Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Anniversary Adventure Weekend

This past Saturday I was scheduled to have a book signing at a lovely little place in Eagle Lake, Texas called the Vineyard II.
Since hubby's and my anniversary was Friday, we decided to make it an anniversary weekend. However, anniversary weekend quickly turned into adventure weekend.

Friday morning, the day we were to leave, we not only awoke to rain, my sister-in-law sent us news that one of the roads we take to the ranch was closed due to flooding and we'd have to find a different route. Okay, no impossible, just a little inconvenience.

During the four-hour trip, we had rain off and on, but nothing too bad. And we were thrilled when we checked the TxDot website later and saw that the road that had been closed was now open. Woo-hoo!

Our excitement was short-lived, though when the storms descended on areas that had been spared the previous day. By the time we arrived at the ranch, the skies had opened. Lighting and thunder flashed and boomed all around us.

We had parked in the barn and, shortly after I shot this video, we made a mad dash for camp house.
From the porch, we watched our island slowly disappear.

Roughly 4 inches of rain in 2 hours. That coupled with all the rain south central Texas has had in recent weeks and the water rose quickly.
When the rain finally stopped, we went out to explore.

Remember that island?
Our little pond was coming out of it's banks. Where this video starts is the actual pond, but the water was flowing over the spillway so hard you can't tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

By the time we were ready to go meet family for dinner, our front gate looked more like a lake.
When the water is higher than the boots, you either leave the gate open or ditch the boots all together and roll up your britches.
By the time we returned from dinner, the Colorado River was coming out of its banks.
And when we got back to the camp, the area just inside the gate that is normal all sand, now looked more like high tide.
Yes, there's a road under there.
Thank goodness were in a very tall, 4-wheel drive pickup or we would have never made it.

The heavy rains do bring out the best in nature.
And the worst. (a closer look)

But without fail, God always does something really cool after the storm.
By the next day, the sun was shining and the waters had receded ever so slightly as we made our way to Eagle Lake.
I had cheese and crackers and patriotic M&Ms for those who joined us.
As well as a door prize.
And the ladies group from the Lutheran Church made things extra fun.
I hope they had as good a time as I did.

On our way home Sunday, we stopped in tiny Ellinger, Texas for kolaches just as their Memorial Day Parade was coming to an end.
There were antique cars, beauty queens and cowboys on horseback.
And, of course, veterans riding in the back of a military vehicle.
(I was a second or two too late for my best shot.)

Overall, it was fun weekend. Relaxing yet challenging, fun and memorable.
Definitely one for the record books.

So how was your Memorial Day Weekend?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Midwestern Beer Brats For Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you're having a wonderful day of picnics, time with friends and family, and splendid summer weather.

But, just in case your Memorial Day picnic has been rained out, here's a way to cook those brats on the stove - saving your meal in a delicious way! Enjoy this recipe that I shared back in 2012:

Midwestern Beer Brats

“Hot enough for ya?”
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”
                        And its partner, “It’s a dry heat, just like your oven.”
And my favorite?
“Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

Face it, this summer has been brutal, rivaling the 1930’s dust bowl era.
In our part of the country, drought has been the killer.

Our area (the Black Hills of South Dakota) is classified as “extreme drought”. That means fire bans. All fires.

The problem? I have a charcoal grill.
Yeah, I know, gas is more convenient. But a gas grill just doesn’t give you that smoky flavor…

 Anyway, I haven’t been able to use my grill since June.
     No 4th of July barbeque!
                No Saturday night burgers!
                                And {gasp!} no brats!
What’s a mid-western gal going to do to feed her family?

Believe it or not, a southern belle came to my rescue.
(No, not Missy. The other one. Paula.)
This recipe was one her show one day back in June (before my daughter was employed and still had time to watch daytime TV), and when I thought I couldn’t stand going without brats one more week, I remembered it.
I’m rating this one “pretty easy”. You do have to open the beer cans…

Oh, and for those who don’t drink? There’s no alcohol in the finished product. It all gets simmered away - or you can use water or non-alcoholic beer.

