Not Exactly Like Mama Used to Make

Happy Tuesday, readers,

Since I started writing romances set in the Amish community five years ago, I needed to step up my baking skills. The Amish love to cook, bake and eat. For the most part, I’m proficient at the third part of that equation. In most of my books I’ve included recipes created by an Amish friend, Rosanna. Whenever my fictional character develops a passion for say, Peach Parfait Supreme pie, Rosanna invents the recipe and invites me to sample. Since my current release takes place in Kentucky, I called upon two friends who were lifelong residents of the state for Chess Pie and Kentucky Corn Bread. A Little Bit of Charm is set on an organic, free-to-roam chicken farm. Since my character, Sally Stoll, cooks chicken in one form or another for almost every meal, I had to include my family’s cherished Chicken Paprikas recipe.

Placing the recipe in the back of the book brought back fond memories of my first attempt to impress Mom with my new culinary abilities. My mother, Elizabeth Ellis, was Hungarian through and through. For every meal Liz cooked a recipe from the Hungarian Recipes book produced by her church. When Mom came to visit my first apartment as a newlywed, I held my breath until she swallowed her first bite of chicken in rich sour cream gravy. “Yuck,” she crowed. “This paprikas is absolutely awful. What on earth did you do to it, Mary Jean?”

As you can see, I still remember her exact words. My mother only used my middle name when vastly disappointed in me. “Nothing,” I said. “I followed your directions to a T, except that I substituted fat-free sour cream to cut a few calories.” What was her reply? “Repeat after me and remember if you ever plan to cook Hungarian: If it’s not fattening, it’s not going to taste good.”

I still miss my mom even though she’s been gone many years. My cooking skills have dramatically improved over many years of marriage, but I still must agree with Liz Ellis. If you want a recipe to taste delicious, don’t skimp with ingredients or try to cut out a few fat grams. Life is short, and it’s meant to be savored.

Chicken Paprikas  (Chicken and Dumplings)

1 onion chopped                                                      2 Tbsp. salt

4 Tbsp. shortening                                                   4 to 5 lb. chicken disjointed

1 Tbsp. paprika                                                         1 ½ cups water

¼ Tsp. black pepper                                                ½ pt. sour cream

Brown onion in shortening; add seasonings and chicken; brown 10 minutes. Add water; cover and let simmer slowly until tender. (around 45 min.)  Remove chicken; add sour cream to drippings in pan and mix well. Add dumplings; arrange chicken on top. Heat through and serve. For more gravy add ½ pint sweet cream to sour cream. Add flour to thicken.


3 eggs beaten

3 cups flour

1 Tbsp. salt

½ cup water

Mix all ingredients together and beat with a spoon. Drop batter by teaspoonful into boiling salted water. Cook about 10 minutes; drain; rinse with cold water. Note: dumplings float when they’re almost done. Drain well and add to paprikas. Note: This works very well with boneless chicken breasts and with noodles instead of dumplings too. Sometimes I add mushrooms to my gravy, but shhhh, don’t tell Mom. That’s not in the recipe!

Stay warm and eat plenty of comfort food, readers.

The Minds of Animals

Happy Monday, readers!

Before I get started, I wanted to choose my winner from last week’s contest. Mary Preston, you’re the lucky winner of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman by Carole Brown. We’ll be contacting you privately to send your copy.

Have you ever noticed that animals sometimes know who likes them and who doesn’t? I have been amazed how often they can tell friend from foe, or who happens to be afraid of them. Too bad we as humans don’t possess the same sixth sense. In my latest book, A Little Bit of Charm, my character has just moved to her cousin’s organic chicken farm. Although Rachel adores horses and takes a job working with Thoroughbred race horses, she has never met a chicken she liked—except fried on her dinner plate with a side of coleslaw. Her cousin, Sally, loves her job and has several pet hens following her around the barnyard, clucking merrily. One of those chickens takes an immediate and irrational dislike for Rachel. The bird torments my heroine any time she comes near. Never enter the free-range enclosure with bare shins becomes Rachel’s hard-learned lesson.

In real life, my aunt had a wild crow that followed her around the neighborhood when she was a child. From telephone pole to treetop, “Blackie” would keep tabs on my aunt while she rode her bike, picked blackberries, or waded in the creek. Often he sat on her shoulder if she walked slowly and fed him cracked corn. However, my aunt’s girlfriend disparaged all birds as “dirty, disease carriers.” This friend didn’t fare so well when caught in Blackie’s territory. The crow often chased her down the path and once tangled his talons in her hair.

In my personal experience, I once invited eight ladies for a summer luncheon and game of croquet on the lawn. My neighbor, who decided to join the party late, arrived with her hundred-and-fifty pound dog. As you might guess, one of the croquet players was deathly afraid of dogs. And of course, Wolfgang ran straight for this unfortunate woman, causing a major case of anxiety.

How did he know? A better question might be how is it we don’t know when fellow humans have evil intentions. Perhaps we have something to learn from chickens, crows, and man’s best friends. Little Bit of Charm, A

Here’s our newsletter winners!

