Category Archives: Easy

Tomato Jam

Guy Clarke wrote a song that we love to sing every summer: “Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes, nothing in the world like home grown tomatoes. There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes!” So true! The best things about this season are baseball, homemade ice cream and home grown tomatoes. Big fat juicy ones! Tiny little jewel-like ones. We love them. This Saturday morning, I picked about a pound of the cherry tomatoes, variety of Chocolate Sprinkles. I made the jam to have with whole wheat cheese waffles topped with ricotta.

There were older folks in our home town who thought that they should be considered a fruit and ate them with cream and sugar. Apparently they like them that way back east, also. When we lived in Maine, we got a fruit juice and cracker snack every morning. I chose tomato juice, which I had always had with salt in it. One sip of my juice that morning, and I was shocked to find that sugar had been added!

My mom planted them almost every summer when we were younger, and I would eat them til my mouth was raw. I remember one summer the harvest was so abundant that mom sent my sister and I around the neighborhood with a basket of tomatoes to sell. Dad continued to plant them (Teri may have planted them on his behalf) and he usually had a few to pick on the plants behind the garage before I left town. We had a joke. I would leave one on the fence post for him to find. He would always pretend to be amazed at how it got there! After we cleaned out the house and I drove away for the last time, I found a tomato to leave on the fence post.

Mom made tomato preserves a few times when I was little. This recipe is similar to what I remember.


28 – 32 0z can tomatoes (note: I used fresh Chocolate Sprinkles cherry tomatoes)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil (note: I used about 2 Tablespoons dried)
chopped onion — again, I used about 2 tablespoons dried.
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar……Guess what? I didn’t have any so I used lemon juice, about a tablespoon.
salt and pepper.

Put it all in a pot and bring to a boil. season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium, and mash the tomatoes with a potato masher. Cook until thick, about 20 minutes.

I think this would be good with red pepper flakes instead of basil (just a dash!) or with mint. The jam I think that I remember mom making …..I think it had cinnamon and cloves ….if I were doing that, I might add some chunks oflemon with the juice. I will definitely make it again.


This cookie recipe has a long history. I believe the original  German recipe would be called  pfefferneuse. Of course, Americans changed the name to peppernuts. I first tasted them at Mrs. Carlson’s house. Some of you have met her and might remember her: she is the homeliest, most beautiful old lady I’ve ever met. Always has a huge smile, and never has a bad word to say about anybody. Probably about 90 years old now and for all I know, still bakes these cookies. Where did I get this recipe? I am really not sure. But I do remember one of the girls in my 7th grade home ec class baked them and contributed a recipe to our class cookbook. I liked them, but the cookie never really caught on in the Rhodes family – we were spritz people. And gingersnaps.

But years later, something brought this back to my memory and I tried them out on my own kids. It might have been during the infamous 30-days-of-cookies Christmas. Well, they disappeared pretty quickly, maybe because they are tiny little cookies that you can eat by the handful. They are made by rolling the dough into a long strand, and then cutting off small pieces. When David was just tiny, he observed the process and apparently decided to make a batch of his own with his play dough. There he was in his little red overalls, rolling out the dough into long logs  on the floor and cutting little pieces. I was in the kitchen with him and asked, “David, what are you making?” He didn’t pause or look up but replied, “Makin’ lumchumps.” Lumchumps? I still don’t know where he might have gotten that name  from “pepper nuts.” But lumchumps they became and still are.

I really miss you kids at Christmastime: no one to bake cookies for!!


  • 2 cups sugar (you can use part brown if you’d like)
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 cups corn syrup (you can use molasses, if you’d like)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 2-4 drops anise oil (they are really better with anise oil, but it’s hard to find. I usually sub in 1 teaspoon of anise extract. I’ve heard of people crushing anise seeds – about 3/4 teaspoons.)
  • 10 cups of flour. Yes, 10.

