Last week was Part One of the fascinating story of Roxie Kelley, author of several cookbooks including “Keeping Good Company” I received for a birthday present from my sister Carol.
We left off at the point where Roxie and Shelly Reeves Smith, her illustrating partner, had published their first book, “Just a Matter of Thyme,” and sold nearly 30,000 copies!
They were unknown, unpublished and unprepared for the deluge of requests for “your next book.” Intuitively they requested and received favorite recipes from retailers who had been selling their stationery products through their company, “Among Friends.” The second book, “Heart and Soul,” sold fast, too! The retailers had a vested interest with the book.
However, Roxie and Shelly were feeling that both the stationery business success and its demands coupled with the publishing and distribution of the cookbook was more than they could handle. So they found Andrews McMeel Publishing in Kansas City to take over reprints. Part of the bargain was that the twosome would produce two more books!
Ever the entrepreneurs, Roxie and Shelly had an opportunity to sell the stationery business in 1999… and did so with contractual agreements that kept Shelly designing and Roxie helping the company buying the business start a book division. It was also in Roxie’s mind that she’d launch an expansion of the gift store that retailed the stationery.
Some 22 months later… the gestation of an elephant… Roxie birthed an expanded “Keeping Good Company” retail store in Osage Beach. The store now included furniture, lamps and other interior design items. Again, back to Roxie’s habit of keeping lists. When she was ready to expand the idea, she tapped into her list of interested people. So, her concept has been duplicated by licensed contract in two cities in Missouri and one in Vermont. If you look, there may be a “Keeping Good Company” in your neighborhood in the near future. Roxie laughingly suggests as people who visit say, “We want one like this back home.” I believe she probably puts their name on one of her lists.
How this all came to be is, from Roxie’s point of view, “a miraculous turn of events.”
“I’m not a trained cook, so I didn’t aspire to have a restaurant. I didn’t dream about a stationery business or even the retail business I now have. I simply believed in what I was doing and kept going.”
In achieving her successes and letting go when it was prudent to do so, Roxie says she loves the simple life she is leading.
Could Roxie be a model for other women? I suggested this as her next venture as her children mature and leave home. Her risk taking and optimism could serve her well as a circuit speaker or media star in the role of an encourager. She didn’t say “no.” She said she’d give it thought. Brooke is now 16 and a sophomore in high school with a knack for baking. Blake is in college at Drury University… the same school as her illustrating partner. So, it may be a few years before Roxie changes any direction. However, it would probably not surprise anyone who knows her if Roxie Kelley succeeded again.
If you want to be on one of her lists, especially for the reprinting of her cookbooks next spring, send her a note: Roxie Kelley, c/o Keeping Good Company, 4834 Highway #54, Osage Beach, MO 65065. Or, e-mail email@example.com.
Here are some excerpts from her cookbook.
Roxie writes that this recipe comes from Ann Roam and that “wherever Ann has roamed (no pun intended), Ann and I have managed to stay close at heart. I have at least six different addresses for them in the directory I’m using now and I think I’ve eaten this tetrazzini at most of those places.”
1 to 2 ½ cups cooked diced turkey or chicken
1 (4-oz.) can mushrooms, undrained
1 tbsp. minced dried onion
¼ tsp. Tabasco
¼ tsp. marjoram
1 (10 ¼ oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (13 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 (8 oz.) pkg. spaghetti, broken into pieces, prepared according to package directions and rinsed under cold water
1 (4-oz.) pkg. grated Cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine first seven ingredients and mix well. Divide spaghetti into 3 equal parts. Cover bottom of a greased 9×13-inch baking dish with layers of a third of spaghetti, half the turkey mixture and half the Cheddar cheese; repeat, ending up with a layer of spaghetti. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees or until hot and bubbly. Let set 10 minutes before serving. Can be made in advance. Serves 6-8.
If I had to name a favorite recipe in “Keeping Good Company,” this would definitely be one of the top ten contenders. You will be able to prepare these elegant pastries in less than 45 minutes, start to finish, but they will look and taste as if you were up since dawn. Prepare them for a special breakfast or make petite versions (half the length described in these directions) for a brunch. They are best eaten warm right out of the oven.
Cream Cheese Twists
2 boxes (17 ¼ oz. each) Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with ½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup powered (confectioners’) sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk
Extra powered (confectioners’) sugar
As you open the boxes of puff pastry, you will notice each sheet is folded into thirds. Lay each piece on a sheet of waxed paper to thaw before attempting to unfold dough. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, 6 tbsp. sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix until creamy.
Also, take the time to mix powered sugar and milk in a separate bowl, beating until smooth, to make a drizzly glaze.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. After the dough has thawed, gently unfold and cut each piece of dough where the fold lines are. Spread one piece of dough with ¼ cup of the cream cheese mixture, spreading all the way to the edge. Lay one of the other pieces of dough on top of the cream cheese.
Now cut lengthwise through both layers of dough and cream cheese, filling every ½ inch, making 8 strips. Twist each strip twice and lay on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough until all 16 twists are lined up on 2 separate baking sheets.
Sprinkle twists lightly with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Refrigerate any remaining cream cheese filling in a covered dish. It will keep up to 2 weeks and can be used as a surprise filling for brownies, muffins, nut bread or coffeecakes.
Bake twists 14-16 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from baking sheets to cooking rack. Drizzle with glaze. Then sift powdered sugar over top of each. Makes 16 twists.
Linda Shaffer was one of Roxie’s friends… the one willing to volunteer to half deliver over a thousand breakfast rolls for an Inaugural Breakfast at 5 a.m. That’s a friend!
This dessert is a sweet treat that “has become a Shaffer family favorite.” Linda is one of three who are given special mention “In loving memory” on Roxie and Shelly’s Thank You Page in the book that celebrates that their work here is done. At the same time the authors exhort readers to “understand and embrace what work is left for us to do and what kind of difference we are supposed to make in the lives of those we touch.”
Shaffer’s Special Dessert
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup chopped pecans
12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup whipped topping
2 (3.4 oz.) packages instant French Vanilla pudding
4 cups milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Mix flour and pecans and press evenly in the bottom of baking dish. Bake this crust for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
Blend cream cheese, sugar and whipped topping. Spread this filling over cooled crust. Blend pudding mix and milk and pour over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate for 5 minutes until set. Then top with whipped topping and pecan halves. Keep refrigerated. Serves 8-10.