Cabbage and Beet Soup

I recently ran across The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in an antique store. This book was originally published in 1896.

Stock, water enriched by the food cooked in it, is an important ingredient in numerous soups. Homemade stock brings full-bodied flavor to recipes. The recipe for the beef stock used in this recipe is found  here.

To make this soup, peel and dice 2 cups of raw beets. The beet juice briefly stained my hands, my counter, and my cutting board, but it washed off easily with dishwashing liquid.

Chop 1 onion. Coarsely chop 2 cups of cabbage. Place all three ingredients in a pot with 4 cups of beef stock or 4 cups of beef bouillon. (I used two cups of each, which worked very well. You may also use beef broth in place of the beef stock.)

Bring this to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer the soup for about 30 minutes. Cook a little longer if the beets are not tender. Replace liquid that evaporates during cooking with additional water or beef stock.

Remove from the heat. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Salt to taste. (I added ½ teaspoon of salt and thought that was the perfect amount.)

When serving, you may add a teaspoon of sour cream to garnish. I tasted the soup with and without the sour cream. If there is no sour cream, another tablespoon of vinegar is needed. When I ate the soup with the sour cream, all the ingredients worked well together.

This is a delicious soup that I will make again.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.


Searight’s Tollhouse on the National Road

The National Road, a federal road, stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, into Ohio by 1831. The heavily trafficked road required maintenance that the federal government wanted to turn over to the states.

Pennsylvania adopted an act to build six toll gates along the National Road—also known as the Cumberland Road—in the Commonwealth.

Built in 1835, Searight’s Tollhouse is one of Pennsylvania’s two remaining toll houses on the National Road. It is five miles northwest of Uniontown.

William Searight was one of the wealthiest men in the area at the time. Searight’s Tavern stood at the junction of Searight’s Crossroads. He owned a general store, wagon shop, blacksmith shop, and a livery stable in addition to running the post office.

Political connections helped Searight to become the Commonwealth’s Commissioner of the Cumberland Road in 1842. Searight bore the responsibility for all operations and received $730 per year.

Pennsylvania’s other toll house still standing is the Petersburg Toll House. Located in Addison, it was the first toll gate after crossing into the Commonwealth. The toll keeper’s annual salary was $200 with free housing.

Toll rates in Pennsylvania were collected for all types of vehicles—chariots, stages, phaetons, chaises, coaches, coachees, carts, wagons, and carriages. Drovers of sheep paid a rate of 6 cents for every score (20).

Anyone who refused or neglected to pay their toll received a fine of $3.

Pennsylvania collected tolls to maintain the road from 1835 to 1905.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“National Road Sculpture Tour,” National Road PA, 2017/04/22

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

“Searight’s Tollhouse Historical Marker,”, 2017/04/22

“Searights Tollhouse, National Road,” Wikipedia, 2017/04/24,_National_Road.


The Gilded Curse by Marilyn Turk

9781938499111-jpgThe death of Lexie’s brother at Pearl Harbor is the last straw for her mother and she dies shortly after.

A telegram from a childhood friend, Russell Thompson, draws Lexie back to the Jekyll Island and the vacation home she, as the last surviving family member, can no longer afford. The home, Destiny, has fallen into disrepair and must be sold.

Lexie slips back into her friendship with her brother’s friend, Russell, but her property makes her feel uneasy—even fearful. Rumors say that Destiny is haunted, though unlocked doors and smashed furniture inside suggest someone living does the haunting.

Is she in danger?

I enjoyed this historical romance, especially learning about the fear Americans faced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas – Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!

Preparing Beef Stock

I recently ran across The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in an antique store. This book was originally published in 1896.

Fannie’s advised that making beef stock from bones without meat lacks flavor. Use marrow bones from the butcher if available. Request that these be cut into two-inch pieces.

My local butcher didn’t have any marrow bones on hand, so he cut another bone into three chunks about the size of my palm. They weighed less than two pounds—the recipe called for two and half pounds with an equal amount of lean stew beef. I took what they had and purchased two and half pounds of stew beef.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees to brown meat, bones, and vegetables. According to Fannie, browning all these ingredients before cooking adds flavor and color to the stock.

