Friday, April 18, 2014

Savory Custard and Shortbread Recipes from " A Beauty So Rare"

Today I have something special for you. Tamera Alexander, author of A Beauty So Rare, which I reviewed for you on Wednesday, has offered to share a few of Eleanor Braddock's recipes with us today! These would be perfect for your Easter Gathering. I hope you enjoy! 

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as "savory custards" in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel, A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is "a cook with a dream." But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or "receipt" as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit
Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard
(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander


1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)
1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)
1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in.

QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.
Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust
(makes two large crusts)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust "freezes beautifully " as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!


1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt


In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal.

In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form the 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags.

Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then "unfold" it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at
Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread
(from A Beauty So Rare)

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup powdered sugar*
1/3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don't need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it's nice and smooth.

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too).

Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board.
Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It "sets up" as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.


I just want to again say thank you to Ms. Alexander for sharing these yummy recipes from her book A Beauty So Rare!  Hope you all enjoy them! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Special Hairstyle for Rebecca

About a month ago, I saw a picture on my facebook wall that really intrigued me and I thought I could do that with Rebecca's hair. It was from a page called "Luv That Hair". It was a beautiful basket weave design for a girl's hair...

I decided to give it a try on Rebecca's hair. First I showed it to her and she was excited for me to do it....

Here are our results: 

I think it turned out really cute. Rebecca LOVED it! She wore it like that for Benjamin's birthday party and again to school on Monday. She got so many compliments on it! 

I love finding inspiration to make my kids' days with something as simple as doing her hair in a special way! I will definitely be trying more hairstyle from "Luv That Hair" facebook page. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander

Beauty So Rare, A (A Belmont Mansion Novel)


Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war--and still had one to fight.

Eleanor Braddock--plain, practical, no stunning Southern beauty--knows she will never marry. But with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. 
But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.

From the USA Today bestselling author Tamera Alexander comes a moving historical novel about a bold young woman drawn to a group of people forgotten by Nashville society--and to the one man with whom she has no business falling in love.


What would you do if you were born in the upper class and/or royalty, but your heart is with those who are much less fortunate? Would you give up your posh lifestyle to help others or would you ignore your heart in order to do what society deems is the right thing? This is the reality for Eleanor Braddock and Archduke Marcus Gottfried in Tamera Alexander's "A Beauty So Rare."

Eleanor Braddock was born into the upper class. However, her life has not been completely easy. She has recently lost her only brother in the civil war and she has had to place her father into an asylum as he struggles with Alzheimer's. She has seen war and destruction as she has worked as a nurse on the civil war battlegrounds. Eleanor, due to lack of money, has had to move into her aunt's home. It is while living with her Aunt, that Eleanor begins to feel drawn to helping the less fortunate through cooking for widows and orphans. Cooking in her society is something left to those of much lower class status. Eleanor has her heart set on opening a cafe, however circumstances change and she is led on a different path to help those less fortunate with her cooking skills. 

Eleanor has such a kind, warm, compassionate heart and is a character that is completely relateable. She is proud of being able care for others, torn with loyalty to her family and their position and is caught in the line between doing things because they make the most sense and doing things because it is what is deemed proper in society. 

Archduke Marcus Gottfried, is on a year long sabbatical to the United States from his home in Austria. As the story unfolds, we learn about why he has come to the USA and his struggle with wanting to remain in the USA and having to return home because that is what society has deemed as proper. Marcus is a brilliant master gardener and architect who desires to leave his mark on the world in a worthwhile manner, rather than just being a rich name. Hilarity ensues as the "rich" of the society don't know the back story of Marcus and at times treats him as an undergardener or worker for hire. 

Marcus and Eleanor have similar goals and aspirations in that they both want to help those less fortunate, however they go about it in different paths that intertwine and weave and allow for life. 

I will have to admit that I could not put this book down. Ms. Alexander weaves such a beautiful story with many layers to keep everything intertwined between characters and to keep the reader involved. I loved reading about the conflict of interests between Eleanor's social standing and how she basically is able to put all the others who looked down on her in their place. I loved reading about Marcus' relationship with Caleb and how he took the boy under his wing. There was so much more that I enjoyed as well. The only thing that I did not enjoy was that that the story had to end because I so did not want it to. 

DISCLAIMERI received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Benjamin's 2nd Birthday Party

Sunday we were finally able to have Benjamin's 2nd birthday party! This was the one that we had to postpone from last weekend. Thankfully, everyone was still able to come except for my husband's sister, her husband and their daughter as they were out of town. Nothing like having 17 people in your house above the normal 5 that live here all the time. 

Thankfully the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was near 80 degrees and sunny. Perfect for an afternoon birthday party. 

There were so many people here to celebrate Benjamin's birthday. My parents, Bill's parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my sister, my brother and his wife and their 3 kids, and Benjamin's Godparents and their four children. It was a full house but wonderful to have. 

We had a light dinner (sandwiches, pasta salad, strawberries, chips and veggies) and cake and ice cream. I had to make another cake as the one I made last weekend got eaten and was too big to freeze. I made a smaller cake this time, which was the perfect size. Everyone seemed impressed that I made a half chocolate/half white cake. It really was not hard to make. Benjamin loved his cake, although I think his favorite thing was taking the 3 cars off the cake to play with. 

Benjamin received some much needed summer clothes (play clothes and church clothes) and LOTS of cars and trucks (which are his favorite toys above all other things). This is the first time that no one asked me what to get him and everyone got him something that he could use and in the right size! 

