Smoked Sausage Soup

Smoked sausage soup is an easy soup because it is created from leftovers. Beside the spicy smoked sausage it contains leftover scalloped potatoes, mixed vegetables and diced onion. It is seasoned with paprika, mustard and Worcestershire sauce plus salt and pepper. Served along with grilled cheese sandwiches it is a tasty lunch or dinner.

The soup is the result of bad organization. I often wrap leftovers in foil and don’t label the packages. They are kept in a corner of the freezer, the leftover lounge as I call it. Once in a while I grab one of those packages and turn the contents into a soup or chowder. In this case the meal saved was smoked sausage and scalloped potatoes. The main point is that instead of feeding the trash can or garbage disposal make use of the bits of food left from meals and create something new.

Food historians believe soups have been around since humans first learned to cook. Every culture and country has traditional soup recipes. Soup is easy to digest and enables small amounts of ingredients to feed many. Combinations of ingredients and flavors are uncountable. Soups are economical, easy to cook and taste darn good.

This recipe will serve 4 to 6. It can be served with sandwiches and you can add a salad and simple dessert. I served the soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.


Smoked Sausage Soup


  • ¼ of a cooked smoked sausage, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup or so of leftover scalloped potatoes
  • 2/3 cup of frozen mixed vegetables or leftover vegetables
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of chicken bouillon
  • ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Paprika and ground dry mustard to taste (or your favorite seasonings)
  • 3 slices of onion, diced (about ¼ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour mixes in ½ cup of water to thicken the soup


Put 2 cups of water in a large sauce pan and add the frozen sausage and scalloped potatoes. Heat over medium high heat until the sausage is thawed enough to slice. Remove the sausage from the pan and cut in half lengthwise and then into slices. Return the sausage to the pan.

Add the frozen vegetables, the bouillon, Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings. Continue to cook, covered, for about 20 minutes then lower the heat to simmer. Simmer, covered, about an hour.

There are several ways to thicken the soup. One is to add the butter and allow it to melt into the soup then pour in a slurry of water and flour. Stir until the soup is as thick as you want. Another way is to mash the butter into some flour and stir that into the soup. Either way works. Simmer the soup over low heat until ready to serve.


Other leftovers can be used instead of scalloped potatoes. Boiled potatoes, Mac and cheese, Spanish rice, or other starch based leftover.

After the soup has simmered an hour you could put it in the refrigerator until 45 minutes to an hour before you are ready to serve it. After it is heated you can add the butter and thickening. This allows you to make the soup in the morning or the day before you want it.

Cheese can be added to the soup. Those small packages of grated cheese that often come with delivered pizza are great to add to soups. Any leftover bits of cheese could be melted into the soup or served at table.

Hot cheese biscuits or corn muffins go well with this soup.

Cheese triangles made from biscuit dough would be great with the soup. Mix grated cheeses with a bit of soft butter or mayo or thick salad dressing. Roll out the your favorite biscuit dough about ¼ inch or so thick. Cut the dough into 3 to 4 inch squares. Put a spoonful of the cheese filling in the corner of the square about ½ inch from the edge. Wet the edges of the dough and fold the dough over the filling to create a triangle. Seal the edges well with a fork pressed down along the edge. Bake the triangles in a 425 degree F oven until lightly browned. Some people brush them with butter before baking and cut a small slit in the top to allow the steam out. Others brush them with butter after baking.

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KC Strip Steak

This ‘recipe’ for KC strip steak can be done in the kitchen instead of on a grill outdoors. A Kansas City strip steak is a tender cut of beef and usually well marbled. The only seasoning needed is salt and black pepper. Strip steaks are traditionally grilled and that is difficult if you have no outdoor grill and the weather would not allow it anyway.

The two steak package was on sale. I could have seared the steaks in a hotter than hot frying pan and then tossed them into a hotter than hot oven but I thought that would set off the smoke alarms. We live in an apartment building and I didn’t think the neighbors would appreciate that. So I seared the steaks in a hot pan and finished them in the oven. The results were pretty good although more of a roast than steak.


KC strip steak

KC strip steak

The number of servings depend on the size of the steaks. The two I used were 1.7 lb. Serve with any type of potato and a vegetable or salad.

