Saturday, November 29, 2014

Easy shiitake mushroom and lime beef over rice

Hello, everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! By now you're probably all tired of mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing so this dish might be a welcome change. It's fairly simple, but like the last post, has a few ingredients that aren't in the cabinet.
 So, I was watching Japanese cooking tutorials on youtube again. Seriously, there's everything on youtube. I'm a hands-on type of learner so I really like looking of 3D tours, TED talks, sketching techniques, etc. Watching someone cook is probably the best way to learn, no matter how great the recipe and instructions, so don't be afraid. Youtube is your friend!
 Now, I wanted another seasonal dish that was simple, quick and didn't take a genius. I watched about ten videos before I realized that ginger,cilantro, lemongrass and chili pepper was a common combination. How odd! I can see cilantro and peppers, or ginger and lemongrass, but all four? So, I went looking in my grocery store and surprise... it's so common, I found it in this super handy little squeeze tube. It lasts forever in the fridge, is already chopped and ready. Nifty!
 So, shiitake mushrooms are also called "winter mushrooms" and are consumed in large quantities in Russia. (File this under things you never needed to know, but are glad you do.) Because they can be grown and eaten fresh even under limited amounts of light, they make good winter staples in countries where the growing season is short.
 The mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin D2 and are a great source of Vitamin B5 (400% of your daily needs). For people who suffer from the winter "blahs", mushrooms can help fight off the brain fog that happens when they don't get enough sunshine.
 You can use any kind of cream (heavy cream, light, half and half, etc.) but this was on sale, so hey. Crema Casera, it is!
 Ok, in a skillet or cast iron pot, put in 2 TBS of the ginger, cilantro, chili pepper and lemon grass mix. (How easy is that??) A tbs of olive oil and a few ounces of chopped red onion. (I usually use sweet onions but this recipe called for red, so that's what I got. I'm glad I did. The flavors are pretty intense and I don't think you'd be able to taste the sweet onion under all the mushroom, herbs, beef.)
There's that dried garlic again! I'm really starting to like this stuff. I usually use fresh minced, but I think I'll start keeping this on hand, too.
 After sauteeing the onion for a little while over medium-high heat, put in the shiitakes, stem side down.
 After about four minutes, roll them over and let the tops soften. The video I watched added a few tablespoon of water and it seemed like this helped keep everything from burning. This wasn't a long step. Just about 6-8 minutes, tops.
 As the shiitake are cooking, put another 2 TBS of the herbs in a hot pan, plus half a squeezed lime. Mix thoroughly.
 Add a few ounces of cubed beef. I used some beef I withheld from the stew I'd made the day before. The dish is mostly mushroom, not beef, so keep the proportions in mind. I thin American usually cook heavy on the meat, and add a few other ingredients. This was definitely a mushroom dish, with some beef. Cook over high heat until browned. Add half a cup of the cream to the beef as soon as it's cooked through. Stir well, but don't let it boil because the lime can curdle the cream.
 The video I watched had noodle as a base, but we'd just used all our stir fry noodles so I cooked some white rice. Ladle a bit of the beef mixture on top. Select a few of the shiitake mushrooms and some of the red onion. I nibbled an edge to make sure they didn't need any more salt, and the combination of the herbs really gave it a great flavor. You can salt them if you want, but I didn't think it needed anything else.
And finally a bit of the dried garlic as a topper. I also had sesame seeds, so I tried that, too, but maybe I'm just a garlic fan, I preferred the bit of crunchy garlic to the sesame seeds.
 I'd give this dish about 8/10. It was easy, but I used two pans and hey, sometimes that's one pan too many, haha. Definite points for a great combination of flavors, those vitamins we need in winter, and NOT being pizza.
Take care everybody and I'll see you next week!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ninja Master Prep Demo Day with Tina Radcliffe

Ninja Master Prep Demo Day
Tina Radcliffe

I have Yankee Belle chef, Virginia Carmichael to thank for introducing me to the Ninja Master Prep. A mere $34 bucks it is better than any blender and simpler than any food processor for day to day mixing/blending needs.

Nothing to screw together and cause leakage. It’s easy to clean too. It comes with two containers, each with their own blade/s, blending lid and storage lid. Unlike a blender, the large container this has a pour spout. The pro version comes with three sizes, small, medium and large. If you scroll down the Amazon link it will compare the different types of product available.
The possibilities are ENDLESS from mixing cake batter and pancake mix, to omelets without dirtying a spatula and beaters. Youtube has numerous videos on the product usage.
My personal favorite is making low calorie iced coffee beverages. 

Take a tray of ice cubes and pulse until you have snow.

Add leftover cold coffee (about a cup).

You can also add a dairy base of ¼ cup milk if you like or leave it dairy free. I usually leave it dairy free.

Add about 4 tablespoons chocolate syrup.

