Category Archives: Breakfasts

Quarantine Cooking in the Year 2020: Grandpa Darrel’s Sheepherder Potatoes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Upstate New York  I  Sunday, 1 November 2020

Idaho russet potatoes, or yellow potatoes
Onions
Butter
Salt (Redmond RealSalt is preferred)
Pepper

I’ll leave the quantities up to you, since I don’t know how many you’ll be feeding, and I never ate his cooking. I DO know he loved onions, and so did my mother, so I used one medium onion: to one large potato: to two tablespoons butter.

Do NOT use margarine in this recipe, or Grandpa Darrel will come back from the grave to lecture and haunt you, just like all the other farmers I know. He died in 1970.

Bake the potato, stabbed with a fork on two sides and wrapped in foil, in a 350 degree oven for around an hour, or however long your oven takes make a potato that’s easily pierced with a fork.

Carefully remove the potato from the oven and unwrap, being careful not to give yourself a steam burn. You can let the potato rest, as it’s much easier to slice when it’s cooled.

Slice the potato in half, so you can always have a flat side down on the cutting board.

Choose your sharpest knife. If you can’t slice easily through the peel, pierce the potato with your knife point first, and then place the blade of the knife in the slit and then slice as thinly as you can, without the potato crumbling.

Once your potato is sliced, chop up an onion. The pieces don’t have to be very small, as they will cook down.

Choose a metal spatula, NOT plastic or wood, one with a flat end. You’ll be using the spatula not only to stir, but to turn the potatoes, and to chop any large bits of potato and onion into smaller pieces.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. I don’t know what type of pan he would have used, but I’m guessing cast iron, based on the time period he would have been making this recipe, and the type of stove or campfire he was might have been cooking on. I use vintage Revere Ware.

When the butter is mostly melted, add the onions all at once into the pan, and stir them around in the butter until they start to soften and take on a clear appearance. (This is called sweating an onion.) Push the onions to the sides of the pan, leaving the center open for potatoes.

Next, add your potatoes, making sure to only add as many as you can place in the pan so most of one side of each potato is touching the pan and will get nicely browned.

Once the potatoes are crisply browned around the edges, you can stir the onion and potato together. Continually stir them, until the potato pieces are brown and white and the onions a dark brown.

Remove from pan to a warm ceramic or stoneware plate. I suppose if you had a small cast iron skillet, you could place it on the table on a dishtowel, and eat directly from it.

I don’t know what Grandpa and his kids put on top of Sheepherders, other than the infamous salt and pepper. I love to streak ketchup across mine, and eat them with a slightly runny over-easy egg.

I think a glass of orange juice tastes best to wash them down with, but I also like to have a mug of milk on the table, too.

Grandpa Darrel, the farmer, would want it that way. Enjoy!

 

Fried Apples-n-Onions-n-Potatoes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 19 July 2018

If you’ve ever read Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you already know about fried apples and onions.

Farmer Boy is the story of Almanzo Wilder, the boy who grew up to become Laura’s husband. It takes place in 1866, in Malone, New York, which is on the eastern side of the state, very close to Canada. (Cold, brrr!)

Almanzo’s family was quite comfortable, especially when compared to Laura’s family, but they also worked very hard to make a success of their farm. Mrs. Wilder was a provident housewife, and Mr. Wilder was a smart and prosperous farmer. The children did their part, as well, and there was much work to be done.

The Wilders ate very well, and there was never a shortage of food at their house. As Laura writes the story, she takes great care to describe the food Almanzo and his family ate, and there was always a bountiful feast.

Compared with Laura’s family, Almanzo’s family was quite wealthy, and she describes their meals in dreamlike, wistful detail.

One of Almanzo’s favorite dishes, when he was a boy, was Fried Apples and Onions. In the book, Laura describes one time when he’s working very hard in the barns and fantasizing ahead to breakfast, just hoping his mother will make his favorite dish.

Then, when he finishes his chores and goes inside the farmhouse for breakfast, voila! His mother has made Fried Apples and Onions!

I’ve made this dish quite a few times before, starting with when I discovered The Little House Cookbook, by Barbara Walker, at my local library.

But then, many years ago, I started thinking about Grandpa Darrel’s Sheepherder Potatoes, which is a combination of fried potatoes and onions. I wondered what would happen if I combined the two recipes? Well, it turned out great!

