Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mushroom yaki soba noodle soup

Hello everybody! Fresh Pioneer here, and I've got a super quick and easy dish for those Spring nights where it's not quite warm, not quite cold. 
 First, here's my middle (can you have a middle child with six kids??) eating ice cream and swinging at the same time. Made me laugh! (And this is my friend Barbara's house. Just to the left is my childhood home, and I spent MANY hours at Barbara and Larry's house... eating ice cream! We just love these sweet folks. She also has taught us dozens of old hymns from her childhood in Alabama and we sing to shut ins and nursing home residents every Tuesday. Anyway, now you have all the background on that swing.)
 Same kid has fallen in love with weed whacking. I'm not so in love with what happens to his clothes.
 We have an older teen friend who makes the most AMAZING armor from spray painted foam. They take it to comicons around and sell/ show it off. My second youngest got inspired. Cheerios man with a wooden sword!
 SO, to the recipe at hand. Everything goes in the pot at once. Soba noodles with mushroom flavoring (found at the grocery store in the health food section near the carrot juice and baby spinach, etc) a pound of mushrooms (we used crimini because I really like the flavor), two stalks of celery chopped, a few handfuls of baby carrots (can you tell I'm just throwing things in from my fridge??), and some chicken breasts if you have them. I usually make this without, but I had some cicken left over from the night before so, into the pot it went!
 Boil for ten-15 minutes. Mushrooms cook pretty quickly so just cook the noodles to the consistency you like. Salt to taste. I added a little garlic and some pepper. :)
 Someone needed their favorite Christmas plant in the photo.
And one last photo: my editor. His name is Manotas (big hands) and he sits on my desk (or my papers, or my computer) and watches me while I work. He's very picky about plot holes.

 Have a wonderful weekend an be sure to stop by my facebook page at Mary Jane Hathaway, or my blog at The Things That Last. I'll be releasing the cover of my new historical very soon and I'm SO excited to get back to that series! I love new projects!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Copycat Salmon Caesar Salad!

Missy Tippens

A while back, Ruby Tuesday added a new item to their menu that I fell in love with! Grilled Salmon Caesar Salad.

This is the restaurant version that I adore. I always order the salmon cooked well done.

After ordering it several times, I decided I needed to make it at home.

First, I went looking for recipes for caesar dressing. I didn't have all the ingredients for any one recipe in particular, so I just started throwing in items to make my own version. It turned out delicious! And I guess it'll turn out differently each time I make it. :)

How do you like these for measurements...

about 3/4-1 cup mayo (I used two big squirts of the squeezable stuff)
1 squirt of dijon mustard (maybe 1 tsp)
pinch of chopped or minced garlic
1 squirt lemon juice
2 generous glugs of red wine vinegar
dash of Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tsp)
Olive oil until it seems like the right consistency (it's thick and will not be pourable so maybe about 2-4 TBS)
A shake or two of powdered parmesan (I put this in the dressing too)
pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients with a whisk. I store this in my fun plastic Bell jars I showed you a while back. Store in fridge. It seems to last a few days just fine.

For the greens, I use Hearts of Romaine.
For the salmon, prepare it like I shared a few years ago. Click here. It's the very best way to make salmon!

I use shredded fresh parmesan cheese and croutons to finish.

To assemble:

Toss the lettuce with the dressing. Put on serving plate. Top with salmon, shredded cheese and croutons.

I didn't take a photo of the first try. I wish I had. It was so pretty! Close to the restaurant version. But I did take a photo of the next time I made it. On this version, I made it lower carb (no croutons) and added some white beans to add fiber. Which may seem odd. LOL But it was tasty too. :)

So here's a photo of my second version. I didn't toss the dressing in this photo. It's under the cheese and salmon. So it's not as pretty.

Give this a try. You'll love it!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Isabo's Yellow Rice from the Double S Ranch

Now I might have to repeat this in the fall when Nick's book comes out, but that's never a bad thing...

Just more delicious goodness!

This basic recipe came from my son-in-law's mother, Gladys Bermeo. Gladys came here from Ecuador, she and her husband Marcos, and they had three beautiful children they had to leave behind.