Mix the sugar, honey, syrup in a sauce pan. (a big one.) Add the butter. Heat and stir until the butter has melted. Sift and add the dry ingredients (I have to admit: the only time that I sift flour is when I make a cake) alternately with the sour cream. Roll up your sleeves and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon. Cover and chill overnight. Roll into long sticks – about 1/2″ in diameter – and cut pieces off. You can then roll these pieces into small balls, but seriously? They are going to round out as they bake anyway. I just put them on the cookie sheet, ungreased, about an inch apart. Bake at 300 degrees for …….oh, I don’ t know…..just don’t let them get too brown. Let me know how long that takes and I will amend the recipe. Makes a lot. A lot…….



Growing up in the ’50’s and ’60s’s as I did, I was required — required, mind you! — to take “homemaking class.” According to the Kansas School Board at that time, “homemaking” consisted mainly of cooking, washing, and sewing.   My children may be surprised to know that I would really rather have taken woodshop classes — those guys were making furniture! They were learning how to make cars start! And talk about cleaning — cleaning an engine sounded pretty interesting.  Alas, we girls were  simply encouraged to limit our talents to the “feminine arts,” we were discouraged from learning any of the aforementioned “masculine skills.” The division of labor sounds like a good idea on paper, but in my case, it simply justified weakness and perhaps even laziness — “Why learn to change a tire? I’ll just get some guy to do it.” Hopefully, we women have learned by now that we don’t have to sacrifice femininity to be well-equipped to take responsibility for ourselves.  Beyond that, I hope that my daughters will feel free to use all their talents in whatever way brings them satisfaction and delight.

Make no mistake, I consider homemaking a high calling.  I just don’t want “homemaker” to be a synonym for weakness, or dependency.  Helpfulness is better than helplessness. And homemaking requires a lot more than cooking and cleaning.

Anyway, one of the first things we learned to cook in homemaking class was Wacky Cake.  You may know it by some other name: Crazy Cake, Easy-Mix Cake. It is mixed and baked in the same pan, and, as a relic from the frugal war years, made without eggs or milk. This also makes it great for vegans! It is really quite chocolatey, and great with a glass of milk.  We never frosted it; we just sprinkle powdered sugar on the top. I am including two sets of ingredients: one for a 9″ square cake pan, and one for a 9″x13″ cake pan.  Mixing instructions are the same.

Wacky Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups flour                           3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar                                  2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa                              1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt                         1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon soda                          2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 cup water                                 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup oil                                  2/3 cups oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla                      2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar                     2 teaspoons vinegar

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the dry ingredients in the pan and mix them with a fork.  Make three little “wells” in the dry ingredient mixture.  In one well, put the oil. In another, put the vinegar, and in the last, put the vanilla.  Pour the water over the whole thing and stir carefully with the fork.  Try to get all the lumps out. The batter will probably seem thin. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 25 minute, or till the top springs back when you touch it lightly.

Rice Pancakes, or using up the leftovers.

This will be brief! When raising and feeding a family of ten, we stretched the protein with sauce and rice — a lot! Well, if you study food combinations, you learn that rice combines with several things to make a high-quality protein.  Latin America lives on rice and beans, and so can we! This meant, however, that we often would have leftover rice. And we used up our leftovers!! Often, we would use the leftover rice the next morning in these pancakes, here at my son Amos’s request.

Rice Pancakes

  • 1 cup milk (I usually economized by using reconstituted dry milk in our cooking.)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour (I like to use half whole wheat flour, but if I am using brown rice, I let that be the whole grain)

Mix the milk, rice and salt in a large bowl.  Beat the egg yolks and add them, then stir in the butter and flour.  Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently fold them in.  Drop by large spoonfuls onto a moderately hot greased griddle.  Turn with a spatula when the cakes are  full of bubbles.  Of course, I often would have to double this, and sometimes would cook extra rice just so that we could eat these the next day.  From an old copy of Fanny Farmer’s Cookbbook.