KC Strip Steak


  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • ¾ of a large onion, sliced thin
  • ½ glass of good red wine, more or less
  • Water
  • Salt and black pepper


Remove the package of meat from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. Remove the plastic and lightly salt and pepper both sides of the steaks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Heat the oil and butter in a deep oven proof pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced onion and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir and cook the onion until it is almost limp. Remove the onion and set aside. It has flavored the fat in the pan.

Using tongs place the meat in the hot fat and sear on one side for 3 to 7 minutes. Using tongs turn the pieces of meat and sear on the other side for about 3 to 7 minutes.

Turn off the burner. Put the sliced onion on top of the steaks. Pour the half (or more) glass of wine over the onion and steaks. Add ¼ to ½ cup of water over all. Put a lid on the pan and place it in the oven.

Bake for about 1 ½ hours or around 20 to 25 minutes per pound. Less if you like meat any degree of rare. I don’t like beef that moos when cut so I left it in an hour and fifteen minutes for 1.7 pounds of thick steak.

Remove the pan from the oven. Take the steaks out and allow them to rest on a plate under foil on the back of the stove top. Leave the onion in the pan. Turn on the burner to medium high. Add water if needed. Make a slurry of cold water and flour, about 1/3 cup flour to cup of water. Pour the slurry in slowly while stirring. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Stir until the gravy is as thick as you want.

Cut the steaks into slices or into larger portions to serve.


The traditional way to do a strip steak in the kitchen is to bring it to room temperature, wipe dry with paper towels, sear in smoking hot oil and then place in a 450 to 500 degree F. oven. Sear the steak on both sides in the hot oil in a cast iron frying pan. How long depends on how well done you like steak. Rare is 3 to 4 minutes each side, medium is 5 to 6 minutes, well done is 7 to 8 minutes. Use the same timing in the oven. The meat will offer little resistance when touched with a finger for rare. Slightly more resistance for medium and it is much firmer for well done.

Never use a fork to turn steaks. Always use tongs. Forks let out the juices.

Do not move the meat around more than twice in the frying pan. Otherwise it will not sear well. Do not press down on the meat while searing, it will push out the juices.

Minced or crushed garlic can be added to the fat when you cook the sliced onion.

Other seasonings can be added if you want. Good steak really needs nothing more than salt and black pepper. Beef bouillon and Worcestershire sauce can be added with the water for gravy if you add no wine. 1 teaspoon bouillon per cup of liquid. 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce or other good steak sauce in the gravy would be nice.

Leftovers can be heated in the gravy. Cubes or slices can be mixed with a little gravy and served over buttered noodles, rice or boiled potatoes. Slices can be put on bread, topped with gravy and served as a hot beef open face sandwich.


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Pork Chops with Onion Gravy

Pork chops with onion gravy is a recipe that can be a weekend meal and then the leftovers used to made several additional meals. First the chops are baked in onion gravy and served with potatoes and a vegetable. Some of the leftover pork can be sliced into thin strips and added to a scrambled egg and peppers breakfast wrap. For a week day dinner one of the large leftover chops can be cut into cubes, heated in the onion gravy and poured over buttered noodles.

The pork available today is different than pork during the middle of the last century. Pig farmers have breed animals that produce more meat and less fat. If there is any excess fat it is usually trimmed off before the meat is packaged.

Recipes that call for pork also work well with poultry. This recipe is one of those. It would work well using chicken breasts or thighs instead of pork chops.

The recipe makes 4 to 6 servings depending on the size and number of the pork chops. I served the chops with sour cream mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts in butter and herb sauce.


Pork Chops with Onion Gravy


  • 4 to 6 large boneless pork chops, about ½ inch or more in thickness
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 ½ cups of water
  • 3 teaspoons of chicken bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup of good red wine (optional)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and mince the cloves. Peel and dice the onion.

Heat the garlic and cooking oil in a large deep oven proof pan. The pan should have a lid.

Add the onion and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir it around and when the onion has softened remove the onion from the pan and set it aside.

Put the flour in a pie pan or flat dish. Coat each pork chop in flour. Lay the pork chops in the hot oil in the pan. Salt and pepper the top side. When the bottom browns turn over and salt and pepper that side. Do not crowd the pan. You will probably need to brown the chops in several batches.

Remove the last of the chops from the pan and add to the others on a plate. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and let it melt. Add some of the flour you used to coat the chops with to the pan of hot oil and melted butter. Stir and keep adding flour until almost all of the fat in the pan is absorbed. Cook the flour a few minutes.

