Finishing My Favorite Recipes Notebook

Finishing my Favorite Recipes notebook took almost as long as deciding which recipes to include! The finished notebook includes 32 recipes that I have made over the years.

Several recipes were included by special request, like Deviled Eggs…I’ve never had a written recipe so I had to make them first and take pictures before I could write it down. For others, I had not looked at the recipe for many years and had to make sure I remembered who had given it to me. The recipe for Sloppy Joe came directly from my mother-in-law when we first got married!

Years ago, I gave up on a tiny recipe box. The recipes had to be handwritten and any notes I wanted to make just didn’t fit on the cards. My daughter showed me a 3-ring notebook where she saved recipes she had found on the internet. Each recipe was in a plastic sleeve. She could remove the recipe from the notebook while she cooked and the plastic sleeve kept the original safe from splatters. Great idea! I bought the plastic sleeves at Staples:

I now have several notebooks going, some with my own recipes, another with recipes from the internet I want to try. If I make a recipe and don’t like it, I can just remove it from the plastic sleeve and discard it. If I do like it, I retype it in the format I prefer and add it to my notebook.

Over the last month I’ve been collecting and sorting recipes I wanted to include in this notebook…with plans to send a copy to my son and his family in California, and a copy to my daughter and her family at Christmas. I haven’t made some of the recipes for years, so I took the time to make a few to make sure it was still a “favorite.”

Once I decided on the 32 recipes, I made sure I had good instructions for someone else to follow. For example, I have a recipe from my mother that was in her recipe box with just a list of ingredients and an oven temperature. I had to look up a similar recipe in my Joy of Cooking (by Irma S. Rombauer & others) to see what they recommended for instructions.

Organizing the 32 recipes into a coherent list led me back to my Joy of Cooking for ideas. I ended up with 5 categories: Yeast Breads, Quick Breads, Desserts, Cookies and Other Dishes. The recipes are listed in alphabetical order in each section. This became the Table of Contents.

Then I made another list of the 11 recipes that I’ve written about on my blog, with links to those posts. Sometimes seeing the step-by-step process in pictures is helpful. That list became the Table of Contents Tutorials.

After I assembled all the recipes in their plastic sleeves, I realized I needed some Section Dividers. Since the pages are not numbered, you just have to get the recipe back into the appropriate section to make it easy to find it the next time. I will also include a few extra sleeves in each notebook so folks can add their own recipes over time.

Finally, I had not planned to create more than 3 notebooks…one for me, one for my son’s family and one for my daughter’s family. Already, I have interest from a few nieces and nephews who would like the recipes. Rather than try to figure out how to post the whole pile on DropBox, especially since it’s a folder of separate PDF documents, I decided to buy a few 1 GB flash drives. When I need to share, I’ll just burn a flash drive and put it in the mail.

Sounds complicated, I know. I think I’m finally done “editing.” Now I can stop baking so much and get back to the greyhound coats! Enjoy!

Making Deviled Eggs

I’ve been asked to find some cookbooks that would be appropriate for my 11 1/2 year old granddaughter for Christmas. She’s the one that helped make various dog treats for a charity sponsored by her school and made $700! She obviously has some interest in cooking! I have ordered several cookbooks aimed for young teens but I’m not sure if they will interest her (more about those books later). Most of the books, from what I can tell online, show a photo of the finished product but don’t show the steps along the way. Then, the instructions are written in paragraph form. I know written instructions are followed more easily if presented in short bulleted sentences. I also like showing the steps with a photo if possible. I can’t help myself! The format I’m using for my recipes is modeled after my Joy of Cooking cookbook.

I’ve never really written my Deviled Eggs recipe down but I wanted to include it in my notebooks for my kids/grandkids of my favorite recipes. I thought I’d see if I could write the recipe in a way my granddaughter could follow along and make them herself.

