Top 10 Most Popular Recipes of 2020

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

From our cozy little kitchen to yours: Happy New Year!

I agree with Nietzsche’s quote and come up with some of my best ideas when I am simply putting one foot in front of the other.  I talk to my creative writing students about what we are doing when the best story ideas are born. For me, my creativity peeks when I am walking, snowshoeing, pulling weeds in the garden, chopping vegetables, driving to work, taking a shower, or floating in our pool. I keep a journal that I jot down my ideas and musings in so I do not forget about them. I like to call this place a seedbed for future blog posts, recipes, stories, poems, and lesson plans.

My 11th grade students just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and we discussed the unhealthy hold that technology often has on our lives (ironic, I acknowledge, since I am typing this on a computer on my blog… 😉 ) I shared with my students several articles that discussed cell phone addiction and how our digital devices take away boredom and do not allow us to daydream and come up with “big ideas”. Instead of just allowing our minds to wander, we fill our quiet time with checking our social media accounts and email.

Therefore, as we head into 2021, I need to more mindful of how I am filling my down time. While I will continue to fill my Pinterest boards with decorating ideas for the new addition on our house and share ideas and learn new tips on the Homesteading and Crazy-Chicken-Lady groups that I am member of – I will also remember to walk laps in our pasture, spend more time outside with our dogs and birds, and stare at the star studded sky and draw inspiration from the beauty around me.

In 2020, between this blog, Produce with Amy, and my sister blog, Glitter and Dog Hair, I shared 26 new blog posts. That’s a number that I am proud of since I have been trying to create more content. My goal for 2021 is to surpass that number.

As I reflect on 2020, I decided that I would look back at the traffic on Produce with Amy and share the top 10 most popular recipes from 2020. I thought it was interesting that the top two recipes were not new ones – but ones that I created when I first started blogging. I love that people find my posts helpful and enjoy the recipes that I create.

Here they are (click on the blue links to find the recipes):

#1: Paradise in a Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

We are what we eat, after all. I do not know about you, but I want to be vibrant, unique, and bursting with energy.

#2 Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

My Glowing Green Mason Jar salads are stuffed with both sweet and savory ingredients and the dressing is equally delicious and nutritious.

#3 Tuna Fish – a 70’s Kitchen Staple & Beyond

While this tuna salad is great on a bed of lettuce, it also makes a phenomenal sandwich filler. I especially enjoy it in a pita pocket or stuffed into a tomato or hollowed out cucumber rounds.

#4 Old Fashioned Sweet Pickled Beets

While beets are an acquired taste, many people who do not enjoy beets as a side vegetables seem to like them pickled. Many people that I have talked to reminisce fondly about a grandmother who was known for her pickled beets.

#5 Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

Eat the rainbow and your body will thank you!

#6 Spaghetti Squash & Tomato Soup

The spaghetti squash bulks up this soup and makes it filling.

#7 Sunshine Salad in a Jar with Kicky Mango Vinaigrette

When you see a salad this bright and vibrant, you know it has to be healthy!

#8 Cabin Fever Salad – Greek Pasta

Perfect for a potluck, your workday lunch, or as a side to your dinner.

#9 Low Carb Creamy Chicken & Mushroom Soup with Cauliflower Rice

My stepson and husband both thought it smelled amazing and after taking a taste they both agreed that it was soup that they both would eat. The cauliflower adds body and gives it the consistency that rice would.

#10 Mushroom Swiss Burger Soup – A Simple Pleasure

My inspiration for the soup is in the name: a mushroom swiss burger. However, I wanted to create a recipe that was not as calorie laden as a greasy burger and the side of obligatory French fries that usually accompanies it.

Well, there they are – the Top 10 Most Popular Recipes from 2020! I hope that you have tried them and that you enjoyed them as well. Make sure you check out all of my recipes that are organized in the tabs at the top of this page. Please leave a comment or like this post to let me know that you have been here.

I wish you best wishes for a healthy, happy, and productive 2021! While making homemade meals may take extra time – remember, we are worth it. ❤

*Note – Now that this post is finished, I think I will head outside for a walk. Perhaps it will help me come up with a new recipe to share with you!

French Onion Soup: Stave Away the Winter’s Chill

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
Edith Sitwell

 

Back in 2014 when I was a vegetarian, I shared a recipe for a plant based French Onion Soup. Since then I was diagnosed with thyroid disease (Hashimotos) and I gradually reintroduced meat back into my diet to reduce the amount of soy that I was eating. While we tend to eat mostly chicken and pork (which we raise ourselves) we do buy locally raised beef as well. Therefore, I thought it was time that I shared a traditional recipe for French Onion Soup that did incorporate beef.

