AN ODE TO THE CHURCH SUPPER

 

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When I was growing up, back in the 1960’s, we went to church. Every Sunday. Dad was never convinced that I should stay home because I was out too late on Saturday night. He didn’t care if I thought the sermon might be boring. We went. And we stayed afterward for coffee and conversation. With the same folks. We knew about their ups and downs in life and they knew about ours.

 The same went for your neighbors.  I knew my friend’s grandmas, and grandpas and their aunts and uncles.  If I needed a ride home from school and mom was busy, a neighbor would be my taxi.  We looked out for each other.  That was just the way it was.  Community.  We didn’t question it.

 We didn’t call it a value system or a lifestyle.  It was just life.  I knew what my dad did for a living and I could walk a mile and see him any time I wanted too.  (Which was practically never.)  He was home every night for dinner at the same time.  And dinner was on the table.  We were all there every night.  We never questioned it. It’s the way it was.  There were five of us and I always felt there was some kind of strong band around us holding us together.  Still is.

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 The world is a little different now but, sense of community is still needed.  It’s different, and maybe harder to accomplish.  We need a support system, just like we always have.  We need places to go where we are safe and appreciated.  We need to have some fun in life without spending a fortune.

 We work in cubicles doing things that no one else understands, with titles that make no sense to anyone.  My last job title was “Senior Acquisitions Clerk.”  Sounds like I was is the Acquiring Department.  I didn’t even know what the title meant.  Before that it was Senior Order Entry/Order Edit Clerk.  An important sounding title if I ever heard one.  Not teacher, nurse, mechanic, carpenter, doctor or anything anyone can understand.

 I know how hard it is to work all day long and how tired we all are at the end of the day.  And there is so much left to still do after picking the kids up from daycare or after school activities.  Getting something to eat.  Making sure there are clean clothes and lunch materials for the next day.  Making sure the house is at least somewhat presentable.  Weekends are full of chores to prepare for the week ahead.  Life is exhausting.

Maybe by pulling together, we can make life a little less exhausting and a little more fun.  Sharing the load.  Looking in on each other.  Talking together, listening together, crying and laughing together.  Loving each other.  That’s all there is you know.  Love. 

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 So here’s a cheer for the Sunday Dinner, and the Wednesday night bridge club.  The camera club with the potluck once a month.  The farmer’s market trip with the family every Sunday afternoon.  The weeklong camping trip with all of the cousins, aunts and uncles and all the friends.  Here’s to bringing the covered casserole when a new baby is born, or a loved one passes away.  Here’s to taking the septuagenarian cousin to the eye doctor because she sat on her glasses.  Then getting ice cream with her afterward.  Here’s to having lunches with your niece when she breaks up with her boyfriend and is broken hearted.

 We are all one.  We breath the same air.  We are Love.  We are the World.  Here’s to us. 

An here’s to an old fashioned recipe to take to the church supper.

 

Space Noodle Casserole

Brown:

1 large onion

1 green pepper

1 minced clove garlic

1 pound of hamburger

Add:

1 can corn

1 can diced tomatoes

2 cans tomato sauce

1 can olives

1/2 package uncooked egg noodles

1 tsp. chili powder

salt and pepper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DANCING IN THE LIGHT

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I wake up in the morning and I hurt.  I’m groggy and tired.  I ache.  I don’t want to get up because I don’t want to move at all.  But I know I’m awake for the day.  Enough sleep or not.  And I know I have had enough sleep.  I just need to get moving.  That’s what they say isn’t it?  Just get moving and you’ll feel better.  Greet the day with a smile, they say.  It’s gonna be a glorious day, they say.  So I get up and I get my coffee.  I take my insulin shot, and I take my pills, and I sit quietly waiting for the pain pills to take effect.  I know it will happen.  I will feel better.  I just won’t feel enough better to make a difference.  I struggle to not let myself dig another hole and crawl in it, again today.  At 8:30 I decide to suit up and show up.  Literally.  I crawl into my swimming suit and pack up my towels and barbells.  I’m then out of the house and at the swimming pool.  My attitude is bad.  I’m tired and I don’t feel good.  I pack up my clothes and go out to the pool.

