Thursday, December 12, 2013

Social Graces - Invitations to Holiday Parties

Southern Style

These days, people often respond to a party invitation with "Great! What can I bring?"

While it may be a lovely mid-western custom to bring a dish when invited somewhere, here in the south, it's annoying.

We southerners pride ourselves in gracious hospitality.  We go to great lengths to plan the perfect party. 

If you bring a dish, albeit splendid, our lovely southern manners obligate us to graciously thank you and put it out for the guests..... even though you've spoiled our so carefully made plans.   This may seem trivial to non southerners but to us it's a big deal!

This is entirely different from a pot luck or covered dish supper which the host or hostess will tell you about up front when extending the invitation.

But what you must always bring (and without asking, I feel the need to add) is a "hostess"gift.

Good manners here in the south dictate that you MUST bring your host or hostess a modest, tasteful gift in appreciation for the invitation. Any time. Every time. 

A bottle of wine. Some nice flowers.  A box of candy.  A loaf of tea bread, plate of holiday cookies, a jar of fancy jam.  An extravagant bar of hand made soap.  If you've made it yourself or if it's from your garden, so much the better. 

The price or size of the "hostess" gift is not important.  What is important is good taste and thoughtfulness.

Conversely,  when you invite a southerner, he or she won't ask if they can bring a dish. They'll know it's their time to be the guest and your time to shine.

Here in the south, simply say "thank you" when you receive an invitation.  And never ask, "What can I bring?"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gluten Free - Rice Flour Cranberry Walnut Muffin Cake

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Here's another gluten free recipe that guests at our Bed & breakfast frequently ask for.
They like it because it tastes good.

As I've said before, gluten free eating is NOT about giving up something and using a lesser quality substitute.  It's about making different choices from a whole world of yummy things to eat.  

Some foods contain have gluten.  Some don't.
When you learn which do and which don't, you can make easily make the best choices for you.

By the way, you can serve gluten free foods to those who eat gluten with out even mentioning that it's gluten free.  
All anyone really cares about is how food tastes anyway. 

Gluten Free - Rice Flour Cranberry Walnut Muffin Cake

Makes 1 (6 inch) cake 
Serves 6 to 8
Uses a 6 inch spring form pan lined with baking parchment


1/2 cup rice flour (or Gluten Free Baking Mix like Bisquick)
1/4 c sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole fresh cranberries
1 small fresh apple (Cored and cut into random 3/8 inch chunks - peeling is optional)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 egg
1 T orange juice
2 T vegetable oil

Assemble the spring form pan and mist with baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of baking parchment.  Lightly mist the parchment (in the pan) with baking spray. Set aside.

Position oven rack so cake will bake in center.  Preheat to 350 degrees. 

In a small bowl, mix together flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add cranberries, apple chunks and walnuts. Toss to coat with flour mixture. Stir in egg, juice and oil.  Pour into pan and smooth out batter.

Bake in preheated oven until cake is set, very lightly browned on top and pull away a little from the sides of the pan - about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes of cooling, cut around the cake with a knife to release it from the pan. Open the latch and remove pan sides.  Invert onto a tray or flat dish.  Remove the parchment paper.  Immediately re-invert cake onto serving dish.  Cool or serve warm.   

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gluten Free - Rice Flour Cinnamon Coffee Cake

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Some people, for health reasons, need to eliminate gluten from their diets.
Other people, for any number of reasons, choose to decrease the amount of gluten they eat.

What ever you reason for being concerned about gluten, think of the food you eat simply as choices you make rather than as things you can't have.

There is a whole, great big, wonderful world of yummy things to eat.... many of which, it just so happens, contain no gluten at all.

Rice flour is a perfect example.
It's a lovely flour and, like the rice kernel, doesn't contain any gluten.

Rice Flour Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Makes 1 (6 inch) cake
Uses a 6 inch spring form pan

1/2 cup rice flour  (See Karla's Tips #1 below.)
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
3 tablespoons butter (softened - margarine, oil or butter substitutes not recommended)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup rice flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk (approximately)

Drizzle Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
Enough water to make a runny icing - about 1 1/2 teaspoons

Position oven rack so cake will bake in center.  Preheat to 350 degrees.
Assemble spring form pan.  Coat sides and bottom with baking spray.
Set aside.

Prepare streusel. 
Place everything into a small bowl and work with your fingers until it's just crumbly.  Do not over mix or it will come together into a solid ball.  Set aside.

Mix flour, sugar and baking powder together in a medium bowl.  Stir in oil, egg and 1/3 cup milk.  Add a bit more milk, if necessary, to make a batter. (See Karla's Tips #2 below.)