Midwestern-Style Beer Brats
With thanks to the Deen brothers for the original recipe.
(Which I changed, of course. I can never leave those recipes alone!)
  •  10 fresh (not smoked or pre-cooked) bratwurst sausages (I used Johnsonville)
    • (This is to serve seven people, three with large appetites. Make as many brats as you need.)
  •   6  16 ounce, or 8 12 ounce cans of beer (not the good stuff - after all, you will be cooking it) - or water - or another fizzy drink, like ginger ale
  •  1 large onion, sliced and divided into two piles
  •  A variety of peppers – I used those little bell peppers you can get in yellow, orange and red, and threw in a few slices of green pepper to go with them.
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 10 brat buns or hoagie rolls
  • Mustard – don’t skimp on this. Get the best German-style, stone-ground mustard you can find.
So, first we boil the brats in the beer. Empty the cans of beer into a large pot and add half the sliced onions. Prick the brats all over with a fork, and then drop them in. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onions and the peppers. Cook about 15 minutes, or until they’re very soft, stirring and tossing occasionally.

When the brats are done simmering, add them to the skillet with about a quarter cup of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat up a smidge and stir the brats, peppers and onions together until the brats start browning (between 5 and 15 minutes). Add more liquid if necessary to keep the peppers from scorching. As they’re cooking, season with a few grinds from your pepper grinder (or shakes from your shaker).

Split the buns, if they aren’t already sliced. Slather one side of the bun with mustard and add your brat along with as many of the sautéed peppers and onions you desire.

And the corn? I used the microwave method Missy shared with us a few weeks ago, of course! Go here to find that recipe.

Back to 2016 - Memorial Day is a very special day in the US. While Veteran's Day honors soldiers who have served in our armed forces, and Armed Services Day honors those who are currently serving, Memorial Day honors those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

So enjoy your day, but don't forget the reason why we celebrate. :)

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: www.JanDrexler.com.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Easy Spring Genoise Cake with Raspberries and Cream!

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I've got a really easy, light, tasty and DELICIOUS cake for you. We found this recipe in Illustrated Step by Step Baking and my second oldest daughter decided she wanted to try it out. 
Here's the photo. Mmmmmm. Looks amazing!
 But somehow, this is how the cakes turned out. Go ahead and laugh. We sure had a good giggle at these poor little creatures. They were like sweet tortillas, but not as flat.
 But you know me. I never throw away anything half-way edible, so I decided to cut them into little squares.
 I dug out my mini Cointreau and Grand Marnier bottles (used for cheesecakes, yum!).
 I soaked those little hard squares in cream and Cointreau. And another batch in Grand Marnier. And one more batch in just sweetened cream.
 The whipping cream made a sweet layer...
 Non-alcoholic version! Check out the raspberry nose. Love!
 OK, so this is take two. I helped this time and my daughter said that she didn't remember putting in the baking soda, so maybe that was it?

Here are the ingredients:
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
grated lemon zest

2 cups heavy cream
11 oz raspberries
2 tbs powdered sugar
 Let the cakes cool and then trim so that they lie flat. Or mostly flat. Layer on the whipped cream an raspberries.
 Apply the second layer.
 Action shot!
 Cover the cake in the cream. It's getting warm and looks pretty sloppy but persevere! After the cake is covered, pop it in the freezer. After about twenty to thirty minutes, remove the cake and spread the cream into shape.
 The finished cake. It's a perfect dessert for a very hot day if you serve it immediately out of the freezer. Not frozen, just chilled!
 We were aiming for perfection, just delicious!
The inside shows those nice fluffy layers. So good!

That's it for now and I hope everybody has a wonderful Memorial Day. Be sure to pop by my author page Mary Jane Hathaway, my other author page Virginia Carmichael, or my blog at The Things That Last. Until next time!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Welcome Guest Jolene Navarro and her Roasted Blue Cauliflower

Hello, Yankee Belle Café. I’m Jolene Navarro and I’m honored to be a guest. Thank you Cate Nolan for hosting me today.

I was going to share one of my smoothies, (I have become an addict) but roasted cauliflower has popped up in four separate conversations this week. I’m going to share the recipe that has my teenage boys mad when they come back for seconds, but it’s already gone. Yes, I have had to start roasting two heads of cauliflower to keep everyone happy.

