Thursday, September 29, 2022

Apple Butter Cookies


Apples + Fall = A Winning Equation.

Awhile ago, Susan texted me an Apple Butter Cookie recipe from Louisburg Cider Mill. She knows I love to bake cookies, and she thought they sounded good. Now that fall is just around the corner, I decided to give them a try.

They are reminiscent of a Snickerdoodle, but the finished cookie is a little softer because of the fruit butter in them. But that same fruit butter also gives them a lot of fall flavor.  

True confessions: I didn't use Louisburg Cider Mill Apple Butter. I used a variety I found at Glenn's Bulk Foods. 

And I couldn't help but think of all the Apple Butter that was made in the basement of the Stafford United Methodist Church over the years as we prepared for the United Methodist Women bazaar. I  always purchased multiple jars of the homemade apple butter, which we slathered on toast, rolls or biscuits or I turned into coffee cakes and other treats. I often used pint jars of apple butter for Christmas gifts, too. I miss that church lady-created spread. 

I think the Louisburg Cider Mill would be a fun field trip this fall. I might just pick up some more apple butter and other goodies!

Apple Butter Cookies
Adapted from Louisburg Cider Mill

1/2 cup butter, room temperature 
1/2 cup apple butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup cinnamon sugar
Cream together butter, apple butter, and sugar. Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. In a medium bowl, combine cinnamon, flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix until dough forms.
Place into fridge and chill for 2 hours. 
When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 375ยบ.  Using a cookie scoop to portion out cookies, roll cookies into a ball and roll each ball in cinnamon sugar. Place cookies onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake 13 minutes. Move baked cookies to wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Operation Tame the Kitties


Operation Tame the Kitties was underway at the Fritzemeier residence.

The head Cat Whisperer had his work cut out for him. He was determined to have tame kittens to share with Kinley, Brooke and Susan when they were here for our farm sale.

Two of our farm cats cooperated in supplying a bevy of kitties. Two young moms had litters at about the same time in mid-July.

Maybe the co-parenting deal they've worked out led to the kittens' health. There were a total of nine kittens between the two of them. Only one didn't make it.

At the beginning, Randy was transporting the kittens from the window well to his lap in a small Tupperware box.

By the time the girls got here for the farm sale, the kittens were used to that mode of transportation. And the girls could wrangle the kittens themselves if Grandpa was busy doing something else.

It wasn't too long after that weekend that the kitties could escape the window wells all by themselves. Now, they have the run of the backyard.

Randy's mission is still underway. He goes out on the back steps and chats with them most days. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Tator Tot Casserole with Sausage

Having our family home for the machinery sale gave me the perfect excuse to try a new recipe for a breakfast casserole. 

I still use my cookbooks on occasion. However, during my Covid cleaning spree, I cleared out shelves worth of cookbooks and took them to our church's book sale. I seem to find more recipes on blogs or via recommendations from Jill or Susan these days. I found this particular recipe as I was wasting time on Facebook. (Yes, I am not immune from Facebook scrolling.)

Butter with a Side of Bread blog's link to Facebook arrived at the right time for a brunch meal before all our family returned home on Sunday. 

It used ingredients I usually have in my fridge, freezer or pantry. The next time I make it, I'll probably try using tater rounds, which are thinner versions of tator tots. I like the crunch they provide. 

The casserole was a hit, and it will likely make its way onto a family breakfast or brunch table again. 

I only ended up with one photo this time (and it wasn't that good. Oh well!) After a busy weekend, I guess I'm lucky I got that much! (So much for setting up a photo shoot in natural light by the dining room window.)

Tator Tot Breakfast Casserole with Sausage
Adapted from Butter with a Side of Bread blog
32 oz. tater tots or tater rounds, frozen
1 lb. ground sausage
1/3 cup bacon bits
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup chopped red pepper
1/3 cup chopped yellow pepper
2 cups shredded milk Cheddar cheese 
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. 

Chop bell peppers into small pieces; set aside for later use.

In a medium-size pan, over medium heat, heat up chopped onion, red pepper, yellow pepper and bacon bits until softened up and the onion becomes translucent. Add the ground sausage and cook until the sausage is fully cooked and no longer pink. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk eggs, milk, garlic powder, celery seeds, salt and ground pepper. Mix until all combined. Add approximately 1 cup cheese and mix until all ingredients are blended. 

Pour the cooked sausage mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared casserole. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese on top.

Pour the egg mixture over the sausage and spread evenly. 

Place the frozen tater tots on top. Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top. 

Cook in a preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until nice and golden. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Every Day is Read A Book Day

My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time

I saw several memes that said September 6 was Read A Book Day.

