Friday, November 28, 2008

The First Christmas after

We've all been there. The first Christmas after losing someone special. There is a lot of advice available when you lose a loved one. But, somehow none of it helped me that first Christmas. Of course it all seems harder during the Holiday Season, but really it is a whole year of adjusting to life without your loved one. Mom was sick for a long time, so I really lost her a piece at a time. It had been a long time since we were able to do our Christmas baking together. But, that first Christmas without Mom and Dad were without a doubt the hardest. I struggled with everything and did not find any joy. Finding joy in everyday life is hard when you are down in the trenches of grief. Holiday baking was not something I could bring myself to attempt that year. It didn't seem right, and of course I felt guilty about it. Guilt and grief go hand in hand, especially at Christmas! I wanted to do something that would bring me good memories of Christmas' past without dwelling on what was lost. I decided to make a simple home-made cookbook of my favorite holiday recipes with a special dedication to Mom, Grandma Tona and MaMa. Each recipe I typed brought back a special memory. I cried a lot, but I also laughed a lot at our kitchen exploits. In the end, it helped. It helped me cope and it helped my friends know how special Mom was to me. I gave out the little books to friends, neighbors and family as part of their Christmas gift. Just knowing the love we all felt found it's way into my the kitchens of my friends, helped make Christmas special that year.

Here are a few ideas that may help you this Christmas:

  • Christmas Recipe Collection - gather together your heirloom recipes & give them out to friends. You can put them into the form of a small booklet or recipe cards.
  • Memory Jar - Take strips of colorful paper and write a Holiday memory about your loved one or family on each strip. Fold and put into a jar. Keep this by your bedside. Each morning, take out a strip, read it and start your day with a good memory.
  • Give your loved one a gift - Even though they are gone, you can still give. Choose a charity that is special to their memory, and make a donation in their name.
  • Seek out someone in need & give to them - Maybe it's a neighbor, friend or family member. But we all know someone that could use some help in today's economy.
  • Play Grocery Santa - The next time you are in line at the grocery story, pay for the person in line behind you. If they have a cart full, just give the clerk what you want to donate and ask that it be put on their grocery bill. This is extra fun to do in secret!
  • Give a book - Buy a new or used book that connects to a special memory for your loved one. Write a note inside the cover asking the reader to pass the book one to someone else after they find it. Then leave the book in a public place for someone to find.
  • Tipping Angel - Mom was a waitress for a number of years, so I especially like this idea. Find a waitress or waiter that seems to be having a hard day and leave them an extra generous tip.

Grief is unique to each person. What helped me may not help you. Give in to the tears when you must, but don't stay there. Reach out for help when you need it. Pick yourself up and do something, anything, to make it through. It's what your loved one wants for you this year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Indian Pudding for Thanksgiving

While we don't know everything that was served at the first Thanksgiving, we can be pretty certain that cornmeal was involved. Indian Pudding owes its history to the lack of wheat flour in those early days of America's history. It found a resurgence during the World War I and II when flour was again in short supply. Here are some vintage Indian Pudding recipes that you might like to update and try this Thanksgiving. I think adding some cinnamon and nutmeg would really add to the flavor.

Baked Indian Pudding

Scald one quart of milk; stir in three-fourths cup of Indian meal (cornmeal), one-third cup molasses, and a pinch of salt. Beat two eggs with a half cup of cold milk and fill the dish. Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

Baked Indian Pudding

Scald one pint of milk; stir into it one-half cup of Indian meal (cornmeal), one half cup molasses, and a pinch of salt. When this is cold, pour over it, without stirring, one pint of cold milk. Bake in a slow oven about four hours to obtain the color and flavor of the old-fashioned pudding.

