Monday, December 31, 2018

Potato and Ham Soup

A quick search on the Yankee Belle Cafe blog will show you that we love soups around here. Chowders, Stews, Chilies, Soups... If it's cold and snowy outside (or even just cloudy and cool), we're getting out our Crock Pots, Instant Pots, or Stew Pots and whipping up some comfort food.

As you can see by the title of this post, today is no exception!

After a very mild week or so before Christmas, we finally got the winter weather we've been expecting. On Wednesday, a storm blew through bringing high winds, c-c-cold weather, and a few inches of snow to our area. East of us, in "East River," they got the real blizzard. 10" - 12" of snow, plus the cold and high winds.

One of my favorite pictures from last winter - we haven't been up
to the Hills since October!

At our house, cold weather means a fire in the wood stove and soup. We had some ham and potatoes, so I decided to try this recipe for my Instant Pot (no worries - you can easily fix it in your slow cooker or on top of the stove.)

Potato and Ham Soup
serves 8 - 10


6 - 8 medium russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 8 cups)
4 stalks celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup frozen or canned corn (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons finely minced onion
1 pound ham, cubed
3 cups broth - ham, chicken, or vegetable
1 teaspoon rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

To add at the end of the cooking time: 2 cups whole milk or 1 cup half and half, 1 cup milk. And if you like your soup a bit thick and "chowdery," whisk a quarter cup of flour into the milk before adding it in.

*note: if you're using a slow cooker, add the rosemary and salt and pepper at the end of the cooking time.

Put the potatoes, vegetable, garlic, onion, ham, and broth in your pot and stir to combine.

Instant Pot: Lock the lid and set to cook on high pressure for 10 minutes (allow 30 minutes or so for the pot to come to pressure.) Let the pressure release naturally (about 15-20 minutes.) Switch the pot to the high slow cooker setting, then add the milk. Stir to combine and let it cook for another 10 minutes.

Slow Cooker: Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 6 hours. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper, and milk, and stir to combine. Cook on high for another 30 minutes.

Stove top: Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer and let it cook for at least an hour. Add the milk and bring back to temperature (close to boiling, but not quite.)

That's it! Serve with your favorite toppings and some good bread, and I guarantee you'll feel warm all night. :-)

Are soups a part of your winter menu like they are for me?

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, December 28, 2018

Sweet and Salty Make a Great Marriage

Missy Tippens

I know it's past Christmas and the making of holiday candy. But I still wanted to share what I made as gifts this year because I actually remembered to take photos. :) So maybe keep this in mind for the future!

My hair stylist recently mentioned how simple it was to dip large pretzel rods in chocolate. She had done them for gifts several times and said everyone loved them. So I decided I would try that this year.

I bought 4 packs each of white (vanilla) and chocolate bark (candy coating). Then I melted them in the slow cooker and Instant Pot (on slow cook setting).

I also added one box of Baker's German Chocolate to the chocolate batch.

Then, my daughter and I spent FOREVER dipping them! We also drizzled with the opposite chocolate and sprinkled with red and green sugar.

Once they'd hardened, we packaged them in plastic bags. We actually had a good bit of chocolate left over, so I broke up some pretzels, stirred them into the chocolate, then poured it out and swirled white chocolate on top. I also used some of of the white and topped with cashews and pretzel pieces.

Once these hardened, I broke them up into pieces. Lots of candy left for us to eat! I may try freezing some.

And yes, everyone seemed to enjoy the dipped pretzels! However, the project was very time consuming so I probably won't do it again for gifts. I may do Mindy's pumpkin bread next year.

Hope you all have a wonderful new year! Blessings in 2019!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Whirlwind of Faith, Family & Fun!

Partially this is my fault... I had a big family and I came from a big family and I married a man from a big family.

The exponential mathematics of all that a few decades down the line become their own crazy dance of busyness! And it's wonderful.... And I manage to sneak in quiet time, too, because I am just a little frenetic, so quiet time is a blessing... not only to me, but to EVERYONE AROUND ME!!!

Lots of cooking went on over the last two weeks.... Not lots of picture taking, however, but that's

Eggnog pie and chocolate cream pie for the Herne family party:

I love the eggnog pie on the left, but the dark chocolate with whipped cream topping is still the family favorite!!!!

And then we did the strudels for our Blodgett family party (Farmer Dave's side of the family):

And we did Make-a-Memory day with grandkids, but it got abbreviated because one family was sick and one of my helpers got sick... and there's only so much you can do, but we got beautiful ornaments made with the help of my dear friend Christina:

This was a clever idea! I cut out the creche scene from black construction paper, then the kids put it on clear Contact paper.... then placed brightly colored bits of tissue paper on it... then covered it with another piece of Contact paper.... and then we cut them out to give us the appearance of "stained glass" windows.

