The cookbook link is https://www.amazon.com/Mossback-Cafe-Cookbook-Thomas-Fenske-ebook/dp/B071XRC8MP
It Might Curry Your Flavor
If we were having coffee today I’d be skipping the sweet roll. Can’t do it, I’d say. A1C is too high, the doctor said the last time I was in there and he mentioned the dreaded D-word. I was ticked off. I admit it. No, I wasn’t ticked off at him. I wasn’t ticked off at fate or at life. No, I was ticked off at ME! I knew better.
I’m being a good boy. My glucose numbers are stellar. I’m dealing with the random sweets part of this much the same way I dealt with drinking when I realized that was a deep dark hole I didn’t want to go farther down. I’m changing. This is harder. There are only two liquor stores here, but there are three donut shops.
I’m watching carbs. I “did” Atkins a number of years ago so I have a good handle on the relative carb counts of food. That is a big part of this. I’m also exercising. Regarding foods, it is easier than Atkins. I can have that occasional biscuit as long as I work it into my overall meal carb count. Same with tortillas. That covers at least two of my major food groups.
I’m still playing with a few things. Like, take spaghetti squash. Some people tout it as a replacement for pasta. I like it as a vegetable but I never much liked it with Marinara sauce. Ah, but I was hungry for Chicken Curry one day and wondered about making some rice, my usual accompaniment. I can eat rice in small quantities. But sometimes it doesn’t fit in with other things I might have eaten that day. At the store, I saw some spaghetti squash and I wondered, “what if?”
I’m here to tell you today that curried chicken over spaghetti squash is a revelation! The slight sweetness in the taste is a perfect accompaniment to a spiced curry sauce. Who knew? I also found something else. It seems to actually lower my glucose. Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I’ve noticed it every time I’ve tried it. This combination is definitely in the mix now, an accident like my sweet potato secret. Ah, but you have to get my cookbook to get that.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
For more information: http://thefensk.com
Retro Green Beans
Did you know Thanksgiving is in just a couple of days? While shopping, I am always amazed at the huge stacks of green beans and mushroom soup and of course fried onions. Did you ever wonder what people ate for Thanksgiving before this dish showed up? Read on for I one clue.
I’m here to tell you, I hate this “classic” green bean dish. I guess “hate” is a strong word. It’s not that it is bad, it’s just that it could be so much better. How do I know? When I got married, my darling bride turned me on to the dish her mother made at Thanksgiving for years and years. After I started collecting cookbooks, I started looking for it. Yes, it exists. I found it in two (I have thousands of cookbooks). One was a Gladys Tabor cookbook from the 40s. If Gladys was alive today I have no doubt she’d be on The Food Network. I also found it in a 1960s church cookbook. So my hat is off to my wife’s late mom, Martha Cook. Wherever she got this recipe, she cooked it every year and when I got married, she saved me from “other” casserole. It is THE standard recipe at our house.
It looks harder than it is. I’m all about easy at Thanksgiving, and this is a type of homemade dish that is still easy.
Swiss Style Green Beans
2 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons grated onion
7 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces sour cream
8 ounces grated Swiss cheese
4 – 5 Cans French Style Green Beans, drained well
1/2 cup crushed corn flakes
Lightly saute the onions in 4 Tablespoons of the butter and stir in the flour; stir until it is smooth. Add sugar, salt, and white pepper; blend well. Slowly stir in the sour cream and mix well and cook until smooth, and it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.
Add the drained green beans and mix well. Pour the mixture into greased casserole. Top with Swiss cheese. (this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point)
Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and stir in the corn flakes and mix until well coated, toasting lightly. Spread on top of the cheese.
Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.
Trust me, once you eat these green beans, you never go back. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
His books make great Christmas presents: http://thefensk.com
Thanksgiving on the Internet
been trumpeting to all who would listen, and to a good many who would
rather not, that there is only one way to cook a turkey. This turkey is
not my turkey. It is the creation of the late Morton Thompson, who wrote
“Not as a Stranger” and other books.
Countess” which was given to the late Robert Benchley, who had eaten
the turkey and was so moved as to write an introduction to the book.
