October 30, 2010

Tis the Season for Pumpkin Bread

We couldn't let Halloween come and go without an easy and delish recipe that's quick to fix and perfect for ghouls and boys of all ages. I was rummaging through my mother's cookbooks and found a fun recipe for pumpkin bread. Although I didn't recognize the cookbook* the recipe was from my cousin Kay Reynolds. Kay is a former Home Economics teacher at Derby High School and known in our family as the accomplished entertainer.

I baked up some loaves and left one in Kay's kitchen in her weekend getaway I'm dubbing The Lodge. (See above.) There's also a chance that Kay baked up some bread this weekend, too.

The recipe is great because it calls for an entire can of pumpkin. I'm always frustrated with recipes that just call for a cup or a half can of pumpkin. I try to think of something to throw the leftover puree into (my friend Kate swears it makes chili great) but I always forget about that small amount in a plastic container hangin' out in the frig. Until three weeks later I open the container and discover I've got a great start for a science project.

It's a great recipe that calls for mixing with a spoon, so it's a great baking project for the kids to easily help in the kitchen. While rummaging in my mother's kitchen I spotted part of a Ghirardelli Chocolate baking bar. (How that thing didn't get eaten ages ago I do NOT know, but I broke up the bar and added it to the batter while I was pouring it into the pans. To finish off the tops of the loaves I added pecans and a sprinkling of brown sugar.

Kay Reynold's Pumpkin Bread
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (or cloves or allspice or whatever sounds spicy in the back of the spice rack)
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil (I like Canola or sunflower)
1- 15 oz. - can of pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just the pumpkin puree)
4 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water

In a large bowl mix together first six ingredients: flour through sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add last four ingredients: oil, pumpkin, eggs and water. Mix until the dry ingredients are wet. Place in 2 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. 

Times will vary depending on size of pans. The recipe for me made one large loaf, two medium loaves, two baby loaves and a dozen muffins. The muffins took about 15 to 20 minutes but the large loaf baked for more than 50 minutes.

* Recipe published in a custom published cookbook in memory of a father and son and the Kenney and Kent Kraus Vocational Scholarship at Mulvane H.S. in Kansas

October 29, 2010

Oklahoma's State Menu

Oklahoma has an official state meal and it's not for dieters. Click HERE to read more. It reflects a Southern slant and prairie diet with influences from Native Americans.

Barbecued pork
chicken-fried steak
and sausage with biscuits and gravy
fried okra and squash
black-eyed peas
pecan pie.

My friend Sue Wendelbo — who I commend for eating well despite multiple food allergies — writes: "I hate to disappoint you, but Oklahoma "was" known for FRYING EVERYTHING!  Thank goodness the Raw Food Movement has made a great entrance into the Great, Great State of Oklahoma!  105 Degrees is a culinary academy that is shaping the way Southwest foodies are living life to the fullest.  Chris and I regularly frequent 105 Degrees on our visits and when we leave the fine dining establishment our pallets are anxious to return.  Oklahoma really has become the hot bed of culinary arts with several schools and chefs from as far away as London and New York City hired as instructors.  Who would have ever guessed?"

Thanks, Sue, I'm now excited about checking out 105 Degrees though I've less chance to travel through Oklahoma since my sister moved from Austin, Texas. (Oklahoma City was always our stopping point for the night because 12 hours from our home to Austin was just too much for our family to handle in one day's drive.) It's good to know food is getting more sophisticated. When I was in college the only Oklahoma restaurant/establishment that I was familiar with that served food and refreshments was Eskimo Joe's. (I never road tripped there either!) Everyone had their T-shirt from the place, it was like the Midwest's version of the Hard Rock T-shirt.

And I'd be remiss in not linking to the beautiful web site that's the work of Ree Drummond the Pioneer Woman, who cooks, does photography and home schools in Oklahoma. How she does it all, I have NO idea!

Click HERE for more info on Oklahoma restaurants.

And my friend Holly Lawton who grew up in Oklahoma City, writes, "One thing I remember from Oklahoma that other states don't seem to do is to have black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. The quintessential OK food would have to be red meat!"

I'm experimenting with a black-eyed peas salad and if it works I'll share it. (Still not had a chance to make biscuits with vinegar gel yet, but it's on the agenda. Don't forget to vote!) Still seeking noodle recipes, too!

October 27, 2010

Bookin' it in Oklahoma

Welcome back to more of Oklahoma Week

Book of Oklahoma!

The girls and I watched Oklahoma! this past weekend. Well the five-year-old was the most into it while her older sister complained that it was too long and I started dozing off and missed all the dream scenes. And I forgot how brooding Jed is, including his stalking tendencies and finally setting a haystack on fire that held the pair of newlyweds, Curly the cowboy and farm girl Shirley Jones. (Though for a farm girl Shirley wasn't as handy around the farm as you'd think she should have be in frontierland. And I'm not quite sure her new husband Curly knew quite enough about keeping her aunt's farm in tip-top working condition.)

Here is a list of famous Oklahomans that lends itself to checking out many famous authors.
I discovered a Native American poet, Joy Harjo, who's work includes this fun-looking children's book:

Children's book from Oklahoma author

While there have been many writers and actors, I found Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth's salad dressing recipe from her mother (from SELF magazine, April 2003.) (It's got vinegar and sugar in it!) The Chenoweths are from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, though Kristin now spends her time in NYC and LA.

Kristin Chenoweth's memoir

According to a review of Kristin's memoir, "A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages," Kristin enjoys food and she shares recipes for desserts like Butterfinger Pie and Chenolicious White Trash Cookies. I'm tracking down her book right now to try out these recipes.

