Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hippie Granola

It might not seem very "countryish" to write about a granola recipe. I realize
that most of my foodarticles are about the good old days, Grandma and
old-fashioned cooking. This recipe actually fits, though.

Back around 1970, our rural town was fairly untouched by events of the
world, except what we saw on TV or read in the newspaper. But even the
hippie movement came around, when a lone long-haired, tie-dye-t-shirted
man drifted into town and somehow linked up with a local gal.

I don't even know his real name. I just called him "Dirty Dave" because
I heard that from my older brothers. I don't know if he was dirty or the name
was related to "dirty hippies," a term many of the older townsfolk used.

For all our disdain, it wasn't long before we were tie-dying t-shirts for ourselves
and one of my brothers grew a long beard. He wore peace beads. He
hitchhiked to Mexico with his girlfriend on a trip. Yes, he came back safely
but I think my parents aged a few years in that short time.

We didn't eat granola then. We were still on regular ol' breakfast foods like
scrambled eggs and bacon. But whenever I make my homemade granola,
I think back to those days. How we thought the world was "moving too fast"!

Hippie Granola

Dry ingredients:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 cups sliced almonds (or other nut)
1 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, dates,
or cherries
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
3/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly, then add oil and
honey and stir till coated. Spread on baking sheet(s); it should not be too thick
of a layer.

Bake at 325 for 40-45 mins., stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes. Let cool
5 minutes, then pour into large bowl and let set until room temperature.
Keep tightly covered. Will remain fresh for about a week, longer if refrigerated.

Note: To make the "stirring" part more effective, I use a large spatula and turn
over sections of the granola somewhat pancake-like. This is the best way to
make sure the granola gets cooked evenly. Also, watch carefully the last 15
minutes, and remove granola when it gets medium/dark brown. It burns easily
if overcooked.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


When I was about eight years old (in the 1960s), we ran into some neighbors in the nearby bigger town, and we decided to eat at Reed's Corner. We seldom went out to eat. To me, A&W or Dog 'n' Suds was a heavenly dining-out experience. But Reed's Corner was a go-inside, sit-down and you-must-be-clean restaurant.

Our meal included a salad. Since I hated all vegetables except french fries, I wasn't sure what to pick. But the waitress both had a suggestion: I could order the Jello "salad." Yes, this was a SALAD--cherry Jell-O with a few pieces of fruit (that I could easily pick out), topped with whipped cream.

If this doesn't seem like a "salad," it's not to today's eaters. And it seems like only preschoolers eat Jell-O. But fruit or vegetables locked into gelatin were a perfectly acceptable side dish back or dessert in the 1950s and 1960s. More formally, it was called an "aspic" instead of a "Jell-O salad."

Traditionally, an aspic is a gelatin-encased dish including meat and/or vegetables and/or fruit. The gelatin includes some meat broth in a true aspic. Back in those days, it was easier to make a savory gelatin side dish. Jell-O had flavors that no longer exist, such as Mixed Vegetable, Celery, Italian Salad and Seasoned Tomato.

(If you find this as fascinating as I do, here is the best short history I can find on Jell-O)

It might seem crazy to develop an aspic recipe, but I took care to make something that is the most likely to be eaten by today's foodies. It's mild, has some crunch, and has as much vegetable content as a gelatin salad can. It's not a true aspic, since it doesn't use meat or meat broth, but remember, it's not vegetarian anyway. Gelatin is made from animal collagen. (It's really not made from hooves.)

Tomato-Celery Aspic Salad
1/2 pkg. (1.5 oz.) lemon-flavored gelatin
(full package is 3 oz.)
1 packet (1 oz.) Gelatine unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash (1/8 teas.) cayenne pepper
Dash (1/8 teas.) chili powder
1 1/2 cups finely-sliced celery

Dissolve gelatin in water. Stir in tomato juice, vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper and chili powder. In mixing bowl, chill until partially set (approximately 1 hour). Fold in celery. Pour into a mold (or individual molds). Chill until firm, approximately 2-4 hours. Serves 4.

Tips: When gelatin is "partially set," it will be noticeably thicker but only the part of the sides of the bowl will seem more solidly gelatinous. You should be able to stir in the vegetables without them automatically sinking.

Serve on a chilled or even frozen plate to help it keep its form.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Good Dream Pie

When you think of pies these days, you think of pumpkin, apple, cherry, berry pies, and the whipped-cream concoctions at Baker’s Square and similar restaurants.

Back in the 1960s, a good everyday sort of pie was “Dream Pie.” I think most country people had a least a pie per week around the house, or every other week at least.

Dream Whip, a non-dairy powder mixed with milk and vanilla to make a whipped topping, came along in 1957. The “Dream Pie” recipe started appearing on boxes. It was easy for a harried housewife: take a crust, bake it, cool it, then fill it with instant whipped topping and refrigerate. Dream Pie is not as popular now, in this kale-crunching age.

A pie full of pudding does not seem like much, so of course I had to tinker with it. I wanted the same type of easy pie but with a little more “spin.” Since chocolate and coconut are a perfect pair. This version is a little more work--but not much.


