Thursday, October 31, 2019

Apple Cider Cakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

 Inspired by Facebook ads.... and full of homemade deliciousness despite the cake mix base!

So I saw this sponsored thing on facebook and I was tempted... so I played and it is a complete and delicious success!

Easy peasy and perfect for fall gatherings, holidays or just for us folks that love apples and want to share that love. And a fall dessert that doesn't involve pumpkin!


1 box white cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend for about three minutes. Fill cupcake pans (or two 7" or 8" prepared cake pans) with batter, about 1/2 to 2/3 full...

Bake at 350 degrees until a finger-touch in the center of the cupcake/cake leaves no impression... or a toothpick inserted into cake/cupcakes has no liquidy center...

Cool. Top with Apple Cider Frosting!


1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar/powdered sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon milk
1/4 cup apple cider

Blend shortening and butter. Add sugars and cider. Blend on low until mixed, then beat on high for about three or four minutes. If frosting is too thick, add a little more cider.

The whole family loved these and I wanted to find a fall recipe that wasn't pumpkin-themed to add to our farm baked goods line-up because it's good to change things up!

We've been running a 1/2 price sale in the pumpkin patch since Monday... and we're selling out, which makes us very, very happy because there is no prize for which farm has the most pumpkins remaining on November 1st!

Sell 'em off... and start planning for next year.

That's not unlike how I handle my writing career, and that's turned out okay. :)

Try these easy cupcakes and tell us what you think, okay? We love hearing from you!

USA Today bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, little kids and not-so-little kids, getting dirty, cleaning up, chatting with folks, chocolate and coffee... and she views Twitter with an eye-roll while enjoying meeting people on facebook... but that's just her! :) Visit her website, friend her on facebook, or email her at She loves hearing from you!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween Brooklyn Style

 It's that time of year again, the time my neighborhood starts pulling out all the stops and decorating for Halloween. I found some new ones to share with you this year.

Some houses have pretty fall decorations.

Others go for the spooky.

Ooops - random finger.

Can't beat mother nature.

The ghost is back. You can't really tell from the photo, but he's about 12 feet tall.

This one comes from the neighborhood near where I work.

It's very elaborate.

A Halloween "Christmas" tree?

It's interesting to me to see how things change. IN some ways, Halloween is an easy way to track changes in the neighborhood. Places that used to go whole hog, now have nothing, but homes that were previously undecorated, now go all out. 

This building by my school used to have elaborate decorations for every season. They actually had a company that would come and do the decorations for each season. The new owners have not kept up the tradition.

And, despite it being Halloween, the Christmas lights have already gone up along one block!

Do you decorate for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pumpkin Bread and Preparing for the Holidays

Like it or not, the holidays are just around the corner. No joke. My asparagus fern is already getting into the holiday spirit.
And before long you'll be contemplating teacher gifts, a little something for coworkers or maybe you just want to let someone know how much you appreciate them. Those types of gifts don't have to cost a lot to be special. Especially when they're made with love.

I've been making this pumpkin bread since my kids were little. It's a perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas gift for anyone you appreciate. The best part is that you don't have to try to cram baking it into your busy holiday schedule. Instead, you can make it now. Matter of fact, it will be better if you make it now, because it's always better after it's been frozen.

This makes a very large batch, one that typically yields me 17-18 small loaves, but you can cut the recipe in half should you so desire. Of course, you can also make larger loaves. 

So here we go. You're gonna need A REALLY BIG BOWL. I have a commercial size one I use almost exclusively for this recipe. You can mix by hand or use an electric mixer. I usually start off using an electric hand mixer, then switch to a large spoon or spatula when I start adding the flour.

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 1/4 cups (that's 4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 12 eggs 
  • 2 cups orange juice 
  • 6 cups pumpkin puree (2 - 29 oz. cans)
  • 10 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 3  cups raisins (regular or golden)
Cream butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy. 
Beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended.
Add orange juice and pumpkin and mix well.
Whisk dry ingredients together into a large bowl and add to pumpkin mixture a little at a time, stirring well to thoroughly combine all elements. (I use my mixer as long as I can, but switch to a spoon as it thickens and, frankly, is too deep for the mixer to properly blend)
Now stir in your raisins.
Spoon into greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour for large pans, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. For the smaller pans, check them after 35-40 minutes.

Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
Then turn out onto racks to cool. 

Once the loaves have cooled, I wrap them in plastic wrap, then foil and store them in the freezer. They keep for months. Then, when it's time for gift giving, simply place the unwrapped bread (sometimes I leave the clear plastic wrap on) into a cellophane bag and tie with some burlap or a pretty ribbon.

Now who wouldn't want to receive this? (barring any food allergies, of course)
You can see the bits of golden raisins I used in this batch. Coupled with the cinnamon and cloves, this bread is a feast for the taste buds. And a tasty treat friends and family look forward to every year.

So, I have to ask, have you started your holiday shopping yet? I prefer to start early so I can space things out, but there are those who like to wait until the week before Christmas and others who will take a single day and knock everything out at once. Which category do you fall into? And do you give any gifts from your kitchen?

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, October 28, 2019

Apple Cinnamon Muffin/Cake

What do you do when you've been given a bag full of apples?

Not perfect, straight from the grocery store apples, but windfall apples picked up in the neighborhood?

Hmm... Perfect for cooking!

I browsed through my cookbooks and found a few recipes that might work, and ended up with this one. It was yummy and just right for a snowy afternoon.

