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.

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Easy Fruit Pie

Easy fruit pie takes about an hour to put together and bake. The pie dough is patted into the pan instead of rolled and it is topped with a crumb topping made of pie dough, sugar and spice instead of a traditional rolled top crust. The pie crust is filled with a can of commercial fruit pie filling.

The advantages of this type of pie dough is there is no need to roll out the dough, no need to rest the dough in the refrigerator before rolling and no need to cover most of your kitchen and yourself with clouds of flour in the process. You could use fresh fruit or berries mixed with flour or cornstarch and spices instead of canned pie filling.

I began making ‘pat in the pan’ pie crusts years ago, not long after we moved into this tiny apartment. There is no room in the closet of a kitchen here to roll out a pie crust. All attempts failed. I like crust on top of fruit pie so I had to come up with some way of getting that without the need to roll out the dough. I’m sure other cooks have done the same.

Peach Pie

The recipe makes one 9 to 10 inch pie. It will serve 6 to 8 depending on the size of the slices.

Easy Fruit Pie


  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/3 plus vegetable oil
  • Cold water
  • 1 can of commercial fruit or berry pie filling
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Other spices if desired


Heat the oven to 425 degree F. Use a 9 to 10 inch metal pie pan. If you use a glass pie pan heat the oven to 400 degree F.

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the salt, sugar and baking powder. Mix with a spoon. Slowly pour in the vegetable oil beginning with 1/3 cup. Add half that amount of oil again (I would guess it’s about 2 to 3 tablespoons). Stir while adding the oil. Drizzle in small amounts (teaspoon at a time) of cold tap water while stirring. When the dough begins to come together while still crumbly stop adding water. Form the dough into a ball. Use 2/3 of the dough for the pie crust. Reserve 1/3 for the topping.

Take the 2/3 portion of pie dough and form into a flatted ball. Put it in the bottom of the pie pan. Beginning in the center press and work the dough out to the sides of the pan. Press it thin in the bottom of the pan and begin working the dough up the sides of the pan. Keep it thin. It should reach the edge of the pan and maybe a `1/4 inch above that.

Flute the edge of the dough around the top of the pan. Pour in the canned pie filling evenly over the crust.

Chop the dough left in the mixing bowl with a spoon or with a pastry cutter. Add the sugar and cinnamon to that and mix well. It should be very crumbly. Cover the top of the pie filling with the crumb mixture.

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pie to keep the crust from burning. Bake the pie for 45 minutes. Remove it from the oven and remove the foil. Allow the pie to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.


The same pie dough can be used for pie shells. Use 1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon sugar and 3/4 teaspoon baking powder. Add water in small amounts. How much water is needed depends on the moisture content of the flour which varies.

The same method works with shortening and butter pie crust dough. Use half shortening or lard and half butter. The fat should be cold before working into the pie dough.

My mother used a Betty Crocker pie crust recipe that used oil instead of shortening. She rolled it out between sheets of wax paper. That way no extra flour was added. Her pie crusts were always good but they took a heck of a lot of time.

To make a canned fruit filling taste more like homemade stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice and add some spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or cloves. Apple pie spice can be used.

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Quick Sweet Rolls

These quick sweet rolls are great served with breakfast or beside a cup of tea or coffee later in the day. The rolls take about 30 minutes from mixing bowl to oven. The top center of each roll is filled with a spoon of jelly or jam. The rolls are drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze as soon as the4y come from the oven.

The sign of a good recipe is how well your family enjoys it. This one passed with flying colors. He who works had three in one sitting. Then he asked if I had plenty of supplies to make another batch.

Sweet rolls are traditional for breakfasts and brunches. They are often served late in the afternoon along with coffee or tea or when unexpected company calls.

This recipe will make 8 rolls each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Quick Sweet Roll

Quick Sweet Rolls


  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup os milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup or so of Jelly or jam
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Vanilla


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and lightly grease a sheet cake pan.

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a mixing bowl. Mix to blend. Drop in the butter and using a pastry blender work the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like course crumbs.

Pour the cold milk into a measuring cup and add the egg. Beat lightly with a fork and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix well with a mixing spoon and then beat by hand 20 strokes. Using a large spoon or 1/4 cup measuring cup drop portions of the dough onto the prepared pan. There should be 8 mound of dough.

Fill a small glass with water. Use the teaspoon from your measuring spoon set and dip in water then press the back side of it into the center of each mound of dough to make an indentation for the jelly. Fill each depression with a spoon of jelly or jam.

Bake the rolls at 425 degree F for 15 minutes.

While the rolls are baking prepare the glaze. Mix the 2/3 cup powdered sugar with a few drops of vanilla and the tablespoon of water. Stir until smooth. As soon as the rolls are removed from the oven drizzle the glaze over each.

Allow the rolls to cool before serving. The jelly or jam will be very hot.