October 26, 2010


So I just finished my Mom2Mom post for this week and I'm still researching Oklahoma recipes and attractions. Did you know that mistletoe is the state's floral emblem? And Black-eyed peas (the food not the group) seem to be a big New Year's tradition. There's more to come soon and also a post before Halloween on the making of a pop star. (The group kind not the beverage.) Until then, don't forget to vote on the vinegar syrup poll, and I'll keep you posted if I end up making and tasting it!

Oh, do I even have to hint at noodle recipe help?

October 22, 2010

Oklahoma Comfort Food - with Vinegar Gel

Welcome to Oklahoma Week where we highlight two er, one standard comfort food today. These classic made-from-scratch biscuits (as all biscuits should be!) include a rather unique topping. That topping is a family recipe born out of originality and necessity and now a recipe that those BORN in the family seen to have a predisposed craving to enjoy. It still causes much division at the family's gatherings to this day.

Ah, the wonders of food. I like to think there is something to genetics and eating. We're still grilling which likely started as some caveman's way to relieve stress on the five days after a big hunting project while the wife tossed together a lovely berry salad while carrying for the kids, repainting and sweeping the cave while entertaining the in-laws. And that last point made her remember that the clan's arrows needed sharpening, again.

Fast forward to the present,  as we focus on the states surrounding Kansas for this project, I like to tap my friends who grew up on each state's food fare. For Oklahoma, I talked with a couple our family much admires, Bill and Nicki Hancock. Nicki is a former English teacher (and a Kansas Master Teacher of the Year) and Bill is the Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series. Bill and Nicki live in KC but grew up and met in Oklahoma and have family there. Nicki shares the story of her mother's biscuit recipe and the vinegar gel topping! Enjoy  -- with or withOUT the vinegar gel.

Nicki writes:

"Growing up in Oklahoma, sometimes for breakfast but often with dinner, we had my mother’s made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits. Even though she worked as a teacher, writer, tax preparer and lawyer, she still made biscuits several times a month. We always had them for special occasions. Since my father’s hobby was raising bird dogs and taking them into the fields for hunting on crisp, fall Saturdays, for Christmas breakfast we always had fried quail with biscuits and gravy. Our 1907-vintage farmhouse teemed with activity as we all scurried to help prepare the feast. The aroma filled the steamy kitchen up to its high ceiling, and even the sweaty windows radiated warmth. It was a treat that we four children looked forward to all year.

"Very little changed after we added four spouses, 12 grandchildren and now three great-grandchildren. Mother has moved to an assisted-living center and someone else now lives in our old farmhouse, but we’re still there in our hearts at Christmas time.

"With our biscuits we always had (and still have) a Depression-era treat called vinegar gel. Probably created from a recipe for vinegar pie (a Southern dessert), it consists of flour, sugar, vinegar and water, cooked into a syrup-like topping for biscuits. We mix it with sugar and butter and pour it over the biscuits. My family says only descendents from our Watkins ancestors like it. I do know that at our family get-togethers none of the 'married-ins' will touch it, but the rest of us savor it — even the babies."

Nellie's Biscuits
Recipe from Nicki (Perry) Hancock
2 cups flour
1/3 cup shortening
½ teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ to 1 cup of buttermilk

Cut shortening into dry ingredients to consistency of corn meal. Add buttermilk to make a sticky dough. Roll out on a lightly floured sheet and cut into two-and-a-half-inch rounds. Bake at 400 degrees about 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Watkins Family Vinegar Gel
Recipe from Nicki (Perry) Hancock
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Bring vinegar and first cup of water to a boil. Put flour, sugar and remaining water into a jar with a tight lid and shake well to mix. Add to boiling mixture. Cook over low heat until thickened. To serve, mix individual portions with one pat of butter and sugar to taste. Serve over buttered biscuits or as a dip for pieces of biscuit.

Nicki says the mixture usually thickens in about 10 minutes. I feel I must in good conscience at least TRY all the recipes I post here. But Bill wants to make one thing clear, "A word of caution: Vinegar gel is awful!" Bill writes. "But then I’m one of those 'married-in' people. I’m told it was invented during the Depression when folks didn’t have enough money to buy jelly. I suppose most people canned their own, but others created vinegar jel. With that in their diet, I’m surprised that anyone survived."

And Nicki agrees: "I have to admit I don't expect non-family members to take to the vinegar gel, but Bill loves the biscuits with sorghum or jelly."

At least everyone can agree on the comforts of steaming-hot biscuits, no matter what topping pleases the taste buds.

Got a story and recipe for Oklahoma? Please leave us a note in comments. (We're also still looking for noodle recipes.)

October 21, 2010

Might Mo & Soda Pop Cake Back in Missouri

Country star Sara Evans might enjoy Tennessee, but she sings about missing her mother in Missouri. In her song "Missing Missouri" off her Real Fine Place 2005 album she recalls summers of her youth, driving down backroads with her friends, through tobacco fields and bumblebees. Question of the day: Are bees addicted to tobacco, too?

I don't know Sara, otherwise I'd ask her for a favorite recipe her mom made when she was growing up. Missouri has a distinct flavor in the East with St. Louis style ribs; thin, square-cut pizza; breaded, beef-filled ravioli (not cheese) and gooey butter cake. On the Western side of the state, it's KC Strip Steaks (McConigle's ships), barbecue and povitica bread to name a few. But it's good to remember that Missouri is basically a southern state, and that's reflected in the cooks and their versatility.