 

 I start down the steps into the pool.  I don’t know yet if it’s cold.  My feet and legs are numb from diabetes.   By the third step I know that the water is cold.  I keep walking though.  I’m used to this.  I’ve been doing it every other day for more than three years.  I start to jump up and down and march in place to warm myself up.  Others are smiling at me because of my screwed up (but brave, I think) face.  I smile back.  I start to laugh a little.  Everyone else has just gone through this experience of shivering too.  They tell me I’ll be warm in a minute.

 

Dee, the instructor, starts her class.  The beat of music is in the background.  Softly for me because I can’t wear my hearing aids in the pool.  I watch Dee.  And I start to have fun, and to jump, and stretch and dance.  I do laps, I pretend I’m a frog.  Ribbit Ribbit.  The aqua and navy blue and silvery lights from the water dance around me.  The water splashes and bubbles.  I am warm now.  I splash the guy next to me, just for fun.  He splashes me back.  Just for fun.  He wants to talk about politics but we don’t agree so we don’t talk about politics.  We talk about our pets instead.

By now I am smiling with every molecule of my body.  And most of the faces around me are smiling too.  The ones not smiling are laughing out loud.  The lady in baggy polyester, the lady with the thinning hair, the lady with the walker, she’s now a water nymph.    The white haired women in the shallow end, the ones with the saggy upper arms and baggy chins.  They are rocking the five pound barbells over their heads.  Looks of concentration and satisfaction on their faces.  Their grandkids aren’t going to get the best of them yet.

The speakers blast a Latin beat.  The swimmers begin to dance.  More laughter at that.  We boomers, yes, we know how to dance to a beat.  We were young once.  And we aren’t going out without a fight.  Our old bodies, to our amazement, react to exercise like they always have, getting stronger.  Maybe not as pretty as we once were but still strong.  And still beautiful in our own ways.  We envy the beautiful lifeguards but we wouldn’t trade with them. 

Now we are doing sit ups to keep our core strength.  We don’t like this part much.  We bitch about it, but still, we do it.  Maybe a hundred sits ups in the water.  Maybe it just seems like a hundred sit ups.  We push ourselves up at the side of the pool to strengthen our arms and backs and shoulders.  We don’t like this one either, but we do that too.  Muttering under our breath, looking at the clock.  Why yes, we are still enjoying ourselves, having fun and feeling young.  Stretching out at the end, feeling the snap, crackle and pop in our backs. 

 

We reward ourselves with a soak in the hot tub, and a lot of meaningful and intense conversation because good health means good friends.   We know that we have just bought ourselves another day of freedom from old age.  We put that old bitch, aging, back in her box one more time.  I win today. 

 

                                                                                                                                   

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VISITING MARY CULLEN’S COTTAGE

MARY CULLEN’S COTTAGE WAS A DAILY COLUMN IN PORTLAND’S “OREGON JOURNAL”, THE AFTERNOON PAPER FROM 1902 UNTIL 1982.  OVER 80 YEARS THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAD THEIR DOMESTIC QUESTIONS ANSWERED, INCLUDING HOW TO BAKE COOKIES!  HERE ARE RECIPES FOR REFRIGERATOR COOKIES.

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Americans eat billions of cookies every year and why shouldn’t we?  What could be better than a little handful of sweetness.  And they come in every flavor imaginable, as long as it’s sweetly delightful.  There are so many, many kinds of cookies, brownies with black beans or chili peppers.  Cookies with fruit, cookies with chocolate, cookies with spices.  Bar cookies, drop cookies, filled cookies.  We eat them alone, we eat them with ice cream, we dip them in coffee and we dip them in milk.  We crumble them into sundaes, and we crush them into pie crusts.   We politely sample them at parties and we eat a handful when we think no one is looking.  After all, if no one sees you eating a cookie, there are no calories in it.  They are easy to pack up to take with you.  A couple of cookies make a brown bag lunch a treat.  You can buy cookies one at a time, or you can buy them by the bag and boxful.  Or, you can make them.


Baking cookies is one of the most delightful experiences any of us can have.  We bake cookies by the dozen during the holidays because it makes us happy.  They make the house smell wonderful and if we don’t sneak-eat too many of them, they are so much fun to take to parties and give to friends. 


