Monday, April 30, 2018

Revisiting Amish Country

It's deadline time for me - I have a book due on Tuesday, and I still have several thousand words to write. So I'm sharing this post from almost five years ago when I took a trip to Indiana's Amish Country.

One interesting thing about that trip was that I was beginning to work on "Hannah's Choice" and I knew I wanted to make a series out of the three books I was planning. I didn't have the series name yet, but after visiting Pretty Prairie, I knew I was on the right track. So The Journey to Pleasant Prairie was born. :-)

Another fun thing about this post is that I'll be making another trip to Amish Country next week, and yes, I have a list for E & S Sales. I can hardly wait!

Meanwhile, enjoy your trip to Amish Country!

* * * * * *

Hi everyone!

Jan here, finally back from my week-long trip east to visit parents and in-laws.

And yes, I did squeeze in a couple days of research, too!

This is the headstone of my 4th great-grandfather, Christian Plank. He was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1793 and died in LaGrange County, Indiana in 1881. It was important to find his grave because he's the one whose story I'm basing my next book series on.
This is the area where he lived and raised his family. It's called Pretty Prairie. Isn't that the greatest name?

One of the fun things about looking for Christian Plank was that my Dad came along - the family historian - and he got to learn a few things he didn't know, either!

(How many times do you get to teach your Dad something?)

In all that driving around in northern Indiana, I still managed to fit in a visit to my favorite store: E & S Sales in Shipshewana, Indiana. 

Notice the buggy parking on the left side of the building!

Shipshewana rivals Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio as an Amish tourist destination…

(By the way, that’s a destination where tourists go to see Amish, not a destination for Amish people who want to be tourists. They go to all the same tourist places the rest of us do.)

…except that Shipshewana is smaller. More manageable. And there are still stores at the edge of town where the locals shop. 

 (We managed to find some pie, and some Chicken 'N' Noodles...)

Since my Dad is a local, he told me about E & S Sales several years ago, and now it’s a regular stop whenever we’re in the area.

The Shipshewana area - in fact most of eastern Elkhart and LaGrange Counties in northern Indiana – has been home to the Amish since 1841, when the first four families from Somerset County, Pennsylvania came to the area to establish a new community. Other Amish families followed (Christian Plank and his family arrived around 1850), and now the area is the third largest Amish settlement in the world, after Holmes County and Lancaster County.

The Amish prefer to be farmers, but when families grow and there are a limited number of acres of farmland, people either have to leave the community to go where land is available, or find another kind of work. That’s what the Eash family did a generation or so ago.

They started selling goods in their front yard along State Road 5, a half mile south of Shipshewana. They were in a good location, and people liked the furniture and other things they made, so they were doing pretty well. They’re still there at that location: Eash Sales.

But as the next generation came along, someone decided to get into the bulk food business, and E & S Sales was born. They built a pole barn next to the original location and started selling re-packaged bulk foods. They take the huge amounts of flour, sugar, salt, spices, candy, cereal, noodles, etc. and break it down into family sized packages and re-sell the goods at a phenomenal price. 

As the business grew, they started carrying seconds, overstocks and Amish-made foods – still at rock bottom prices. 

On my first visit there, I bought 150 pounds of wheat, and now I’m addicted.

It’s my stock-up store. And I live 1000 miles away :(

We go every six months or so – whenever we’re in the area. This time I focused on spices. Because the owners of E & S buy in bulk, they sell at those prices. I bought all these spices for what I would have spent on a few small containers at the grocery store. 

I’ll put them in my freezer and replenish my smaller containers when I need to.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have to buy spices again…

And, by the way, the next generation of Eash’s has started another business right next to E & S – Ben’s Bakery. Don’t get me started on that one!

* * * * * * *

One fun thing about this post is that I'm still using that stash of spices almost five years later!

Enjoy your week!

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Chocolate Cobbler

Missy Tippens

I went hunting for this recipe the other day and couldn't find it. I can't believe I haven't posted it here before! This post is overdue.

First, I need to thank Shirley Tidwell who made this dessert for our Bible study luncheons at our previous church. She graciously sent me the recipe. I just love how she wrote it (including all the places to DO NOT STIR!), so I'm going to copy and paste. :)

Chocolate Cobbler (From Shirley Tidwell)

8” dish

1 stick butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. Cocoa
1 cup self rising flour
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, flour, milk and vanilla. Pour over melted margarine.  

1 cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa

Mix and sprinkle dry over batter.  DO NOT STIR!!!

Pour 1 ½ cups boiling water over all.  DO NOT STIR!!!