One by one as they established themselves in NYC, they brought their family to America to become American citizens. Their only child born here is my son-in-law, Otto... They named him Otto after a nice German man who helped them get settled here.

Gladys is great in the kitchen, she has a big heart and she always opened their little home to travelers, to immigrants. She reached out to family, and cooking good, simple food was crucial.

I fell in love with this recipe, and like many good cooks, Gladys goes by feel. And DON'T GET IN HER WAY. When she's in the kitchen, it is her kitchen!

You'll need:

Sazon seasoning (two packets)
1 1/2 cups Basmati or Jasmine rice (good rice makes a difference)
A carrot or two, peeled and chopped fine
2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped fine
3 cups chicken broth (or 3 cups water and add about a tablespoon and a half of chicken base to the water after you add it)
1 can whole kernel corn, drained, or one 10 oz (plus or minus, you can never have too much corn, right?) frozen corn, thawed
Olive oil just to cover bottom of pan

Cover bottom of pan with olive oil. Sprinkle seasoning mix over oil. Warm it over medium/low heat to effuse the seasoning into the oil. As it heats, whisk seasoning a few times.

Once oil is hot (not smoking) add water (everything will steam up, into your face, so be careful!). Stir in rice, chopped carrots and celery, bring back to boil, then turn heat way down to simmer.

Cover pan. Cook for 18-20 minutes. Add drained corn for last few minutes. Add pepper to taste.

This is a huge family favorite here. It's spicy enough to be noticed and mild enough that the kids all love it.

And I probably shouldn't admit this but Sazon seasoning??? When you buy the mega box at Sam's Club? It seems to stay good for a VERY LONG TIME.

Luckily I don't read the silly dates on packaging! :)

I used bits of Gladys's history for Isabo Castiglione, a great secondary character in the Double S Ranch series. Isabo and her husband came to America from Ecuador as well, but they had no children. They'd lost multiple pregnancies, but when they came to America they found work and medical care, and their very last pregnancy gave them a daughter, the heroine from "Back in the Saddle", a courageous young woman who grew up to follow in her father's footsteps, a police office in the Seattle Police Department.

Immigrant strength is an amazing thing, because immigrants have the advantage of knowing just how blessed our country is. They take nothing for granted... and appreciate the littlest things!

We are so blessed to be here, and sometimes I just have to give myself a good shake and remind myself of that.

God is good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Between Seasons Doldrums aka Black Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dressing

What to cook?

What to eat??

What to post about???

It's that time of year (here at least) when we're in between seasons - too early for summery stuff, too tired of all the wintery stuff.

Just blah.

Apparently this is an annual affliction for me.

I was looking through the old food blog I used to do at Healthy Writer and found this from May 13, 2013.

Blizzards in April, snow storms in May.
We have a freeze warning tonight!
All of which is just an excuse for why it’s taking me so long to get into my spring/summer healthy mentality.
The allure of soups has worn thin as winter dragged on
and on
and on.
Roasted vegetables, so delicious back in November, are getting boring.
Still, it’s hard to drum up enthusiasm for those summer salads when you’re still wrapped in sweaters and winter coats!

Sound familiar?

I know some of you in other parts of the country are well into the warm weather, and we've had a few days, but they don't seem to hang around.

So I settled on this summery dish to pick up my spirits. I may have actually posted an in-progress rendition of it a few years back, but it seems just what I need right now.

A health food restaurant in my neighborhood sells an amazing Black Bean and Corn Quinoa Salad with Avocado Dressing that my daughter and I love. I wanted to try to duplicate it at home. Most of the duplication was easy; only the dressing gave me fits.

So here’s the easy part:
Quinoa – Do you cook with quinoa? It’s easy to make, so healthy, and has a nice nutty bite.
Black beans – I used Goya canned beans.
Corn –Have you ever tried cooking corn on the cob in the microwave with husks still on?  Missy Tippens taught me about that right here at Yankee Belle Cafe. For this recipe I nuked it, then cut it off the cob and chilled it.
In my opinion the corn was the best part!
Greens – I used a package of mesclun greens because they’re my favorite salad greens. I love the variety.
Red onion thinly sliced – This gives the salad a nice zing.
Tomatoes – I used little red grape tomatoes.
Avocado slices for the salad – yum
Toasted tortilla strips – for these, I decided to make my own. Sort of. I bought corn tortillas. My daughter chopped them into thin strips and then we toasted them in the oven. (Note: for this part, it’s better to toast longer on a low temperature. I did it on a higher temp and they got mostly chewy. I lowered it so they could just sort of dry out.)

