One of my favorite recipes

Do you know the best aspect of being a fiction writer? The ability to give your characters traits you have (or wish you had!) and let them enjoy your favorite things in life. In my latest Amish book, A Plain Man, my character Josie has a Secret Recipe 4-bean Salad that everyone in town simply adores! I created my  own special salad recipe and allowed it to become famous! The uniqueness of this recipe stems from its flexibility. In other words, feel free to change it to accommodate whatever you have or is plentiful in the garden. Unlike Josie, I never make this recipe the same twice. Hope you enjoy! Have a great week, readers.

Jessie’s Secret Recipe Four Bean SaladA Plain Man

Combine in large bowl:

1 can green beans

(note: all beans can be either home-canned or store-bought)

1 can yellow beans (wax beans)

1 can kidney beans (light red or dark)

1 can garbanzo beans

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped peppers-sweet (green, red or yellow or combination)

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped black olives (optional)

Add only enough dressing (recipe below) to lightly coat salad, then chill in refrigerator several hours or overnight. Before serving, if desired, drain off any runny dressing and add fresh. (1 or 2 tablespoons, or to taste)


2 cups oil (I prefer olive)

1 1/3 cups cider vinegar

2 cups sugar

2 1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1 tsp. celery seed

1 tsp. Hungarian paprika

1 tsp. parsley (fresh or dried)

Heat oil and vinegar together, stirring in sugar and seasonings. Heat only until sugar is completely dissolved and seasonings are blended. Do not boil. Let cool and stored in a sealed jar in the refrigerator to use as needed. Shake well before using. This can be used on coleslaw and lettuce or spinach salad too.

Author’s note: I never make this recipe the same way twice, so play around with the quantities (celery etc.) or types of peppers, etc. to suit your taste.  Mary

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.