Add 1 cup of water and work it into the flour and fat mixture until it is smooth. Add the other cup of water and the seasonings. Add ¼ cup of red wine if you want. Add the cooked onions. Stir and simmer the gravy until it begins to thicken. Turn off the heat.

Add the pork chops one at a time and turn to coat each side with the gravy. Put the lid on the pan and bake at 350 degree F. for 1 hour.

While the chops bake prepare potatoes and a vegetable. Let the chops sit 5 minutes or so before serving.


I cooked the onion before the chops because I wanted to flavor the oil with the garlic and onion. Pork needs garlic. Either get all of the onions out of the pan or be prepared for some bits to become burnt in the process of browning the chops. Because I don’t mind burnt onion in moderation in my mind it’s a feature not a fault.

A simple way to do this recipe is to skip making homemade gravy. Use 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup along with 1 can of water. Add some garlic to the soup mixture or use the type of soup that has roasted garlic in it.

For a good breakfast take part of a leftover pork chop and slice thin. Heat the pork in butter in a frying pan along with some thin sliced green or red bell peppers and maybe a thin slice of onion. The meat vegetable mixture can be used to fill cheese omelets. If you scramble some eggs into it you can fill wraps. Allow 1 egg per person and egg per wrap. Add some shredded cheese.

A lunch salad can be made by adding thin slices of the cooked pork chop to a tossed salad. Tear up some lettuce and slice in whatever fresh vegetables you have. Add a sliced hard cooked egg if you have one. Top with some cheese and a dressing.

A good evening meal can be made of leftover pork chops that have been diced and heated up in the onion gravy. Add some frozen or well drained canned peas. Cook 8 oz. of egg noodles until tender. Drain the noodles and put them in a large casserole or into a serving dish. Toss with a teaspoon or so of butter. Pour the pork, gravy and peas over the noodles and mix. You can bake it about 30 minutes or you can serve as is.

Another dinner can be made from the leftover pork chops. Dice some of the meat and add to a pan of diced or thin sliced potatoes.

Any pork leftover after that can be added to cooked dry beans or turned into bean soup.

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Hot Dogs in a Blanket

Hot dogs in a blanket is an easy recipe that kids really enjoy. It is more a method than a recipe. You can use homemade biscuit dough, baking mix dough or canned biscuits to wrap around the hot dogs. Cheese and other ingredients can be added in the wraps. The dressed hot dogs can be part of a light meal along with chips or French fries and a salad. They are good along side chili.

Cooks have put meats and other ingredients in dough and various other types of wraps such as leaves for uncountable centuries. Every culture and country has at least one version of wrapped food. No matter what is used as a wrap the results are similar. A filling made of different ingredients or one ingredient is enclosed in an outer layer of food or a leaf that will hold the ingredients together while they cook. The cooking method varies as well from steaming, boiling, frying and baking.

This is the standard American version of pigs in a blanket. Hot dogs are what most cooks use but other versions can be made from sausage either wrapped in a biscuit dough or in pancakes and eaten for breakfast. Small versions are often served when entertaining and those often contain cocktail sausages.

The recipe will make about 6 to 8 wrapped hot dogs. It can be doubled.


Hot Dogs in a Blanket


  • 1 package of hot dogs (8)
  • 1 batch of biscuit dough, homemade, boxed or canned
  • Cheese (optional)
  • Onions, diced and lightly cooked (optional)
  • Bacon, diced and cooked crisp (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and lightly butter the bottom of a sheet cake pan or a baking sheet.

Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil and add the hot dogs. Cook the hot dogs about 5 minutes or so. Cool on a plate in the refrigerator.

If you want to include onions and bacon in the wraps fry bacon until crisp and cook the onions in the fat until they are limp. Cool before using.

To wrap a full sized hot dog it will take as much dough as 2 biscuits. If you use canned biscuits you may need two cans. Biscuit dough from a baking mix can also be used. If you make homemade biscuit dough use your favorite biscuit recipe or the simple biscuit dough recipe below.

To add cheese to the wraps you can cut a slit the length of each hot dog and insert a piece of cheese. Or you can use shredded cheese and sprinkle it thickly on the dough before adding any other ingredients. You can also add some mustard on the dough before adding items.

