Friday, May 25, 2018

Thrown-together Sloppy Joes

Missy Tippens

I had a pound of ground beef thawed out for dinner the other night and couldn't decide what to make with it. Then I saw a pack of hamburger buns and decided to make...

Sloppy Joes!

I looked at a couple of recipes, but of course didn't have all the ingredients. So I just shut the website and jumped in with what I had.

I browned the beef with some dried onions (I would have preferred freshly chopped Vidalia onions!), then stirred in some tomato paste. Then I seasoned the beef and tomato paste mixture with a spoonful of brown sugar, several glugs of Worcestershire sauce, and a hefty sprinkle of two types of paprika. (Don't you love those measurements?!)

Next was a large can of crushed tomatoes.

I let the mix simmer for a bit. Then it was ready to serve!

They're delicious on buns! We usually serve them open-faced so we can eat them with a fork. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Spring at Last!

We have leaves.

We had daffodils!

We had tulips!

We've got iris growing and tomato plants ready to be transplanted and baby corn plants and squashes and pumpkins, all babies, just coming to life in this new creature we've dubbed "sunshine"! And with sunshine comes warmth.

Hooray for warmth!

There's a lot of stuff going on here right now. I'm utilizing my middle-of-the-night writing time for storytelling, but at seven A.M. I switch gears. Get my young friends off to school, clean up the kitchen, and then on to some spring things...

Cleaning water gardens is the least favorite.... we're in Northeast Woodlands. If you don't mow it or till it, a forest will grow, so the water gardens all fill with leaves in fall. Once spring comes I pump out the water.... then rake out the debris (I am not going to tell you what I find in the debris, but let me say that it's not always JUST LEAVES....) So once that's done, I refill with water... and start the fountains... and weed the gardens around them and trim the plants and then I repeat this two more times because we've got three water gardens in the front yard.

And I love them! They encourage all kinds of frogs and toads to make our yard their home... and birds, too!

Logan is a frog/toad lover like me.... I remember when Taylor was little (one of my first daycare babies, she's almost 17 now) she came over one evening and filled buckets with toads, hopping around the gardens and the sidewalks, feasting on bugs beneath the outside lights.

It was the coolest thing! And then of course we let them all go... because we want them to have lots and lots of frog/toad babies!


Before Memorial Day the bunting must go up. Half the reason I had porch rails installed years ago was to hang bunting!


I love bunting. I love old houses with patriotic bunting.

I'm such a dork!

Farm prep time without a greenhouse:  Summer squash and zucchini plants started:

And then tomatoes:

We order tiny plants and then transplant them into trays or sleds.... and then we plant them this week  on the farm. That cuts our costs by a lot and we turn our display yard into an interim nursery.

Sweet pepper plants and corn plugs! This way we start the corn up front and then plant it out back this week.... and we keep doing this.

The pumpkin seeds are in trays too, they're about to pop and they'll go in next week... and then the major planting goes for the next three weeks, plot by plot.

This is the antique wagon I'm hoping to dress up this summer so folks can use it for a photo op by September. We'll see if I'm good enough to create a fun wagon, but just that frame and those wheels makes me happy!
It's about 12 feet long, so it's a big-based wagon and those wheels are to-die-for. I was thinking red and yellow for the wheels.... and a rustic bed for the wagon, to display pumpkins and flowers and decoratives..... and make folks smile!

Okay, that's it from here.... we don't do much cooking right now, but Lacey is making chicken scampi tonight.... and that's some mighty good stuff!

I'm in North Carolina for the next two days, helping with grandkids and seeing them dance/play/dance.

I am so blessed!

And this is the latest Ruthy re-release for Kindle or paperback:

A beautiful story of the most unlikely match... that becomes quite likely. Link to "More Than a Promise

Wishing you all the most beautiful of Memorial Day weekends, the blessings of faith, hope and love and the gratitude for all who have served.... and saved us from oppression and tyranny. May God bless our troops... and our country.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Winging It

by Mindy Obenhaus

This has been a fairly uneventful week around the Obi household and, trust me, I'm not complaining. Not after the year we've had.

Friday was the one year anniversary of our big move from the suburbs of Dallas-Ft. Worth to our family ranch in south-central Texas.
And after months of renovations, I am happy to say that we are pretty well settled into our new digs. One of these days I'll have to share some before and after photos.

I have to say, I am truly enjoying small-town life. They had a festival this past weekend and it was such a delight to be able to walk the courthouse square beneath the shade of century old magnolia and live oak trees, savoring the music and chatting with friends. Life moves at a slower pace here and that's fine by me.

After savoring some of the festival fare Friday and Saturday nights--they had several food trucks, one of which had some delicious fish tacos--the cooking was up to me on Sunday. I decided to keep thing simple with some grilled chicken wings.

I know I've shared these before, but some things are worth bringing up time and again.

Start with a bunch of wings. You a can buy them already cut, but I usually cut up my own. Whichever way you choose, toss them in a big bowl then add some of your favorite seasoning. I mix my own basic seasoning for meat. It's comprised of kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
I mix up a big batch every couple of months so it's always at the ready.
Then, for the wings, I like to add some smoked paprika.
A good bit of it, actually. I love the smoky aroma and that hint of smoke it imparts to the meat.

