Friday, September 28, 2018

Divine Brownies!

Missy Tippens

Last week, I hosted my book club at my house. It's a new book club, formed with ladies from several nearby neighborhoods. This was only our second meeting, so it's been fun to get to know everyone. None of us knew each other before we joined together!

We decided to meet monthly at 7 and serve only dessert. Which I love, because I love to make them!

This time, I decided to make these wonderful brownies. My friend Cheryl is famous in our church for her amazing, decadent brownies. If she knew I was sharing this recipe, she might have to kill me! ;) I won't give away all her secrets. I'll just share the basics.

Start with a fudgey brownie mix that has chocolate chips in it. Make it according to boxed directions. I used a Ghiardelli mix that had chocolate chips and a packet of fudge sauce in it.

Spread half the batter in a brownie pan. I used a 7x11, but Cheryl usually uses an 8x8 (and bakes for about 45 minutes).

Top with Hershey milk chocolate bars. My pan took about 5 bars. I did finish covering it. Just wanted to take a photo to show the mix underneath.

Then top with the rest of the batter. I had a hard time making it totally cover the bars in this pan. It almost wasn't enough batter.

I baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and they turned out perfectly in my pan except for some dried up corners. I've heard rumors that some people actually like the hard corners! I'm a center-of-the-pan gal myself. :) Sooo good!!

And the ladies loved them.

P.S. I know last week I mentioned being back on Weight Watchers. So you may be wondering about that. LOL Yes, I saved enough points to have one brownie!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Summer Winds Down as Autumn Ramps Up the Pace!

So let's start with this... Ice cream, the last one before school started!

We grabbed the selfie in the parking lot after we'd visited the ice cream shop (that reminds me of Meg Brummer in South Dakota!) But it came out bad, so we're going to ignore that selfie and just say we had a great time!  And then there's a big, beautiful dish of homemade rice pudding. RECIPE HERE!!!

But guess what happens when you grab the wrong plastic jug of magic powder???

Everything foams... and it doesn't stop foaming and you stand there, puzzled as all get out, wondering what you did...

And then the light dawns... and you realize you made pudding with 3/4 cup of baking powder, not cornstarch and it didn't exactly work out as planned....


3 exploding pans later, the light dawned. :)

Ay yi yi!!!!  And here is The Mighty Finn, old enough to climb trees now! And a treasure bucket that they can pull up, into the tree... or let down to gather more treasure!

Nature provides!

And here's something fun and new that the Farmer Dave is doing: Wooden "chasers" for place settings!

What a fun, rustic look!!!

Can you picture a rustic wedding or a cottage dinner or a cabin supper with these? How stinkin' cute???

And then there's this:
The last three kittens of 2018 and they're two weeks old now (younger in this pic) and all spoken for... Two boys and a girl and adorable!

And we made roasted potatoes last weekend because it's crazy busy on the farm on weekends and we wanted to have quick food... So I partially cooked about 7 lbs. of potatoes, washed and cut into bite-size pieces.

When about half done, I heated up my electric roaster, threw 2 sticks of butter into it and melted them. Then I sprinkled a generous amount of garlic, paprika, parsley, cajun powder, salt and pepper into the melted butter.

Then we pour the potatoes in.... and toss gently with a spatula, coating everything with seasoned buttery goodness...

And then I just keep cooking them for however long it takes for us to get a break and eat...

Sometimes we forget about them and that only roasts them more!

We don't care, we love them!!!

Our big village AppleFest is this weekend and traditionally that means a busy, busy weekend at the pumpkin patch...

So my writing time and cooking time is minimized, but we get to have a great community experience with the pumpkin farm!

That's it from my neck of the woods...

It's crazy busy here, and this is the storm before the calm....

And oh, yes...


I cannot say how exciting that is for me, it was a dream come true because reading the book "Christy" when I was a young mother showed me the kind of writer I wanted to be someday... so being a finalist in this contest was/is so very special!

I finaled in the "Short Form" category, that's novels under 60,000 words and they don't have to be romance... it's any novel under 60,000 words.... so I'm crazy excited to be with these two talented authors as a Christy Award finalist!

She gave her daughter up once... Is she strong enough to do it again?

Here's a link for this beautiful story of a mother's sacrificial love... and the amazing goodness of God's perfect timing.  Her Secret Daughter Link to Amazon

And that's what's going on at the farm this week... and for the next few, most likely!

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne loves to share her joy of writing but doesn't like to brag on herself... except when Christy awards are involved! :)

She helps run a pumpkin farm in Western New York with a lot of pink, blue, coral, beige, white, gray, scarlet and other assorted pumpkins for stacking and decorating fun... and delicious food!

Find her at and friend her on facebook or follow her on Twitter where she confesses her love for The Voice, chocolate and Hostess cupcakes...

Don't judge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Autumn Chicken with Apples and Sweet Potatoes

Since last Saturday was the autumn equinox, I decided I'd be seasonal and make a healthy fall meal.

Here we go.  It was DELICIOUS!

