Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summertime Roast Turkey

We do this once a month in the summer. I put the big roaster oven (18 quart) on the side porch table, plug it in, and roast a turkey....

And then we bone it out and snack on it for days.

I make gravy from the drippings....

So one night we have turkey and gravy and rice. (Not carb friendly! But sooo good!)

One night cold turkey sandwiches.

I freeze cranberry orange relish every fall when cranberries are on sale, and whenever we do a turkey, I take a quart bag of cran/orange relish out of the freezer and thaw it.

So cold and fresh and delicious with turkey or cottage cheese!

We do a big salad with the turkey, and then eat on that for a couple of days, too.

I did cold potato salad for Dave, but he's the only one who eats it.... And he loves it!

Diced cooked and peeled potatoes, celery, colorful sweet peppers, parsley, salt and pepper.... and Dave likes his with a Miracle Whip or Cole Slaw-style dressing:

1 cup mayonaisse
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix well and pour over veggies in salad and toss lightly!

I bought corn and forgot to cook it.


Summer is tricky because none of us have time to do a lot of cooking, but we all love to eat! (Me especially) so trying to figure out what works for several days is always a trick.

Red sauce and meatballs: RECIPE HERE

Pasta salad with meat:   RECIPE HERE

The grill is on constant alert. (Do you clean your grill??? Does it scare you to know that I don't? This is a topic of discussion for another day!)

Mostly the busy-ness is small children, writing books, planting veggies, yard work, fixing things that took a winter beating, and just gazing up at the S-U-N.


Around here, Mr. Sun is greatly appreciated!

Remember me killing the English Ivy and Poison Ivy all last year??? Repeatedly applying noxious poisons to get rid of my nemesis.... and then Dave tilled and tilled and tilled....

And we uncovered my waterfall!!!

This is from the bottom, looking up..... It's so much prettier now, and I've re-lined everything and layered rocks and planted and mulched and watered.... and it's beginning to look so sweet!

And then this is the pond Seth and I dug 15 years ago... at the base of the waterfall.... One side is planted and the other side is DIRT... But give me a few weeks of garden therapy and we'll be all set!

I'm creating a little walkway at the upper pond.... (There are three little ponds, one medium messy pond, one swamp, and one big pond buried in grass and trees way out back.

This pond attracts tree frogs and grass frogs and toads....

And this is keeping us busy! About 8 acres are planted (small by big farm standards, I know!) and there are two more acres for them to plant.  Top pic is baby cauliflower plants...  There are 510 of them.

And these are pie pumpkins, one of our big sellers. There are a few thousand planted, I think.... A lot of these.

Seth is coaxing them along up here at the house so they're strong when we put them in. Notice that we use sleds for plants in the summer (Seth's idea!) and as, well... sleds in the winter!


It's crazy.

It's busy.

It's fun and nothing is ever what you'd consider "done".

But that's okay, it's like a round-robin of life.

And with July on the horizon....

Oh my stars, Summer is here!!!!

And check out this book to release in less than 3 weeks!!!!

I AM SO EXCITED!!!! GRACE HAVEN, BOOK 2!!!!! And what a charming story it is....

I love it to pieces.... and I hope you do, too!

Right now I'm juggling a 9 month old baby with a death wish and her 3 big brothers... and all are alive.


Until next week my friends!

Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories folks love and getting paid to do it.
She thinks that's very cool. She lives on a farm in upstate New York which is no where near New York City, but she does love to make the 5.5 hour drive to visit NYC a few times a year... because NYC is cool. And filled with people. And where Ruthy lives?

There are more cornfields and cows than people!

E-mail her at, visit her website or friend her on facebook as Ruth Logan Herne.... she loves to keep in touch with readers and writers!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Revenge of the Manky Produce

My daughter and I refer to produce that is ... um ... past it's prime as manky.

I wondered if that was even a real word. Apparently it is. You can even get a wonderful English/Scottish explanation here.


Said daughter and I love to start off our weekend at the big Farmer's Market in Grand Army Plaza.

Such goodness.

The farmers are actually there all year, though pickings are a bit slim come winter.

But once the weather warms, it's produce heaven.

It's soooooo very tempting.

And way too often you find yourself buying way more produce than two people can possibly eat. (Yes, 2, because husband has zero interest unless it comes from the bakery table.)

And sometimes, well, maybe a few too many thumbs have pressed on those peaches to see if they're as ripe as they smell (they weren't).

So two days later, you find yourself with this -

After I cut out all the huge brown spots!