The recipe calls for 3 sliced onions. Having already made chicken stock, I knew that vegetables are discarded at the end as they are limp from the cooking process. I decided to save time and cut the onions in halves. Three celery stalks were cut in half. I set aside the onions, celery, and nine baby carrots.

Fannie suggested using a roasting pan to brown the meat and vegetables in the preheated oven. In hindsight, that would be quicker because everything will fit at once. I used a cast iron skillet where all the ingredients didn’t fit. It took three different browning sessions to cook everything.

Heat 2 tablespoons of shortening or oil in the roasting pan or skillet. Add the bones and stew beef. Stir and turn these frequently. Add the celery, carrots, and onions after 10 minutes. Stir the vegetables and watch so that they don’t scorch. When the meat is browned, remove everything from the oven.

Carefully transfer meat, vegetables, and bones to a stock pot or large kettle.

Add a cup of boiling water to the roasting pan and stir to get all the scrapings off the pan. Then add this to the stock pot.

Add 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, a bay leaf, 2 sprigs of parsley, and 6 crushed peppercorns to the pot. Add 4 quarts of cold water.

Cook on medium high heat until water begins to boil then reduce to simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 2 ½ hours. If you plan to use the stew beef in another recipe, remove it now and refrigerate for later use. I used a slotted spoon to take out the beef and scalded my hands a couple of times, so be careful.

Continue simmering for another 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours. The total simmering time is four to five hours.

Fannie suggests waiting to add salt until using the stock in a recipe. This allows for salty flavors of other ingredients.

Should you choose to season the stock itself, add salt to taste just before it is done.

Strain the stock and allow to cool, uncovered. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

I don’t generally use a lot of onion in my recipes. I will only use one onion the next time I make beef stock, but I wanted to try Fannie’s recipe her way.

This stock is very aromatic while cooking. I will let you know how I use the stock and the beef in a future recipe and I’d love to hear from you, too!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.





The La Vale Toll House on the National Road

Work on a National Road near the Potomac River in Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River in Wheeling, Virginia (later became part of the newly created state of West Virginia during the Civil War) in 1811. This section of road was completed in 1818 though the road continued into Ohio after that.

High traffic caused lots of wear and tear on the road, making it difficult to maintain. The federal government turned over the maintenance of the road to the states in the early 1830s. To cover the cost, the states built toll houses to collect tolls.

Maryland built its first toll house, the La Vale Toll House, about six miles from Cumberland around 1833. This toll house is the state’s only one still standing on the National Road (also called Cumberland Road.)

Tollkeepers collected tolls there until the early 1900s. Included in their $200 annual salary were free living quarters.

It’s fun to read the toll rates. For example, horse and riders paid 4 cents for ten miles or 14 cents for thirty-five miles. Travelers paid 8 cents for ten miles or 28 cents for thirty-five miles for every sleigh, sled, chaise, or Dearborn “drawn by one horse or pair of oxen.”

Dearborn wagons contained four wheels generally drawn by a single horse. The vehicle usually had one seat, with top curtains and sometimes side curtains. From 1819 to 1850, truck farmers and peddlers used the affordable Dearborn.

Gateposts are all that remain of a second Maryland toll house outside of Frostburg. This one was located thirteen miles from Cumberland. There’s a nice photo of the toll house on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum site.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Day, Reed B. The Cumberland Road: A History of the National Road, Closson Press, 1996.

Dearborn Wagon.” Dictionary of American History.. 23 Apr. 2017<>.

Edited by Raitz, Karl. A Guide to The National Road, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“First Toll Gate House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

“The La Vale Toll House,” The Historical Marker Database, 2017/04/22

“The National Road & Toll House near Frostburg, MD,” Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, 2017/04/22





Crazy about Cait by Nancy J. Farrier

Cait Sullivan loves training the horses on her father’s ranch and does not understand his decision to hire someone else Hall to do the with her—especially Jonas Hall, the man who broke her sister’s heart.

