Friday, June 28, 2019

Chocolate Cake with a Secret Ingredient!

Missy Tippens

Last week, my daughter wanted to make a birthday cake for her boyfriend, so we went searching for recipes. We settled on this one at Taste of Home Magazine:

They had an article by Katie Bandurski about making Ina Garten's Famous Chocolate Cake. What's interesting is that they said it's actually originally a recipe from Hershey's, called Black Magic Cake.

We just followed along at Taste of Home because she shared her take on the recipe. The secret ingredient?

Coffee! A cup of hot brewed coffee in the cake. And a tablespoon of instant coffee powder in the icing. We happened to have instant espresso on hand so used that.

Since you can find the recipe at the link, I thought I'd just share our photos.

 Used cocoa to dust the buttered cake pans. A trick I learned, probably on Food Network, to keep from having white flour all over your chocolate cakes.

Action shot!

See those swirls in that last photo? That wasn't intentional! We messed up and forgot to scrape the bowl while mixing, so had a clump of fudgy dough in the bottom. OOPS! We decided to just swirl it though both pans.

Next, the icing (or do you call it frosting?)...

Chocolate melted over a double boiler.

The instant espresso mixed with a little water.

Whipped in the stand mixer with all that yummy butter (below). By the way, we did what the author of the Taste of Home article did, we did NOT use the egg yolk. I'm weird about raw eggs. I won't use them uncooked in recipes and wash my hands every time I touch raw egg! My poor kids always felt deprived that they never got to eat raw cookie dough. (Ruthy is shaking her head right now. She loves to live dangerously.) :)

Ta-da! Michelle's first ever homemade layer cake that she did mostly by herself. I think she did a great job icing it. And her boyfriend and his friends loved it!

I wish I could have tasted it! That's one drawback to making a cake as a gift. haha I did, however, slice a tiny bit off the bottom to make the cake layer sit flat. That gave me a little nibble. And we had a nice bowl of icing to lick. :)

So the big question of the day: Do you say icing or frosting?

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Welcome, Summer!

I was walking by a baseball coach last night and he was explaining to his earnest eight-year-olds that the days were growing shorter...

I almost kicked him.

Does he realize how long some of us have waited for these long, sun-soaked days????

Of course he does, he was being funny, but the solstice has come and gone and I am not ready to look forward while we're still struggling to fight off bugs, rabbits, woodchucks, deer, drenching rains, broken equipment and all the mud that goes along with it!

Nope, this is the start of something BIG up here! A season of sun and Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes and beachs and Abbott's Frozen Custard.

Burgers at Bill Gray's or Schallers....

Walking the pier at the Charlotte beach where the Genesee River flows into Lake Ontario and joins in the dance to the ocean through the great St. Lawrence River.

Of course we're still planting right now, and the grandkids are playing Little League baseball and travel soccer and I'm having so much fun running from field to field in the evening. I could stay on the farm and help or write a bit more each night, but the best part of summer is cheering the kids on! So that's my evening routine and I love it!

And the over-abundance of rain hasn't dampened everyone's spirits, my friends! Here's Lena with a reason to dance:

And let's see what else we've got goin' on here today:

A walk down Memory Lane here... Cocoa Mocha and Honey-Bunny White Sox chillin' together about 18 months ago... Cocoa was hit be a car two weeks ago and Honey Bunny has been stepping in to nurse Cocoa's four babies.... and after a rough start, she's getting the hang of it. Her twins are ready for homes this week, so she's extending her mothering duties for the duration and Cocoa' s four babies are doing all right! Yay for Honey-Bunny! This is Honey with her baby boy....

I had a crew on hand today, weeding, hoeing, planting.... and homemade pizza semed like a great idea and it's not hard once you've taught yourself how to make a good solid bread dough. Or buy bread dough at your local grocery store. We have it in our "bakery" department, but I've seen it in deli sections, too!