One Dish Meals – The Series: Not Tuna Casserole

Growing up in southern Kansas, we called the one-dish meals “casseroles”; I understand that in some parts of the country, they are called “hot dishes”.  Whatever you call them, they probably got started as a way to stretch the food dollar by combining a little bit of protein with a whole lot of what we used to call “starch”, or carbohydrate. This starch was usually in the form of what we used to call noodles, now known as pasta.  Sometimes,  rice was the stretcher.  To tell the truth, these casseroles all kind of ended up looking alike: a gummy mass of noodles that was pretty salty.  My mom went to her grave never knowing that I hated tuna casserole, for instance.  It had four ingredients: macaroni, tuna, cream of mushroom soup and sometimes peas.  Or cheese.  Fat city, here I come! I knew that there had to be a better way, and I’m sure that I was not the first one to turn to the Italian method for inspiration.  This was the result: something I call Tuna, Pasta, Tomatoes and Olives.  or Not Tuna Casserole.

  • One bag of whole wheat, spiral macaroni (I think it’s about a pound)
  • One large can of diced tomatoes
  • One onion
  • One green pepper
  • One can of pitted black olives
  • Some olive oil
  • Some balsamic vinegar
  • Some basil and garlic
  • one can of tuna, preferably the solid white kind.

Cook and drain the pasta.  Chop the onion and pepper.  Slice the olives. Drain the tomatoes, but drink the juice — it’s yummy and good for you.Mix together about 1/3 c. of olive oil, the same of the vinegar, and season with basil and garlic until you are satisfied with the flavor.  You can serve this hot or cold.  Some crusty bread is good with it.

Zucchini: Is There Anything It Can’t Do? (Zuke Salad and Zuke Cake)

And, by the way, how do you spell it? I think this is the accepted form.  Tomorrow is the first day of summer, and if you’re a gardener — or the friend of one– it’s not to early to start planning for National “Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch” Week.  I’ve actually never grown zucchini, because I have so many generous friends who do.  This vegetable is good for everything from soup to dessert.  If you have a particularly large one, you can stuff it with a ground meat seasoned with cumin, oregano, garlic and mint (some chopped tomatoes, if you like) for a Mediterranean-style entree.  Here are two recipes that I think are excellent examples of zuke versatility. If you have a copy of Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (and I hope that you do!) check out her recipe for Zucchini Fritatta.


I’m not sure of the origin of this recipe; I may have gotten from a fellow teacher in Kansas City who probably brought it to some luncheon, as my copy is scribbled on the back of a blank test form.  When I pulled this scrap out of my bag  home the other day and prepared it, I had forgotten how delicious it is!  It is reminiscent of home-made pickles.

Mix together:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used about 1/2)
  • salt and pepper – you decide
  • 2/3 cup vinegar ( I used a combination of balsamic vinegar and apple cider; red wine vinegar would also be good.)


  • 5 cups of thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced

Mix it all up and refrigerate.  It keeps very well and gets better every day (just like you!).


Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.  Preheat the oven to 375.

Mix in a large bowl:

  • 3 cups peeled and grated zucchini
  • 3 cups sugar (you could probably get by with 2 cups)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine and add:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


  • 1 cup nuts, optional
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, also optional
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, also optional

Pour into the pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.  It’s good with cream cheese frosting, but isn’t everything? You can see that this can be made to be a chocolate cake or not.  1 teaspoon cinnamon can also be added.

I have to be honest:  I don’t think you need that much oil.  I think you could leave out 1/2 cup, but it’s been a while since I’ve made this.  Tell you what:  I’ll make it up next week and let you know.

Banana Bread

We don’t let things go to waste in our house.  Brown, slimy bananas make great banana bread! Overripe bananas can easily be mashed with a little lemon juice and frozen  until you are ready to bake.  I have tried several recipes; one had grape-nuts instead of nuts. This one is my favorite.  We had one daughter who didn’t like nuts, so I usually made two loaves, one with and one without.  Chocolate chips are not bad either!