Take about ¼ cup or so of biscuit dough or about as much dough as would make two biscuits and make it into a ball. On a lightly floured dinner plate toss the dough ball around in the flour and plate press the ball of dough into an oval slightly longer than it is wide. About as long as the hot dogs. The dough should be about ¼ inch thick.

Add shredded cheese and onion or bacon or both if desired. Pull the sides of the dough around the items and try to cover all but a half inch of the ends of the hot dogs. You can cover the ends if you want. Seal the bottom side and lay that side down in the pan. Put the wraps fairly close together. Brush the tops with melted butter.

Bake around 10 to 15 minutes until the dough has turned a golden brown.

Simple Biscuit Dough


  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ cup cold milk, may need more depending on moisture content of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and prepare a pan.

Measure the flour and other dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix to blend. Pour in the milk and cooking oil. Mix all together until the dough cleans the bowl.


Link sausage can be used in this recipe. Cheese would be a good addition.

The same thing can be made with scrambled eggs, cooked bacon or sausage, onions and cheese. It can be a portable breakfast.

Once they are baked pigs in blankets can be frozen. Thaw and reheat in a hot oven.


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Polish Sausage Casserole

Polish sausage casserole also contains potatoes, Brussels sprouts and corn. It is an easy one pot meal that once put together bakes unattended in the oven while you do other things. The spices in the sausage blends well with the potatoes and other vegetables.

It is super easy because it is made from packaged and frozen foods that you probably have on hand. The prep is minimal and the cooking method easy. The recipe can also take advantage of leftovers if you have vegetables from previous meals in the refrigerator. As with most casseroles it contains economical ingredients to create a tasty dish.

One pot meals and casseroles are the mainstay of many cooks in the United States and around the globe. Casseroles became popular in the U.S. during the later part of the 1800s and recipes began to appear in cookbooks around 1900. Casserole recipes usually include a protein in the form of meat, foul, fish or seafood along with a selection of vegetables plus starchy ingredients which can include either rice, pasta or potatoes.

The recipe will serve 4 adults. It could serve more if a salad is added to the meal. Serve with homemade or good bakery bread and butter. Any simple dessert would go well with this meal such as a pudding served with crumbled cookies on top.


Polish Sausage Casserole


  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 package of frozen Brussels sprouts (in butter sauce, about 20 sprouts)
  • 1 package of scalloped potatoes (a packet of dry potatoes and a packet of dry sauce mix)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn


Bring the water to a boil in a large oven proof pan or a Dutch oven over high heat. The pan used should have a lid that fits well.

When the water boils cut the plastic bag from the frozen sprouts and put the still frozen contents of the package into the boiling water. Cover the pan and cook 5 to 10 minutes.

When the water is boiling again and the sprouts are thawed stir in the package of dry potatoes. Add a tablespoon of butter (or not) and the contents of the sauce package from the package of scalloped potatoes. Stir in the cup of frozen corn. Stir well and cover the pan.

When the contents of the pan come to a boil remove the Polish sausage from the packaging and lay it on top of the vegetables. Remove the pan from the heat.

Heat the oven to 350 degree F. and bake the casserole (in the same pan) for 45 minutes covered. If you want the top of it browned a bit remove the cover the last 10 minutes.

Allow the casserole to sit for 10 minutes uncovered before serving. Cut the sausage into 4 pieces. Grated cheese can be sprinkled over the servings.


Any flavor of packaged scalloped type potatoes can be used in this recipe. The cheaper store brands are just as good as name brands and much cheaper.

More vegetables can be added by including small amounts of leftovers from the refrigerator or freezer.

A half of a medium onion sliced thin can be added right before the sausage is put in.

Fresh vegetables such as diced green pepper or sliced celery or carrots could be added.

The sausage can be cut into half inch slices and stirred into the other ingredients before baking. Hot dogs sliced or whole could be used instead of Polish sausage. Any type of leftover cooked meat might be used. Ham, chicken, pork chops, roast, and so on. A can of drained tuna might be good with a package of au gratin potatoes.

I suspect a large box or two small boxes of inexpensive Mac and cheese would also work in this recipe.


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Cinnamon Raisin Quick Bread

Cinnamon raisin quick bread is wonderful to have on hand over weekends and during the week for after school snacks. Serve slices with coffee, tea or cocoa on a cold winter afternoon. The recipe takes little time to put together and only fifty minutes to bake. The added bonus is that your house will smell of cinnamon.