Apple Cinnamon Muffin/Cake
Makes one cake or two muffins - serves one


1/4 cup flour or 3 Tablespoons low-carb baking blend
2 - 3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sugar or stevia-blend substitute (check equivalent measurements on the stevia package)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 egg
1 Teaspoon butter, softened

1 small apple, or 1/2 medium to large; cored, peeled, and diced

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Prepare 2 muffin cups or a small (4-cup) baking dish by spraying with non-stick spray.

Mix the ingredients - except apples - in a small bowl. Fold in the apple pieces, then put into prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle the top with more cinnamon, then bake in a 350° oven for 10-12 minutes for the muffins, or 15-18 minutes for the baking dish.

Let it cool for a few minutes, then enjoy it with a dollop of yogurt, whipped cream, or ice cream! Yes, yummy!

Meanwhile, we're settling into our new home. One of our new projects (like we needed a new project!) is this:

That is a buffet! (Yes, I know it's upside-down!)

It has drawers:

And a top:

After sitting in its former owner's garage for a couple months, we wanted to give it a good cleaning, inside and out. After we're done, we'll put it back together and it will take its place on one wall of our dining room. 

Solid wood and as heavy as...well...a tree! But did you see that wood grain? We are so thankful to have found this piece!

And the rest of the house is getting there. The library is in one corner of my office...

...and my desk is in the other.

As you can see, there are still boxes to be unpacked and things are a little messy, but it looks better than it did last week!

And we still love living in the Hills. The snow in the air lends enchantment to the view.

Have you had any snow where you are yet?

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-seven years.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Frozen Fish in the Instant Pot

Missy Tippens

Hi. My name is Missy, and I'm a chronic forgot-to-plan-dinner-a-holic. I rarely have all the ingredients needed. And I never seem to plan well enough ahead to thaw meats out ahead of time.

So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that you could cook frozen meat in the Instant Pot! I ordered mine back when they first came out several years ago. It's been a lifesaver!

Earlier this week, I needed dinner but had not been to the grocery recently. So that meant I had to work with what was in the freezer. Which included a package of frozen cod. So I went on a Google search and came up with this...

Instant Pot Italian Fish (from frozen, Whole30) at

Check out the full recipe at the link above. But here's what I did...

I put the frozen fish in the IP.
Then I topped with:
Olive oil (I drizzled a couple of TBS over it)
1/4 cup water
sliced calamata olives
a chopped fresh tomato
chopped roasted red pepper (from a jar)
a little salt (not much because of the olives and capers!)
(garlic was mentioned in the blog post and is in my photo, but wasn't in the actual recipe so I didn't use it)

I lifted the pieces of fish up to let the liquids and some of the other chopped items get underneath and coat the fish.

Then I closed it and set it on manual, high, for 4 minutes.

I let it naturally release for about 8 minutes, then did a quick release.

It turned out very tasty! It seemed a little overcooked for delicate cod. Maybe a firmer fish would work better. But in a pinch, it was a nice, quick dinner!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Butternut Squash Pancakes

Here's a dash of versatility for you squash lovers!

These came out delicious and the idea began with me realizing that zucchini season is coming to an end and we love zucchini pancakes. They're such a great hand-held treat... we don't even use forks and knives, it's like a major-size appetizer!

So while I was roasting squash, (roasted squash is a favorite snack around here.) I thought why not try pancakes with shredded squash?

So I peeled a smallish butternut squash, then made it two...

Just in case!

I baked the seed ends for a bowl of cooked squash that has nothing to do with today's recipe...

and then I used the blunt, thick ends for the shredding to avoid strings/threads.

I shredded it in my food processor.... so the whole thing took about ten minutes to peel the squash and shred it. Then I microwaved about 4 cups of it just a little to soften it slightly.

Butternut Squash Pancakes

Shred squash, microwave for about two minutes, just enough to tenderize it a little...

THEN, mix in a bowl:

3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (for a different more veggie taste, skip the cinnamon and add garlic and onion)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Whisk together.  Add in about 4 cups shredded squash. (I didn't measure, I just added until the batter was mostly squash.)

Heat griddle to medium/hot. Drizzle a little olive oil or coconut oil onto griddle. Ladle three or four scoops of batter onto pan... fry until that side is golden brown and flip...

Cook about one minute more.

These cook in like four minutes, and then we tried them...

We loved them with salt sprinkled on them!!!

But mostly, these became a huge hit with the younger crowd when they sprinkled powdered sugar on one and Laney had hers with maple syrup...

A total win, hands down, and how can this be bad for us?

And a fun new way to use our squashes!!!!

And for the weekend helpers, there was this:

Super-sized apple crisp.... RECIPE HERE

And smoked pork roast (Mindy, I'm learning to use the smoker!!!)

And the pork roast was so good with the apple crisp. :)

This weekend I'm out of town so the crew is feeding themselves... and it won't be as crazy busy as it's been the last month. This weekend is traditionally the last minute shoppers who need pumpkins for Halloween.... and we have some to sell, still, so that's awesome!

It's always a little melancholy to end the season. Not because it's a lot of work to unbuild displays... (although it's a workout, let me tell you!) but because it's like a wedding or a holiday...  you spend so much time prepping for it that when it ends, it's an "aww" moment... but also a chance to breathe and write more books!

The extra time now will be devoted to being ahead of the game with my stories before next year's season is upon us and I love that about winter... I can get in a lot of writing time and dog-loving time and kid time and hit the ground running next May... but that's seven months of breathing and I'm going to take it! :)

Multi-published author Ruth Logan Herne is living her dream of writing sweet stories that make people smile, laugh, cry and sigh... She thanks God for the given talent and the time to develop it, and to Him goes the praise... but she's not afraid to do her part and put the work in. Friend her on facebook, write to her at, visit her website or stop by the Yankee Belle Cafe (right here!) or and see what she's got to say... because she does talk a lot! :)