They look so nice on the Christmas trees! Moms and Dads were so excited! :)

And we did a picture ornament for each child, too... with craft sticks as the "frame" (glittered, of course!) and the child's picture and a backing piece of shirt-box cardboard glued to the back of the frame.

I love picture ornaments!!!!

Finn and Lena had Mary and Joseph (and the donkey, even though there is no donkey in Luke's Nativity telling. I'm sure he just FORGOT TO MENTION IT or supposed we'd assume there was a donkey... )But I digress.... anyway, they moved Joseph and Mary around the dining room as part of their preschool work... and on Christmas Eve, they moved Joseph and Mary to the stable... and baby Jesus was born! Notice the beautiful star they made to shine in the "sky" above the stable.

And those three wise men that came calling? They're over here, because they haven't arrived yet!!!

Mary and Joseph are busy caring for the newborn king..... and notice how soft his bed is because for every good deed, children were able to tuck a piece of yarn or straw into the manger bed... so we can keep the baby warm!

Christmas lights.... the old white resin Nativity scene that now needs strategic placement so that the worn and broken parts aren't facing the road.... Oh, how I love that old Nativity scene!

And the bay window with the window boxes filled.... and lighted. That way it twinkles inside and outside! I love the simplicity of this and it costs nothing more than three strings of lights at Walmart. I use trimmings from bushes for the "greens" and pop in some ribbons or sticks or anything I've a mind to use out of the Christmas boxes... and a few simple ornaments.

 Then our beautiful Santa and his sleigh with 9 reindeer.... and these guys are vintage special around here! Created by Farmer Dave's Uncle Chuck Blodgett and Great-great Grandma Blodgett, these reindeer and the sleigh are so dear to my heart! We hired Casey (another young friend) to paint the reindeer this summer. She got six done, so next year three reindeer and Santa need some touch-up work.... And I must get out the jigsaw and create a few more antlers because we've managed to break a couple! But I'm getting handy with a saw.... :)

We had beautiful church services and a lovely Children's Mass at a local church on Christmas Eve where we gathered with lots of kids, friends and old school chums of my kids... and that reminded me of how special it is when families come back.

When we all meet up again.

When we share the prayers, joys and wishes of the holy days surrounding us. For unto us a child is born...

Unto us a son is given!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday week AND a blessed and prosperous New Year!

And I forgot to announce winners from a few weeks ago! Oh, silly me!

Winners of either a Kindle copy of "Christmas on the Frontier" or a hard copy of "A Cowboy Christmas" are Kathy Eberly and Kathy Muller! 

Let me know which book you'd prefer, ladies!

And congratulations to both of you!!!!

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne loves to write beautiful stories with unforgettable characters to make you smile... laugh... and sometimes cry. Author of nearly 50 novels and novellas, Ruthy writes in the wee small hours of the night which is about the only time her big old farmhouse and pumpkin farm are quiet... and she loves the occasional quiet time! Write to her at or visit her website, friend her on facebook or follow her on @Twitter! She loves hearing from readers and writers!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Day AFTER Christmas

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is actually for the day after Christmas. I remember waking on a bright, sunny morning and looking at the stack of presents on my chair. I only remember one of them, and I cringe now to think how much I loved that mustard-colored sweater. But it must have been awfully special because that memory stuck with me for almost half a century.

I hope your Christmas was lovely and that you had or helped create memories that will stick with others for so long a time.

If you find time, amidst the post-Christmas bustle, to stop by and comment today, I hope you will share some of your favorite Christmas memories.

I'm sharing two of our memories from yesterday - you may notice a theme.

This little guy is our newest ornament, hung in memory of my husband.

Fenway's ready for Spring Training!

Love, Cate

Monday, December 24, 2018

Silent Night

This year is the 200th anniversary of the beloved Christmas carol, "Silent Night."

Think of that. 200 years of Silent Night...

Such a simple carol...who would think that this quiet, gentle song could change everything, even for a few short hours...

On this Christmas Eve of 2018, may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fresh Cranberry Sauce in the Instant Pot

Missy Tippens

Back at Thanksgiving, I decided to make homemade cranberry sauce for the first time. I figured Christmas would be a good time to share it for those of you who do the whole turkey thing again (we don't).

When I decided to make it,  I figured I could do it quickly in my Instant Pot. That morning, I went looking online for recipes. I decided to use the one on the cranberry bag and to play with it using ideas I got from several other recipes I saw online specifically for Instant Pots. I also added my own touches.

Here's the base recipe I used on the bag of cranberries, from Naturipe.

Because I read that you need a cup of liquid in the IP, I doubled the recipe. It turned out that one small bag of cranberries is about 4 cups. So, my recipe...

4 cups fresh cranberries (washed and checked to discard bad ones)
1 cup apple juice
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used Splenda Brown)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 to 1 Tbs crystalized ginger (I used Penzey's Ginger Bits)
The zest and juice of 1 orange (I didn't have any so used 2 clementines!)