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Pretty Place Settings for One

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 5 April 2018

Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, and we break down, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes we’re busy just surviving from one day to the next, or busy taking care of our sick children, struggling spouses, aging parents, or friends who are having problems, and we forget to pay attention to ourselves.

I remember one time, quite a few years ago now, when I was up late at night with problems. (I don’t remember specifically what they were anymore.) I knew the morning was gonna be dreadfully rough and disappointing, so I decided to just stop for a minute and take care of myself.

I picked out some of my favorite and prettiest dishes, and set the table for one, planning out my breakfast. I don’t remember exactly what I ate, but I know a broiled grapefruit was involved. Fancy!

The day seemed so much more hopeful when I woke up, staggered out to the dining room, sleep deprived, and saw that pretty place setting, just waiting for me to fill it up. And gobble it down!

So here’s what I suggest, and hope you’ll give it a try.

Take some time the night before your own birthday, and set the table to a T. If you get up before everyone else, make it just for one. If you normally eat breakfast together as a family, then set it nicely for everyone.

It’s amazing how much more happily and smoothly your morning will go when you do this.

There are those other types of mornings, too. The mornings during a really rough week with moody teenagers, or a scary doctor’s appointment, a planned surgery for your spouse, after a painful breakup, or when you’re feeling desolate and disappointed about the hand life has played you.

These are the times when it’s most critical to take care of your own spirit and needs. Plan a breakfast of your favorite foods, and set the table like you would for company.

You’re worth it.

 

 

Lucky Gypsy’s Tea

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Saturday, 17 March 2018

I just rearranged my combined living room/dining room (LRDR) last week, to accommodate all my thrift store chairs. I now have eight coordinating chairs, and this pretty much makes me deliriously happy!

I’m not ready to take pix of the entire room yet, as I still have some cluttery piles to get rid of (No way! You?!), but I wanted to show a little sneak peek of my fab chair material.

The other day, the sun was beaming in my windows. “So what?” you ask. Well, turns out that’s kind of a big deal, because this has been the worst March on record. At least, my record of being here for two months of March, as an adult.

We’ve had three Nor’Easters in March, and the month is only half over!

So, I decided to rearrange a little bit, just to cheer myself up. Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve had my loveseat under the south-facing window, a really pleasant spot. I decided to move it onto the west wall, though.

I mentioned I had some new old chairs, right? Did I tell you I have eight dining room chairs now, and they make me deliriously happy? Ya, maybe I did.

I was determined I had to fit all eight of them into my LRDR, because the seat fabrics mix and match so well.

Two of them are covered in orange and yellow brocade, and they’re the ones I’ve had for about a year now. I’ve mentioned them in my blog before.

A few months ago, I was cruising Warren Street, where all the antique ships are. Now, just to preface, I gotta tell ya, you have to be careful on Warren Street, because some shops are super expensive.

I dashed into one store about a month ago, because I’d been driving down Warren in the dark, and saw a great big, beautiful poster of Freddie Mercury in the front of the shop, hanging on a wall, peering out onto Warren, beckoning me to enter.

When I inquired how much for the poster, the shop guy casually said, “14 THOUSAND something something.” Okaaay…

Yeah, so, let’s get back into my budgetland, the reasonable one. There’s this other place on Warren, called Second Show, and it’s very affordable. It’s merchandised much better than a Goodwill or Deseret Industries, and prices are pretty low. The proceeds benefit Columbia Memorial Hospital, and you can pick up a crystal goblet for 50 cents or $1.

Or, you can get four dark-wood Broyhill chairs, two with arms and two without, all with immaculate olive damask seats, four chairs for $30.

And then, as if that’s not enough, you can turn around and see two more chairs to love, in honey-colored wood, with seats covered in fabric of yellow, orange, olive, and gold stripes. Two chairs for $12.

You should have seen me, cackling and cramming them into my sedan. Let’s just say, it took several trips to get them home.

So, getting back to rearranging that day. I decided to put two chairs with olive brocade seats (the ones with arms) under the LRDR windows, separated by a small table with butterflies.

I don’t think you need to have big end tables. If you’re like me, they gather too much…stuff.

