Friday, December 30, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - The First Baby of 2012!

Here's the way to start off the new year!  This is an old German recipe, handed down in my family for generations.  It is a "German Apple Pancake", but better known by the name of, "Dutch Baby".  As the German immigrants settled in the area's of Pennsylvania and Ohio, (as was the case for most of my ancestors) the folks misunderstood them because of their accent and unlearned English.  As a result of this, they thought the people were saying that they were "Dutch".  What they were really saying was, that they were, "Deutsch", which is their language for "German".  Even today, most people think of "The Pennsylvania Dutch".  Anyway, this is my recipe for that pancake:
Farmer Boy "Dutch Baby"
Ingredients: (Part One)
  • 1 Cup sourdough starter (if you need to make this, seek my recipe, here on this blog site)
  • 1 1/2 Cups milk
  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 Cup sour cream, mixed with 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
(Part Two):
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 Cup pecan halves (optional)
  • 2 large tart apples (Granny Smith work good)
Directions: Place starter in a large bowl.  Combine with 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of flour.  Cover and place in the refrigerator over night.  Next day - remove to raise to room temperature.
Add the rest of the "part one" ingredients to the starter mix and mix well.  Cover and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
On to "part two": Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Pare and core the apples, then slice (as you would for pie).
Place the butter in a 10 inch iron skillet, over medium heat.  As it melts, brush it up the sides of the skillet.
Sprinkle the sugar over the butter.  As it begins to bubble, sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg over it.  As it begins to turn color (light brown), pecans may be added, followed by the apple slices (in a double layer), sprinkle a little more sugar over the apples.  Then add the batter.  Cook till bubbles begin to appear.  Then, carefully, place the skillet into the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven.  Now, here's the real tricky part: place a large plate or platter over the skillet, and holding on with both hands (wear oven mitts!), flip it over to turn the pancake out onto the plate.  Drizzle a little lemon juice on top and dust with powdered sugar.  Cut into wedges, (like a pie).  Serve warm.
This serves one hearty appetite - or as many wedge pieces as you can get away with!

If it all worked for you, you'll have a very special dish!  The last time I had one of these at the "Original Pancake House", it cost over $8.00!  And people would stand in lines outside for hours, waiting their turn to get in to order these!  Times being what they are, making this may take a bit of effort, but it is well worth it!  And what a great way to start off a new year!  (My apologies to the Pancake House - don't mean to put you out of business! :)

I hope you'll welcome this new "Baby" into your family on New Year's Day! (Or any other morning!)  If it doesn't come out good the first time, try again - remember to have fun & not take things too seriously this year!  Let's all work together to make each day this year better than the one before!

If you attempt this recipe, let us all know how it goes for you, by leaving a comment here.  And be sure to sign up as a follower of my blog - that's another great way to start off the new year!  Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"I never have been in favor of making good resolutions on New Year's Day just because it was the first day of the year.  Any day may begin a new year for us in that way." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Hoppin' into the New Year!

Here is a recipe that I embrace as a New Year's Day tradition.  But I don't embrace all the superstition that is associated with it!  It is called, "Hoppin' John".  I have no idea how long this recipe has been in my family. I got it from my mother, and she acted as if it was something that the family made for generations.

The recipe has its origins in America's south; mainly the low country of South Carolina.  It is truly an American dish. But some trace the roots back to Africa, France and the Caribbean.  It was probably slaves, working in the rice fields, who made it up as they lived in this country.