Benchley then lost the manuscript. He kept hoping it would turn up–
although not as much, perhaps, as Thompson did, but somehow it vanished,
irretrievably. Thompson did not have the heart to write it over. He did,
however, later put his turkey rule in another book. Not a cookbook, but a
collection of very funny pieces called “Joe, the Wounded Tennis Player”.
six-month-old baby. There are no shortcuts, as you will see.
as though it gave the farmer a hard time when he did it in. It ought to
weigh between 16 and 30 pounds. Have the poultryman, or butcher, cut its
head off at the end of the neck, peel back the skin, and remove the neck
close to the body, leaving the tube. You will want this for stuffing.
Also , he should leave all the fat on the bird.
pepper. Give it a friendly pat and set it aside. Chop the heart, gizzard,
and liver and put them, with the neck, into a stewpan with a clove of
garlic, a large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp coriander, and some salt. I don’t know
how much salt– whatever you think. Cover this with about 5 cups of water
and put on the stove to simmer. This will be the basting fluid a little
RAMOS FIZZ. I concoct it by taking the whites of four eggs, an equal
amount of cream, juice of half a lemon (less 1 tsp.), 1/2 tsp.
confectioner’s sugar, an appropriate amount of gin, and blending with a
few ice cubes. Pour about two tablespoons of club soda in a chimney glass,
add the mix, with ice cubes if you prefer. Save your egg yolks, plus
1 tsp. of lemon — you’ll need them later. Have a good sip! (Add 1 dash
of Orange Flower Water to the drink, not the egg yolks)
large can of crushed pineapple, the grated rind of a lemon, and three
tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger (If you like ginger, double
this -REB). Add 2 cans of drained Chinese water chestnuts.
somewhat smaller, bowl. Into this, measuring by teaspoons, put:
2 hot dry mustard
2 caraway seed
2 celery seed
2 poppy seed
1 black pepper
2 1/2 oregano
3/4 thyme 1/4 basil
1/2 chili powder
1 Tbl. poultry seasoning
4 Tbl parsley
4 headless crushed cloves
1 well crushed bay leaf
4 large chopped onions
6 good dashes Tabasco
5 crushed garlic cloves
6 large chopped celery
bowl. Put in three packages of unseasoned bread crumbs (or two loaves of
toast or bread crumbs), 3/4 lb. ground veal, 1/2 lb. ground fresh pork,
1/4 lb. butter, and all the fat you have been able to pull out of the
recommended (Do this at your own risk – we always did! -REB). Get a
fourth bowl, an enormous one. Take a sip for a few minutes, wash your
hands, and mix the contents of all the other bowls. Mix it well. Stuff
the bird and skewer it. Put the leftover stuffing into the neck tube.
paste consisting of those four egg yolks and lemon juice left from the
Ramos Fizz. Add 1 tsp hot dry mustard, a crushed clove of garlic, 1 Tbl
onion juice, and enough flour to make a stiff paste. When the oven is
red hot, put the bird in, down on the rack. Sip on your drink
until the bird has begin to brown all over, then take it out and paint
the bird all over with paste. Put it back in and turn the oven down to
350 degrees F. Let the paste set, then pull the bird out and paint again.
Keep doing this until the paste is used up.
the stove, This is your basting fluid. The turkey must be basted every
15 minutes. Don’t argue. Set your timer and keep it up. (When confronted
with the choice “do I baste from the juice under the bird or do I baste
with the juice from the pot on the stove?” make certain that the juice
under the bird neither dries out and burns, nor becomes so thin that
gravy is weak. When you run out of baste, use cheap red wine. This
critter makes incredible gravy! -REB) The bird should cook about 12
minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes. Enlist the aid of your
friends and family.
then darker and darker. After about 2 hours you will think I’m crazy. The
bird will be turning black. (Newcomers to black turkey will think you are
demented and drunk on your butt, which, if you’ve followed instructions,
you are -REB) In fact, by the time it is finished, it will look as though
we have ruined it. Take a fork and poke at the black cindery crust.
golden-browns found in a precious Rembrandt. Stick the fork too deep, and
the juice will gush to the ceiling. When you take it out, ready to carve
it, you will find that you do not need a knife. A loud sound will cause
the bird to fall apart like the walls of that famed biblical city. The
moist flesh will drive you crazy, and the stuffing–well, there is
nothing like it on this earth. You will make the gravy just like it as
always done, adding the giblets and what is left of the basting fluid.
There is seldom, if ever, leftover turkey when this recipe is used. If
there is, you’ll find that the fowl retains its moisture for a few days.
