple
weeks after Etta Maude's death - the day the children
went to the Rogers Home.
Guy later told my grandmother that he remembered
this day..."he could hardly keep back
the tears long enough to have the picture taken."

The Roger's Home for the Orphaned Poor near Topeka, Indiana

During the next several years, Grandpa Eugene (the boy's father) worked as a day laborer, living in hotels as he moved from place to place around northern Indiana and southern Michigan. He seemed to be quite popular with the ladies, and was known as "Slim."

The front porch of the Topeka Hotel. "Slim" is the young man with
the suitcase on the left.

Meanwhile, once the boys were old enough to work, they were sent out to area farmers as indentured servants. They attended school (through eighth grade) and Sunday School in Topeka.

Once he reached the age of sixteen, Guy was on his own. He worked here and there for a few years, but then found a job working for a farmer in a neighboring county. This job changed his life.

John and Barbara Pancake in front of their home south of
Topeka, Indiana. There's no date with this photo, but I would guess
it was taken around 1915.

This farmer and his wife, John and Barbara Pancake, became substitute parents for Guy and they treated him like an adopted son. Even after John Pancake died, Barbara remained a second mother for Guy and "grandma" for his children.

Of all the people who influenced his life, the Pancakes seemed to have had the most profound effect. First of all, they provided a loving, stable home for him - his first - during his late teen years when it was so sorely needed. Second, they prepared him and helped him to be reconciled with his father. Third, they helped lay the spiritual foundation that prepared him to meet Pastor C.C. Cripe, of the Bremen Church of the Brethren.

Pastor Cripe had an even further influence on the troubled young man. He became Guy's mentor and life-long friend.

Later, when he moved to Shipshewana, he met Pastor George Sherck - my great-grandfather, and the father of his future wife.

But that isn't the end of the story. What about the other players?

Orville, Guy's younger brother, ran away from the Roger's Home when he turned sixteen. After years of working and traveling, he eventually moved back to the mid-west to be reunited with his father and brother. The brothers' early life affected both of them differently. Orville's daughter wrote, "...the two brothers agreed that they were mistreated in the Rogers Home. It carried over into their adult life. Uncle Guy reached for the Bible and my dad reached for the bottle."

Grandpa Eugene married one of those many girls who knew him as "Slim" in 1913. But in February 1914, they were invited to a revival meeting at the Topeka German Baptist Brethren Church (now Church of the Brethren). Eugene and May were baptized into that church, and it changed their lives completely. Grandpa Eugene enthusiastically embraced the church's Plain dress and strict lifestyle and served as deacon. It was said that when it was time to pray, it was a race to see whose knees hit the floor first - Grandpa Eugene's or the pastor's!

Grandpa Eugene and May in the 1920's. This smiling
man is the Grandpa I remember.

There's one more player in this story. Do you remember that baby girl who was born on November 3, 1908? The one who Grandpa Eugene put up for adoption during those dark days?

Guy told Ethel that he was working on a car in a garage in 1926 when Orville came in and said he wanted Guy to meet his wife. Guy cleaned up a little and went out to the car. He didn't know until he was told that this was his sister. They had written to each other and exchanged gifts after Ruth was told she had been adopted and had two brothers. Because Orville traveled around so much he had often worked in or near Chicago and had looked up his sister, but Guy hadn't seen her since a couple years after she had been adopted, when she was only a toddler and he was eight. They had been apart for eighteen years, but from that time on they were very close.

The reunion! From left to right: Orville, Ruth and Guy.
This picture appeared in the South Bend Tribune along
with the story of their reunion.

 Even though my grandfather's childhood was rough, sad and at times tragic, I can see God's hand working in his life. He and my grandmother didn't have an easy time - they married in 1928 and struggled all through the Depression and during the years afterward - but they raised a wonderful family.

Back row, left to right: Martha, Guy, James, John, Ethel.
Front row: Waneta and Nancy.
If you've read A Mother for His Children, you might recognize
some of those names :)
Guy passed away before I was born, so I never met him. I do know that he had only one real regret - that he didn't have enough schooling to learn to be a minister. It had been a desire of his even before he married. But he instilled a love for the Lord and service to the church in his children, along with a desire for education. All of them are active in their churches, and both of his sons became ministers.

And since here at the cafe we talk about food, I searched and searched to try to find out what his favorite food might have been. But, you know, as poor as he was as he was growing up, I don't think he had the luxury of being fussy about food! However, I did find this quote from an essay my grandmother wrote for her children after he died:

"By the time he was old enough to help do chores on a farm he was taken out of the home by Mr. and Mrs. Kauffman. They had no children of their own so needed some help with their work. They thought of adopting him but Grandpa didn't want to sign the papers. They were good to him but lacked the personal feeling people have for their own. 

Mrs. Kauffman was 'old-maidish' to put it in Daddy's words. She never seemed to understand a growing boy needed more to eat than her husband. Grape-nut cereal was just on the market and Daddy was very fond of it. She only dished out a small portion, just what she thought he needed.  He could hardly wait until he could eat as much as he wanted."

Every time I see a box of Grape-nuts, I think about my grandfather, his childhood, and the wonderful story of redemption told in his life.

And it's stories like these that made me want to be a writer. The more I read and hear about my family history, the more stories start taking shape in my imagination.

And then I start wondering - what stories am I living that my grandchildren will tell about me? Hmm.....