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

See how simple! I actually doubled the recipe when I made it last. So the pan pictured here is a regular sized cake pan. I'll quickly show all the steps...

A quick note here. When I was searching for Shirley's recipe, I ran into a similar one that mentioned adding chocolate chips. So if you'd like to do that, I would sprinkle them here on top of the batter. Then sprinkle on the dry topping.

Here it is with the boiling water added...

I took the dish to some friends' house that night, and as we rushed out the door with the cobbler straight out of the oven, I forgot to take a photo. Here's a closeup of a bit that was leftover. :)

It's almost like a lava cake. It has a pudding-like layer. Very chocolatey and yummy!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Custard-Filled Coffee Cake

Years ago I used to find a delicious custard-filled coffee cake at Wegman's Grocery stores.

If you've never been in a Wegman's, you've missed the chance to shop at the world's best grocery store. They're amazing.... It's a home-grown company by the Rochester-based Wegman family and they've set the bar high for groceries.... Harris Teeter is similar.... And while we're spoiled with some of the best grocery stores in the world... and the prevalence of them!!!... Wegman's is a cut above that doesn't act like a cut above.

Know what I mean?

Gratuitous Kitty Picture!!!!! So cute!

Wegman's is well-stocked, well-managed, beautiful and inviting... they're scrupulous about cleanliness and courtesy. They're almost always well-staffed, and you can't beat their seasonal displays because they're stunning and idea-filled like a Pinterest page come alive!

They've expanded down the East Coast now. We passed them in Virginia... In Maryland... In North Carolina.... and I'm not bragging on them because they're from Rochester... but because they saw a gap and filled it... they saw a need and filled it... and they believe in treating employees and customers like they're honored guests.

BUT.... they don't have this coffee cake anymore.

So Morgan and MacKenzie and I took on the challenge!

It was a split crumb cake, with a custard filling, and the original custard filling didn't taste like the chemical waste fillings that prevail today. Now today's kids won't even notice, because they've become accustomed to the taste, and that's an unfortunate fact, but for the rest of us, who know what custard really tastes like... well, let's make the real thing!

Custard Filling

2 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Melt butter. Remove from heat. Mix sugar and corn starch. Add to melted butter. Stir well.

Blend in two cups of milk and two egg yolks.

Stir and heat until thick and bubbly.

Add two teaspoons vanilla. Blend well. Cover top with plastic wrap to avoid "skin" (Unless you're like me and you want to eat the skin!!!) (By the way, it's not really skin. Umm... gross!)

Coffee Cake:

This recipe is from one on epicurious.... 

But I only used the cake recipe. And I've never used it before, so we'll see....

I used my traditional Streusel Topping, but I wanted it not too cinnamony because of the filling...

Cute girl alert!!!!

So I did this: 

Two cups flour
Two cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I grated a half-one so in that area is good!)

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter and vanilla until mixture looks like meal. Sprinkle on top of cake but (here's a curious thing, epicurious!) their recipe suggested balling up the topping into clumps. So I did that with some of it (Super Helper MacKenzie had already sprinkled some on at my urging)...

So this will be interesting topping!

Spread cake batter in buttered 13 x 9 pan, bake at 350 for nearly an hour or long enough to edit 20 pages of manuscript.... depending on how bad your manuscript is! :)

Use toothpick test to check for doneness.... a few moist crumbs are great...

Gooey stuff on toothpick is not great.

And in a week when I don't have time for nonsense, either my computer, or Chrome/Google and Yahoo are out to get me.

My Chrome browser is doing weird things so I'm working in Mozilla Firefox right now. It's way slower... but it's not crashing and sending black squares dancing across my pages, which makes it a current favorite!

Yahoo won't let me post to a group I started....

And my Internet is 2008 SLOW.... so what's going on?

I have no idea.

But with three projects due on Monday, I'm not messing around, risking a crash.

I'm shuddering at the very thought!!! EEEEEEEEK!

 I'm hoping to post final pictures.... but you know I might forget.

But I'll try not to!!!!

Bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves to play in a clean kitchen, but since that's not often available she uses her own and makes do... With over 40 novels and novellas to her credit, Ruthy relaxes by playing with desserts and sometimes practical food... but she really loves her desserts. And coffee. And chocolate... and wouldn't this cake go well with some of that coffee???

Ruthy's latest book, a soul-stirring tale of healing hearts and caring communities.... America at its very best.  "REFUGE OF THE HEART" available for Kindle at $3.25.... A great book. A great price.


