Breakfast Tacos?

cover-lg2aThat’s right.  Breakfast tacos.  Also Huevos Rancheros Especial, enchiladas, Banana Dream Cake, and the Best Danged Buttermilk Pie you’ve ever tasted.  Also Chorizo, “THAT” BLT (sort of a BLT on steroids), and the mythical Double Trouble Dog, so dangerous it’s shortened to DTD.

What does this have to do with cookbooks?  These are just a few of the recipes in The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, a companion book to my Traces of Treasure novel series.

I first wrote about “The Mossback Cafe” in my novel, The Fever.  It’s a small cafe in the crossroads ranching town of Van Horn TX.  Van Horn is real.  The Mossback is not.

“Mossback” has a lot of meanings, including an old Elk or Moose, or an old “lunker” fish, or an ancient tortoise or turtle.  But there’s another “old-west” meaning … an old wild (and wily) Texas longhorn.  Hence the longhorn on the cover.  In the novel, owner Smidgeon Toll serves up good food with friendly banter.  It keeps her place popular with both locals and people passing through.  Although it was an invention, I fell in love with the place I created and based most of the sequel, A Curse That Bites Deep, in and around The Mossback.  The third book in the series will be based there too.

The cookbook is crafted to read as though owner Smidgeon Toll has put it together as a promotional piece for the cafe, and I’ve added a little more biographical info on her and her family and the restaurant.  Her homespun humor is a lot of fun and she gives insight into some of the workings of the cafe with the sections divided into practical restaurant divisions.  “Basics” starts off with items such as biscuits and chili and a few other things that are used as components in other recipes.  There are popular and unique “On The Side” dishes, recipes for dishes served up as specials are in “Y’all Wanted Something Special?”, a few of the standards are in “Standard Bearers”, a small helping of wonderful desserts are in “Just Desserts”, and it ends up with a couple of recipes for items she calls “Weekenders.”  Not to be outdone, be sure to read the afterword … there are a couple of more surprises there.

A lot of the recipes serve double duty (some even more) and she even gives some insight into innovations they use.  For instance, she mentions that the sauce for their version of Arroz con Pollo (a Mexican chicken and rice) can, with a few minor alterations, also serve as a base for Chicken Cacciatore.

In short, if The Mossback Cafe actually existed, these are a few of the offerings that might have made it famous. In reality, they are some of my favorite recipes.  So, here you go, your Crazy Cookbook Guy created his own cookbook.  How about that.

What I was going for was the “look” of a small self-produced cookbook of a type that a small-town cafe might make for themselves in the mid-1980s.  I think I hit the nail on the head.  Even better:  IT’S FREE.  Well, it’s a free ebook anyway.  It’s also a lot of fun.

The ebook is available in formats compatible with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPad and most other e-readers. There is also a PDF version, in case you just want to browse it at work. I won’t tell.
The link below will take you to Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of ebooks.  They have help files if you need a hand, but generally, if you can browse there in your reader you should be able to download the ebook right into your reader or tablet.
In short, epub works with Nook-iBooks-Kobo, and mobi works with Kindle.

For your free download >>> — >> click here

I am hoping this little cookbook will get hungry readers interested in the books that inspired it.  So feel free to browse for my books too… they’re on Smashwords as well as on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.  No paperback of the cookbook yet, but there are paperbacks of the novel.  There are links for everything are on my website, click my name below. Enjoy!

Thomas Fenske, writer and cookbook collector currently lives in central North Carolina.


Huevos Rancheros Especial

 I came up with the idea for this dish in my novel, The Fever.  It was a gooey, cheesy, combination of enchiladas and eggs.

My friend, Hilah, over at the Hilah Cooking YouTube channel, decided to do me one better by not only making it, but improving it.

Check out her video:

Then … go buy my book to find out what it’s all about.

There are nineteen good reviews over at amazon, and, hey, I’ve only got three sisters and almost no, friends so somebody’s got to like it, right?


The countdown has started.  For a lot of us, Thursday looms far too near.  Time to clean the house, dust off the special family recipes, and get the shopping done.

We have a fairly set menu in our house.  We use mostly old family recipes, things we’ve made for years.

When we first moved to North Carolina from Texas, a friend gave us this book, More Tastes and Tales From Texas.


I see it as a collection of food favorites from the old country.  For our first Thanksgiving here I grabbed this book and was looking for something new to add to the repertoire … something easy and something good and something Texas.  What I found was Texas Corn Casserole.  It is a holiday mainstay now.  We’ve served this every year since then, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year marks 26 years.  That’s a tradition, right?

It is also a great thing to bring along for a pot-luck.  It’s cheap, easy, and crowd-pleasing.

Texas Corn Casserole

1 can corn
1 can cream style corn
8oz sour cream
1/2 cup melted butter/margarine
1 pkg Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

Combine all ingredients just until well-blended and place into greased 2 qt casserole.  Bake at 300 for 1 hour 40 minutes.