You can also add a package of sugar free hot chocolate mix instead of the syrup to really keep it low calorie.

This is Trenta size and it did not cost you five bucks.

We eat a lot of pico de gallo at my house, so my next Ninja experiment was to make my own.

I used a basic recipe found online: Remember you do not have to dice. The only prep work is to remove the seeds which I did using a grapefruit spoon.

1 1/2 cups seeded, tomatoes (I am using three Roma tomatoes)
1/4 cup red onion (I am using 1/8 of a very large onion)
1 tablespoon jalapenos (Remove seeds and wash hands carefully. I am using one half a medium jalapeno)
1 clove garlic
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

Pulse about four times or to desired consistency. The more you pulse the more it becomes salsa like! 


If you’re looking for dessert try tossing a cup of yogurt and frozen strawberries in the Ninja for a nice soft serve ice cream treat!


Click here for Hope for the Holidays collections 

Tina Radcliffe is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, a 2014 Golden Quill finalist, and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. She has won first place in over twenty RWA chapter-affiliated contests in her career. Tina is also a short story writer and has sold eleven short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She currently resides in Arizona where she writes inspirational romance for Harlequin Love Inspired and independently publishes sweet romances.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

From all of us at the Yankee Belle Cafe...

To all of you!!!!

May God bless you with a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and if you've got family around or if you're having a quiet weekend of great holiday movies and knitting pretty scarves, please know you're beloved!

Happy Thanksgiving and may your Advent season be filled with grace, hope and love.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve...are you cooking or traveling?

When I was growing up early on I remember traveling in the VW Bug in the kangaroo seat in the very back (and later the station wagon with a bed made up) for Thanksgiving. We'd alternate heading to my Hilton grandparents who lived in Bristol Tennessee (of Nascar fame) or my Reasor grandparents who lived on a farm near Big Stone Gap, Virginia. The grands were close enough we could travel back and forth between town or country over the long weekend. It was worth getting woken at the crack of dawn to make the nine hour trip from DC.  Traveling mercies if you are headed out on the road or to the airport.

See that space behind the window? We'd fight to travel in that pocket.
When we were older, we stayed home. Thanksgiving Eve was a chopping, prepping, cooking day. Entire bunches of celery gave their lives to season the stuffing. There was no such thing as mild onions and tears were shed while we chopped them. Strawberry jello salad was put together. So was green bean casserole.  I remember stuff being put out in the garage if it was cold enough and also sneaking out into the garage to get into the canisters of date nut pinwheels and fudge my Nanny had sent through the mail. Cooking mercies if you are trying to find a special ingredient at the grocery store or just get everything in the oven.

Mom loved to cook with her grandchildren.

We are doing both cooking and traveling this year.  I've already cooked a back-up turkey to use for casseroles after Thanksgiving so I just get to watch ManO cut up five pounds of carrots for his famous baked carrots. And then on Thursday we'll head over to my son's house for dinner with the grandkids, in laws, daughter and boyfriend and ManO's parents. With three grandkidlets, it will be crazy and fun.

Whether I'm in the car or in my kitchen chopping, Thanksgiving Eve gives me plenty of time to reflect on the past year with gratitude, ponder Thanksgivings past, and remember those who aren't at the table this year. I pray a good bit for those of my friends who face the first Thankgiving without a loved one at the table and pray for those who have been missing loved ones for quite a while.

So, is your Thanksgiving Eve spent cooking or traveling? Do you go the same place each year? Do you spend most of your time cooking the entire meal or just a special dish? Blessings no matter how you spend the day before Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Yes, it's almost here. That one day of the year we set aside to give thanks for family, friends, our country and all the blessings God has so bountifully poured out on us. So it should come as no surprise that we celebrate such a day as most God-fearing people would--with food! 
And lots of it.

However, thanksgiving and leftovers go hand-in-hand. So before the turkey is even roasted, I wanted to give you at least one way to use those leftovers by revisiting a recipe I posted last year. It's quick, easy and, best of all, yummy.

So here's what you'll need for this easy Turkey Tetrazzini:
  • 1 - 8 oz. package of egg noodles, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 - 6 oz. can sliced mushrooms
  • Salt (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped turkey (I used a mix of both white and dark meat)
  • 1 - 10.75 oz. can cream of celery soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese (I recommend grating your own cheese for this so it melts better)
Cook the egg noodles per package instructions until al dente.

While the noodles are cooking, melt butter in a large heavy skillet. Sauté onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add mushrooms and cook for an additional minute.

Stir in the turkey, soup, and sour cream. Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed.
I didn't add any salt, but did add the 1/8 tsp. of pepper.

Place your cooked noodles into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan.
It will be a thin layer, so don't panic.

Now pour your sauce mixture over the top, spreading as needed to cover and top with Parmesan.