First I coated chicken breasts with my favorite herb mix.

Then I cubed (more or less) some sweet potatoes and dumped them on top of the chicken.

Next was some chopped vidalia onion.

I let it cook a bit, then added in a mix of Granny Smith and Gala apples. The Granny Smith gave it a nice tartness.

I sealed it all in foil and parchment and baked.  (Apology: my oven is so unpredictable that I can't really offer times or temps, but you're all experienced enough cooks to figure out what works in your oven.)

The final verdict - YUM!

But before I say goodbye to summer, I wanted to show these flowers that have been growing wild down the block from me. I just love them. They started out really tiny in the summer, but they've grown so now they're almost waist high!. They close up at night and open again in the morning.

You can see they spread across the sidewalk.
You can also see Fenway's head!

Photos don't quite do it justice.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Conference Wrap-Up

Last week I attended American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I knew it was going to be great the moment I stepped into the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and saw this gorgeous glass sculpture.
A photo just doesn't do it justice, though.

One of the best things about a writers conference is connecting with friends, both new and old.
And chatting with the Love Inspired editors is always a treat.
The workshops are informative. I especially loved this one with Carrie Schmidt from Reading is My Superpower, Beth Erin from Faithfully bookish and other book bloggers.
And then there's the food. The night of the gala is always a treat.
That chocolate creation was absolutely divine.

But by the end of it all, I was ready to get back to the ranch. To pony tails and no makeup. To beautiful sunrises...
And nature in all its glory.
Now it's your turn. What have you been up to? Is it feeling like fall where you live?

Three-time Carol Award finalist, 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, September 24, 2018

Super Lunch Time Salads!

by Jan Drexler

This is a re-run post. We do this at the Cafe every once in a while to free up our writing time. I'm working hard, trying to make my October 1st deadline!

And I'm feeling the downside of writing for a living...too many hours in my office chair. Yes, I walk the dogs regularly, and I try to watch what I eat, but sitting all day takes its toll.

So along with a few of the other gals here at the Cafe, I've gone beyond "watching what I eat" to pulling out my favorite quick, healthy, trimming recipes. And this one is one of my favorites!

In my story, summer is dwindling away to fall, and our South Dakota weather is decidedly Octoberish, so it's time for my favorite October quote:

So we might think it's time for warm stews and fresh bread, right?

Not for my lunches! I still enjoy a salad a couple times a week, even on the cold and blustery days.

So why do I call this a "Super Salad"? Because of all the nutritious goodness that gets packed in the bowl.

Super Lunch Time Salads

Oh, did I mention that this is easy-peasy? Perfect for a quick grab from the fridge on a busy day?

Start with a bowl of lettuce.

I keep a big bowl of torn romaine and iceberg lettuce in the fridge - it's quick and easy to fill my salad bowl with a bunch.

Then add whatever veggies you have. I added some diced cucumber and a bit of sliced onion.

Next, add protein and healthy fats.

On this day I had some leftover roast beef, and I cut up a small avocado. Yum! On other days I might open a can of tuna, or use some leftover chicken, or a quartered boiled egg.

I usually add a sprinkle of these hulled hemp seeds:

They are nutritious and add a nutty crunchy flavor to the salad.

But to make the salad super nutritious, I add this:

That stuff in the mason jar is wonderful. I got the idea from the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook, but used ingredients I had on hand.

1 cup nutritional yeast (NOT baking yeast)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (the powdery kind, in the green can)
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons dry parsley flakes

Mix all of these together (I put them in a one quart mason jar and shake), and keep it in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle it on salads, eggs, soups...whatever you want.

I use just over a teaspoon on my salad.

And add whatever dressing you want to use. Ranch goes well with the beef and avocado!

That's it! All you have to do is toss it around a bit and munch down!

And on those really cold days? I add a cup of steaming hot beef or chicken broth to my lunch.

Do you eat salads in the fall and winter?

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:

Friday, September 21, 2018

One-pan Roasting and a Celebration!

Missy Tippens

Before my post...

Because Ruthy didn't brag on herself yesterday, I'm going to take a moment to do so today. Her book from Love Inspired, Her Secret Daughter, is a finalist for the prestigious Christy AwardTM!! Ruthy, we're so proud of you and excited for you!!


And now back to our regularly scheduled programming (though it's not nearly as exciting!)...

Recently, I had a craving and bought a bag of frozen tater tots (and also a bag of shoestring French fries!). Then what did I do?

I started back on Weight Watchers.

That first week, I was trying to come up with something quick to make for lunch and decided to roast some vegetables. While I was looking in the freezer to get ice, I saw that bag of tater tots. It was calling my name!

So I got out my WW app to see how many points they would be. A serving was a reasonable amount! So I decided to add them to my roasted veggie pan and cook them with no added fat.

In addition to the tots, I added some fresh cauliflower and green beans. I used Mindy's recipe for roasted green beans--click here. (I took these beans to a friends house for dinner and everyone loved them!)