Since my WordPress web program won’t let me format in two columns, I’m going to post the recipe first; then I’ll treat each page of my tutorial as a photo so you can see what I’m trying to do. See if this makes sense to you!

Here is the recipe:

Here are the four pages of the illustrated version:

Pg. 1

Pg 2

Pg. 3

Pg. 4

Granted, this is a pretty simple recipe. Before I expand other recipes of her choosing, I’d love some feedback if you have access to a young teen. Does it make sense?

I’m thinking I could work with my granddaughter and try a recipe…take photos of her making the recipe and create an illustrated recipe for her to keep in her very own Favorite Recipes notebook. We’ll see if she’s interested at Christmas time!

Do you have a stash of recipes you refer to all the time? Think about sharing them with your loved ones this Christmas!

Making English Muffin Toasting Bread

I’m sure many of you love toasted English Muffins. I was interested in trying to make my own when I read my latest Mother Earth News magazine. Right there on the front cover was a teaser…

When I went through the article, I discovered why I haven’t managed to actually make English Muffins! The multi-step instructions seemed complicated. Then I remembered making English Muffin bread years ago that had many of the same ingredients. I found a recipe on the King Arthur Baking website that was pretty simple so I decided to try it before including it in my Favorite Recipes notebook I’m putting together for my kids for Christmas. Here is the recipe from that site:

Following the recipe, you’ll notice it calls for 1 cup of milk. I cannot have regular dairy milk…even in baked goods. So, I substituted almond milk. It worked fine.

The dry ingredients were measured into my stand mixer bowl.

The wet ingredients were measured into a small saucepan and heated up on the stove. I love the way they said to test how hot it was…120-130 degrees F. “It will feel uncomfortably hot if you quickly dip your finger into it.” That worked great…with clean hands of course!

I poured the warm wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in my mixer bowl and mixed it thoroughly. Amazing, the dough was fairly wet and stretchy…it looked just like the picture in the Mother Earth News article:

Look at the picture below and the small one on the upper left. When the mixer was running it stretched the dough out like that! Success!

Then I greased a loaf pan and sprinkled cornmeal into it.

To scoop the sticky dough out of the bowl, I sprayed my spatula with oil. Then I pressed the dough into the baking pan.

I covered the pan with a towel and let it rise about an hour. It rose just above the pan.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F while it was rising and baked the bread for 25 minutes. It turned out great!

This bread was delicious toasted and even did well as a sandwich bread! This recipe will go in my Favorites book!

Homemade Dog Treats

You may wonder why I’m interested in making dog treats! I don’t have a dog…but I do have access to a changing group of greyhounds that love treats! Of course, my grandpuppy Daisy is always available to try new treats when I visit.

In fact, I’m motivated to make dog treats for two reasons. First, making these treats satisfies my need to create something new and useful. I could always make cookies for us, but then we’ll eat them! Second, I’m inspired by my daughter and granddaughter who made and sold bags of homemade treats as part of a fundraiser at their local elementary school last month. Anna worked hard to help make, package and sell dog treats over several weeks and raised $700 for a local charity! Very inspiring!

Anna and Daisy!

My first attempt to make treats started with a simple recipe I copied from online:

I had paw print molds. I mixed up the batch above and filled the molds…

…and baked them at 325 degrees F. They looked interesting and were scarfed up by the greyhounds. They disappeared so fast, I forgot to take a picture of them!

My next step was to get some sturdy bone cookie cutters. They came in the mail yesterday so I found another recipe for treats that could be rolled out. Here’s the recipe:

Mixing up the treats:

Adding the whole wheat flour made a nice dough:

I filled four cookie sheets with “bones.”

I baked them for 25 minutes. When cool they were still a little soft inside. Next time I think I’ll turn the oven down at the end to 325 degrees and give them an extra 10-15 minutes. The batch made about 40 treats. I’m sure they’ll be a hit!

Kathy and Anna found several recipes for dog treats online, from tiny waffles (woofles) and tiny pumpkin pies! I’ll check out those recipes!

