Friday, December 27, 2013

Thailand Chicken--Just a Few Ingredients, but Oh, So Delicious!

During the holidays, we tend to cook and bake more than usual, so I thought I'd share this easy, tasty recipe with you as a sort of antidote to the excess of the season. An added bonus is that kids generally like this recipe. And it only uses three main ingredients! Really can't beat that.

My grandfather (Boppa to us) made this frequently when we kids would visit him on the weekends. It was always a hit with us, and I've continued to make it throughout the years. To me it tastes like comfort and love because I always think of my dear grandfather. Now before I share the recipe with you, I must confess that we never actually measure our ingredients when we make Thailand Chicken. But to give you a starting point, I made a batch several days ago and wrote down what I used. Still, you can always use more or less of any of the ingredients in order to fine tune the taste to suit your family.

Thailand Chicken

(enough to serve 4 people)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin
small amount of olive or vegetable oil
garlic powder and onion powder (optional, but highly recommended)
4 cups cooked egg noodles, (make sure they are still very hot)
1/8 - 1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce (although I usually use more)

In a heavy skillet or large saucepan, heat the oil and then add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle a small amount of garlic powder and onion powder over the chicken pieces and sauté chicken until thoroughly cooked.

Remove from heat and add the hot cooked noodles; add the soy sauce and stir gently. Now add the lettuce and stir just until wilted. Serve with extra soy sauce on the side if anyone wants more. The reason why iceberg lettuce is so good in this recipe is because it retains a bit of crunch even when wilted by the heat.

That's it. Like I said, it's very easy to make and the ingredients are minimal. And it's really good! I've also had great success using a pint jar of my home canned chicken. I simply heat the meat and continue with the recipe. I can then have dinner on the table in as long as it takes to cook the noodles. Just about like fast food...only better.

I hope the holidays have been joyful for you and your loved ones. Savor the time spent with family and friends!

May God's richest blessings be yours,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shoo-Fly Pie

Shoo-Fly Pie is an old-fashioned recipe that uses molasses as its main flavoring. For Shoo-Fly Pie, you want to use regular (sometimes called "light") molasses versus dark or blackstrap (these are too bitter). It's what you'll usually find on grocery store shelves.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today comes from my cookbook The Homestyle Amish Kitchen Cookbook. You can get it on Amazon as well as on other sites. It has lots of good old-fashioned recipes in it!

Unbaked Shoo-Fly Pie

Shoo-Fly Pie

1 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar (be heavy handed)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup hot water
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in the hot water
2 8-inch unbaked pie crusts (these are the smaller pie plates)
2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar (be heavy handed)
1/3 cup cold butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Mix the first five ingredients thoroughly together to make a syrup. Divide the mixture in half and pour into the two unbaked pie shells.

Thoroughly mix together the rest of the ingredients for a crumb topping. I usually use my hands and rub the mixture repeatedly using my palms. It works for me. Divide and sprinkle crumb topping onto the two pies.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until done, about another 30 minutes. Cool completely before slicing as it will continue to set up a bit.

The pie will have the crumbs on top, but some of them will have mixed with the syrup part and the pie itself should be sort of cake-like and hold its shaped when cut. It's really good with some sweetened whipped cream, which I highly recommend. Just a note here: You really must like the taste of molasses (think gingerbread) in order to fully appreciate this old-time recipe.

Baked Shoo-Fly Pie

Enjoy trying what is possibly a new-to-you, old-time favorite!

May you and your loved ones find the true blessings in this holiday season, and may your memories be sweet ones.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

English Muffins Recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are just beginning to dig out of a snow storm, which for us is quite unusual and puts us all in a dither. Practically no one is out driving today, and in fact, the authorities have said to stay off the streets unless you absolutely must go out.

Well, this morning I had a yen for an English muffin with a sausage patty and egg "sandwich" for breakfast. Sausage and eggs proved to be no problem, but I didn't have any English muffins and a trip to the store seemed like a bad idea given the road conditions. guessed it!...I decided to make my own.

Then I got to thinking, how many of you have never had the pleasure of making English muffins? Because they use yeast for the leaven they take a bit of time, but they are so, so delicious that it's worth learning to make them. And, like so many of my recipes, they are really quite simple. So here today I give you the recipe for...

Plain English Muffins

In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons warm water and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast. Let the yeast dissolve in the water--about 5 minutes should do it.

In a large mixing bowl and using a large wooden spoon, stir together the following ingredients:
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup room temperature milk (Since I rarely want to take the time to get the milk to room temperature, I usually use quite hot water and then pour the milk into it so everything comes out warm.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Now, stir in the dissolved yeast/water mixture. Then, gradually beat in (still using your wooden spoon, although you can use an electric mixer if you desire) 2 cups flour. Do a good job of mixing everything together so there are no lumps of flour. I usually give things an industrious stirring for several minutes. Cover this bowl with a clean towel and let the sponge rise on your kitchen counter (about 70-75 degrees is ideal) for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours; the sponge will gradually begin to bubble and then bubble quite actively, finally collapsing back on itself into the bowl. This is what you want to have happen.

Now beat in (again using your large wooden spoon or an electric mixer) 3 tablespoons very soft butter and about 2 more cups of flour. Toward the end of adding these last 2 cups of flour, I will often gently knead the dough on a clean and floured countertop until all the flour is incorporated. The dough is going to be very soft and a bit sticky, but read on.

Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. Flour your countertop (or you can use cornmeal if you prefer) or a bread board and pat out the dough to 1/2 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter (a 3-inch size seems to work well), cut out the English muffins and gently place them on the greased cookie sheet. I use a greased spatula for this because the dough is soft and sticky. Don't fret if they aren't perfect. This is, after all, homemade. Cover the English muffins with a clean towel and let them rise until about double or a little less than double.

Now you need a heavy cast iron or other heavy pan or griddle (I use an enamel coated cast iron fry pan). Put in plenty of butter and melt it. I use about a tablespoon or a bit more for each batch of four muffins at a time. Be patient until the pan is hot, but keep the heat low enough that the butter doesn't get too brown when you add it. Now carefully use your greased or buttered spatula to scoop up the English muffins and place them in the pan. After a few minutes, check the underside and see if they look light brown and crisp; then flip them over and cook the second side. When I flip them to the second side I take my spatula and very gently push on them so they aren't too thick because I think it cooks the middle better, but suit yourself.

Cool the finished English muffins on a rack and continue with the next batch. You'll get approximately 16-18 English muffins, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. Also, if you notice that your melted butter is getting too brown, turn down the heat slightly and wipe out the browned butter so you start fresh with each new batch.