I made this soup for dinner last weekend. My 11 year old step son 
Lukas would have normally turned up his nose due to the “onions” but he enjoyed it too (I did ladle most of the onions out of his bowl). He’s growing up!

I started it the day before by sautéing the onions in our breakfast bacon grease. I slow simmered a roast with beef broth (while I do normally make my own – I did purchase a carton of broth from the store). Of course, before serving, I added tons of Swiss cheese on top of toasted French baguette and finished each bowl under the broiler.

A lot of people do not add meat to French Onion Soup and stick to the broth. However, I fondly remember the best onion soup I’ve ever had more than twenty years ago at a restaurant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The soup had huge savory chunks of meat and was hearty and delicious. I like when a bowl soup can serve as a meal and this soup definitely does. 

 
I need to find hearty oven safe soup crocks because I didn’t brown it long enough – I was worried the bowls would crack. I also miss fresh garden sage and thyme. What a perfect dinner for a gray Sunday in December.

FRENCH ONION SOUP

*5 cups of vegetable stock (I bought an extra large container)
*3 cups of water
*Optional – 1 cup of red wine
*1 small beef roast (2-3 pounds)
*8 medium sliced onions
*4 minced garlic cloves
*2 sprigs of rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
*2 clusters of sage (2 teaspoons dried)
*6 strands of chives (2 teaspoons dried)
*1/2 cup of parsley (2 teaspoons dried
(I do not chop the fresh herbs but tie them in a bunch with string and add them to the soup)
*3 Tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil, butter, or bacon grease
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Loaf of crusty bread
*Swiss cheese (several cups)


For this soup I slow simmered the roast in the beef broth the day before for 3 hours and sautéed up the onions and added all the ingredients into the crockpot and stored in the refrigerator to cook the next day. However, you can make it all in one shot. 

I have read recipes where the onions are placed raw into the soup pot or crockpot, however, I think that caramelizing them well in a pan gives the soup a depth of flavor. Divide up your cooking fat and onions in three batches and cook on low heat. Add a little salt to the onions and cook until brown and caramelized. Saute the minced garlic with the last batch of onions. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, and broth to the crock-pot.


Cook on high for four hours (times may vary according to your slow cooker.  This soup could be also be made on the stove top and I would recommend cooking it on low for a few hours).

Serve the soup hot and top with toasted bread. Slice the bread, top with cheese, and allow to brown under the broiler. Dig in! You will find the leftovers of this soup are even better than the first bowl. 

Enjoy!

This weekend we also took advantage our our sauna. It definitely makes the cold weather bearable.
My husband made sure to honor my Finnish roots by making sure we had a sauna on our homestead.

It was 11 degrees this morning in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my husband was tinkering with the sprinklers?! Covid may have temporarily cancelled hockey for our Lukas. However, it didn’t cancel a father’s love for his son and love of the game. 🏒 
 
John doesn’t use a liner, but normally there’s lots of snow right now that he packs down underneath the rink with his tractor. It’s been a strange winter. Though, I’m sure the snow will show up in full glory.

Thank you for following my blog and sharing my recipes. Make sure you check out all the other soup recipes I have created. Stay warm and take care of yourselves and each other. 💚
 

 

 

The Season of Light on Our Homestead

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We did a little shopping yesterday. It’s exciting that we are at this stage. Windows and then the insulation is up next.

They may just look like windows, but to John and I they represent so much more than that. Six years ago we would have never imagined we would be in the healthy relationship that we are in now. 

We were both in a dark place. 

Then we met. We understood each other’s past in ways no one else ever would. So many similarities and connections.

We imagined where we wanted to be. We talked about it. We planned. We worked hard. Now we are making our dream home a reality. John is doing the work himself. As we plan and he builds, we are trying to honor the spirit of the Finnish homesteaders who built the main log structure of our home. John wants the new space to marry well with the old. There’s a lot of history in these log walls. It’s why he’s milled his own beams and is taking care to preserve the integrity of our home.

John gets upset at me when I post photos of our unfinished addition. He worries people will judge the lack of progress. I shake my head in disbelief. He’s moved mountains. Multi-tasking so many projects – all while training a new K9 and working through the entire pandemic. I cannot even begin to explain the work that this man does. From making sure I have what I need in my hoop house and vegetable garden to raising chickens for eggs, meat birds, and pigs. He makes sure we have wood cut and split for a backup heat source and for our sauna – and he is constantly fixing and making improvements. There is a reason I call him my Renaissance Man.

I cannot express the joy that the potential of this new living space creates. I am patiently waiting for the opportunity to decorate and give this space love and attention.

These windows will be the eyes to the new wing of our home. They will protect us from the elements and help us marvel in the beauty around us – birds, trees, rain clouds, snow squalls, sunrises, and sunsets. 

