Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Best Way to Eat a Rabbit

While waiting at the airport with Willie, we overheard an elderly woman telling tales of growing up on a farm. My ears perked up when she said "Let me tell you the best way to eat a rabbit." Her audience was captivated. "You put them in the freezer," she continued, "until you forget who they are." I've never kept rabbits, but I should think that this would be good advice for those who get a bit attached to the animals that they intend to eat!

Photo courtesy of artemisphoto at

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mom's Tomato Soup Cake

More often than not, when I mention tomato soup cake to anyone outside my family it elicits  grimaces, groans and turned-up noses. What these people don't realize is that tomato soup cake tastes nothing like tomato soup. I don't care for tomato soup, and yet I love tomato soup cake! So, what's all the hubbub, bub? Tomato soup cake is a spice cake which is baked in a loaf pan, and sliced like a bread. Sort of the same idea as banana bread. Although this recipe calls for nuts and raisins, we never had any need to use nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, or chocolate frosting, even though I have heard of many who do.We ate it, slathered in butter, for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack. The lack of nuts, fruits or chocolate products means it is cheap enough to make all the time, and it's mmm mmm good!

1/2 c butter or shortening (if using butter, soften)
1 c sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp baking soda
1 10 oz can condensed tomato soup
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c raisins

Cream butter and sugar together with a pastry blender or mixer until smooth.
Add egg and mix well.
Dissolve soda into soup and add to sugar mixture. This part is really fun for kids to take part in, as the soup will foam up and overflow as you mix it. Mom always made sure that the kids were present for this event!
Add flour, salt and spices and fold to incorporate. If you are using nuts or raisins, add them as well and fold gently.

Grease and flour two loaf pans. The easiest way I have found to achieve this is to use a paper towel with a daub of shortening on it to grease the pan thoroughly, then add a bit of flour. Swirl and tap the pan with the palm of your hand over the top of your trash can until the entire greased-up pan has a light coating of flour.
Bake in a 350 degree, pre-heated oven for thirty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool and set before removing from the pan, and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mom's Stroganoff

Before I get any heat for this not being real stroganoff, this is mom's recipe and she can call it what she wants! 
This is a super easy recipe that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

What you will need:
One pound lean ground beef
A 10.5 once can cream of mushroom soup
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Rice or egg noodles

Start cooking your rice or egg noodles according to package directions. I like to use my rice cooker for rice preparation, because I'm lazy. ;-)

Crumble ground beef into a skillet over medium-high heat. Season with garlic salt and pepper, stir and cook until brown.  Drain off grease if necessary.
Stir in the undiluted soup and a splash of milk (about 1/4 cup, if you want a real measurement.)

Cook,  stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve over hot cooked rice or egg noodles.

I have found that this tastes best when additional pepper is sprinkled on top just before you dive in!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Coffee Cake Muffins

This recipe is from a community cookbook that mom got for me a few years back. They are really tasty, and they are easy to make.

1 1/2 c. All Purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening
1 egg
1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. All Purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Measure dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir together.

Cut in shortening with a pastry blender. This mixture should be the consistency of bread crumbs.

Whisk together egg and milk and add to the bowl.

Fold wet mixture into dry mixture. Don't over-mix, just fold together until all the flour is incorporated. If you over-mix, your muffins will be tough.

Next, put together your topping. In a small bowl, melt your butter.

Once it is melted, add nuts, cinnamon, flour, and brown sugar and mix well.

Line your muffin tin with paper baking cups, baking cups will help hold your muffins together while they cool. Using a small disher, dole out a small amount of batter, then a small amount of topping mixture.

Repeat until all your batter and topping mixture are used up. Don't worry about exact measurements, just eyeball it and try to make it even.

Bake on middle rack for 20 minute, or until  the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool thoroughly before removing from the tin, to allow the topping to cool and set. If muffins stick to the tin a bit on the tops, use a butterknife to loosen. If you don't loosen the stuck-on bits, the muffins will pull apart when you remove them.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Seed Starting Containers

My seed starting containers in the rough.
Starting your own seeds to plant in your garden doesn't have to be a daunting task, nor does it need to be very expensive. Using recycled materials, you can start your seeds inexpensively. What kinds of materials should you hold onto for seed starting? Newspaper, old egg cartons, milk cartons, or empty yogurt, cottage cheese or sour cream containers. For larger plants that are not yet ready for outdoor planting, or for seeds that need a but more soil to germinate, you can use empty peanut butter jars, coffee containers, empty plastic pickle jars, etc. 


In my community we have a weekly paper delivered to our door, and we also get ads in the mail. It's like they're dropping of materials for free! Wait, that's exactly the case! What you will need is a stack of newspaper (the dull kind, without the shiny coating,) a stapler, and some sort of cylindrical object, preferably with an open end. I use a fairly straight sided shot glass, if that gives you an idea of what size you need. First, tear the newspaper in strips long ways,  about four inches wide. Roll a strip around your cylinder, leaving about an inch of overhang on the open end.  Tuck the paper down into the opening, then, taking care not to let the paper unravel, remove the cylinder. Put a staple or two in the side where the seam is, then flatten down the part you tucked into the cylinder to make a bottom. You should be left with a cup shape made of the newspaper. Fill with starter soil, add seeds, and place your little pots in a shallow tray. Put a good amount of water into the tray and place in a sunny location. Keep the paper moist, so that the soil will stay moist as well. Once your plants are big enough to go in the ground, plant it pot and all. The roots should be able to work through the newspaper as it breaks down in the ground. At some later date, I will put up a post with photos and instructions for making newspaper starter pots. This page is already kind of busy with all the things that are going on already, so check back, mmmkay?