My main objection to the traditions associated with this dish are the superstitions.  Superstitions are beliefs or practices resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, or trust in magic or chance.  People who hold these beliefs don't trust God.  I don't believe in superstitions - I place my trust completely in my Lord.  And I don't believe in "Luck" - called, good or bad!  Believing in luck means you don't trust the Lord completely to lead you in a way that He decides is best for you.  Go read Proverbs 3: 5,6 & Proverbs 16:9 & Psalm 37: 23,24 if you wonder what I'm talking about!  And don't worry about anything - that is the opposite of trusting in the Lord! Worry never added anything to a person's life - it only takes away!
Here are some of the superstitions associated with Hoppin' John:
  • It is believed that eating this on the first day of the year will bring you good luck.
  • The beans (peas) in the dish represent coins, and eating it will bring you more money in the new year.
  • Some people hide a coin inside the dish or under a plate at the table, and whoever finds it first, will have good fortune that year.
  • It must be served with Greens, which are the color of money, in order to prosper you in the new year.
  • It is made with pork, because a pig can't turn its head around to look back - so with pork in the dish, you will be looking forward to a more prosperous future.
  • If you save a portion of this dish and store it to serve it in the next New Year's Day meal, you'll bring that good luck into the next year.
As wild as these are; the origins or legends behind the name of the dish are just as wild!  Nobody knows for sure how it got its name, but here are some of the suggestions:
  • It was named after a crippled black man who sold it on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina.
  • It got its name from the tradition of the children in the family hopping around the table before sitting to eat it.
  • It got its name after the open invitation to supper, saying, "Hop in, John!"
Now, if, like myself, you can look beyond all this, you'll find a very tasty meal - and nothing more! Hey, that's enough for me!
Farmer Boy "Hoppin' John"
  • 1 - 2 Cups of Black-eyed Peas
  • 4 Cups of water (more as needed)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 lb. of fat back (or bacon, or pig's knuckles)
  • 1 - 2 Cups of long-grain rice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Soak the peas in a large pan with water covering them by about an inch.  Heat to boiling, cover and simmer about 30 minutes.  Keep them covered and set aside overnight.  Next day: drain the pot of the water and rinse the peas.  Put the peas back in and fill the pot with water again. Bring to a boil again and then simmer for around 1 1/2 hours. (Watch that they don't lose all the water and burn!)
In a large pot, saute the onions and fat back, till the onions are clear.  Add the rice with 2 cups of water per cup of rice.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes per cup of rice. (again, be sure this doesn't burn!)  Add the peas to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes (do I need to say it again? Don't let it burn! - stir it occasionally and add water if it is needed.) Keep a lid on it and let it rest, off the heat, for 5-10 minutes.

Serve this over cornbread with greens, if you wish.
I hope you'll make this meal, I think you'll really like it!  And it tastes great as a left-over (if you have left-overs!).  Or you may wish to freeze some of it, according to tradition, and add it to the next New Year's meal!
I suggest that you pray to ask the Lord's blessing on all your meals - if this is the first meal of the year, that's a good time to begin that habit, if you don't normally do that!  A blessing from the Lord is far better than belief in superstitions which won't help you at all!  Looking ahead at the new year - don't worry, be happy! :)

"We steal from today to give to tomorrow." Laura Ingalls Wilder

If you make this meal, please let us all know, by leaving a comment here.  Thanks.  And be sure to sign up as a follower of my blog & tell others to do the same.  Thanks.  Happy New Year! The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Monday, December 26, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - "A Mess"!

Here's something just about anybody can make - "A Mess"!  That's a mess of Greens! A mess of greens is a bunch or bunches, or I just don't know where that stops!  "A mess" is a very old term, going back in this country, usually attributed to people in the south.  And it can mean, enough for a couple or a troop!  And who decides that?  I don't know.  Anyway, here's the recipe:
Farmer Boy "A Mess of Greens"
  • A mess of greens (for this recipe it's a few bunches - maybe 4 - 6 cups, pressed down) I prefer a mix of Collard Greens and a few Mustard Greens.
  • 2 Cups of chicken stock or broth
  • Salt & Pepper to taste & a dash of hot sauce (don't add too much salt! - it can over-power!)
  • 2 Tablespoons of bacon drippings
Directions: Wash the greens and place in a large enough pot.  Cover with the stock and bring to a boil.  Put a lid on it.  Simmer for about an hour.  (Don't let it absorb all the water & burn!)  Pull the greens out and drizzle hot bacon drippings over them & season. 
You should serve them warm.  You can serve them over cornbread, or rice or noodles, or just about anything your little heart desires!  I prefer the cornbread - and more specifically, this next bonus recipe:
Farmer Boy Sourdough Cornbread
  • 1 Cup of sourdough starter (see recipe on my blog)
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Yellow Corn Meal
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
  • 1/4 Cup of butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 Cup of milk
Directions: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  *NOTE: take the starter out ahead of time to bring it up to room temperature and become active.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, baking soda and corn meal.  Add the eggs, starter, milk and melted butter.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour into a lightly oiled #7 iron skillet (10 inches).  Place in oven and bake 25 -30 minutes.  (Check with a probe, so it doesn't get over-baked and too dry.)

This is how granny made a hundred years ago!  Can't improve on it!
Of course, you could add some hot peppers or some other ingredients of your choosing.  Be creative!  Have fun, cooking should not be a heavy task! 
If you make both of these recipes, when someone asks what you were doing, you can them that you were, "just makin' a mess!"  ;)

"A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other thing."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

I hope you'll try these recipes and then leave a comment here.  Thanks.      The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas

Laura wrote about Christmas in all her books, even to the extent that she sometimes devoted one or more chapters in a book to the subject.  Some have suggested that she did so because she had such great childhood experiences at Christmastime.  Let's see, were they thinking about the time that Pa was stranded out in the cold and ate all the kid's candy?  Or were they thinking about the time when they barely had enough to eat, or when they gave up some of their own Christmas gifts to make someone else's Christmas happy?  Maybe it was when they had to wait to celebrate Christmas in May, because the supplies couldn't get through by train, due to the snow! 