These windows are more than panes of glass. They are portals for sunshine. The light that has seeped into our lives and taken us out of the darkness.

A reminder to never lose hope. 

That sometimes we need to live the question and when you least expect it, the answer is right in front of you. 

Be patient. Wait for the light. ❤

I was adamant about the bright red roof. In this photo our neighbor was helping John dig a water and electrical line to our sauna and hoop house.
John is now working on installing windows, sheeting the end walls, and closing the addition up for the winter. He will continue to work through the winter.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. ours was quiet and peaceful. Just John, myself, and my step son.
It was my husband’s new paw-tner’s first Thanksgiving on our homestead. Welcome, K9 Zepp. Of course, all of our dogs got to sample our feast.
Apollo is our Housewolf and he’s been a little jealous of the new German Shepherd in the house. However, he’s such a good boy. We have just been lavishing him with extra praise and love.
K9 Nitro is always da bomb! He’s a rockstar and has adapted well to having a new work companion.
Then there’s King Louie. He’s fond of naps and more naps.
I’m giving myself grace in the coming year. This is as real as it gets. No filter, pandemic hair, and all. I’m welcoming my 50th year around the sun with wild abandon. ❤
We are always thankful. We have so many blessings to count.

Be patient. Wait for the light. ☀️
💚🏠💚 See Less


					

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

If you would have told me back in the middle of March when we closed up our school buildings due to a rising pandemic that our lives would still not be back to normal by October, I would not have believed you. Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.

Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair

VICTORY GARDENS AND QUARANTINE KITCHENS: Seeing the positive and feeling in control

“Victory Gardens showcase patriotism in its truest sense, with each of us taking personal responsibility for doing our individual part to create a healthy, fair and affordable food system.”
-Rose Hayden-Smith

Victory Garden: Our family garden

As I sit at my computer to type this for a column I write for a local magazine, I am sure that I join many of you with thoughts whirling with wonderment at the challenging times we are facing. While it is early April, by the time you read my words it will be May. That brings me a huge sense of relief – perhaps our lives will be somewhat back to normal by May? Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.

When I think back to a few months ago I never imagined that “Zoom Meetings” and “Google Meet-Ups” would become the way I learn how to communicate with my high school students, fellow educators, and administrators. I could not fathom  “Shelter in Place Orders” or the bickering I would witness on social media over Essential vs. Non-essential workers. Yet, here we are. 

As a teacher, a writer, and a blogger I repeat constantly how one of my guiding philosophies is that our writing is a time capsule. As uncomfortable as it is at times, we are experiencing history and whatever medium we choose to document the Covid-19 pandemic will become a primary source for future generations.

My husband, as a police officer, is one of those Essential Workers and I have to give him credit for being full of grace under pressure. Whenever he detects that I may be feeling anxiety over a situation, or feeling stressed out he reminds me to put things into focus. He is known to ask me, “Is the house on fire? Is it an arterial bleed? Then things are going to be okay.” When I hear his voice of reason it always makes me giggle a little and realize that I need to calm down and not panic. Needless to say, I relied on him often in the past couple of months.

One of the things that has helped me stay centered during a time of confusion and uncertainty is to rely on the things that bring me joy. This means nourishing my family with healthy foods and leaning on nature (even when it dumps two feet of snow on us like it did yesterday). However, there is a sense of satisfaction knowing that the weather is temporary. Our days are already much longer and soon they will bring warmer weather.

Over the past couple of months I have read several blog posts and comments from friends on social media stating that they have enjoyed a slower paced life and being able to sit down as a family to enjoy a home cooked meal together. Perhaps that will be something positive that many families will take away from these trying times and continue to practice?

My step-son Lukas and Apollo making peanut butter cookies.

Home cooked meals are one of the cornerstones of my husband and my marriage. Not only do we delight in making dinner in our own kitchen, but we pride ourselves in raising much of the food ourselves. Having a little extra time at home has brought even more cooking into the mix. Not only did my husband and step son make banana bread and homemade peanut butter cookies, but they also tapped and boiled down maple syrup from our own trees.

In addition to cooking, we started our Victory Garden. Those familiar with history know that during WWII families were encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables to help supplement the food rations to aid the war effort, but also to boost the morale of the citizens. Now as you may know from reading my columns, gardening is not something new to the Waldos. However, I dare say that I approached it this year with renewed gusto and vigor. With our family trying to take fewer trips to the grocers, having a backyard full of fresh greens, herbs, and vegetables is even more appealing. So I thought I would share some tips that I have for how to start your own seeds in your own home.

If you have a small home, with limited space, as long as you have a sunny windowsill – you can get seeds to sprout. I find that our windows with eastern exposure and morning sunlight do the best.

