Cooking with My Grandma: Apple Brown Betty

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Since I’m new to this whole “hobby” thing, I think that my posting on the site in the area of “Cooking with My Grandma” will probably only be once a week.  With life being so fast paced, travel for Artios, and two grandbabies coming, I think once a week is something I can be consistent in.

SO today, I’m baking Apple Brown Betty.  It looked easy, quick and had ingredients that almost everyone has on time all the time.  I hadn’t really heard of this dessert before seeing it in my great-grandmother’s handwriting on a piece of paper.  So, I looked up a bit of history of the dish  on delish.com. Although the history was still a big vague, the recipe appears to have been around for quite some time.

All I needed for ingredients were:

APPLE BROWN BETTY

5 Granny Smith or Gala Apples

4 cups of dried bread crumbs/cubes (I chopped up white sandwich bread into small cubes)

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup butter – melted

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp. cinnamon (I always add more than listed)

1/2 tsp. salt

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First thing I did was chop up the bread so that it could dry out some while I was doing the rest of the dish. Here in Colorado, things dry out quickly so I didn’t have to wait long.

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I then used my apple corer to core and slice the apples and then chopped and diced them up with the peel on. This recipe said to leave the peels on, so I did!

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I melted a stick of butter in the microwave for about 40 seconds and then poured it over the bread crumbs that I had drying in a bowl.

I also added the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon to the apples that I had sitting in a separate bowl and mixed all of them together.

In a 2 quart baking dish, I put a layer of apple mixture, followed by a layer of bread crumbs and repeated this until the dish was full.  Then, I poured the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water over the entire dish.

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Then I slid it into a 350 degree preheated oven and set the timer for 40 minutes.

It was easy, inexpensive.  I have a feeling my great-grandmother probably did made this recipe quite often given how frugal it is.

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Cooking with My Grandma: Parker House Rolls

IMG_0446So, today is the day I’m starting my “new” hobby.  I’m going to cook through what I’m going to call “heritage recipes”…recipes that I have from great grandmother, grandmother and great aunt that our family still has access to via handwritten slips of paper, recipe cards and well-worn recipe books.  I will probably do this on Monday mornings or Wednesday afternoons as those are blocks of time for me to do things at home.  (Yep, I do my schedule in project blocks of … but that’s a whole different post.)

Strictly based on what I had available at the house and the fact that I had this recipe in a handwritten format (see below), I chose to do my grandmother’s Parker House Rolls first. Plus, I’m usually pretty good at bread baking so I thought I would start on something that I had a good chance of success with.

I started by pulling all the ingredients out onto the kitchen island along with my grandmother’s bread bowl (picture #1) and my measuring cups and spoons.

I tried to keep track of what I was doing and the results by taking pictures of the process.  Now, I know there are expert bloggers out there who take amazing pictures with their phones and cameras and know just what to do to make everything look perfect.  However, I have to be real with you.  I have NO IDEA how to do that sort of thing, nor do I think I want to invest the time in that at this point…so, I’m going to just be “real” with you.  Hopefully, you can handle that! : )

After all my ingredients and materials were assembled, I read through my grandmother’s recipe once again and just started from the top by combining luke warm water, yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a large glass measuring cup.  Now, here was my first hiccup.  She said 2 1/2 packages of yeast.  I buy my yeast in a big jar but have learned over the years that a package of yeast (at least the ones these days) have about 2 1/2 tsp of yeast in them…so that’s what I used as a guide.  After combining those ingredients, I set them aside until they were bubbly…about 10 minutes.  (picture #2)

Then, I combined the remaining dry ingredients (except flour) in my grandmother’s bread bowl (picture #3) and measured out 8 tbls. of shortening in a bowl and put it in the microwave for 1 minute to melt.  (picture #4)  If you notice on her recipe, she said that she used “fryings” instead of shortening.  I wonder if this was like bacon grease or something?

I then poured the milk and put it in the microwave for a minute to make it “lukewarm” ….(what is lukewarm anyway?)

Once the yeast mixture was bubbly, I poured it along with the milk and melted shortening into the bowl and stirred to combine. (picture #5)

Then, I was back to reading her recipe.  It said add flour until the dough was easy to handle.  Fortunately, since I’ve baked bread before, I understood what that meant.   I started with adding two cups (picture #6), then four cups (picture #7) and then six cups (picture #8).  The consistency still wasn’t right and it wasn’t until I had pretty much emptied my flour container and added a total of 9 cups of flour, that the consistency was ready for me to mix with my hands.

Notice the recipe doesn’t say to knead….hmmmm!

So, I needed just until it was easy to handle and to form into a ball (picture #9) so that it could rise beneath a towel in the breadbowl for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, punch it down and let it rise again for 35 minutes.

