Friday, November 30, 2012

November Prompt Winner-Crystal A. Murray

Thanks, all of you who entered a recipe in our November Prompt Contest.
We had a random drawing and drew out Crystal A. Murray.We hope you'll stop back by in the months ahead and try again.

Congratulations, Crystal A. Murray, winner of the November Prompt Contest.

"Crystal writes articles, stories, poetry, song lyrics, & web content. She loves variety in her writing as it keeps writing fun for her. As president of her local Christian writer's group, Crystal loves to find prompts and exercises to encourage other writers to have fun in their writing as well. Crystal's still under-development writing page on Facebook can be found at"

Here is her winning recipe!

Easy Cream-Cheesy Pie...

Easy-to-make desserts always get my vote, and these are super yummy and have lots of variations.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1 large box of flavored gelatin
1 8oz tub of whipped topping
1 and 1/2 block of cream cheese (can use fat free version as well)

Soften the cream cheese to make things easier to mix. Mix in the whipped topping (I like Cool Whip Extra Creamy, but it also works well with some of the diet versions of topping). Add about half of the flavored gelatin powder (more if you want a stronger flavor, less if you want more of the cream cheese flavor to come through) and mix until the gelatin is dissolved into the cream cheese & topping mix.

Note: If you really don't want any granules of sugar, you can dissolve the gelatin in a glass cup in the microwave with a little water. It makes kind of a thick syrup.

Note2: Use your favorite flavor for the gelatin. I have found lemon and cherry to make the best-tasting cheese pies. I have also had good results making this with sugar-free gelatin, but I've been avoiding the aspartame products lately, so I'll probably stick to the sweet until they come out with a stevia-flavored one.

Pour all ingredients into the pie crust and chill until ready to serve.

Optional: sprinkle some of the remaining gelatin powder over the top for a sort of sparkly look. You can even use stencils to make a greeting on top if you like.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grandma’s Stuffed Cabbage/Russian Style

There are a few things I will always remember about the holidays.  One is the way my mom went out of her way to celebrate two Christmas’s a year.  My grandparents were immigrants to this country of Russian ancestry.  They brought many customs with them.  At Christmas they would put straw under and on the eating table to remember Jesus’ lowly birth.  They had other specific ways to celebrate involving food. Since they lived in Pennsylvania and we didn’t get to be with them at Christmas, we celebrated regular Christmas on December 25th and Russian Christmas on January 7th.    

 On Russian Christmas Eve, Mom would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree.  We would have a special meal prepared with seven dishes, all of Russian background.  My favorite was the stuffed cabbage.

When my mom was a child, her mother, Lena, would rise early, cooking for a houseful of children. She would go to the slaughterhouse for fresh ground beef.  As Grandma mixed the ground beef and rice, Grandpa would sneak bites of the raw beef, certainly not recommended today. Grandma harvested cabbage from her garden across the road from the house.

Russia is actually the largest consumer of cabbage worldwide. Cabbage is used in many ways, ranging from eating raw and simple steaming to pickling, stewing, sauteing or braising. Pickling is one of the most popular ways of preserving cabbage, creating dishes such as sauerkraut.

 Cabbage is used extensively in Polish and Russian cuisine. It is one of the main food crops, and sauerkraut is a frequent dish, as well as being used to stuff other dishes such as golabki (stuffed cabbage) and pierogi (filled pasta). Other eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, also have traditional dishes that feature cabbage as a main ingredient. In the United States, cabbage is used primarily for the production of coleslaw, followed by fresh market use and sauerkraut production. 

Holidays and food just go together, and make memories for a lifetime. Do you have a special dish passed on from grandparents or other relatives?
 My granddaughters, Ava and Sadie last Christmas


Stuffed Cabbage

2 ½ pounds lean ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

1 pound bacon, cut small

1 pound cooked rice

Salt, pepper, Nature Seasoning, to taste



1 can tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar


Wash rice, cook ten minutes. Drain excess water, set aside. Fry bacon and  onion til golden brown. Drain excess oil.

Put rice in large mixing bowl. Mix in ground beef, bacon and onions and mix well; add seasonings. Set aside.

Cut cabbage, core out about two inches deep and place head of cabbage in boiling water to steam until leaves can be removed easily. Repeat until you remove all cabbage leaves that are big enough to roll. Line the bottom of a large pot with leaves you don’t use.