Pour about 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle prepared streusel over top.  Plop the remaining batter here and there.  It will not cover the top of the streusel completely.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan a little bit - about 35 minutes. Cake will not brown much.

Immediately after removing the cake from the oven,  run a knife between the cake and the pan to release the cake. Place cake (still in the pan) onto a cooling rack to cool completely - about 30 minutes.

Remove from pan by opening the latch and lifting away the ring.  Leave cake on pan bottom or slide the cake off and onto a plate for serving.

Drizzle Icing
Mix water into powdered sugar.  Add a bit more water if too thick to run in a stream off a spoon.  Alternately, add a bit more powdered sugar if too runny.

Using a coffee spoon, drizzle icing randomly over the cake just before serving.

Karla's Tips
1.  Always check the ingredients on the labels.  For example, Gluten Free Bisquick is not the same as regular Bisquick.  Regular Bisquick is wheat flour, shortening, salt and baking power.... plus preservatives, of course.  Gluten Free Bisquick is simply rice flour with some added vitamins.  There is no shortening or baking powder.  You can use Gluten Free Bisquick in this recipe.  

Always measure the flour by spooning it into the cup and leveling it off with a knife.  Do not shake cup to measure the flour.  You'll get too much.

2. Depending on the type and brand of rice flour you use, you may have to add a bit more milk.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipes - Roasted Acorn Squash with Orange Rice Stuffing

 From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Here's a nifty little recipe that we're asked for all the time. 
It's yummy, easy and very forgiving.

Great for fall and winter dining!
Perfect for Thanksgiving!

BTW, unblemished acorn squash from your garden or farmers' market
(even grocery store squash)
will last for months in a cool spot like a mud room or unheated basement. 
 No need to wash, can or freeze.  
Just put into a box, milk crate or laundry basket.
So stock up when they're in season and cheap.
You can enjoy them all winter long!!  


Roasted Acorn Squash with Orange Rice Stuffing

Serves 6

3 acorn squash (each about 3 inches in diameter - see Karla's Tips #1 below)
3 cups cooked rice (any kind - we like jasmine rice)
1/4 cup sweet orange marmalade (see Karla's Tips #2 below)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter (margarine or oil not recommended)
1/3 cup sliced, natural almonds (the kind with the brown skins - see Karla's Tips # 3 below)
Parsley for garnish - about 4 springs to yield about 2 tablespoons, snipped or chopped
3 tablespoons honey (more or less to taste)
3/4 cup (approximately) thin vegetable or chicken gravy
Parsley for garnish

Position oven rack to center oven.  Preheat to 375 degrees. (See Karla's Tip #4 below)

Wash squash well.  Remove any labels.

Using a heavy knife, carefully cut each squash in half from the stem end to the (pointed) blossom end.  Remove seeds and any fibrous material.  Discard.  Rinse squash again.  Drain.

Cover a baking sheet with foil. (See Karla's Tips #5.) Spritz with cooking spray. 

Place squash, cut side down, on prepared pan.  Roast till soft - about 45 minutes depending on the size and freshness of the squash. (I like a bit of brown on the cut sides)

While squash is roasting:
Cook rice. (Using leftover rice is OK).  Stir orange marmalade into hot rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a small frying pan.  Add almonds. Cook over low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until very light brown.  Do not over cook.  When done, immediately stop the cooking by pouring the almonds and the butter out of pan and into a bowl.  Set aside.

Finely snip (using scissors works great) or chop parsley leaves for garnish.  Set aside.

To assemble squash: 
Heat gravy.

Put roasted squash, cut side up, onto serving dish.  Press down lightly so squash doesn't roll around on dish.  

Divide honey between the squash - drizzling into the cavities.

Fill cavities with orange rice.  

Pour hot gravy over rice - dividing evenly.  

Top with prepared almonds.  

Keep warm until serving time. (See Karla's Tips # 6)  

Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Karla's Tips
1.  The most important part of this recipe is choosing the squash.  It should be dark green with only a little (if any) yellow or orange.  Yellow or orange (on a green acorn squash) means that the squash is starting to over-ripen.  There is a variety of orange acorn squash but I don't find them as good tasting as the dark green kind. 

The squash can be any size but it must be heavy for its size.  A "heavy for its size" squash means it weighs more than you thought it would.  It will be fresh and full of moisture.  

A squash that's light for it's size is old (even if the skin looks OK) and the natural moisture has started to evaporate. It will taste bitter and be dry.

2.  "Sweet Orange Marmalade" is different from plain "Orange Marmalade".   Both kinds of marmalade have the same amount of sugar.
Sweet Orange Marmalade is made without the white pith of the orange so it is not bitter.  
Plain Orange Marmalade is made with the pith.  It is bitter. 

