Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trying New Cookie Ideas and Would Love Your Help!

Hi, it's Ruthy here, The Yank, and I love Christmas cookies. I love cookies 24/7/365 so I'm confessing that I won't just use these ideas at Christmas, but all year round!

We make cookie Whoopie Pies on the farm and they sell like crazy.... and in "Magnolia" Journal, there's a picture of spiced Whoopie Pies in the beautiful setting!

I knew I loved that Joanna Gaines! :)

So here are our classics....

Double Chocolate Chip (which is often triple chocolate chip depending on what morsels I have in the house...)

Mary's or Deluxe Sugar Cookies (which we frost with a decadent butter icing flavored with almond and vanilla)

Snickerdoodles (Love 'em!!!)

Fudge (any kind, I am an equal opportunity fudge lover!)

Meringue kisses, tinted in pastels because my son Luke loves them!!!

Those are the basics. I make some bars, too, but I'm a big fan of cookies and Whoopie Pies so this week I'm playing with cranberry cookies. Not everyone will love them, but they're in keeping with the season so I'm playing.

And I forgot Thumbprints. Oh, how I love Thumbprints with our new Very Berry Cherry jam!!!

But what are your favorites? You can post a link to the recipe or just name the favorite and tell me where you got the recipe... I'll do the leg work!

We used to make mincemeat cookies and bourbon balls (my father's and sister's favorites) but I don't like either so I don't do those anymore.

What about you? Are there cookies that have fallen out of favor?

Here's a new one I'm playing with, a cranberry/orange/white chocolate cookie and we're so pleased with the results I had to share it! This is homemade cranberry/orange relish, a simple recipe... 

One bag of cranberries
One large orange
1 cup sugar

Grind cranberries and orange together with grinder or food processor. Add sugar. Chill! 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees...


16 oz. soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream 
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups cranberry orange relish
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 12 oz. bag Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (if desired)

Cream butter and sugars together with mixer. 

Add vanilla, sour cream, and egg. 

Mix and cream again. 
Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and mix in thoroughly. Blend in the cranberry orange relish. Mix thoroughly. Add in the white chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop by tablespoonfuls (or fun cookie scoop!) onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for between 12-15 minutes. 

Cool on cookie sheet until you can move them to cooling rack. Cool thoroughly, then dip 1/2 cookie into white chocolate and cool again. I expect dipping in dark chocolate would be just as amazing!

These are a cranberry cookie that you then dip in chocolate. HOW CAN THAT BE BAD????

It can't be, right?

We did some straight (without chips or nuts) some with white chocolate chips and some with both... and dipped some of each. That way we can properly taste-test them! :) All in the name of science, of course.

And I love homemade things. I've had to sit on my hands not to order from catalogs because I love ordering things.... (sick, sick woman!) but I know we can make them even better.... so I've taken my discipline pills and instead I'm sending that money to Heifer International to help sustain farming because I'll bake cookies... and they can have milk for their children. That makes sense!!!!

And I'm making almond bark this week with roasted almonds and dark and white chocolate. I love almond bark with roasted almonds. I could possibly be addicted, but I don't need a medical intervention. Just hugs!

Our goals for Christmas have changed over the years... I used to get caught up in the splash and dash and shopping and having to create an amazing experience of presents and perfection.... and then I grew up and realized that Jesus, born in the manger, IS perfection. :)

So I stay with the decorating because it's fun for me and the grandkids... and I love baking and cooking....

But instead of shopping we find people to help.

It is like the best thing ever, and the whole family works together on it, not because we've got oh-so-much....

But because we've certainly got enough!

And now, Advent.... with sweet whispers of a blooming hope with one of my favorite Christmas hymn medleys....

Silent Night/Night of Silence

I sang alto on this for years with the St. Lawrence Song Prayers and it's still one of my favorite hymns to hear......

And here is a farm surprise!!!! Look what Logan discovered peeping and mewing beneath a monster-high pile of wood...

Four sweet babies! Mama sneaked away and hid these darlings well, but Detective Logan was on the job! When not detecting small, helpless critters beneath mammoth logs, Logan is a born inventor.... Like this cool flying creature he created with no directions at all.

I'd love to hear your cookie thoughts below! Let us know what cookies you love... or don't love... because this is the time of year we can all talk cookies and everyone understands it! 

Multi-published inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne loves to write beautiful stories with unforgettable characters because it makes her happy to do it! Married for a very long time, she lives on a pumpkin farm in Western New York with her husband and two dogs, several cats, two flocks of chickens, three miniature donkeys and a host of wonderful people in and out of her doors daily.... She loves to chat with folks on facebook (so friend her there...) and loves to hear from folks at  Or run by her website

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Buttercup Squash and Advent Calendars

And more squash~

The past two days, Mindy and Jan have fed you chocolate.