I used my favorite bread recipe for the crust, only instead of piling everything on it, I've learned to go after it easily. It's the Betty Crocker White Bread recipe I've shared often...

But after it rises the FIRST TIME, cut it in half, shape each half into a classic round, then using knuckles, gently spread the dough out. (More on this below...)

Top with favorite topping (I made mine today, there was little choice! ))

Sauce was SIMPLE:
1 large can of Crushed Tomatoes
A generous sprinkling of  Parsley, garlic and basil leaves and then about 1/3 cup Ketchup.  Let simmer for a few minutes on stove. No long simmering needed for this.
I used on with little holes in the back.

Spread crust out gently. Drizzle with olive oil.... Using a fork, make tons of tiny holes to help keep crust soft. (It works!!!!) (I have two of those round pizza pans with tiny airholes, they do a great job of baking pizza.

Then a slathering of Parmesan cheese....

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven until almost cooked... then add sauce, cheese, pepperoni and finish baking for about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven.

This keeps the crust soft and chewy, the kids love it without overdone cheese and everyone is happy.

Except they were all so hungry, I forgot to get pics of the pizzas when they were done! EEK!

It has been typical summer crazy here, but let's not focus on that... let's take a minute to thank God for little girls twirling in the rain....

Kids in trees...


New adventures and opportunities....

And the beautiful faith that strengthens us through adversity.

We are so blessed and it's always good to look on the bright side of life... to count those blessings.

Wishing you all a happy Thursday (and I'm finishing this Thursday morning because I was falling asleep last night! Good old outdoor physical exercise is an amazing thing!)

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne is still pinching herself because she's living her dream of being a published author and like totally one of the coolest Grandmas on the face of the earth.... including the homemade pizza! You can friend Ruthy on facebook, follow her on Twitter, email her at and stop by her website She love to hear from readers and writers! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Yup, it's official. I'm on summer vacation!

Which means it's time for the flip side of my personality to kick into gear. Time for Writer Cate to take over.

It also means it's time for Healthy Writer Cate to take over.

Sadly, this followed me home.


It was not alone.

Delicious food just jumps into the basket - and then onto the hips.

This is the peril of being Writer Cate.

Teacher Cate spends the entire day on her feet, running up and down flights of stairs, walking around the classroom, fast walking to the subway - 15 minutes to and from, twice a day.

So you see, donuts and cookies just won't cut it in the summer.

To be fair, they weren't quit cutting it before school ended. The scale was inching upwards and waistlines were tightening.

So, Summertime, and it's time to be ruthless.

Expect to see recipes with more of this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and these

I keep a bowl of blueberries in the refrigerator
and grab them when I'm craving a snack.

There are still some treats.

They were strategically placed in my basket today.
The freezer is stocked with salmon and haddock and shrimp. And frozen blueberries for smoothies.

However, I'm over on Seekerville today blogging about procrastination, so I may have to have a donut first. Who will join me?

Are you inclined towards healthier eating in the summer? I feel like we always used to be because of the heat, but now with AC, there's not the waning appetite to help.

I'm off to a good start. This was dinner tonight.

Kale, oranges, blueberries, sunflower seeds, avocado slices, salmon, and some croutons.
It was really good.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Favorite Kale Salad

Yes,  you read that right. I have a favorite kale salad. Now, it's no secret that our friend Cate Nolan loves kale. So today, I thought I'd revisit a kale slaw I discovered a few years back, just to show her that I'm not a kale hater. In reality, I really do like this salad, however it does take a little time to prep.
Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 head kale, stems removed and sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • juice of one orange
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt
  • ground black pepper1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  •  1 slice bacon, cooked crisp and chopped 
  • 1 rounded Tbsp. mayonnaise
Place the kale into a salad bowl.
Toss with carrot, orange juice, lemon juice, and salt. Using your hands, rub the acid into the kale. Basically, pretend you're giving it a massage. 

Set kale aside.