It was so nice to get everyone together and we all had a lovely time. We are so blessed to have people in our lives who really do care for our family and for our children.

All in all, it was a great party with lots of happy memories! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Homemaker Monday!

I am joining Sandra today over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for her Happy Homemaker Monday theme!

As I look outside my window:::
It is raining and cloudy. It is just dreary looking outside. Yesterday it was warm and sunny, today not so much. Still warm but not sunny at all. 

Right now I am::: 
Typing out this post, thinking of the things I need to get done.

Thinking and pondering:::
On what my husband and I's next move should be. He is going to be applying for jobs out of state and I will be too. It is a stressful time, but time for us to take control for the future of our family.  

On my bedside table:::
A Shining Light by Judith Miller

On my tv tonight:::

I will be watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" and "19 Kids and Counting" and Indians baseball. 

Listening to:::
The rain, the cars going down the road and the TV is on the "Sunny Side Up" Show on Sprout for the boys. 

On the menu for this week:::

Monday - Cheeseburgers and French fries
Tuesday - Smoked sausage and potato bake and macaroni and cheese
Wednesday - Chicken patties and veggies
Thursday - Hot dogs and Baked beans
Friday - Fish sticks and veggies
Saturday - Not sure
Sunday -  Easter...Not sure

On my to do list:::

Collect all recycling and trash from Benjamin's bday party and take it to the curb

Happening this week:::
work, softball, soccer, etc.
My simple pleasure:::
Spending time with my husband and kids

Looking around the house:::
Doesn't look too bad considering we had 17 people over yesterday for a birthday party! 
From the camera:::

Prayer List:::
For Bill, as he job searches and as he is joining the Catholic Church this weekend.

Bible verse, Devotional:::

John 3:16-17
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
Hope everyone has a great Monday! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

104.3 F

That was Rebecca's temperature last night when I took it at home. I had let Rebecca stay home from school as she woke up yesterday morning with a stomach ache and said she did not want to go to school. Now if you know my daughter you know that she cries hard if she has to miss school when she is sick. To say she didn't want to go, I knew she did not feel well. So she stayed home, and laid around and napped on an off all day, not really eating much of anything. When I came home from work around 430 she was asleep on the couch and I felt her forehead and she was cool.

Last night, she wanted to watch "Cars 2." Halfway through she fell asleep. When she woke up she said she wanted to go to bed and she didn't look good. I had just put Benjamin to bed, and Jacob was cleaning up. I took her temperature and it read 104.3F on one thermometer, and 104.4 on the other one that I have. And she said her stomach still ached. I called Bill to see if he could come home and take her to the ER. I gave her Motrin as well. Bill was able to come home and take her so that I could stay at home with the boys.

At the ER, her fever read 104.8F. After an hour on the Motrin it was only down to 103.5, so they gave her some Tylenol. They have ruled out a UTI, a lung infection (as her oxygen level was only at 95%) and they are now worried it is either a stomach infection or appendicitis. However, as her achiness was less than 24 hours old, they sent her home with instructions to give meds for the fever and if she still has the achiness tonight to bring her back in to the ER (the same doctor is in tonight) and they will do a cat scan to see if they can find anything.

This morning, Rebecca's fever was 102.3 when she woke up. She has slept most of the morning. She said her stomach still aches a little. I just got her up to take her temp again and it was down to 98.4.

To say that I am stressed out and worried is an understatement.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Looking for a job and other things...

I have a lot on my plate right now....

Yesterday, I had to take Benjamin in for a hearing evaluation. We are concerned because his speech is no where near where our other 2 kids were at age 2. So his doctor wants him to have a speech and hearing evaluation. So yesterday, I took him into have a hearing evaluation. The audiologist couldn't do a good evaluation because he was squirming and she saw fluid in at least one ear. So I get to take him to a ENT next week for a ear check and then hopefully she and the other audiologist can do the evaluation then.

Also yesterday, things came to a head with my husband's job search. He likes his job where he is, however, he has not had a cost of living raise in the 4 years there, he is working with 20 year old computers that won't load applications that he needs from the AP (he is a newspaper sports editor) and the owners of the company won't budge, his direct supervisor hates him and is making the work environment miserable. He took a pay cut when he took the job, and we are living paycheck to paycheck with his salary. So he has decided to start applying for open newspaper jobs around the country. I have told him that if he finds a job, we will move. I don't like that idea, but if that is what is needed for our family I will do it.

I have also decided to start looking for a full time teaching job. I found a website last night that I used when I was in college that lists job openings around the country where you don't need a masters of education to apply. I bookmarked a few of the jobs last night as they would start in August. It would mean moving out of state, which again I don't want to do but maybe that is the direction we need to go.

I don't know. I am worried about my husband. I am worried about Benjamin. I was so stressed last night that I was very itchy all over. I am worried about the future.

I just hope this is the right direction for us to be moving......

AND in the middle of all of this, normal everyday life has to happen.

The next couple days are busy, busy, busy....

Today I need to make 2 cakes for my daughter's school for tomorrow, make dinner for tonight before I leave for work, our landlord is supposed to come at some point to hopefully fix our upstairs sink, laundry, make a grocery list for tomorrow,....

This weekend, we have a soccer game, softball practice and a scrimmage, and Benjamin's rescheduled birthday party.

Maybe the stress of the everyday will make the stress of the job search and unknown future not seem so bright.

How are things in your life right now?