Here's what my friend Vana Sweetland recalls about growing up in the middle of Missouri:

"I certainly have some fond memories of my Mother and both my Grandmother’s cooking but frankly, none of them use recipes," Vana says. "I think as 'country girls' it’s just something they grew up with and learned how to do. 

"Basically, I was raised on soul food. My Mother could probably be a chef at 'Papa Lou’s.' Mom and both my Grannies canned, know how to cook wild game and every vegetable imaginable, and they all share Emeril’s love of using lard. My Mother has lard at home in her refrigerator right now. My Granny Meador even made her own butter, butter milk, cottage cheese and milked the cow to get the milk to do it with."

Ah, mentioning Emeril brings back memories. Vana and I stood in line for an hour waiting to have Emeril sign his "Every Day's a Party" cookbook more than a decade ago. Vana stood longer in line and was nice enough to save me a space in line because I got lost driving around trying to find the mall. The cookbook's inscription has "Bam" and Emeril's script in it and that brings up a quick story before I get back to the state at hand -- Missouri!

Joe and I were dining at Emeril's restaurant near Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, and it was at the end of a very delicious and promptly served meal. The waiter is bringing out dessert and I ask him about Emeril in the kitchen when he's there at the restaurant.

"Does he say 'Bam' when he's kicking it up a notch?" I ask. The waiter arches his eyebrows every so slightly (as if I've just asked for store-bought ice cream) and says: "That's just TV shtick." So there, now I know better than to ask about famous chefs in the kitchen.

View of the Mighty Mississippi, from the Arch

Close family friend Mechelle Voepel is a big Cards fan and one of the preeminent women's sportswriters in the country. Mechelle shares her recipe for a fun dessert made with soda/pop/cola. (Did you know that 7-up was created in Missouri?) This cake reminds me of a multi-colored birthday cake a friend's mother once served when I was in grade school.

A Western view from the Arch. Can you spot Cardinals Stadium?

Mechelle says: "When I was growing up just north of St. Louis, this is a dessert that my mom made during the summer. (If you're interested, I also have a recipe for something else my parents made ... lye soap! Not to eat, of course.)
We used Fitz's Strawberry Pop, bottled in St. Louis
Mechelle Voepel's Soda Pop Cake
One yellow cake mix
2 small boxes of strawberry Jello
1 bottle of strawberry soda
(You can vary flavors of Jello/soda. We used one strawberry and one mixed berry)

Mix cake according to box and bake in a 9" x 13" pan. While it's cooking, mix Jello, making it with the strawberry soda, not water.

The mixed berry Jello hits the strawberry Jello and soda in a cool fizzy effect

Put in refrigerator until partially set. Let cake cool for 15 minutes ...

... then put holes in cake with a fork and pour Jello mix on cake

Put in refrigerator until Jello sets, about three hours. (It kind of looks like the Missouri Delta — or the Gulf of Mexico — right now, but trust us, it tastes better than it looks!)

One small package of Instant Jello Vanilla pudding mix
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 small tub of Cool Whip

Mix pudding with milk, then add in Cool Whip. Put topping on cake and refrigerate.

It is indeed a great summer treat, no matter which side of the Mississippi you reside.

Remember, we're still searching for NOODLE recipes! Got one to put in comments for a chance to win the enjoyable "Swimming in Noodles" CD?

October 20, 2010

Hop Along for a Western Tall Tale that Starts in Missouri

Shootin' fire! We've got a pure-D, right fine day back in Missouri today and tomorrow that's perfect to engage the children in some history, we hope. We return to Missouri naturally 'cause it's the gateway to the West. Wahoo, as I'm sure they still don't say somewhere in America.

Here's a view from right under the arch taken this spring .

We just previewed a new children's picture book from one of our favorite illustrators, who just happens to live in town. Laura Huliska-Beith (who grew up in Nebraska and now lives in Missouri) illustrated a beautiful and fun TALL tale adventure of family travel back when stagecoaches, gold and the Pony Express were the rage.
A small pouch on the right included peanut brittle with the book.
 "The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is written by Kimberly Willis Holt,  who won a National Book Award for "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town."

The book charmed my 9 and 5 year old. It's a great playful tale with even better characters and captivating illustrations. It's a tale of a happy-go-maybe-not-so-lucky family traveling out West. A hole on the trail sends Granny and the littlest family member shooting out of the wagon and roughing it on a memorable journey into the great unknown where they meet a stagecoach robber and ride on the Pony Express and pan for Gold. And you thought you had a rough time on your last family road trip?

Granny is as eager  — but much more pleasant than the Clampetts Granny — who relies on her family's ingenuity. Speaking of gold, you must munch peanut brittle while reading the book.

Here's a Peanut Brittle recipe from one of my favorite Kansas City cookbooks.* I like the directions with the lump of butter, rounded teaspoon of baking soda (that secret and magical ingredient) and a fun way to test it in water to see if it's ready. Why it's purdy near like Granny pans for gold! If this sounds like a test of wits you'll need to holler for Granny Clearwater or your own Granny! (Laura says she burned several batches of peanut brittle before she got a batch worthy of making it's way into the picture book.)

Peanut Brittle
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups raw peanuts (or other nuts)
1 'lump' of butter (the size of an egg)
1 teaspoon of baking soda, rounded
1 Tablespoon of vanilla

Boil sugar, water and syrup for 7 minutes or until it spins a long thread. Add peanuts, stirring constantly until amber colored and it makes a cracking noise when dropped in cold water. Remove from heat. Quickly add butter and soda. Stir quickly until foam goes down. Add vanilla. Stir. Spread quickly on 2 heavily buttered cookie sheets. Spread out with spatulas and fingers, pulling batter thin. When completely cooled, break into pieces and store in a covered wagon container.