I was raised with a couple of great cookie bakers in my family, and have never been intimidated by mixing up some flour, sugar and butter to make up some sort of confection.  Cookies, cakes, pies, breads, I will want to mix it up and put it in the oven.  Biscuits at midnight?  I’m your woman.  Cinnamon rolls for lunch.  I’m there, as was my grandmother before me.

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I was going through my family recipe box recently, looking at the cookie recipes and I was amazed at how cookies have evolved over the years.  We buy and eat such fancy cookies these days.  White chocolate macadamia, cardamom spice, turbinado sugar, evaporated cane juice.   They sound wonderful, and they are, but my old-fashioned recipes rely on more mundane ingredients.  Foods we now call “superfoods.”  Oatmeal, berries, walnuts, dried fruits. 


Vintage cookies were created from whatever the cook had on hand and what was in season.  White sugar and brown sugar were used heavily, as was white flour.  But flour, sugar and butter were mixed with all kinds of things depending on how creative the cook could be.  And those ladies shared their recipes like the treasures they were. 

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In Oregon, The Portland Oregon Journal had an extensive department serving to aid the homemaker.  They published recipes, patterns, sewing hints, knitting techniques, and answers for readers seeking advice far beyond just cooking, such as party tips, laundry problems, appliance and etiquette questions, gardening and anything else that helped Oregonians run their homes efficiently and deliciously.  One of the columns was called “Mary Cullen’s Cottage”.  The Journal really did own the cottage that housed the advice column, but there was really no “Mary Cullen.”  The founder of the column was named Mary Elizabeth Tobin, and the Cullen part was a take on culinary.  The column was taken over by Catherine Lawton who was a cohort of James Beard, assisting him in editing duties.


I found a copy of one of Mary Cullen’s column’s in my grandma’s recipe box, lately, and guess what it’s about?  Cookies!  So I am going to share some of these wonderful old recipes with you.  Mary Cullen’s cookie column is a virtual encyclopedia of cookie recipes: refrigerator cookies, drop cookies, roll cookies, snaps, brownies and filled cookies.   


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REFRIGERATOR COOKIES


1 cup butter margarine

1 ¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups sifted all-purpose four

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt


Directions:


Soften the butter or margarine in a warm bowl.  Beat with a slotted spoon or with a pastry blender, or cream at low-speed in an electric mixer.  Add the sugar a little at a time, and cream into the fat.  Turn up the speed on an electric mixer to do this.  Add the vanilla any time during this creaming.  When very fluffy add the eggs, one at a time and beat in well.  Sift and measure the flour, sift again several times with salt and baking powder.  Mix into the first mixtures a little at a time.  If using the electric mixer dump the flour in and turn the speed low so that it will not flip the flour out of bowl.  Keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

When the mixture is well blended, scrape from bowl into refrigerator trays lined with wax paper or onto a wax paper lined loaf cake pan.  Chill until firm.  Then remove the dough from the pan.  Take off the wax paper.  The dough in the average refrigerator and the bread pans is better to manage if cut through the long way, then sliced.  Keep the dough that is not sliced in a cold place until ready to use it.  

Slice refrigerator cookies about one-third inch thick using a thin bladed knife, preferably a “butcher” knife.  Place each cookie individually on a greased cookie sheet, ½ to ¾ inch between each cookie, for they will expand during cooking.  Bake in a moderate oven 375° for about 12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

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BUTTERSCOTCH REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Use 1 ½ cups brown sugar instead of the white sugar in the refrigerator cookie recipe


ORANGE REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Use 1 tbsp. of grated orange rind instead of the vanilla to flavor the cookies.  Add 1 tbsp. orange juice to the batter if you wish.



LEMON REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Add 1 tbsp. of grated lemon rind and 1 tbsp. lemon juice instead of vanilla to flavor the cookies.


NUT REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Add ½ cup of very finely chopped nuts to any of the refrigerator cookie recipes.  The nuts must be chopped very fine or even put through a food chopper so they will not crumble when cut.

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CHOCOLATE REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Sift 1/3 cup ground chocolate with the dry ingredients for refrigerator cookies and omit 3 tbsp. of the flour.