Scoop filling and place in leave, tucking in ends and rolling. Pack stuffed cabbage in pot, then fill with hot water until barely covered. Place a plate on top, weighted down to keep stuffed cabbage from floating. Cook on medium low for forty-five minutes, then pour sauce into pot and cook fifteen minutes more. Good served with hot sauce or ketchup.


Today’s writing prompt: Jakob lifted the forkful of ground beef, rice and cabbage toward his mouth when his cat, Ralphsky, lunged…


Friday, November 23, 2012

Collard Greens with Lima Beans & Turkey

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. Some of you are out shopping today or trying to catch up on your NaNoWriMo. I’m not taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, since I'm hosting out of town company.

Here is one of my family’s favorite dishes. It’s another old-fashioned tummy-warming meal just in time to use up some of your leftover turkey (you can substitute smoked turkey or turkey polish sausage slices). The crushed red pepper is a southern necessity, but if you can’t stomach spicy dishes, you can leave it out. Serve with hot buttered corn bread. 

1 bag frozen baby lima beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups vertically sliced red onion
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup diced turkey or smoked turkey breast
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 bay leaf
8 cups sliced collard greens
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large pan over medium-low heat. Add onion; saute 10 minutes. Add beans, broth, and the next 5 ingredients (turkey through bay leaf). Bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour*, Stir in collards, vinegar, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer an additional hour. Stir in salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. 

*At this point, you can choose to bake it in the oven at 375ยบ. After an hour, add the other ingredients and return to the oven for an additional hour. 

This recipe is easily adaptable to a Crockpot. Place sauteed onions in your Crockpot, top with beans, broth and the next five ingredients. Then add the chopped collards and pour the vinegar and tomatoes on top. Cover and cook all day. Stir before serving.

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light, March 2000 and reprinted on

Don't forget this month's contest. Submit a story using one of our prompts or submit a favorite holiday recipe. You can copy and paste as a comment or use our contact page to enter. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mamaw Avon’s Pink Stuff

photo by Anna
Southerners love their “get-togethers,” especially if the holidays and food are involved. My husband Danny’s family is no exception. Though his mother, Mamaw Avon, now lives in her heavenly residence, her bright smile and recipes live on. Thanksgiving meant turkey, Christmas meant ham, and for both holidays, she made cherry fluff, or as we called it, pink stuff.

On Thanksgiving Day, we’d wake early to the smell of the turkey which had baked all night. “Dressing,” which is a southern-type of cornbread stuffing, was tasted and re-tasted to get the spices just right. Vegetables were cooked and the house filled quickly with family and friends bearing casseroles and cake plates brimming with delectable dishes. The pink stuff was mixed together and chilled before the start of our late afternoon celebration.

The large crowd would be quieted before we’d give thanks to God for His abundant goodness, then to the feasting. Most of us ate our pink stuff with the meal, but a few would save a bowlful for desert later. The left-overs brought us all together for several days thereafter and the fun would begin all over again.

Do your holidays have enjoyable food traditions or memories?


Pink Stuff

1 can cherry pie filling

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

12 oz. Cool Whip

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup miniature marshmallows

½ cup pecans, finely chopped


Mix all ingredients in large bowl; mix well. Pour in decorative bowl and refrigerate for one hour.


Today’s writing prompt: Sandra emptied the pecans she’d chopped into the faded hand-painted bowl as a tear slipped down her cheek. Her mother’s bowl…

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grandma Sexton's Peanut Butter Pie

Less than a week until Thanksgiving. Oh, I know, you're not even thinking about oven roasted turkey, homemade dinner rolls and grandma's dressing. Y'all are elbows deep in NaNo writing, or you should be. By my calculations you should be over the half-way mark. Me, not so much. I'm still sitting under 8k. Is there hope for me? I don't know, we'll see.

Anyway, this is my all time favorite Thanksgiving dessert. It's been handed down through several generations.  Grandma Sexton was born Pearl Sabre Kelly in Plattsburg, Winston, Mississippi, November 1890. I don't know where she got the recipe from, but it is the absolute best pie (if you like peanut butter) ever made, but I LOVE peanut butter. I'm addicted to peanut butter.


1 cup light corn syrup (Karo)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs (Mom recently discovered medium eggs work best)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (Gluten free)

1/3 cup peanut butter (make sure it's not contaminated)

1 9" pie shell (I've used Gluten Free Pantry, but I think I'll try something else this year. Also, Mom makes me an individual pie in a small custard dish without the crust, so I'm sure you can make this crustless.)