These taste great straight from the fry pan, but of course they are even better if you split them, toast them, and then slather them with butter. And they freeze well so you can make a great eat-on-the-run breakfast anytime you want. In fact, I cook up sausages patties and freeze those as well. Then, on those mornings when the time has gotten away from me (happens pretty regularly!) I can simply grab a bag with an English muffin, a bag with a cooked sausage patty, and when I get to work I toast the muffin, microwave the cooked sausage patty, and breakfast is served. Yum!

I hope that you are finding joy in this holiday season. Stay warm and happy!

May abundant blessings be yours,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Your Turkey Carcass Is Pure Gold! -- Plus Some Quick Recipes

Thanksgiving is over for most of us, and you've probably got the carcass sitting in the fridge with the last bits of meat still to use. Well, think about canning what's left...It's easy!

Place your carcass in a large pot and add water to cover. If desired, add some celery, onion, or carrots (in big pieces so you can fish them out later). Additionally, add some salt, pepper, and any seasonings that catch your fancy: thyme is always good. Don't use sage, however, because it tends to get bitter during the canning process. But also, don't worry if you've got some on already. Maybe just discard the skin if it's clinging to it.

Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a good simmer, and cover the pot. Let the carcass simmer for several hours, adding water as needed to keep the bones covered.

Remove the carcass from the pot and allow it to cool enough to handle; pick the meat off the bones. In the meantime, cool broth and skim off the fat as it appears on top. Strain the broth and put it back into the pot. Return the bits of turkey to the broth and reheat to boiling.

Fill pint or quart jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add salt if desired (taste to see if it needs it), using 1/2 teaspoon per pint and 1 teaspoon per quart. Remember to wipe the rims before screwing on the lids and rims.

Following safe pressure canning instructions (you can find good ones in my book The Amish Canning Cookbook,, process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, adjusting the psi as necessary for your altitude as follows: Up to 1,000 feet, process at 10 pounds pressure; above 1,000 feet, process at 15 pounds pressure. If you don't know what the altitude is where you live, you can go to and find your location anywhere in the world.

There are many uses for jars of turkey and broth. You can thicken it with flour or cornstarch, add some cooked vegetables, and bake it in a pie crust (top and bottom crust, or just a top crust); you can throw in about 1/2 cup of rice and make turkey rice soup; or thicken slightly (using cornstarch is best in this instance), throw in some veggies, and bake with biscuits on top.

Turkey is still a fairly inexpensive cut of meat, and if you take the extra time to can your broth and leftover bits of meat, it becomes one of the cheapest protein sources around. I love that!

May you and yours be blessed this holiday season!

Simply yours,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pumpkin Texas Sheet Cake

My twin sister made this cake for a church luncheon yesterday and it's very good. Plus, it feeds a lot of people and it's easy...the very best of all worlds! Thankfully, there was a bit left so I'm having some right now with a cup of tea:

Pumpkin Texas Sheet Cake

My sister tinted the frosting orange and used orange sprinkles on top, but you can use whatever pleases you and whatever you have on hand. Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Texas Sheet Cake

Mix well (in large bowl):
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 cup oil
4 eggs
Combine and gradually add to pumpkin mixture:
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cloves
Pour batter into a greased 15" x 10" x 1" pan (I use my large jelly roll pan). Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees


Beat until smooth:
1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 T. milk if you want it a bit thinner (optional)
several drops food coloring, if desired
Frost cooled cake. Cover top with sugar sprinkles, if desired.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Daisy Newman--A Quaker Author

I'm rereading some fiction books currently that are like dear friends to me. They are by author Daisy Newman, a Quaker (also known as Friends) whose books are gentle reads that can speak to us today, even though she wrote them many years ago.

The Kendal novels are my favorite, and titles include Diligence in Love; The Autumn's Brightness; I Take Thee, Serenity; and Indian Summer of the Heart. Kendal is a fictitious Friends community in Rhode Island, and to read these books is to fall in love with Quaker ideals of peace and love as well as the folks who people the pages of her stories. I highly recommend that you search on for her Kendal books or check your local library and start reading. You'll be glad you did!

Winter is the perfect time to settle into quiet evenings at home. And if Daisy Newman's books are part of your plan, you'll happily weather the short days and long evenings that are part of this season.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Some Fun Resources Related to Plain Living

In two of my previous books, I detailed some recommended resources that pertain to the Plain life and I thought you might enjoy perusing the list. So, without further ado, in alphabetical order, here goes:

(Note: I've taken this list from my book titled What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life)

Anabaptist Bookstore
875 N. Pacific Hwy.
Woodburn, OR 97071

This bookstore has an excellent website that carries many resources from Amish and conservative Mennonite publishers--many of whom do not have a web presence. There are books on family and marriage, victorious living, youth and adult fiction, Bibles and study aids, and the complete education curriculum from Rod and Staff and Christian Light publishers. There are also a cappella music tapes and CDs for sale featuring Mennonite quartets, quintets, and choirs.

The Budget
PO Box 249
Sugarcreek, OH 44681

Known as the "Amish newspaper," The Budget has been around since 1890. The national edition, published weekly, is filled with letters sent in by Amish and Mennonite "scribes" who relay the news of interest from their communities. Because telephones aren't part of everyday life for many Amish families, The Budget is a handy way to keep abreast of events in surrounding and sometimes far-flung communities where they often have extended family. Even if you're not Amish or Mennonite, The Budget is good reading.

Chupp's Herbs & Fabrics
27539 Londick Road
Burr Oak, MI 49030

Chupp's sells dietary supplements, shoes, fabrics, Mutza suits (Amishmen's suits), hats, gloves, toys and games, wagons, hand-powered small kitchen appliances, and more. You can call or write for a free catalog. More than 100 pages are jam-packed with products and testimonials, many from satisfied Amish customers. Makes for interesting reading.

Gohn Brothers
PO Box 1110
105 S. Main Street
Middlebury, IN 46540

Gohn Brothers has been around for more than 100 years. It sells Amish and Plain clothing and footwear (including old-fashioned, high-topped shoes), books and games, sewing and quilting fabric, sewing accessories, and black Amish bonnets. You can call or write to ask for their free catalog.

One Lehman Circle
PO Box 270
Kidron, OH 44636

Lehman's supplies the Amish and others with a wide variety of items for people who live without electricity or prefer a self-sufficient lifestyle. You can ask for a catalog to be sent to your home for a small fee (it's worth the price) or you can go online to browse and shop. Lehman's has about everything you could wish for--lanterns (including a large selection of Aladdin lamps and replacement parts), nonelectric kitchen appliances and gadgets, canning utensils, barn and farm supplies, wood-burning cookstoves, propane refrigerators, washday supplies, treadle sewing machines, furniture, toys, and garden implements. If you can think of it, they probably have it or have access to a supplier.