Here I am to be the spoilsport.  *grin*

I'm feeding you squash.

I can't quite promise it's as good as chocolate, but actually, these days I am craving it more.

Today's gem is a Buttercup Squash.  Isn't it adorable? I almost didn't want to cut it.

But I did.

And I tried 3 different ways of cooking it to see which I preferred.

The photo really doesn't show my versions too clearly. :(

Version 1 - just steamed - I sealed it in a foil packet with some water.
Result: delicious and rich tasting

Version 2 - cubed and steamed as in version 1.
Result: This was nice too. Version 1 was more of a mashed consistency, but this made nice chewy chunks.

Version 3 - Same as Version 1 but with a little pool of maple syrup instead of water.
Result: I can't lie. This was the hands down favorite. The syrup played really well with the rich squash flavor.

And now, because the shops are showcasing Christmas - I saw this exquisite Advent calendar wood carving in a store window tonight. I cropped it to try to show the detail. Imagine filling each of those drawers with treats each Advent.

It's a little hard to see in the photo, but the bottom half is a series of numbered boxes - one for each day of Advent.

Do you do an Advent calendar? We have the old Avon Advent calendar with a stuffed mouse (nicknamed Albert in our house). My girls still adore him 25+ years after the tradition began!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Revisiting My Favorite Holiday Candy

So the Christmas season has finally arrived. I love this time of year. The sights, the sounds, the baking...

But instead of putting up Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, this year we were doing something different.
We weren't moving into the big house.
Just our stuff was.

Bummer, I know. So here's the deal. All of the cabinets are in. However, countertops and sinks are still more than a week out. That means I still have a while to wait before my holiday baking gets underway. 
Jan and I must be thinking alike, though, because I couldn't wait to revisit one of my favorite, and easiest, nutty Christmas treats.

Peanut Clusters!

To make these tasty treats, you will need:

1 package chocolate almond bark
1 package white almond bark
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 - 4 oz. bar Baker’s German’s sweet chocolate
34.5 oz. dry roasted peanuts (no substitutions)

First, chop up your almond barks and chocolate. Just get a big ol' knife, a cutting board, maybe put on some Christmas music and you're ready to go. 

Put all of the chopped chocolate and chocolate chips into a Crock Pot. 
Set the heat on high or low and stir occasionally until melted. Or, if you prefer to get it all done at once, melt the chocolates in the microwave, stirring every minute until melted. I usually just use the Crock Pot, though, since it really doesn't take that long.

Once everything is melted and smooth...

Stir in your peanuts.
**Note: You MUST use dry roasted peanuts for this recipe. Anything else will mess with the consistency and the chocolate won't set. And there's nothing worse than having to throw out an entire batch of candy.

Once everything is mixed, drop by spoonfuls, as big or small as you like, onto parchment or waxed paper. They release easier from the parchment paper, but should you run out as I did, waxed paper will suffice.

Remember how I said this was an easy recipe? Well, now all you have to do is allow them to harden and ENJOY.
That's all there is to it.

This recipe does make a lot, but they freeze wonderfull, meaning they can last the entire Christmas season. Perfect to pull out and serve on a pretty plate at a party or whenever company arrives. They’ll think you slaved all day. And the combination of sweet and salty will satisfy everyone’s craving.

Yes, I think I will have to make these very soon, because I do have a freezer and I'm not afraid to use it.

So, as I've mentioned before, you never know what strange things you might see here at the ranch. Like today, when I was coming back to the camphouse and just about to turn in. Except I couldn't quite get to the gate. 
I've never seen turtles in pairs before, so this was a first. Not to mention rather comical.

Now it's your turn.
What are you doing this first official week of the 2017 holiday season?
Baking? Shopping? Wrapping presents?
Or are you downing the rest of your Thanksgiving leftovers?


Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. 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, November 27, 2017

Jan's Peanut Caramel Clusters

Jan here, hoping everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A sunny November day in the Black Hills

We had a great crowd at our house on Thursday, and the meal was successful - - even though my oven is still on the fritz! (see last week's post here!)

One of our traditions every year is to sing the hymn, "Let All Things Now Living," before we give thanks for our meal. We're not all great singers, but praising our Lord is foremost on this holy-day. Enjoy!

The next day was - of course - Black Friday. It's been a few years since we've participated in the Black Friday frenzy. It used to be fun to get out in the morning, chat with the other crazies waiting in line, and end up at IHOP for our mid-morning refueling. Things have changed a bit since those days, and now we avoid Black Friday shopping.

But that doesn't mean we didn't go out!

This year for Christmas, hubby and I decided to buy each other a print from one of our favorite artists.

(That didn't come out right...we bought one print to share, not one for each of us!).

Jon Crane is a local artist and his gallery in Hill City has an open house and signing every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. So instead of heading toward the mall on Friday morning, we headed up into the Hills.