So this end table, it’s just big enough to hold a lamp, and a shamrock plant I brought up from downstairs. It’s the very first plant I’ve had in any of my places, since I killed all my plants in a UHaul about 19 years ago. That’s another story for another blog.

And the lamp? It’s a fab Hollywood Regency one I got at Antigo on Warren Street, for only $25. The shade isn’t quite right, but for now, it’ll do. I also got another Regency lamp that day, but it has no shade at all, so for now, it’s languishing, unused.

And lemme tell you, in the afternoon, when the sun comes through those south-facing windows, the crystals on the lamp base send happy little rainbows all over my LRDR floor.

Somehow, when I type “happy little rainbows”, I’m reminded of Bob Ross, the painter on TV, with his soothing voice and impossible afro, saying “happy little trees”…

So then, I put the two chairs with striped-seats on the north wall, separated by a waist-high entertainment center. I’m not really sure what to use this for, since I don’t have a TV and don’t really care.

For now, it holds my CDs and a small collection of DVDS, but I’m thinking I’ve gotta get some books in there, too. My books are like dirty socks, collecting in piles around the place, multiplying overnight.

Ewww, did she really just compare piles of books to piles of dirty socks? This chick is weird. Hahaha!

Around my dining room table, I have the other two Broyhill chairs with the olive damask seats (the ones without the arms), and the two chairs with orange and yellow brocade seats.

I tried it with all four olive damask chairs around the table, thinking they all should match, but it just didn’t work in the space available.

The chairs with the arms don’t work right in such a tight space. Anyone sitting at the table would have a very hard time maneuvering into and out of a chair with arms, since there’s not a lot of room to push a chair back.

I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, that I was able to fit all eight chairs into the room, along with my loveseat, a rather large china cabinet, and the entertainment center. Oh! And my trunk! I use it as a coffee table, in front of the loveseat, and it’s olive-colored.

There was just no way I was gonna put any of those eight chairs into another room, considering I was so pleased with how all the seat materials coordinated.

I made ’em fit. It was almost as exciting as playing 100 straight games of Tetris in the mid 90s. Hahaha!

Then the other day, the sun was shining in, a perfect day to take pictures. Finally!

I’d made a batch of Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins which turned out really well. And, even though I make this recipe quite often, because I love them and so does my skinny little Thing 2, they don’t always turn out right.

Usually, these muffins just melt in your mouth, but the batch I made last time turned out a bit tough. Don’t know if it’s because I overstirred the batter, or because I overbaked them, maybe it was both. Distracted baking never ends well…

I’ve also found a new herb tea to love, Gypsy Cold Care. I sampled it at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, and really like its slightly licorice flavor. Me buying an entire box of it has nooooothing to do with it having the word “gypsy” in the name, hahaha. Just kidding, it totally does.

I decided to make up a little tray and just sit under the window, having tea for one, just me. Enjoying the sun beaming in on my shoulders, the rainbows on my floor, a warm muffin with lingonberry jam, and a cup of hot tea.

And also, the satisfaction of gazing around my LRDR with eight matching chairs, fully knowing I moved here 1 1/2 years ago, with only nine suitcases of stuff…

I feel like such a lucky gypsy.

 

 

REPOST: Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I
Monday, 4 December 2017

(Author’s note: this was originally published on 31 May 2015, when I was still living in West Valley City, Utah. Enjoy!)

DSCF8549BEAT THE BELL/8549

 

I am going to blubber at the end of this week, blubber like a baby. Because, you see, everything is about to change. My kids’ last day of school is Friday, and after then, I will no longer have a child attending elementary school, as I have for the past thirteen years. My older son is set to become a senior in high school, and my younger son is heading off to junior high.

I will miss heading down that walking path with my sixth grader, holding his hand. He still lets me! I will miss the way the sky looks so gorgeous in the morning, with the sun breaking though its curtain of clouds, over the misty mountains to the east. And, oh, how I will miss that one tree. You know the one, at the end of the walking path, it’s always so shadowy and mysterious and beautifully silhouetted against the mountains and the sky…

I will also miss Carla, the cheerful crossing guard, an older lady with a fluff of short white hair. You know, she’s married to the crossing guard at the other school crosswalk we used before we moved. He’s short and cheerful, too.