Websites for Plain Dress and Coverings (made-to-order dresses) (fabric and modest clothing) (ready-made, modest clothing) (clothing patterns and coverings) (great clothing patterns) (men's and women's plain clothing, coverings, and more) (great website for all things plain)

Even if you don't plan on going Plain anytime soon, there are still lots of items that you'll be interested in. Poke around and enjoy!

Blessings to you and your loved ones,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's Time to Plant Garlic! (And, of Course, a Recipe)

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and it's the season to plant fall garlic (September through November; very early spring in southern climes), which will be ready for harvest next summer. Garlic is easy to grow, and doesn't take much pampering other than weeding and possibly a bit of fertilizer in the early spring. And since garlic is pungent, it isn't bothered by many garden pests--a rather carefree addition to your food garden.

I have some cloves that have begun sprouting, so these will be what I use when I plant outside later today:

There are several kinds of garlic, and while many varieties are white, there are lovely colors to choose from as well.

Hardneck or top-setting garlic grows small bulbs that set on flower stalks with larger bulbs underground. The cloves seem to be more uniform in size, but there are fewer in each bulb.

Softneck garlic grows bulbs underground that are larger than hardneck bulbs, and they rarely set flowers. However, many of the cloves are smaller than the hardneck varieties; the outer cloves are good sized, but the inner cloves tend to be small.

Elephant garlic isn't really a garlic at all; it's a type of leek. They seem to have become popular in recent years, but I've never grown them so I can't really comment on them.

Garlic is sold in garden centers and through seed catalogs, and there's a lot to choose from. But I tend to simply plant garlic that's started sprouting that I purchased from the store and didn't get around to using. I buy organic garlic, and that way I don't have to worry about the bulbs being sprayed with a sprout inhibitor. So, if you decide to go the grocery store route, buy organic, or ask the produce person whether their garlic has been sprayed. If it has, don't use it.

Garlic is care-free, but it's still a good idea to plant the cloves in raised beds or a large container if your garden soil is heavy. If you decide to grow in a container, it should be at least 2 feet wide and deep. If you know your soil tends toward acid, apply a light dusting of lime. Also, if your weather is very cold without the insulating value of snow cover, you may want to mulch them.

Plant individual cloves 2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart. Plant them root side down (the pointed end goes up and the blunt end goes down). A 10-foot row of garlic can yield as much as 5 pounds of garlic.

Once planted, keep the garlic watered (not a problem in the rainy Pacific Northwest!), and fertilize with something nitrogen-rich like bloodmeal in the early spring. They should be ready to harvest around the beginning of July, but start checking them in late June. Of course, maturity depends on the variety you planted as well as your local climate, so ask around and see what experienced gardeners in your area have to say on the subject. Leaves turning brown don't necessarily mean they are ready--the garlic can be mature even with green leaves present, so checking is your best bet.

Dig and dry the garlic out of the sun for several days. Gently brush off dirt and then remove tops and roots or else braid them together. They store well in a dark closet or pantry. Keep in mind that if you store them in the refrigerator, the humidity will tend to make them sprout quicker.

Roasted Garlic

Take garlic bulbs (I usually roast two as that amounts to a lot of garlic), and take off a bit of the papery outer covering if it's dirty; otherwise leave as is. Cut off the top of the bulbs so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place a small spritz of olive oil in the middle of aluminum foil squares (one for each bulb), set the bulbs on the oil and then drizzle on a very small amount of olive oil over the tops of the bulbs, about 1 teaspoon should do. Wrap them in the foil (one bulb to each packet) and set them in a baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until they are soft. The garlic will squeeze right out of the bulbs.

Use this garlic "mash" on sourdough bread (dip the bread into olive oil/balsamic vinegar) or mix it with butter for a garlic butter spread. Or, you can sauté a batch of fresh greens and use the roasted garlic to season the greens along with some Parmesan cheese. The garlic is also good on cheese and crackers. Really, the possibilities are numerous, so use your imagination.

Happy eating!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels Recipe--Delicious!

Last month I delivered my baking cookbook manuscript to the publisher (due out August 2014) and promptly realized that I had forgotten to include a recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. So I went into the kitchen and without much ado, came up with this recipe. Just a quick note: Bagels are very easy to make, but most cooks never try them, and I'm not sure why. Even if you aren't a bread baker, they are quite easy to pull off, so give them a try. I think you'll be glad you did. And this particular recipe is a taste treat. Serve these bagels toasted with butter or cream cheese and you can't go wrong!

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Bagels Rising

Bagels Boiling


Cinnamon Raisin Bagels--Yum!

4 1/2 tsp. (2 packages) yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 cups flour, more or less
1 T. cinnamon, slightly heaped
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 gallon water
1 T. honey

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, warm water, sugar, and salt. Let stand until frothy; about 10 minutes.

Beat in 2 cups of the flour along with the cinnamon and beat for about 3 minutes. Stir in raisins and then continue to add flour until a dough forms that can be turned out onto a floured surface and kneaded. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as you knead so it doesn't stick to your work surface. When kneading is complete, divide the dough into 12 equal size balls and poke a hole in the middle of each ball; Gently pull to form a bagel shape (the hole in the middle will be quite small and the dough will be puffy; see picture above). Set the bagels on a greased baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise 35-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the gallon of water to which the honey has been added to a full boil. Gently lift bagels using a slotted spatula and place them in the boiling honey water; boil them, about 3 or 4 at a time, for 30 seconds; turn them over and boil for another 30 seconds. Drain them on absorbent paper or a tea towel and then place them on a greased baking sheet. Bake them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove bagels from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

These are so good! They have a great balance of cinnamon and raisins and they aren't too sweet. I hope you try them and let me know what you think.

Happy baking!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sailor Jacks--A Highly Spiced Muffin

Recently, a friend of mine was waxing poetic about Sailor Jacks. I had to admit to her that I had never had the culinary pleasure...and in fact, I didn't even know what they were. She set me straight in a hurry, and suggested I make some, bring them in to work, and ask for everyone's opinion. Good idea. (The lovely folks I work with are great sports about taste testing my kitchen experiments!)

Here's the end result, and then I'll give you the recipe as I made them, plus my feelings on the subject.

Sailor Jacks

Sailor Jacks Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Beat until smooth. Add 2 eggs and mix until well blended. Either by hand with a large wooden or using an electric mixer on the lowest setting, blend in well 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 1 1/2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons allspice, 1 tablespoon cloves, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. (You read those amounts correctly. These are highly spiced!)

