Bink’s Outer Banks Hot Crab Dip (from The Prayer Box)

Where better to wile away the last of the long. lazy summer days than at the beach?  On the Outer Banks, crab is a favorite delicacy. In The Prayer Box, Binks Market in the tiny town of Fairhope serves up crab-based delicacies of all sorts. This one happens to be a favorite in the Wingate house, too!

2 cans crab meat
3 – 8 oz pkgs cream cheese
3 T mustard
2 T white or rose wine
2 T vinegar
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt

Melt cheese in heavy pan. Stir in all other ingredients.
Serve warm with crackers.


Appalachian Apple Bread Pudding (from The Story Keeper)

The Story Keeper’s Appalachian setting is not only filled with mystery and story, but also with food that takes me back to my grandmother’s farm kitchen. I first discovered Apple bread Pudding at a potluck in Arkansas (another slice of Appalachian culture, though geographically separated from what is known as Appalachia today). Bread pudding was a farm-staple dessert, popular because it could be created from ingredients most country wives had on hand — old bread, eggs, sugar, spices, cream, along with seasonal fruits and nuts. I never take this dish to potlucks without bringing along the recipe — someone is sure to ask. Served warm with ice cream and caramel sauce (make your own or buy prepared in the grocery store), it’s a surefire crowd pleaser… and a taste of Appalachian hospitality and tradition.

6 Tbs butter
2 C apple slices
3/4 C br sugar
1tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ C chop pecans
12 oz can evap milk
1/4 C Half & Half
3 C dried cubed bread
4 eggs
Pinch salt

Add 2 tbs melted butter to bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Add apples, pecans, then bread. Whisk remaining ingredients and pour over top. Cook in baking dish 350 prox 50 mins or until eggs set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, or cream for breakfast. Yum!


Lisa’s Favorite Writer Nectar — Mom’s Make Your Own Chai Tea Mix

Homemade chai tea is my favorite writer nectar.  This make-your-own mix was developed by my mom.  The great thing about it, as opposed to most commercial chai mixes, is that this is unsweetened and much lower in fat.  You can add the sweetener of your choice and you can make it with caffeinated or decaf instant tea.  A little jar with a bow around it makes a great, inexpensive Christmas gift that keeps on giving, or a sweet share-around item at your ladies’ gathering or book club.

Writing keeps me crunching deadlines a lot.  When a nap or Dr. Phil tempt me in the afternoons, I usually bribe myself with a cuppa-cuppa chai.  A little squirt of whipped cream and some freshly ground cinnamon on top turns this into a delight that will chase the away the doldrums (or the munchies) and make your feel pampered with few calories to feel guilty about!

1/2 Cup dry coffee creamer
1/2 Cup instant tea (caffeinated or decaf)
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground anise
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp ground cloves
(you can add sugar, but we like to give this away unsweetened, allowing calorie-conscious friends to use any sweetener)

Mix in a jar.  To make a cup of chai, use 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of mix and hot water.  A little whipped cream on top is good in this, and so is a dash of liquid coffee creamer in the flavor of your choice.  For vanilla chai, add a drop of vanilla or make your chai mix with vanilla (powdered) coffee creamer.


Grandma Rose’s Sourdough Bread (from Tending Roses)

When I make this easy sourdough bread, I’m often reminded of my grandmother and her story of her marital breakdown with my grandfather, because she was too proud to admit she didn’t know how to make yeast bread. A recipe arrived on a flour sack shortly thereafter, fortunately, and the marriage was saved.