Every day is Read A Book Day for me.

(Darci, me and Lisa with our books:  I have no idea why Lisa and I are in our robes outside

Ever since I was a little girl, reading has been a favorite thing. (If only running or exercise were at the top of the list instead of such a sedentary activity like reading. Oh, well! It wasn't to be.)

Randy has come to realize that every trip to Hutchinson includes a stop at the Hutchinson Public Library. Usually, I have something on hold at the circulation desk, where they know me by name. And here must be some sort of magnetic force field surrounding bookstores for me. It's tough to walk past one without going in. I do try to minimize my book purchases. I read 80+ books a year. Purchasing that many books would literally have my house splitting at the rafters and would likely put me in the poor house. Public libraries are a treasure!

Me & Lisa again. She loves to read, too!

But I do sometimes buy books that I can't find at my library or that I just can't seem to walk out of the store without. (Or, if it means a new book for the granddaughters. Brooke got one, too, but she had already left for her soccer game by the time I thought to take the photo below.)

I loved the chalkboard sign at Paper June bookstore in Topeka.

That stockpile of books saved my sanity during the early days of the pandemic. All at once, libraries were closed. After I read all the library books in my stack, I rummaged through my cabinets for other options.

It was a happy day indeed when I was able to pick up books at the back door of my beloved Hutchinson Public Library, though it was still later before I could again wander the book stacks myself. I wrote about it here, It Was a Dark & Stormy Night (Afternoon). The photo below shows the pile of books I picked up that wonderful day after a long hiatus from my library.

I recently saw another Facebook meme that I'd seen before, but that never ceases to confound me:

As a lifelong reading lover, these statistics are incomprehensible to me. I can't remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. My mom took us to the old library at the Pratt County Courthouse from the time we could toddle in on our own steam.

I'm not the only reader in the family. This was Kinley at her sister's soccer game last weekend.

It was exciting when the new library was built in Pratt. There was a whole room of children's books where I discovered Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew and the Happy Hollisters. I still love mysteries and thrillers today, and I have to believe those days of uncovering clues with them had to have laid an early groundwork for this love affair that's lasted all of my life.

My prize from last year's adult reading contest at the Hutchinson Public Library

I've been on a streak lately of books I've really enjoyed. I will admit: I read for enjoyment. Yes, I also read devotionals, Christian-themed studies and the Bible for my spiritual growth. But I'm a voracious reader of fiction. I say that it keeps me sane. If I have trouble sleeping, the characters in a book will help my mind turn off from the issues that swirl in my brain. 

However, I know that everyone has their own taste in books. I take photos of book covers and send them to Jill or to my sister, Lisa, thinking they'd like particular books. But I always find it a bit risky to recommend books to others. 

I read. Randy golfs. I am a much better reader than golfer.

But here goes. Maybe someone else looks for recommendations from someone they actually know. If you like them, let me know. And, if you don't, that's OK, too. Everyone has different genres, authors or other preferences. So find one you like and read it. And be sure and tell me: I might like it, too. 

I've given an Amazon link for each one. That's not to encourage you to buy it. It just gives more of a synopsis than I've given. I'd encourage you to find the books at your local library. Or support a local bookstore and purchase locally. I also buy secondhand books through the Thriftbooks website. I also enjoy going to Bookaholic for second-hand books when I'm in Wichita. But, the vast majority of books I read are from my public library. I got every one of them below at the Hutchinson Public Library. 

If you're a Stafford area person, our church has an annual book sale during Oktoberfest. This year, that's Saturday, October 1. Come to the church basement from 9 AM to 3 PM that day. 

And I just got my state library card from the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford. Library cards are like gold!


 Amazon Link

I loved this book, and I've told multiple people about it. It is a debut novel by Nikki Erlick. It made me think. It made me cry. And it was beautifully written, which means something to me. 

In it, the whole world suddenly receives boxes with strings inside that let people know how much time they have left to live. Some people look inside; others don't. The book finds the connection between eight different characters. It is also timely in that it makes you think about how we segregate/separate people based on politics, religion, race, sexuality - pretty much the kitchen sink.

"We humans have an impulse to mark our existence in some way that feels permanent. We scribble, 'I was here' onto our desks at school. We spray-paint it on walls. We carve it into bark. I wanted ... to let it be known that these people lived. A testament to the fact that these humans - with their long strings and medium strings and short strings - they were here.  ... All moments, big and small, can measure a life."

From "The Measure"


Amazon link

This is classified as Young Adult fiction, but the subject matter is definitely "adult," in my opinion. I saw this recommended on a friend's Facebook post. It's not a book I would naturally choose, but I'm sure glad I did. It was another favorite book from 2022 so far. 