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and a saucepan with boiling water.
Place the sliced onion into the boiling water for 15-30 seconds.
Remove and immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. This removes the bitter taste of the raw onion.
Drain the water and blot the onions with a paper towel.

Add the onion, bacon, olive oil, salt, and pepper to kale and toss.

Add the mayonnaise and mix the slaw well.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made several hours in advance.
Just look at all those vibrant colors.

This is so yummy, y'all. That citrusy flavor lends just enough sweetness to make it addicting. Making it a perfect addition to your summer salad list. After all, IT HAS BACON! Now how could that be bad?

Here at the ranch, we are between grandkids. One left Sunday and the next group will be in just in time for the fourth. Can you believe it's already the 4th of July? Wasn't it just winter? I'm still working on my menu, so I'm hoping you'll tell me about some of your favorite 4th of July celebration dishes. 

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 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 a

Monday, June 24, 2019

Craving That Delicious Chicken Dish

Jan here, and the countdown is on. Three weeks and two days from now some nice men (who we'll be paying) will come to our house and start putting our stuff in their truck...whether we're ready or not...and haul it off to a storage unit that we're renting for a month before they come back and take it to our new house.

I won't be able to get enough of this view. I don't
think we'll ever close the curtains!

Does that sound complicated? You have no idea! But I'll give you week by week updates as we go!

Meanwhile, like I said last week, we're eating out of our pantry, trying to lessen the amount of stuff we need to move...but that can get a little "ho hum." And then this week the craving hit. I just had to have that delicious chicken dish commonly called "Crack Chicken."

I had the chicken in the freezer, and some ranch salad dressing in the pantry, and some cream cheese in the fridge... a quick trip to the grocery store for some bacon, and we were in business.

Jan's Semi-Cracked Chicken


2 - 3 chicken breasts, partially frozen
1/2 bottle Ranch salad dressing
5 slices bacon, cooked (I bought the pre-cooked kind)
8 oz. cream cheese

This was an easy-peasy recipe! Pre-heat your oven to 375°.

First, I cut the chicken breasts into cubes (much easier to do when they're partially frozen - mine had been thawing in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.) I thought about browning the chicken first, but I was short on time. So I just dumped them into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish.

(The next time I'll brown the chicken pieces first. This batch was a little heavy on the fat from the chicken.)

Next, cut the bacon into pieces and scatter them over your chicken.

Third, pour the ranch dressing over the whole thing.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 375°.

When you get close to the end of the cooking time, cube your cream cheese. After 45 minutes, take the casserole out of the oven and distribute the cream cheese cubes evenly over the chicken.

It smells great already, doesn't it?

Bake for another 5 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is soft. Remove the casserole from the oven and stir everything together.

Note: this would work better in a mixing bowl. My bowls are already packed, except the one my son is still using...

I served the chicken over pasta for hubby and son, and ate mine all by itself. When I make it again this week, I'm going to cook some zucchini noodles to have with it.

Was it good? Well, there were no leftovers and no complaints!

What else did we do this week?

This mess is our garage on Friday night before our Saturday morning garage sale (or rummage, as they call it around here.) On Saturday morning we hauled all this stuff out into the driveway and got rid of it! We put ridiculously low prices on everything...we really didn't want to move it. The new place is a condo, so no yard work in our future, and no outside house maintenance.

I know, I know. Sometimes I'll miss mowing the lawn. But I still get to have a flower garden and other plants. And the big win? More time for hiking in the Hills and writing!

But the big downside to this moving business is that we haven't been able to go hiking yet this year. Maybe we'll take a day off soon and head into these beautiful mountains!

Jan Drexler spent her childhood dreaming of living in the Wild West and is now thrilled to call the Black Hills of South Dakota her home. When she isn’t writing she spends much of her time satisfying her cross-stitch addiction or hiking and enjoying the Black Hills with her husband of more than thirty-six years.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Another Cooking Class! Sourdough Bread

Missy Tippens

I got to take another great cooking class at Cook's Warehouse last week! This time, I learned to make sourdough bread with chef Sarah Dodge. It was not a hands-on class this time. It was more of a demo so she could show us some of the major steps and also to share her recipe. She took time to walk through all the steps with us and explain little details that she has learned through her baking experience.