The history of quick breads dates back to the Civil War in the United States (1861-1865). Food was needed for the military as well as civilians and there were fewer commercial bread bakers available. Baking soda and baking powder was used to leaven bread and historians say that was how such breads came to be called quick breads. The South was not as lucky as the North. Due to the war and embargoes they could not get many of the items they needed to make baked goods. There was even an embargo on salt. The use of chemical leavening agents instead of yeast led to many of the tasty recipes we have today.

One disadvantage of non yeast breads is they dry out days sooner than yeast risen breads. While you can dip a slice of bread or biscuit that has become hard in water and refresh in the oven it is often better to devise other methods to make use of dry baked goods. The crumbs of most can be used to bread fried foods or to add to recipes such as meatloaf. The crumbs can be tossed in melted butter and used to top a casserole.

A fantastic grilled cheese sandwich can be made of two buttered slices of cinnamon raisin bread and any type of cheese. Fry in a heavy pan over medium high heat until both sides are well toasted. A thin slice of ham or lunch meat is excellent in the sandwiches. Any quick bread that is past its prime can be made into a sweet or savory bread pudding. Slices can also be dipped in egg and milk and then fried in butter for French toast. You could, in theory, slice stale donuts in half and turn them into French toast.

The recipe makes 1 9×5 inch loaf. Serve with butter, cream cheese or other spreads.


Cinnamon Raisin Quick Bread


  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup or more of raisins (more is better)
  • 1 cup of buttermilk or sour milk (1 cup milk minus 1 tablespoon, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup of cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray or grease a 9”X5” loaf pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the raisins and mix well so they are coated with the flour mixture. This should keep them from sinking to the bottom of the bread while baking.

If you do not have buttermilk you can use sour milk. To make sour milk remove a tablespoon of milk from a cup of milk and stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. The vinegar will not be tasted but is needed to make the baking soda help rise the bread. Let sit a few minutes. You can use lemon juice instead of vinegar.

Mix the buttermilk or sour milk, eggs, cooking oil and vanilla in another bowl. Make sure the yolks are broken. Pour the milk mixture into the dry mixture and stir well until blended.

Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. You could mix a bit of cinnamon with the sugar.

Bake the loaf for 50 minutes. Test to see if it is done in the middle. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the sides of the pan to make sure the batter did not stick while baking. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow it to completely cool before slicing. To store wrap tightly in plastic or foil. The loaf or part of it can be frozen.


Chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds can be added along with the raisins. Add about the same amount as the raisins.

Other dry fruits can be added to the batter instead of raisins.

Other extracts can be used such as lemon. Canned chopped fruits could be added instead of dried fruits.

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Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone has a nice, safe New Year’s eve. This should have been posted earlier. But life catches up at times. Keep the hints handy to use next year.

Know what a distributer cap looks like and how to remove one from a car in case you can’t get the keys away from a guest who is determined to drive home. Let the passed out guest lay where they landed unless they are blocking the doorway to the bathroom and cover with a blanket. Don’t use the dog’s blanket. Do not give a drunk coffee, no one needs a wide awake drunk and it does not sober a person up.

A word about champagne, I think it is far beyond nasty. It is almost drinkable if you add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar to the glass. A bar in Kansas City used to do that back in the last century. You can dress it up more by adding a cherry, strawberry or thin slice of fruit. Leftover champagne can be used as part of the liquid in cream sauce, spaghetti sauces or as a pouching liquid for chicken, fish, shrimp or fruit.

An adult milk shake can be made from any flavor brandy blended with ice cream. Peach brandy and peach ice cream is one example. Chocolate ice cream with brandy tastes too good.

Cheeses and all things to munch on should be made the day before but are still good if made at the last minute. Cream cheese is your friend. You can mix almost anything in it. Bring it to room temperature first. The things you can add include; bits of crisp bacon, grated cheese, minced onion, minced bell pepper, dried beef, minced garlic cloves, sliced olives, diced fruit, grapes, flaked tuna, cooked cutup shrimp, bits of cooked sausage meat, finely diced chicken, grated carrots, finely chopped spinach, diced celery and so forth. For extra flavor you can add any of the following; Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, hot peppers, paprika, soy sauce, tarragon, oregano, basil, or other herbs. You can also use part cream cheese and part sour cream in dips. Parsley is always good in cheese spreads, logs or balls.