While you can purchase fancy seed trays and pots, I make sure to save all of our large yogurt/cottage cheese containers for tomato seeds. Since I like those seedlings to get quite large before transplanting them into the ground, the larger containers allow the roots to grow. A tip from my mom for tomato seedlings is to allow a fan to circulate a couple weeks before getting them into the ground and plant them deeply. The fan allows them to strengthen and become more resilient to the elements outside.

Another great tip if you love to recycle is to keep the large clamshells that you purchase greens in. You can fill them with garden soil and they make the best mini-greenhouses.

Once you are ready to move the seedlings outside, you can move them to a bed outside, or utilize a container garden. For years before I had the land that I do now, I grew gorgeous tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. Herbs grow great in containers, as well as peppers, and you can even buy or make trellises and grow peas, beans, and cucumbers in large pots or buckets. 

As far as seeds go, we like to purchase our seeds in bulk because they are more cost effective. As long as they are stored in a cool, dry place (a jar works great) they will keep for up to five years (or more). 

In addition to planting our Victory Garden, one of the things that I have been trying to do to stretch our grocery trips is to make multiple meals out of one main ingredient. Therefore, I have been sharing on my social media accounts tips to help others do the same thing. Since we raise our own pork and chicken, I made the recommendation for others to purchase a whole ham or whole chicken. For example, a ham can be made into sandwiches, ham and scalloped potatoes, and you can toss the bone into your pressure cooker (or on the stovetop) and make bone broth that can then become a pot of Ham and Cheesy Potato and Broccoli Soup. A pork loin can be slow cooked in the crockpot with potatoes and carrots for a delicious roast. The extra meat can be seasoned for tacos and the juices from the roast can be thickened with flour and butter with sausage added for breakfast biscuits and gravy.

The same can be done for a chicken. Our Easter dinner was a chicken roasted in our pressure cooker. I reserved the drippings and thickened for gravy and then reserved the carcass for homemade bone broth. The bone broth can be put in jars and frozen(with about an inch of head room so the jars do not crack) or can be used right away as the liquid to cook flavorful rice or make a pot of chicken soup.

Do you make your own Bone Broth? If not, here is my basic recipe that I believe is a staple in any kitchen, but especially a Victory Garden or Quarantine Kitchen.


*One chicken carcass (I take all, or most of the meat off. You can also use chicken thighs or legs if you have them. Of course this method works with turkey as well).
*4-5 cups of water
*One onion halved (I leave the peels on)
*Few carrots (leave the tops on if you are using whole carrots)
*A few celery ribs (I use the tops that often get discarded)
*A few cloves of garlic or minced garlic (if you use whole – no need to peel)
*3 Tablespoons of vinegar (it helps draw out the healthy minerals the bones)
*Salt and Pepper 

Pressure cook for 45 minutes. If using a stove top or crockpot method you can simmer for several hours (the longer the better).

This is just a basic recipe, and you can change the flavor profile by adding other herbs and seasonings. You can add rosemary, thyme, ginger, parsely, cilantro, lemon, and even hot peppers. 

As I write this I am not certain what is in store for the future. However, I want to wish you the best and hope you are safe and healthy. Please feel free to reach out to my Facebook page or comment here if you have any gardening, canning, or cooking questions. I am not an absolute expert, but I have learned a lot of tips and tricks over the last several years.

The most important thing to remember in a time of uncertainty is that we are in this together. Check in on each other and let us continue to make our communities a safe place to live. Make sure to do something that brings you joy.

If you have never gardened before, I guarantee you will not regret picking up this healthy hobby. Whether you try to put up enough vegetables for the entire winter like my family does, or simply grow a little kitchen herb garden, there is something incredibly satisfying about growing your own food. If you ask me, nothing tastes as fine as a fresh, juicy garden tomato still warm from the sun. May is the perfect time to start your Victory Garden. Get growing!

RASPBERRY LEMONADE GREEN SMOOTHIE – A REFRESHING SIP OF SUMMER

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
-Aldo Leopold

Anticipation. The promise of summer has grown stronger each month. From the moment my daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips starting showing off – I have been waiting for the distinctive rattle of the cranes as they touch down in our pasture, the smell of fresh mown grass, and the warmth of slightly pink shoulders after a day in the garden. Not to mention, strawberries that finally taste like strawberries and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Knowing nothing will ever be as wonderful as that first bite.

Our beautiful Golden Gracie loves having me home for the summer!

As a young girl I always anticipated summer days so I could swim, ride my bike, and attend Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. Since my birthday was at the end of the month, when school was not in session, my mom would always make a special treat for to me to bring to my classmates on the last week of school. I remember the year she made homemade cupcakes and topped each one with a gorgeous pink icing rose. I was so proud of those birthday cupcakes that I can still remember handing out each one.