Combine all ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. While leaving the pie in the oven, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more.

If you make it, let me know what you and your family thought of it. 

Blessings and happy NaNoing,


November Gift Card Give Away

It's time for our monthly give away! I can hear the groans now. Not another short story contest? I can't. I'm writing for NaNoWrMo and am 12,385 words behind! And Thanksgiving is a week away. Haven't you looked at the calendar?

Well, I'm with you! I'm a little behind with NaNo and haven't shopped for groceries either. So this month's $10 Amazon gift card contest will be different. Yes, you can still enter a 500 word or less story using a November prompt if you'd like. We love to read your stories!

However, keeping with the theme of food and recipes, we are giving you the opportunity to comment with a favorite holiday dish. That's right. Copy and paste your favorite recipe right on the comment part of the blog or use the contact page and you are automatically entered in this month's contest.

Make sure you've entered by midnight on November 25th and we'll announce the winner on December 1st. A story or a recipe. It's your choice!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mom’s Twice Published Recipe-Chinese Pepper Steak

 An oft requested recipe in our family is Mom’s pepper steak. When we lived in Missouri, our neighbor invited us to eat one evening and served pepper steak. Mom copied the recipe and we’ve enjoyed it since then.

Years later, she sent the recipe to Southern Living magazine and they published it. I passed it on to a local magazine who also printed it in the recipe section of their magazine. 

What is the steak in pepper steak? Round steak. A round steak is a steak from the round primal cut of beef. Specifically, a round steak is the eye of round, bottom round, and top round still connected, with or without the "round" bone (femur), and may include the knuckle (sirloin tip), depending on how the round is separated from the loin.
 This is a lean cut and it is moderately tough. Lack of fat and marbling makes round dry out when cooked with dry-heat cooking methods like roasting or grilling. Round steak is commonly prepared with slow moist-heat methods including braising, to tenderize the meat and maintain moisture. The cut is often sliced thin, then dried or smoked at low temperature to make jerky.

Mom’s recipe calls for the steak to be cut in thin, short strips to keep it from becoming dry and tough.  I believe I’ll run to the market afterwhile and gather up the ingredients to make my family pepper steak and rice.

Chinese Pepper Steak

Yield: 4 servings

1 (1 ½ pound) round steak, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons oil

Salt to taste

1 green pepper, cut into strips

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cooking sherry

¼ or less teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

1 tomato, diced

Hot cooked rice


Quickly brown meat in hot oil; add salt, green pepper, onion, soy sauce, cooking sherry, garlic powder, and ginger. Cover and cook over low heat for ten minutes.

Combine cornstarch and water; stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add this to meat mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.

Add tomato; cover and simmer about ten minutes. Additional water may be added, if needed. Serve over rice.  Below is a different take on pepper steak...


Today’s writing prompt:  Ted unwrapped the brown paper parcel in front of him, wondering what his mother had purchased at the meat market. Round steak. Great. And with Linda…




Friday, November 9, 2012

Chicken & Dimpled Dumplings

It’s the perfect time of year to serve this classic tummy-warming stew. This is a meal in itself, chock-full of veggies, meat and bread. It is partially adaptable to a crock pot. You can cook the chicken ahead and finish it when you get home. Or, you can bring home a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store and shorten your prep time to under an hour.

This is recipe is for my mother’s version of Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings. My grandmother used flat dumplings. Instead of using drop biscuits, she made regular biscuit dough, rolled it thin and cut it into strips. She dropped these strips into the bowling stew. When the strips were done, she served the stew. By the way, her recipe would have started with: Choose an aging hen that's no longer laying. These are best for stewing. Yikes! I'm going to the grocery...

For the Stew portion of the recipe:
Whole or cut up fryer
2, 32-ounce boxes Chicken Broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1/2 teaspoon dry sage)
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced carrot
Optional: 1/4 cup frozen green peas


1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening or butter
1 cup milk
Optional seasonings: celery seed, pepper, dried sage (to taste)

Making the stew - Place whole fryer or cut up pieces in a Dutch oven or other large stewpot (or crock pot). Add one of the boxes of chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the onion, 1/2 cup celery, garlic, and sage. Bring to a boil, lower temperature to medium or medium low and simmer for approximately an hour or until chicken is tender and pulls away from the bone. (If using a crock pot, stew according to directions, low for 10 hours, medium or high for 5 hours.)