On slow speed or by hand, add 1 teaspoon each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add 3 cups flour (some recipes I looked at said to use cake flour, but I used regular all-purpose flour and had no problems) and mix well. The batter will be thick. Add a heaping cup of raisins and stir them in.

Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins; the cups will be very full (about 1/3 cup batter per cup), but it works. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Be careful not to overbake them or they will be dry. When the muffins are done baking, place them upside down on a wire rack that has been set inside a four-sided pan (such as a large jelly roll pan) to cool for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the powdered sugar glaze: Whisk together 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 - 1/2 cup water, depending on how thick you like the glaze, but keeping it thin enough to pour. Pour the glaze evenly over the muffins(use a spoon to help you get full coverage over the tops and sides of the sailor jacks). The excess glaze will drip into the jelly roll pan so you don't have a mess on the counter to clean up afterward...because the pouring is messy! The glaze will harden as it sets. These taste better the second day, by the way.

*  *  *  *  *
I tried my first sailor jack and thought they were WAY too spicy. I mean, they had a bite to them I've never tasted before. But I'd told my friend I'd make some so I brought them in to work as planned. I was nervous about how they would be received so I whipped up a loaf of banana nut bread as a peace offering. I requested that everyone have at least a brownie bite of the sailor jacks before digging in to the banana bread. (You'd think I was trying to foist vegetables on kids the way I carried on!)
To my utter surprise, most everyone loved them! And after the dust settled it dawned on me that the most ardent sailor jack admirers were all male. Interesting.
Now were I to make them again (which I will do), I'd try a batch with half of the called-for amounts of spices and see what that would taste like. You might want to start there and work your way up to the full dose of spices if you think you'd like that.
Anyway, give them a try. The spices used are perfect for our rapidly cooling fall weather. And to my way of thinking, it would be almost a crime to eat a sailor jack without a cup of tea or coffee to go with them. It's a perfect pairing!
Enjoy, and may you feel God's presence as you go through your days.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

72-Hour Emergency Kit Is a Hedge Against Bad Weather!

I realize that it's only the beginning of October, but here in the Pacific Northwest we recently experienced a series of massive storm systems that rolled through the state. They dumped record-breaking inches of rain for this time of year, and high winds blew down trees and power lines resulting in some of us temporarily being without electricity. So, I thought it would be a good time to remind you to gather together a basic 72-hour emergency kit. Then, when bad weather or some other unforeseen emergency strikes, you and your loved ones will be prepared to ride it out.

I'm  going to give you several options: The first option is the bottom-of-the-line emergency kit. The upside is that it's all spelled out for you so you don't have to do any figuring. But it's a fairly miserly amount of food, so we'll explore other options that will give you and your loved ones more and better meals.

Following is a list for a "72-Hour Kit-in-a-Box." You can use a large shoe box, or--even better--a plastic box that has a tight fitting lid. You'll need a box for each person in your family. This information comes from an Oregon State Extension service bulletin.

72-Hour Emergency Kit


2 packages chewing gum
2 packages hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 cups trail mix
2 sticks beef jerky
2 packages apple cider mix
1 fruit juice box
4 granola bars
14 pieces hard candy
2 fruit rolls
3 packs soda crackers
1 can hearty soup (if it doesn't have a pop top, you'll need to include a can opener)
2 instant soup packets
2 liter container of water


Day One
Breakfast: 2 granola bars, 1 fruit juice box
Lunch: 1 package soup mix, 1 package soda crackers
Dinner: 1 stick beef jerky, 1 fruit roll
Snacks: 4 pieces hard candy, 3 sticks gum

Day Two:
Breakfast: 1/2 of the trail mix, 1 hot chocolate mix
Lunch: 1 stick beef jerky, 1 apple cider mix
Dinner: can of soup, 1 package soda crackers
Snacks: 5 pieces candy, 4 sticks gum

Day Three:
Breakfast: 1/2 of the trail mix, 1 apple cider mix
Lunch: 1 package soup mix, 1 package soda crackers
Dinner: 2 granola bars, 1 fruit roll, 1 hot cocoa mix
Snacks: 4 pieces candy, 3 sticks gum

Remember to rotate the food and water in your kit every year, or when any of the items go out-of-date. If you keep a list going (tape it to the inside of a kitchen cupboard) you'll be reminded when to rotate.

Now on to better things!

First of all, let's discuss water. It is recommended that you store a gallon of water per person per day. So for a 72-hour emergency kit, that's 3 gallons per person. Given that a gallon of water weighs something over 8 pounds, this is your major consideration both in terms of storage space needed, and weight. There are 55-gallon water drums available (they cost a lot!), but there's no way you could move that large of a container if you needed to evacuate. So my opinion is, stick with no bigger than 5-gallon containers (at about 40 pounds each, moving them is doable). Or buy cases of bottled water. If your containers don't keep light out, store them in a dark area away from any chemicals, fuels, etc. A closet is a good choice. Also, don't stack your water containers unless they are made to withstand the weight as they can warp and crack or give way entirely. You can live for 3 days without food, but you can't live without water, so take the time to figure out your storage in this all-important area.

Food is next on our list. Think in terms of non-perishable or long-term. Here are some ideas to help you menu plan: protein bars, dried fruit, granola, trail mix (if it includes nuts, you'll need to rotate the trail mix every 6 months or so), jerky, peanut butter, pilot bread and crackers, canned fish and meat, ready-to-eat soup, canned fruits and vegetables, canned kid meals (like Spaghetti O's), packaged oatmeal (instant flavored), dry milk powder, infant formula and foods (don't forget a bottle or two!), electrolyte drink powder packets, hot chocolate mix. Depending on what you choose to store, you'll need disposable utensils including bowls and cups, a multi-fuel stove and lighter, cooking pot(s), and a can opener. Obviously, if you don't need to evacuate, you can "shop" your pantry shelves for meals. But having this 72-hour backup is still a good idea. I home can my food in glass jars, but I still buy some cans for emergencies because they can travel without breaking.

Now that you've thought about suitable foods, you'll want to make a menu that will supply your family's needs and tailored to their personal tastes for three days. Come up with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks for each day. Once you have your menu figured out, it will be easy to gather your items in the correct amounts. Keep the menu list with your emergency storage so you remember what you plan to serve. It's also a good idea to write down the "good until" date for each item.

Personal items. Prescription and over-the-counter medicine (pain relievers, cold and flu meds, anti-diarrhea tablets, etc.), toilet paper and paper towels, hand sanitizer, soap in a container, feminine supplies, diapers, moistened wipes (baby wipes are a good choice), toothbrush and toothpaste, plastic garbage bags with ties for sanitation, bucket (for same). Also pack a change of clothing (including warm jackets, hats, and gloves if needed) and sturdy and comfortable walking shoes suitable for the current weather conditions. No matter what time of year it is, it's always a good idea to pack a rainproof windbreaker or poncho.

