To Grandmother’s House We Go


By Tammy Trail


There are certain memories from childhood that everyone can relate to, and one of them is food. My Grandmother Quigley didn’t make anything fancy, but what I remember most is her ability to feed a lot of people on a limited income. We make more money than both my grandparents ever imagined, and yet I can scratch my head after a trip to the grocery store, and I wonder where all the money went. One thing she did make that we all often reminisce about is her lumpy potatoes. Grandma Quigley used to make those potatoes with a masher, not an electric beater. I prefer them the same way.

My Grandmother Milem, on the other hand, was a pretty good cook. I wish I could ask her how she made some ofgood food her dishes. Like her Macaroni Salad. I know it’s easy enough to make. There’s just something missing when I try to recreate the recipe. My cousin and I tried it one summer and we never did get it right. I think perhaps the missing ingredient was that it was not made by Grandma.

My own mother used to tweak recipes to her liking as well. When my husband and I were first married, I suggested meatloaf for dinner. He gave me an emphatic no. I asked him why. He told me that his mother made it once and it was awful, and if I made it he would not eat it. I made a deal with him. I would make the meatloaf the way my mom used to make it. If he didn’t like it, I would never make it again. So, we struck the deal. I still make meatloaf to this day, just the way mom did.

In my husband’s family, his dad was the one who often cooked the meals. My kids loved his banana pudding. He made it for all the holidays, and family reunions. A few years after he passed away my daughter asked me if I knew how Grandpa Trail had made it. I had to admit I had no idea. So I went searching for a recipe and found a good one. It’s now a standard side dish at Thanksgiving. In fact, one year I skipped it and made something different. My kids won’t let me forget it to this day.


Everyone has their favorite dish. When I need a go-to for dinner more often than not, I make chicken and noodle casserole. I have made it so often I don’t remember if I made up the recipe, or if I found it on the internet. It could also be a combination of recipes that I found. I took something I liked from one, and added it with another recipe for the same dish. That way I make it my own. I might try different herbs, or basic ingredients, with my family as testers until I get it the way we like it. Food is a pretty important part of our lives when you think about it. Aside from its nutritional value. Look at all the memories it gives reminding us that someone loves you enough to feed you well, and make you happy.

Chicken and Noodle Casserole

2) Cups of Chicken. Either canned or leftover will do.

1) 14.5 oz. can of Cream of Chicken soup

1) 14.5 oz. can of Cream of Celery soup

1/4) cup each of diced celery and onion. I usually sauté this in a little butter till they are tender.

  1. 12 oz. Container of Egg noodles cooked until tender.

1/3 cup of milk

  1. 8oz. bag of shredded cheese. I use a Colby/Monterey Jack blend.

½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of Mrs. Dash Table Blend for seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix the soups together with the milk until smooth and creamy. Add all the other ingredients, except the cheese. Once in the 9 X 13 baking dish add the cheese on top. Cook at 350 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly and the cheese has melted nicely on top.

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt:

Grandmothers are a special breed of people. Share a memory from your childhood that involves your Grandmother and food.

Contentment, Family, Friends, Food – THAT’S How I Say Comfort!

20140428_144615by Cari Schaeffer

When I think of comfort foods, I can’t do it without thinking of being content with my family and friends. I think it’s no coincidence that the word “comfort” precedes “food.” The two go hand in hand.

Growing up in the Southwest amid the thriving Mexican culture has influenced me my entire life. My mother married my Hispanic stepfather when I was eight years old. He was an incredible cook and came by that talent from his mother. Naturally, I grew up eating a lot of those foods. I remember beans, rice, posole, sopapillas, menudo, tacos, etc. The list is endless and delicious.

Those memories always bring a smile to my face – even though I wasn’t blood-related to that family, I was never considered anything else. They welcomed me and my sister to the fold as though we were born there. My stepfather’s parents, Grandma Becky and Grandpa Tony, were two very loving individuals whose table was never too full to pull up one more chair. I miss them terribly.