* from Dining In In Kansas City, A Collection of recipes from the Greater Kansas City Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, recipe credited from the Cookbook Committee

"The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is a great book to introduce children to other classic American tales like Paul Bunyan. 
Did you know 20 states have Bunyan statues? I just learned that from the link above.

Or Johnny Appleseed 
Johnny Chapman, the real man, was born in Massachusetts but moved out West, planting trees in Indiana. So it's now Fort Wayne, Indiana, who puts on the Johnny Appleseed Festival every September.

Don't forget to leave your comments and give us a NOODLE RECIPE for a chance to get that new "Swimming in Noodles" CD from Jim Cosgrove!

October 18, 2010

A Quick Stopover in Kansas

We're heading back south for a day in Kansas and then tomorrow's itinerary is Missouri and then a week devoted to the Great State of Oklahoma. SO, you know what that means, if you're in Oklahoma and you're reading this or you have family in Oklahoma, leave a comment. I hope you're finding recipes of particular states and their accompanying stories to be of value or at least a bit interesting. Again, thanks for stopping by. In a fast paced world where EVERYONE wants our attention, I appreciate your time!

And again, see yesterday's post for more details, but leaving a NOODLE recipe in comments will get you ever closer for a chance to WIN a BRAND-NEW FREE CD from award-winning kid rocker Jim Cosgrove!
A sunflower (Kansas state flower) from my Missouri garden.
So here are two recipes for sides courtesy of Bill James and Susan McCarthy. Bill does amazing stuff with baseball statistics and consults the Red Sox. I quoted him about his love of cinnamon rolls that many fellow Midwesterners share. But Bill detests chicken fried steak. Bill says: "I loathe chicken fried steak, which I regard as an effort to disguise the cheapest cuts of meat with lard and flour."

The first side is a potato recipe Susan has made for Bill for 30 years. In addition to the potatoes, it has both green beans and carrots. I'll post a picture after I have a chance to make it. My newly organized pantry wasn't smelling too good this morning. My youngest with the sensitive nose nearly gagged and I realized a fairly new bag of red potatoes was spoiling and emitting a putrid odor. I've been lighting quite a few candles today. So once I get new FRESH Idaho potatoes I'm making ....

Susan McCarthy's and Bill James' 
Herbed Garden Vegetable Salad
(recipe from Susan's mother)
½ cup salad oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
In a small covered jar, combine oil, vinegar, parsley flakes, salt, basil, onion and garlic
powders and ground black pepper; shake well.

In a large bowl combine the following:
6 cups warm, peeled and sliced, cooked potatoes
3 cups warm, cut green beans
2 cups warm, sliced cooked carrots
Freeze-dried chives
Toss the vegetables gently and pour in enough dressing to coat vegetables thoroughly.
Cover; chill several hours tossing occasionally.

Reunion Scalloped Potatoes
(Susan got this recipe from “ The Free Spirit,” July 20, 1989, published in Oskaloosa, Kan. Thelma Farris is credited with this recipe.)
5 lbs potatoes, boiled in jackets, peeled and sliced
1 small can pimentoes, finely cut
¼ pound butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 ½ oz size)
1 cup milk
1 lb. cheese, shredded
Arrange potatoes in buttered baking pan. Combine ingredients in small pan. Stir over low heat
until blended and cheese is melted. Pour over potatoes. Bake in 300 degree oven for 1 and a half hours.

October 17, 2010

Nebraska Runza and Win a Great CD with YOUR Noodle Recipe!

We're finishing up our Nebraska meals today and after a quick retreat back to Missouri (we've got a great new picture book to preview and a dessert) and then Kansas to pick up some more sides, we'll zero in on Oklahoma. Friends have lined up some, shall we say, rather unique recipes for southern-stylin' Oklahoma and it's neighboring Arkansas. I'm excited to get your input on these recipes.

It's never too late to share your recipes from your favorite state(s). In fact, I'm requesting you quickly leave in comments your BEST noodle dish. Why, noodles, you ask? Come on, what kid (and adult) doesn't eat noodles? So what does the chef of the best recipe receive? Well, Bob Drew, in honor of our friend, singer/songwriter, kid rocker and all-around-good-guy Jim Cosgrove (a.k.a. Mr. Stinky Feet) and his new CD titled "Swimming in Noodles" the best noodle recipe of the week gets a FREE "Swimming in Noodles" CD!

We hope to get oodles of noodle recipes. We'll award points for creativity, ease in making and representation of your state. Wisconsin Mac & Cheese? New York Penicillin? American Macaroni Salad? Bring forth those noodle recipes! (Also, I'm curious to know why Yankee Doodle Dandy called his feather in his hat 'macaroni.' Had he just spent too much time hanging out with Samuel Adams? Anyone know?)


My Nebraska consultant, friend and fellow mom, Nicci Ericksen, convinced me that the essence of the Runza was the filling and that to make this fit a family friendly meal I shouldn't have to spend all day baking bread. (I do plan to double my grandmother's sweet dough recipe and use a quarter of the dough for Runzas the next time I want to spend all day babysitting dough.)

For simplicity sake, I relied on the ever-versatile crescent roll dough to work as the covering for a fairly easy filling of ground beef, onion and cabbage all tossed in a skillet and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I may experiment with seasonings next time because it seemed a bit bland to my tastebuds. I cooked the onions first, added the hamburger until it was cooked through and then added the cabbage, making the meal prep a bit longer, but not as long bread dough from scratch. We added poppy seeds to the top of the crescent packages for a little texture -- in honor of the Czech rolichs which always had poppy seeds on top, but I don't think this is an official approved topping!