I think if I had to remember Christmas with times like that, I'd sure not be thinking of my childhood a being "great", let alone being something I'd want to write about in a novel!

No, I believe Laura wrote about Christmas because she understood the true meaning of it and the spirit that is evoked by it.  And I believe she longed for those days of her childhood innocence and found them anew, in her faith in a loving father in heaven. I've never heard of her having read Dickens' Christmas stories, but if she had, she would have loved the sentiment he shared, "God bless us, everyone!"

I hope that you will celebrate Christmas, with a personal relationship with the one for which the day is so named.  No, I'm not talking about Santa!  By the way, I'm not really Santa - I just play him at Christmastime  :)  And look like him all year long!  :)

Here's a picture of the "Old Man in the Bib Overalls" standing by the tree, in front of the fireplace in Laura & Almanzo's house on Rocky Ridge Farm, December, 2011.
I'd be happy if you'd share some Christmas memories in comments here.  Thanks. 
Merry Christmas! The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." Laura Ingalss Wilder

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - Hanukkah Latkes

According to the story of tradition, (told to Jewish children) it was after the Second Temple was desecrated by the Syrian Greeks, the Judah Maccabee went to rekindle the menorah, they only found enough oil for one day of burning.  But tradition says that the oil burned for eight days!  Symbolizing a great triumph against great odds - was born the "Festival of Lights" - Hanuakkah! (Which means: "Dedication")

This festival lasts for eight days and many traditions are followed.  Traditions during this celebration include the eating of Potato Pancakes, called Latkes, (or in Hebrew: Levivot).  The pancakes are fried in olive oil, after the oil that lit the menorah.

I worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I am a believer in Yeshua, the messiah, who came first for His chosen people, the Jews.  Since my faith has its roots in Judaism, together we are mishpokah, (family).
Farmer Boy Latkes
  • 2 Cups of shredded baking potatoes
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Olive Oil, for frying
Directions: After shredding the potatoes, wrap them in a clean linen towel to drain out the liquid.  After a while, squeeze the towel to get out the excess.  In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and beaten egg yolks.  Whip the egg whites to a soft peak.  Combine the potatoes with the egg, flour mixture.  Fold in the egg whites. 
Happy Hanukkah!

The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Farmer Boy Christmas Recipe - Traditional Lebkuchen

Here is one of those cookie recipes that has been passed down in my family for generations.  Lebuchen is a German spice cookie.  It is produced commercially in the U.S.A. and recognized as the "Windmill" cookie.  But that shape is not the traditional one.  Most people think this cookie is Dutch because of that break from tradition.  And, if you make this recipe, you'll find it tastes much better than those produced commercially!

Farmer Boy Lebkuchen
  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (a little goes a long way!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup honey
  • 1/2 Cup molasses
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add a little at a time of all the wet ingredients, mix well.  Form into a couple small balls (it makes it easier), and roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into rectangles - about 1" X 2".  Bake on parchment paper lined cooke sheet for about 10 - 12 minutes.  Remove from oven, leaving them on the paper, and glaze each.  The glaze is made of 1 Cup of powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons of water, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice.  This recipe makes about 4 dozen.  (I also make these, using a cookie cutter - my family usually made them for the children with one shaped as Santa with his bag on his back.  If I don't make them in the traditional rectangle, I prefer to use a heart shaped cutter, but any shape is OK - even that windmill!)  Once they are glazed and cooled enough that they are not soft, you can move them to a wire rack to cool completely.  They store well in a sealed container.

When I eat these at Christmastime, I'm transported in my mind back to my childhood!  I was told then, that Santa liked these cookies - so I should leave some for him! - So you might want to consider doing that too :)

If you make these, let us all know, by leaving a comment here. Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Big Woods Christmas Fable

Once upon a time, many years ago; around the time that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in the Big Woods, an elderly man lived among the trees, near Laura's family.  He lived all alone in a little gray house made of logs.

The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around his little cabin, just like they did around Laura's house.  There, among the trees, wild animals made their homes.  Only a few houses were built in the Big Woods.  And the old man liked it that way.  He enjoyed seeing the wild birds that lived by his little log cabin.  He put out feeders to help the birds survive the hard winter weather that would come each year.

The old man went into town one day each week for his provisions.  Each time he went, he kept to himself.  He would speak to people only when it was necessary.  He was a kind man, but life had hardened him, and made him bittter.