Bake in preheated 375 oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
(I wish you could smell this.)

Serve alone or with a salad.

Okay, I have to tell you, this dish earned my boys' stamp of approval. And we know how picky they can be. Matter of fact, the little bit that was leftover was gone before bedtime because someone got hungry. Which reminds me, if you're making this for more than 4 people, I recommend doubling the recipe.

There you go. Quick, easy, frugal, and oh, so tasty. :)

Now it's your turn. What's your favorite way to use your turkey leftovers?

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Caramel Apple Cake: Equipment Fail

Mmmm... Doesn't that sound delicious? Caramel Apple Cake!

I thought so, too.

And the recipe looked so easy!

Maggie-cat and Thatcher weren't as impressed.

By the way, this is an historic photo! It's the first time they've laid down least without one of them holding the other one down in a choke hold!

Sunshine. It's their drug of choice.

I had plans to make this cake for our Sunday evening service at church. We usually have a small crowd, and the cake would be big enough to give everyone a taste.

So I gathered my ingredients,

Caramel Apple Cake


1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box (3.4 oz.) vanilla flavor instant pudding
1 cup water
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples

20 unwrapped Kraft caramels
3 Tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350°, and prepare a 12-cup bundt cake pan by greasing and flouring it.

Beat the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl until well blended, and then stir in the 3 cups apple pieces.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan.

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, or until done. You can use the touch test (lightly touch the top of the cake - if it springs back, the cake is done) or insert a toothpick near the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, then the cake is done.

So far, so good, right?

When the cake is done, let it cool for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a wire cooling rack. Let it cool completely.

Sounds easy, right?

It was at this point that my daughter said, "Maybe we need to buy a new cake pan."

I agree. This lovely thing came to us from a trash pile when we were living in Texas in the early 1990's. The price was right, but it has never - never - willingly released a Bundt cake.

I know what I'm putting on my Christmas list!

So, at this point, the next step would be to melt the caramels.

Add the 3 Tablespoons milk to the 20 unwrapped caramels in a small, microwavable bowl. Heat on high for about 1 and 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. When sauce is smooth, coll for about 10 minutes, or until it is slightly thickened. Drizzle over the cake just before serving.

Even though this cake would qualify as a fail, it was an equipment fail. The cake was delicious! Our poor friends at church, though. As soon as the vultures I live with learned that I wasn't going to be taking it to share, they descended on it.

Even before I melted the caramels.

Nope. Nothing wrong with the cake!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quick Shrimp Stir Fry with Annetto and Garlic

Hello, everybody!! I hope everybody's keeping warm.
We had a little snow, and then freezing rain. We've only had one minor accident and four hours stuck in a pile up as hubby commuted to work... with no real injuries out of all the cars involved so we're off to a good start here in Eastern Oregon.
But, my husband took this picture and posted it on facebook with the comment "Ya comenzaron los estragos con el mal tiempo." Boy, howdy, yes.... But my comment was, "WHY ARE YOU OUT OF THE CAR??" First rule in a pile up (especially in the dark, on a windy road) is do not exit the vehicle! 
Posts like this shorten my lifespan. He also told me that the woman who sidelined him was turned around the opposite direction and sliding sideways (after clipping a semi) before she and hubby made contact. That was also information I didn't need. Can we hear it for some "lalalalalala"-ing? (Poor woman. She was fine. And I hope she drives a little slower next time.)
 So, anyway, moving on! This dish doesn't need a lot of ingredients, but what it does need is probably not something you keep in the cabinet (if you're like me). I saw something like this on youtube when I was researching Japanese cooking (my next book is set in Kyoto). I needed something that was simple, savory, and something it didn't take a genius to make.
Yaki Soba noodles from the refrigerated Asian foods section. I saw this in three different stores in our area, and it was always near the tofu, near the fresh produce. (Sauce is MSG free and seems pretty normal, not high salt or anything.)
 Ok, technically not Japanese, but this was how annatto powder appears in my grocery store. Some people can find it in the spice aisle in the usual little containers. (You can click the link and read up on it.) I learned that a lot of Hispanic food also uses annatto. It gives a warm, nutty flavor that's hard to define, but absolutely essential to some dishes, especially simple ones. (This was a revelation and I think I'll have to re-try several dishes I could never get quite right, because I think this might have been the missing ingredient.)
 Dried garlic. You can use fresh, but the recipe I saw on youtube was flaked garlic, and since this packet was $1.29, I figured I'd use it.
 Heat several tablespoons of olive oil and add a teaspoon of garlic and a teaspoon of the annatto powder.
 Stir over medium high heat until mixed together. From what I could tell on the video, you can add salt or not. I decided not to, since I knew the noodles would have flavoring.  Add about ten large, cooked, tail-on shrimp. The oil is already hot so this won't take long. We don't want to overcook the shrimp.
 Add in some thin slices of bell pepper and a bit of green onion. The garlic and annatto are delicate so we don't want to overwhelm them. I had some snow peas so I threw those in and stirred on high for about 3-4 minutes.
 The Yaki Soba noodles take about 3 minutes in the microwave. Think Top Ramen but not fried and dried. They're fresh, but have been sealed and then refrigerated. The "sauce" packet was already added here and it's also a delicate flavor, which smelled delicious but also wasn't too salty or too strong-smelling.
 If you use the entire Yaki Soba  package, there will be three large bowls of noodles or you can cook the noodle packages one at a time, saving the other for the next day for lunch. This was a great dish for those dinners when the kids wanted pizza and I didn't, or I cooked something that everyone loves but hubby. It took less than five minutes and there was enough left over for his lunch in the AM.
Over all, I'd give this recipe 9/10. Easy, fast, great flavor, looks delicious. The only thing that keeps it from a 10, is that you need all the specific ingredients before-hand. But it's definitely worth the effort and I'll be making it again. 
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everybody!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Time!