One of the benefits of being a teacher is holding on to that anticipation of the end of the school year. While it ends up being a whirlwind trying to tie up all the year’s loose ends by wrapping up grading, tucking away my classroom, and finishing the end of year reports. However, when that final bell rings – I still feel the rush of freedom that comes with time off for vacation and projects!

Apollo loves walking up and down the “river” to our pond, but he does not jump into the pond.

While I feel fortunate to have the luxury of time in the summer, I have to be careful to make sure that I am productive. While it may sound tempting to lounge around in pajamas drinking coffee all day, I try to start my mornings with a schedule (imagine that) to make sure that my time is structured. This year part of my morning routine includes exercise and a green smoothie.

I prefer a tart smoothie over a sweet one (especially in the morning) unless I am drinking the green smoothie in place of dessert. If you are new to green smoothies, I always recommend starting with spinach since it is naturally sweet and easy to blend. A frozen banana is also essential. The banana imparts sweetness and makes the smoothie cold and creamy.

This recipe is for a surprisingly simple and refreshing summer classic. You can control how much banana and lemon you add depending on the level of tartness or sweetness that makes your taste buds happy.

RASPBERRY LEMONADE GREEN SMOOTHIE

*3 cups of spinach
*1 lemon (juice and zest)
*1 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen
*1 small frozen banana
*1 cup of water (you can use coconut water)
*A handful of ice cubes
*Optional – chia seeds and/or fresh mint

It always makes me feel productive when I share a new recipe and focus on healthy living. I have plenty of projects this summer that will help fill the void of my empty classroom and I have to fuel my body properly to accomplish everything on my list. I hope you join me in lifting a glass to celebrate summer.

Make sure you check out the other green smoothie recipes on my blog. In fact, I have an entire month of green smoothie recipes, with printable shopping lists, posted in case you want to commit to a healthy challenge.

My photo bomber Apollo

 Tips for those new to green smoothies

1. Start by adding a small amount of greens. Spinach is naturally sweet.

2. A frozen banana is essential. It gives the smoothie sweetness and makes it creamy. Buy a couple of bunches of bananas a week and when they ripen, peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer.

3. Fresh ginger root helps mask the grassy flavor of greens that have a stronger taste (such as kale and dandelion greens). Raw ginger also helps promote digestion, as do parsley and cilantro (it may sound odd to add cilantro to afruit smoothie, but it is a wonderful and unexpected addition).

4. If you do not like bananas you can use dates, maple syrup, or raw honey for sweetness.

5. You can add other liquids other than water: coconut water, milk, almond or coconut milk.

6. Chia seeds are filling and are a great source of calcium, protein, and Omega-3.

7. Protein powder and Greek yogurt are great additions to make a smoothie filling.

8. We use a Vitamix blender at our house, but if you do not have a high-powered blender, blend up the greens and liquid first and then add the fruit (cut up in small pieces) a little bit at a time. When you freeze your bananas you will want to slice or break them into small chunks.

My happy place.
My azalea bushes finally bloomed after several years!
Lupine and Iris
Iris

Not Your Grandmother’s Egg Salad

I am not sure exactly how it happens. It may come in the form of a manual, a hardcover book – or in modern times – the password to a secret website. However, I am fairly certain that when one becomes a grandma, somehow you receive underground information on the art of sandwich making. In my personal experience the grandmas of the world seem to know exactly how to satisfy even the pickiest grandchild’s appetite.

Trust me, I will never forget the day when my step-children Avalon and Lukas both took a sip of their “pink milk” (Strawberry flavored milk) and declared that it tasted just like Granny Barb’s. Talk about feeling jubilant!

I still remember my mom’s frustration when she could not get my brother Jamie’s sandwich quite right.

There was a bit of tension in her voice as she picked up the phone to call my paternal grandmother Edna Armstrong, “Okay, now what brand of bread do you use? And the peanut butter? Do you spread it on both pieces? ”

“What brand of margarine?” (Don’t judge – it was the 70s).

“Do you put it on before or after the peanut butter? How thick? So there is no jelly or jam on the sandwich? Cut at a slant or lengthwise?”

While my mom may not have “mastered” the perfect peanut butter sandwich at this point in her life, she knew that cutting the sandwich wrong could be detrimental to the entire process.

After she put the phone down on the receiver we both turned to Jamie and studied him intently. He was all of six years old, complete with big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, freckles, and a fringe of sandy brown bangs. He took one bite. Put the sandwich down and shook his head.

“No. It still doesn’t taste like Grandma’s!”

My maternal grandma Hilda Puskala, after rearing seven children, had a large brood of grandchildren. One of my sandwich memories of Grandma’s kitchen was her and my mom making Pickle and Bologna. She would haul out the metal grinder and clamp it to the kitchen table. I can still hear the squeak of the handle as they processed the ring bologna and dill pickles. For the perfect sandwich spread she would mix in mayonnaise (or was it Miracle Whip?).