Mash the ingredients until they are a good consistency. You want it a little firm if you are going to make a ball or log. Otherwise put it in a nice bowl, sprinkle chopped nuts on top and serve as a spread. To make a ball form the cheese mixture into a ball and roll it in a shallow plate containing chopped nuts. If you don’t have any nuts you can use seasoned bread crumbs or corn flakes crushed fine. Roll into a ball and chill. To make a log it is about the same. Form the mixture into a log shape and roll in chopped nuts. Roll up in plastic wrap and chill. Logs are better than cheese balls because they can be sliced.

If you run out of sour cream but have cottage cheese you can use it to make a dip. Drain well and put into a blender and blend until the curds can no longer be seen. Pour into a bowl and stir in a package of dry onion soup. Other things can be added such as minced peppers, or grated vegetables.

If you run out of crackers make toast and cut each piece into four triangles. You can also make a quick batch of biscuits and use those for sandwiches. Biscuit dough rolled about ¼ inch thick is almost like a cracker. Use a fork to make holes in the top. Mix an egg white and a bit of water together. Brush the egg wash on the tops and sprinkle on some salt, seeds or herbs. Bake at 425 degree F. Watch that they don’t burn. Roll the dough thinner and larger. Cook in an ungreased heavy frying pan and use as tortillas. Cook only until lightly browned on each side.

He who works woke up and looks hungry. I made a batch of chili yesterday so I’ll go warm it up. At least I don’t need to cook tonight.

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Christmas Trees

In the 1950s the Christmas tree was the one iconic item the whole season was built around, or it was in our house. My parents spent a lot of time picking out the perfect tree from the selection available while I stood around freezing. We are talking Kansas and pine trees had to be trucked in. By the time the trees arrived weeks before the holiday they were far from fresh and none could be considered perfect. After finding one that hadn’t lost most of its needles in transit and didn’t have a trunk shaped like a pretzel my parents would grump about the price and eventually toss it on top of the car, rope it on and lug the pitiful thing home.

Dad would wrestle the tree to the basement with Mom armed with a broom and a dust pan in hot pursuit. He’d cut off a couple inches of the trunk under Mom’s watchful gaze and unhelpful supervision. The tree would be sat in a bucket of water and leaned against the basement wall. The poor dead thing would sit over night trying to absorb water.

The revived tree would be hauled upstairs to the living room and screwed into a metal holder. Mom would complain if the tree trunk were not straight. Dad would loosen a bolt, push the trunk a bit to the left or to the right. Mom would walk around it grumbling. I timed it one year and that process usually took about twenty minutes.

Then Mom would complain about a branch that sagged. Dad was prepared for that. He would take thin wire and use it to wire the offending branch to the trunk. There was always a layer of lost pine needles under the tree by the time the tree’s makeover was finished. All this was followed by more sweeping and fussing by Mom.

Decorating the tree was another battle between my parents. The strings of lights all had to be tested before attaching the strings to the tree. And according to Mom you could not have two bulbs of the same color next to each other on the same string of lights. Dad would glare because he’d have to change some of the bulbs around and at times the ones he had just changed would burn out before getting on the tree.

I’d sit silent on the couch trying to be as invisible as possible. I always wanted to say that it didn’t matter to me if there were blue bulbs next to each other or not. All I wanted them to do was get it done so I could go back to my room and read.

With the lights were on the tree the next step was to add the strings of glass beads. They had to be evenly hung on the tree off of the tips of the branches. This process demanded more fussing and more growling. Dad would get the strings situated and Mom would grump and run over to the tree to change things. There were a few times I expected Dad to decorate Mom with lights and sparkly glass bead strings.

The ornament at the top of the tree was next. We had a plastic star with a bulb in it for years. It never sat right and always leaned. Later on it was replaced with a delicate glass spire. To put it on top of the tree involved the step ladder and branch trimmer. Dad usually had to trim some of the top branches to get the ornament on right. It never sat straight enough to please my Mother. Dad would stay up on the ladder until she was finally pleased.