  • 3 really ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups flour (of course, I use half whole wheat)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cups of nuts (walnuts or pecans) (black walnuts are really good) (you can use more if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips if you like

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a loaf pan.  Mix the bananas and eggs.  Add the flour, sugar, salt, and soda.  Add the nuts; don’t overmix.  Put the batter in the pan and bake for 1 hour (or so).  (Quick breads will be done when the shrink from the sides of the pan and a toothpick poked in it comes out clean.) Let it cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then remove.  It slices better when it is cool if you can wait, and it is great with peanut butter and a glass of milk for breakfast!

Granola: Crunchy; Muesli: chewy

Granola is my answer to cold cereal. My opinion is that when you buy cereal from the store, you might just as well eat the box.  There are many, many granola recipes out there. For my favorite, I go once again to the More-With -Less cookbook.    My recipe is different from the original, because one of the great things about granola is its flexibility. Just start mixing!

Preheat oven to 250.

In a large bowl or roasting pan, mix:

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 9 cups rolled oats (preferably old-fashioned, not quick)
  • 1 or 2 cups of coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups of raw wheat germ
  • 1 cup wheat bran (not the cereal, the bran)
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry milk powder

In a separate bowl, mix:

  • 1 1/2 cup water (better start with ust 1 cup)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup honey or brown sugar (you can add more if yo must)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread out onto 2 cookie sheets and bake 1 hour or til toasty. This makes about a gallon.  I add raisins AFTER it is baked.  If you like sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc. they cn be added before the granola is toasted.  Soy flour can be added (about 3/4 cup) but you may have to add a little water.

Muesli: This is like raw granola, and it’s great for the summer.

In a large casserole with a lid (or any container with a lid) mix:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup each lemon juice and honey
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried fuit (I like dried blueberries, cranberries, and apricots) Refrigerate overnight and enjoy.

Breakfast: A category of its own

I’m sure you have heard it said: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don’t skip it.” I’ve come to appreciate another old saying: “Eat breakfast like a king, luncheon like a duke, and supper like a pauper.” I don’t always wake up very hungry, so I take this to mean qualilty, if not quantity.  But breakfast is really my favorite meal; it seems to be the only meal that can be enjoyed in either quiet solitude, or a happy crowd of family members and friends.  When the children were little, breakfast on school days was  either hot oatmeal or homemade granola (at least I like to remember it that way!).  No Cap’n Crunch at our house. One of the kids spent the night at a friend’s house and made sure to tell me that “their mom lets them eat Cap’n Crunch”.  (We did eat raisin bran and Life cereal.) On Saturdays, we would have pancakes, and on Sundays, I’d make muffins — they were kind of like hand-held pancakes and we had to get out the door quickly! Early in my marriage, I learned to make Dutch pancakes, and they became a favorite. As the kids got older, we ate breakfast together less and less. (No one ever tells you when it will be the last time you fix pancakes for someone.)  I am pleased to observe, however, that , for the most part, they still eat a healthful breakfast.  One son eats oatmeal on the way to work, another eats granola for snacks, and my daughter Kelsey makes great Dutch pancakes.

Ranger Cookies

I have always been a history buff.  Maybe it’s because I come from a family of storytellers, and was fascinated with our family history, the stories my mom and dad and grandparents would tell. First person sources are always the best, but stories passed down through generations ring true also. So I was interested to find out the origin of this recipe; I found that the recipe on my little brown, creased recipe card is the same as the original printed in the April 26, 1935 edition of the Uniontown, PA News Standard, on page 14, in column 4.  (Isn’t Google great?) My story about these cookies goes back to about 1961 or 62.  My brother and I frequently made cookies together, and of course, we ate about as much raw dough as we put into the oven. We were making Ranger cookies on this occasion, and we must have both gone overboard, because when Mom got home froom work, we were both groaning on the couch with major bellyaches.  I don’t think we got a whole lot of sympathy that time……


  • 1 c. butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 c. white sugar


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspns vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 teaspn. soda
  • 1/2 teaspn baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 2 c. Rice Krispies (some claim to have made these cookies with corn flakes; okay.)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Stir flour misture into the butter and sugar mixture.  Roll into small balls and flatten slightly with a damp fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.