Now, despite their appearance (which isn't quite as good as the picture makes them appear), those strawberries still taste amazing, and I have a recipe to share about them in a week or two, but the peaches, they were ... just manky.

So, what to do????

There's always composting back at the greenmarket. :) 

But my frugal little heart balks at that waste of peaches.



I've been pondering quinoa as a breakfast food because of the health benefits - especially protein - so I decided to cook some up with my manky fruit.

My main beef with quinoa is that it doesn't have much flavor. Maybe fruit will help?

I soaked the quinoa because that is supposed to remove the bitterness. That did leave me with a bit of a dilemma because the ratio of water to dry quinoa is 2 to 1, but after soaking, the quinoa had doubled in size. I went with the original measure of water since the fruit has plenty of juice.

I sliced the manky peaches into the boiling water/quinoa and simmered for 6 minutes (half the cooking time). Then I added the strawberries and some blueberries (because my daughter thought this would be a patriotic looking breakfast).

So here we go.

Just the quinoa and peaches.

Is this where I mention how tempted I was to add in chocolate chips here??? RESIST!

In hindsight, I should have stopped at the cooked quinoa and peaches and added in the blueberries and strawberries fresh.

Although it tastes delicious, the final cooked version looks a little ... well, not exactly manky, but definitely mushy.  Which is fine for breakfast. Or dessert.

It tastes better than it looks.

I realize this doesn't exactly sound like a rallying call to get everyone to make it, but it beats the compost bin and it really does make for an excellent breakfast. I'm going to put it in the frig for morning!

Looks like mush but has a bit of a crunch thanks to the quinoa.

So did I scare you off or intrigue you?

Just so long as I didn't bore you, right? Because readers may love us or hate us, but we sure don't want them to ignore us!!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Peach Cobbler for a Crowd

We had the pleasure of spending several days at the ranch last week. 
The flood waters have finally subsided, leaving the lakes full and the vegetation lush.
But this is Texas and it is June, that means it's also hot.
So while we're fishing, our beloved Dixie decided to go for a dip.
That crazy dog swam back and forth for a good fifteen minutes.
Can't say I blame her, though. I was half tempted to jump in myself.

This time of year in Texas also means, peaches. And peach cobbler.
 Normally, I use fresh peaches, but the grocery store I went to only had California peaches and they were hard as rock. Not good for cobbler.
So, realizing I didn't have time to run by the market that had local peaches, I opted to go with frozen peaches. I'll discuss the results later.

Okay, let's get started by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is heating, to 3 - 16oz bags of peaches (that would equate to 6-8 cups of sliced fresh peaches) I added:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
If I were using fresh peaches, I would have also added a couple teaspoons of lemon juice, but the frozen variety already have ascorbic acid to prevent browning.

The butter decided to photo bomb the other ingredients.

Pour the dry ingredients over the peaches and toss until the peaches are coated.
Since the peaches were frozen, much of the dry stuff sifted to the bottom, but that's only.

Now pour the peach mixture into a buttered baking dish and set aside while you make the topping.

Mix together:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Then cut in 2/3 cup COLD unsalted butter that's been cubed.
It should look like course meal.
Now add 5-6 tablespoons milk and combine until everything comes together.

Because there's so much butter in this dough, the easiest way to roll it out is between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. 
You simply peel off the top sheet, lay the dough atop the peach mixture, then peel off the other sheet.
Why do I have two separate sheets of dough?
Because while I doubled my recipe for the peaches, I forgot to do it for my dough and had to make a second batch.
The ingredients I listed above are for a double batch.

What I did here is a very rustic version. But you could cut the dough into strips and do a lattice top or, say for the 4th of July, you could use a star-shaped cookie cutter and line the top with stars.

For this version, I cut a few slits in the top, then baked for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and the peaches are bubbling.
 Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is darn near perfection.

 Now, about those frozen peaches. Passable, but not near as good as fresh. While most of the slices were tender, some weren't ripe to begin with and were still hard, even after baking.
That said, I didn't hear any complaints from those who partook in this seasonal treat. Matter of fact, most of them went back for seconds.

Bottom line, fresh is always best, but frozen works, too.

One last shot of Walnut Hill lake, one of our favorite spots.

Believe it or not, that downed tree is partially submerged, but the reflection makes it look as though it's hovering above the water.
Nature at it's best.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Baked Apricots with Almonds

I love apricot season!

My favorite way to eat apricots is just as you see them here - fresh out of hand!