If you have the time and want to be authentic check this homemade Nebraska Runza recipe here. Also, fellow Kansans can refer to bierock recipes, which are basically the same sandwich.

And if you need a side, perhaps your table guests aren't into that cabbage in the filling, here's a corn casserole from our friend, Mick Ratzlaff, who grew up in Nebraska. Mick likes to cook for his family and has a collection of his grandmothers' recipes.

1 large onion, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups frozen or canned corn
2 cups long grain wild rice, cooked
1 can diced tomatoes
4 hard cooked eggs, chopped
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Saute onions and peppers in large skillet with butter until tender. Mix with flour and remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup cheese. Pour into a well-greased 2-1/2 quart baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and let stand 6 to 8 minutes.

I'm intrigued with the wild rice and Worcestershire sauce in this version, but I think I'll opt to leave out the eggs. My youngest shies away from food that contains identifiable eggs. (NOTE: She will not approve of noodle recipes that LOOK like they have egg in them.)

October 14, 2010

The Road to Kolache Heaven


I didn't really think about featuring the Kolache as Nebraska's dessert until I was browsing my newest cookbook: "United Cakes of America" by Warren Brown. This wonderful cookbook is mandatory reading for our journey. Warren, who has bake shops on the East Coast, has put together a national treasury of desserts that's also an entertaining history of baking in America. Plus, it's one of the very few cookbooks that organizes recipes by state. (So if any publishing houses want to explore this idea of more regional/state cooking themes, feel free to contact me.)

Cherry Kolaches I made on the first try after years of not making them.
For Nebraska, Warren presented a kolache recipe, but I thought it would be a crime not to feature MY OWN GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE. She lived and baked 13 miles from the southern border of Nebraska, in the small town of Cuba, Kansas.

Cuba's got a strong Czech heritage and I remember once singing a happy Czech song in a skit with two other little preschool friends in front of lots of people laughing. I cannot remember WHAT we were singing, but it was probably about food. I think the older lady on stage with us had a bucket of lard. But maybe I'm getting mixed up. It was a long, long time ago. But the Senior Citizen's Community Center had  a stage backdrop that was a painting of a Czech street scene. I'm not sure what condition it's in now all these years later, but there's a great photo of that backdrop if you go to Jim Richardson's Web site, click "Documentary: Our Heartland" and then click on "Cuba, Kansas."

Did you know my hometown was exotic enough to be featured in the May 2004 National Geographic? A subsequent issue printed my letter to the editor thanking photographer Jim Richardson. I'm wondering if I can technically count "National Geographic" as one of the places my work has appeared?

So to all my Cuba homies who have the "Blue" 1978 Cuba Presbyterian Guild Cook Book with my grandmother Margaret Lesovsky's recipe on page 118, it's been updated -- by my grandmother, who was always noting the total amount of flour and other alchemy while baking. Here's the latest version of her "basic" dough that she called her "smaller amount" that also included less kneading. My grandmother didn't think I was the world's best at kneading, but I'd not had her decades of experience either.

The inscription in my cookbook from my grandmother. 


2 packages of yeast (3 teaspoons equal a package) = 6 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (water that is warm and comfortable on the wrist)
1/3 cup of powdered milk (Can you tell my Grandmother grew up in the Depression?)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of oil (1/2 cup of oil if making kolaches)

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of instant potatoes (Depression inspired? Saves time from boiling real potatoes)
2 eggs
5 cups of flour (approximately)

Put first 5 ingredients (through oil) into mixer. Let yeast work about 10 minutes. 

Then start with other ingredients, making sure you have enough flour. I of course ran out of flour and had to run to the store, hoping the yeast wouldn't expand too much. I noticed later my grandmother's wheat roll recipe calls for this "sponge" action of adding two cups of flour and waiting before adding more flour, so 20 minutes between the cups of flour didn't seem to effect the outcome. Whew!

So once you have nearly five cups of flour (preferably Hudson Cream) use the mixer's dough hook to knead. I love this part of the recipe, though  I still made a mess.

Here's where I zoned off (all those years ago) when I was writing down Grandma's recipe, perhaps because it was ALWAYS pretty warm in her kitchen. My next step says "Bake at 400 degrees" so I know I skipped a few vital instructions. Yes, I can see my grandmother shaking her head now. 
According to her published recipe in the "blue" cookbook here are the rest of the dough directions:

Continue beating in flour until dough is smooth and can be lifted in a mass on the spoon, leaving the bowl clean. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth and satiny. (I did this for three minutes and called it good.) Keep as soft as can be handled. (I think that means not to add too much more flour.) Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Set in a warm place until doubled* then punch down. Let rest for 10 minutes and shape as desired. (For plain rolls, rohliks with poppy seeds, bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.)

For the actual kolaches recipe, I've referred to the blue cookbook's Czech kolache notes from Mrs Ed Fisher, and used raising times from Warren Brown's kolache recipe. *Brown lets dough in bowl initially rise for 90 minutes.)

I divided the dough and started forming small rolls about the size of a small egg (thinking small because they'll continue raising with that massive amount of yeast!), placing them two inches apart.