While Grandma and Mom would mix up pounds of Pickle and Bologna in a large McCoy mixing bowl with pink and blue stripes, my Aunt Christina and I would fight them for space at the table with her Fuzzy Pumper Play-Doh Barber Shop. Anyone who grew up in the 70s knew that the meat grinder and the Play-Doh barber shop were soul mates.

I wasn’t sure if Pickle and Bologna was an Upper Peninsula thing, but my husband John (who hails from Muskegon) said he remembers his grandmother making it too. After a quick Internet search, I found recipes for this sandwich spread (most from the Midwest) that are probably inspired from someone’s frugal grandma.

To be honest, I cannot imagine eating Pickle and Bologna today, but I remember eating it as a child. While I probably enjoyed my mom’s, I guarantee it was not as good as when she made it with Grandma.

So in the spirit of Grandmas everywhere, I am introducing a new sandwich spread to the mix. After all, one day – way into the future I may add — I may be a step-grandma. Therefore, I need to work on my sandwich game (just in case no one delivers me that precious manual).

This is “healthed up” version of a traditional egg salad. I do put in a lot of crunchy additions, so you can make edits based on your personal preference. To cut down on fat and add an extra boost of protein, I substitute cottage cheese for salad dressing or mayonnaise.

I will also add that while I do tend to take an old-fashioned approach to cooking and do not invest in a lot of fancy gadgets, purchasing a pressure cooker (such as the popular Instapot) has been a game changer for hardboiled eggs. Since our eggs are so fresh, I didn’t even bother hardboiling them before because they were impossible to peel. Now I put them in my pressure cooker and use the 6/6/6 method. I cook at high pressure for six minutes, let sit in the pot for six minutes, and immerse in an ice bath for six minutes and the shells pop right off like magic. However, I have found that the number of minutes that I cook them for depends on how many eggs I am cooking, so you may want to experiment. Since I have an 8 quart cooker, I can hard-boil 3 dozen or so eggs at a time.

NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S EGG SALAD

  • 6 large whole hard-boiled eggs (since our eggs are farm fresh from our happy hens, I often have to vary the amount due to differing size)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/8 cup chopped onion
  • 1/8 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1+ Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I add several Tbsp for tanginess)
  • 1+ tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed or fresh to taste (fresh is even better)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *Optional – sugar (if you are used to a sweeter tasting salad dressing)

I think it’s crucial to the taste of the egg salad to let it sit overnight to marry the flavors. It may get a bit runny, but you just have to stir and it will be perfect.

This egg salad may not be as creamy as you are used to, so you can add a touch of mayo or even a small amount of plain Greek yogurt.

Another great addition for healthy fat and flavor is a mashed avocado.

While the egg salad that I remember from childhood was always on white bread, I like to further break tradition and serve as a dip for crackers or celery, and make an open faced sandwich on rye or dark bread with lettuce and tomato. You can also make a tortilla wrap — or if you are watching your starchy carbs — serve on a bed of lettuce or use it to stuff a tomato.

While my egg salad may not be the version that my grandmother’s made, that is okay. Because as corny as it is, we all know that the secret ingredient that made their food delicious was love. ❤

As I create recipes, I try to enhance flavors with ingredients that reflect this unconditional love. We must nourish our bodies with food that is kind to us and that helps us reach our health goals and our potential.

It is an understatement to say that it has been a long winter. I wish you beautiful days full of the luxury of sunshine, songbirds, and green. In the coming weeks, take advantage of milder weather and plan a picnic. While you are at it, whip up some egg salad sandwiches. What a perfect way to celebrate spring and the Grandma Edna and Hildas in our lives!

Grandma Hilda Puskala with myself, my mom Karen Armstrong, and my niece Kristine circa 1996. How perfect that we are wearing our “Easter bonnets”. We were attending a gorgeous shower that my Aunt Christina planned for me.

Grandma Edna. She displays her spunky nature with her creative bonnet. 🙂

 

My brother Jamie and I in 1976.

Sister Blog: Glitter and Dog Hair

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”
Osho

Skandia Sky

My life took a drastic turn a few years ago when I met my husband John and fell in love with him and his two beautiful children. While I adore our busy life, I have found that I neglect to make time for my own creativity. While I love posting my recipes here — I decided to start a sister blog to dedicate to creative writing. Don’t worry, I will still post here — but my new blog is my challenge to honor my creative impulses and connect with my inner artist. I will document my world — whether I am tending to the kale in our hoop house, canning tomatoes in our 130 year old log kitchen, watching our kids practice hockey on the rink, spending time with the chickens or our pack of dogs, or traveling to the wilds of Alaska (where we hope to retire one day).