The other ornaments were a collection that had been accumulated over the years. My parents had no extra money for decorations on my first Christmas so they made ornaments from the foil tops off of milk bottles. They flattened them out, cut them into squares and taped the pieces together to form cubes. Those were hung by a corner and the silver, red and blue foil caught the light well. They collected prettier glass and plastic ornaments in later years. I was allowed to put some ornaments on the tree but Mom would tell me where it should go. I used to let my kids put them anywhere they wanted. Tinsel wasn’t hung piece by piece, it was flung by the handfuls. New tinsel was bought every year.

 1950s Christmas Tree1950s Christmas Tree  (the picture did not age well)

This was after my parents had replaced tinsel with plastic glow in the dark icicles. Those were the things kids nightmares are made of. Nothing worse than getting up in the middle of the night, going into the living room and seeing a ghastly bluish glow coming from the Christmas tree. They were much better in a way. I didn’t have to help take the tinsel off the tree after the holidays. Mom insisted we save and reuse every tiny piece of tinsel.

The year my parents put up this tree the neighbors across the street put up an aluminum tree. It looked like someone had shredded a pile of aluminum foil rolls and then stuck them all together. The neighbors hung round silver glass ornaments on it and sat it in their picture window with fake snow under it. That evening they turned on a rotating wheel that had different colors of cellophane and a strong light behind it. The silver tree would change from red, to blue to green to yellow to silver and back again. It was modern and the owners of the tree were quite pleased. Dad would cuss every time he looked out the window after sundown.

In later years Mom finally bought a fake Christmas tree. Fake is as fake does. It didn’t look right, it didn’t smell right, it didn’t feel right and it made things entirely too easy. Holidays don’t need to be perfect and neither do the decorations. Memories are built out of the wonderful imperfections.

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Quick Beef Stew

This recipe for quick beef stew makes an economical and filling meal. It is ready to serve in less than two hours. The recipe takes advantage of items from the freezer or leftovers. Onion, beef bouillon and Worcestershire sauce season the stew. It can be served in a bowl along with bread and butter or it can be served over potatoes, rice, noodles, biscuits, cornbread, toast or polenta. It is a perfect meal to serve on a bitter cold winter day.

Stews and soups date from ancient times. The only difference between a stew and a soup is that soups usually contain more liquid. The ingredients that can be put in both stews and soups are endless. Whatever meat or vegetables the cook has goes into the pot. By cooking over low heat in liquid for long periods of time tough meats became tender. Another advantage is that stews and soups are a good way to stretch small amounts of meat and other ingredients so more people can be fed.

The recipe serves 4 to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 young children or 1 teenager. The recipe is easily doubled. Leftovers can be turned into a casserole the next day.

Quick Beef Atew

Quick Beef Stew


  • 1 tablespoon of butter or oil
  • 2 frozen hamburger patties or ½ lb. hamburger or 1 cup of diced leftover cooked meat
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ½ of a large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup of frozen or cooked leftover vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon of beef bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon or more of Worcestershire sauce
  • Water


Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or cooking oil in a large frying pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When the butter has melted add the frozen hamburger patties, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and continue to cook. As soon as the underside has begun to brown turn the patties over, salt and pepper and cover. When the patties have thawed enough chop into pieces with a spatula. Add the sliced onion. Stir well and lower the heat to medium, cover the pan. Cook until the onions are tender.

While the meat and onions are cooking boil about an inch and a half of water in a sauce pan over high heat. Add the frozen vegetables. Cook until done. Using a slotted spoon remove the vegetables and add them to the meat and onions. Add the water the vegetables were cooked in to the meat and onion a ladle full at a time until the vegetables and meat are covered.

Add the beef bouillon and the Worcestershire sauce to the mixture. Stir well and cover the pan. Lower the heat to simmer.

Prepare potatoes, noodles, rice of whatever you are planning on serving with the stew.

Thicken the stew before serving. Put 3 heaping tablespoons of flour in a small bowl. Add 1/3 cup of tap water and stir smooth with a wire whisk. Stir the stew while pouring in the slurry. Stir over medium heat until the stew has thickened. Lower the heat to low, cover the pan and allow it to simmer slowly until time to serve.

Put a couple large spoonfuls of mashed potatoes on a plate or in a pasta bowl and ladle the stew over.


Any type of meat can be used. You could use Spam if you want. Leftover roast would be good. Ham, pork and chicken could be used. Added flavor can be introduced by frying a diced strip or more of bacon and then adding the other meat to that.