I flattened them slightly and let them rise when they're doubled in size. (Brown specifies 30 minutes, Fisher says Kolaches can be tested by pressing in the center. If an indention remains they're ready to spread out, leaving a 1/2 inch edge. Sort of like this, I am by no means a Kolache Queen:

Fill with filling of choice — I used canned ready cherry and apricot pie fillings - puree apricot filling before using - or I make my own plum or what we used to call prune filling. I added canned pineapple to the apricot because my Grandmother always liked to make pineapple kolaches because that was her favorite fruit. There's also a poppy seed and cottage cheese option, but, yuck! I don't even attempt to make that disgusting kind.

Debbie's Plum Filling
1 orange (you'll need the zest)
1 package pitted plums (12 oz.)
1 1/2 cups raisins
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Soak prunes and raisins overnight in water. Cook until soft with the zest of the orange and the sugar. Drain. Add lemon juice. Puree and ready to go.

After carefully filling the centers, an egg wash is optional. They'll need to raise one last time for about 5 to 10 minutes and then can bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Mine took about 15 minutes. Don't forget to go light on the filling:

But my first batch turned out well enough I think my Grandmother would have been proud. The total recipe made four dozen. And if you're within driving distance of my house, I've still got some to share.

October 11, 2010

Husker Burger, Part II and Cinnamon Rolls

Welcome back to Nebraska Week. We've got two more recipes for another day in Nebraska and I've also received some more enticing recipes from Kansas and Nebraska. So by Thursday or so, we'll head south to start virtually sightseeing in Oklahoma! (Hmmm, wonder if I need to rent that movie, again.)

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development spent some money on encouraging family travel, at least it seems that way based on their web site. They've got some fun films for kids, but I'm not sure kids are dictating where families are driving to on their free weekends. The site has this orange-haired animated kid trying to stow away in this Nebraska family's minivan.
Tyler from the Nebraska Dept. of Economic Development's Web site.

The nice family has room, but let's face it, this cartoon kid named Tyler shows no athletic prowess and will never be a lineman for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. So you know this isn't a "Blind Side" fairy tale here, the cartoon kid always gets discovered before the family sets out onto one of the many trips to various parts of the state for picnics, I think.

The kids' area on this site has a bunch of printable car activities including a game of counting the cows you see on either side of the road. (I think this would also be part of the Kansas landscape as well and I remember getting excited about seeing a cow figure carved out of real butter at the Kansas State Fair. Welcome to the Midwest folks!) But Nebraska's Economic Development site does have a great online game for children called Geography Jam, where you try to locate different towns throughout the state. I give it a big thumbs up, even if it featured that cartoonish Tyler with snarky bubble comments.

Speaking of towns, Omaha's Jen Shatel was able to clarify the proper way to dress a Husker Burger (available across from Memorial Stadium on football game days in Lincoln.) The Husker Burger is shaped like the state of Nebraska and depending on which you like best you run that condiment along the line where the Platte River runs. Start with ketchup (or mustard) and stream it from the lower corner on bottom of the panhandle to the middle of the "wavy" East side of the state, just south of where Omaha is. You can just guess where Omaha is or play the Geography Jam game above. Then Jen's says you can "dot" certain favorite cities with the opposite condiment. She usually adds Alliance, in the panhandle; Broken Bow, in the middle of the state; and Auburn, in the lower right corner; because she has family living in those locations. (I'm gonna fire up my Photoshop and illustrate this soon, so check back!)

I also asked John Mabry, who I worked with eons ago at The Kansas City Star Sports department, for his insight on Nebraska foods. John is the editor of L Magazine, Lincoln's Premiere Lifestyle Magazine that's part of the Lincoln Star-Journal newspaper.

"Runza sandwiches are big here (beef and cabbage stuffed in a roll)," John says. "Of course, steak and potatoes. People love their chili and cinnamon rolls here (together). I don't know if that is unique to Nebraska, but it is a pretty good combo."

I'm experimenting with a Runza recipe that I want to share this week. I've got both cabbage and sauerkraut (may opt for the later since it will be quicker) and still trying to decide on the best bread/roll recipe to use. I was going to just purchase a frozen quick bread, but I didn't see anything at the grocery store that looked like it would taste right. So my long-time friend Mary (reconnected on Facebook) directed me to our hometown's church cookbook for the roll recipe she uses frequently. I'll keep you posted on how this bread baking turns out.

John mentioned cinnamon rolls and it seems that in states with smaller towns much of the center of the community is centered around the local restaurant serving homemade cinnamon rolls and cheap coffee (read, no cream and 'don't need no Starbucks' -- that's for my daughters who are Justin Beiber and Ludacris fans; well Justin fans and they know who Ludacris is.) But Bill James, of Lawrence, Kansas, and recent special guest on the Simpsons, says not all cinnamon rolls are created equal.

Bill's wife, Susan McCarthy, gave me her cinnamon roll recipe. I've compared it to several other regional recipes and her recipe seems easier than most. So pics of this soon!

Susan McCarthy's and Bill James'
Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
3 cups warm water
2 teaspoons of yeast ( 3/4 package)
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, softened
7 to 8 cups flour

About 4 or 5 in the afternoon mix the ingredients together, adding enough flour to form a sticky dough. Let rise 4 to 5 hours. Punch down the dough, divide into quarters. Roll out each quarter flat, spread with butter and a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Roll the section up and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place rolls in greased baking pan. Continue in same way with the other dough quarters. Cover baking pans and let rolls rise overnight. Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. Frost while warm and serve.

I appreciate recipes that specify the time of day to start, though it also means I'll be working with sugars near bedtime, and that's dangerous for me.