It’s really simple, which is key in my life. I teach High School art and write just about every day.  The boys have been known to fix it on their own when I’m on a deadline.

There are many nutritional experts that say cauliflower, along with broccoli is one of the healthiest foods nature provides.
Here are a few reasons why: It is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin. Additionally, gives us a dose of vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium. WOW – if you’re not eating it you should be, right?

I have been known to chop it up into a smoothie.

 The trick is we want food that excites us and taste good. That’s why it has become a favorite in our house.

We use purple cauliflower when we find it, but any color works.

Why purple? It has the same nutrients found in white cauliflower. However, purple cauliflower will provide you with a couple of other nutritional benefits. The purple color come from a subtype of flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, (trust me it’s good) which is reported to regulate your blood lipid and sugar levels and body weight, (what’s not to love about that?) It may also help to lower your cancer risk.

Here is how we cook Roasted Parmesan, Parsley & Purple Cauliflower is the Casa de Navarro.
A head (or two) of Purple Cauliflower
1 tsp fresh Parsley (or two)
1 tbsp olive oil for each head
Salt to taste (I love grinding Himalayan Pink Sea Salt)
Freshly grounded black pepper
½ cup or a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400
Slice the cauliflower florets like mushrooms. Toss in the olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Make sure each slice is coated. I use a stone, but a cookie sheet will work (parchment paper makes it a bit crisper if you use a cookie sheet ad easier clean up - yay).  Spread them out evenly.
Place in the oven. At 45 minutes turn over and sprinkle cheese over the slices. Let cook for another 5 to 10 min. It is meant as a side dish, but it also makes a great snack.

                Maybe share it with family and friends over the Memorial Day weekend.

There is one last think I want to share with you. Because Memorial Day is upon us, I’m sharing a page from my grandfather’s WWII diary. Forrest F. French kept a diary during his time serving with 7th Div. Co. K 184th Infantry. Okinawa. He return home but was killed in an accident way before I was born, but because of his ( illegal ) diary I got to know him a bit and a little of the men he served with. Many didn't make it back home. These words are straight from his diary. 

May 18 1945.
Everyone calls me Tex or Eagle Eye. As it seems I am one of the best shots in the Co. I have my name Texas Kid carved on my rifle. The new guys can't seem to understand yet why we are cleaning our rifles and oiling them all the time. They will soon find out that it is your most dearest friend when we move up. 
May 25, 1945. 
I got a piece of grenade in my right thigh, but it just barely stuck in. Has rain for three days non-stop. We have to go back about 2 miles for ammo and rations. Snipers all along the way back. Wish they would get them cleaned out.
May 28 1945
We will push off to take the cliffs this noon. It is going to be rough as we have to cross a wide valley. Will be at their mercy. As they will be above us. Don't know how much longer I will last.
June 5 1945.....I am now in charge of the squad. I wish I weren't for it is a great responsibility. Only 5 of us are left. 

Have a blessed weekend and remember the ones that gave all.

A seventh generation Texan, Jolene knows that, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that dancing in the rain never gets old.
She uses her art degree to teach inner city kids about the world and they teach her about life. 
When she’s not in the studio or hanging out with her family, she loves creating worlds of strong heroes and powerful heroines who find love in spite of the obstacles they face. (Actually even then she’s getting ideas for the next story) She is currently working on her sixth Clear Water Book for Harlequin’s Love Inspired. Her fourth book, A Soldier’s Surprised Family, will be released August 23
Jolene can be found online, where she loves to make new friends and chat about life.

 https://www.facebook.com/jolenenavarrowriter/       https://jolenenavarrowriter.com/
Jolene's books:

The Soldier’s Surprise Family - September 2016
A Texas Christmas Wish, Love Inspired - October 2015
Lone Star Holiday & Lone Star Hero   now available

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Kit Kat Brownies, Super Simple!

This was super easy, and it was because we had a gazillion little Kit Kat bars and I love Kit Kat bars, so the way to get rid of them was to make them disappear, and not onto my waistline....


