Pumpkin Cheesecake Dessert

by Sandra Merville Hart

In the fall, I love to make desserts with delicious fall flavors. I had discovered this great pumpkin cheesecake several years ago and then forgotten it. Last weekend, I made it again for friends. They loved it!

The crust takes the longest to prepare. Chopping ¾ cup of walnuts didn’t take long.

Chopping Graham crackers into smooth, even crumbs usually takes a few minutes since I didn’t have access to my chopper or food processor. I decided to try the blender to finely chop ¾ cup of these crackers. It worked so beautifully that I wondered why I never tried it before.

Sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves are blended into the cracker crumbs and walnut before adding melted butter. The recipe is shared on the Taste of Home website.

This crust is all pressed into a springform pan as the bottom layer.

The cheesecake filling made up of cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, and eggs takes about five minutes to prepare. I used a mixer for a smoother blend of the ingredients.

Everyone gobbled up the delicious dessert. They enjoyed the fall flavors in this cheesecake. It’s a lighter, creamier cheesecake that works well for holiday dinners.

I had made whipped cream and forgot to serve it! Whipped cream is delicious on this dessert but it’s a tasty cheesecake without it. My guests didn’t miss the topping.


Taste of Home’s Holiday & Celebrations Cookbook 2002, Remain Media Group, Inc., 2002.

“Cheesecake Pumpkin Dessert,” Taste of Home, 2021/10/18 https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cheesecake-pumpkin-dessert/.


Excerpt from A Musket in My Hands by Sandra Merville Hart

My third Civil War romance, A Musket in My Handsfollows two sisters as they disguise themselves as soldiers and join the men they love in Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee—just in time for the war to grow progressively difficult for Southern soldiers.

While the War Between the States rages, Callie Jennings reels from her pa’s ultimatum that she must marry his friend, a man older than him. Her heart belongs to her soldier hero, Zach Pearson, but Pa won’t change his mind. Callie has no place to go. Then her sister, Louisa, proposes a shocking alternative.

Zach still hears his pa’s scornful word—quitter. He’s determined to make something of himself as a soldier. He’ll serve the Confederacy until they win the war. If they win the war.

Times are tough and getting tougher for the South in the fall of 1864 when Callie and Louisa, disguised as soldiers, muster into the Confederate army. Louisa keeps an eye on her soldier fiancé, Nate. Callie is thrilled to be near Zach again though he seems more interested in being a soldier. Shooting anyone, especially former countrymen, is out of the question.

Tough marches lead them to the Battle of Franklin. How can anyone survive?


Excerpt for A Musket in My Hands  :


August 1864, just outside Cageville, Tennessee


Clopping in the yard drew Callie Jennings’ hand to her throat.

She rushed to the window and lifted the curtain. A moment of relief washed over her. It wasn’t Yankees looking for food again, thank the Lord. Pa had returned. He never said much about being a ranger, one of those irregulars who participated in guerrilla warfare for the Confederate States of America. The irregulars cut telegraph wire, pulled up railroad tracks, and worse—so some of the townsfolk said. His mood—and his drinking—depended on the success of their last mission. Would he be the even-tempered pa of her childhood today, or the drink-induced stranger she barely recognized?

Porter Jennings rode his horse into the barn and disappeared from sight. Callie dropped the curtain and hurried to the stove. Frying a batch of corn cakes didn’t take long, thank goodness. Pa would have a hot meal waiting when he got done brushing down Midnight. Must have been a hard night’s riding to take nigh onto noon to get back.

She didn’t like the Yankees all over Tennessee any better than Pa, but she’d heard rumblings about the irregulars catching one or two of the enemies alone and hanging them on a tree. That didn’t set well with her. It didn’t seem fair, though she kept those thoughts to herself. He wanted to protect his daughters and, being past the draft age of forty-four, this seemed his only choice.

Her shoulders rose and fell with her sigh as lard melted in the skillet. She patted three generous portions of corn batter onto the skillet as the door slammed open.

She cringed.

“Why ain’t you working at Mrs. Hobson’s today?” Pa tossed his wide-brimmed hat onto a wall hook. “Ezra Culpepper said she has an order.”

She glanced at Pa’s clenched jaw. His friend knew the town’s gossip almost before it happened. “She does. Mrs. Robbins needs a dress. That job won’t pay enough for Mrs. Hobson to hire me to help.”

“That ain’t good enough.” The gray streaks in Pa’s auburn hair were as wide as the calloused fingers he ran through it. “You need to pull your weight around here.”