But of course no one should eat more than one or two a day that way, and since I'm the only one in the family who likes them, my yearly treasure trove threatens to spoil before I can eat them all! So I'm constantly looking for new ways to use these beauties.

I think you'll like this one...

Baked Apricots with Almonds

The ingredient list is simple:

5 or 6 fresh, ripe apricots
1 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 almonds, finely chopped

I used the almond slivers I had in the cupboard -

- and my Pampered Chef chopper.

Then I chopped my little heart out for about thirty seconds.

I think I'll go a bit longer the next time. These pieces were a bit large for the recipe, although they still worked well.

Mix the almonds with the butter (softened) and brown sugar, and set it to the side.

The next step is to peel the apricots. I neglected to take pictures of this process, but it's easy-peasy.

First, blanch the fruit. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then carefully drop the apricots into the boiling water. Once the water reaches a rolling boil again, leave the apricots in for about one minute. Then bring them out of the water (I use a slotted spoon). The skin should split and pull back a bit.

If you have some fruits that aren't quite ripe, they may need to blanch for another 10 - 15 seconds.

Once the apricots are blanched, let them cool slightly, then slip the skins off and cut them in half. Remove the pits and arrange the halves in a buttered baking dish.

Put about a teaspoon of the almond filling in each half, then bake them in a 400° oven for 20 minutes.

They should be hot and bubbly, with juices running in the baking dish. And oh! They smell so good!

Serve them warm, with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream on top. Or you can eat them plain. Any way you do it, these are delicious!

So let's talk. Do you like apricots? How do you like to eat them?

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, June 25, 2016

Starbucks Copycat Low Calorie Strawberry Cream and Lemon Chiller Drinks- and FREE BOOK!

Hi, everybody! This is a repeat post from July 2014 (that was my year for good recipes, apparently) and it's become a favorite in my house!
But first I have to share this picture of our kitty cat. I honestly didn't know if he was enjoying the sun or was a victim of a terrible tricycle accident. :O

So, going back to 2014 now, at the time of the original post, we were in the middle of a heat wave. I can happily say we have gorgeous weather as I type this, and when this post airs, we should be at the beach, so I'm betting it will NOT be 104F the second time around... but I could be wrong!
Without further ado...
I got this great cookbook at the library. The author battled diabetes and other health issues so she tries to take the most popular recipes and remake them several different ways. Each recipe has about four or five alternatives, whether you're cutting fat, sodium, sugar or carbs. I loved this idea! I don't have a problem with sugar, but I would love to cut unnecessary fat from my diet, so I thought I'd try some of the recipes and see if they were as good as they looked.

BUT this happened: record-setting temps all week. 107 on Thursday but some said 109F unofficially. I figure anything past 100 is officially whatever you want to call it because we're all melting and nobody's going to be around to argue.
 So I decided to make some of the drinks in the book. The first one is called "Luscious Lemon Slim Smoothie".
1/3 cup low fat milk
1 TBS instant sugar free lemon pudding mix
1/3 cold water
1/3 Greek yogurt (non fat)
 2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup ice
 I got out the ninja, but you can use a blender. This entire process took about 3 minutes, start to finish. Definitely doing this for refreshments when we have guests!
Add the milk and pudding mix together, and let sit for one minute. Then add all the other ingredients.
 I wasn't really sure how this would taste, since I'm not big on sugar free products. They always have an odd flavor to me. But this was delicious! Light, cool, lemony, and very filling.
 Of course, always better with some whipped topping and a few blueberries. The kids split one and I gave the other to hubby. He said it was "savroso". I told him to hold on, I was still testing recipes. He was in the garden, so he just handed me back the jar and went back to work.

Nutritional information: 100 calories, carbs 14, fat 1.5, protein 10g, sodium 350mg

 The next recipe is apparently copied from a famous Starbucks recipe. We have one but I don't often go there, so I haven't tried the original. What I know is that this one IS DELICIOUS.

1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup nonfat half-and-half
2/3 cup frozen strawberries (about 6)
3 TBS sugar (or substitute)
1/2 cup crushed ice
 Place all ingredients together and blend.
 I was really surprised at how "strawberry" this was. I thought since they were frozen, it would turn out like a lot of strawberry ice chunks, but I think the half-and-half brings out the creamy flavor.
 For me, this was closest to a real treat. Rich and flavorful, like a milkshake but not as heavy. Again, kids shared some and I took the rest to hubby. He said, "delicioso". I told him to just wait... there was more.