Just too adorable!!

So, thanks to my daughter and granddaughter, I have a whole new way to use my baking skills!

Freezing Baking Ingredients

The last few weeks I have been baking more than I usually do…cookies, breads, muffins, etc. My enthusiasm for baking seems to come and go. I’ll bake several days in a row and then I put things away and move on to other projects. The last several months I seem to have focused on my sewing projects.

When I started pulling out ingredients to begin some baking projects a few weeks ago I discovered that the bag of commercial whole wheat flour that I had kept in the refrigerator was rancid! Then I tried using some toasted wheat germ that is in a tight jar, but was last used a year ago when Bert made his chocolate chip cookies….yuk, it didn’t smell right! Several other ingredients that I use infrequently had also gone rancid! So, while I wanted to bake up a storm, I first had to replace many of the ingredients. What a waste!

I really like to see what I have on hand in my kitchen. Many years ago, Bert added two lovely shelves in the kitchen so I could store various pastas, rice, flour and sugar in glass jars. I’ve learned over time that the dry pasta, white rice, flour and sugar do well on the shelf. However, I’ve had to store whole wheat flour, corn meal, almond flour and even yeast in the refrigerator or freezer.

I’ll really have to organize the freezer better to store ingredients, not just finished products, like loaves of bread. I finally did a search online to see which baking ingredients can be frozen. you can see the list here:

Here are some of the ingredients I use and how I store them.

Home Ground Whole Wheat Flour

When I’m ready to bake with whole wheat flour, I pull out my electric wheat grinder and find the wheat berries in the refrigerator:

Then I grind about 5-6 pounds of flour.

After I use what I need right away, I’ll bag the rest in zip bags, about 8 cups (2 lbs.) each and store it in the freezer.

Toasted Wheat Germ

Toasted Wheat Germ comes in a glass jar (about 8 oz.) and is found in the cereal aisle, right near rolled oats. I used 1/3 cup in a cookie recipe and then dumped the rest into a zip bag and stored it in the freezer. I don’t want to ruin another whole batch of cookies with rancid wheat germ!

Vital Wheat Gluten Flour

This is an important additive to whole wheat baked goods. It helps make a slice of bread stay together! I seldom use more than 1/4 cup in a recipe, so the rest has to stay frozen so it won’t go rancid.

Corn Meal

I don’t use a lot of corn meal, so it’s important to keep it frozen until I need it.

Almond Flour

So far, I’ve kept this in the refrigerator, but I think I’ll move it to the freezer.

Active Dry Yeast

I keep unopened yeast in the freezer. When I open a package, I put about half of the package in a jar in the refrigerator. The rest of the package I fold up tight, tape it shut and put it back in the freezer.


We always have several pounds of butter in zip bags in the freezer. It stores well.

Chocolate Chips

We seem to always have a partial bag of chocolate chips in the freezer!


I use a lot of walnuts in various recipes. Depending on what I’m making, I may just store them in the refrigerator.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder

I store Baking Soda and Baking Powder in their original packaging in the cupboard. I have found baking soda in a different kind of package instead of the cardboard box. I was not happy with how hard it was to close the container…it just seemed open all the time. This hard plastic container is much easier to scoop out of and closes easily.

Storing ingredients in my freezer sounds easy, but I’ve had to rearrange the freezer some. Bags of things don’t stack very well. I need to invest in some kind of organizers (maybe plastic shoe box-size containers) so slippery lumpy bags of stuff don’t slide off the shelf!

Whole Wheat Bread Experiments

I have begun the planning for a Christmas gift for my kids and grandkids. I hope to pull together about 25 of my favorite recipes to make each family a notebook (kind of like the recipe box my mother handed down to me!).

It seems my recipes are always a work in progress!