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After that, the recipe stops.  Doesn’t say the temp to cook the rolls at, the size of the rolls, whether I should roll them out, roll them up or what.  I bet everyone around my grandmother would have automatically known what to do.  So, I did what I thought was right…and grabbed a fistful of dough, flattened it between my hands into a rectangle and then folded it in half and put it on a pizza stone that I sometimes use for baking bread.  I’m sure you could use a regular baking sheet, but I like to use a stone for bread because of the texture it seems to produce.

I filled up two pizza stones with the rolls,

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covered them with a towel and let them rise again until about double.

Once they were double in size, I brushed them with a little butter, and put them in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  THe recipe made 3 1/2 dozen good sized rolls.

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So…I did it!

I spent about two hours on a hobby!…and one that feels like a project with meaning.

I’m going to try something new on Wednesday I think…but first, a trip to the grocery store is going to be necessary.

Faith and Courage,

Lori

Things My Grandmother Knew: Life Requires Flexibility

As I’ve been pondering and marveling over all the skill my grandmother had in her kitchen, around the house, in the garden, at the farm, at the store and more, I realized there is one skill that I have overlooked.  My grandmother knew how to be flexible.

I’ve heard it said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.”  My grandmother’s life certainly required some flexibility.  Life has a way of throwing you curve balls, giving you unexpected challenges and disappointments.  With each curve ball, we are faced with a decision…How will we respond?

Admittedly, I was either not born yet or very young when some of the following events occurred, however, I can remember hearing about them and I saw the results of these events.  I’m not even sure I have all the details right.  What I do know is that I know the result of how my grandmother faced these events.  One in particular has been running through my mind recently.  Probably because I am facing a similar situation and challenge.

After my grandparents were married they began farming and ranching in western Kansas.  They raised hereford cattle and lots of alfalfa and probably other things as well, but that’s what I remember.  They did well….they built a new brick house, expanded their property, hired help.  They were successful.  They had two young children.  Life was good.  I don’t know exactly how old he was when my grandfather had his first heart attack but I would imagine it was in his early to mid-thirties based on what I’ve been told.  The first was followed by others and pretty soon his health caused my grandparents to reconsider their choice of farming and ranching.  It’s hard, HARD physical labor…especially during those years.  The doctor informed my grandfather that in order to survive he would have to give up farming.

What a blow that must have been!  They had spent their lives building a life on that farm.  This is what they knew…this is what my grandfather had been raised around.  And now, now they wouldn’t be able to continue.  I wonder what my grandmother felt as she faced the idea that her life was going to be forever changed and radically turned upside down.  They were facing a move into town, the sale of their farm, purchasing all that was needed to start a small department store in the town of Quinter (approximately 1000 people then), learning a new trade, building yet another house….the changes and transitions must have provided an endless list of things to worry about.

Yet, she faced these transitions and changes and survived and I never, NEVER heard her utter a word of regret or bitterness.  In my heart, I think she was more comfortable on the farm but yet, she worked side by side with my grandfather in their store year after year after year.  She remained flexible.

Sometimes I think my grandparent’s generation understood the frequency and unpredictability of “curve balls” more than we do.  Because of that, they knew how to walk through uncertain times with a grace and a dignity that few demonstrate today.  For whatever reason, we seem to expect things to go like we want them to go, to get the results we want to get, and to encounter few challenges.  Real life isn’t like that.

Life requires flexibility.

I bet all of us are facing some “curve balls” right now.  I want to remember what my grandmother demonstrated:  “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.”

Waste Not, Want Not – Office Makeover

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Waste Not, Want Not – Office Makeover

(a follow up to Things My Grandmother Knew:  Waste Not, Want Not)

My office is my nemesis!

I love it….I hate it!

I think that for the rest of my life I will be trying to find a way to put together an office that works for me.  I’ve read every blog, every book, every article that I can find on office makeovers and none of them have all the answers for me.  My office is multi-functional.  It’s the location where I “plant” myself while we homeschool, it’s where I write my blogs, its where I plan for Ranch events and duties, it’s where I hold online meetings, its where I have my quiet time, its where I am DESPERATELY trying to put finishing touches and more on our new Artios curriculum.  You get it right!  It’s like a very busy part of the house.

My office has been located in various places.  I tried putting it over in the cabin but then I was too removed from everyone and all the needs in the family.  Currently, its in the sunroom but now I’m SO available, I can’t do anything without being interrupted every 10, no make that every 5 minutes.  John and I both work from home so, let’s just say, it gets complicated.

I want my office to feel like part of the home and yet be a reflection of me, have an organizational system that works for multi-tasking and yet, feels welcoming and inviting.  Now, how to do that without any money.

The makeover below wasn’t just something that I decided to do one day and went out and bought a bunch of stuff.  Nope, it has been a work in progress.  Shoot…it will probably continue to be a work in progress.  It has come from odds and ends that were bought for other purposes other than an office and repurposed for me including fabric that was originally meant to reupholster some furniture and/or make curtains, a desk salvaged from a office warehouse, and a bookcase that was meant to go with another desk in another room.