My Grandma Becky would whip out at least eight dozen tortillas every single day in her garage. She had a stove set up in there just for that purpose. There was a large table set up next to the stove with a huge bowl on it where she and my aunties (whichever ones happened to be there at the time – there were plenty to choose from) would get in the dough up to their elbows and pinch, pat, and place the tortillas on the large black cast iron disc to cook just a few minutes on each side. To be perfectly honest, they slapped those tortillas around pretty good. Whenever I would wander out there while they were working, I always knew I would be rewarded with a fresh hot tortilla. It came with a soothing word and a pat on my head to send me on my way. I found a reason to wander out there rather frequently. The conversation was always in Spanish, which I didn’t understand, but it didn’t matter.

Why did she make eight dozen every day, you may ask? Well, there were no utensils – she kept the tortillas wrapped and ready to go in the center of the table for meals. In our defense, it was a large family…but we still ate a lot of tortillas. When it was time to eat, you grabbed a tortilla, tore off a chunk, and dipped it into the food to eat it. The tortilla was your utensil.

Home made tortillasEvery time I make tortillas now, I bite into the soft, hot dough and smile because the memories of that garage and the love always come back. To this day, I cannot tolerate store bought tortillas. Grandma Becky spoiled that for me and I am glad she did. Once you’ve had homemade and know how easy it is to do, why would you bother with anything else?

I had to try to measure the ingredients when I prepared for this post because I don’t really need to for myself – I just do it. But in order to give you a recipe, I needed (somewhat) accurate measurements. All right, I’ve talked enough. On to the recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt (you can adjust this to your tastes, but never discard it all together)

1 tsp baking powder

½ stick butter (please, please don’t use margarine. Grandma Becky used lard)

¾ cup warm water (give or take according to how humid it is)

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder until blended. Cut the butter into chunks and work it into the dough with your hands – pinch it around and break it up until it’s well blended. Add the warm water and mix it with your hands to form a dough. Knead it until it’s smooth and elastic. It shouldn’t stick to the bowl any longer, but it shouldn’t crumble, either. Adjust as necessary – if it sticks to your hands too much, add a little bit of flour. If it’s crumbly and won’t make a dough ball, add a little water.

Pinch the dough into smaller balls, about the size of a large golf ball. Once you’ve got a bowl full of golf balls, cover it with a towel and let it rest while you heat up your pan. Traditionally, cast iron is used. I have a cast iron tortilla pan, pictured here. If you don’t have one, use any cast iron skillet or non-stick skillet. Heat it over medium heat. DO NOT ADD OIL. Tortillas are cooked on a dry surface.

Home made Tortillas 2To roll out the tortillas (I never got the slapping thing down), flour your surface and pat the ball into a disc in your hands. Place it on the floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin until it’s the thickness and size you want. It does not have to be perfect. In fact, mine usually aren’t and that’s all right. They taste fine!

Before you put the tortilla into your hot pan, pat or brush off any excess flour. Let the tortilla cook for about 2 minutes per side. You can use your fingers to flip it over; you don’t need a spatula. Once it’s browned on both sides, place it on a plate and cover with the same towel you used to cover the dough before. Enjoy! This recipe should make about ten tortillas or so, depending on the size.

Writer’s Prompt: You sit down to a table and are given your favorite food. What is it and why is it your favorite?

Cari Schaeffer’s debut fiction novel Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate has recipes in it (no shock there) and is available through most on-line retailers in print and electronic format. Her second novel will be released this summer. Hello and Goodbye: Volume One in The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles allows readers to live the life of a military spouse from the inside out.

She can also be found at .

3 Questions Wednesday with Elizabeth Maddrey

ElizabethMaddreyHeadshotToday we welcome author Elizabeth Maddrey, to 3 Questions Wednesday!

Hello Elizabeth! Pull up a chair and we’ll chat.