First aid kit. You can buy ready-made first aid kits, but if you choose to put your own together, remember to include bandages, ointments, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, splints, tape, latex or vinyl gloves, tooth pain gel, children's meds, etc.

Miscellaneous but important stuff to have on hand would be things like a flashlight and weather band radio (with extra batteries--or else buy the kind that you can crank or that use solar power), whistle, sleeping bags or warm blankets, strike-anywhere matches (waterproof or in a waterproof container), multi-tool (like a Leatherman), wrench and pliers to turn off utilities, gloves, small container of unscented chlorine bleach with eyedropper for purifying water, plastic sheeting, duct tape, strong rope, saw, axe, shovel, cash (in a waterproof container), emergency contact list, medical/insurance/financial info, deck of cards or other small games.

Pets need consideration as well. If you need to evacuate, you'll want to have ready a carrier, pet food and water, litter and litter box, and any medicine your pet might need.

You can prepare a lot or a little--the choice is yours. But by giving some thought now to the possibilities, you'll be able to make rational decisions about what will be important for you and your family during an emergency.

You can even get your entire family involved in putting together a good emergency kit. Make some popcorn and hot chocolate, gather everyone around the table, and brainstorm ideas together. Have fun with it, and then kick back and enjoy those winter storms because you'll be prepared for anything they throw at you.


Monday, September 23, 2013

And the Winners Are...!

We had a great response to the book and apron giveaway. Thanks so much to all of you who participated!

And the winners are...Drum roll please...

  • Sherri M., from Pennsylvania (apron & canning cookbook)
  • Debi S., from Oregon (apron & canning cookbook)
  • Bonnie B., from Pennsylvania (canning cookbook)
  • Donna D., from Michigan (canning cookbook)
  • Becky P., from Georgia (canning cookbook)

Congratulations to all of you!

May your joy abound in the simple pleasures of a homemade life,


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Make-Ahead Mixes Recipes

This afternoon I spent some time putting together make-ahead mixes and a Facebook friend asked for one of the recipes. So, I thought I'd give you several in this blog post that are my go-to favorites.

Vanilla Cake Mix

What I love about this particular cake mix is that it uses dry milk powder, and I always have bunches on hand for making mixes. But what I don't love about this recipe is that it only makes one cake at a time and it feels fiddly to me to make several batches at once. But it's still worth it!

2 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup dry milk powder
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Crisco (be generous!)

Thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your cake results will be. Store in a large jar or large baggie. This recipe makes one cake, so when you go to the trouble to haul out your ingredients, make several batches at once. I usually make four at a time.

To make the cake:

2 eggs
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 batch Vanilla Cake Mix

Mix together the eggs, water, and vanilla; add the Vanilla Cake Mix and blend well. I use my hand beaters and mix for about 2 minutes.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool cake before frosting it, or eat it plain.

An Alternative Cake Mix

8 cups flour
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups Crisco

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your cake results will be.

To make the cake:

2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/3 cups cake mix

On low, beat together the eggs, milk, and vanilla; add the cake mix and beat on low to moisten. Then you can turn the mixer to medium and beat for about 2 minutes.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake before frosting it.

Master Brownie Mix

6 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. salt
8 cups sugar
1 8-oz. can unsweetened baking cocoa, or 2 cups (make the second cup a tad scant)
2 cups Crisco

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients except for the Crisco; once the dry ingredients are well mixed, add the Crisco and, using your hands (really!), gently mix until it resembles coarse crumbles. This part usually takes me several minutes, so don't hurry the process, because the finer you incorporate the Crisco, the better your brownies will be.

To make the brownies:

2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups Brownie Mix
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)

Grease and flour an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and Brownie Mix. Beat until smooth (I use a large wooden spoon). Stir in nuts if using. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool before cutting. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar when ready to serve.

Hot Chocolate Mix

I love this hot chocolate mix! I drink it during the cooler months, and there are few evenings that I don't have a cup before bed. Very soothing. And easy and cheap to make, too! (Two qualities I love in cooking!)

6 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered sugar (generous)
1 cup regular sugar
1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder
dash of salt (I just take my salt shaker and give it a shake and call it good)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. I can get one batch of hot chocolate mix in a half-gallon canning jar. Love that!

To use:

To 1 cup hot water, add 3 tablespoons Hot Chocolate Mix. You can also use hot milk for an extra creamy cup of hot chocolate, but I'm too frugal to ever do that.


Easy Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

6 cups cubed bread
1 T. dried parsley
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried minced celery
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. salt

Bake the bread cubes in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Mix together all ingredients and store in a large jar or baggie.

To make the stuffing:

In a medium saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water and 2-3 tablespoons butter to a gentle boil, making sure that the butter has melted completely. Turn the heat off but leave the saucepan on the heated element and add 2 cups of the stuffing mix; stir with a fork, cover, and let set for several minutes. Fluff and serve.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cheater's Monkey Bread

This morning I decided that I wanted something sweet and decadent...not my usual style for breakfast. But I couldn't get the thought of sweet and gooey out of my mind. And to top it off, I wasn't in the mood to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but I did want to eat.

What to do?

Well, I decided to make a sort of cheater's monkey bread. It turned out so good that I want to share it with y'all. So here's what I did:

First of all, I turned on my oven to 350 degrees to let it preheat. Next, I took my largest pie plate (really, it's one I use when I make quiche, so it's a good 10 inches and a bit deeper, which I highly recommend so when the monkey bread bakes it doesn't bubble over--but just in case I put my largest cookie sheet on the rack below the pan to catch any drips...but there were none, thankfully) and greased the baking pan with shortening, using a light touch.

I broke open two tubes of biscuits--just the regular sized ones because that's what I had. I cut each of the biscuits into quarters. Next, I put about 1/2 cup of sugar and a large teaspoonful of cinnamon in a quart baggie and mixed them together. Then I added the quarter cuts of biscuits in batches and shook them so they were good and coated; I made sure to tear apart any that had stuck together so all surfaces were covered with the cinnamon sugar. When I took the biscuit pieces out of the baggie I tried to be "careless" so that plenty of the cinnamon sugar came with them and dropped them evenly into the baking pan.