Then she shared some sourdough starter with each of us! This bread isn't made from yeast that you buy at the store. The ingredients are only flour, water and salt. The fermentation comes from wild yeast and bacteria that are in our environment and on our skin. Pretty amazing!

When I got home from the class, I fed the starter with 150 grams of water and 150 grams of flour. She recommended several local mills for the flour. However for beginners, King Arthur flour is very consistent in its protein content.

I fed my starter once and hoped to start making bread that night. But it failed the "float test," where you put a spoon full into a cup of water. If it floats, it's ready to use. Mine wasn't ready, so I fed it a second time late that night. Because the next day was Sunday and I knew I'd be gone most of the day, I put the starter in the fridge after I fed it.

The next afternoon, I took the starter out and let it warm for a bit. I've discovered that my microwave (which is built-in above the oven) is a perfect, warm place! This time, it passed the float test!

Let the baking begin!

For a recipe, go here: The Kitchn by Emma Christensen. It's almost exactly the same as what our teacher shared in class. (I don't feel free to share her recipe here since it was part of a paid class.) I will say that our teacher uses a mixture of bread flour and all purpose flour in the baking (not the feeding). About 60% AP flour. I hope to try incorporating whole wheat flour next time I make it. I'm a wheat bread lover!

During this stage, you let the gluten build and the flour hydrate. It's called autolysing. I realized later that I didn't let my dough sit long enough before adding the salt (which slows the process). So I'll do that for longer next time.

Several of the steps involve folding the dough and letting it rest. I just did it in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap so it wouldn't dry out. It does not double in size like when you make regular bread, so don't worry when that doesn't happen! The dough was still very wet at this point and didn't expand much at all. I feared it was dead but kept going! LOL

After all the folding, you dump it out on the counter to rest. You'll actually see the edges start to relax. Then you do a last folding from all directions that makes a seam in the bread. When you put the bread in a proofing basket, that seam stays up (which will make it be on the bottom once you put your loaf into the pan to bake).

This was my dough resting.

Here's my dough in the proofing basket. These also come with linen liners which can help absorb some of the extra moisture. I had hand washed mine (it was new and smelled like chemicals), so I couldn't use it. I ended up doing a little research online and read a recommendation to flour the basket with rice flour. I did that first. Then, like my teacher Sarah, I also coated it with cornmeal.

Here is my loaf proofing. This was like 1 am, so I put it in the refrigerator to start up again the next day.

Then next day, I took the basket out to warm up. I put it in the warm microwave for about an hour. It seemed to poof up just a little. (I still feared it was DEAD!)

Then I pre-heated the oven with my Dutch oven inside. Then I sprinkled the pan with cornmeal. Then I dumped the loaf into the hot pan. It came right out! It didn't stick to the basket, which was a huge relief.

I scored the loaf in a single deep cut lengthwise and two shallower side cuts (for a round loaf, she does a pound-sign). Then I baked with the lid on for 20 minutes. Then took the lid off and baked 20 more minutes. However, from the recipe I shared with you, it sounds like you might want to bake it longer. Mine was rather "blond" compared to photos I saw online and was a bit difficult to cut. So maybe baking longer would help with that.

Here's the finished product!

See those nice air bubbles?! My yeasties and bacteria WEREN'T DEAD!!

Everything I read said to let it cool well before cutting. Who in their right mind can resist warm bread, I ask you??!!

We had it still warm and slathered in butter. Oh, y'all, this was sooo good. It was a lot of work, but I decided it was worth it. I'll keep feeding my starter (once or twice weekly if kept in the fridge). And I hope to maybe bake monthly. If you try it, be sure to let me know how it turns out!