The title of the blog, Glitter and Dog Hair, was inspired by my step daughter Avalon. As a bright middle school student, her grades are important to her. After buying supplies for a science project she promised me that she would apply the bright turquoise glitter that I bought outside (and not inside our tiny house). Needless to say, that did not happen. My husband discovered the mess before me and made sure to calm me before I could react (her science project was spectacular after all). Ultimately, we shook our heads and laughed — my husband shrugged his shoulders and responded, “Our life is composed of glitter and dog hair, Darling!” Throw in a few chicken feathers and stinky hockey equipment and that sums it up perfectly.  Becoming a step mom at 44 was not an easy task. While the beauty made me fall in love, I am learning to embrace the messy parts too. In fact, I would not change our life for anything.

While I am frustrated that I am not actively writing stories and poems. Perhaps it is because I am on creative overload — there is inspiration everywhere that I look. I hope my creative pursuits and prompts help you, or someone you know, discover your voices. Our words matter. ❤ Also, follow along on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you!

PICKLES: ONE OF MY FAVORITE FOOD GROUPS

“In a world where news of inhumanity bombards our sensibilities, where grasping for things goes so far beyond our needs, where time is squandered in busyness, it is a pleasure and a privilege to pause for a look at handiwork, to see beauty amidst utility, and to know that craft traditions begun so long ago serve us today.”

–John Wilson

A handful of years ago, when my niece Kristine was in high school, she gave a demonstration speech on how to can dill pickles. After her presentation, when she told me that there were students in her class that did not know that pickles were once cucumbers, I was shocked. Really? How could this happen in a rural community in Upper Michigan where vegetable gardens commonly sprout in backyards? I guess that I took it for granted that others grew up in a household similar to the one in which I was raised. Pre-bread machines my mom always made homemade bread, cake and frosting were whipped up from scratch, macaroni-and-cheese did not come out of a box, and on a weekly basis stock pots of aromatic soup simmered on the stove.

Did we eat junk food and drink soda? Yes. Yet, my mom always made sure our diet was balanced out by home cooked meals and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even when we spent long, summer days at the beach the slow-cooker was preparing some sort of wholesome, savory dish. Fast food did not exist in our hometown (aside from the seasonal drive-in restaurant) and take-out and dinners at restaurants were rare and special indulgences.

Granted, times have changed, but I think that in we need to go back to the way some things were in the past. My mom grew up in a large Finnish-American family with six other siblings, and because finances were lean, they had to learn how to be resourceful. I am thankful that Mom passed this resourcefulness on to me. I am equally thankful to have married a man who wants his children to be raised with these same values.

The next time you are in line at the supermarket, reflect on the choices in your cart (and even other shoppers around you). It is common to hear (and participate) in conversations about how expensive groceries are these days. Yet, when you take a look at what is tossed into grocery carts there often are cheaper alternatives. Think of how many raw potatoes can be purchased for the price of a bag of potato chips. How many bags of dried beans can be purchased for the cost of canned? Compare the cost of individually packaged instant oatmeal versus a tub of old-fashioned oats. While they may be expensive, how many cherries or grapes could a twelve pack of soda purchase?

While I try to keep my grocery cart limited to whole foods, I do confess to convenience food purchases. Though, I try to be more mindful of making our favorite meals by scratch, because not only is it more economical, but more nutritional as well. Plus, I like to believe that when I stretch my grocery dollar I can afford to put more organic offerings on our table – or an extra evening out at a local restaurant.

Not only are some convenience foods easy to make, but cooking from scratch helps us avoid putting chemicals into our bodies. The next time you pick up a can of soup carefully scan the ingredients. How about salad dressing? Can you pronounce the long list of additives and preservatives? If not, you might want to think about making your own.

In addition to dressings, I find that a great way to perk up salads and other meals are pickles. Growing up, pickles were an important food group in our house – as were straight up cucumbers. My grandpa Puskala often served us sliced cucumbers from his garden and vinegar for breakfast (probably because that is all that we wanted to eat). My Grandma Hilda’s canned dill pickles and crock pickles were a family favorite and my mom followed her canning tradition. In fact, my mom is known to can over one hundred quarts of pickles in the fall because she gifts them to people throughout the year. The smell of pickle brine is one of my fondest memories from childhood.

Today I am going to share with you my Grandma’s dill pickle recipe. By August most gardeners are up to their ears in cucumbers and if you do not garden yourself you can find them readily available from a neighbor or the farmer’s market. Pickles are one of the easiest items to can because you only need to use a hot water bath (use a large stock pot that will allow water over the lids) and you do not have to pressure can the jars. My canner/stock pot will prepare 7 quarts at a time.