Next, I took a stick of butter (1/2 cup) and melted it in the microwave in a quart bowl (really hot melted butter works better), and then added a cup of brown sugar and stirred it so the brown sugar sort of melted into the butter. I spooned it evenly over the top of the sugared biscuit pieces and baked it in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

As soon as the monkey bread was done baking, I plated it by turning it over onto a serving platter so all the caramel was on top. I let it cool just a bit and then brought it over to one of my son's homes whereupon it was devoured my grownups and little ones alike. My two-year-old grandson loved the name (he thought it was hilarious we were "eating monkeys") and the rest of us just plain loved it.

This is such a quick and easy treat. It literally took me about 5 minutes to throw it all together. Here's a picture of what was left of my plate when I remembered to take a picture:

Yum! Give it a try. You could also add some pecans or walnuts, or maybe even raisins before you bake it. I imagine that would be good too. I ate my helping with a spoon, but the others ate theirs with their fingers. Either way works deliciously!
I pray that you and your loved ones are happy and well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Home Canned Tuna--And a Quick Recipe for Creamed Tuna on Toast

The fishing boats are busy in our nearby Pacific Ocean and the tuna is on! I picked up two fish and ended up with about 25 pounds of clean, sweat meat to can. Here's the end result:

Lousy photo...and I don't know why. But there's tuna in those cans!

Now I'll give you a quick lesson on how it's done correctly. The information, by the way, comes straight from my latest book:
(I think I need a new camera!)
The trick to canning sweet-tasting tuna is in the preparation. After skinning, removing viscera, bleeding the fish, and deboning, take extra care in the final cleaning to remove all dark flesh, blood vessels, and membranes. Rinse well. The cleaner your meat is, the better it will taste once canned, so take your time and do a thorough job. Trust me on this: I've known people who didn't clean their fish well and then wondered why their tuna tasted is the key to sweet success.
You can process your tuna raw or cooked. I'm going to tell you how to can it raw because it's about as easy a canning process as there is.
Pack raw tuna into half-pint or pint jars (do not use pint-and-a-half or quart jars!), pressing down to fill in the space inside the jar and leaving 1-inch headspace. You can add water to cover, again making sure you leave 1-inch headspace, but this isn't necessary as it's safe to can the raw tuna with no added liquid. (In fact, that's how I always can mine.) Add a bit of salt if desired: 1/4 tsp. or less for half-pints, maybe a bit more to pints, but again, this isn't necessary.
Process half-pints and pints for 100 minutes (that's 1 hour and 40 minutes...a very long time!) at 10 psi, adjusting the psi as necessary for your altitude. You'll find complete canning directions in my book, or else in the manual that came with your pressure canner.
Here's a nifty link that you can use to determine your altitude anywhere in the world: And even if you know what your altitude is, it's still a fun link to peruse.
You may be wondering why you would go to the trouble and expense of home canning tuna. Well, for starters, the fish is ultra fresh. And if you've ever looked at the ingredients list on store bought canned tuna, you're likely to see among other ingredients soy (GMO problems) and something called "pyrophosphates." I've read that pyrophosphates are somewhat toxic, even though they appear in lots of packaged food so "someone" "somewhere" has deemed it safe to eat. But I have to ask, why would I eat pyrophosphates when I could process my own fish and know exactly what's in it? And what exactly is in my jars of tuna? Well...tuna. Period. Makes my heart sing!
And now for a quick recipe:

Creamed Tuna on Toast

1 jar tuna, drained
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1-1 1/4 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
Open your jar (or can) of tuna and drain well; set aside for now. (I generally dump my jar of tuna out into my hands and give it a quick squeeze to help get all the liquid out. It works!) Measure out the milk and have it near your stove for when you need it.
In a saucepan, melt the butter; whisk in the flour and keep whisking continuously for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and keep whisking until the mixture begins to boil and thickens. Immediately turn your burner down to the lowest setting and add the tuna, stirring to break up the tuna and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the creamed tuna on toast and dig in. Comfort food at its finest!
I hope you give canning tuna a try. It's a special treat, to be sure.
May you and your loved ones be blessed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Canning Cookbook and Apron Giveaway!

Hello, all!

I'm giving away 5 copies (I'll sign them if you desire) of the Amish Canning Cookbook. Plus, 2 lucky winners will also receive a handmade apron that is perfect for canning season--but it's also wonderful for gardening, cleaning, or pretty much any chore where you'd like to stay clean while working. I love these aprons, and I hope you will too.

The giveaway lasts until September 16 at 12:00 a.m. and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 18th.

Here's how to enter to win: First, comment on this blog post. Tell me what your favorite food to can is.
Next, go to the AmishReader Facebook page (the link's below) and "like" the page. Then, follow the directions for the Giveaway, and remember to check that you commented.

That's it!

Here's the link for AmishReader:

Here's a photo of a friend of mine wearing one of my aprons:

I've been making aprons using this pattern for probably 30 years now. They only use 1 yard of fabric--very economical. Plus they cover well and are so comfortable you'll forget you even have it on. (In fact, I've run to the store more than once with my apron still on!)

Good luck and happy canning!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Canning Homemade Bean Soup

September begins tomorrow...and September around here is when canning reaches it's zenith. Everything is ripening at once it seems, and with the days getting noticeably shorter, the urge to put food up for the winter kicks into high gear. I've been canning the obvious food: fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, and pickles. But this morning I decided to can a load of white bean soup. We were raised on this soup, and in our house we called it Senate Bean Soup. You can get fancy with the ingredients, but here's what I do--and the recipe that follows will be the canning version--enough to make 7 quarts with enough left over for lunch for two or three people.

First, though, I'll share two photos of the tasty results:

And here's the recipe:

Senate Bean Soup

8 cups dry white beans, small white (Navy) or Great Northern
lots of fresh water
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb. ham, chunked (today I used a 1-lb. canned ham, but I usually use leftovers from ham dinners)
2-3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. summer savory

First off, you want to rinse your beans to remove any dirt or other debris; while you're rinsing, look for anything that's not a bean, such a small stones, and throw those out.

Place the beans in a very large pot and add cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat source, cover the pot, and let it sit for 1 hour. Drain. Again, add water to the beans to cover by 2 inches. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the soup to a boil. Turn the heat down so it simmers, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add water if necessary; you want the liquid to cover the beans so you have enough broth when you can them. Note that the beans won't be quite done, but they'll finish cooking during the canning process.

I go to the trouble to count how many chunks of ham I put into the pot so I have an idea of how many chunks go in each jar. I also go to the effort of dividing my beans equally between the jars also. I like to have plenty of broth, so I usually ladle in enough beans to leave about 3 inches of headspace, with the broth filling up the top.

Hot pack only: Pack the hot bean soup into your sterilized, hot quart jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 psi, adjusting the psi as necessary for your altitude.