Remove cooked chicken from pot, set aside on a plate to cool completely. Add the other box of broth to the stew liquid, along with the remaining onion and celery, and the carrots. Return to a boil, lower to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender. (If you used a crock pot to cook the chicken, pour the liquid into a large pan to continue the recipe.)

In the meantime, remove cooled chicken meat from bones and skin. Cut meat into bite-sized chunks or strips and add back to the stew pot. Optional: add the frozen green peas at this point. TIP: Be sure you have enough liquid to cover all the solid ingredients completely, otherwise it will turn out dry, since the biscuits soak up some of the juice. 

Making the dumplings - Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening or butter. OR––I use cold butter and put the dry ingredients and the butter, cut in chunks, in a food processor. After processing until the butter is incorporated, I put this mixture in a small bowl and add milk all at once. Stir quickly (don’t over stir). If it seems too dry, add more milk. It should be very wet, but not soupy. Optional: If you like a spicier version of these dumplings, add pepper and/or celery seed to the dry ingredients.

When the vegetables are tender, bring the liquid in the stewpot to a full boil. Drop biscuit dough by spoonfuls into the boiling liquid. Distribute evenly. The dropped biscuits will rise and cover the top of the stew. Lower heat to medium once the biscuits have begun to rise. Stir gently, using an iced tea spoon or chopstick to reach between the dumplings and scrape the bottom of the pan (to mix loose dough into the stew -this will thicken the liquid). When the dumplings are no longer doughy, the stew is done. Serve in bowls. Makes enough for 6 servings, depending on the size of the serving. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Southern Staple-Pinto Beans

The pinto bean is named for its mottled skin (compare pinto horse); hence it is a type of mottled bean. It is the most common bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico, and is most often eaten whole in broth or mashed and refried. Either whole or mashed, it is a common filling for burritos. The young pods may also be harvested and cooked as green pinto beans.

In the southeastern part of the United States, pinto beans were once a staple of the people, especially during the winter months. Some churches in rural areas still sponsor "pinto bean suppers" for social gatherings and fund raisers.

I recently attended a “bean” supper, the proceeds going for the care of a young cancer patient. Pinto beans and “northern” beans were served, along with cornbread, coleslaw, desert, and of course, sweet tea. A bake sale and auction of donated items completed an evening of support and hope.

You can do so much with a pot of cooked pinto beans: make refried beans for burritos, add them to a pot of homemade chili, or stir them into vegetable soup. Really, though, it’s hard to improve on the basic dish itself: a bowl of beans, seasoned either delicately or boldly—whatever your mood dictates.

Several years ago, I discovered a recipe for a pie using pinto beans. It tasted wonderful and I had a lot of fun getting people to “guess” what kind of pie it was. What ways have you eaten pinto beans?


Pinto Bean Pie

½ cups pinto beans, mashed

1 ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

½ cup coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick margarine

1 unbaked pie shell


Mix eggs and sugar together first. Add melted margarine. Mix beans, coconut, and vanilla in with other ingredients. Put in unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees until brown. Let cool and serve.


Today’s writing prompt: The charred black pot hung over the campfire, overflowing with pinto beans, chunks of bacon swimming in their midst. Blake glanced up when…


Friday, November 2, 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

We're doing foods this month! Yum, yum, yum. And we couldn't pick a better month than November, my favorite time of the year. Why, you ask. Well, because of all the yummy, delicious foods prepared during this month of Thanksgiving all the way through to New Year.

Today, I'm going to share with you one of the absolutely best cookie recipes, hands down, that I've ever come across. They are rich and gooey just like chocolate chip cookies were meant to be. And since it's gluten free, it makes this recipe even better.

*1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
*1 cup brown sugar
*1 egg
*1 tsp. baking soda
*1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
*1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together in a large mixing bowl the peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, baking soda and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon by the tablespoon full onto parchment paper-line cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. For crispier cookies bake longer.

For gluten free, make sure all ingredients are gluten free and have not been contaminated by other members of the household. You never know who's eating out of the peanut butter jar. ;)

Not sure where the original recipe derived from, it came through a nutritional loop through the college I was attending last spring.

Nutritional Info:
Yields 26 cookies
Servings: 13
Calories: 250
Calories from fat: 140
Total fat: 16g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Sodium: 210 mg
Carbohydrate: 26g
Dietary fiber: 2g

Writing Prompt:

Smoke rolled from the oven doors ...