"Who is that old man?" new-comers to town would ask.  "He's an old man who lives by himself in the Big Woods." would usually be the answer.  "Why does he live all by himself out in the Big Woods?" they'd ask.  And the reply from those who knew would be, "Many years ago he was a carpenter and did a lot of work helping people build their homes around here.  He was married and his wife was expecting a child.  They lived together in that little log cabin.  They were happy living there.  They would visit town and were friends with many people.  His wife was very active in the church.  But he wasn't raised to know anything about church or God.  He would attend church only at Christmas, when he wife asked him to come along.  One hard winter, just before Christmas day, as his wife was ready to deliver her baby, she took sick with a fever.  He came into town seeking help, but by the time the help arrived, his wife and the baby had died.  He took their loss very hard.  He stopped helping people with his carpentry and he became a hermit."

The old man knew that people talked about him, but he didn't care what they said.  And he didn't care if he ever talked to any of them again the rest of his life.  Worse than that, he blamed God for taking his wife and child from him.  And he vowed to never talk to God.

Now his life had become a routine of coming to town once a week, picking up foods and supplies, and returning home.  He would put out seeds for the wild birds in the elaborate bird houses and feeders he had made for them.  He felt that the birds were better friends than any person could be.  So he fed them and watched them through a large picture window in his little cabin.  And it seemed the birds knew that he was taking care of them.  They would come by the hundreds to feed at this feeders.  He would spend hours each day, watching from his wooden rocking chair.  When he got hungry, he stopped watching and made himself a meal.  Then he'd go back to watching till there was not enough light outside to watch anymore.

Each day was the same; he'd get up, do his chores outside and feed the birds.  Then he'd make his breakfast.  After breakfast he'd go out to feed his horse and cow in their barn.  After that, he'd cut logs for firewood.  He'd stack the firewood just outside the cabin door.  Then he'd be ready for another meal.  And after that, he'd retire to his rocking chair for the evening.  And again, after his bird-watching, he simply go to bed.

This wasn't what he had hoped for his life, but he was content to live in this manner.  But, he was still a lonely and bitter man.  If it weren't for the birds, he'd not have any life at all.

One winter day, a couple weeks into December, it began to snow. Wind blew and snow fell.  The storm had caught the old man by surprise.  He hadn't made his way into town that week to get his supplies.  "It can't last long", he thought.  "I'll go to town when it stops snowing."  But it didn't stop all day.  It didn't stop the next day or for days after that.  Soon over a week passed and he still wasn't able to get out for supplies.

Every day he went about his routine, cutting and stacking logs, feeding his horse and cow in their barn and feeding the birds.  And every day more and more birds would arrive, seeking shelter and food.  As he looked from his rocking chair, he'd tell them, through the widow, "I'm sorry, I don't have enough seeds to last you if this storm continues.  You'll just have to wait till I can get more."  After a while, they'd leave and then arrive the next morning to the small amount of seeds he'd leave in the feeders.

Things soon got wd dropping onto the snow.  "Stop!" he yelled at them.  "I don't have any food for you and I can't get out to help you!"  He fell back onto the floor, cold and hungry himself.  Soon he'd be no better off than the birds outside; for his firewood was gone, and he had eaten the last of his provisions.

He sat there, on the floor, just weeping at the sorry situation.  "If only my wife was here, maybe we'd find a way!  Why, oh why, was she taken from me?"  It wasn't long before the sound of the birds hitting the window had stopped, as most of them lie freezing in the snow.  "That's it, I can't take anymore!" he screamed.  "What kind of a God would allow this to happen?"   

He thought, "What can I do? Those poor little birds are just dying out there!"  And it was then that he thought, "They don't understand me.  They don't speak my language.  They see me yelling at them, but they don't know what I'm saying.  If only I could communicate with them in some way!  If I could become a bird and speak to them, then they'd understand."  At that very moment, he realized that he had found the real meaning of Christmas!  "This is what they were trying to tell me at the church - God saw all his children in trouble and dying in their sins. The only way he could get them to understand how he wanted to help them was to become one of them!  So he sent his son, Jesus, to become one of them!"  But the old man realized that he couldn't become a bird and that they would die without God's help.  And he also realized that he was about to die himself, without food and heat in his little cabin.

Coming to grips with these facts, made him do something that he had promised that he would never do.  He began to pray!  "Lord, help me!  I've been so wrong for all these years.  My wife and baby were gifts from you.  If you allowed them to be taken from me, it was because you were trying to get my attention.  I'm sorry I blamed you for taking them to only hurt me.  I'm sorry I blamed other people for my loss.  Please, God, make a way for me to get out of here.  I want to live again.  I want to make it up to you and to all the people who wanted to help me.  Please, Lord!"

Just then he heard sleigh bells outside.  At first he thought he was hearing things.  But then he heard the muffled sounds of voices outside his door and the sounds of shoveling of snow.  Soon a loud knock came on his door.  "Are you in there?" a deep, loud voice resounded.  "Yes, yes, I'm here! Please, come in!" he yelled back.