We chose a beautiful print that will go well with the one we already have. This print is called "Dakota Dreams."

So, now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and Black Friday is a done deal, it's time to look forward to Christmas and Christmas baking!

Without an oven, I decided to try a new candy recipe over the weekend. I developed these peanut clusters after trying the "Pay Off Day Candies" from Trim Healthy Mama. The original recipe is made with a stevia sweetener blend, but my version is made with sugar.

The batch is small, but I don't recommend doubling it. The caramel candy mixture cools quickly and becomes hard to handle. But since these only take about 10 minutes to make (total!), you can make as many batches as you want to in an afternoon.

Jan's Peanut Caramel Clusters

ingredients (makes 9 candies)

2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon caramel flavoring

2 teaspoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts

1/4 chocolate chips or chocolate melting wafers

So easy!

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar and stir until it's combined, then add the cream and caramel flavoring.

Heat until it starts boiling, stirring occasionally (2-3 minutes), then boil, stirring frequently, for an additional 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, or until it barely reaches the soft ball stage. I don't test the "soft ball," I go by time and eye. Every 30 seconds or so, I let the mixture drip off my spatula. When the drips start to string together, then I know it's ready. (Since this is a small batch, the mixture cooks more quickly than a batch of fudge - don't overcook it!)

Remove from heat, then add the peanut butter and salt. Stir until smooth.

Add the peanuts and stir until combined.

Now you need to work quickly. Drop the coated peanuts onto parchment paper, a tablespoon at a time.

Once they have begun to cool, melt the chocolate according to the package directions. Drizzle over the candies.


Next week? The Annual Great Christmas Tree Hunt!

Now let's talk about you! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you go out shopping on Black Friday?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Closed for the Weekend!

We hope you're enjoying a sea of leftovers, the warmth of a good fire and the joy of family on this holiday weekend of thanksgiving. Travel safe... pray hard... and may the good Lord keep you in the palm of his hand! We'll see you on Monday with some of Jan Drexler's gentle wisdom!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving Leftovers (Revisited)!

I think this will be a regular post for me to re-share every year. It's my favorite meal idea for Thanksgiving leftovers! Enjoy!

Missy Tippens

Last year [this was now 7 years ago!], I chaperoned a trip with my son's AP U.S. History class. We visited Boston and surrounding areas. At one stop in Concord, we let the kids go do lunch on their own. Several of the teachers and I hit a fantastic restaurant called Main Streets Market and Cafe. I had what I think may have been the best sandwich of my life. The Turkey Cranberry Wrap. I was in heaven. Recently, I decided to recreate this sandwich on my own. (I can't believe I didn't think to do it sooner.)

So, here we go! Pull out those leftovers and get to wrapping!

Get some of those low carb wraps I mentioned a few weeks ago. Spread on cranberry sauce. Your choice of type. My daughter chose jellied, "the kind that's shaped like a can."  :) Layer with baby spinach.

Add dressing. I heated mine.

Then layer on the turkey. Again, I heated mine.

Wrap up and serve with a side of sweet potato fries just for fun. :)

How easy is that?! And it's an amazing sandwich. I ate it leftover on three days last week! And didn't even get sick of it.

What's your favorite thing to make with Thanksgiving leftovers?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!!

May your day be filled with the peace, hope and love of a gentle prayer of thanksgiving.

God bless you!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Blueberry Pie for Thanksgiving

Today's post is a repeat due to an unfortunate encounter between my fingers and the oven rack when the potholder slipped.


However, I chose this recipe to repeat for two reasons:
1) It's an unusual twist on tradition, but incldes New England staples or cornmeal and blueberries, so they could have had it at the first Thanksgiving. I'm also thinking it would be great as a cranberry blueberry pie!
2) My daughter is bringing pie and I'm hoping it's this one again!

So without further ado, and because typing one-handed is excruciatingly slow...

Blueberry Pie with a Cornmeal Crust

When my children were young, my eldest would eat anything blueberry. We have a wonderful picture of her sitting in a highchair with blueberry yogurt pouring down her head, her face, and completely covering her.

So it's little surprise that her grown-up contribution to Thanksgiving each year is a blueberry pie.

This year she got creative. She'd seen this recipe in the NY Times for Blueberry pie with a crust made out of cornmeal.

Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust

I'll admit, I was doubtful.

I'll also admit I was wrong.

It was AMAZING!!!

(Who cares that they probably didn't eat blueberry pie at the first Thanksgiving. They probably didn't eat pumpkin pie either!)

I shouldn't have been doubtful because I loved the blueberry cornbread muffins I used to make her when she was a child.

This pie was even better.

The sugar on top gave such a nice crunch and the cornmeal crust was perfection!

I took a picture of her pie. Good thing because there wasn't much of anything left.

My other daughter and I made an apple tart that was also really good but it definitely got overshadowed by the blueberry.