1cup bread or all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tsp yeast
Mix starter and let stand 48 hours, longer if you wish bread to be a bit more sour

5 cups bread or all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbs salt
1 ½ cup warm water
1 cup starter mixture

Mix dry ingredients, then add water and starter. Cover mixing bowl and let rise until at least doubled (1 to 2 hours). Knead thoroughly on a flour dusted counter and cut in half to make two loaves. Put in greased bread pans. Let rise until rounded (1 to 2 hours). Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until brown. Remove and cool on wire rack.
From TENDING ROSES by Lisa Wingate: “Bread, like a good life, can only be created by honest measure, patience, warmth, and time.” –Grandma Rose


Mrs. Hawthorne’s Famous Biscuits (from Texas Cooking)

One of my favorite scenes in TEXAS COOKING is the scene in which Mrs. Hawthorne teaches poor Collie, who hates to cook, about biscuit therapy—a unique way to put life’s unpalatable elements into perspective. Mrs. Hawthorne might have borrowed this recipe from my mother-in-law, whose biscuits are out of this world.

Sift together:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Cut in 1/3 cup shortening until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Add ¾ cup milk and blend until flour is moistened. Turn out on lightly floured board. Knead 30 seconds and roll ¾ inches thick. Cut with biscuit cutter and place in lightly greased pan. Bake at 475 for 12 to 15 minutes.

From Texas Cooking: “This isn’t cooking, it’s therapy. You start out with a bunch of things that taste bad on their own—flour, shortening, dash of salt and so forth. You mix them together and get something that looks like it’ll always be a mess. Then you work on it for a while… and cut it out, piece by piece, until it’s all lined up in the pan, orderly and just as it should be… Kind of gives you faith in the ability of a mess to work into something good.” –Mrs. Hawthorne


Lone Star Café’s Magical Buttermilk Pie (from Lone Star Cafe)

In each of the books, there is an element that is slightly magical—that could be explained by mere coincidence, or could be a bit of divine intervention in the lives of the characters. As always, I present the facts and leave you to decide on which side of the fence you’d like to fall. In Lone Star Café, it’s the coffee and food at the café that works a bit of heavenly magic between Laura Draper and her oh-so-stubborn father, Hardy.

9 inch unbaked pie shell
½ cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 rounded Tbsp, flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash nutmeg (optional)

Soften butter, add sugar, cream together well. Add flour and eggs, beat well. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely before serving.  This pie is also wonderful with a handful of chocolate chips, a handful of chopped nuts, and a handful of cocoanut added to the pie shell before you pour the filling in.  It will melt in your mouth!

From LONE STAR CAFÉ by Lisa Wingate: “I knew your father would appreciate the pie. Our buttermilk pie cures a multitude of ills.” -Hasselene Goodnight


Grandma’s Banana Oatmeal Cookies (from Tending Roses)

When Grandma Rose wasn’t sharing life wisdom, writing the Baptist Buzz, or listening to the whispers in the sycamores, she loved to spend time at the local grocery store, digging through rotten fruits and vegetables, gleaning freebies that the produce man was about to throw away. Rotten bananas were an especially treasured find. She often used them to bake these banana oatmeal cookies, which she invented, and was very proud of because the only thing that “costs” (is expensive) in the recipe is a few chocolate chips. In THE LANGUAGE OF SYCAMORES, granddaughters Kate and Karen renew their childhood bonds by attempting to bake a batch of Grandma’s banana oatmeal cookies. At my grandmother’s funeral, my cousin, Judy, baked my grandmother’s cookies. Judy probably paid for her bananas, but as we ate the cookies we all smiled and thought of long afternoons with Grandma. No matter where you are in life, there is something timeless about the taste and smell of a recipe your grandmother always made.

1 cup flour
½ cup mashed ripe banana
1 1/4 cup sugar
1tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
½ cup soft shortening or stick margarine
3 Tbsp milk
½ package chocolate chips (or raisins—healthier, but we kids were always disappointed when the black things in the cookies turned out to be raisins ;o)

Mix ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

From THE LANGUAGE OF SYCAMORES: “Mrs. Jaans scoffed, pushing the cookie platter closer to the kids. “Oh, let him have a cookie. It’s a special occasion.” She smiled at Alex. “Here, sweet, have a cookie. They’re good for you. Got bananas in ‘em.” It was exactly the kind of thing Grandma Rose would have said…