As the door swung open he saw a crowd of people from the town at his door.  "We missed seeing you in town and thought you might be in trouble and came to help", one man said, as he stepped inside.  The man was greeted with a hug from the weeping old man.  "After the way I've treated you all these years, I didn't know you cared!" he cried.  "Why of course we cared! And Merry Christmas!"  His days had been so filled with worry about his birds and his own troubles, that he hadn't realized that it was Christmas morning!

Soon his little cabin was warm.  There was food on his table and he had fellowship with new friends.  His little birds were revived and fed once again.  And from that point on, the old man was seldom alone, as he would look forward to his many visiting friends from town.

This is the lesson we can learn from this Christmas Fable: As the Bible tells us, in John chapter 3, verse 16 - Even though the people had turned away from God, he still loved the whole world so much, that he gave them his only begotten son, Jesus, and that by believing on him, they would have a new and restored life with God - for all eternity.  Jesus came into the world of the lost, as a baby, born in a manger.  He lived among men as a man.  He gave up his life to pay for all of man's sins.  And he now lives to draw all men to himself.  And when we believe in him, he comes as a spirit, to live in us; to guide us and help us.  And it all began at that very first Christmas morning, so long ago.

If you haven't accepted this wonderful gift that God has sent, it's not too late!  Just surrender your will to his and invite Jesus into your life.  Do it now - before the storms of life beat you down and take you away.  There is hope!  He is your hope!  As the wish is made at Christmastime, "Peace on Earth", I hope you'll understand that it's part of the gift from God, that comes into your heart and changes you that brings that peace.  And with it, you'll be able to withstand the storms of life that come your way.

Merry Christmas!   (Proverbs 3:5,6) The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Farmer Boy Christmas Recipe: Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies

This cookie recipe is derived from the basic shortbread cookie recipe.  This is the version I like best.  I've made these, with great aclaim from those who recieved them as part of my Christmas gift giving, or when I brought them to a Christmas party.  I'm sure you'll hear the same reports when you present them at Christmastime!
Farmer Boy Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 Cup of butter (softened)
  • 3/4 Cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of dried cranberries (chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 2 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream together the sugar and butter.  Combine with the dried cranberries, orange zest, vanilla, and almond extract.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix well. A little at a time, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into rectangles, about 1" X 2".  Place onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan.  Bake for approximately 12 - 14 minutes, checking the underside of the cookies to make sure they don't brown too much.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  You may choose to dust with powdered sugar.  This recipe makes about 5 dozen.  (That gives you 3 dozen to give as gifts, and 2 dozen for you to pig out on!) :)  1 serving = 4 cookies

You can also make a diabetic version of these, by substituting the powdered sugar with the no-sugar powdered substitute.  (You end up with about 2 g. sugar, 7.5 g. fat, 6.6 g. carbohydrates per serving & less fat, if you use a diabetic friendly butter spread.)  (But don't quote me, I'm no expert on these nutritional breakdowns!)

At Christmastime, I like to give my cookies and baked goods to those elderly, who aren't able to safely do their own baking anymore.  But if you get something from me, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are in that group!  :)  Oh, be sure to leave some for Santa.  And I'm not just saying that because people often mistake me for him!  ;)

"By the sacrifice we make in giving we show our love for humanity, our pity for the helpless, and our generosity toward those less fortunate than ourselves."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

I hope you'll make some of these cookies this year.  And be sure to let us all know, here, by leaving a comment.  Thanks.  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Caroline Ingalls!

We have come to know "Ma" through Laura's books.  But I got to thinking, what do we know of her historically or intimately?  Some of what I have to say here about her is mere speculation, but it helps to see her beyond what Laura wrote about her.

She was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin, on December 12, 1839 to parents, Henry & Charlotte Quiner.  She was to be the fifth child; with an older sister who had died before Caroline was born.  She had three brothers - Henry, Joseph and Thomas, and two older sisters - Martha and Eliza.  Caroline was barely five years old when her father died in an accident on Lake Michigan.  Her mother remarried about 5 years later to, Frederick Holbrook, a farmer.  Her new step father and her mother gave her a younger sister, Charlotte.  And at the age of sixteen, Caroline became a school teacher.  But, as she met Charles Ingalls, her career was cut short after only a couple of terms.  They wed, February 1, 1860.   Then began a new career - wife and mother.  In January of 1865, Mary Amelia was born; the first of Caroline's five children.  Two years and one month later, Laura came into the world. (And it has never been the same since!)  Caroline gave birth to her next daughter, Caroline (Carrie) in 1870.  Then came Charles Fredrick (called Freddie), in 1875.  He died within about 9 months.  (Caroline never really got over losing him.)  Finally, Grace was born in 1877.