Unfortunately, I can’t just use copies of many of my recipes, because my stand mixer is larger than the ones my kids have and the quantities of things I make…like my oatmeal bread…won’t fit in their mixers. I’m not sure anyone has tried to make Bert’s chocolate chip cookies either…the volume of his single batch is huge!

So, today I pulled out my Oatmeal Bread recipe, an adapted Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Bread recipe and my basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe to see which ingredients needed to be adjusted.

My original Oatmeal Bread recipe made 3 (sometimes 4) loaves; I have an additional recipe that makes 6+ loaves of bread if I use our huge industrial mixer that Bert uses for his yearly cookie marathon.

I reduced the ingredients from the original Oatmeal Bread recipe to about 2/3 so my kids can make it with their smaller mixers. I took notes as I measured out the flour. I also had a handwritten recipe to make Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread using similar procedures, so I tried to show the additional ingredients if whole wheat flour is used.

Then I wanted to compare the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread to the basic Whole Wheat Bread to see if using the oatmeal made a better loaf.

Here is the basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe. It also needed to be reduced, so you can see my notes. Instead of starting with the rolled oats, this basic recipe started by making a sponge with some flour and the yeast mixture.

The key ingredient when making all whole wheat bread is the addition of Vital Wheat Gluten flour. All-purpose flour has more gluten available because of processing. Whole wheat flour is not as processed so adding this extra powdered gluten makes it possible for the slice of bread to stick together and not crumble like a slice of cornbread.

Here is the package of Vital Wheat Gluten flour:

I ended up making two batches of bread…first the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread and then the basic Whole Wheat Bread.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread:

Basic Whole Wheat Bread:

The Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread slice is on the left. The basic Whole Wheat Bread slice is on the right.

They tasted pretty much the same…EXCEPT…the Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread on the left had a much lighter, more spongy texture. I think as long as I had rolled oats available, I would choose to make that one.

The next step is to formalize the recipes and instructions so they are ready for the Christmas notebooks! Next, I’ll move on to some of the cookie recipes…including Bert’s Chocolate Chip cookie recipe. The quantities of the ingredients when Bert uses our industrial mixer are huge…I don’t think anyone has tried to make a smaller batch. I’ll see what I can do!

Every Diet Has a Power Bowl

While I was sorting books for the yard sale last week, I took the time to look through my cookbooks. I realized I had cookbooks with recipes focused on plants, whole-grains, beans and meat. I’ve found good recipes buried in diet cookbooks for vegans, vegetarians and followers of a Keto diet. When I looked across the covers, I tried to figure out why these particular books appealed to me…no matter what foods I’m focused on.

The most recent book I picked up, Keto Power Bowls by Faith Gorsky, finally struck a chord! It seems most of the books on my shelf showcase a recipe in a bowl!

I’m sure the plain white bowls are necessary to display salad or soup in pictures, but I think I’m attracted to the concept of a meal in a bowl. So, whole grain recipes start with rice in the bowl with steamed vegetables on top, while the Keto Bowl starts with lettuce or cauliflower rice with cooked meat, onion and cheese on top.

What always sucks me in is the bowl concept! I love beautiful bowls! Curious, since my dishes are plain white. I’m always checking out handmade earthenware or ceramic bowls at antique stores or thrift shops. Frequently, they are not dishwasher safe. I’ve tried to restrain myself so I’m not stuck with dishes I have to wash by hand.

I finally went online and found some ceramic bowls for salad or pasta that could be fun. This set, from Amazon, made me smile:

These are a little bigger and deeper than the ones that come with my dishes:

Then I was looking at other choices…for soup…and ordered these (also dishwasher safe):

So, no matter what I feel like putting in the bowls, I can guarantee I will smile each time I use them!

Making French Apple Cake

Fall is definitely the time I see many recipes for apple desserts. I often get inspired to try, one more time, an apple pie, an apple crisp or even an apple cobbler. Unfortunately, I have yet to be successful with any of the standard recipes! I have no trouble cutting up the apples, but for some reason my finished products are runny and the toppings are flavor-less. Bert will eat any of my attempts, but it takes the fun out of it when I am unsuccessful…time after time!