Missy, here. Since next week is Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share my mom's pumpkin pie recipe that I shared with you last year. Sorry for the repeat, but I was traveling all last week and didn't get home until Tuesday. I haven't done any cooking to share with you since then! :)

Okay, I know by sharing my pumpkin pie recipe I'll be setting myself up for teasing by you who probably created your own recipe and may even grow your own pumpkin. :)  I'm admitting to you now, I use the recipe on the can of pumpkin and buy a refrigerated crust! :)

But why mess with something that never fails to please my family?

So, here we go...

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Put your pie crust in the pie pan. I use the Pillsbury roll up crusts. They're the store-bought brand I've found that's closest to homemade.

Look! I made those ridges with my own fingers! So it's practically homemade!

Next, follow the directions on the can of Libby's pumpkin! This is from the Libby's site. :)


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell 
  • Whipped cream (optional)


MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving. 
Notes from Missy...
Don't over-bake. The pie may not look quite done but it will set up once you take it out.
Also, don't go too heavy on the cloves! I actually use about 1-1/2 or 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice in place of the 3 spices.
Don't mess up and use sweetened condensed milk by accident (yeah, experience talking).
Here are the photos from last Thanksgiving. Now I'm craving pie! Not much longer...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Supper In a Pumpkin!

This simple, delicious, all-in-one meal could also be done in an acorn squash or a buttercup squash....

And it's so good!

I used pie pumpkins and they were marvelous.

Wash the pumpkin. Cut off the stem. Split the pumpkin in half, and clean out the seed cavity.


Chop 1/2 to 1 apple into the cavity. Add three or four links of breakfast sausage, chopped up. Add 1/2 Tablespoon butter. Sprinkle with your choice of salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg... A little of each is perfectly fine but of course I go heavier on the salt!!!

Put on baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, until apples and squash are done and sausage is cooked.

Uncover, stir pumpkin (or squash) away from the sides, and eat right out of the pumpkin "bowl"...

Totally delicious, amazingly wonderful and so fun!   You can also add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup (+/-) chopped nuts into the mix.

This is a fall fiesta, one-bowl meal!

So stinkin' good!

Another thing we saw years ago at Seth and Lacey's wedding (gorgeous, gorgeous wedding!). The caterer served chicken and beef stew from huge, hollowed out pumpkins..... Oh my stars, what a perfect presentation that was!

A big, round, dark orange pumpkin filled with succulent soup or stew....

That was totally impressive fall wonderfulness!

I'm giving myself next week off from CARING about carbs. I'm so excited. We'll be baking Sunday... Oh, and Monday!!!  And Tuesday.... And Wednesday, of course! And Thursday!!!! BIG SMILE HERE!!!!!

We'll have fun and there will be joyful dessertitis going on!

That's not a bad way to die!

Baby clothes arrived today for baby Morgan, due in December/January. Do youse realize how close that is??????

Oh mylanta, how fun to buy cute, itsy-bitsy, teenie weenie little girl clothes????

Sensory Adorable Overload!!!!


And I got a great Heifer catalog today because honestly, we need nothing, nothing, nothing, and it's so much more fun to imagine folks getting a GOAT!!!!  Or a PIG!!!!  Or a HEIFER!!!!

Happy dancing! I'm shopping at Heifer next week, and so excited about farm animals!


We're trying that two-ingredient pumpkin cake I saw on facebook tomorrow.... I didn't see it tomorrow, sorry to confuse you!!! but the peeps and I are making it tomorrow.

I might eat the whole thing.

This is a distinct possibility!

We'll have to wait and see!

So much busyness right now, I'm having so much fun writing books and telling Pilgrim stories to wee folk and thinking of how blessed we are to be in America!!!