During that period of time, the family have moved residence six different times!  Let's just say, pioneer life was hard.  They faced all kinds of challenges, as written about by Laura in her books.  But, through it all, Caroline kept her family as best she could.

Laura once described her father as "always jolly and sometimes reckless."  She didn't mean that he put his family in peril, but that he was somewhat unpredictable and carefree.  She said that he had a disease called, "Wanderlust".  This was the greatest reason they made so many moves.  But, in stark contrast to Pa, she said that "Ma was thrifty, educated, gentle and proud."  She was the stablizing factor for the family.  She provided the girls with an education, when there wasn't a school nearby.  She taught them all she knew as a school teacher.  But the life-lessons she taught, by example, would better serve them throughout their lives.  She taught them how to survive with grace and taught them the importance of making do with what the Lord provided, and to be grateful for it.  And she certainly was a good example of a helpmate to her husband.

In my opinion, much misinformation or misunderstanding has been attributed to Caroline's supposed hatred or racial prejudice of Native Americans.  If you'll consider the fact that during the time the Ingalls family were pioneering across the wilderness, it was an undisputed fact that it was dangerous.  They would have to be cautious and very wary of any strangers approaching them; let alone, half-naked men carrying weapons!  Caroline had heard the stories of how Indians had massacred other settlers.  She was determined to protect her family.   Yet, on the occasions that she was visited by Indians, while Charles was away, she treated them with respect!  She stood her ground, yet certainly showed hospitality and Christian love, even though they actually stole goods from her family.

Caroline was, at all times, a role model for her children and an example of a fine Christian woman of her day.  She may not have had the evangelistic zeal that her husband showed, but she always showed Christian charity to all.  This was yet another lesson taught to her daughters, by example.

While Laura wrote of her affection toward her father, it was obvious that she was in many ways, more like her mother in the end.

Caroline's obituary speaks of how others perceived her.

Caroline must have had a lot of patience and a good sense of humor to be married to the sometimes zany Charles! 
She certainly loved her children too.  She had always wanted Mary to succeed in life.  When Mary became blind she made every effort for her dream of education to succeed as well.  When Mary came back home from her time away at school, she stayed with her widowed mother.  And Caroline took care of Mary at that time, by renting out rooms to borders in order to have the needed income to live comfortably.  It was only a few years after her mother passed, that Mary joined her again.

Laura, may not have written any odes to her mother, or given special preferences in writing about her more than others, but it was obvious the impact that her mother had on her.  She wasn't always able to get away to visit her mother, so distant from Missouri, but she always held her in her thoughts and memories - as we are reminded here:
"Reading a message from my mother, I am a child again and longing unutterable fills my heart for Mother's counsel, for the safe haven of her protection and the relief from responsibility which trusting in her judgment gave me."

"When to realms of boundless peace, I am waiting to depart
Then my mother's song at twilight
Will make music in my heart.
"Hush, my babe, lie still and slumber;
Holy angels guard thy bed."
And I'll fall asleep so sweetly, Mother's blessings on my head"
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Resting in the arms of your Lord, Caroline, we wish you a happy birthday! The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder's "famous" Gingerbread recipe

Even if Laura hadn't been a famous author, she would have been famous in Mansfield for her Gingerbread!

I hope your gingerbread turns out as nice as mine!  I've made this recipe for a few years now at Christmas.  And it turns out great every time!   I've made it with the candied fruit, with raisins or plain and even with the chocolate frosting.  I like it best with raisins.  And I make it with a glazed top of powdered sugar, lemon juice and water.  They all taste exquisite!

If you make this recipe, let us all know how it comes out for you, by leaving a comment here.  Thanks.
The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Farmer Boy Christmas Recipes - Kolackys

This recipe is attributed to my great aunt, Adelyn.  As far back as anyone in the family could remember, she made these luscious cookies.  I got the recipe from her and have made them for years.  But, the origins of the recipe may be a bit more obscure.  When she passed away I found an old copy of the recipe among her personal papers.  This one was written by someone else!  It was in that "Broken English" that I have found on other family recipes.  At the top of the page was written, "Lieblingsnachtisch der Mutti".  Which is translated from German as, "Mommy's favorite dessert".  Now, the only one I know of ever referred to as "Mutti" in our family was her grand mother, my great great grandmother!  So, I have no idea who first brought this recipe into my family.  It may have come over on the boat!

I have done some research online of the origin of the recipe.  The idea was a pastry made to represent the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, in the manger.  Everything that I've discovered points to a Czech, Slovak, or Polish origin.  But nobody in my family had those roots.  So I still don't know how it found its way into our family's recipe collection.  Anyway, I'm sure glad it did!