Have I got a great apple recipe for you! I found this on called French Apple Cake. This “cake” was easy to put together and made a nice flavorful dessert. Of course, it called for dark rum, so what do you expect!

Most every recipe I download I usually retype and reformat the instructions to be more like the ones in my Joy of Cooking cookbook. When instructions are given in sentence form, I end up either missing an ingredient or combining things in the wrong order. Here is the way I revised the recipe:

The first time I made this cake, I used a round cake pan. It worked, but once the cake was turned out on to a plate it was hard to cover it to put it in the refrigerator. this time I used a Corning-ware casserole dish that had a snap on plastic lid. Worked much better!

If you follow the recipe above, here are some pictures of the process:

Cut up 3 large apples into very small pieces. Keep covered with water until ready to add to the cake.

Melt a stick of butter and mix into the sugars.

When butter and sugars are mixed, add the 2 eggs and flour mixture. Beat until smooth.

Add 3 Tbsp of rum (optional) and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and mix until smooth.

Drain and fold in the apples until evenly mixed and transfer the batter to a buttered pan or casserole. Dust the top with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in the pan about 30 minutes.

If you used the cake pan, flip it out onto a pan, remove the parchment paper and flip again.

Top with cinnamon and sugar (or powdered sugar).

Check it out! Apples were perfect, cake made it not runny! Success! Next time I’ll leave out the rum, but Bert liked it!

My favorite way to use apples!

Dehydrating Beans Saves Space

A few days ago, I went to the local Amish farmer’s market to get some sweet corn. I noticed they still had quite a pile of green and yellow beans available. I usually don’t bother to can or freeze plain beans…I prefer them fresh or dehydrated. Dehydrated beans are great in the winter when I’m making vegetable soup. I can add just a handful of dried green beans…they rehydrate in the broth as the soup is cooking.

I thought I’d like to show you how much space (and weight) I save by dehydrating this batch of beans. I filled two sacks of green and yellow beans and brought them home. I snapped them and put them in the fridge while I got the dehydrator ready. The next day, I put each bag on the scales to see the weight I was starting with. The green beans weighed about 3 lbs. 4 oz. The yellow beans weighed about 2 1lb 12 oz…a total of about 6 lbs.

Next, I washed them, blanched them for 4 minutes in boiling water, cooled them in ice water, put them in a bag in the fridge while I did the next batch.

The manual says I should put them in the freezer for 30 minutes, but the fridge worked for me. They dehydrate quicker when they start out cold apparently.

The beans filled all 9 trays of my dehydrator.

The dehydrator sits outside the kitchen door in the garage. It makes noise, has to run for 10-12 hours and is too big to put in the kitchen.

To determine how long to dehydrate the beans, I checked the manual for my dehydrator.

This map shows the general percent of humidity in each region, by season. Pennsylvania is in the green zone in July. The day I dehydrated the beans was damp and rainy so I assumed the time of 11 hours might be more like 12 hours.

The manual describes how to test when the food is dry enough. Vegetables should be brittle.

During the 11 hours, I rotated the trays front to back and from upper levels to the middle several times. The fan is located in the back, so the back of the trays get dry faster than the front edge. After 11 hours, the beans look like this:

Once I determined they were dry enough…because they were brittle when I bent them…I put them in a zip bag and weighed them again. The 6 lbs. of beans now weighed about 9 1/2 oz…a little more than 1/2 lb.

I store dehydrated vegetables in my canning jars, with little packets of oxygen absorbers. They keep the jar sealed on the shelf.

The oxygen absorbers can be purchased at Amazon in several sizes…these are 300cc. I put several in each jar with the beans.

So that 6 lbs. of green and yellow beans are ready for my winter soup. I’ll put about 1/2 cup of dehydrated beans in a pot of soup to start and will add more if needed…depends on the amount of soup I’m making! They need about 30 minutes to reconstitute. Enjoy!