Nutritional info: 150 calories, 25 carbs, fat 1.5 g, protein 7g, fiber 2g sodium 65mg
In comparison, the real Starbucks version has 380 calories, 15 g of fat, and 57 carbs!
 The next recipe was Mocha Fudge Mudslide Milkshake. This took a few ingredients I didn't have but I think I can use the sliced almonds in another batch of granola, so I figured it wouldn't be too expensive to try. If it didn't work out, I'd just stick to regular milkshakes!

2 tsp sugar free hot fudge topping
2/3 cup low fat milk
1 tbs vanilla sugar free instant pudding mix
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup no sugar addeded or light ice cream
2/3 cup ice
 First, wipe the hot fudge up the inside of the glasses. Put them in the fridge to chill.
Combine the milk and the pudding mix, blend, and then let it sit for 1 minute.
Add all other ingredients and then blend until thick and creamy. Carefully pour into the glasses and top with whipped topping and almonds if desired.
 These definitely were tasty-looking. But would they pass the Munoz taste-test??
Apparently, the answer is YES. They were devoured, and I had to make more. My kids decided that this was the best dinner they'd ever had and they wanted it to be 109F every single DAY. (Forgive them, they know not what they wish for.)

Nutritonal info: calories 205, carbs 35, fat 4.5, protein 8, fiber 4, sodium 480mg

My personal favorite was the lemon chiller. The cookbook author also gives several different flavor ideas made from the same "starter" of instant pudding mix, low fat milk and yogurt. I have some strawberry pudding so I might try that and see if it's as refreshing. For a 100 calories, it sure beats a popsicle on a hot day.

Now, before I go, I thought I'd share a few pics of my kids. Every year on their birthday (which most were born in the summer- no cracks about keeping warm, I've heard them all, haha) we open their baby boxes.

 My soon-to-be 13 year old's Sunday dress might not fit her anymore.
Just for giggles, here's her birth announcement in the paper. Yikes.
 The four year old's foot is still chubby, but these shoes aren't going to fit at all.
 My 11 year old's first tshirt is wayyyy too tiny.
My nine year old says, "Ugh, do I have to?"
But I think my fourteen year old wins. She was a preemie who had colic and screamed for the first three months of her life. She weighed 5 lbs 11 oz and was 18 inches long, now she's taller than I am.
And here are her size 11 feet and her baby booties. That's my baby! Time does fly... and I'm so very grateful for the health and well-being of all my children. 
Now, if they'd just clean their rooms...

EDIT June 2016: Awwwww, my babies are so little! It's amazing how much they grew in just a few years. What a fun stroll into the not-so-distant past.
My book A Star To Steer By is also free from the 24th through the 29th. It's one of my favorite books!

Here's the blurb:
Roxie Sunshine Hardy is perfectly happy living in Philadelphia, far away from her hometown. Growing up as a chubby nerd obsessed with classic literature, Roxie finally feels like she’s found her place in the world. She’s kept her full name a secret and has never, ever, ever told a single soul how she spent her high school years. People might think growing up in a family bakery is delightful, but Roxie knows the reality. Spending countless sweaty afternoons inside Sunshine Bakery’s big, pink foam cupcake costume is the stuff of her nightmares. 
Those terrible days are behind her now, but when her family needs her, Roxie decides to return to Natchitoches. She assures herself that it’s only for a few weeks, and there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Dante’s Inferno that she’ll have to get into that cupcake suit. 

Moving from New York City to Natchitoches shouldn’t be a problem for Andy McBride. The slower pace, Creole culture, and friendly locals make up for the lack of any good Thai take-out. But Andy hasn’t counted on how much he’d miss his brother, Mark. He can’t uproot Mark from his group home for the mentally disabled back in New York, so Andy tries to go on as usual. To everyone else, including his fascinating neighbor from Philly, he’s living the carefree life of a wealthy bachelor, but Andy is haunted by the knowledge that Mark might not be around for much longer. 
When an unlikely friendship blossoms with Sunshine Bakery’s anonymous dancing cupcake, Andy decides to stop pretending to be someone he’s not. He learns seizing the day isn’t just for poets, and life is too short to be without the people you love. A story of family, loyalty, and a true love that can’t be disguised, A Star to Steer By will warm your heart. 

Be sure to drop by my author page at Mary Jane Hathaway, or my other author page at Virginia Carmichael, or my blog at The Things That Last! All my newest book news and musings is there, including anything else that strikes my fancy!