I calculated the points for one slice of bacon as well as a little olive oil and decided it was a good plan. I had a healthy, low-point lunch! I added in fish (no points) for protein.

Here the veggies are cooked, nice and caramelized, the bacon crispy.

The beans ended up being a huge serving, but I keep hearing it's best to make half your plate be filled with veggies. I managed that even without counting the tots (a starchy vegetable).

This was such a great lunch! A successful weight loss program is about making good choices, and balancing that with taste and enjoyment and satiety. I think I did well with this one.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Loving Chrysanthemums and Other Fun Stories... :)

So youse all know I grow a lot of mums here on the farm.

Now not huge by mega farm standards, but huge compared to what normal folks do!

Two here... three there.... and a pair of pumpkins on the steps. For those normal people...

I started with 800 mums last year. 750 of them got planted. One strip hung around, hoping for a home but we didn't have enough pots....

They all sold within three weeks.... maybe 3.5. This is Chelsey Coral:

So this year (in all my bright wisdom) I ordered 1600 mums so we'd have some in October... And here's the cool part:

Mums blossom based on the hours of daylight in the day.

If they need 11.5 hours, they'll bloom when they get to 11.5 hours of daylight. This is Patty Purple but it's really more of a cranberry... and it's a huge plant, about 12" across, overflowing an 8" pot...

If they need 13 hours, they'll bloom then, and in my latitude that's like mid-August...

And the 12 hour mums are just starting to bloom now, right on time for mid-September.

This amazes me. It's like the perfect timing of God, that the plant knows when to initiate the budding process so it blooms at the right time. I know a lot of people who could learn something from these plants, a lesson about blooming where you're planted... and at the right time!

The bicolors are VERY POPULAR.... they change color, kind of like those kid toys that change color based on temperature... as they bloom,  the inside fades to another color and they are stunning.

Orange fusion... pearl fusion.... peach fusion.... Early plants that people buy quickly because they're so stinkin' pretty!

So the early mums have been selling and we're just bringing the later mums up... and they're stunning... and while it was a lot of work to care for 1600 flowers by hand, there is such a beautiful satisfaction in a job well done. To bring these plants to fruition, to have them ready for market and have customers love them!

Of course there were a few duds... a few guys who didn't form right, who listed right... or left... or just looked BAD....

But that was kind of like life, too, that not everyone (or every mum) calls from the same mold and that we can still love them, even if they're "needy" plants.

I love this season. We are blessed with color for over two months... green leaves, thick, green bushes, gorgeous flowers (although many customers told me that their normally lush summer flowers were just plain mad about the heat and drought and refused to stay pretty, so they're buying mums to spruce things up.

I understand.

I wilt then, too!

This is a lot like our writing.... we work and work and work and some of it stays, some of it doesn't measure up and a lot of it needs pruning.... and that's all right, too!

Life's analogies teach us in so many ways, a lot like that very clever savior talking in parables...

Knowing we had so much to learn!

Okay, cooking on the farm is taking a back seat to sales and moving pumpkins and flowers and more pumpkins...

So this week it's a flower report and maybe food next week.

But I did say maybe!

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne is thick in the middle of harvest on their pumpkin farm in Western New York  but she still gets up in the wee smalls...the only quiet time in her house... and works on writing beautiful sweet stories because that's about her favorite thing in this world to do... along with baking, gardening, painting and playing with fourteen adorable grandchildren! Follow her on Twitter, friend her on facebook or stop by her website She loves to chat with people!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stir Fry Pineapple Shrimp with Rice Noodles

Confession Time:

This healthy writer has been neither healthy nor writing much.

The reason?

School started.

I've been teaching for two decades or more, and during that time there have been many, many changes.

One thing never changes. The first two weeks of school are mind-numbingly exhausting. The night owl has fallen asleep by 9:00 more nights than my tired brain can count.  When I stumble in the door at the end of the day, cooking something healthy is just more than I can manage.

So there has been a lot of pizza, quick-cooking things like chicken tenders and fish fillets (the breaded kind you buy in the freezer section).

But my body is rebelling. It's craving something healthy.

So I'm hereby vowing to make at least something healthy each week so I can post about it.

Today's meal was relatively easy.

I didn't want pasta so I picked up some Thai rice noodles. I had never cooked with them before, but it was easy and they were perfect for the meal.

All I had to do was soak them in hot water and then add them to the stir fry. (On a night that making rice seems too laborious, this was a WIN!)

But I get ahead of myself.

Step one was to thaw some pre-cooked shrimp.

Step two was to stir fry the shrimp with a spoonful of coconut oil and some freeze-dried garlic.

Step three - add in some frozen pineapple. Simmer until the pineapple warms up.

Step four - add in the noodles and stir around until warm (about 3 - 5 minutes)

Serve and enjoy.

I did enjoy it. The rice noodles were light enough that they picked up a light flavor from the  pineapple juice and coconut.

Definitely a success!

And tonight I get a real meal out because I'll be celebrating my baby's 31st birthday!