Put it all in the Instant Pot and stir. Close and seal the lid, close the vent, and set it on manual, high, for 5 minutes. Let it vent naturally.

Aren't they pretty? I love to decorate with berries!

Once the pressure has released, turn the IP to sauté. Stir and smash what's left of the berries for about 5 minutes, until it's a good thickness. Then turn off and let it cool.

This was my tasting bowl while it was still a little warm. The thickness was perfect! I saved a jar in the fridge to use as jelly. It was sooo good! And I was proud of myself for making this homemade for the first time ever.

So easy! Do y'all eat turkey again at Christmas?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Merry Christmas from The Yankee!

I can't believe that we are winding down the clock on this Christmas season.... and yet, we are.

I have no complaints. Not one. I've had some time to sing, play and create with little kids and that makes the holiday so much more special to me....

I've baked.

I've made Connealy Crunch (recipe here)

I've made sugared nuts and spicy salty sweet nuts....

I am bell ringing at Marketplace Mall on Saturday with a whole bunch of the family... And Texas Cowboy Luke is in town until Christmas, so that's a wonderful thing!

I've got a nice day planned with most of our kids on Sunday.... and then Dave's family on Monday... and then Beth's family on Christmas, so those three days are full of laughter and joy, perfect to celebrate the birth of a newborn king.

When I look back on how that one birth... and that ensuing life... changed so much, I can see the miracle involved. Not just the miracles Christ performed, but the miracles of his very life. His existence.

We are blessed to be here. Blessed to be Americans. Blessed to love others as ourselves and to go out of our way to be kind and good and welcoming. Blessed to live as Christ would want us to live.

So on these final days of the season, I focus on my list of people in need of prayer, including each of you. I pray that you'll have a wonderful holy day and a blessed time with those you love. And if your Christmas isn't Hallmark idyllic, fear not....

For I bring you tidings of great joy! For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior which is Christ the Lord....

No matter how our Christmas celebration goes.... or doesn't go.... knowing what God was willing to do for us, what his son was willing to do for us, as lowly as we are...

Well, that makes it the best Christmas ever.

Merry Christmas from all of us at YankeeBelle Cafe and from the Blodgett/Logan Herne house in Western New York!


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Shortbread Snickerdoodles?

This is sort of a cheatin' post.

Back in early November, I was shopping in Whole Foods, and I saw these on the shelf.

I snatched them up right away, because I love shortbread and I love snickerdoodles.

They were SO delicious. But, alas, they sold out quickly.

As I was eating them, I had an idea. The shortbread reminded me very much of another cookie

One of our favorite Christmas cookies to bake when my children were growing up was Russian Tea Cakes.  I have had this cookbook since 1986 as you can tell by the condition.

The Shortbread cookies tasted very similar, and I figured that adding some cinnamon to the powdered sugar would mimic the snickerdoodle taste. Melt in your mouth delicious.

Unfortunately, I can't give you a verdict because my oven is on the fritz. But what do you think? Will this work?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Christmas Treats - Memories in the Making

Can you believe it? Christmas is only a week away! Actually, our Christmas is going to stretch that entire week. Our two boys will be here Christmas Eve and Day, daughters #1 and 3 will arrive the 27th with their families, and daughter #2 and her crew will join the madness on the 29th. Yes, now is the time for me to get my holiday baking on.

Perhaps I'll start with a little Spritz. (recipe here) Definitely a classic and oh, so easy to make. And if you want to change up the flavors, you can go with either almond or vanilla extract. Hmm...I wonder how they would taste with an orange or lemon flavor added? I just might have to do a little experimentation. 
Thumbprint Cookies (recipe here) are another classic. I just love the pecan coating.
And, of course, sugar cookies (recipe here).  
I can't tell you all the memories I have of decorating sugar cookies, both with my kids and when I was young. The most vivid one is of going to my great-aunt Gladys's when I was a little girl. She never married or had any children of her own, but every year she used to invite her nieces and nephews to her place to decorate Christmas cookies. She had a very small kitchen, though, and one year I bumped into my cousin, sending his plate of unadorned cookies careening toward the floor where they promptly broke.

Aunt Gladys, a retired school teacher, looked at me very matter-of-fact and said, "Mindy, you'll just have to share your cookies."

I can still feel my bottom lip quivering. I didn't want to share my cookies. I'd waited all year for those cookies. Sniff, sniff.

Of course, there was no arguing with Aunt Gladys, so Jeff went home with half of my cookies.

To this day, I can't tell you what those cookies tasted like. But I have such fond memories of decorating them. And isn't that what the holidays are all about. Sharing memories and making new ones.

In addition to cookies, we have the candies. Not really baking, but essential nonetheless.

Everything from Buckeyes, aka peanut butter balls (recipe here)...