Steamed Indian Pudding

One-half cup sour milk, two eggs (beaten stiff), one teaspoonful soda, one cup seeded raisins, two tablespoonfuls molasses, corn meal for a stiff batter; mix, and steam two hours. Make a sauce for pudding using one cup sugar, one-half cup butter (beaten to a cream) one teaspoonful water, yolk of one egg,; heat to a scald; add the white of egg, well beaten, with a pinch of salt; flavor with lemon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cornbread Dressing

Dressing or Stuffing? Cornbread or Bread? Everyone has a different recipe or style and nothing will divide cooks quicker! We never stuffed our turkey and always had Cornbread Dressing. Mom would also make a pan of plain Bread Dressing for Daddy because it was his Mother's recipe. Daddy never knew that Mom snuck a little cornbread into that pan of bread dressing. And, of course, a little white bread went into her cornbread dressing.
As I said in my last Post, we measured everything by the bowl size. I was going to carefully measure everything out this year so that I could be completely accurate with Mom's recipe. But, I decided you might need this before Thanksgiving! So, here it is. I always add the eggs last - after I've tasted the dressing for proper seasoning. I'm giving you a minimum measurement on the seasonings. Add them to your dressing, taste it, and add a little more of this and that. Some people like a little more sage. If it seems dry, add more broth. If it seems too moist, add more bread or cornbread. Mom and I would add a little of everything until the dressing was 'just right'. Keep in mind that you don't want to 'over season'. Once the dressing is cooked, the flavors will be come richer, so keep this in mind. Happy Cooking!

Cornbread Dressing

8 to 10 cups of cornbread, crumbled
2 to 4 cups of white bread, slightly stale and broken into small pieces
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 & 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons rubbed sage (use less if ground sage)
2 to 4 cups broth (ideally a mixture of chicken broth and turkey broth)
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 beaten eggs

In a large saucepan, combine chicken broth, turkey neck (or use chicken thighs), enough water to cover, and butter. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour. In a large bowl, crumble cornbread and bread together. Add celery, onion, and seasonings. Mix well. Remove turkey/chicken from the broth and set aside. Add broth a cup or two at a time until you reach the desired consistency, mixing well after each addition. Keep in mind the dressing will 'set' as it cooks. Taste and add more seasoning as desired. Then add eggs and stir well. Pour into 9x13 Pyrex dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown on top. This recipe actually makes a little more than will fit into a 9x13 pan, so you can also bake a smaller dish along side the bigger one. I like to take the chicken cooked for the broth, remove the skin and bones, and add it to the leftover dressing. Then bake it in a casserole dish along side your cornbread dressing. This will make a great leftover casserole that can quickly be re-heated the next day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is your cup the same as my cup?

Heirloom recipes often call for measurements of 'coffee cup' portions. How much was in that cup? It can make a big difference to your recipe especially if you are baking a cake. I have coffee cups in my cabinet that range in size from 6 ounces to 20 ounces. I suggest checking the portions with modern recipes and making your best guess. Just be sure and make notes of what you changed in the recipe.

Other recipes are simply made by the 'bowl' or 'pan'. Mom made her Cornbread Dressing every year in my Great Grandmother's bowl. One of the few possessions that belonged to Mamie, it was treasured by all of us. The bowl is in retirement now because it developed a fine crack several years ago. That Thanksgiving, Mom and I were left wondering how to measure the cornbread for the dressing.

Having made it in the bowl all these years, she measured by eyeful in the bowl itself. Before I was old enough to help cook, I helped crumble the cornbread into that bowl. But neither of us could guess how many cups were in it and there wasn't another bowl in the cabinet close in size. It really didn't seem right not to use the bowl at all. We finally decided to use it for measuring the cornbread only and mixed the dressing in a large stock pot. Everything turned out fine and the treasured bowl was put back in its honored place on top of the refrigerator. Now as long as I don't misplace the special stirring spoon.....

Here's a vintage Turkey and Dressing recipe from the late 1800's.

Turkey & Dressing

A good-sized turkey should be baked two and one-half or three hours, very slowly at first. Turkey one year old is considered best. See that it is well cleaned and washed. Salt and pepper it inside. Take one and a half loaves of stale bread (bakers preferred) and crumble fine. Put in to frying pan a lump of butter the size of an egg; cut into this one white onion; cook a few moments, but do not brown. Stir into this the bread, with one teaspoon of salt and one of pepper; let it heat thoroughly; fill the turkey; put in roaster; salt and pepper the outside; dredge with flour and pour over one cup water.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mom had a baked bean recipe that we made at almost every meal that included grilled burgers. Her beans were not baked, but simmered on the stove top. They are good hot, cold or three days later. As I grew older, I thought this short cut recipe might not be as good as true baked beans. So, I searched some vintage cookbooks for a recipe. Here's what I found:

Home Baked Beans

2 cups navy beans
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 small onion, minced
4 tablespoons molasses
1 tsp. dry mustard
4 tablespoons catsup
1/4 lb. salt pork

Soak beans over night in cold water. Drain, add 1 & 1/2 quarts of fresh water, the onion and cook slowly until the skins burst. Drain and save the liquid. Mix molasses, seasoning and catsup with 1 cup of the liquid. Put half the salt port or bacon in the bottom of a bean pot or baking dish, add the beans and top with remainder of pork. Pour molasses mixture over beans, add more liquid to cover. Bake for 5 hours in slow oven (300-f). Uncover for the last 30 minutes. Add water, if necessary, while cooking.

I have to admit that I never tried that recipe. When you're craving Mom's baked beans, you pretty much want them now. If I had known the night before that I would be craving baked beans the next day, I could have started those beans soaking. But, Mom's recipe is hard to beat.

Sometimes I add a little prepared mustard and use bacon bits when I don't have fresh bacon handy.

Mom's Baked Beans

3 cans pork & beans (15 oz cans)
6 slices of bacon
1 small onion, diced
3/4 cup dark brown sugar

Cut bacon into small pieces about the size of a diced onion. In a large non-stick skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add onion and continue cooking until onion is tender and bacon is done. Drain bacon drippings. Add pork & beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add dark brown sugar, Stir until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until beans thicken.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Recycling Glass Jars?

Recycling glass jars is nothing new, but it meant saving the jar rather than throwing it in the recycle bin. Only the broken ones were thrown away. The others were used for a multitude of household purposes. Mason jars were prized possessions because they would used the next canning season. But, we also saved jelly jars for drink glasses. Kraft salad dressing jars, pickle jars, and instant coffee jars were saved to be used in home canning and storage. One of our favorite cookie jars was a wide mouth gallon sized pickle jar. It never occurred to us to just throw them away. While recycling is definitely necessary, think the next time you put a glass jar in the bin. Can it be used for another purpose? These jars make great storage places for dried beans, spices, fruit, leftover soups, homemade salad dressings, shakers for instant pudding or drink mixes, candy, flower vases, homemade gifts, home office storage for pens, and a multitude of small items in your garage or basement.

Save what you can from the landfill, and recycle what you can't.

Here are some Household items that can be recycled:


  • All food and Beverage Containers
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Clear
  • Green


  • Catalogs
  • Junk Mail
  • Magazines
  • Newspaper
  • Telephone Books
  • White Packing Paper


  • Plastics with a neck (bottles) and the number 1 or 2 in the recycle symbol on the bottle.


  • Brown Fiber Paper
  • Brown Grocery Bags
  • Brown Packing Paper
  • Cereal Boxes (remove liner)
  • Corrugated Cardboard
  • Other Chip Board Boxes

Mixed Cans

  • Dog/Cat Food Cans
  • Tin/Steel Cans
  • Vegetable Cans
  • Aerosol Spray Cans (Empty / No Lids)
  • Aluminum Cans

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

'Green' is in! You hear about recycling and saving Mother Earth every day. Today's generation probably think they invented recycling and green living. Back in the day, everyone grew 'organic' foods; we just didn't know it.