3.  "Natural almonds" have the brown skin left on which makes for a nicer look.  
You can use "blanched almonds" if you prefer or happen to have them on hand.  Blanched means the brown skin has been removed. 

4.  The exact temperature of the oven doesn't matter.  You can roast the squash along with anything else you're roasting - adjusting the roasting time according to the temperature of the oven.  

Oven temperatures lower than the suggested 375 degrees will require longer roasting.  

Higher oven temperatures require less roasting time.  

Also, the size of the squash will determine the exact roasting time.

Avoid roasting the squash when baking a cake or bread - unless the cake or bread will be done way before the squash.  You can open the oven door on the squash but not on a baking cake.

5.  A pan with sides no higher than 1 inch works best.  The sides keep the squash from sliding off the pan when you put them into the oven or take them out.  But any pan will work.....even a cookie sheet - just be careful.  

Pans with sides higher than 1 inch will require longer roasting.

6.  Squash can be prepared up to an hour before serving. Simply cover pan/or heat safe serving dish of rice stuffed squash with foil and place in the oven (200-250 degrees).  Spritz foil with cooking spray to prevent rice from sticking.  You can also refrigerate stuffed squash and microwave (uncovered) to heat just before serving. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Do It Yourself - "Back to Basics" - Farm Stay Week for Family and Friends - Dog friendly, too!

Ponies in the field in front of the barn

Looking for a low cost, family and friends adventure?
Need a place to gather your group?

How about a farm stay in the Virginia country side!
And you can bring the dog!

Cheesecake Farms is a real farm off the beaten path but close to everywhere you want to be.

Located just outside the tiny village of Sumerduck.
Near the Chester Phelps 4500 acre wild life management area.
  • 20 miles from Fredericksburg, Culpeper or Warrenton.
  • 50 miles from Washington, D.C. or Richmond, VA.
  • 12 miles from Interstate 95. 
  • 12 miles from fast food, Mexican or Chinese restaurants and take out.
  • 25 miles from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Outback Steak House.
  • 20 miles from fine dining.
  • 12 miles from grocery shopping.
  • 3 to 5 miles to gasoline, small country grocery stores, pizza and local sandwich shops.

There's lot's to do….. or, if you prefer, do nothing at all.

Hike.  Visit historical sites.  Golf.  Fish.  Paint.  Write.  Take photos.  Bird watch.  Quilt, craft and scrap book.  Picnic.  Shop for antiques. 

Host a retreat or team building week.  Do yoga.  Gather your group for bible study, meditation, reunions, and girl friend get-aways.  Stroll out into the fresh air for a nature walk or star gazing.

Explore quaint towns.  Visit wineries, breweries and distilleries.  Take a ride on a vintage air plane.  Tailgate at a polo match.   Pan for gold.  Tour gardens and historical homes.  Bike.  Read a book. 

Pick a pumpkin at a pumpkin patch and meander thru a corn maize.  Shop farmers' markets for local fruits and veggies, fresh eggs, jams, jellies and pies. 

Take in a stage show at a near by dinner theater.    Enjoy vintage movies at Pony Hill, the Library of Congress Movie Archives. Create a classical music camp and bring your students.

Or...... just relax on the porch. 

Get up at your leisure… Come and go as you please.

Dogs welcome.

Here's how it works:
Rent the Tack Room Suite (Up to 6 people) 
Or the Hay Loft Suite (Up to 4 people) 
Or both (Up to 10 people).

6 days/5 nights
Tuesday till Sunday.
Year round.

Check In - Tuesdays between 3 PM and 6 PM
Check Out - Sunday Noon

Want to stay 2 weeks or longer?
Get Monday of the 2nd (and subsequent weeks) free!

Dogs additional.

No TV, radio or WIFI.
Yes, your cell phones will work and you can bring your own DVD's and player.

Sheets, towels, soap, dishes/glasses/cutlery, dish detergent, and toilet paper provided.

Do it yourself meals.

Relaxed house keeping.

"The Barn"
Downstairs - The Tack Room Suite
Upstairs - The Hay Loft Suite

Book one or both according to your needs

Cozy front porch of the Tack Room Suite
Stairs (on left) to the Hay Loft Suite Deck and Entrance

The Tack Room Suite at the Barn
Ground floor 
Master Bedroom
Sleeps up to 6

2 bedrooms/2 baths/Large sitting - dining area

Not barrier free but easier access.
Private entrance.
Child friendly.
Dogs welcome.