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FILLED REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Pat standard cookie dough to ¼ inch thickness in rectangle, 3 to 4 inches wide on heavy wax paper.  Spread with fruit or jam filling or other desired filling, making sure that ingredients in filling are fine enough that dough can be easily sliced.  Roll crosswise like jelly roll, wrap in wax paper and chill until firm.  Cut in ¼ to 1/3 inch slices and bake on greased and floured cookie sheets for about 10 minutes in a moderate oven 375°.

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PINWHEEL REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Make one half recipe of chocolate refrigerator cookie dough and one half recipe standard dough.  Roll each to ¼ inch thickness in rectangle 3 to 4 inches wide.  Place one on top of the other and roll crosswise for the jelly roll, making roll about 2 or 2 ½ inches in diameter.  Wrap in wax paper, shill until firm, slice and bake as for refrigerator cookies. 


ROLL REFRIGERATOR COOKIES

Chill dough until firm and easy to handle.  Roll only a small portion of the dough one at a time.  Cut and bake as for sliced refrigerator cookies.

PONDERING THE WOODSTOVE

Pennsylvania Dutch.  Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  While working on my family tree lately, I discovered that my great grandma Fanny was of Pennsylvania Dutch descent.  My sister told me this years ago but I didn’t believe her.  I love my sister because she is not the “I told you so” type, even though I often give her reason.

Gramma Fanny and baby Ernie Freeman

Gramma Fanny and baby Ernie Freeman

 

My ancestors came to the New World from Germany in 1745 and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Their name was Meissen.  My grandfather got his bright red hair from them, and I got my freckles.

This is why, when going through the vintage recipes, I found so many that matched the recipes in the public domain Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook that I found on Amazon and downloaded to my kindle.    Still, when these recipes were being used, everyone was cooking on a wood stove.  I know my grandmothers and even my mom, in her childhood, learned to master the wood cooking stove.

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I’ve only seen someone cook on a wood stove a few times in my life, always at a vacation cabin where we were roughing it when I was a teenager.  I can boil water on a wood stove and even make coffee, but bake a loaf of bread?

Reading through these old recipes, I began thinking, and wondering about the women who used a wood stove for cooking all of their meals.  Imagine what that would have been like in July and August.  I bet they ate a lot of cold food during the hot months.

First, it was a matter of fire control.  Different woods produced different fire temperatures.  Light kindling and pine produce fast hot fires, while hardwoods like apple, oak and maple produced longer burning fires.  My brother uses his wood stove when  the power is out, and he starts his fires with cedar, then burns Alder, because Alder trees grow faster than fir trees.

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A woodstove’s temperature is controlled by the stoves draft controls, and it’s damper. Women who cooked with a wood stove were intuitive cooks.  They knew how to judge what was a slow oven, or a hot oven.  It came from experience.  They also knew how to judge ingredient amounts, and how to cook  what was on hand and what was in season.  It wasn’t magic.  It was intelligence.

Boiling water, making toast or even frying was relatively easy on a stovetop.  But baking was a whole ‘nother matter.  This was the real test for the cook.  Dampers can be set to direct heat from the fire under the oven and block their passage over it.  These old time cooks knew how to judge temperatures by instinct and experience.  If you try it you should use a thermometer.

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This all sounds like a lot of bother in the modern world, but here’s something to think about:  wood ovens aren’t vented so food aromas stay in the baking foods and food baked in a wood stove tastes better.

This week, I’m posting one of those old Pennsylvania Dutch recipes.  It’s a good recipe, it has easy ingredients, tastes good, and can be baked in the oven you now have in your kitchen.  If you make this cake, give some thought to my great grandma Fanny and what life was like in the not so distant past.

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SPICE LAYER CAKE

Ingredients:

2 cups light brown sugar

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

3 tsp. baking powder

1 cup chopped raising

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

Cream sugar and shortening and beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until light.  Sift the flour, add salt, spices, baking powder, then sift again.  Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the milk.  Beat thoroughly and add the floured raisins. Pour into greased layer cake pans.  Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 25 or 30 minutes.

pans.  Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 25 or 30 minutes.