Jonas excels at his job. He loves horses as much as Cait.

The cavalry officer isn’t interested in the horses Cait trains, but will come soon to buy all the horses Jonas can train.

Cait realizes the sale of the horses to the cavalry is their only chance to save her family’s ranch.

The lovable, believable characters captured my heart as the story captured my interest. I enjoyed this historical romance.

This novella is part of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection published by Barbour.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Chicken Gumbo Soup Recipe

I prepared chicken stock using a recipe found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, giving me cooked chicken and chicken stock. I decided to make chicken gumbo soup.

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup okra, frozen or fresh

2 stalks of celery, sliced

½ cup carrots, bite-sized slices

1 can (about 16 ounces) diced tomatoes

½ cup uncooked rice, brown or white

2 cups cubed or shredded chicken



Fresh minced parsley (optional)

As Fannie warned, my chicken stock gelled in the refrigerator. Also, it had only made about 3 ½ cups of stock. I added enough water to make 4 cups into a large kettle. I warmed this over medium heat until in liquid form again.

Add okra, celery, carrots, and tomatoes to the warmed stock. Stir in the uncooked rice. Cover and cook on medium heat for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the soup from sticking.

Reduce heat to low. Add chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. (Since I had not salted my chicken stock, I used a teaspoon of salt—the perfect amount for me.) Cook on low for about ten minutes to heat the chicken.

Garnish with a little minced parsley, if desired.

This made a hearty soup that I found delicious. One bowl is plenty for a meal.  I think an extra cup of stock would have been perfect, so I will use 5 cups of stock next time.

I’d love to hear from you if you try these recipes. Enjoy!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.


Colonial Travel with Pack Horses

Magnificent forests lined the hillsides and valleys in Colonial America. Their beauty didn’t make them easier to navigate. Pioneers blazed trails to the west by foot and then by horseback.

Settlers heading westward during this time traveled before roads had been cut. Skinny paths left no room for wagons. They hauled their worldly possessions on pack horses.

By tying each horse to the tail of the one immediately in front, one driver led a line of pack horses. Drivers controlled up to a dozen horses in one line.

Each animal could carry up to two hundred pounds on primitive pack saddles. Pioneers created their own saddles using sturdy, forked limbs, trimmed to fit a particular load. Some frontiersmen made a living by selling their pack saddles in the back woods.

Once these courageous souls settled in Western Pennsylvania or the Ohio country, they made yearly trips back east to sell their produce and replenish supplies. Traveling in caravans, they took ginseng, rye, bear’s grease, snakeroot, and hides back east. They returned with such goods as gunpowder, salt, nails, and iron.

Early U.S. military operations utilized pack horse trains in traveling to confront Native Americans. Captain Robert Benham served as Conductor General of pack horses in the late 1700s, taking part in expeditions with Wayne, Harmar, St. Clair, and Wilkinson.

While at Fort Harmar (near present-day Marietta, Ohio) in June of 1787, Colonel Harmar wrote that the cheapest cost of hiring pack horses was fifty cents a day.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Fort Harmar,” Ohio History Central, 2017/04/22

Schneider, Norris F. The National Road: Main Street of America, The Ohio Historical Society, 1975.

Venable, W.H., LL. D. Westward by Hoof, Wheel, and Keel. Extracted from Footprints of the Pioneers in the Ohio Valley, originally published in 1888.


Rescue Me by Sandy Nadeau

Ronnie Spencer, a first responder, rescues firefighter Steve McNeal when his foot is pinned by a rock. She has avoided him since breaking up with him shortly after her father’s death.

Steve had been working with her father the day he died. Her dad, as an experienced firefighter, never would have died if Steve had ignored orders and rescued him.

Ronnie blames both God and Steve for not saving her father’s life. She refuses to date anyone who shares her dad’s profession. Who knew when they’d be killed?

Circumstances and tragedies in their city throw the couple together. Steve loves Ronnie. How can he help her overcome her bitterness?

This is a well-written contemporary romance that drew me in immediately.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Rescue Me by Sandy Nadeau