Master bed room - 1 queen size bed with select number mattress

Second bed room - 2 twin beds with select number mattresses

Plus 2 twin day beds in sitting area with traditional mattresses
2nd bedroom

2 baths - each with a shower, sink and toilet

Large kitchenette/wet bar area with double sink, microwave, coffee pot and full size refrigerator.

Dining area with table and chairs.
Dishes, cups, glasses and cutlery provided.

Adjustable heat and air conditioning.
Ceiling fans.
Large front porch.
Games, magazines & books.

2 twin day beds in the sitting area
6 days/5 nights - $950 + tax for the suite 
($31.67 per person + tax per night based on occupancy of 6.)

Arrive Tuesday - Leave Sunday

Less than 6 in your party?
For this special deal, you can still book the Tack Room Suite but the price is not reduced.

Dogs additional:  $55 per dog/per 6 days/5 nights stay plus tax.
Maximum 2 dogs per suite.
Your canine companion stays right in your suite with you. *

* There is a small, fenced dog run area for exercise.  
Local ordinances require that all dogs must be on a leash at all times, except in the dog run, when outside of your suite.

2 "Hunt Country Red" baths

Large wet bar area
complete with


The bedroom
The Hay Loft Suite at the Barn
2nd floor with specially designed, easy to climb stairs
Sleeps up to 4

1 bedroom/1 bath/large sitting area

Private entrance.
Child friendly.
Dogs welcome.

2 twin day beds in Hay Loft sitting area
Bed room - 1 queen bed with select number mattress

Plus 2 twin day beds in sitting area with traditional mattresses

1 large bath with shower, sink, and toilet

Kitchenette/wet bar with small sink, microwave, coffee pot and mini refrigerator.

Large family farm table with benches.

Adjustable heat and air conditioning.
Ceiling fans.

Large deck over looking the horse paddock.

Games, magazines & books.

Large "Hunt Country Red" Bath
6 days/5 nights - $650 + tax for the suite
Arrive Tuesday - Leave Sunday

($32.50 per person + tax per night based on occupancy of 4.)

Less than 4 in your party?
For this special deal, you can still book the Hay Loft Suite but the price is not reduced. 

Dogs additional:  $55 per dog/per 6 days/5 nights plus tax.  
Maximum 2 dogs per suite.
Your canine companion stays right in your suite with you. *

* There is a small, fenced dog run area for exercise.  
Local ordinances require that all dogs must be on a leash, except for the dog run area, when outside of your suite.

Want to stay 2 weeks or longer?
Get Monday of the 2nd (and subsequent weeks) free! 


Need accommodations for 10?
Book both the Hay Loft and Tack Room Suites.

6 days/5 nights - $1600 + tax for the suite
Arrive Tuesday - Leave Sunday


Ready to book??

Email us at  CheesecakeFarms
or call: 540-439-2188
Mastercard/Visa/AmEx accepted

Or visit our web site:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Easter Kitchen - Creamy, Virginia Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Eggs

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Wow Them with Your Home Made Candy!

Every Easter we're asked for this recipe.

Old fashioned peanut butter crème hiding inside rich white, dark or traditional chocolate - it's the taste you crave every spring.

It's easier than you think so hop to it and be quick like a bunny!
You can't buy good taste like this!!

Hand Made, Home Made 
Creamy Virginia Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Eggs

Use semi sweet, milk or white chocolate confectionery coating for the shell

Makes 1 large egg
(measuring 5 1/2 X 3 3/4 inches with a volume of 1 1/4 cups)

Creamy Virginia Peanut Butter Filling

8 oz. powdered sugar (sifted)
2 sticks butter (softened - margarine not recommended)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon white vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter (regular commercial type - not fresh ground or natural style)
1 teaspoon salt


Combine using a heavy duty mixer on low then beat on high 4 minutes.  Set a timer so you beat a full 4 minutes.  It's longer than you think so set the timer.   Do not under beat.

Cover bowl  (so it doesn't dry out) and set aside while making shell.

Chocolate Shell

1 1/4 cups confectionery coating (also called candy melts - discs or bars - semi sweet, milk or white - divided -  chocolate chips that are used for cookies not recommended)


Put 3/4 of the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.  Heat on high till almost melted - about one minute.

Remove from microwave. Chocolate may not look melted but will be soft.  Do not over heat.  Stir till smooth.

Immediately pour chocolate all at once into the mold. Spread evenly (The back of a coffee spoon works well.)

If the chocolate slides down the sides of the mold, briefly refrigerate the chocolate in the mold (30 seconds to 1 minute) and re-spread.

Wipe away any chocolate that extends beyond the top of the rim so the finished egg will look neat. 