I like to use one quart wide mouth jars and you will also need lids with bands. Sanitize the jars in the sanitize cycle of your dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water. If you are boiling the jars, boil them for 30-45 minutes and make sure you boil the lids and bands and well (I boil the lids for 5-10 minutes). 

BRINE (bring to a boil when you are ready to can)
2 Quarts of Water
1 Quart of Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Cup of Canning Salt (Make sure that you buy canning salt and not regular table salt)

You will also need:

Dill (fresh and/or dill seed. I recommend fresh dill – but seed will work in a pinch).
Alum Powder (Can be found in the spice and pickling sections and it helps make pickles crunchy)

*Optional for spicy peppers
Garlic cloves
Crushed red peppers (could also use jalapenos or other fresh peppers)

Choose the shape of the pickles that you desire (chips, spears, whole, or thin sandwich slices). I like to can a variety of shapes.

While you are packing your jars, make sure that you bring the water in your canner (large stock pot) to boiling. The water should be over the jars when you place them in the canner.

In the bottom of the jar place ¾ teaspoon of alum powder, a generous helping of dill (stem and all), crushed garlic cloves (I put three per jar), and peppers if you desire a spicy pickle. Then pack the rest of the jar with cucumbers. I recommend placing them in carefully and packing them thoroughly (or else you will have lots of room in the jar).

Once the cucumbers are firmly packed, fill the jar with the boiling brine, leaving about ¾ inch of head room at the top. Put on the lid and tighten the band (firmly – but you do not have to overly tighten).

Place the jars in the canner and TURN OFF the heat and let sit for 25 minutes. My mom taught me that this is the secret to crunchy pickles. If you continue to heat the water, the pickles may end up mushy.

After 25 minutes remove the jars and let sit until they seal (this may take up to 24 hours). While it is frustrating if you have a jar, or two, that does not seal. You can refrigerate these pickles and give them a couple of weeks to “pickle” and eat them within the month. In the same way, if you do not want to can the pickles you can make crock pickles using this brine and let them sit in the refrigerator in a large jar(s) or a bowl or crock.

If you love pickles as much as I do, you have to try my grandmother’s recipe. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment here, send me an email, or stop by my Facebook page.

Imagine this winter, when you pop open a jar of pickles and remember a steamy summer day when your kitchen was filled with the fragrance of dill. These pickles may remind you of your childhood and like me, you may appreciate the old-fashioned. I would wear a dress over jeans any day, I love the word ice-box, and I believe in setting a beautiful table. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better. Give these pickles a try and let me know what you think!

My husband created a canning station for me on our front porch for those sultry summer days when our house doesn’t need the extra warmth.

Here is a video that my stepdaughter Avalon made last summer when I taught her how to make pickles! Isn’t she the cutest?

 

 

Spring Fever is an Understatement

“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”
― Mary Oliver

April 16, 2017 on the left.
April 16, 2018 on the right. Last year we were planting blueberry bushes and this year the bushes are buried under several feet of snow. There are 10+ foot snowdrifts in our pasture.

Meesha is a bundle of energy!

Snow days in April are not unusual in the UP of Michigan. However, that does not soften the blow. As John and I discussed yesterday, April snow storms usually torment us AFTER the majority of our snow has already melted and it is gone within a couple of days. However, over the past couple of days we received over THIRTY inches of snow ON TOP of the snow lingering from the winter.

While it is depressing and feels like a setback to our growing season, the kids were thrilled to have two snow days off of school (this teacher did not complain 😉 ) and the weather outlook for the next couple of weeks looks hopeful. We should be seeing temperatures close to the 50s by the weekend and into next week. That means that it should be close to 100 in the hoop house.

Speaking of the hoop house: check out these photos of John, Avalon, and Lukas digging it out yesterday after the storm.
The dogs were in their glory and were exhausted last night after a spirited frolic in the snow!

Gentle Ollie taking a break. He LOVES the snow.

Remi our faithful protector is not sure what to think.

Giant April snow banks!

Avalon and I took advantage of our snow days to create a new video for our YouTube channel. As you can tell from the video, this new medium is a little awkward for me, but Avalon is a natural! In this video we share a few of the things that we “cannot live without”. It was a blast to film it together and we hope to be able to create more content about our farm, recipes, and DIY projects.

Please make sure to subscribe to our Channel: Superior Maple Grove Farm and leave us a comment to let us know you were there and what kind of videos you would like us post!

I hope that your spring is going well and that you are excited about gardening. I will post updates as we get our seedlings planted in the hoop house. I also promise to post more healthy recipes to help you put your homegrown, or farmer’s market produce, to great use. Thank you for following our adventures. If you are in the snow belt like we are – stay warm, stay safe, and hold on tight — spring is near! ❤