For icing  use:

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup milk

2 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together and boil until it forms a soft ball when dropped in water.  Add vanilla and beat until cold.  Spread between layers, over top and sides.

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MONTGOMERY PIE (Pennsylvania Dutch recipe)

Ingredients:

TOP PART:
½ cup molasses

½ cup white sugar

1 egg beaten

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup water

½ cup lemon juice
Directions:
Mix ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat and cool.
BOTTOM PART:
1 tsp. baking powder
2 unbaked 9” pie shells
Directions:
Cream the sugar and shortening together. Beat in the egg. Whisk the flour and salt together. Gradually add the flour and milk to the sugar/shortening mixture. (For sour milk, add a little lemon juice to it.)

Pour the bottom mixture into the pie shell and top with the syrup mixture. Bake in a moderate oven (350º) for 40 minutes.

Mom and Me and the Angel Food Cake

Celebrating Mother’s Day changes over the years, doesn’t it?  When I was in the first grade I would draw a picture every day telling my mother, Leola, that I loved her.  It was more difficult when I was a teenager and our relationship had it’s ups and downs over the years.  During the last two decades of her life we were each other’s BFF’s.  We shopped, we lunched, we went to cultural events, we went on vacation, be talked on the phone.   I think of her every day and I’m lucky enough to have the same relationship with my sister.

LEOLA AND MARILYN FREEMAN

LEOLA AND MARILYN FREEMAN

She made our coats!

 When I was seven years old, and it was the day before Mother’s Day, my mother was left with the task of making her own cake.  My dad couldn’t cook.  Neither could my four-year- old brother, and of course, neither could I.  But, I wanted to do something special for her.  And of course, my grandmother would also be at the Mother’s Day dinner, and I wanted that to be special too.

Leola Stevens

LEOLA THE COLLEGE GIRL

My mom invited me to join her in the kitchen so that she could coach me as I made my first cake.  It was Angel Food with pink frosting.  She got out the stand-up mixer and the ingredients.  I remember that I made the entire cake from start to finish in a very competent manner, producing a cake worthy of the best bakeries.  Of course, that didn’t really happen. (Probably).  She did, however, explain every step and let me do a few small tasks, such as helping to pour the batter into the pan.

I felt very accomplished and proud of myself, and I have loved to cook ever since.  My mom also left me with a love of music, reading mysteries, Shakespeare (we read his entire works together),  a thirst for knowledge, a love of art and creativity and an insatiable curiosity.

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BABY LEOLA AND HER MOTHER MYRTLE STEVENS

My mom was born in Portland, Oregon, but her family moved to Central Oregon when she was a baby.  Her dad was a farmer and an auto mechanic  and managed to put together a living during the Great Depression.  She graduated from Redmond High School and spent two years at Oregon State University until my dad convinced her to marry him and be the mother of his children.  Their’s was a love story.

Ernie and Leola Freeman

LEOLA AND ERNIE FREEMAN

Now about that Angel Food Cake that I mastered as a child and can still turn out today.

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Angel Food Cake is a sponge cake made mostly from flour, sugar and egg whites.  The first recipe  for this cake is found in “The Kentucky Housewife” in 1839. No oil is added.  It is so light and so fluffy that it was dubbed to be the food of angels. It’s also lower in calories and cholestrol.   Because this is such a delicate cake, it is usually made with cake flour or all purpose that has been sifted several times.

 

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ANGEL FOOD CAKE


Ingredients:


10 egg whites

1 tumblers sugar

1 tumbler of flour

1 heaping tsp. cream of tartar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla


Directions:

The original instructions are in purple. 


This is a very old recipe, more than one hundred years. Modern flour doesn’t need to be sifted.  Anyway, use cake flour for this recipe to keep it as light as possible. A tumbler is one cup.  Put dry ingredients through a sieve twice.Take one-half of the eggs and stir in one-half of the sugar. Beat until they have a gloss. Then add the other half of eggs and the rest of the sugar. Beat again; then add the flour and cream of tartar. Stir up lightly. Flavor with vanilla. Bake in a slow oven.  In modern times, where we have electric mixers, this cake is made much differently:

Whip whites of eggs to firm, stiff froth. Add cream of tartar. Fold sugar in lightly. Fold in cake flour and salt. Add vanilla. Pour into  ungreased tube pan. The pan is ungreased because the cake “grabs onto the sides of the pan as it rises and bakes. If the pan is greased the cake will “fall.”  Bake at 45 to 50 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees). Remove from oven; invert pan and allow to stand until cold. Ice with either chocolate or white icing.