2 env. Dream Whip whipped topping mix
2 ¾ cups cold whole milk, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. (3.56 oz.) Hershey’s Instant Chocolate Pudding
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) Jell-O Coconut Cream Instant Pudding
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup flaked coconut, toasted
1 baked pie crust (9 inch), cooled

Chill a bowl and mixer beaters in the freezer for about 10 minutes or in the refrigerator for abuot 20 minutes.

Beat whipped topping mixture, 1 cup milk and vanilla in a large (chilled) bowl with mixer on high speed for 6 min., or until soft peaks form.

Add remaining milk, dry pudding mixes, and ½ cup coconut (non-toasted). Beat with mixer on low speed until blended. Then beat on high speed 2 min., scraping side and bottom of bowl. Spoon mixture into crust.

Heat medium-sized skillet on stove, medium heat. When warm, toast ½ cup coconut for 3-4 minutes, or until toasted light brown, stirring frequently. Cool thoroughly.

Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Before serving, sprinkle toasted coconut on top of pie. Makes 8 servings.

Note: you can use any brand of instant chocolate pudding, though I thought Hershey’s was superior. Also, the exact ounces quantity of the instant pudding mixes does not matter. Brands run from 3.2 to 3.9 oz. sizes; anything around 3.5 oz. will work.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I’ve carried on before about my love of asparagus but this relationship just gets better all the time. 
Strangely, I’ve never made homemade asparagus soup until a few years ago. Perhaps I don’t have the patience when I know it can be steamed or blanched in a couple of minutes and ready to eat. 
Even more odd, this recipe came about when I was trying to make a healthy breakfast smoothie. I’d found two similar recipes for a healthy breakfast smoothie that were similar--one from Martha Stewart, and the other from Dr. Oz. The recipes were very much alike, with names like “Green Drink” or “Green Juice,” and started with two cups of chopped fresh spinach. 
I love spinach almost as much as asparagus, so I thought this green drink would be a much healthier alternative than my usual breakfast--black coffee and a Kellogg’s Pop-Tart (hey, I’m entitled to feel like a 12-year-old at breakfast, at least). 
Unfortunately, both versions of the green drink--even with their sweetening additives like minced fresh ginger or honey--tasted like a glass of wet, freshly-mowed grass. So I thought about converting that recipe to a hot soup. Then, the lure of my lover, asparagus, beckoning, I thought, why use spinach? 
This soup can be served warm or cold, though in my world, cold soup is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” or “delicious calamari.” This soup also strays from my original idea of a super-lean green liquid food since I added cream for thickness. 
But that’s okay. When you eat asparagus, all is forgiven . Sorry, Dr. Oz, I won’t give up my organic heavy cream.
Cream of Asparagus Soup 
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 lbs. asparagus
1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup buttermilk
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, snap woody ends off asparagus and chop into half-inch pieces. 
Add garlic, salt, pepper, and asparagus to simmering vegetables. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add 4 cups chicken broth, stir. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, let rest 5 minutes. 
Puree soup in blender in 2 or 3 batches. Pour pureed mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Add half-and-half and buttermilk, and stir. Warm through, covered. Pour into bowls, and garnish. 

Possible garnishes: grated fresh parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon, croutons. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Grown-Up Candied Carrots

Remember the candied carrots of our childhood? If you are like me, it was an array of carrots and marshmallows baked in a pan. It was sugary-sweet, and I'm sure my dentist was somewhere cackling with glee everytime I ate it. One of my grandmothers used corn syrup AND marshmallows, and no sane kid could avoid that. It was better than a Hollywood bar, the sweetest candy bar I can remember.
Time for a grown-up version of candied carrots. If you are wondering what "orange blossom honey" is, it's honey created by bees that only swarm orange trees. You can order it online; just Google "Orange Blossom Honey." You can substitute other honey, but this particular type gives it a great flavor. Kids will still like it – they can save the marshmallows for dessert.
Candied carrots without marshmallows? How is that possible?

Grown-Up Candied Carrots

2/3 cup orange blossom honey
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut bite-sized on the bias
2 tablespoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add honey, salt, and then stir. Add carrots. Cook on medium heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the carrots are tender. Turn off heat.
Add cumin, olive oil, and lemon juice and stir. About 4 servings.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Blackberry Ice Cream

My favorite berry is black. Somehow, though, blackberries are seen as a bit “old school” with the nutritional publicity on blueberries, the always-popular sweetness of strawberries, and the novelty of “new” nutritious berries like acai or gojis. Blackberries even take a back seat to raspberries, which seem to be more common both at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. Driving in Door County, WI, I see “U-pick” blueberries, cherries and raspberries. I guess it’s hard to sell “U-pick blackberries.”
Somehow blackberries make me think of the country. I’ve heard stories from Mom, aunt Georgia Ruth, and Grandma Hamilton on “going to the wild berry patch to pick blackberries.” It’s thorny, tedious work, and you have to compete with bees. That’s another reason they are a treasure.
Searching online, I can only find four blackberry festivals: Bremerton WA, Lenoir NC, Nutter Fort, WV, and and Sutherlin OR.
I don’t want to travel the country for a blackberry festival but I guess I will someday.
Grabbing a bunch of blackberries at the farmer’s market (in fact, all they had left that day), I knew I’d make a classic blueberry pie at a later time. But the weather was hot so I wanted to make something cold. Why not blackberry ice cream?

