Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Peach and Lentil Salad

It's the last day of August! Can you believe it?  I don't know where the summer ran off to.

I love my teaching vocation, but I have to admit, it's really hard to go back this year after having such a productive summer of writing.

It's hot and I've been working in my classroom, so I'm relying on a lot of salads this week.  I've really become addicted to adding peaches to my salads since that experiment a few weeks ago.

My daughter and I had a conversation about how we never would have thought that tomatoes and peaches would go well together, but they really do. I prefer the low acid yellow tomatoes, but my daughter claims the heirloom ones we've been getting at the farmer's market work just as well.

This week I made a lentil peach salad. So refreshing and so delicious. And SO simple.

I've mentioned my sprouted lentils before, but I'll repeat because I think they're so amazing.

They cook in 4 minutes! I made them a little in advance and chilled them in my brand new (keeps things cold) refrigerator.

I sliced the peaches and roasted them for about 5 - 10 minutes.

I used a wonderful medley of red and green lettuces.

Drizzled with some olive oil and red wine vinegar.

So refreshing and delicious on these still-oh-so-hot summer nights.

I think they'd make a great lunch as well.

One night I also sprinkled hemp seeds on top for some additional nutrition.

And here's the beautiful salad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ACFW Conference 2016 - A Taste Sensation

Hard to believe, but ACFW 2016 is now in the history books. And this time, we have to wait more than a year before we come together again, so savoring the memories is extra important. 

Of course, there was one conference highlight that will not be forgotten anytime soon.
I got to hang with Ruthy!!!! Not near as long as I would have liked to, but still. She is so sweet, so cute and definitely related to the Energizer Buddy.

Another highlight was the Love Inspired dinner on Friday evening. Thirty of us eating, talking, laughing, eating...
What a blast.
And the food? Amazing. Absolutely amazing and very Nashville.

Pimento Croustade.
Pulled Pork Red Potato Skins.
Shrimp and Grit Cakes.
Smoked Chicken Cheddar Biscuits.
Smoked Trout Salad with Fried Green Tomatoes.
Throw in some Catfish Tacos and we're talking down-home goodness with class.
Even the water was pretty.
And the desserts.
Oh, my stars. 
Banana Pudding with Smoked Salted Caramel and Marshmallow Meringue AND Music City Mud Pie with Warm Whisper Cream Caramel.

Of course, no one ever leaves an ACFW Conference hungry and Saturday night's gala is always the high point of our feeding frenzy.
We started with a Green Salad with baby tomato, cucumber, radish, goat cheese, carrot, toasted brioche croutons and an herbed buttermilk dressing.
Followed by an entree of Harissa Spiced Grilled Beef Tenderloin Medallion and Turmeric Roasted Chicken, Cauliflower puree, Baby Squash and Tomato, Toasted Barley Potato Hash and a Black Raisin Shiraz Reduction. 
But the dessert?
Be still my heart.
White Chocolate Bombe, Red Velvet Cake, Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream. I'm not sure what sipping cream is, but those crumbles are candied nuts, either pistachio or hazelnut. Regardless, they were delicious. And the combination of everything in one bite?
I mean, just look at the inside. 
So smooth and creamy.

Oh, I almost forgot this.
Even the butter took on a Music City flare.

So now it's back to reality. Back to smoothies and tuna. Back to laundry and dishes. But I've returned with a renewed vigor and a quenched spirit. And isn't that what conference is all about?

Were you at ACFW 2016? 
If so, we want to hear about your conference experience?

Mindy Obenhaus lives in Texas with her husband and kids. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Favorite Recipe: Easy Chocolate Eclairs

This was my back-to-school post from four years ago. Time certainly flies fast, doesn't it?

Those same boys who went off to college then started their senior+ years last week. There's something about my kids...they never finish college in only four years. They add on second majors, or a minor, or change their majors, but at least they're employable when they're done...I think....

Anyway, this recipe is requested around our house at least a hundred times more often than I make it. We have a church dinner coming up soon, so I pulled out this recipe to take with me. I think I'll make a double batch!


Easy Chocolate Eclairs

The Boys on the Hill
 Saturday was a beautiful day here in the Black Hills. We went to visit the Boys (actually, this time we only waved from the road - the place was packed), and went hiking in the "Wrinkled Rocks" area on the backside of Mt. Rushmore.

Yes, we did a lot of strenuous hiking and climbing. Fall is almost here - do you see the yellow leaves on that Aspen?

Fudge. Always fudge.

After hiking we drove into Keystone for lunch.

No, not Keystone, Colorado. This is the Keystone that has a population of thousands from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and then from October to May the place shuts down - all except the taffy shop and the post office. You know, the important places!

We enjoyed sandwiches, people watching, and my daughter found a birthday present for her friend...

And motorcycles. A constant here all summer long.

Souvenir stores and restaurants. Are we in a tourist town?

And of course we went to the taffy shop :)

When we got home - hours and miles later, with loads of laundry waiting for me - I got ready to make a special dessert for Sunday, the official last day of summer around here.

School starts on Tuesday for our younger boys. College. Living at home. Schedule change and lots of money spent (theirs, not ours - we provide room and board, they take care of tuition). One is a freshman and the other is a sophomore. Our "first day of school" days are numbered!