That’s all there is to it. It’s work, hard work— but it’s worth it.
aid in shopping for this monster, or for checking your spice cabinet -REB)
1 large can crushed pineapple
4 large onions
6 celery stalks
buncha preserved ginger
2 cans water chestnuts
3 packages unseasoned bread crumbs
3/4 pounds ground veal
1/2 pounds ground pork
1 quart apple cider
Steeling My Heart
Pound for pound, my favorite Christmas gift this year was my Baking Steel. That pound for pound comment was a joke. It is heavy.
Most people have heard of a pizza stone. The Baking Steel serves the same purpose, only much better. Think of it as a pizza stone on steroids.
I’ll tell you this: even my most mediocre attempts with it have been better than any pizza I’ve ever made at home. The crust is phenomenal.
It is basically a slab of steel, just like the name implies. You preheat it for about an hour. You assemble your pie, and using your pizza peel you launch it onto the hot steel. About 5-6 minutes later you retrieve it and … mama mia!
I’ve watched this company grow from their facebook postings over the last several years. I couldn’t take it anymore. “This is what I want.” The flat HEAVY present under the tree was no secret.
They make griddles too, although you could use the basic product as a griddle for something like pancakes. Just nothing with too much grease.
Check them out at http://www.bakingsteel.com
I know it is expensive but your grandchildren will thank you for leaving them this awesome heirloom. It will last that long.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Hmmm, how about pizza tonight?
Check out my books: http://thefensk.com
From Fiction to Kitchen
I call this Faux Calzone or Poor Man’s Calzone.
I don’t know if it is because I generally write early in the morning and am usually hungry, or just because I like to eat, but food always seems to find its way into my writing. This is one “fictional” recipe that didn’t make it into The Mossback Cafe Cookbook (it didn’t fit into the concept), but this has long been one of my standby quick and dirty meals. I’ll start with a quote from A Curse That Bites Deep. Our hero Sam needs a quick meal but only has limited ingredients. The pantry is stocked with tidbits salvaged from a recently deceased friend, a solitary older gentleman of limited means. He settles on a cheap frozen pizza.
Once the pizza was unwrapped and in the pan he slid it in the oven and checked his watch. After a couple of minutes he pulled it out and lifted one end.
“It’s thawed enough,” he muttered as he proceeded to fold the pizza in half. He pressed the edges lightly.
“Used to use more cheese when I was in college, but this will do,” he said as he moved the pan back into the hot oven.
After a few more minutes he gingerly flipped it to brown the other side. When the allotted time was up he brought it out and tested the top with his finger. It was crispy but not burnt.
“This actually isn’t that old,” he said. “I guess the old guy did manage to eat from time to time despite my worries.”
He moved his meal to a plate and let it cool another minute before he tried a bite.
“Not bad,” he said, “not bad at all…poor man’s calzone, just like in college!”
I found it as a way to enhance a really cheap frozen pizza. Sure, it’s not a true calzone, it’s almost more like a pizza taco, but it certainly moves the drab frozen pizza up a notch. I made these as an appetizer once, cutting them into strips, and people loved them. Years ago I worked as a consultant in northern New Jersey and one day we called in an order for some pizzas. I noted that almost everyone folded their slices in half before eating them; I guess it is a regional thing. I still do it, too, and it was the inspiration for this idea.
Here’s what you do. You need a cheap frozen pizza. Totino’s will do but you can go smaller and cheaper if you want to. Although in the clip above Sam just cooks the pizza as it is, right out of the package, and you can certainly do that, it is better if you add a little seasoning and extra cheese. It’s frozen so you need to thaw it somewhat. At home, I usually use the microwave for that but you can heat it for a few minutes in the oven like Sam does in the novel. You want the crust pliable enough to fold. I made one of these yesterday and microwaved it for about a minute and a half at fifty-percent power.
Take the partially thawed pizza and sprinkle it with some additional Italian spices if you want … or garlic powder, whatever you like. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on half of it. I added some Parmesan too, one “to-go” packet.
Fold it over and press firmly. It’s not going to seal like a true calzone but that’s okay. You can still press down a little more along the edges to get close.
Bake just like the package says, but bear in mind it was partially cooked earlier. If the package said to cook it for 10 minutes at 400, I’d do it for four, carefully flip it and do it for another four. Your mileage may vary. You want the crust to be crisp but not burnt or really hard. The extra cheese should just be starting to ooze a little.
Take it out and let it cool for at least two minutes before eating but take it easy, the filling can be hot.