I bought an ice cream maker a couple of years ago and instantly marveled at the better-tasting, no-preservatives quality of the dessert. I considered buying a hand-cranked one. Then I remembered as a little kid how I begged my Dad to let me turn the crank to make the ice cream.
After about five minutes, I was ready to eat it. That’s not how it works. With two brothers and Dad to help crank it (somehow, because we made this in the backyard near the grill, it was entirely men’s work), the ice cream was finally done--it had only taken forever. So I bought the electric one.
This recipe can actually use the same amount of any fresh fruit that is sweet, somewhat soft and not citrus, such as bing cherries, peaches, pears, plums, pomegranates, and the other berries. But try it with blackberries for a deep-purple, exotic-tasting dessert.


2 1/2 pounds blackberries, stemmed, washed, and mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 can frozen condensed fruit juice (I used blueberry since you won’t find blackberry; if a different kind of fruit, use a complementary juice)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups half and half
Make according to your ice cream maker instructions. Serves: a whole bunch of people (about 10-12 servings).

Sure, it’s sweet, but it’s ice cream! And this is “Country Cooking”! You are still getting the healthy antioxidants of the berries.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Church Supper Lemon Icebox Pie

If you are from the Midwest, and had the growing-up experience of going to a church supper at a country church, you are very lucky. I remember these fondly. Pleasant Green Baptist Church in north Missouri still stands today, and I suspect they still have their church suppers, church dinners, or maybe even church picnics. The church was founded on August 25, 1885, after a revival meeting in an arbor near the site. The first pastor was paid a whopping $6 a month.

Back in the day, all the old church ladies made great recipes that they knew by heart, just as well as they knew every word to the songs in the Broadman Hymnal. Tables were laden with inimitable fried chicken, country ham, mashed potatoes, green bean and corn dishes, deviled eggs (the more religious called them “angeled eggs” so as not to invoke evil), and sparkling, fruit-filled Jello salads (not a dessert–it was a “salad”). But where we kids focused was the array of mouth-watering pies, cakes and cookies.

lemon icebox pie

Of course, Mom never allowed you to fill your plate with all desserts, though us younguns would have been happy to do just that. I have only a couple of recipes from those wonderful old ladies of my youth but know that Georgie Ruth, Aunt Mildred, Bessie Pearl, Ruby Darst, “Aunt Gyp” Smith, Edythe Dickerson, Lillie Maude, Moneaka, Frankie Elam, and others, kept us fat and happy.

A summertime treat from those days would be an “icebox pie.” That was when people still called refrigerators “ice boxes” from the early days when it really was an insulated box with a block of ice in it. Of course, we had a modern refrigerator but called it “the icebox.” Did you?

Remember, this was created to be an old-fashioned recipe. I could have developed it with all kinds of modern substitutes but I don’t prefer aspartame, olestra, sucralose and other things that do not come directly out of the ground, a hen, or a cow’s udder. So don’t shirk at the nine egg yolks, butter and heavy cream. You gotta eat up for a long day o’ preachin!

Church Supper Lemon Icebox Pie

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: overnight or 1 day
Calories: don’t even ask

3 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies (plus extra whole cookies for topping)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups whipping cream, divided (second cup is optional for topping)
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 large egg yolks
1/3 cup superfine sugar
20-21 oz. sweetened condensed milk*
1 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine)
(*this typically comes in 14 oz. cans; use 1 and 1/2 cans)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Crush vanilla wafer cookies to a fine crumb. In a medium bowl, place cookie crumbs and melted butter. Mix thoroughly. Press into the bottom and about an inch up the side of a 10-inch pie pan or springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

In a medium bowl, pour 1 cup whipping cream, 2 teaspoons superfine sugar, and vanilla extract and whip to soft peaks, about 3-5 minutes. (Do not be concerned if you are not creating stiff “whipped cream,” as this part will be folded into another mixture and frozen).

In a large bowl, mix egg yolks and 1/3 cup superfine sugar. Whisk at high speed (hand or stand mixer) for about 5 minutes, until mixture is somewhat fluffy. Stirring slowly, add sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice until mixed. Gently fold in the medium bowl of whipped cream mixture until fully blended.

Pour into prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer overnight or at least eight hours.

When serving, remove from freezer about 10-15 minutes before serving. If desired, top with whole vanilla wafer cookies. Whip one more cup of whipping cream to firm peaks and use as topping.

Note: I doubt the old church ladies fussed with something like superfine sugar. You can use regular sugar in this recipe but it’s easier to mix superfine. If you cannot find superfine sugar, put sugar in a blender and mix on high to break it down to superfine texture.

Where are the lemons? Get real! These were the old days. We didn’t mess with fresh fruit!

Hippie Granola

It might not seem very "countryish" to write about a granola recipe. I realize that most of my food articles are about the good ...