“Hardly anyone hereabouts has money to pay for seamstress work.” Her cheeks burned hotter than the sizzling cakes warranted. Not pull her weight around the house? She was the one who cooked and cleaned and tended the vegetable garden, for all the good that did. Yankees passing through got most of the crop. “She hasn’t needed me regularly for two years.”

“When the Yanks took over Tennessee.” He pounded a fist into his hand.

“The same year Mr. Hobson died at Shiloh.”

His brown eyes shifted toward the back window where his cornfields used to be. “Another widow left to raise her children without a pa.”

Callie caught her breath as worry for another soldier arose, one she prayed for daily. Best think about that later, when she was alone.

Pa’s neck turned scarlet. Time to give him something else to think about. “Are you hungry?” Her stomach rumbled at the appetizing smell. She turned a corn cake with a spatula too quickly. Oil splattered the stove.

“Yep. Starved.” He pulled a chair away from a rectangular table in the middle of the large front room and sat. “Pity Jeb Booth can’t use both you and your sister at the Mercantile. Louisa’s job puts food on the table.”

Such as it was. They’d all grown accustomed to getting by on less since the Northern invasion. Callie rubbed her sleeve against her forehead. More than August heat stifled the air in the clapboard home. “Here it is.” She placed a plate with two corn cakes and a cup of water in front of him. “We’ll have fried tomatoes from the garden for supper tonight.” She retrieved her plate with a single cake from the narrow table next to the stove.

“I’ll drink whiskey.” Pa started eating without saying grace.

This early in the day? Callie swallowed and plonked her plate back on the side table. Ma would be turning over in her grave at the sight of hard liquor in the house. About a lot of things, in fact.

Callie hated Pa’s angry mood when he drank.







Weldon’s Secret Santa by Shelia Stovall

Randall McCullough, retired from the postal service, can’t get excited about his birthday or the coming Christmas season since Shirley’s passing five years ago. Maybe he can find a way to be a blessing to a few folks this Christmas. That might help take his mind off his loneliness.

Alma Lee, who works at the drugstore, likes to argue with him. He’s known her since childhood and she’s always been the same way.

Randall is surprised when Alma Lee not only gets wind of his Christmas secret mission but also wants to help. He doesn’t want to admit that arguing with her brings some spark to his days. He agrees and the pair set off to help families in Weldon’s trailer park that has been allowed to deteriorate.

This story touched my heart! I love Randall, who remembers his wife’s generosity and learns from it. My attention was easily snagged early on by this gentle story.

I loved meeting the lovable characters of Weldon in this Christmas novella! The author has created a town full of believable characters that I learned to love.

If you like reading books in a series that are set in a small town, I believe you will love the folks at Weldon, Kentucky.

I will look for more books by this author!

-Sandra Merville Hart


The Christmas Card by Amanda Tru

The Christmas Card Series, Book 1

Cole Nikols has saved for months to give his girlfriend, Sarah Whitman, a special evening as he proposes. She is the Director for a charity and often has to leave their dates to take care of folks who are hurting. He cringes when she answers a call during their date, and they argue. Cole ends up taking their meal back to his house.

Once there, he has an idea to show her that he understands her desire to serve others. He writes a Christmas card and then delivers it to family and friends with a request that they pass it on.

But he has no idea how many lives his Christmas card will touch.

I loved the concept behind this book. Acts of kindness, love, and forgiveness have ripple efforts that are far-reaching, as this story beautifully demonstrates.

This short read will make you think. A great book for the holiday season!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Stew – the Mainstay of Homesteaders

Cindy Ervin Huff, fellow author in “The Cowboys,” shares a recipe from her new historical romance book release. Welcome back to Historical Nibbles, Cindy!

by Cindy Ervin Huff

Stew was a mainstay in the diet of most pioneers and homesteaders. It can be easily stretched to feed a large group of people. And reheated stew has even more flavor than the first day it was served. Because homesteaders had a busy life, it was often easier to set a pot of stew to cook slowly while the womenfolk tended to other chores, such as sewing or doing laundry.

Cooks on cattle drives often made stew. The chuck wagon traveled to the campsite for the day and arrived hours before the drovers. Cooking a large pot of stew over a campfire ensured the crew had a hearty meal at the end of the day.

Stew might consist of a variety of meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, venison and even softened jerky. And any vegetable or herb would be added. Spices might be interchanged due to what was available in the area and the nationality of the homesteader.