If you have no butter or margarine you can use cooking oil but the texture will not be the same.

Other fillings can be used. Lemon curd, berry pie filling, nuts and spice, chocolate chip, cheese or almost anything you can think of.

Nuts can be sprinkled on top of the rolls as soon as the glaze is drizzled on so they will cling to the rolls.

Ground or chopped nuts could be mixed into the dough.

The same dough can be poured into a 13x10x2 inch baking pan and a tablespoon used to make 8 dents in the top of the dough. Fill with pie filling or stewed fruit and bake at 425 degree F if a metal pan, 400 degree F if glass, and drizzle with glaze. Cut apart into 8 squares to serve.

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Zwiebelkuchen or Onion Cake

Zwiebelkuchen is onion cake in German. It is a main dish traditionally served in late summer and early Fall along with new wine. The recipe combines a layer of homemade bread dough with a layer of onion and sausage, then cheese and it is topped with a sour cream based custard seasoned with nutmeg and caraway seeds. It is sort of like a pizza and quiche stuck together. It smells heavenly while baking and tastes even better.

This recipe is my own variation of the standard recipe. I was attempting to recreate what I had tasted over twenty years ago. Having no recipe I searched the net for ideas. The usual version calls for bacon and has no cheese. I had no bacon and I like cheese. Some recipes dice the onions and bacon and after cooking mix them in with the savory custard. People also bake the onions, bacon and custard in standard pie pastry or puff pastry instead of bread dough. The use of a spring-form pan is suggested in many recipes. Big batches are baked in roasting pans. In most recipes the bread dough is rolled out thin and always comes up the side of the pan. The bread dough in my experimental batch was a mistake but tastes so good I’m keeping it. I added cheese just because I like it and used sausage instead of bacon because that is what I had.

It is thought by food historians that the combination of bread topped with other ingredients such as meats and vegetables is as old as cooking on hot rocks around a fire. Savory custards date from the 14 th. Century so this dish probably dates from around that time period. Simpler and earlier versions spread sour cream on bread dough and added sliced onions and bacon over the cream. Sometimes mushrooms or other vegetables were added.

I believe this might be one of the dishes my great grandmother made that my father hated because of the sour cream. He would rather starve than eat any thing he thought contained it. His grandmother would often add it into something thinking he would never notice only to have him refuse to eat whatever it was. Mom would not consider making anything Dad didn’t like so she didn’t copy any of the many recipes calling for sour cream from my great aunt’s large collection. In later years the hatred Dad had for sour cream worked to Mom’s advantage. Dad never touched the container of French onion dip Mom often kept in the frig for herself.

This recipe will take approximately 2 1/2 hours to prepare. The onion cake will serve 8. Serve it with a green salad, fruit salad, any vegetable in a cheese or cream sauce or sliced tomatoes.



Onion Cake



  • 1 package of dry active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup of warm water, body temperature
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking or olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of warm water
  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour


  • 1 large onion peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 Bratwurst, skins removed and the meat crumbled (I used beer brats)


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of milk, scant
  • 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds


Heat the oven to 350 degree F, and butter, grease or spray a 13X10X2 inch Pyrex baking dish.

Make the dough.

Proof the yeast by stirring 1 teaspoon of sugar into 1/4 cup of warm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. The water should be body temperature. When a drop is put on the inside of your wrist it should not be felt. After stirring the sugar into the water sprinkle on the dry yeast and stir. Sit the bowl in a warm place free of drafts for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it increases in volume and bubbles.

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour the proofed yeast, the oil and the water into the well. Mix with a wooden spoon until well blended and smooth. It will be sticky. Scrap the dough off the spoon and from the sides of the bowl, push the dough to the center of the bowl. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm place free from drafts to rise. It should take about an hour to double in volume.

The filling.

While the yeast dough rises make the filling. Peel and cut the onion in half and then slice each half into about 1/4 inch slices. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the sliced onion. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Stir and cook until the onion begins to soften. Do not brown. Remove the skins from the sausages and crumble the meat into the pan with the onions. Stir and cook the onions and meat until the sausage meat is no longer pink. Sit the meat and onion mixture aside to cool.

Make the custard.

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the seasonings including the caraway seeds. Beat with a wire whisk. Add the sour cream and milk. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of all purpose flour over the top and beat until the mixture is smooth.


Stir in about 1/2 cup of flour into the yeast dough. It will still be sticky. I used the last of the flour bag I had open and I was too sticky to get the new bag out and open it. So I didn’t add as much additional flour as I might have. I think the results were better.

Spread the dough in the pan working it well into the corners and trying to pull some dough up the sides of the pan or simply level the dough layer. Use a wet wooden spoon. In traditional recipes a thin layer of dough should come up the sides level with the top edge of the pan. Don’t bother trying to get the dough up the sides. It doesn’t matter and unless you roll out the dough it won’t work.