I killed the pudding/cream. Me, who has made that recipe hundreds of times, decided to double it mid-stream and when I added the sugar/cornstarch to the already heating pudding mix, it FOAMED ALL OVER!!!! It grew exponentially and I had to grab another pan, put it in that pan, and it still foamed.!

I ended up with NO PUDDING and a pot of foamy nonsense, but a great science experiment!

And the cake turned out all right... but not great. The topping was great. But we cut the sides away. Buttering the pan made the sides and bottom too dark....

So was it a TOTAL FAIL???

Not totally.

But nothing I'd do again.... at least with these Ruthy-born mistakes mixed in!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Classic Recipes Revisited - Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

by Mindy Obenhaus

Last week I talked about being in a food rut. Making the same old things over and over again until I was just plain bored. So this week, I decided to go back to some classic recipes and, perhaps, even tweak them a bit.

What makes a recipe a classic? It’s something that has withstood the test of time. Nothing trendy, although it may have been at one time before easing into its little black dress and pearls.

The “Impossible” recipes were all the rage back in the late 70s, early 80s when Bisquick came out with them. I remember my mom making Impossible Pumpkin Pie and Impossible Taco Pie. But there was one she didn’t make that somehow became my favorite. I don’t recall when I first had it, probably at a friend’s house, but made its way into my classic recipe file.

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie 

It’s a quick, easy and inexpensive meal. Nothing fancy, but seasonings lend a wonderful flavor that satisfies your taste buds as well as your appetite.

Start with one pound of ground meat. Whatever you like. Ground beef, turkey, venison… I used venison because, well, I have a freezer full of it. Brown the meat with 1 cup chopped onions.
This is where I decided to change things up just a tad. I mean, even the classic little black dress needs a new pair of earrings every now and then. Keeping in mind that this is cheeseburger pie, I began to think. What do people like on their cheeseburgers?


So I cooked up three slices of bacon until crisp, chopped them up and added those along with ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon garlic powder.
Stir that together and spread into the bottom of a greased pie plate.

Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheese (I use sharp or extra sharp) and jalapeño slices, if desired (hubby’s request) and set aside.

Now come the part that makes this “Impossible.”
Mix together 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (we’re talking cheeseburger, after all) and ½ cup Bisquick until well blended and pour over the cheese/meat.

Bake in a 400 degree oven 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before cutting/serving.

This was the perfect quick meal for a Sunday night. I didn’t spend forever in the kitchen, everybody loved it and there weren’t a ton of leftovers.

Signs of spring continue to emerge here at the ranch. The calves continue to come. This little gray one is hubby’s favorite.
And look who’s finally returned.

The hummingbirds found us at our new house.

While we were watching the hummingbirds, we heard a squirrel chattering up a storm nearby. We spotted him/her in a tree, scolding a couple of birds who got too close to her nest. (I’m not 100% sure it was a she, but considering the way it was going all mama bear, it’s a pretty good bet)
Later, she emerged.

Only to watch us before retreating once again.

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite classic recipes? Do you like to play with them or prefer not to mess with perfection?

Three-time Carol Award nominee, 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, April 23, 2018

Spring is Here!

Jan here, with an update from last Monday's post...

...because Spring has finally arrived in the Black Hills!

My dear husband and I packed a picnic supper last Thursday and made our way to one of our favorite places, Custer State Park.

The baby bison have begun to arrive and the mothers are eating All. The. Time. We noticed that the rangers have been giving them some hay to supplement the green grass, since much of the winter grazing burned off in November's fire.

But do you see the green in these pictures? Spring is here!

As always in the spring, the bison have lost weight. You can see it in their humps.

Do you see that divot in this cow's shoulder? The bison store fat in their humps all summer long, then live off that fat during the hard winter months. By spring you can see the ridge of their backbones and the hollow places above their shoulders.

This is what she'll look like in the fall - -

Okay, you're right. She won't look exactly like this, since this is a picture of a bull. But you can see the difference between April and October. This bull is wearing his winter coat and his hump is filled out. I'm sure he made it through the winter with no problems at all.

Another sign of spring is that the logging crews can get into the parts of the park that were hit worst during the fire last fall. They are going in and taking out the trees that didn't survive - in some places, entire mountainsides are bare. The wood will go to the mill where much of it will be turned into bedding for livestock. I know the sheep ranchers rely on the shaved wood bedding during lambing time.

And the final sign that spring is here? As soon as I turn in my newest book next week, I'm putting on my hiking boots and heading out to the Hills....

What is your favorite way to celebrate spring?

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