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 package (8 oz. ) Cream Cheese
  • Preserves or pie filling (my aunt always used Solo brand*)
  • Powdered sugar
Directions: Cream the butter, salt, and cream cheese together.  Add the flour and powder to this, a little at a time.  Cover with wax paper and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Upon taking it out of the refrigerator, knead a little.  Divide the dough into 4 pieces, to make it easier to work with.  Roll out dough to about 1/16 inch.  Cut into 3 inch squares. Fold the corners in toward the center.  Moisten each corner with a drop of water to make it stick as you press it down.  I've found it works best if you press your thumb in the middle, making a cradle.  Into the cradle, add about 1/2 teaspoon of the filling. *  Place each cookie on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake in a pre-heated oven, 350 degrees F. for 20 to 22 minutes. (They should be a light golden brown)  Remove from the oven a cool on a wire rack.  Dust with powdered sugar.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen, depending on how thinly you roll them out.  But I suggest you double, triple or quadruple the recipe - they are that good!   They are great as a Christmas gift!  (If you don't eat them all yourself first!)

*Note: You can use any flavor fruit filling, or cheese (like a Danish), or even poppy seed!  A stiff or densse filling works best - looser ones will run as they bake.  It's hard to believe that something so simple could taste so good!

If you make some, be sure to send some to me!  (Just kidding... maybe! :)

Seriously, if you make these, let us all know by leaving a comment here.  Thanks. The Old Man in the Bib Overalls

"We eat too much!  Everyone says so!  But we keep right on eating." Laura Ingalls Wilder

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Rose Wilder Lane!

Rose was the only surviving child of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder.  She was born on December 5,  1886. She was named after the lovely wild roses that grew on the prairie which Laura and Almanzo so enjoyed.

While her mother garnered much acclaim and adoration for her "Little House" books, Rose was also a renown author in her own right.  If you have never read Rose's works, please allow me to share some with you here.

She spent much of her writing years as a foreign correspondent.  She had a mind of her own.  And while she was young, she had swallowed the beliefs of the communists/socialists, as so many young people do.  But as she visited those third-world countries whose governments were run by the communists/socialists, she discovered that their system of government was not working for the people.  In her essay, "Give Me Liberty", she put it this way:

"I came out of the Soviet Union no longer a communist, because I believed in personal freedom.  Like all Americans, I took for granted the individual liberty to which I had been born.  It seemed as necessary and as inevitable as the air I breathed; it seemed the natural element in which human beings lived.  The thought that I might lose it had never occurred to me.  And I could not conceive that multitudes of human beings would ever willingly live without it."

Rose had lived with the people and discovered the importance of being a free American.

She studied the elements that made America great, and individually outstanding among the world nations.  Her studies led her to write a book entitled, "The Discovery of Freedom".  Here are some quotes from that book:

"American Government is not an Authority; it has no control over individuals and no responsibility for their affairs.  American Government is a permission which free individuals grant to certain men to use force in certain necessary and strictly limited ways; a permissioin which Americans can always withdraw from American Government. The American Constitutions are statements of the permissions which Americans in the past have granted to men in public office.  And every Constitution contains a statement of the usses of force which Americans prohibit to this Government."

"The Constitution grants and limits the power of men in Government.  The convention of delegates is the tool that Americans use to change their Constitution.  Americans can always peacefully and legally diminish or withdraw any power that Americans in the past have granted to politicians."

"But responsibility for whatever the men in American Government do, is the individual citizen's responsibility. The men who began the Revolution created and bequeathed to every future American the tools for progressively reducing the use of force in human affairs.  Every American inherits these unique tools: the Constitution that checks the acts of men in public office, and the convention of delegates which is the peaceful means of changing the Constitution.  The American who leaves Government to the politicians, permitting or urging the men of his party, when they are in office, to increase their power and use it upon other Americans for his benefit, and howling when men of the other party are in office increasing their power and squeezing him for the benefit of other Americans, is trying to evade his responsibility."

"If men believe that Government is responsible for their welfare, the increasing poverty increases their demand that men in public office control the individual's affairs.  This demand increases the use of force against productive energy.  This use of force must progressively destroy all the protections of an American citizen's natural human rights, and eventually--if at last he protests--his life.  The men in public offfice can no more prevent this result of their assuming, or accepting, responsibility for the citizen's welfare, than they can prevent water from seeking its own level.  Responsibility-evading citizens in this Republic, if they become numerous enough, can wreck the Republic, the Revolution, and the whole modern world."

"Law is nothing but words on paper.  Its only power is in the free will of individuals--of the public officials who swear to obey it, and of the citizens who insist that they obey it.  What holds the public official to his oath?  Nothing but his conscience, and the vigilance of citizens."