So sprinkle those over your wings.
And toss to coat.
Cook on a preheated grill, however the times will vary depending on your grill. Ours cooks with indirect heat and the temp stays at 400 degrees, so I usually do about 12 minutes per side, sometimes less, depending how cooked they are when I flip them.
If your grill is direct heat, don't have them too close to the flame, them monitor them after about 5 minutes. And remember, just because the outside is charred, which sometimes happens with direct heat, doesn't mean that the meat is cooked on the inside.

After the wings are cooked, you can sauce them as you like.
I kept mine au naturel and added some sweet potato fries I'd cooked up in my air fryer. Exactly what I was craving. Especially with my absolute favorite fry sauce. 
Some mayo, a little ketchup and a couple squirts of sriracha sauce.
Mmm, mmm, mmm. Now that's some good eatin'.

Of course, our dogs really love the country life. Remember this squirrel I've shown you a couple of times? The one that lives in the mulberry tree just outside our bedroom.
Yeah, well, Dixie finally discovered he was there.
Now, this is where she likes to spend her days.
The squirrel must have been active when I took these pix, because Dixie usually lays under the tree, occasionally looking up, watching for any signs of movement.

Now it's your turn. If could choose between city or rural life, which would you pick and why?

Three-time Carol Award finalist, Mindy Obenhaus, lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children, two dogs and countless cattle. 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, May 21, 2018

Come for a Hike with Me!

by Jan Drexler

A couple days ago, my dear husband and I took advantage of a brief respite in our daily thunderstorms to fit in our first real hike of the season.

We went to a trail we had never tried before, the Stockade Lake trail at Custer State Park.

We've visited the stockade a couple times. It's a reproduction of a stockade built by early gold seekers in 1874, in spite of orders from General Phil Sheridan prohibiting non-Natives from entering the Black Hills. To see pictures of the original stockade and to read more of the history, read this blog post.

Stockade Lake is a favorite spot for fishermen and picnickers and is the location of this 1.2 mile trail. Don't let the short length of the hike fool you, though. The elevation rises 400 feet - and goes back down - in that distance.

We started out in sunshine, enjoying the early wildflowers along the way.

I'm still on the quest to get a good picture of one of these beauties. It's a Shooting Star, and blooms for a short time in May and June. It's the size of a violet, with the petals swinging up from the yellow and white center. Every photo of this flower that I've taken so far is out of focus. The slightest breeze makes the blossom quiver!

Trails in the state park are easy to follow. The blue diamonds point the way.

The trail isn't always have to watch your step!

When you stop to look around, though, the views are gorgeous. Hmm, are those rain clouds to the north?

When we looked toward the east, I got this shot of sunshine on one of the burned over mountains from last November's fire.

The trail never looks as steep in the photo as it felt when we were hiking up it!

When Badger Clark, a native South Dakota poet from the first half of the twentieth century, was asked why the Black Hills aren't called mountains, he said something along these lines: when visitors come, "it is better to delight than disappoint."

The Black Hills are definitely mountains, and we delight in every inch of them!

The rain finally did move in when we were on our way down the trail, so I tucked my camera inside my jacket. But not before I got one last picture...

I hope you enjoyed our hike together! What is one of your favorite things about where you live?

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, May 18, 2018

Vegan Banana Fudge Brownies Stuffed with Chocolate Chips

Missy Tippens

My daughter made these gorgeous things this week. To fully experience them, you need to check the recipe on Instagram (where she discovered them) on the account @tumblinbumblincrumblincookie. Click here to see the post and official recipe (it's in the comments section). You also need to see her gorgeous photo that attracted my daughter in the first place. Our photos don't look nearly as yummy. I'll post our modified version of the recipe here. My daughter (who is not vegan) didn't have all the ingredients so did her best.

1/2 cup unbleached flour (we didn't have whole wheat)
2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar (we actually used Truvia to save the calories)
1 packet instant coffee (we used Starbucks Via)

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup aquafaba (we had to look this up. It's the juice out of a can of chick peas)
6 tbs coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (we didn't have dark chunks)

Now some photos. Michelle whisked the aquafaba until foamy (they serve like egg whites in vegan dishes).

Mush the banana.

To the whipped aquafaba, add in the coconut oil, banana and vanilla. This is where Michelle had a disaster. She accidentally dumped a LOT of vanilla. I had to try to pour some of it off and hope that the chocolate could offset some of the strong vanilla flavor. :)

Sift in the dry ingredients and then fold it into the wet. Then add in chocolate chips.

We baked it in a 8x8 (or maybe it was 9x9) pan that had been sprayed with Pam and lined with parchment paper to help with removing it.

Now here's something unusual: bake at 180 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted will come out a little fudgey. Let cool on a wire rack completely before removing from the pan. Lin (of Instagram) suggests chilling the brownies for a few hours to obtain optimum fudginess. We chilled ours for about an hour. Then Michelle took them out of the pan to slice.

We did not top ours with melted peanut butter like Lin did. These are just the brownies.

Warning: these are VERY fudgey and rich. In fact, I told Michelle I think I would call them fudge rather than brownies. And I would suggestion only eating a 1 inch square piece at a time! But if you're having a chocolate craving, these will definitely do the trick.

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, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hopewas a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Nominee. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com and