Stew was also a mainstay for work crews such as lumber jacks, railroaders, and construction crews. In my newest release, Angelina’s Resolve, the entire community shares a tent kitchen. Buffalo that wasn’t smoked or salted became stew for the week.

Stew has held a prominent place in the culinary history of America even today. Below is a stew recipe that can be modified based on what is on hand.

Drop biscuits were more common than cut ones on a busy day. A drop biscuit is the same recipe as any other biscuit, except the biscuit dough is dropped from a spoon on the baking sheet or cast-iron pot and baked. The shapes are irregular but the flavor is the same. Stew is usually served with some type of bread. Biscuits like stew were the go-to preference for getting a meal out quickly. Especially on the trail.

Meat Stew

Choose any type of meat available, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or wild game. Cut meat into pieces and dredge in flour. Then in a Dutch oven or other large pot, cook the meat in lard until browned on all sides.

Then add water, enough to cover the meat but not to the rim of the pan. Add salt if meat is not already salted. Chop your choice of vegetables into small pieces.  Once the water is boiling, add the vegetables, then push the pot to the back of the stove to slowly cook. Stir occasionally to prevent burning to the bottom of the pan. The more people you are serving, the more vegetables you should add to stretch the stew. Add water as needed. Season with any herbs you like. This stew can be cooked in a shorter time by leaving it on the hotter part of the stove or over a campfire. Stew is done when vegetables are soft. Serve with bread, biscuits or cornbread.

About Cindy

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She’s addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be a live theater performance. Visit her on her website or on Facebook.

Angelina’s Resolve

Architect Angelina DuBois is determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession by building a town run by women, where everyone is equal, and temperance is in the by-laws. Contractor Edward Pritchard must guard his heart as he works with the beautiful, strong-willed yet naïve Angelina. He appreciates her ability as an architect, but she frustrates him at every turn with her leadership style. When the project is completed, will it open doors for more work or make him a laughingstock? Can two strong-will people appreciate their differences and embrace their attraction as they work together on to build their town?

A Musket in My Hands Endorsements

Two sisters disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864—just in time for things to go badly for Southern soldiers at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.


2019 Serious Writer Medal Fiction Winner

2019 Selah Awards Finalist


Callie Jennings reels from her pa’s ultimatum that she marry his friend, a man older than him. Her heart belongs to her soldier, Zach Pearson. With no place to hide, her sister, Louisa, proposes a shocking alternative.

 Zach still hears his pa’s scornful word—quitter. He’s determined to serve the Confederacy until they win the war. If they win the war.   

 Callie and Louisa disguise themselves as soldiers and muster into the Confederate army. Tough times are getting tougher for their Confederacy. With a battle looming, Callie’s military haven isn’t a shelter anymore.

As the anniversary of the Battle of Franklin approaches, I’d like to share the endorsements for my book,  A Musket in My Hands:


I don’t always read Civil War novels, because I’m not into graphic battle scenes. Sandra Merville Hart’s A Musket in My Hands is a wonderful book. The characters grab your heart right from the beginning and they take you through a unique story line right into battles, where I followed willingly. The book isn’t battle-driven. It’s character driven, and the reader becomes intimately acquainted with these people who had to face things they never dreamed about happening. This is my favorite Civil War novel. I highly recommend it.

Lena Nelson Dooley – bestselling, multiple-award-winning author, Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides

Through A Musket in My Hands, Sandra Merville Hart brings to life the last months of the Confederacy as experienced by two Tennessee sisters who become soldiers for the South. Detailed research contributes to the realism in a tale of courage and strength during a tumultuous time in America’s history. I was moved by the despair and deprivation yet inspired by the characters’ resolve. A captivating read for historical fiction fans!

Sandra Ardoin – author of the award-winning historical romance A Reluctant Melody

Sandra Hart, author of the acclaimed A Stranger on My Land and A Rebel in My House has done it again with her third and best novel to date, A Musket in My Hands. In this brilliant historical fiction, Sandra has sat against the backdrop of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Tennessee Campaign a study of the little known but genuine phenomenon of women masquerading as men to serve and fight in the opposing armies of the Civil War. An excellent and well-researched read, this is one of the first books I’ve read to put a touchingly human face on the horrendously bloody Battle of Franklin.

Kevin Spencer – Historian—ON THIS DAY in North Carolina History

What would make two sisters escape the only home they’ve ever known to join the Confederate Army disguised as men? Prompted by both love and fear, Callie and Louisa are caught up in the War Between the States in a way they never imagined. It soon becomes a nightmare they couldn’t possibly foresee.