Happy Wednesday, readers,

Sorry for the delay in the drawing for my newsletter contest. When I picked the date, I didn’t realize I would be out of town for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. I arrived home late Monday and yesterday picked my winners. I drew twelve names instead of the advertised ten, because I was tickled with the number of new subscribers! Without further ado, here are the twelve winners of A Little Bit of Charm:

1) Rosalind WhitmoreGEGE

2) Sarah Hillman

3) Allison Hawkes

4) Rhonda Vanvalkenburgh

5) Cecilia Hernandez

6) Martha Peace

7) Jolene Roberts

8) Cathy Thomas

9) Linda Zimmerman

I’m still waiting for 2 to contact me with their addresses: Lindazim2…..daisyrose… Thanks to everyone who subscribed to my newsletter! Here’s a few pictures from the ACFW conference. See if you don’t recognize a few friendly faces among my fellow authors of Amish fiction. Have a super week, readers! Mary








A few more interesting tidbit about the Amish

Happy Tuesday, readers,

Today I’m trying to catch up on writing before the national ACFW conference in Indianapolis. But I’ve rather neglected my blog lately! I wanted to share a few more interesting facts that I learned from Linda Hitchcock from Glascow, Kentucky. Linda helped me tremendously while I was researching the Old Order Mennonites for A Little Bit of Charm. Many of the Amish farmers in Linda’s area have started growing strawberries commercially, while others have built hothouses to extend their growing season. Frequently raised vegetables are rhubarb, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and pepper varieties. Here’s a photo of me standing in a field of soybeans. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also I learned about another way the Amish make a living–bookmaking. A cobbler near Sheridan makes gorgeous, fit-like-a-glove leather boots. The boot-maker traces the customer’s feet for the pattern and sets to work. Then you go back a second time to pick them up. They won’t be cheap, but they also won’t hurt your feet.

I hope you’re all enjoying these warm days. It’s finally summer in Ohio! And the calendar says practically fall. Happy reading!  Mary

Some interesting tidbits about the Amish of Kentucky

Happy Wednesday, readers. Today I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits I learned from Linda Hitchcock, lifelong Kentucky resident and friend to several Amish and Old Order Mennonite families. One of her good friends works as a “driver” for those who usually use horses and buggies to get around. Her peak driving months are post harvest, from mid-October until around mid-March, when most crops have been planted. The Amish will still drive for doctor and dentist appointments and major grocery shopping trips. But the long-distance travel for weddings and visiting relatives isn’t done, except in rare emergencies like funerals. This driver mentioned that the ultra-conservative, Schwartzentruber Amish, are much quieter during these trips. They don’t make jokes or laugh much, and do not sing along the way. The less conservative Amish sing on long trips and aren’t inclined to be so serious. In Kentucky, most Amish weddings take place during the late fall and winter. January, particularly around New Year’s, is a very popular time for weddings! Drivers of the Amish get their business by word-of-mouth, and often take their clients great distance to North and South Dakotas and beyond, staying with the relatives as their hosts. Amish as now living in thirty states, along with Canada.

Next week I’ll share some other interesting things I learned about their gardens and home-run businesses. Have a lovely week and great Labor Day weekend!  Happy reading!  MaryLittle Bit of Charm, A

A visit back to Kentucky

Happy Monday, readers. I just heard from my friend and research contact to the Amish of Kentucky, Linda Hitchcock. She just came home from a trip to Simpson and Allen Counties. Not only did she discover a wide variety of produce, but some downright great bargains such as hand-woven straw hats for 6.00, and pickles, jams, jellies and relishes at $2.75 each. And the vendors were the friendliest she’d ever met. Besides watermelon rind pickles and chow-chow, they had “moonshine” jelly, brightly-colored pepper jellies, and jams with eye-catching names like TOE Jam, TRAFFIC Jam and FROG Jam. TOE has tangerine, orange and elderberry; traffic a mixed variety and FROG includes figs, raspberries, orange and ginger. While shopping, Linda was told that “Amish vendors must do something different to stand out these days.” The jam Linda purchased came from Spring Valley Farms, owned by the Habegger Family. Their label says: “Old Fashioned, All-Natural Home-Style Canning”. There’s a little circle which says “Preserving the Past” and a picture of two draft horse heads on the labels. The Habegger started making sorghum molasses in the mid-1960’s and has farms in both Holland, KY and Caneyville, KY.

Linda also learned that you can no longer purchase eggs from produce stands in KY unless they have refrigeration. And have you heard the term, “women of color” used in describing us outsiders? Linda learned it the other day. It doesn’t mean skin color, rather women who wear colorful clothing instead of the drab Amish attire.

I enjoyed meeting Linda while researching the Old Order Mennonites and Amish of KY in preparation to write A Little Bit of Charm. Thanks, Linda, for a look back at a beautiful part of the US of A.  Have a great week, readers. Mary

Little Bit of Charm, A



We have a consensus, and another winner

Good Monday Morning, readers,

Thanks to all of you who left me a comment after last week’s post. I had been curious about a Christian’s viewpoint on horseracing, and in particular, gambling on races. I asked the questions: Can a devout Christian be a devotee? (of racing) What about plunking down two dollars on your favorite to win the race?  I loved reading your responses. My next book, A Little Bit of Charm, deals with a young man who breeds and raises a colt to be a winner. His devoutly religious dad takes exception to Jake’s obsession with racing, particularly the expense of training a horse to contender status. His new Amish girlfriend, a lover of horses herself, also disagrees with plenty in Jake’s new lifestyle.

I have always loved horseracing, and once laid a two-dollar bet on Winning Colors to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (She did, by the way, but I only bet on her because she was a filly!) Most of you felt: A little gambling in moderation will not hurt, but anything excessive, or anything at all if you can’t afford it, should be avoided. I watched the Preakness this past Saturday. No money was involved. I loved watching those sleek Thoroughbreds do what they’re bred to do. But alas, they’ll be no Triple Crown winner. Oxbow won it, denying Orb his second jewel.

And finally, Maria Kulscar, your name was drawn as the winner of Love Comes to Paradise, book 2 in the New Beginnings series. Please contact be at so I can send that out to you.  Mary