I should note that the original recipe calls for 17oz cans and most modern cans are almost 3 oz less than that, so I usually add a small can of Mexicorn.  I think it adds a little color and  “Texas” flavor.  I also sometimes add a tablespoon or so of grated onion.  The only problem I have with this dish is the fact that it cooks for longer and at a lower temperature than most of the other “oven” dishes I make, so I sometimes make it ahead of time.


That Crazy Cookbook Guy has issued an OZONA ALERT!


Yesterday was a rainy day in NC so that meant no yard work.  I didn’t feel much like housework either so I figured it was time to hit a couple of thrift stores!   There’s a new thrift store in town that, for me, has had a bit of a slow start but I didn’t care when I saw this cookbook, Diamonds In The Desert  published by the Ozona Women’s League of Ozona, Texas.  I’m so used to the quarter sales at the other bookstore I almost fainted when I had to pay three times that.  No, not really.  Seventy-five cents is still a heck of a deal.
I could tell it wasn’t particularly old, but there was another reason I picked this cookbook up.  First, I saw the magic word “Texas” and I’ve made it plain that Texas cookbooks are almost a must-buy for me, but then I saw where in Texas and, well,  it struck a nerve when my eyes saw the word OZONA.
If one were blindfolded and taken on a long trip involving a lot of twists and turns, then they found themselves dropped off near Ozona, they would take off their blindfold and assume, “I must be in Texas.”  Don’t get me wrong, Texas has a vast array of different regions, but the area around Ozona is probably the most stereotypical picture most non-Texans have of the state.  When making that long east-west drive down Interstate 10, the big five landmark towns you pass are Junction, Sonora, Ozona, Fort Stockton, and Van Horn.  If  you’re going to get gas or a quick bite to eat between El Paso and San Antonio, those are your big five.  If you break down, you’re going to be towed to one of those too.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved the name Ozona. For me I think it is because after driving for hours and hours I feel like I am starting to “space out in the ozone” or something and when I see that sign I think, “hey, I made it!”  There is an old saying, “The sun has ‘riz, the sun has set, and here we is, in Texas, yet” …  and that is really the truth.  Driving on Interstate 10 is so boring, one looks forward to seeing these familiar exit signs because they indicate that, yes, progress is actually being made.
The town itself is a little ranching town of fewer than four thousand people,   I’ve stopped a couple of times, mostly for food or gas or both.  There isn’t much else of interest to the traveling public. Life there centers around business and that business is ranching.  (if you are from Ozona and beg to differ, I’ll say now I haven’t made the drive in 30 years).
Not long ago I published a novel called The Fever about a guy searching for a lost gold mine in West Texas … he travels that same highway and every one of those towns is mentioned because a significant portion of the story involves that long drive.  Ozona is referenced a number of times because, well, like I said, I like the name.
Anyway, let’s get back to the cookbook.  It was published in 1987, but this is a 1989 reprint.  Both print runs were 5000 copies.  Remember, this town has less than 4000 people … and they reprinted after a 5000 print run?  Amazing.
What is more amazing is the fact that an organization with 52 members (stated in the introduction) put together a really nice hard-bound cookbook of 350 pages. Granted, there is not much else to do in Ozona, but still.  That’s not the cookbook committee.  That’s the total membership.
imageAnd where else are you going to find recipes for things like “Goat Fries?”  Hey, ranches raise goats and sheep as well as cattle and most of the males have to be, well, uh, er, um, you know.  It’s a long way to the store … can’t waste anything, I guess. If you’re squeamish about such things I suggest you skip reading the recipe in any detail.  Rest assured, this is just a part of ranch life … that’s what you get when you read a cookbook from ranching country.
The book is quite comprehensive, a bit like a Junior League cookbook.  I’m wondering if one or two members had a little JL experience prior to moving to Ozona.
image There are quite a few interesting recipes and they’ve managed a good variety as well, and through it all they never forgot they are in the Southwest, in cowboy country.  For instance, here’s a recipe for “John Wayne Quiche.”  1987 was firmly in the “real men don’t eat quiche” days and Ozona is he-man rancher country so this was a gutsy inclusion … but a quiche with green chilies?  Sounds awesome.
imageThis meatloaf hero reminds me of something we made when I was in the Girl Scouts (yes, I was in the GS — a camp leader when my daughter was a Brownie) — and seems an ideal and innovative sort of dish to make when out camping (or at home!).
Diamonds In the Desert is a delight.
I can’t wait to stop in Ozona for gas again someday.
Oh, and if you’re interested in my novel, The Fever, it is available for kindle at Amazon, and for nook at Barnes and Noble.  Amazon also has a print-on-demand paperback version.  Just search for Thomas Fenske.
You can click the title above to get to the novel’s web page for more information, or you can copy/paste from here:
Hey, buying it helps me keep this blog going.  .