Bill writes: "A good cinnamon roll is a joy forever, or for the 20 minutes it takes you to eat it, whichever comes first. An interesting thing about cinnamon rolls is the immense variety of them.  I think there is more variety in cinnamon rolls than in chile, and there are very good cinnamon rolls of all different sizes, shapes, and taste. And also terrible ones. . ."

I couldn't agree more and my extended family of Czech bakers believe frozen bread dough is a blasphemy. The roll dough has to be sweet. (I took Texas-based Kolache Factory kolaches to my hometown, a Czech base with the slogan of "Czech Us Out." The verdict: Kolache Factory's rolls weren't sweet enough. So sugar has to be a MAIN ingredient in Czech and also Midwest baking, never mind how those Texans bake!)

Coming up is my grandmother's kolache recipe, too, since this fruit-filled SWEET roll is a Czech specialty, and there's a big Czech population in Nebraska. My hometown of Cuba, where my grandmother lived two doors down, is 13 miles from the Kansas-Nebraska border.

October 7, 2010

Thirsty? It's Kool-Aid Time

Why is it I cannot say Kool-Aid without yelling, "Hey Kids, I've got Kool-Aid?" Maybe it has to do with growing up in the '70s and '80s and all those Kool-Aid commercials where thirsty has only be defeated by Kool-Aid Man who's really a large glass pitcher. I've got to somewhat agree with Dane Cook's Kool-Aid remarks. (I had to go over to my friends' houses to get Kool-Aid. My mom didn't buy us Kool-Aid very often, but she did think Tang was fine, maybe because it was endorsed by astronauts, but I think they both had a lot of S U G A R.

Do they even advertise Kool-Aid anymore? With my limited TV watching I'm not too familiar with recent commercials, unless they're on during a sporting event. I'm so not Nielsen material and I cannot talk TV at all with my in-laws who know most of the season's lineups on most channels.

So our friend and neighbor, Mick Ratzlaff (who has a corn recipe for our project) reminds me that Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings, Neb. It's now owned by Kraft, but there's still a Kool-Aid exhibit at the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

Here's a link for Playdough made with unsweetened Kool-Aid. It makes for great colors and a really nice scent.

And check this link for Midwest Living's recipe for Kool-Aid Angel Food Cake. I got concerned when I saw the four cups of powdered sugar, but that's mixed with either grenadine, maraschino cherry liquid or Kool-Aid for the frosting. Probably best NOT served with Kool-Aid to drink.

Tomorrow: Details on the proper way to top a Husker Burger and some stuff about trails.

October 6, 2010

New Pantry, Corn Pudding and Husker Burgers

My friend Jen Shatel is a native Nebraskan and a mom of three darling girls. Today Jen shares two great Crock Pot ideas. With the onset of Autumn is seems natural to bring out the Crock Pot to provide the heavy-duty work in the kitchen. And now, thanks to two new marvelous black chrome five-tier stands in my reorganized pantry, I can actually find my Crock Pot. See!

I'm feeling oh-so like Martha Stewart right now. (And just wait til I tell you about my grand schemes for sewing homemade Halloween costumes, and we also have to make about 30 homemade Halloween cards too. Now, I'm feeling tired again.)

Back to food. Jen writes: "My easiest and yummiest recipe involves corn — appropriate for the Cornhusker state. It's a simple crock pot recipe."

Jen Shatel's Corn Pudding
2 cans cream corn
2 cans whole kernel corn (with the water/juice)
2 boxes of corn muffin mix
1 stick of margarine
8 oz sour cream (optional)

Mix all ingredients in crock pot.
Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours until the mixture thicken and "sets" and looks like this:
And it tastes amazing. In fact, I think I'll have some for breakfast. (And it makes a large batch, too.)

Simplest Crock Pot Chicken
Jen also uses her Crock Pot to cook frozen chicken breasts. "I put them in by themselves and turn it on low," Jen says. "Once they cook, I shred the chicken breasts in their own juices and we put the shredded chicken in tacos, on buns with BBQ sauce, or in quesadillas. Very simple and very good flavor, too."

It was Jen and her husband, Tom, who first introduced me and my husband, Joe, to the Husker Burger. This was after 2005 because I remember standing in line behind then-alumnus -- still all-time great Husker QB -- Tommy Frazier to get into a downtown Lincoln bar. I don't think any of us waited long to get into the bar. Can you ever imagine Frazier getting overlooked in Lincoln?

So the Husker Burger is shaped like the state of Nebraska, but the real fun is garnishing it with ketchup and mustard. The mustard snakes across the burger like one of the state's rivers and then the ketchup .... okay, let me check with Jen on the CORRECT way to dress a Husker Burger. (Thursday's NU football game is against my Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan., and I can assure you there are no traditions in that college town that deal with condiments -- or at least that I can recall as I'm writing this at 10:42 p.m. on a week night.)

Check out Corn Nation's blog where they nominated their favorite stadium foods in the off-season. It makes for an interesting read. And lookie, I found a site that's part of Yahoo that's finding the best food in each state. They picked the baked bread stuffed with meat sandwiches called Runzas for Nebraska. (They also picked Chicken Fried Steak for Kansas. Even though their report came out in June of this year I can assure you I didn't see this list until today. But I'm happy to agree with these Yahoo/Shine people on my birth state of Kansas. Runzas are tasty, but I'm still partial to the Husker Burger. Besides Husker Burger just so much more catchier to say. It's way more fun than saying "Runza, Runza, Runza.")