If you don't have an up-to-date canning book, consider purchasing my canning cookbook, The Amish Canning Cookbook.

Also, check back on Tuesday because I'm going to be giving away five of these canning cookbooks as well as two homemade aprons that are perfect for canning!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Vinegar--More Than Just for Pickles!

I've got vinegar on my mind lately, because it's canning season and pickles use up a lot of vinegar.

But did you know that vinegar has many other uses as well? Plus, it's absolutely nontoxic and a natural disinfectant, so you never have to worry about using it in areas where food or little fingers will be. The following ideas are taken from my book What the Amish Can Teach Us About the Simple Life, available in stores and online.

  • Mop floors: Use a good glug of vinegar in a bucket of warm water, or your kitchen sink, and get mopping. There is no need to rinse, and when your floors dry clean and streak free, there is no lingering vinegar smell. You can use this on wood laminate floors, by the way.
  • Disinfect counters: Spray full-strength vinegar on kitchen and bathroom counters and leave it to air dry. It kills most bacteria, molds, and viruses. Keep a spray bottle filled with vinegar handy in both the kitchen and bathroom and you can spritz and go.
  • Clean windows and glass: A quarter cup of vinegar mixed in a quart of water makes a great window and glass cleaner. Keep it in a spray bottle and wipe dry with newspaper, paper towels, or a clean, lint-free cloth.
  • In your laundry: Use a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle of your washing machine. It will make your clothes soft and remove soap residue.
  • An old-fashioned drain cleaner: This is my personal favorite. When my kids were younger they loved "helping," and now that I have young grandchildren I expect the help will continue in the coming years! Once a month or so, pour half a cup of baking soda into your drain and then follow that with half a cup of vinegar. You can eyeball the quantities because amounts aren't critical. The resulting volcano is great entertainment and the reason you'll have enthusiastic helpers! Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain. If you have an actual clogged drain, use this method instead of buying commercial drain cleaner, and when the time comes to add the boiling water, use a clean toilet plunger and plunge until the clog shifts and the water disappears effortlessly down the drain. A few times over the years, I've had to plunge twice, but this method hasn't failed me yet.
Here's a picture of the volcano. It definitely loses something in the translation. :)

There are many more great ideas for using vinegar in my book. But these will get you started. Best of all, vinegar is inexpensive. And if you buy by the gallon, you've got lots of cleaning power for just pennies. Frugal. Simple. Practical. Can't beat that!

I hope today finds you and your loved ones happy and healthy and enjoying plain and simple living at its homemade best!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here's a soup "recipe" that I throw together when I have the ingredients and want a special treat.

Place some cut up chicken pieces in about a quart of chicken broth; add a small handful of rice so it can cook while the chicken does. The amounts aren't critical, but you'll want plenty of broth. I like adding hot sauce to the broth mixture. Try using Cholula Hot Sauce--it's very tasty but not so hot that it burns your tongue.

Meanwhile, chop up some onions, tomatoes, and avocados; shred some Cheddar cheese; and have broken tortilla chips and sour cream handy.

Ladle the soup into big bowls, leaving plenty of room to add the toppings. Because I love the crunch from the broken tortilla chips, I add those a bit at a time as I'm eating so they don't get soggy.

That's all there is to it. I make this dish even simpler by always having quart jars of home canned chicken and broth on my pantry shelves. Then all I have to do is throw in the bit of rice to cook while the soup is heating and I'm chopping vegetables. A very tasty meal can be on the table in about 20 minutes. Not bad!

I hope you try this quick and easy soup. You're gonna love it!
May you and your loved ones be blessed today!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Peach Apricot Jam

One of my readers recently sent me a recipe for Peach Apricot Jam, and since peaches are currently being harvested in my neck of the woods (and probably where you live as well!), I thought this particular recipe would be a timely offering.

Peach Apricot Jam

2 1/2 cups apricots, crushed
2 cups peaches, crushed
1 package MCP pectin (powdered)
1/4 cup lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. butter
Measure the fruit crushed--you'll need a bit more fruit than what's listed because when you crush the fruit you lose volume. Place the measured fruit into a very large, stainless steel pot. Measure out the sugar and set it aside for now. Add the pectin and the lemon juice to the pot with the fruit and turn the heat on to high. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat while stirring constantly.
Quickly stir in the sugar and return to a full rolling boil; boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the butter. Stirring occasionally, allow the jam to settle for 4 to 5 minutes, so the fruit is dispersed throughout the jam. Skim off any foam that collects on the top.
Ladle the jam into clean, hot pint or half-pint jars, filling to with 1/8 inch from the top.
Wipe the jar rims and threads using a wet paper towel or cloth and cover with the two-piece lids, screwing the bands on tight.
Place the jars in the canner that has been filled half full with simmering water. Make sure there is a rack on the bottom of the canner so the jars sit off the floor of the canner. When all your jars are in, make sure the water covers them by 1 to 2 inches. Add simmering water if necessary to cover them adequately.
Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil. When the water comes to a full boil, start the processing time as follows:
0 - 1,000 feet in altitude: 10 minutes
1,001 - 3,000 feet: 15 minutes
3,001 - 6,000 feet: 20 minutes
6,001 - 8,000 feet: 25 minutes
8,001 - 10,000 feet: 30 minutes
When the processing time is complete, carefully lift the lid and remove the jars from the water. Set them on a surface that has been covered with a folded towel and allow them to sit undisturbed until completely cool. Check the lids to make sure a tight seal has formed; if a jar didn't seal properly, it will need to be refrigerated and used within about 3 week.
Once the jars have sat for about 12 - 24 hours, remove the rings and wipe down the jars and lids before storing.
Enjoy the season of harvest!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dutch Babies--A Breakfast Treat!

This morning dawned cool, windy, and cloudy. There's already a hint of fall in the air, which is about a month earlier than normal. It makes me wonder if winter will come early and strong this year.

In thinking what to have for breakfast on this cool and cozy morning, I decided Dutch Babies would be just the thing to brighten my day and fill my stomach.

Dutch Babies are economical and tasty, and, when topped with powdered sugar, maple syrup, or jam, they have a certain elegant look to them. No one but the cook would guess that the ingredients are few, quite inexpensive, and generally on hand in most kitchens.

Here's the recipe, which, by the way, can also be found in my cookbook, The Homestyle Amish Kitchen Cookbook, published by Harvest House Publishers:

Dutch Babies

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
2 T. butter
powdered sugar for dusting (or you can use syrup, jam, or jelly if you prefer)

Place a 10-inch cast-iron or heavy, oven-proof frying pan with sides inside your oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

While the fry pan is heating, in a medium bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until they are light and frothy. (This will take several minutes.) Add the milk and whisk again to mix well. Gradually whisk in the flour, salt, and nutmeg if using.