I've done this before with giant Symphony bars, with the toffee bits, and it's to die for, so I thought.... if I set the Kit Kats in straight lines, then I can cut the brownies and everyone has a crunchy surprise....


(Hallelujah chorus inserted here!!!!!)

So basically you follow the box recipe for fudgie brownies.... X 2 boxes.

Grease bottom of pan (or spray lightly with baking spray).

Spread one half into pan. (I used my big 15 X 11" pan so the brownie part would be thinner)

Unwrap a lot of little Kit Kat bars, or about 8-10 full size bars.

Set unwrapped Kit Kats onto brownie batter in pan, lining them up to make cutting easier.

Spoon remainder of brownie mix over the Kit Kats....

Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes. (oven times vary, and I was using a bigger pan, so if you use a thicker brownie/smaller pan, baking time might be longer.)

Remove from oven, fully cool, then frost (because why wouldn't you????? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE!!!!).... I thought cutting the candy bars would be tough, but it wasn't. I used a serrated knife and they came out great....

I prefer the Symphony bar version myself. The kids loved these, though, and they disappeared really quickly.


And somehow I managed to not get a shot of the cut bars with the "square" of Kit Kat inside. My bad!!!

This is our go-to chocolate frosting, from the Hershey's website:

Perfect Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 cup butter (melted)
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups confectioners/powdered/10X sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (my addition)
1/3 cup milk

Melt chocolate. Whisk in cocoa. Add rest of ingredients and whisk until smooth. Frosting thickens as it cools. If it's too thick, add a little more milk. Too thin? More sugar!

This is our favorite frosting, we love it, it's a crowd-pleaser and beginner simple!

But life is busy here on the farm right now! With Dave retired there are a bunch of acres of tillable land being done up for our roadside produce cart.

And hundreds of blight resistant tomato plants in my side yard, getting TLC from me and Seth...

And doesn't everyone use their spare bed to sort out big and small envelopes of seed for planting?  :)

We had 5 grandkids over on Saturday and they spent the night. Then church in the morning, bagels and a soccer tournament for ten-year-old Emma....

And gorgeous weather.

Oh my stars, we get so excited over good weather up here!

And Mr. Snapping Turtle came to visit us on Sunday. We formed an animal relocation committee to move her to the creek up the road, citing how much we value children's small limbs... this is in a big garbage tote, and it's the biggest snapper we've ever found crossing the farm... Maybe attracted to the softly tilled soil to lay eggs? Or to the pond to visit a friend?

And I won't mention Snakey-Von-Snake-a-lot who slithered through the yard... One of many in our sandy loam, rocky soil.

I did not grab a picture of the snake.

But they're all innocent snakes, until they try to get inside the house. Then they're not so innocent!

Bullfrog in our side pond:

Oops, bullfrog is shy.... but if I get a pic of him, I'll post it, his favorite spot is green mossy stuff and he turns Prada Green.

And spring continues with pretty colors!!!

This small red Japanese maple wasn't happy in my friend Sara's apartment six years ago... but it is very happy here in the front garden, just beyond the little waterfall! Happy tree!!!

And Lunaria pops up here and there every year.... the "silver dollar" plant:

And these pretty tulips are my late-bloomers on the north side, and that flash of rosy-red is a smile starter!!!

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend.... and our tradition is to grab every little child we can and herd them down to the village for the annual Memorial Day parade.... We like to show the military our love and respect.

And then we go to the cemetery and we plant flowers and spread mulch and post a flag near Uncle Charles Blodgett's grave. Uncle Chuck served in Korea.... And then we go home and plant flowers and eat hots and hamburgers and talk about the past while we plan for the future with little kids running around, scraping knees, drinking lemonade or fruit punch and climbing big old farm trees.

And it's good.

Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, dogs, chocolate and coffee and she can be seen waving a flag on Memorial Day in her little village and wiping stuff off kids' faces most any day of the year.

With 3/4 million books in print, Ruthy is living her dream and can't believe folks are paying her for a job she'd do for free.... but she will admit that she does like getting paid!

Find her at her website ruthloganherne.com, in Seekerville or on facebook/RuthLoganherne  where she loves to make new friends and chat about faith, family, fun and fiction!