What are some of your unusual recipe combinations?


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

So Much to be Grateful for

Thanksgiving is almost here. I can hardly wait to taste all that yummy food. Then it's on to Christmas and all the fun and festivities of the holiday season.
So today, I thought I'd pause for a moment and think about all that I am thankful for. Actually, I was driving home from the grocery store with all of my Thanksgiving fixins when the song Count Your Blessings popped into my head. 
"Count your many blessings, name them one by one." them one by one?
So I did.
There in the car, I named off each and every thing I was thankful for .

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family.
My ever-growing family.
And there's a reason why I appreciate them so, aside from your typical reasons.
You see, I'm an only child. Growing up, I watched all of my friends with their siblings and longed to have a big family.
Now, I have just that. And whenever we're all together I'm still floored that God could entrust one lonely little girl with so many incredible people.
And don't even get me started on the grandkids, because there just aren't enough tissues to go around.

While we're on the topic of family, I'm also thankful for my dogs.
Because they are my babies, too. 

I'm thankful for God's provision. Food, a safe place to lay my head at night and countless other things we often take for granted.

I'm thankful for the simple things in life. Those things that remind us God still reigns and longs to delight His children with His majesty.
Things like gorgeous sunsets.
Picture perfect settings.
I'm thankful for the lovely ladies here at the Yankee-Belle Café and friends who love me just the way I am.
Who encourage me. 
And aren't afraid to call me out when I need it. 
And, of course, I'm thankful for books and for the calling that God has laid upon me to write for Him.
It's a humbling responsibility, indeed.
And today just happens to be the official release date The Deputy's Holiday Family. 

Okay, now it's your turn to count your blessing.
What are you thankful for?
Don't forget to name them one by one. 


Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. 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, November 20, 2017

Are You Ready for Thanksgiving?

Jan here, with a post I can't believe I'm writing.

Here's what I expected to write: "I'm hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, and it's going to be so much fun!"


I'm hosting Thanksgiving...but it's going to be a bit different this year.

Why? Because my oven is broken.

What does that mean?
It means I get to be creative!!!

I'm one of those people who loves to do a big, traditional Thanksgiving meal. Everyone brings something to add to the meal, and I roast the turkey. And it IS a lot of fun.

So how am I going to do this without my oven?

Well, the first thing I had to do was back off from some of the items I always make.

Dinner rolls? Daughter Carrie is making them this year.

Vegetable casseroles? Daughter-in-law Katie is making one, and another guest is bringing his famous green bean casserole.

Salad? Another friend is supplying this part of the meal. (Thanks, Janet!)

Pies? A friend is bringing her favorite apple pie with real whipped cream (YUM!) and Carrie is making pumpkin cheese cake.
And what about the pumpkin pie??? My dear husband is bringing one from work...but remember, this won't be just any pumpkin pie. My husband has a very talented chef working for him, and he has been preparing the pumpkin filling for weeks. Hospital employees (or whoever) can buy one of his pies, and last year the sale was very successful. I've heard they're delicious, so now I get to find out!

But what about the turkey? The star of the day?

This is where the creativity comes in.

I'll roast the turkey in my big roaster on Wednesday. I've done that the last few years, ever since I bought the roaster on sale one time, thinking it would free up oven space. :) And the ham is already cooked - it only needs to be heated up. So on Thursday morning, I'll put two pans in the roaster - one with sliced turkey and one with sliced ham - and by dinner time they'll be hot and ready to eat.

Mashed potatoes? I'll use my "Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes" recipe. This recipe is delicious, and cooks in the crock pot, so no need to try to keep the potatoes hot in the oven.

Dressing? I've been using my crock pot for dressing for years, and you can do it, too. Use your favorite recipe and cook it on low, stirring once in awhile. If it starts getting dry, just moisten it with some turkey broth.

Gravy? Oooo....I don't know if I should let you in on my secret... I'll whisper it... I make turkey gravy, but also add commercial gravy from a jar. Let me tell you, this is a life- and time-saver. I make a batch of gravy (I use turkey drippings and chicken broth, thickened with flour), then add a jar or two of turkey gravy. We rarely run out of gravy, and I haven't spent hours making a huge batch of the delicious stuff. :)

So I think we'll be all right, even though the oven is on the fritz.

And by the next week, the new part should arrive and we'll be back to baking just in time for Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas, we went hiking up in the Hills on Sunday afternoon with our daughter and son-in-law.

It's getting close to winter, especially at these higher elevations. Carrie found a perfect Christmas tree, but Josh wasn't convinced. It's still a couple weeks until the Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2017, though.

Carrie and Josh, the Great Christmas Tree Hunt 2016
And while we were in the Hills, we saw snow! Not very much, but it was there. It's time to cozy up by the fire!

What are your Thanksgiving plans? I hope you have a blessed time planned with family and friends!