That’s it, Poor Man’s Calzone, right out of the pages of my novel! As you can see from the picture, it looks pretty good. Simple, good, cheap. Who am I kidding? It was great!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find more info about his novels and his cookbook at http://thefensk.com
The Mossback … another look
This is just another fine-tuning of my Amazon blurb … I think it’s getting there.
The description of gooey, spicy, goodness that followed spurred several readers to ask the author, “Is that a real dish?” Now you can see for yourself!
Fiction has become kitchen.
Smidgeon will entertain you with her quirky, homespun wisdom as she shares a mini-history of the cafe along with some insight into what helps to make The Mossback a unique and delightful locale in the world of fictional eateries.
Along the way you’ll learn how to make her awesome square biscuits. She also reveals details about the full-sized heap of bacon they serve on “THAT BLT, ” and introduces readers to other local favorites like the “Double Trouble Dog” and what has to be the “Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” you’ve ever tasted. As an added bonus, she has agreed to share her famous Potato Salad Secret, something surprising and simple that will take even the best potato salad recipe and crank it up a notch, maybe two!
Simply put, these are all part of what would have made The Mossback Cafe famous, well, if it actually existed.
So hop out of your pickup truck and mosey on in … there just might be some breakfast tacos or enchiladas lurking in your future.
More Than A Cookbook
Just to be clear … The Mossback Cafe Cookbook is more than a cookbook. It is a true companion book to my novels. They introduce the backdrop of the place and they intoduce owner Smidgeon Toll. The books are basically stories set in Texas and so, the cookbook has a strong Southwestern influence.
The cookbook takes that base and gives Smidgeon a chance to tell us all a little more about her background and the cafe.
The recipes are real and the information she shares is a valuable resource that will enhance your enjoyment of the existing novels and subsequent stories in the series.
So, when you see the word “cookbook” — look beyond it, and consider this to be a stepping off point. But don’t get me wrong, the recipes are easy and accessible to even fledgling cooks. And delicious.
Check it out … it is only in ebook form and it is only 99 cents.
If we were having coffee today, I’d be brimming with news. I know it’s starting to sound like a broken record but most of it is about the cookbook. It is what’s happening this week. At long last the book has finally completed it’s initial rollout.
For almost a month it has been available on Smashwords, but at long last it is on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo. There is a process on Smashwords that verifies the format … they came back with some formatting tweaks I needed to make before it could roll out to everything else. Now that it has been tweaked, the rollout is complete. All the links to the various venues can be found on my web page.
The last piece of the puzzle, Amazon, is in place, but there are a few kinks. For one, although it is free on Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, I can’t offer it for free on Amazon, at least initially. So it sort of a Firesign Theatre thing … “Free, Only a Dollar.” Or ninety-nine cents to be more precise. It should be up on Amazon for a few days. In theory, once Amazon notices it is free in other venues, they will price match. We’ll see. If you want, I think you can “report” a lower price, like on Barnes and Noble, and that should help spur them to action.
Anyway, that is what’s going on.
In other news, as reported last week, the cover of my second novel, A Curse That Bites Deep, won a contest last week, AuthorShout.com‘s Cover-Wars. My stint as “book of the week” has given me a slight boost in web page views. Today is the end … it’s been a nice run.
Have a happy Easter Weekend.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. More info on his books can be found at http://thefensk.com
I was pleased to get the first review of The Mossback Cafe Cookbook today. I’m still waiting to clear up some technical issues before uploading the book to Amazon, so this review is on Smashwords. It is also my first review on Smashwords!
I just had to share it …
The review is by Laura Rittenhouse, a fellow writer. I’m honored. Be sure to look her up on Smashwords and Amazon!
“I’ve read the front of the book and then, being held hostage to my sweet tooth, flipped to the back – the dessert section. I baked the coffee cake and my only complaint is I shared too much of it with appreciative friends. Next time I make it I’ll make sure I’m alone 🙂
There are a lot of recipes in here that I’ll try in the coming weeks – it is really a good cook book. But what pushed this to 5 stars for me was the fact that it’s a really fun companion to The Fever (which I’ve read) and, apparently, A curse That Bites Deep (which I haven’t – yet). This little cook book makes the novels seem almost like reading about friends.”
To read the original review and download your own copy of this free cookbook, go to:
You can also get ebooks of THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP from Smashwords. The novels are also available in paper and from other outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. More information on all of my books can be found at http://thefensk.com