One day I lingered at the school, and as I walked back and approached the crosswalk, I saw him picking her up in their little black truck. And I exclaimed, “Oh, you’re married to her?” And he said, “For about 53 years now!” How wonderful, the cheerful crossing guards who’ve helped my kids get across the street safely for years now, the crossing guards are married to each other!

I like to chit chat with her a bit, and last Thanksgiving she told me about the steamed carrot pudding she makes every year, the one passed down from her grandmother and mother. I haven’t tested it yet, but I will, and when I do I’ll share it.

Anyways, I’ll miss her and her husband.

DSCF7701CHEERFUL CARLA /7701

So, for now, how about I share my recipe for Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins? My kids love these and will gobble up a whole batch in minutes. I think it’s so nice for them to wake up to the smell of baking muffins in the morning before school!

DSCF7783THEY TURN OUT PERFECTLY/7783

There’s just something special about a home where you can smell bread baking, something so wonderful and inviting and cheerful and cozy and hopeful. And, conversely, something so very bleak and disappointing about a home where you can’t ever smell any food cooking or baking. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the friend my older son used to hang out with all the time. The one who’s mom didn’t ever cook…)

DSCF7791 BREAKFAST WITH BEST FRIENDS/7786

These are super easy and delicious. And you can’t even tell there’s oatmeal in them, so the kids don’t squawk too much. Because there’s nothing I hate worse than kids squawking about “weird” ingredients in food! You’ll eat it and you’ll like it, dang it!

FROST’S OATMEAL MUFFINS
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour buttermilk over oatmeal in a medium bowl and let stand a few minutes. (I never have buttermilk, so I just put a blurp of vinegar in the milk to sour it.) Add the egg and brown sugar and mix well together. Mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a larger bowl. Then add the buttermilk mixture, and lastly, the melted butter. Pour into greased muffin pans (I prefer silicone pans because the muffins pop right out without getting stuck) and bake 18 minutes. Serve with butter and jelly or jam.

I hope you enjoy these muffins. They’re inexpensive and easy to make! On the inside, they’re really light and airy, and on the outside, they have a nice crunch if you get them slightly golden brown. You’ll feel great about feeding these to your kids before school, or eating a couple of them yourself before work. They taste great with a dab of butter and a small spoonful of jam on top, too…

[RECIPE SOURCE]
Recipe adapted from Early American Recipes: Traditional Recipes from New England Kitchens,
by Heloise Frost. Illustrated by Barbara Corrigan. (copyright 1953, Jack Frost Studios, Phillips Publishers, Inc.)

 

Breakfast Before School

DSCF8549BEAT THE BELL/8549

I am going to blubber at the end of this week, blubber like a baby. Because, you see, everything is about to change. My kids’ last day of school is Friday, and after then, I will no longer have a child attending elementary school, as I have for the past thirteen years. My older son is set to become a senior in high school, and my younger son is heading off to junior high.

I will miss heading down that walking path with my sixth grader, holding his hand. He still lets me! I will miss the way the sky looks so gorgeous in the morning, with the sun breaking though its curtain of clouds, over the misty mountains to the east. And, oh, how I will miss that one tree. You know the one, at the end of the walking path, it’s always so shadowy and mysterious and beautifully silhouetted against the mountains and the sky…

DSCF8553THE PATH’S PERFECT TREE/8553

I will also miss Carla, the cheerful crossing guard, an older lady with a fluff of short white hair. You know, she’s married to the crossing guard at the other school crosswalk we used before we moved. He’s short and cheerful, too.

One day I lingered at the school, and as I walked back and approached the crosswalk, I saw him picking her up in their little black truck. And I exclaimed, “Oh, you’re married to her?” And he said, “For about 53 years now!” How wonderful, the cheerful crossing guards who’ve helped my kids get across the street safely for years now, the crossing guards are married to each other!

I like to chit chat with her a bit, and last Thanksgiving she told me about the steamed carrot pudding she makes every year, the one passed down from her grandmother and mother. I haven’t tested it yet, but I will, and when I do I’ll share it.

Anyways, I’ll miss her and her husband.

DSCF7701CHEERFUL CARLA /7701

So, for now, how about I share my recipe for Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins? My kids love these and will gobble up a whole batch in minutes. I think it’s so nice for them to wake up to the smell of baking muffins in the morning before school!

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