Rediscovering Popcorn as a Snack

I have many fond memories of my dad with popcorn as a snack. I watched many baseball games on TV with a big bowl of buttered popcorn between us as he explained the strategies of the players. Popcorn has always been my snack of choice, even over chips and pretzels.

When we were first married (way back in the late 60s and early 70s), Bert and I had a huge garden with a section set aside to grow popcorn. The process is much like sweet corn but we needed to keep the sweet corn at the other end of the garden…they will cross pollinate and ruin both. Popcorn is taller than sweet corn and often had pink silk. Really pretty!

I will tell you…growing our own popcorn, drying it and popping it as soon as it was dry enough was a lot of work but the taste was amazing! A whole different taste from popcorn that had been sitting in a jar on the shelf for over a year!

For several years we did the work of picking the ears, husking them, laying the ears out on an old sheet in front of the wood burning stove until they dried enough to shell. We learned the hard way to wear gloves because the corn kernels had a sharp point and after a few ears our hands were shredded (at least mine were!).

We often had 5-6 gallons of shelled corn by Halloween and made sure to gift my dad a gallon of corn for Christmas! Most people thought we were nuts!

If you are interested in growing popcorn, there are many articles online about it. Here is one I thought was interesting:

For the last 30+ years we haven’t grown popcorn but I’ve tried to find the best popcorn, and the best popcorn popper rather than growing our own. I’ve tried specialty and multicolor popcorn. The two main kinds of popcorn…white and yellow…seem to be the main choice. The white kernels are smaller and don’t leave a sharp piece of the hull. The big yellow kernels pop up much bigger and have more flavor, but often I’m left needing a toothpick or dental floss to get those sharp hulls that get stuck between my teeth.

Finding popcorn that is fresh with the right moisture content to pop well is tough. You have no way to know how long ago the popcorn was harvested and how it was stored. Sometimes, popcorn does better if it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Here are two brands that work pretty well for me. I always assume some of it will not pop and be left in the bottom of the bowl. I do miss the flavor of the popcorn we grew…but these will do:

The next challenge was finding the right popcorn popper. My dad used a popper similar to the one below and loved it so much he took it with him as he moved into assisted living.

This had a Teflon heat surface with a rotating arm that stirred the popcorn. I had a popper like this too for a while, but it was just too big and bulky and hard to store.

I seem to have quite a collection of popcorn poppers (I sold the air popper at a yard sale a long time age). At the moment I have 4 choices of poppers:

Popper #1

For many years, we used this popper. The handle crank and gears let us stir it as it popped, and frankly made the best popcorn. We still use it if we have company and have to make a lot of popcorn. I’m pretty sure I got this at Lehman’s of Ohio (from the catalog online). It’s solid and works fast.

Popper #2

For a while I was determined to find a popper that worked well in the microwave. I picked up this clay pot, made in Chile but sold by a company in the Midwest that sold popcorn. It does well but it gets hot and is kind of slippery. I’m always worried I’ll drop and break it. I’ve had it sitting on a shelf since that first try.

Popper #3

This clear glass popper is turning out to be my favorite because it has a handle I can grab with a hot pad and I can see how full it is as it pops.

Popper #4

Recently, I was enticed to pick up a small popper at the health food store that would make just one small serving:

Two minutes in the microwave…

This made a single serving of popcorn. I wish I could have seen through the container to see how full the cup was as it was popping but it did leave some of the corn unpopped.

So, my quest to find the best popper continues. I have tried the air popper but it put out so much air it blew the unpopped kernels right out before they had time to pop. It seems I often choose the white corn without sharp hulls and a popper that gets hot like #1 above.

I suggested to Bert that we try popcorn next year in the garden…and all I got was smirk and a reminder of how much work it was to shell. Guess I’ll just buy popcorn by the jar! Enjoy!