Casserole for the next day. Pour the leftover stew into a casserole dish. Add 1 egg and a tablespoon of melted butter to the leftover mashed potatoes, beat well and put the potatoes on top of the stew. Mark the top of the potatoes with a fork to make ridges. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven until heated through and the potatoes lightly browned. Shredded cheese could be stirred into the potatoes before putting on top of the stew.

Noodle casserole can be made from leftover stew and noodles. Cook the noodles, drain and mix into the stew. Pour into a casserole dish and cover with buttered bread crumbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. If you want cheese on top remove from the oven about 10 minutes before the casserole is done, sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and return to the oven to finish cooking.

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Apple Dumplings

Apple dumplings are a favorite dessert during Fall. This recipe for also includes a recipe for a lemon custard sauce to serve over the dumplings. The recipe comes from a booklet published in 1945 by the Pillsbury flour company. The title of the booklet is “Bake The No-Knead Way.” None of the recipes in the book require kneading but are otherwise very traditional.

The recipe is unusual because the apples are wrapped in a yeast dough instead of a biscuit or pastry dough. The apples are peeled, cored and the cavity filled with sugar, nuts, raisins and cinnamon. They are placed on squares of the yeast dough, wrapped, sealed and baked.

The method of making apple dumplings was brought to the Americas by settlers from Europe. Fruit dumplings were made in all countries from ancient times. Apples grew well in the Americas and the housewives of the new land used the fruit to make many of the same types of dishes that had been popular in their homelands.

In the 1800s housewives used their large batches of yeast bread dough for making baked goods other than loafs of bread. They would take some of the raised dough to make pancakes, muffins, rolls, doughnuts and other fried breads, coffeecakes, dumplings to serve with stews and many other items. Recipes from that time period often say to take so much of a raised bread dough and then work in eggs, butter, sugar and other ingredients depending on what was being made.

Apple Dumplings

The recipe will serve 8. The sauce recipe makes 2 cups of sauce.

Apple Dumplings


  • 1 package of dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast)
  • 1/2 cup of lukewarm water (body temperature)
  • 1/3 cup of shortening, melted (butter or margarine can be used)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of chopped nuts
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 8 apples, peeled and cored
  • Butter


Heat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease a baking pan that is large enough to hold the apples.

Pour the lukewarm water into a mixing bowl. Add the yeast and blend. Add the shortening, sugar and salt. Blend in the egg. Add the 2 cups of flour and work in well.

Lightly flour a work surface, the ball of dough and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out about an 1/8 inch thick. Cut the rolled dough into 8 six inch squares.

Combine the brown sugar, nuts, raisins and the cinnamon in a bowl. Sit an apple in the center of each dough square. Fill the cavities of the apples with the filling mixture. Dot the top of the filling with a generous teaspoon of butter. Moisten the edges of the dough squares with water. Bring the corners of the dough together over the apples and seal all edges. Place the dough wrapped apples in a greased baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap or foil. Let rise in a warm place free of drafts for 45 minutes.

Bake the pan of apples in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour. Cool before serving. Serve with Lemon Custard Sauce.

Lemon Custard Sauce


  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
  • 1 egg


Beat the egg in a small bowl. Combine the other ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and become transparent. Blend a little (about 14 cup or so) of the hot mixture into the beaten egg to temper it. Pour the egg mixture into the mixture in the sauce pan and cook and stir another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish or a sauce pitcher.


If you add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the dough it will make it easier to roll out.

Another way to use this recipe is to peel, core and chop the apples. Stir the apple pieces together with the filling ingredients. Place the mixture on the squares of dough, moisten the edges and fold them in half to form turnovers. Seal the edges well. Rise and bake the same as the dumplings. Serve with the lemon sauce or a glaze made with powdered sugar, a bit of milk and vanilla or lemon extract. They would be nice to serve with breakfast or brunch.

The dough can be used for other items such as savory turnovers filled with meats or cheese, crust for quiche and crust for pot pies. It could be used for tarts. The dough recipe can be easily doubled.

Pears can be used for this recipe. Soft fruits could be used but they would not need to bake as long.

Use your favorite nuts in the recipe. Walnuts are traditional for apple dumplings.

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Desserts, Food, Food History, Fruit, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment