Apple Crisp

by Nancy on December 13, 2011

in Desserts,Fruit

Fruit crisp is an easy dessert to make but one that I only make when I have fresh fruit. I use any firm fruit that I happen to have available – apples, pears, peaches, or cherries. I usually use apples though so I call it apple crisp. If my fruit is tree ripe and sweet, I don’t add any sugar to the fruit, just a little tapioca to thicken any juice that cooks out. I particularly like this topping because it has oatmeal in it for both the texture and the flavor. I pile the fruit high in the baking dish as it will shrink about half after baking.

Apple Crisp


  • 6 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  1. Toss apples with tapioca and place in 1 1/2 or 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. Mix sugar, flour, oatmeal and cinnamon in bowl.
  3. Cut room temperature butter or margarine into mixture with pastry cutter or fork until crumbly, like pie crust if you make pies.
  4. Pour mixture over apples.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until apples bubble up around crust, about 45 minutes.


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Pumpkin Bread

by Nancy on November 8, 2011

in Breads,Snacks,Vegetarian

I suppose I can admit that we don’t always have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving anymore. Kinda sad I know but the apples on my tree ripen about a month before Thanksgiving so I often make an apple pie and freeze it so all I have to do is bake it the day before. And then I have a couple of diehards that insist on a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. Carrie is one of them so she bakes the pecan pie, one less thing for me to do. But it still doesn’t seem like fall without something pumpkin with the accompanying spicy aroma.

So to get my pumpkin spice fix I make pumpkin bread and have a slice or two for breakfast with a cup of tea. Many pumpkin bread recipes suffer the same “flaw” as carrot cake (another favorite of mine). To keep the bread moist, the recipes use a lot of oil – 2/3 to 1 cup for an average loaf. I don’t like my pumpkin bread or carrot cake to leave an oil ring on my plate and that oil adds a lot of calories. So I tested several recipes and made a few changes of my own until I came up with a recipe that is moist and uses only 1/3 cup of oil.

Pumpkin Bread

Makes two 3″ x 7″ mini loaves.


  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Blend pumpkin, sugar and egg with spoon in 1 quart bowl.
  2. Stir in oil, salt and spices.
  3. Add water, baking soda and baking powder.
  4. Mix in flour.
  5. Pour into two 3″ x 7″ mini loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes. Do not underbake.


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There are a whole range of grains that have been and can be used as food but are not commonly consumed in the US. Barley is one of those grains. Historically is was grown worldwide but was especially important in northern climates with short growing seasons (such as Iceland) as it doesn’t need a lot of heat to grow. Today it is grown in the US but nearly all of the production goes into animal feed and malted barley for beer making.

Last March my son, Scott, and I went to a convention and did some touring in Iceland. The hotel restaurant served a barley dish for breakfast. It was right next to skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt/cheese, and served in the same style container but I never determined if this breakfast barley was considered a traditional dish or not (like several places we visited in Iceland, the staff was seasonal help from elsewhere in Europe and didn’t know). It was the first time I remember eating barley other than those little bits in Campbell’s vegetable beef soup.

The only real challenge to this recipe was finding a source for barley and learning how to cook it. This recipe uses whole grain barley which may also called hulled or hulless barley depending on the variety grown. I can buy barley at my local natural foods store in the bulk bin section. It is also available by mail order from Bob’s Red Mill. Whole grain barley takes a long time to cook and is always chewy even when fully cooked.

We’d like to thank Bob’s Red Mill for providing the barley, dried apples and black currants for this recipe.

Icelandic Breakfast Barley

four 1 cup servings


  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill hulless barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill diced, dried apples
  • 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill black currants
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel (optional)
  1. Place barley, water, butter or margarine, and salt in a 2 quart saucepan for stove top or 3 quart bowl for microwave. (The butter or margarine keeps the water when mixed with small amounts of starch from the grain from boiling over.) Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 90 minutes. Ideally all of the water should just be absorbed as the barley finishes cooking. Check near the end of cooking time and add boiling water if the barley is too dry or remove the lid if the barley is too wet. When cooking barley in the future, adjust water and/or cooking time as needed.
  2. While still hot, stir in dried apples, currants, honey and cinnamon. If there is a layer of starch on top of the barley when cooking it in the microwave, just stir it in with the apples and currants. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.




Mild Midwest Chili

by Nancy on December 28, 2010

in Main Dish,Soups

Winter holidays were full of family parties and at New Year’s we had two! On New Year’s Eve my parents went square dancing but us kids, my grandparents and my uncles and aunt went up the (gravel) road a whole 1/2 mile for a evening at my Great Aunt Irene’s house. We watched football, played Tripoly and card games, ate all kinds of great tasting, bad for you snacks and welcomed in the New Year watching the Times Square Ball drop on TV with Guy Lombardo singing Auld Lang Syne.

On New Year’s Day, well later the same day, we gathered at my grandparents house for more football, preferably with the Green Bay Packers playing and winning. After huge Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts (and being out late the night before) my grandmother made a couple of simple soups for our meal, chili and oyster stew. Oyster stew was a favorite of my grandfather and I think New Year’s was the only time my grandmother made it because she had to special order the oysters. Oysters were not a common food in the Midwest.

Chili on the other hand was a meal we had frequently. Both my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes in the summer and this was a dish that used them that everyone liked. They mostly canned tomato juice (passing cooked tomatoes through a colander got rid of the seeds and the skins easily) so chili was really a tomato juice based soup. Midwesterners don’t tend to like much heat in their food and the chili was mild. If I remember correctly, my mother used about 1 tsp. of Shillings chili powder mix in 3 quarts of chili. This wasn’t powdered chili, this was a mixture of spices like cinnamon, cloves, and a mild chili powder.

I only grow tomatoes for fresh use in my urban garden so I modified my mom’s recipe to use store-bought canned tomatoes. I make my chili chunkier, more like a stew, by using diced tomatoes instead of tomato juice as a base and leaving the other vegetables chunky. I vary the type of beans that I use. My mother used kidney beans but I sometimes use pinto beans or black beans instead. You could even use garbanzo beans to add a cheesy flavor.  I’ve spiced it up a bit by increasing the amount of sweet spices (cinnamon and cloves) but keep the hotness down by adding only a small amount of hot chili powder. I did grow up in the midwest after all.

Mild Midwest Chili

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3  14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1  14 ounce can kidney, pinto or black beans
  • 1 cup celery
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. whole mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes or powdered chili (optional)
  1. Brown ground beef in 4 quart pan.
  2. Add celery, onion and pepper and saute with beef.
  3. Add tomatoes and beans including liquid in cans.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes.


Gingerbread Men Cookies

by Carrie on December 7, 2010

in Cookies

It’s taken me 8 years now to perfect my gingerbread men and now they’re one of my favorite Christmas cookies.

Gingerbread Men Cookies (adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  1. Beat butter or margarine, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves in an electric mixer.
  2. Add molasses, egg, and vinegar and beat until combined.
  3. Add flour and stir until incorporated.
  4. Cover and chill dough for about 3 hours.
  5. Roll out dough until 1/4 inch thick. I roll my dough out on the cookie sheets.
  6. Cut gingerbread men out with cookie cutter. I use the Wilton Comfort Grip gingerbread man.
  7. Bake at 375° for 6 to 8 minutes.


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Combine powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner cut off to ice your cookies.