I started by using fabric meant for reupholstering and constructed/sewed a covering for the desk to mask it’s “officey” feel….and the result, was a reflection of me….reds, neutrals, checks and a tiny bit, a TINY bit of ruffles.

Since I don’t have to use the drawers that much, I even covered the drawers with flaps that can be raised when I need to get into the drawers.

Since I despise tile floors, especially in a log home, (can you believe it), I did splurge and bought a small rug that sets off the red in the desk fabric and I pulled in a bookcase from another room, one that matches another desk, but that fit the “mood” of this room better.  I then filled it with my precious notebooks, my homesteading resource books, current research materials I am using in my writing and homeschool books Ioks need to keep at my fingertips for use with Jared.

I found a picture on pinterest of a multi-picture frame filled with coordinating scrapbooking paper that someone used to write on repeating weekly tasks in each of the sections of the frame.  Now THAT was a project I could do with my limited crafting skills and one that I could do inexpensively.  So, now those weekly office tasks that show up on the same day every week are written on this board in dry-erase marker and it looks pretty too.  I went through some old boxes and found some squares of cork and covered them with coordinating scrapbooking paper.  Hung all of this on the wall and made it my information central desk.

I made sure that we moved the desk so that I could look out the window towards the gate at the front of the ranch and so that I could always “lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help.”  Cleared the top of my desk as much as I could and tried to get rid of as much clutter as possible by putting those things I need access to, but don’t need every day, into plastic storaage containers, covering them and using them as “end tables” until I can think of something better to do with that type of stuff.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result.  The room has windows on three sides and a door leading to the deck and out into what hopefully, will soon be a garden.  I wanted a room that welcomed me, that I looked forward to going into…and that’s what I got.  Just so you don’t continue to think I was one of these chicks that went out and bought it all, let me tell where some of the basic pieces came from and how long they had been hanging around.  (Don’t Judge)

Desk – 12 years ago from an office warehouse that was getting rid of furniture

Material for desk – 15 years ago…and it has been used for a plethora of things

Bookcase – 10 years ago

Plastic Storage Containers – most were purchased about six years ago for a different purpose.

There is still more that I’d like to do in here.  I’d like a bigger rug for the floor that is so cold during winter.  I’d like to add some window toppers to the bamboo blinds.  But, overall….I’m thrilled.

Things My Grandmother Knew: How to Use a Pressure Cooker

My grandmother knew how to cook.  During college, I drove back and forth from South Carolina to Colorado at least twice a year and usually with a carload of hungry kids.  Being right off I-70, my grandparents house was the stop of choice and we always found a HUGE meal ready.  It didn’t matter if we came through early in the morning, during lunch, or at dinner time.  She always had food waiting for us.  Normally, we were driving straight through and we hit Quinter about breakfast time and we would find ourselves seated around a table of eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, hashbrowns, fresh fruit and well….anything else our heart happened to desire.

As I spent time at my grandparents home, I can remember my grandmother often using a pressure cooker.  I specifically remember her using it for green beans with ham.  Oh my goodness was that good!  However, I sadly admit to you…that I don’t know how to use a pressure cooker and I have sorted through some of my grandmothers recipes, I have seen her mention it on several occasions.  Thus, I’m looking for suggestions on some sort of tutorial on how to use one.  I’m scared to death of them.  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, pressure cookers can be dangerous.  I’m sure that referred to much older models.  BUT, the fear has been permanently implanted into my memory.

I even have my grandmother’s old pressure cooker.  Yet, again I’m afraid to use it because I don’t know how safe it is.  SO, I need to buy one if I’m going to learn this skill and I need to find a tutorial on how to use it.  NO….I do NOT want to read the instructions…I want someone to SHOW me how to do it.  I happened to find a video how-to that showed me what I wanted to know…and you know what?  The demonstrator lives at a high altitude, just like me!  Very encouraging!

How to Use and Care for a Pressure Cooker

So…what’s my next step?  I’m going to go buy a pressure cooker.  Then, I’m going to try this recipe for Country Green Beans and Ham.  If I don’t blow myself up, I hope to show you a video of my learning this skill.  Now, that could be quite entertaining!  HA!

 

Things My Grandmother Knew: Waste Not, Want Not

(new brick house on my grandparent’s farm in western Kansas…probably 1940’s)

My grandmother lived through the dust bowl and the Great Depression.  Some events in your life make such a lasting impression on you that they forever change the way in which you approach life.  My grandmother’s experiences were no exception and one thing that I remember most is that she seemed to save everything.  However, she didn’t save things as “hoarders” do.  No…these things that she was saving would have a purpose and she put them to work right away.