Angel Food cakes should be cut with a serrated knife as a regular knife will compress it.

Water icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

5-6 tbsp. hot water

Add tablespoons of hot water to sugar until the icing is the right consistency. This is also good for glazing an Angel Food Cake.

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My mom loved Mother’s Day.  She told us it was because she loved the family getting together, but I know it was because she loved to get presents!  

When the Strawberries are Ripe Summer is Here

When I was 13 years old and rock and roll was newer, Sonny and Cher were coming to Portland, Oregon.  School was just out and I was a teenager!  I wanted to go.  Three dollars for a ticket.  Whew.  My parents weren’t about to waste three dollars on Sonny and Cher.  Even if they were cool.  (Sonny and Cher, not my parents.) 

This is my grandma Myrtle Stevens.  Generous to her granddaughter.  She also sent me to charm school the next summer.  It’s also her recipe at the end of this blog. 

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Then my grandma came to my rescue.  She would loan me three dollars if I agreed to pay her back.  The next morning, I was up a dawn to put my sleepy self on the berry bus.  I think I had to pick for a week to repay my debt.  But Sonny and Cher were wonderful.  I was 13 and Cher was 18.  I still think she’s wonderful.

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Then, when I was 19, the summer after my freshman year in college, my little sister and I decided to pick strawberries.  She was 11.  Child labor.  School clothes money.  All the kids picked in the summer back then.  The field was owned by the Freeman family — not our branch.  The first question my sister was asked was whether  Mr. Freeman was her father. She said, “of course.”  Well, he was, just not that Mr. Freeman.

We were staying with our grandparents that week and they arranged for me to drive to the field in their ’49 Chev pickup.  Transmission — three on the tree (gear shift on the steering column). The wiper switch, choke, a pull-out throttle, and the ignition switch stood in a vertical line on the ultra modern dashboard. Driving a stick on my own for the first time was a little stressful.

 

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It’s almost time for Oregon strawberries again.  Oregon’s mild spring and early summer make it a great place for them to grow.  And, of course, they are not just delicious but wonderfully healthy.  Full of Vitamin C and K, phenols, potassium and magnesium.  They are all around good for us.  And they are heart shaped !

 

straweberries in a circle

Mixed from scratch, shortcakes are still good for us.  And that canned whipped cream isn’t even that bad.  Real whipped cream tastes so much better, though.  After all Oregon strawberry season is short so it’s OK to eat real whipped cream with them.  It’s all good for the soul.

 

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Remember these little sponge cakes for shortcake.  In think biscuits are better.

 

Basic Shortcake Biscuits

 

2 cups flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk

3 Tbsp. sugar

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Using a whisk, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Add softened shortening.  Cut the shortening into the flour using a pastry cutter or two table knives.  When the butter becomes the size of peas,  add the  milk.  Mix thoroughly, but don’t overwork the dough or you’ll have tough shortcakes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured workspace.  Put flour on your hands and knead the dough until it becomes a smooth ball.  Pat the dough into a circle about an inch thick.  Use a biscuit cutter or small glass to cut the dough into shortcakes.  Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and pop them into the oven.  Check them at 12 minutes.  If they are golden brown they are done.  Serve them warm covered by sliced, sugared strawberries and whipped cream.  Makes one dozen.

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Whipped Cream

1  pint  carton of heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Put the cream in a metal or glass bowl.  A plastic bowl won’t work and you will be embarrassed if you have company, and at least you will be frustrated.

Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.  Add the sugar gradually, continuing to beat the mixture.  When the cream is thick and making peaks, add the vanilla.  Put it in a pretty dish and serve right away.  If you need to store it overnight, just beat up when you want to use it, because it will separate.