So I made the Easy Chocolate Eclair recipe we were talking about here at the Cafe last week. It's the perfect special dessert for those days when you're pressed for time and energy.

Here's the recipe:


1 (8 oz). tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 large (6 servings) box vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk
1 (16 oz.) box graham crackers


1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the whipped topping, pudding and 3 cups milk. Place a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish (you can break them apart to fit), then cover with 1/2 of the pudding mixture. Repeat, and then add a third layer of graham crackers. (I never use all the graham crackers).

Now for the topping. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together sugar, cocoa and 1/3 cup milk just until boiling. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into a medium mixing bowl and cool, stirring often.

Hint: this is your time to change the laundry, or read a book, or take a cat-nap...

 Once it's cool, pour evenly over your eclairs. The topping will ooze its way around until the whole surface is covered.

Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. IF there are any leftovers, store in the refrigerator.

This is a great make-ahead for covered dish dinners. Once you make it, the only problem you have is keeping people from sneaking tastes ahead of time :)

And yes, you can substitute ingredients! If you make homemade pudding, use 3 cups and then don't use the 3 cups milk. Whipped cream can be substituted for the whipped topping - I think you'll need about 4 cups.

I've also had this made with Club crackers instead of graham crackers. They give it a very different, kind of sweet/salty taste.

Now, what about those boys who are starting school tomorrow?
The Sophomore

The Freshman (aka Drackler)

Off to the future...

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, August 27, 2016

Homemade Mint Lemon Refresher or How to Make Sodas

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I first wanted to share some of our local library's art. This is all made with a paper punch and those free paint chip samples. Isn't it awesome! 
 This is my favorite. I really love trees and have quite a few tree art pieces in my own house. I think I'd try this if I thought I could make it look as nice!
 Soooo, I found this great book called "Homemade Rootbeer, Soda and Pop" (you can get it here on Amazon) in our local library and we were very excited to try it out. There are a lot of "make your own pop" books but I liked this one because it has historical recipes. If you've read my Austen Takes the South books, you'll know I loooooove old recipes and always include the history of the food when I write it into a scene. Food, history, and stories. The perfect trifecta!
 First, this funny recipe from Anonymous in 1771 for Pumpkin Ale. No, we didn't try it, but it made us think of Harry Potter's Pumpkin Fizzies! Anotherpart of the book reminds readers that there was no line between alcoholic and non-alcoholic back then. It was more of a matter of how much alcohol, since anything that was fizzy was slightly fermented, and therefore had traces of alcohol.
This is relevant. I promise.
So, I thought this lemon mint refresher sounded wonderful. Remember, I really have no experience in fermenting anything but I figured sugar, flavoring and some fizz... what could go wrong?
 First, piles of mint... Check!
 Vintage jar filled fresh lemon juice... Check! (I was making a big batch, so if you try the recipe, follow the one above. I was tripling and adjusting as I went.)
 Pour boiling water over the mint leaves and let it set. (Oh, be sure to wash them first. Ours came straight from the garden and needed to be de-dusted.) Pour the mint water and the lemon, sugar, and yeast together. Put on the lid. Let it sit for a day. Now, this is where I went wrong. It was very warm in the laundry room where I had the jar (it was supposed to be in a cool, dark place) and plus, I left it for two days.
 So, when I went to open it up, the lid nearly popped off! My friend who works at a winery shook his head when I told this story because I'd basically created a lemon-mint BOMB in my laundry room. So glad I didn't let it sit for a week! The whole thing could have exploded.
But it didn't!
What it did do was fizz all over the place. My friend said we'd made "no-messin'-around" bubbly, like champagne. It was certainly... *gasp* No what I was heading for. We all had a sip and declared it quite interesting and chalked it up to a learning experience. I think we'll still with mixing flavors with soda water!
And one last photo. My husband took this picture of a snapdragon seed. SO funny. If you have snapdragons, go check them out. They're like tiny people.

Until next time! Feel free to stop by my author pages at Mary Jane Hathaway or Virginia Carmichael, or by my blog on The Things That Last!

Friday, August 26, 2016

No-Cooking Friday...Plus a Mini Vacation

Missy Tippens

Okay, I admit it. I was at the beach last week, and I only cooked one or two meals. Both of which were boring and the usual stuff I've already posted here multiple times. The rest of the time we either ate sandwiches or leftovers or ate out. Sooo...

I'm just going to share a few beach photos from Orange Beach, Alabama, so you can feel as if you've had a little vacation. :)

This is the night we arrived. We stayed in a different condo this time. Here was the beautiful view...

Here's the peaceful view from the balcony the next day...

Pour you a cup of coffee and enjoy a morning of waves lapping against the sand with the cry of seagulls to relax you... 

Of course, you need a little fun time down at the water. Enjoy the warm sand and the waves...

Oh, and since I write romance, I had to share this. Someone wrote this huge love letter on the beach one night! :)

Our last evening there, telling the beach goodbye for another year...

Oh! I do have a shot of food! While there, we usually try to eat at Lambert's Cafe--"Home of the Throwed Rolls." :) Hot, gigantic, wonderful yeast rolls tossed across the room to you. :) My kids made great catches this year. I won't share stories of all the years the bread went awry. :)

We had a wonderful vacation. Now back to real life. (big sigh) So, what's your favorite vacation spot?