I asked my mom to help me remember some of the “things” my grandmother knew and together we came up with a list of her useful “waste not, want not” habits.

Old nylons – She saved old nylons and used them to tie up bushes and plants that were bending due to the weight of blooms or produce.

Terry cloth remnants – She would save her terry cloth remnants and make her own washcloths

Cereal box cardboard – She used the cardboard of cereal boxes if she needed something to put in an envelope with a photo for protection

Material remnants – She used bits of material for several things — pin cushions – a little strip pin cushion thumbtacked into the bath cupboard for pins etc. (still there)

Seeds from plants and flowers – She kept seeds from flowers in baby food jars and even small medicine bottles.

Material – She labeled things like the squares for making a quilt so that we would know where they were from and who they were for.

Several years ago, when we were going through my grandmother’s house to get ready for “the sale” as she prepared to enter assisted living, one of my relatives criticized the way my grandmother had saved things.  I guess this individual was tired of going through all of these things.  As I looked around me, I saw things very differently.  Each thing my grandmother had saved had been carefully organized and put away.  There were no piles, no junk, no disorganization.  She didn’t keep things just to accumulate items.  She kept them to put to use and I appreciate what I learned from watching her do that all these years.

After living in a rural setting now for six years, I understand this even more.  It’s HARD to be self-sustaining and independent when you are trying to make a living in this setting.  Every penny counts and every trip into town to pick something up (over an hour one way) takes precious time and gas money.  I’m learning that there is more than one way to accomplish something, fix something or prepare something.  More than the way I see on TV or read about in a book.  Sure, I can gain ideas from all of that input, but when it comes right down to it, I have to make things work based on our own situation.  I don’t have the money for fancy closet organizers or shelving, I don’t have the money for fancy storage containers.  I don’t have all the latest gadgets for “backyard chickens” nor do I have all the latest in gardening paraphenalia.   What I do have is an imagination….a desire to do things well and to do things right….and I have the things around me right now….at my disposal.  SO, I will continue to try and learn what my grandmother seemed to know instinctively:  Waste not, Want not!

Things My Grandmother Knew: Waldo McBurney

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I’m taking a bit of a different approach to today’s post.  This one isn’t so much as THINGS my grandmother knew.  Instead, this one is about PEOPLE my grandmother knew and one man in particular…Waldo McBurney!

Growing up, I spent many a summer week in the town where I was born…Quinter, KS.  Oh, if you are driving down I-70 in western Kansas you may not even notice it.  It’s a small town and by a small town, I mean less than 1000 people and it looks very similar to many other towns that you pass on I-70 as you go through western Kansas.  But for me, as I’ve written before, it was my “Our Town.”

There is something about a small town that lends itself to remembering…remembering PEOPLE.  Over the years, Waldo McBurney made his appearance in my life many times over.  If he were still alive and you were to ask him about me, I doubt he would even know who I was.  But I remember HIM!

I remember him leading the beautiful a capella singing each Sunday at the Reformed Presbyterian Church where I attended whenever I visited my grandparents.  He had his pitch pipe, would get our starting note, and then the church would be filled with farmers, ranchers, merchants, housewives, teachers and the old and young alike singing from the Psalter in four part harmony.

I remember him coming into my grandfather’s store on Main Street and visiting with my grandfather and the laughs I would hear as I pretended to be a shopkeeper helping my grandpa.

I remember hearing him talk about his bees and honey season and I remember my grandma using that amazing honey year after year.

I remember being told that at 65, he had taken up long distance running and that a decade later he began competing in the Senior Olympics, the World Masters and other events, winning 10 gold medals for track and field events.

I remember when he was honored by President Bush as the oldest working citizen of the United States at the age of 104.

As an adult, I remember visiting him at his storefront to buy my own honey.  Yes, he had trouble hearing what I was saying but he knew exactly what to do.  He got me my honey and insisted on helping me carry it to the car.

AND…in his office, I remember seeing copies of his book…”My First 100 Years:  A Look Back From the Finish Line.”

I remember when my mom told me that he had FINALLY decided he needed to move into assisted living around the age of 105 I believe…

and I remember realizing an era in my past had ended…when I heard in July of 2009, that Waldo, at the age of 106, had finally crossed that finished line and was now in heaven.

“Use it or lose it” was his philosophy and he used “it” his entire life and continues to be an inspiration to all who knew him and to all who learn of his amazing story.

Today, on the western plains of Kansas they will hold the 5th Annual Waldo McBurney Race in Quinter and people will continue to be inspired by his life…my mom, a resident of Quinter, will participate in that race in honor of Waldo and of the hope he continues to give so many.

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To learn more about Waldo McBurney, a google search of his name will give you many selections to choose from.  However, this one, I think, is my favorite.

CBS News:  America’s Oldest Worker Has A Sweet Life