"Consider the actual situation of an American politician elected to office.  The Constitution limits the time that he holds the office, and fixes his salary.  He will get that much money, whether he earns it or not; he will get no more, though he earn twice over.  He has sworn to obey the Constitution that limits his power.  His honor and -- if he is intelligent -- his patriotism, hold him to that oath.  All the other incentives that human beings feel, impel him to break it.  If he wants to do good (as he sees good) to the citizens, he needs more power.  If he wants to be re-elected, he needs more power to use for his party.  If he wants money, he needs more power, he can always sell it to some eager buyer.  If he wants publicity, flattery, more self-importance, he needs more power, to satisfy clamoring reformers who can give him flattering publicity.  And what prevents him from using more power? Constitutional law, words on paper.  Its only force is moral.  One thing protects a busy American's exercise of his human rights, his life, from such tryrannical violence as Governments have always used, and as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, the Mikado, are using upon their subjects now -- and that is the American politician's conscience."

And I might add, "Lord help us!"  I wonder if any of them have a conscience these days!

Well, as you can see, Rose was quite adamant about the responsibilities of the individual American citizen.  And, more importantly, their vigilance in making sure that those who hold public office actually are kept accountable to the people.  Because of her stance she would have been considered an activist.  I dare speculate that if she were alive today, she would be a leader in the "Tea Party" movement.  She might have even been the original organizer of it!  And I wouldn't be surprised to see her as a candidate for President! But she would not have agreed with the "Occupy" movement, distributing weath.  She would argue that we each have the responsibility to go out and earn a paycheck, not take it from someone else who had earned it.  And she would speak out, showing how this is nothing but Socialism or Communism.  She would be saddened to see how America has become so close to being a "Welfare State"; where the people look to the Government to meet their needs and wants.

If more people would read Rose's works they might learn some important, all-but-forgotten truths about our government, our society, and the American way of life.

If, as she suggested, the future of our nation lies in the hands of the freedoms and liberties of the people, then we should consider it our duty to work to continue to uphold our Constitution and exercise our rights.  We should never allow anything resembling a tyrant in any public office.  And it is, most assuredly, our duty to vote for those we feel best serve those same ideals.

Rose definitely believed that a large government was an oppressive government; and that powers should be kept in the hands of the citizens.  She would be quite upset to see the way things are going in our government these days!  She would be upset to see the state of the economy and all the governmental regulations stifling our economic growth.  And she would blame "We the People" for allowing the politicians so much power to get our nation into such a mess.  And she would really be upset to see how the division of government powers granted by our Constitution have so eroded that we now have laws being written by the courts!

Rose came in on the ground floor of a movement which decried the oppressive government heads who ruled throughout the Great Depression.  She became a spokesperson for the newly formed Libertarian Pary.  Now, I'm not suggesting that theirs is the party of the people, or that we should blindly follow any candidate from that or any other party. But I am suggesting that we each take a long, hard look at our options before we mark our next ballot.  Our very future as a free nation may depend upon it!  And we should never refuse to give up our liberty of voting.  Rose saw, first hand, what the outcome of that was all about!

Rose was quite a unique person.  She not only wrote about these things, she also wrote some fictional novels, some biographies, and a book about crocheting.  She was just about as interesting a person as her mother; and about as opinionated as her as well!  She would have to be included as a pioneer too.  All her life's experiences made her who she was.  Her contributions are well respected.  Her writing is straight forward.  And whether you agree with her or not; I can't figure anyone to not wish her a happy birthday!

I hope you'll seek out more of Rose's writings. You should be able to find them at your local library or online.

"In June the wild roses bloomed. They were a low growing bush and, when in bloom, the blossoms made masses of wonderful color; all shades of pink, all over the prairie.  And the sweetest roses that ever bloomed."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Farmer Boy Recipe - for Domestic Happiness

  • Mix together a couple of good eggs
  • add 1 heaping spoonful of patience,
  • a bunch of forbearance
  • Cups of understanding (as much as is needed)
  • Equal amounts of appreciation (for your mate)
  • Gallons of the milk of kindness
  • A pinch of salt (of the earth)
  • A bit of spice (variety with humor)
  • Plenty of sugar (hugs & kisses)
  • For leavening - use a pleasant smile (a little goes a long way!)
Mix all these ingredients evenly in a bowl of common sense and bake in the pan of forgiveness, by the homefires of love.  (don't allow them ever to cool!) The result will be one large loaf of domestic happiness, which will be a life-long joy.

"Our hearts are mostly in the right place, but we seem to be weak in the head." Laura Ingalls Wilder
Blessings,  The Old Man in the Bib Overalls