In A Musket in My Hands, author Sandra Merville Hart has penned a thrilling, well-researched novel set in the latter months of the Civil War. Her characters are believable, likeable, and, at times, frustrating in their decisions. But readers will find themselves rooting for the protagonists and anxiously awaiting resolution, not just on the battlefield, but in the battleground of their souls.

Inspiring and exciting, this novel will capture your heart as well as speed up your heartbeat. A historical romance well worth the read!

Elaine Marie Cooper – Author of Saratoga Letters

A Musket in My Hands shines with Sandra Hart’s talent for historical romance. Vivid historical details highlight the romance and adventure, excitement and heartache of those desperate to survive the Civil War, while an endearing collage of characters evaluates their own allegiances to God, country, and their fellow man.

Carrie Del Pizzo – Del Pizzo’s Pen Editing


A Safe Place for Christmas by Lisa Carter

by Sandra Merville Hart

This contemporary romance novel is set during the holidays. At this time of year, I love reading Christmas novels. This one snagged my attention right away.

Shayla Coggins races for the safety of the Tennessee border on the back roads of North Carolina with her baby. His father, just released from prison, is after them. She can’t risky her son falling into his cruel hands.

Luke Morgan rescues Shayla her baby after her car breaks down. Bad weather has closed the roads so they will stay with his family through the Thanksgiving holidays, even though it’s the busiest time of year on his tree farm. Though immediately attracted to Shayla, the bachelor is shy with women. Besides he has other concerns…like losing his farm.

Shayla and baby Jeremiah blossom under the kindness of Luke’s mother and sisters, and she falls in love with hard-working man. But dreams aren’t for her. Hasn’t her rough childhood taught her that?

The characters in this contemporary romance tugged at my heart. There are many layers and many characters in this novel. The romance made this a page turner for me.



Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

by Sandra Merville Hart

A Newbery Honor Book

Jethro Creighton is nine when the War Between the States begins. As the youngest, he listens as his older brothers plan to join the fighting. They’re excitement is contagious, yet the older folks are concerned.

Folks who live in Illinois where Jethro’s family farms for a living are for the Union. All except one brother supports the Union. Jethro is closest to Bill, his quiet brother. Though Bill can’t abide slavery, he doesn’t feel right about telling the Southerners how to live. It divides the family.

There is tragedy, danger, and hardship for the young boy to overcome in this compelling story.

I couldn’t put the book down. The struggles of the characters tugged at my heart. I understand why this well-written story of how one family endured the heartaches of a war that seemed never-ending won the Newbery Honor Award.  

I loved the history of this book. It gives an overview of the Civil War from April of 1861 to April of 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

An overview of the main events of the war is woven into the story through the eyes of a young boy who must grow up too soon.

As an author of historical novels set in American history, I enjoyed learning details of everyday farm life in the 1860s.

Recommend for children 9 to 14. Also recommended for lovers of American history and those who enjoy novels set during the Civil War.


A Humble Thanksgiving Meal for the Ingalls

by Sandra Merville Hart

I recently read On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family moved to Minnesota when she was seven and first stayed in a sod house built into the creek bank. The details of everyday life in the 1870s fascinated me.

The Ingalls family was very poor. They had moved into the sod house too late to plant crops so finances were tight. The author described the family’s Thanksgiving meal.

Cooking was challenging because there wasn’t a fireplace in the sod home. Their small stove didn’t have an oven.

Her pa had shot a wild goose for their supper that her ma cooked into a stew. She also made dumplings that were cooked in the gravy.

The family ate mashed potatoes and corn dodgers (hearty cornmeal bread similar to corn muffins) served with butter and stewed dried plums. Milk was their beverage.

What grabbed my attention is what they did to remember the humble meal of the Pilgrims before the Native Americans helped them.

Three grains of parched corns sat beside each tin plate, a tradition that reminded them that’s all the Pilgrims had to eat on the long-ago day. How their new neighbors changed the course of their lives that day! There was much to be grateful for.

Laura considered the corn a treat as she thought of the Pilgrims. It was crunchy and brown. The sweet taste crackled on her tongue as she ate it.

I love learning about long-forgotten holiday traditions. Some of them find a home in my historical novels. 😊


Wilder, Laura Ingalls. On the Banks of Plum Creek, HarperTrophy, 1971.