 To Pretzel Turtles (recipe here)...
 As well as the ever-popular fudge (recipe here).
Just last week I told you the fond memories fudge holds for me, that it was the one thing my mom made every Christmas. 

Yes, making/eating these holiday treats/staples is like having cherished old friends visit. You love spending time with them, but by the time the holidays are over, you're glad to see them go. Mostly because you've overindulged and January marks a fresh start.

What treats will you be baking/making this week? Do you have memories that are wrapped around cherished holiday recipes? I'd love to hear them.

As I close out this post, I want to wish all a blessed holiday season. For some, this will be a challenging time as they face their first Christmas without a precious loved one. Even in our sorrow, may we keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas. A baby born in a stable Who was and still is the hope of the world. 

Merry Christmas!

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, December 17, 2018

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Back in October, when I heard that our local Cabela's was hiring part-time seasonal workers for Christmas, I thought it might be a fun way to make some extra money.

But I had no idea what I was getting into.

I was hired as a "Santa's Helper," which means that sometimes I take pictures. Sometimes I help parents navigate the finer points of easing a child through the first scary step toward approaching Santa. Sometimes I help a class of preschoolers patiently wait their turn. And sometimes I even get to be Mrs. Santa Claus!

I've learned how it feels to stand on my feet all day on cement floors (my body has adjusted), and I've also learned to remember to pack my lunch each morning.

But all of that doesn't come close to describing what this job is like. I really had no idea what I was getting into.

It's Christmas. It's Santa. It's children of all ages, from one week to ninety-nine years.

It's reindeer and fun crafts. It's dogs who love squeaky toys and teens who think they're "too old" to have their picture taken until we say, "Do it for your mom!"

Yes, a gratuitous Corgi picture!

No, I had no idea.

It's the big family groups who squeeze twelve or fifteen relatives of all ages into the picture because a photo with Santa is the best way to celebrate being together.

It's the Santa look-a-likes who spend a few minutes "talking shop."

It's grandparents bringing the little ones they're raising, trying to bring some semblance of normal into young lives that have known too much pain.

It's the couple celebrating their fifty-fifth anniversary, taking a photo with Santa to mark the occasion.

It's the misty look in a young mom's eyes as she watches her daughters greeting Santa like an old friend, reliving her own memories.

Really, I had no idea.

It's babies crying, toddlers with shining eyes doing a "high-five" with Santa, and pre-schoolers with their Christmas lists fisted in sweaty hands.

It's the girl with cerebral palsy who can't grin widely enough...and her patient brother who helps her sit on a chair next to the Big Guy.

It's Santa's gentle voice and smile that coax reluctant children to open their hearts.

It's the Down syndrome child who comes every Thursday with her dad to see Santa "just one more time."

It's princesses and Spider Man and Elsa and ballerinas and Air Force Captains, soldiers and reindeer and Paw Patrol pajamas, bow ties and vests and sparkly skirts and red velvet dresses, candy cane sticky mouths and favorite t-shirts, no matter how stained.

It's the look of wonder in a toddler's face when she gazes up at Santa. The Real Santa.

But most of all, it's scenes like this from a Cabela's store in the Dallas area:

The mission of Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops' Santa's Wonderland is to help families make memories during the Christmas season, and that's what we do.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied for this job, but I'm glad I did!

If you have a Santa's Wonderland near you, stop by and give Santa a hug. Better yet, have your picture taken with the Man in Red.

Make a few Christmas memories of your own.

I've had my picture taken with Santa several times this year! When is the last time you had your picture taken with Santa?

Jan Drexler lives in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, where you can find her working as her alter-ego, a "Cabela's Elf-fitter," until December 24th. After Christmas, she will return to her full-time job of writing historical romances with Amish characters.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Cauliflower and Mushroom Roast

Missy Tippens

I ran across this recipe in one of Martha Stewart's newsletters and promptly saved it to Pinterest. Then when we made plans to have some friends over, I went to find it. (Don't you love how Pinterest can store recipes for you?!)

Here's a link to the original recipe: click here.

Basically, you slice a head of cauliflower into steaks, brush with oil and roast partly.

Then you add a tray of oil-brushed mushrooms and roast separately. Then you flip the cauliflower, top with mushrooms, some cheese and breadcrumbs and finish roasting. I didn't bother with roasting the bread in the recipe. I just sprinkled on some breadcrumbs.

Be sure to slice thick enough so that the steaks don't break up like some of mine did!

I have to admit this dish ended up being over-done. An almost-kitchen-fail! (Another tip: Don't try new recipes when you have company.  haha)

I'd suggest not roasting for the whole time. My mushrooms were tough and dry. So play with it and watch carefully to make sure you don't overcook it.

Of course, I forgot to take photos of the finished product because our friends had arrived. But I will definitely make this again sometime! With a decrease in the roasting time. :)