Spread the onions and sausage meat evenly over the yeast dough. Include the small amount of fat left in the pan, it flavors the dough. Put slices of cheddar cheese over the top of the meat and onions down the center. Pour the custard mixture evenly over all.

Sit the pan on a baking sheet in case it bubbles over. Mine didn’t but it was very full. Bake it about 40 to 50 minutes or until it tests done in the center and the top is lightly browned. I baked it for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit at least 20 minutes or longer before cutting and serving. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and then cut into squares. It can be served hot or cold.


Frozen or canned pizza dough or bread dough can be used instead of homemade dough. Homemade tastes better.

The yeast dough recipe can be used for homemade pizza. Add some garlic and use olive oil in the dough. No kneading or rolling required. Spoon the dough into a greased sheet pan. Top the dough with browned meats, sliced vegetables and canned or homemade seasoned tomato sauce. Top with cheese. Bake at 425 degrees F. until browned and the cheese is melted.

The meat can be left out of this recipe and sliced mushrooms used instead. Other possible combinations are bacon, mushroom and onion; chicken, mushroom and onion with tarragon seasoning instead of caraway seed; hamburger, onion, tomato, and cheese with Southwest seasonings.

The traditional way to make this recipe is to mix fried diced bacon and diced onions into the custard. I used the quiche method and layered the meat and onions on the crust and then covered it all with the custard.

The seasonings are essential in this recipe. I made a second batch and forgot to add the nutmeg. It was not as good. The caraway seeds add a wonderful flavor and smell. Do not leave them out or use subsitutes.

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Spicy Beef and Bean Chili

Spicy Beef and Bean Chili is another effort to create a spicy chili without using hot peppers. This recipe is the best one so far. He who works has proclaimed it excellent as he came back for a second helping. I served the chili crackers but it is equally delicious with sweet cornbread or other breads.

Chili is better the day after it is cooked and refrigerated. Some people recommend it not be served the same day. Leftover chili can be used in a number of ways. Mix it with pasta and it is chili Mac. Chili is great over baked potatoes with sour cream and cheddar cheese. Toss in some corn, some tomato juice and it becomes a soup, serve it with tortilla or corn chips. Chili can be poured over cheese fries, white rice, cornbread, burritos, hot dogs and burgers. Served over corn chips with shredded cheese and diced onion it becomes a chili pie.


The recipe will serve 6 or more depending on the size of the servings. Serve with crackers, over wedges of sweet cornbread or along with other breads. Include a fruit salad and ice cream for dessert.

Spicy Beef and Bean Chili


  • 1 tablespoon or less of cooking oil or bacon fat
  • 1/2 to 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 3/4 of a large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 tomato can of water
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons of Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup
  • 10 squirts of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons of granulated chicken bouillon
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup of water


Heat the cooking oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Crumble the ground beef into the hot oil and cook until it begins to brown. Add the chopped onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir well. Continue cooking and stirring until the meat is browned and the onion is tender.

Stir in the can of tomatoes, do not drain. Fill the tomato can with water and add it. Stir in the chili powder and the remaining seasonings. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes and adding more water if needed.

Rinse the beans and drain them well. Stir the beans into the pot. Add a cup of water. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the chili to a boil. Boil a few minutes and reduce the heat to low so it simmers. Stir, cover the pot and cook the chili for another hour. Check it often and stir each time so the beans will not stick or burn. Add more water if needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Serve along with small dishes of sour cream, shredded cheese, diced onion and hot peppers.


The next time I will thicken it.

Beer can be used as part of the liquid.

A tablespoon or more of good whiskey or bourbon would enhance the flavor.

The cumin seeds can be lightly toasted in a dry frying pan before adding to the chili.

Beef is the traditional meat to use in chili but other meats can be used. Venison is wonderful in chili. Venison has almost no fat so you have to add some. Mixing it with an equal amount of beef provides fat.

Some people use chicken or turkey in chili. I sure as hell don’t. Poultry is for dumplings, noodles and roasting.

Vegetarian chili can be made from the same recipe. Leave out the bacon fat and the meat Increase the amount of beans by a can. Add mushrooms, fried eggplant, squash or potatoes. Corn and other vegetables can be added. Serve with cornbread.

A large chopped green pepper can be added with the chopped onion.

A couple strips of bacon can be cooked crisp in the pan, removed and the remaining bacon fat can be used to cook the meat and onion in. The bacon can be crumbled and added back into the pot during the last hour of cooking time or crumbled and served at table.

A drained can of corn can be added with the beans. Frozen corn can be used. It does not have to be defrosted before adding to the chili.

There are various methods of thickening chili. You can add crushed tortilla chips or corn chips. A cup or so of the chili can be blended or mashed and added back into the pot. Corn starch, flour or corn flour can be used to thicken chili and stews. Mix a few tablespoons with cold water until smooth and pour into the bubbling chili while stirring. Let it boil for a few minutes or until as thick as you want.


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