It's a thriller/mystery set on a Ojibwe reservation, but it also has elements of a coming-of-age story. The main character, 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine, doesn't feel like she fits in - either on the reservation or in her nearby hometown. She looks forward to starting fresh at college. But her plans change because of family circumstances. There's elements of a love story interwoven with a murder and an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug. From Amazon: "Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go for her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known."


Amazon link

This was another I saw on a Facebook post or blog post. At its center is the issue of immigration, which I realize is a hot button topic. And, again, it's not a subject that automatically appeals to me. But in it, Lydia, a mother in Acapulco, flees with her son, Luca, after her journalist husband is killed because of an expose he wrote about the drug cartels. Who can she trust among the many she meets along the way as she struggles to reach the U.S.?


Amazon link


Amazon link

True confessions: I read "Girl, Forgotten" first, not realizing at the time that it was a recurring character from "Pieces of Her." So then I read "Pieces of Her." I preferred "Girl, Forgotten" but they were both good. I love finding an author I enjoy who has multiple books out. I will be looking for more Karin Slaughter books at my local library. 

I read, while Randy golfs. It's the perfect arrangement for marital bliss.

"Pieces of Her" has been made into a Netflix show. (I wouldn't know: I can't stream here in rural America.) 

In both books, Andrea Oliver is the central character. In the first, Andrea is at a bit of a standstill in life. She's living in an apartment over the garage at her mother's house. Then, one afternoon, she sees a very different side of her mild-mannered mother during a violent event at the local shopping mall. And she discovers that her mother has a past that she could never have imagined. The book is written in "current time" and "flashbacks," leading Andrea and the reader on a quest to discover the secrets before someone else gets hurt.

THEN, in "Girl, Forgotten," it's a little later, and Andrea has found her purpose. She's just completed training as a U.S. Marshall. And she's sent back to her mother's hometown to uncover the truth about a cold case - the murder of a high school girl - while also protecting a federal judge who's been receiving death threats. She just may learn more about her own past at the same time.


Amazon link

I've liked other books by Megan Miranda, which is always enough to have me putting the next book by that author on the "hold" list at the library. This one didn't disappoint. Abigail Lovett manages The Passage Inn near the Appalachian trail. However, through the years, there have been a number of unsolved disappearances in the area. The brother of the last person who disappeared checks into The Passage Inn, looking for answers. Just how well does Abigail know her employees, neighbors and friends? 

Amazon link

I've also read other books by Susan Wiggs. This is definitely a lighter read. Margot Salton moves to San Francisco from her native Texas to open a BBQ restaurant. She believes BBQ sauce is the perfect blend of sugar and salt. Ironically, she rents commercial kitchen space from a bakery called Sugar, where Jerome Sugar bakes treats using his Grandma Ida's recipes. Just as everything starts coming together, Margot's past in Texas follows her to San Francisco.


Amazon link

Jill suggested this book. In it, Helen attends her first prenatal class. Helen has a great life - an architect husband, a beautiful Victorian house and a baby on the way. While there, she meets Rachel, a single mother-to-be who couldn't be more different. But Helen is lonely, and they become friends. There are lots of twists and turns along the way. Maybe there are more secrets than you'd think in this idyllic neighborhood. 

Amazon link

Quinn Cruz receives a text message from her sister, Nora, saying that she "has something for you." She never imagines it would be a little girl, Lucy. Almost as quickly as she arrived, Nora leaves, telling her sister to keep Lucy safe. While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all.
Amazon link

Lisa Gardner is another author I usually read. A search team makes an annual trip to the Wyoming wilderness to try to discover what happened to Timothy O'Day, who disappeared during a bachelor's party/camping trip with his best friends years ago. Frankie Elkin specializes in finding lost people, and when she reads about the trip, she shows up to help. And it turns out that there is even more danger in the wilderness than they anticipated when someone appears willing to do anything to stop them from discovering the truth. This is another twisting/turning thriller/mystery.
Amazon link

I'm a Lisa Scottoline fan, too. And this one didn't disappoint either. Jason Bennett is a suburban dad who owns a court-reporting business, but one night, his life takes a terrible turn. He is driving his family home after his daughter’s field hockey game when a pickup truck begins tailgating them, on a dark stretch of road. Suddenly two men jump from the pickup and pull guns on Jason, demanding the car. Nothing will ever be the same for their family again. Later that night, the FBI arrives to say that the carjackers were part of a drug cartel. The FBI wants the Bennetts to enter witness protection. They reluctantly agree, but that's not the end of the problems. Ultimately, Jason decides he has to take back control of his family's life.  
Amazon link

I just finished this book by Kristina McMorris, also the author of "Sold on a Monday," which I recommended in an earlier blog post. It's historical fiction that features Fenna, who overcomes loss as a child growing up in Michigan's Copper Country. Her hardships lead her to develop her skills as an illusionist/magician. Those abilities draw the attention of British military intelligence and she's sent to Europe to come up with inventions, reminiscent of James Bond's Q,
that are used for Allied Forces during World War II. Woven throughout is her story of love and loss. The author says the book was inspired by real events. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Pizza Sliders


It's football season! Whether partaking at a tailgate before cheering on your team in person or enjoying the game in the cool comfort of your air-conditioned home while watching your big screen, big football games call for big taste!