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Elizabeth: This is a hard one! I’m going to go with Jane Austen, despite how cliched it is. I simply adore Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and I even have a soft spot for Northanger Abbey, which is one most people don’t enjoy. That said, I don’t adore Emma or Sense and Sensibility. Even so, I go back to her books over and over.

Jane Austen is a much-beloved author who writes really good characters.

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Elizabeth:  I guess the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. She’s so perfectly bad and gets her comeuppance in the most satisfying of ways.

The Narnia books and movies are some of my favorites. Now let’s talk about you.

What project are you currently working on?

Elizabeth: . I am getting ready to dive into a Christmas novella that will be part of a boxed set with several other Christian authors. I’m really looking forward to the collaboration (though the novellas won’t be related other than being Christmas-themed). I’m already pretty excited about the characters and how they’re developing.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Elizabeth! If you’d like a chance to win an ebook of A Pinch of Promise, please leave a comment.

A Pinch of PromisePinchFrontDrop

He never forgot his first love.

In the ten years since Ben Taylor last saw Marie, no other woman has measured up. After he meets Rebecca Fisher, the physical therapist rehabilitating his knee, Ben is convinced that she is the same woman he fell in love with so many years ago. She denies it at first, but his persistence causes her to admit the truth. Right before she pushes him away.

To escape a painful negative image created by her father, Rebecca Fischer has constructed an identity completely separate from her past. Seeing Ben, her long lost love, threatens to shatter her intricate illusions. As Ben digs to uncover the truth of who she is, Rebecca must decide if she will trust any man with her wounded heart.

But even if Ben can convince her to admit the truth, how will he be able to trust her love?

Elizabeth Maddrey began writing stories as soon as she could form the letters properly and has never looked back. Though her practical nature and love of math and organization steered her into computer science for college and graduate school, she has always had one or more stories in progress to occupy her free time. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth is a voracious consumer of books and has mastered the art of reading while undertaking just about any other activity. She loves to write about Christians who struggle through their lives, dealing with sin and receiving God’s grace.

Elizabeth lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with her husband and their two incredibly active little boys. She invites you to interact with her at her website or on Facebook:

Social Media:



Twitter: @elizabethmaddre



Buon Appetito: A Comforting Taste of Italy


By Karen Jurgens

My idea of comfort food isn’t limited to just a couple of dishes. Since I have always loved to cook and eat from my earliest remembrance, almost everything is comforting. Fortunately for me, my mother was delighted to let me train under her watchful eye from a kindergarten age—where I baked Betty Crocker children’s cakes from a package that I sent away for in the mail—to the day I left home for college—where I had progressed to béarnaise sauces, homemade Swedish breads, and puffed pastries. I signed up for local cooking classes, read cookbooks like novels, and subscribed to Gourmet Magazine, until it went out of print.

After college graduation, teaching jobs were scarce and even harder to secure, so I decided to fall back on my love of cooking and study professionally. Before I could complete my application to Le Cordon Bleu, surprise of all surprises happened. I got an offer for my first teaching job. Partly relieved and partly sad, I signed the contract, permanently retiring my cooking school ambitions, but not my love of creative cuisine.

My mother had always preferred to shun the kitchen in favor of restaurants, claiming that cooking was too stressful for her. On the other hand, I have always found chopping, sautéing, whipping, and baking to be very relaxing. It is the way I let go of stress.


Family dinners for every special occasion continues to be my assignment, even to this day. It isn’t a real birthday without one of my scratch cakes colored with fluffy, boiled frosting.


Thanksgiving is the only holiday where I bake traditional pies along with the turkey and dressing.


But Christmas is where I pull out all the stops with three continuous meals, beginning on Christmas Eve and ending Christmas night. The last meal includes chateaubriand, fancy French veggies, homemade rolls, and all those glorious desserts. IMG_1009

The menu includes Julia Child’s French chocolate cakes, dried fruit tortes, and British trifles. I adore fruit cakes, unlike most people, and used to bake two of them—a dark and a light cake, both marinated in brandy cloths for a good month, then wrapped with marzipan and frosted with royal icing. Heaven!