Onwards to the salad
That first part is all pretty basic.  Just cook the quinoa and chill, prepare the beans however you like (I always cook them because it seems to make them easier to digest) and then chill.
Wash the greens.
When everything is chilled you’re ready for the dressing. This is where my copycatting fell apart.  What I made tasted good, but it wasn’t exactly right.
I took another avocado and juice from a lime and blended with some cilantro. I wasn’t totally thrilled with that version so I did some after the fact googling and found this recipe from  Trader Joe’s. I think it would have been better so I may try it tonight.
So mix the dressing in with the cold quinoa and arrange on the bed of greens, add the beans, corn, tomatoes, onion, avocado, and top with the toasted tortilla strips.

Isn’t that pretty?
Delicious too! Which is why I’ve been craving it.
Do you ever try to duplicate meals you’ve had in restaurants? How does it work for you?

*Sad note since I originally wrote this - the health department closed that restaurant!!!!

An even better reason to make it at home.

I'm also over on Craftie Ladies today talking about the role of food in our books - both for us as readers and writers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Easy Casseroles - Revisiting a Fave

Mindy here, fresh off of a Texas A&M Aggie weekend.

Yes, our oldest son is a student and invited us down for the annual Boots and Bowties Gala.
Notice neither of my guys are wearing a bowtie, though we do all have our boots.

We also got to spend some time, roaming the HUGE campus that is Texas A&M University.

A school that is steeped in traditions, such as the 12th Man.

But all that time in Aggieland means I didn't do a lot of cooking, so today we're going to revisit one of my favorite casseroles. I shared this recipe way back in 2012. I was first introduced to it when my husband was recovering from surgery and a gal in our Sunday School class brought us dinner. This so good, versatile and the perfect thing to fix for your family or someone else's.

 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 you can make with either chicken or beef to suit whatever you 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 also 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 1 can cream of chicken soup

First, brown your ground beef with the onions. If you're making the chicken version, simply saute your onions in a little bit of olive oil before adding the chicken.
Drain the ground beef.
Next, add your Ro-tel and soup and stir to combine.
Set aside.

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 13 x 9 in. pan. Top sauce with tortilla wedges. I took this pic half way through, but you do cover the whole thing.

Cover tortillas with half of the sauce and top with half of the cheese.

Repeat the process with another layer of tortillas, followed by 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 spicy 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.

My mouth is watering, just thinking about this dish. So good, so easy.

Do you have a favorite/go-to casserole? Where did you get your recipe?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spaghetti Pie Casserole

I love trying recipes from Taste of Home magazine. I recently bought one of their specialty magazine/cookbooks called "Ground Beef Cookbook," and this recipe jumped out at me.

First of all, it has cheese. We all know that ground beef and cheese go together like crazy!

Second, it's a different take on the traditional spaghetti pie.

Third, we were having a "Pasta and Music" night at church, and this casserole fit the bill.

What is a "Pasta and Music" night? At our church we have a lot of talented musicians. Everything from fiddle to banjo to drums. People with great singing voices, people who love to learn new instruments, and even a professional musician or two.

For the Pasta and Music night, we have a carry-in supper of - you guessed it - pasta dishes, salads and bread, followed by a jam session. We learn a few new songs, enjoy the talent, and get to know our fellow church-members a little bit better.

Daughter Carrie played her ukulele on some numbers, and her bass on others. Oh, what is that I see on her ring finger? Could it be an engagement ring? Less than seven weeks until the wedding!

On to the recipe -

Spaghetti Pie Casserole
(serves 8 - or you can double the recipe like I did!)


1 8-ounce package spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14-ounce jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2  cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain.