 

Preparing Berries or Shortcake

Wash the berries. Use a paring knife to cut off the stems and any spots that look questionable.  Throw away any that look bad.  Slice the berries with the paring knife or use the food processor on the slicing mode.  Mash up some of them so they will be juicy.  Add a half cup of sugar and a little water and let set for a half hour or so.  They will be really juicy and the shortcake will absorb the liquid.

Hey Cupcake!

Ernie and Leola Freeman

My parents Ernie and Leola Freeman about 1955.  She made an old fashioned cake for a party

 

Today I am making cupcakes to take to church.  It’s a potluck.  Cupcakes are easier to manage when you have lots of food on a flimsy paper plate to manage.  Cupcakes show up everywhere now days.

Throughout most of my younger life, cupcakes were for kid’s birthday parties.  They were mostly served at school parties by room mothers. These cupcakes were either yellow cake or chocolate cake, made from a cake mix in the room mother’s kitchen. The frosting would be chocolate, or perhaps mom had used some food coloring in white frosting because, after all, it was a party!  Sprinkles were applied as a sparkly decoration.

Of course, if you could manage to save some of your allowance, you could get a Hostess chocolate cupcake with that yummy creamy filling.  When I was a kid I could get one for three cents.  I guess that makes me kind of old.  That just means I know what I’m doing!

cat eats cupcakes

red cat eating cupcakes on the table

Now there are cupcakes for every swank occasion.  Parties and weddings have stacks of cupcakes arranged in layers.  The cupcakes are every color, flavor and theme.  They are beautiful.  They are funny.  They are exotic.  They are adorable.  Oh, and they taste great!

My nephew and his wife served layers and layers of red velvet cupcakes at their wedding.  They served mirrored platters of cupcakes on every table in the reception hall.  I ate three of them.  Well, they were sitting right in front of me.  You would have too.

Even the local bakeries and grocery stores display beautiful works of cupcake art.  There are even all-cupcake bakeries.

cupcakes tier

cute and colorful yummy cupcakes tier

There are tiered cupcake displays —  five tiers!! There are cupcake tree displays.  Imagine!  A cupcake tree.  Oh my.  There are cupcake bouquets.  There are cupcakes in ice cream cones.  There are cupcakes with fortunes inside the liners. There are cupcakes with two flavors — half and half cupcakes..  And the liners, every color and theme that anyone has ever thought up.

Miniature cupcakes

mini cupcakes on a multi level tier in different colors

But I’m the vintage cook with my cats and an old recipe box.  I’m going to make my mom’s recipe for “Chocolate Chip Mocha” cupcakes.  I don’t remember ever tasting these but the recipe card is in her precise handwriting.  I know the recipe will be perfect and delicious.  My mom always got everything right.  A nice trait to have!

One time, I was going to start a sewing project and lost my pattern.  I looked everywhere in my apartment.  I was so frustrated.  I was going crazy looking for the danged thing.  Finally in desperation, I called my mom.  I told her my problem and she told me to look on top of the refrigerator.  And you know what?  There it was.  She always got everything right.  We called her the finder of lost things.

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This is my mom, Leola’s, recipe. These would show up at school on my birthday when I was a little girl. Yum. I always wanted purple frosting (my favorite color) but that never happened.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP MOCHA CUPCAKES

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  • Ingredients:1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 3 cups. Flour
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Directions
    Cream shortening, add sugar and eggs.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt together in a separate bowl.
  • Add flour mixture and coffee alternately .
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  • Stir chocolate chips and nuts.
  • Pour the batter into a lined cupcake tin Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Use a pick to test for doneness. 

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The full recipe is really too much cake for two of us to tackle.  I needed to cut it down so I can make just six cupcakes, a reasonable amount for the two of us.   Here’s what I came up with for smaller portions:

Same cupcakes—less of them:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Put the ingredients together following the above instructions.  Put just four liners in the cupcake tin and fill them 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

I thought this would make six cupcakes.  It made seven.  Darn!  You can see what a mess I made.  I’m just messy by nature, but I have one of the smallest kitchens in the world!  Maybe I should start a crowd funding for a bigger kitchen.  Or start blogging about surviving a small kitchen.

My dad was a photographer and started training me when I was about five years old.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures in my life but I’ve never taken pictures and cooked at the same time.  A challenge since my camera is right handed.  It means I have to cook left handed.