Obviously, gourmet cooking is not practical for every day. My children love to eat, like I do, but the best thing they can make is reservations at a restaurant. (And they do excel at that!) So, as I bring all of us back to earth and to practicality, I am going to share an easy recipe that anyone can tackle with success.

Love spaghetti with meat sauce? You know, the rich, simmered-all-day, smells-like-Italy kind? Now that’s my idea of comfort food.

But…do you have six hours to spend in the kitchen, nursing it along as it bubbles and squeaks? Not many do these days. So, for an abbreviated shortcut that takes approximately thirty minutes from skillet to table, I humbly offer my own creation, affectionately named Hamburger and Macaroni Stuff by my children.

I realize the name is less than motivational, so I have thoughtfully renamed the recipe as Hamburger Macaroni Casserole. Children, as well as adults, love it.

Interested? Keep reading!

Hamburger Macaroni Casserole (Yield: 8-10 servings)


-one large onion

-two garlic cloves

-1.5 pounds of ground beef

-1 large can of tomatoes or 2 large fresh ones, chopped

-1 box of elbow macaroni, cooked al-dente

-salt, pepper, oregano, basil, marjoram

-olive oil


  • On a cutting board, chop the onion and garlic as finely as desired. Sauté over high heat in 1-2 T. olive oil, until soft and translucent, @ 2 minutes.


  • Add the ground beef and brown well, breaking up into small pieces.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes.
  • Season with the salt, pepper, and spices to taste. Stir well, and let simmer @10 minutes.


  • Boil the elbow macaroni until al-dente. Drain, rinse, and season to taste.
  • Combine the sauce and macaroni in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired. Voilà!


 Writing Prompt

You have stepped off the plane in Rome. Your limo is waiting, whisking you to a famous Italian restaurant you have only read about in food magazines. Now is your chance to order the dish you have always dreamed about sampling. The waiter approaches and asks for your order. “Il vostro ordine, madame?”  You reply in English, …

Rodeo Reunion by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

headshot mediumToday we welcome Shannon Taylor Vannatter, author, stay-at-home mom, and pastor’s wife.

So glad you dropped by! So tell us, Shannon…

(1 ) a. Have you always wanted to be an author?

Shannon: No. I only had one creative writing class in the 3rd grade. I loved it, but I never thought of writing as a career.

b. If not, what made you decide to write, and how long have you been at it?

Shannon: In my teens I got this story in my head that wouldn’t go away. I’d move scenes, add complications, and change the ending. But I didn’t know what to do with it. In my thirties, my husband’s hours changed to nights. We didn’t have our son yet, so I needed something to fill my evenings home alone. I went to the library and couldn’t find any clean romance. It finally hit me that story in my head was a book. But it was more than clean, it was Christian.

(2) What do you love about being a writer, and what do you like the least?

Shannon: I love creating characters and stories, making them do what I want them to do. It’s the ultimate control freak high. My least favorite is that my brain never shuts off and sometimes I have to concentrate really hard to focus on the real world.

(3) How do you get your best ideas?

Shannon: When I’m alone, doing something I can do without thinking. Taking a walk, driving the road I’ve driven countless times, mowing the yard. If I’m alone with my thoughts, the ideas start flying.

(4) Do you blog? How often?

Yes. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday since May 2010.

(5) What fun fact would you like your readers to know about you?

I live in rural Arkansas and I’m afraid of cows. One chased me when I was a kid and I haven’t gotten on the wrong side of the fence since unless I’m on a four-wheeler.

Thank you, Shannon, for joining us! Shannon is having a special giveaway. Here are the details:Baseball Memory Board

Here’s something special to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month. Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 22nd.

Rodeo Reunion coverRodeo Reunion

And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town. 

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

Purchase Links:


Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has eleven published titles and is contracted for four more. Her books are available at,,,, and Learn more about Shannon and her books at and check out her real life romance blog at


Connect with her on Facebook:, Goodreads:, Pinterest:, and Twitter: @stvauthor.