Remove the fry pan from the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Melt butter in the hot pan so that the bottom and sides are completely coated with butter. Pour the batter into the pan and immediately return to oven.

Bake at 425 degrees until puffed and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Serve immediately, either plain, or with powdered sugar, syrup, jam, or jelly.

The Dutch Baby looks small in this picture, but it's in my 10-inch cast iron pan!
And here's a picture of my breakfast, half eaten before I remembered to take a photo. Powdered sugar was the choice of the day for me.

If you have toast and sausage or bacon to go with these, you can actually feed four people with one batch. But if Dutch Babies are the only thing on the menu, two people can fill up on one pan. However, if you have big eaters in your family (read "teenage boys") they might be willing and able to eat an entire Dutch Baby by themselves--so plan accordingly!

I hope you give these a try. They are delicious!

Blessings to you and your loved ones,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lard--Good for You and Your Family!

Used to be, pretty much everyone used lard for their baking needs. Many families lived in rural areas, and keeping a hog or two wasn't out of the question. Besides the hams, bacon, roasts, and chops, farm women rendered their lard supply from the pork fat at butchering time.

When I was raising my sons in the country, we kept hogs. Our first foray into raising our own pork was less than stellar because we fed them store bought feed with the end result that the meat was too lean and dry. But then we got a new neighbor--a retired man from Oklahoma who, as a kid, helped his family to raise hogs. He taught us how to feed our hogs mash, and our next batch of pork was fabulous! The meat was marbled and very tasty, and the color was richer. At butchering time, I decided to render the lard so I'd have a supply to use in the kitchen and for making soap.

Now a bit of pork fat facts: You don't want to use fat from the entire animal. The very best fat (that renders down to white and odorless) comes from around the kidneys and is called leaf lard. The next best area to harvest pork fat is along the back and shoulders of the animal. This is known as back fat or fatback. Leaf lard is what you hope to have for pie crusts and other pastries, biscuits, and doughnuts. Fatback can be used for baking as well, but it really shines when used for frying and sautéing. You could use the belly fat, but why would you want to? The belly (along with the marbled fat) is what gets made into bacon, which to my way of thinking, is a much better use.

If you want to render your own lard, it's not difficult, but you will probably get better at "reading" the rendering once you've done it a few times. Here's what you do:

Using a heavy pot (stainless or well seasoned cast iron), first place about 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the pot. (This isn't absolutely necessary, but it will help the fat to not burn on the bottom of the pot before it begins melting.) Next, add cut up or ground pork fat. Turn your heat to fairly low and, stirring regularly, melt the fat. Once the fat begins to melt, bits and pieces of "stuff" will start to show. These are called cracklings. Don't overcook the fat. If you are using water, the hot fat will tend to spit and sputter so be careful not to get burned. But the water will gradually evaporate. Once the fat is melted, pour the liquid through a fine sieve that you've lined with a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth so as to catch the bits of cracklings. Put the melted lard into sterilized jars (wide-mouth canning jars work great), cover, and let them sit on your counter until they've congealed. When the lard is liquid, it will be light yellow in color, but will harden white. Store your lard in the fridge or freezer so it will last longer before going bad, although it will be fine in your pantry for probably several weeks (at least) if you don't have fridge space.

By the way, you can toast the cracklings in the oven, sprinkle on a wee bit of salt, and use them to top casseroles or add to salads or vegetables. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about loving to eat the cracklings when Ma and Pa rendered lard and for good reason . They are tasty!

But I no longer raise hogs and I don't have a line on a local hog farmer willing to give up his/her fat, so I bought lard this week:
I'll grant you that store-bought hydrogenated lard has little in common with homemade naturally rendered lard, but I was feeling nostalgic and used it.
I made biscuits (see recipe below):


 They were wonderful! Very light and flaky. If you've never eaten a biscuit made with lard, you are in for a treat. Here's the recipe:

Light and Airy Lard Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. lard
3/4 cup milk
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the lard with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Make a well in the middle and add the milk all at once. Mix with the fork until a soft dough forms. Then use one of your hands to gently knead the dough right in the bowl, about 10-15 times. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a biscuit or cookie cutter and place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 12 minutes.
While the biscuits were baking I whipped up a batch of sausage gravy:

Give lard a try. I think you'll agree that your baked goods will taste better.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quick and Easy Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls

I'm writing a baking cookbook currrently and realized it would be nice to add a Cloverleaf Dinner Rolls recipe. I looked in my cookbooks for inspiration and in an old, out-of-print book (that wasn't even a cookbook!) I found a recipe for cloverleaf dinner rolls that could allegedly be made in 30 minutes.

Too good to be true! I thought.

Turns out I was right. The ingredients list was totally out of whack and what I ended up with was a gooey mess. Certainly not anything resembling a yeast-raised bread dough.

But the idea intrigued me, so I left the computer and the book writing, put on an apron, and started experimenting. I loved the idea of a quick dinner roll recipe--one that could be ready in a hurry for those times when you suddenly have more people than you were expecting to feed, or you realize that dinner will be slim pickings otherwise--so I knew that I had to keep that thought in mind.

Following is the recipe that I came up with. They are tasty, have a lovely soft texture, and are really, really good slathered with butter! Here's a picture of the finished result:

Quick Cloverleaf Rolls

2¼ tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast
1¼ cups warm water
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt (I think a bit more salt might be good, but cook's choice)
2 eggs
2 T. oil
4½-5 cups flour
butter (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water to which a pinch of sugar has been added. Let set for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix together. Beat in eggs one at a time, using an electric mixer if you have one, or else vigorously with a large wooden spoon. Add oil and beat again to blend.

Gradually beat in 2-3 cups flour and keep beating the mixture for 3 minutes. By hand, continue to add flour until the dough begins to form a soft ball and leave the sides of the bowl.

Turn out ball of dough on a floured surface and, with buttered hands, gently knead for 3 minutes, adding small bits of flour if necessary. This dough is very soft and sticky, but persevere. Keeping your hands buttered will help.

Grease a muffin tin. Keeping your hands well buttered, break off small pieces of dough and roll into balls about the size of large marbles. Place three balls of dough in each muffin tin cup and gently press down.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 400° oven for 15-17 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and immediately brush the tops with butter. Remove the rolls from the muffin tin cups and place on a rack to cool.

These are worth making. They are simple and quick. And if you time things right, they should come out of the oven just minutes before dinner is served; the aroma will surely bring your loved ones to the table in a hurry!

May God richly bless you and your loved ones.