Given today's economic woes, everyone is looking for a way to save money on grocery bills. It seems to me that we just need to take a small step back in time to the kitchen of our childhood. We can save a great deal of money simply by not wasting it. Even before the Great Depression, country cooks knew how to use every bit of food that came across their kitchen table. The next time you are bagging up your kitchen garbage, think about how much you are wasting. In a World War I era cookbook, homemakers were told the only items that should find their way into a garbage pail were:

Egg shells - after being used to clear coffee
Potato skins - after having been cooked on the potato
Banana skins - if there are no tan shoes to be cleaned
Bones - after having been boiled in a soup kettle
Coffee grounds - if there is no garden where they can be used for fertilizer
Tea leaves - if they are not needed for brightening rugs when swept
Asparagus ends - after being cooked for soup
Decayed leaves and dirty ends of roots of green leafy vegetables

That is not a very long list, but it probably is still relevant today if you are recycling. Take out the food cans, boxes, plastic bottles, and you probably don't have that much true 'garbage'. But, how much of that food is wasted? Buying in bulk or because something is on sale is not going to save you money if it ends up in the garbage. Here are some modern ways to save those leftovers:

Milk & Juice nearing expiration - Freeze this in ice cube trays & then transfer to a freezer bag to save for use in a recipe, drinks or smoothies.

Chicken broth - I love to boil chicken breasts to use in salads and casseroles. I always save the leftover broth and freeze it. It makes a great start for your next pot of soup.

Beef drippings - The next time you make a roast, freeze some of the drippings for a future stew.

Baked Chicken - Save those bones! After you've removed all the chicken you want, boil the remaining whole chicken in a stock pot. Strain the bones and you have chicken stock to freeze for your next recipe.

Mashed potatoes - Freeze leftover mashed potatoes in muffin tins and then place in a freezer bag. When ready to use, just defrost, add a little milk and re-heat.

Bread - You can freeze it before it goes stale and use a slice or two as needed. Once it is stale, you can still use it for french toast, meatloaf, or bread crumbs. Leftover biscuits and muffins can be frozen and used for a quick breakfast in the weeks to come.

Coffee - Don't throw what's left in the pot down the drain! Turn off the warmer so it doesn't get too strong after brewing. Refrigerate the leftovers for an iced coffee later on or re-heat it the next day.

It seems we always end up with a bite or two of something leftover that ends up going down the garbage disposal. Save those beans, vegetables, rice, meat and chicken scraps for a soup or casserole. Even if you don't make soup from scratch, it's a quick way to dress up canned soup so it seems homemade.

The art of utilizing left-overs is an important factor in the prevention of waste. The thrifty have always known it. The careless have always ignored it. Which are you?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vintage Pumpkin Pie Recipes

How many times have you made a heirloom recipe and thought 'This doesn't taste like Grandma's'? You have to wonder if something was left out of the recipe or lost as it was handed down to you. I think it has more to do with the ingredients than the recipe. Back in the day, Grandma had her own chickens and those eggs made for a rich pie. Ideally, there is a farmer near you selling eggs. If not, try organic the next time. You just might be surprised at the difference it will make!

These pumpkin pie recipes are from the early 1900's.

Pumpkin Pie

Steam good sweet pumpkin, until soft, and put through a colander. Put one-half cup of butter into an iron frying pan over the fire. When it begins to brown, add one quart of strained pumpkin; let it cook a few moments, stirring all the time; put into a large bowl or crock; add two quarts of good rich milk, eight eggs, beaten separately, two large cups of sugar, 1 teaspoonful of salt, one of pepper, one of ginger, one of cinnamon, one of cloves, one grated nutmeg, and one tablespoonful of vanilla. Bake in moderate oven, with under crust only. Brush the crust with white of egg before filling. This recipe will make five pies!

Pumpkin Pie

One coffeecup of mashed pumpkin, reduced to the proper consistency with rich milk and melted butter or cream, on tablespoonful of flour, a small pinch of salt, on teaspoon of ginger, one teaspoon of cinnamon, on half nutmeg, one half teaspoon of vanilla, one half teaspoon of lemon extract, two-thirds cup of sugar.

Puff Paste - One third cup of lard, a little salt, mix slightly with one and one half cups of flour, moisten with very cold water, just enough to hold together; get into shape for your tin as soon as possible. Brush the paste with the white of egg. Bake in a hot oven until a rich brown.

Pumpkin Pie

One quart of pumpkin, one cup of Orleans molasses, one cup of brown sugar, one pint of milk, three eggs, one tablespoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon, and one teaspoon of salt. This will make two large or three small pies.