Just cut off the lid and flap!

Egg cartons

This is a super simple method to start your seeds. Cut the lid off of the carton, fill the egg cups with starter soil and add seeds. Put your newly made seed carton in a shallow tray and add water. Keep the carton moist, to keep the soil moist as well. Once your plants are ready to go into the ground, cut the cups apart. Leave your plant in its egg cup to plant. Your roots will have already begun to work through the egg cup, and attempting to remove the plant will damage the roots. 
Cut off the top of the carton.

Milk Cartons

Cut the tops off of milk cartons, and rinse thoroughly. Punch a few holes in the bottom, and fill with starter soil. Plant your seeds and place cartons in a shallow tray. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny location. When it comes time to plant, tear or cut away the milk cartons and plant your little seedlings!
Punch drainage holes in all your containers.

Food Containers

The cups that yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream come in can make great little starter pots. Make sure that you are using the yogurt cups which are narrower at the base. The cups with narrow tops will make it more difficult to remove your plants to put them in the ground. Larger containers such as peanut butter jars, pickle jars, or coffee canisters can be used to replant seedlings, or to start seeds for squash,  melons, or cucumbers. All you need to do to prep your pots is wash and rinse thoroughly, punch a few holes in the bottom, and fill with starter soil. Plant your seeds our plants and place your pots in a shallow tray. Water well and place in a sunny location. When your plants are big enough to go into the ground, turn your pot on its side, squeeze the bottom of the pot to loosen your plant, and lift it out. If you are still having difficulties getting it out, slice down the side of the pot with a sharp knife or box cutter.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jell-o Cookies

Mom made these all the time for us kids when we were growing up. Since this isn't her exact recipe, I didn't think it right to call it "Mom's Jell-o Cookies" but these are quite similar, and are quite delicious indeed! You can use any flavor of Jell-o you'd like, but I strongly advise against using sugar free varieties. It just doesn't work out well. At the time that I was working on this post it was just before Thanksgiving, so I used cranberry flavored. Other tasty flavors to use are cherry, strawberry or orange.

3/4 c butter or margarine
1/2 c sugar
1 small (3oz) package Jell-o
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 c all purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large bowl place softened butter, sugar and Jell-o. Cream together with a pastry blender or mixer.  

Add eggs and vanilla and stir to combine. 

Mix in salt and baking powder. Stir in flour, a little at a time. When dough becomes too stuff to stir, knead it with your hands until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Keep a small amount of flour on hand in a bowl. 

Using a fork, smash down the cookies, making a cross hatch pattern, and dipping your fork in the flour before each cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are set and bottoms are golden brown. 

Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Make It Yourself - Laundry Soap

So, Willie and I decided a long time ago that we would explore our laundry cleaning options and figure out if there was a better, cheaper way to go about washing clothes. Willie found a delightful recipe for homemade laundry soap, and we quickly set about making it! As it turns out, it works great! And it lasts forever! You don't need a whole lot of soap per washload to get good results.

I have had problems in the past with being allergic to certain laundry soaps. I once got hives so bad that they were on the soles of my feet. Ick! The doctor who treated me said it gave him the heeby-jeebies, and that's saying something! This recipe is super mild and I have not had any hint of a reaction or problem with it so far. So, if you want to give it a go, visit Making your own Laundry Detergent and whip a batch up for super cheap! I just picked up all the stuff to make my next batch for less than $25.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I've had some good cornbread recipes in my life, and I've had some very bad ones. This recipe is one of the good ones! The best part? It's so easy to make! Cornbread is a super tasty accompaniment to chili, stew, and all sorts of soups. In addition, it can be eaten with butter and honey as a side or dessert, or with milk or buttermilk for breakfast. If you ever want to make someone from the south a happy camper, bring them some good cornbread! 

1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c  all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/3 c melted butter
4 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. 
Beat eggs and add those and the milk, and stir. Melt your butter, and add it to the remaining ingredients, stirring quickly to avoid "cooking" the eggs with the hot butter. 
Once well blended, pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until well-set and golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting.

I decided to eat my cornbread topped with chili and cheese. I took some to work for one of my nursing home residents, she ate hers with milk.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Stay Warm in Winter: Baking!

Mom's Potatoes with Cheese on Top
One of the ways my family saved money while I was growing up was to keep our thermostat set fairly low. Saves on gas and electricity, so it makes sense. For a while all we had to keep our house warm was a wood-burning stove. On the days when the wood-burning stove or lowered thermostat just didn't seem to cut it, mom used the oven. Cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, tomato soup cake, pot roast, home-made pot pies, lemon bars, broiled steaks, potatoes with cheese on top, brownies, chicken enchiladas, chocolate cheesecake, biscuits, cornbread. It was all delicious, cheap, filling, and left the house just a little bit warmer. Not to mention the smells, which were heavenly.
Cranberry Flavored Jell-o Cookies
This month I would like to share some of my favorite oven-related recipes with you, so you can keep your house warm as well!
Coffee Cake Muffins
There is one recipe that I have already shared, but I will update this posting with a link to all of the newly posted recipes as well, so that it will act as sort of an index to the recipes I share this month.

Mom's Potatoes with Cheese on Top
Jell-o Cookies
Coffee Cake Muffins
Mom's Tomato Soup Cake