Pizza Sliders provide that taste that provides a wallop - whether for game time or just a family lunch or supper.

It was another of those recipes I saw on Facebook and "clicked," but this was from a blogger I'd not visited before: I Am Homesteader.

I made some slight modifications, but it was an easy-to-make and tasty sandwich offering - for lunch, supper or tailgate! If you try it, let me know what you think!

Pizza Sliders
Adapted from I Am Homesteader blog
1 package Hawaiian bread slider or sub rolls (can use 12-count regular Hawaiian rolls)
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
12 slices mozzarella cheese, divided
48 slices pepperonis
¾ cup pizza sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 7- by 11-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. Set aside. Split your buns/sliders in half horizontally, and place the bottom halves in the baking dish. I tore my sub rolls apart before spreading with any of the filling to make it easier to remove from the pan and serve individually.   Top the bottom halves of the buns with 6 of the mozzarella cheese slices. (For sub rolls, I folded them in half, so they'd fit on the bun.) Follow with a layer of the pepperoni slices, pizza sauce, and the remaining mozzarella cheese slices.   Place the top halves of the buns on top and brush the top of the rolls with the melted butter mixture.  Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes (or until the tops of the sliders turn a golden brown). Remove from oven, slice, and serve!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Magic Exists Among Wildflowers

"If all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her beauty
and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers."
- Therese of Lisieux (Society of the Little Flower - a Saint of Missions)

It's been a hot, dry summer. Crops have struggled. Depleted pasture grasses have led to early trips to cattle sales, all throughout the Plains, including with our own herd. But, miraculously, the wildflowers still bloom.

On a cool day after our machinery sale, Randy took me on an excursion to the Big Pasture. We used the new-to-us Gator for the trip, giving us a way to traverse some of the rougher terrain of the pasture. 

Even as grasses crunched underfoot, there were wildflowers in bloom.
Magic exists. 
Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers,
 the music of the wind and the silence of the stars?
- Author Nora Roberts
As a loyal K-State fan - and lover of all things purple - one of my favorites was the wooly verbena in bloom.

Some were the more familiar purple-crowned green stalks. But other plants seem to have congregated together, creating more like a purple-topped bush.
If you examine the individual blooms, the blossoms are tiny and intricate.

There was also an abundance of Snow on the Mountain.

The variegated leaves are almost as pretty as the blooms themselves. 

"Wildflowers are the loveliest of all 
because they grow in uncultivated soil, 
in those hard, rugged places 
where no one expects them to flourish."
-Micheline Ryckman
I'm not sure what these little pinkish-white wildflowers are.

I found them in the shadow of a bridge. (If you know, please let me know. I tried to find them on Kansas Wildflowers and wasn't sure.)

Are these yellow blooms Thread-leaf Sundrops (aka narrow-leaved evening primrose)? Again, I'm not sure.

Mr. Turtle in the creek didn't know either. Or, at least, he wasn't talking.

I don't need any help identifying our Kansas state flower - the sunflower. Even before we entered the pasture, the Kansas sunflowers waved a greeting as we motored past. Roads that get a minimum of maintenance often have a corridor of yellow lining the dirt path. The road to the pasture was no exception.

Iowans call our beautiful state flower a noxious weed. Well, to each his own, I guess.

 "One person's weed is another person's wildflower."
- Susan Wittig Albert

To be thrilled by the stars at night;
to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower 
 — these are some of the rewards of the simple life."

-John Burroughs

On a trip to the pasture 10 days later or so, the Rocky Mountain beeplant, or peritoma serrulata, was blooming.

So was the annual eriogonum, the little "baby's breath" looking white blooms.

The tiny yellow camphor weed was abundant along the ditches. 

They formed a "carpet" of yellow along the roadways. It was pretty ... but also somewhat smelly.

I think I like wildflowers best. 
They just grow wherever they want. 
 No one has to plant them. 
And then their seeds blow in the wind 
and they find a new place to grow.
-Rebecca Donovan