I used a nice green onion I received in my Bountiful Baskets
delivery last week.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef, and then drain. Return the ground beef to the pan and add the onion and garlic. Continue cooking until the onion is soft.

Stir in the spaghetti sauce, salt and pepper (I left the salt out) and heat until bubbly.

For the next step, stir the softened cream cheese and sour cream together in a bowl.

Now to put it together:

In a greased baking dish (11" x 7"), spread the spaghetti in the bottom, then spread the cream cheese mixture over the top.

Add the ground beef/tomato sauce mixture on top.

Bake, covered, at 350° for about 25 minutes. Remove the cover, sprinkle with the cheese, then back for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the finished casserole. It was delicious!

While you're enjoying the casserole, I'm going to take you on a little trip.

We quite often explore the Black Hills on Mondays - and you know I love the Hills. But we also live at the edge of the prairie.

Bear Butte. I took this picture from the north, about
twenty miles from the butte.

When we left the Black Hills and headed north that day, we were looking for another butte in these northern prairies, Castle Rock Butte.

Not as tall as Bear Butte, and much rockier, but worth the drive to see. And if you need something to help with the perspective of the size of this butte, those little black things in the foreground are Angus steers.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like the open prairie.

This is high-plains prairie. Vast. Open.

Windy. :)

And silent. You can't imagine the silence of so much open prairie. No cars. No trucks, No airplanes.

No music. No voices. No children arguing or dogs barking.

Only the wind in the grasses and the song of the Western Meadowlark.

Follow this link, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the sound bites in the bottom right-hand corner. Western Meadowlark.

Photo credit: Nelson Draper

Do you see why people say that South Dakota is "miles and miles of miles and miles?"

The prairie makes me smile.

For our discussion today - if you had the choice, would you live on the prairies or in the mountains? Or like me, would you have a hard time choosing?

Jan Drexler loves her family, her home, cooking and just about anything made by hand. But she loves her Lord most of all.

Stop by Jan's website to learn more about her books:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Cow Tongue and the Best Beef Broth

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have some delicious food, fresh off the farm. Well, the grocery store, but still... pretty fresh! Why cow tongue? Well, it has a very strong flavor, has half the calories of hamburger, is great for tacos, and isn't an organ meat (for those of us who avoid liver, etc.).
This is not the recipe. (And it's upside down.) I just thought it was weird that it's labeled "chicken paws". Hmmmm.....
 So, this is a cow tongue. Not appetizing. And if you've ever felt a cat lick your hand, you know what the taste buds feel like. Here's a picture of someone touching it. Imagine the audio... "Ouch!"
 We took the opportunity to inspect it. I don't think I have any kids interested in following my grandpa's footsteps into the veterinary field, but they did have a good time looking at the giant tongue.
 So, make some deep cuts along the top and the sides.
 My youngest was seriously disturbed. He was worried the cow wouldn't be able to eat without its tongue. I told him the cow was dead. That didn't help his mood.
 OK, big pot of water boiling? We need several cloves of garlic.
 A whole chopped onion and one diced tomato.
 About five celery stalks and about 6 TBS salt. Make it nice and salty because we're going to use this water. Let everything boil for about 10 minutes and then turn it down low. Put in the beef tongue and let it cook for about five hours.
 Remove when the meat is very tender.
 It should shred easily. The lower end of the tongue is the lowest fat so you can separate the meat if you have people who prefer a fattier tasting taco meat.
 The end of the tongue.
 The beef broth is so delicious I would eat this as a soup.
 Usually tongue tacos have lots of cilantro and salsa but we were out so I just placed some of the shredded beef in warmed corn tortillas, a few onions from the broth, added chopped onions and tomatoes.
 MMM. Nothing like it!
We ended up using half of the broth in a vegetable barley soup (DELICIOUS) and half was made into gravy when we had guests coming over for a big dinner. The kids declared it the best home made gravy ever (and it had very little fat, unlike pork drippings, etc.)

 That's all for now! We've got house guests and  just got home from a late night baseball game. We've still got baths, dinner, and bed to do... Wishing you all a wonderful weekend and I hope you try beef tongue sometime soon! Or, if you've already had it, let me know if you cook yours another way!