I'm also noticing this pride in all things corn (though the state is the third-leading producer of corn behind Iowa and Illinois). But those states also don't have a team that proudly (and I mean PROUDLY call themselves the CORNHUSKERS. Sitting in a sea of red on a football game day is a site to behold. Their stadium hot dogs are OF COURSE dyed a bright RED, too. And the automatic hot dog thrower at games is called Der Viener Schlinger. I'm telling you, life is better than fiction; you couldn't make up a name like that. (Technically, SOMEONE did come up with that name and got it approved or offered enough $$$ to get it approved.) Why doesn't some action movie film a scene where the hero in white has to run through Memorial Stadium's packed game-day crowd, grabbing Der Viener Schlinger to fell the bad guys chasing him (or her — I'm all for female heroines.*)

* Our fam's favorite new heroine is Eva Nine from Tony DiTerlizzi's "The Search for Wondla."

October 5, 2010

A Trip North to Husker Nation


So while we travel to a new state, I'm reorganizing my pantry after I heard a clatter two nights ago.

Three shelves were starting to fall and I knew I was in need of new support for my dishes and plastics and kitchen appliances. For six years this built-in shelving system helped me stay fairly organized. But for some time, one of the long boards would start to slip and I'd have to heave it back up on it's wall and two bar supports. With three shelves slanting precariously, I knew it was time to change up the pantry before all four shelves ended up on the ground. So my kitchen is quite the mess (I mean WORSE than it normally is.) More updates on the pantry later this week.

Let's check out Nebraska, shall we? If you're seeking recipes from the Great State of Nebraska, you can purchase a copy of "Inspired Recipes from Nebraska" that states on their web site:

Proceeds from sales will provide funds for educational materials about the history of the Governor’s residence given to grade schools and for updates to the residence. 

And at $36.05 a copy, I hope that the Governor's Residence (placed on the National Registry this year) is getting some really great window treatments. The First Lady of Nebraska Sally Ganem mentions in her letter on the site that the cookbook proves that "politicians eat more than rubber chicken."

I won't be asking for any rubber chicken recipes for this project. But we will explore the proper way to make a Husker Burger before heading to a NU football game, bring to light a few Kool-Aid recipes since it was invented in Hastings, Neb., and explore some bierocks (Runza was started in Nebraska) and kolache recipes from a state food culture influenced by German and Eastern European cultures, says Dr. Georgia Jones, of the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

But today my friend Alyson Burnett Rawitch shares two of her favorites recipes from her family cookbook titled "Mostly on Your Mother's Side." I love that title!

Alyson writes: "My mom and dad grew up in Omaha and Lincoln respectively. Below is one of my mom's recipes. I prefer it with frozen corn and Ritz Crackers."

Sally Burnett's Baked Corn
From Alyson's family cookbook: "Mostly on Your Mother's Side"
A prairie recipe from the 1967 Nebraska Centennial Cookbook

Mix with an egg beater:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half and
1 egg
Add 2 cans kernel corn (drained) and
1 can creamed corn
Add 2 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
Add salt & pepper to taste
Mix in 24 to 36 crushed crackers
Top with more cracker crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.

And for dessert, a simple but delightful dessert. You can tell we're moving up the longitude latitude (I always confuse those terms) and the cooks can make meringue desserts without worrying about the humidity of the south. Here's Alyson's grandmother's recipe.

Alyson says, "My aunt, Katie Dailey Hopper wrote: "I can remember these piled on a
round silver tray and served at piano recitals at our house."  My kids LOVE them."

Mildred Jane Dailey's Meringue Kisses

Beat until stiff:
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
pinch of salt
Add slowly:
1 cup sugar
Stir in:
Chocolate chips (12 oz package) (I use mini's)
Drop by spoonfuls on a (sprayed with Pam) cookie sheet. Lift to a peak
with back of spoon. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes.

Check back later this week for more Nebraska recipes. Feel free to submit your favorites in comments.

October 1, 2010

Nuts in All their Glory

Welcome back to Missouri Week, and after a good ol' barbecue/BBQ it's good to focus on some snack foods. Corey Dillon who eloquently told of her family gatherings on Wednesday, mentions that of Misouri's top produce - apples, black walnuts and pecans -- two of them are nuts. I don't know what that really says for a state, but I still remember all the peanut jokes when Georgia's Jimmy Carter was in office. (I don't think President Truman had to encounter pecan or walnut jokes. Check this fun link for recipes associated with former presidents. Seems President Truman liked lemon and key lime pies and Bess made an Ozark pudding that mentions nuts as an ingredient, but doesn't specify which kind!)

But I can tell you I'm convinced that Missouri pecans are the best in the country. They're sweeter and farmers -- and even right on their packaging -- claim it's because the growing season is shorter. And Corey, a fellow foodie, recommends this Spiced Pecan recipe from Edna Scott's "The Gift of Southern Cooking."

Brunswick, boasts the World's largest Pecan (see link and pic here!), and celebrates the joy all of things pecans at their festival starting today. (We couldn't have timed that better.)

There are also two apple festivals in the state this weekend. Check out Lexington and Versailles. And Stockton has a Black Walnut Festival  in September. 

Personally I like English walnuts better than Black Walnuts, but my father is crazy about Black Walnuts. As a kid we've pick up the green hulled nuts from below the two trees that were near the stream bed at my parents' farm. They'd always be an old plastic bucket with nuts that my dad would crack open eventually with his hammer and anvil. To this day, I can still imagine that potent, earthy yet not quite pleasing smell that permeated from the fresh Black Walnuts. Its sad to think, but I don't know if my daughters know that fresh nuts even had a particular smell, they just associated nuts with the manufactured "fresh roasted" smell. Check out this site for more info on purchasing Black Walnuts. There's a recipe directory here.