Put into freezer and chill till firm - about 5 minutes.

Filling The Shell
When chocolate is set, spoon in the filling to 3/8 inch from top.

Melt remaining chocolate as before and pour it all at once onto filled shell, spreading quickly to cover. Make sure the chocolate seals the edges.

Return to freezer to set completely the chocolate - 3 to 5 minutes. 

Invert chilled egg onto a flat surface and pop out of mold.

Karla's Tips
Be sure to sift the powdered sugar.  The filling will not be as creamy as it should be if you don't sift.  Throw away any hard bits that remain in the sifter after all the sugar has passed through.

Heat white or colored chocolate for less time than you think.  Over heating makes them thicken, get grainy and burn.  Think roasting marshmallows over a camp fire.

If you made a mess with the chocolate shell before filling it (or it cracked or broke) just re-melt the chocolate and begin again.

If the shell cracked or broke after filling, continue with the recipe then melt some additional chocolate and patch or cover the crack with some decorative drizzling or other decoration.

Having trouble getting the finished egg out of the mold?  
The chocolate is not cold enough and hasn't completely set.  
When the chocolate is cold enough, it will (I promise!) pop out of the mold effort-less-ly.  
Never grease a chocolate mold or coat it with cooking spray.  It's the cold that does the trick.  (Chocolate chips, BTW, will stick to the mold every time.  They are specially formulated for cookies - not for molding chocolates.)  

This candy has no preservatives. It's not highly perishable but to make ahead and keep it fresh till Easter, let finished egg sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours to completely cool then wrap well and store in the freezer.  The refrigerator can be OK, if the egg is well wrapped and storage is short term, but chocolate generally builds up moisture in the refrigerator so the freezer is a better place for storage.

This same technique can be used to make any size egg.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How To Get a Good Night's Sleep

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

A good night's sleep is vital to good health and well being but, if you've been plagues by restless nights, here's some tips to help you rack up the ZZZZZZZ's.

1.  Ditch those polyester sheets
Pillow cases, blankets and pajamas, too.
Natural fibers and rayon distribute body heat making you more comfortable.
Choose natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, flax, bamboo and hemp.
Rayon, the first synthetic fiber, works well too because it's made from cellulose (wood pulp).

2.  Steer clear of caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant and will keep you awake.  You know that but caffeine can hide out in the most unusual places.

Many sodas - not just colas - contain caffeine.
Chocolate contains caffeine so hot chocolate before bed can actually be keeping you awake.
Also, many medications - both over the counter and prescription - contain whopping amounts of caffeine.

The only way you can know what contains caffeine is to check the labels.
Caffeine, btw, is classed as a drug.

And while you're at it...steer clear of stimulating TV, movies and paper work.... like doing your taxes.
Choose tranquil evening pursuits.

3. Go easy on the alcohol
One alcoholic drink may help you relax and sleep better but several will keep you awake.

4.  Carbs  make you drowsy
A high carb dinner - think pasta - will rock you to sleep faster than a juicy steak.
And you just can't beat cookies (not chocolate) and milk before bed!

5.  Breathe deeply to relax
Take a cue from yoga.  After you get into bed, inhale deeply to a slow count of 5.  Hold it to a slow count of 5 then exhale to a slow count of 5.  Repeat 5 times. (See a pattern here?)  The extra oxygen you're getting will help the woes of the day subside. (OK, they won't go away but you'll get relaxed enough to fall asleep.)

6.  Keep warm
Warm milk, warm  bath, warm cozy blanket...even a warm puppy or kittie in the bed will help you relax.

7.  Exercise
(There's that word again!!!)
A good bit of exercise during the day helps you sleep better at night.  Anything and everything works so choose you favorite.... gardening, walking the dog a few minutes longer, dancing, strolling the mall ...even jogging.  Just not before bed time.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Food for Thought - The Gift of Sleep

By Karla Jones Seidita
Home Economist

It's winter right now.  It's chilly and dark outside. Work?  Forget that!  All I want to do is curl up and take a nap.

But, instead of fighting the season, how much better it would be to embrace winter's gift and slow down - maybe even take that nap.

Winter gives us the gift of sleep.  The gardens are asleep, waiting for spring.  The cats and dogs nap more.  Even the horses in the fields have slowed their pace.

Ah, sleep.  Delicious sleep.  Snuggling down and snoozing off.

Why not take a cue from Mother Nature and go with the flow?

Winter's gift of sleep helps us slow down, rest and become refreshed.

So relax and keep warm this winter as you dream about the coming spring.

You'll be healthier when you work with nature instead of against her. Enjoy winter's gift of sleep.