Category Archives: Cookies and Bars

Recipes: Uncle Ing, Aunt Doris, Orioles and the Treasure Box ….Grandma’s Salad, Zucchini Freezer Jam and Kathryn Hepburn’s Brownies

bird oriole

My husband and I have lived in this home for over thirty years and for the first time I have Orioles at my bird feeder.  This morning I had both a male and female Oriole singing to me from my grape jelly feeder. Actually, I can still hear them singing.

Each time I see an Oriole, I always think of my Great Uncle Ing who was the first person to ever show me one of these gorgeous orange and black song birds.

Uncle Ing Kronbeck lived his whole life on the farm where he had grown up north west of Litchfield, MN.  He was the youngest in a family of six children. Esther the oldest was my grandmother, then there were Hilda, Anna, Ida, Victor and Ingvald.

Their childhood was one of hard work, poverty and a very sick mother.  My grandmother once told me that she was more of a mother to her brother Ing than her own mother.

This family worked together on their farm and survived World Wars, economic depression and contagion. Several of their family members contracted the flu during the deadly epidemic of 1918.   Aunt Ida told me she once spent an entire year lying in bed with an ice pack on her chest, due to an enlarged heart from an illness.  I do not remember anymore if it was the flu or Rheumatic fever.

Against all odds, all of the children survived to adulthood.  Not only that, but these strong people, while suffering through bouts of depression and sadness thrust upon them by the circumstances of life, always were steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ and kept their sense of humor and wonderment of simple things.

Aviary Photo_130940619143877377
Uncle Ing holding his daughter Marion

Uncle Ing married Aunt Doris and they had two daughters Marion and Kathy.  What probably was more important to me at the time was that they had two amazing dogs Penny and Skippy.  Penny was the softest tri-color collie in the world and Skippy was a magnificent fetcher of a Springer Spaniel.

Penny                                                                Skippy

Not only were these dogs friendly….they were generous.  They had no problem with me climbing on on top of their dog house and pretending it was my pony.  At that age anything and everything became a pony.

Skippy’s favorite toy…a cow teat holder

In those days, Sunday’s were for church and visiting relatives.  For those of you that do not know what visiting is, it is actually taking time to be with the people you love.  You share stories, laughs and very good food.

Sometimes at Uncle Ing’s home, he’d play guitar and sing us songs in English and Swedish.

guitar Ing twelve string
      Uncle Ing played a twelve string guitar 

He would also let me sit at his “Seed Corn” sales desk and draw with his remarkable little pencils.  They came in a case that had bright colored advertisements on them.


To use the pencil and you had to pull the pencil out and insert its metal capped end into the back of the case.  They were dainty and delightful, and a perfect gift for a little girl who needed a pencil to fit into her tiny Sunday School penny offering purse.


Visiting Uncle Ing and Aunt Doris was one of my favorite childhood stops.  It sure beat visiting the Aunties in town as every child in our family knew that their house was dark, scary and haunted.  However, had I known then that both of my great grandparent had died in Uncle Ing’s house, I probably would have been a bit more jumpy when the back door would open and close on its own.

Cow Ing

Everyone else had black and white milking cows, not Uncle Ing, he had the only weird brown cow in the whole community. 

What I remember most was that Uncle Ing and Aunt Doris’ home was filled with happiness and peace.

On one Sunday’s visit Uncle Ing walked us kids to a big tree in his front yard and showed us the nest of an Oriole.  It was a funny looking bird’s nest. It hung off of the branch of the tree just like a beard hanging off the chin of a Mennonite.  There, too, in the tree sat a male Oriole. It was the very first time I had ever seen an Oriole.  He was beautiful! We stood silently and listened to its beautiful song.

bird nest

Beautiful memories like beautiful days and people are the real treasures of this life.  That is why I have a treasure box.  I do not think even my daughter knows about my treasure box. It is a very stained and tattered little cardboard box where I keep all of the handwritten recipes given to me by the greatly loved women in my life who have found their eternal rest in heaven.  One of those was my Great Aunt Doris.

My first year in college, I lived with my Aunt Doris during the winter months.  I had a great time.  One day we sat down at the kitchen table and she had me go through her recipes and choose which ones I wanted.  Then, in her own hand, she copied them for me.  They are in my treasure box along with Grandmother Helen Vacinek, Grandmother Esther and Great Aunt Ida’s handwritten recipes.

I get a kick out of the great interest in DNA ancestry tests.  A DNA test can only tell you what you are. It is family tradition, lore and heirlooms that tell you who you are.

When I think about it, I have come to the conclusion that it really is a shame that email and text messaging were ever invented.  It saddens me to think that future generations will not be able to take out a treasure box filled with handwritten notes, letters and recipes from the people that loved them.  The expressions of love and wisdom from past familial generations that provide comfort and strength will surely elude children of the electronic age for their communications will be no more.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. I have shared them as written by my Great Aunt Doris.

grandma's salad

Grandma’s Salad

1/2 cup salad dressing (mayonnaise)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice – blend these and add
1 cup crushed pineapple well drained, so it’ll be a firm salad

2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup small marshmallows
1 cup grated carrots
Stir only to distribute evenly


Zucchini Freezer Jam

6 cups grated zucchini, peel, add water to cook for six minutes. Drain well.

6 cups of sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon or orange juice
6 ounce can crushed pineapple with juice

Boil six minutes, take off stove and add
2 3-ounce packages of apricot jello. (Or, one each of lemon or orange jello.)

Pour in jars

Keep in freezer.


Kathryn Hepburn’s Brownies

This is just the way Hepburn did it

First melt two squares of unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 pound butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in one cup sugar, add two eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and beat like mad.

Stir in 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Not all mashed up you know, just chopped, good sized pieces, now mix all that.  

Butter an 8 X 8 inch pan and dump the whole thing quickly, stuff into 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Cool awhile and cut into one and a half inch squares and dive right in.

Editors note, tested in the kitchen of Ladies Home Journal and is delicious because of the 1/4 cup flour they have a pudding like texture.  Pat, I’ve also made them. (No baking powder or soda) 




Recipe: Tornadoes, Naked Chickens and Angel Lemon-Coconut Bars


After posting about my love of storms and tornado nightmares I was reminded of a real tornado story told to me by my Great Uncle Alec.

Great Uncle Alec was married to my Great-Aunt Ida whose recipes have graced this blog many a time.  She was a fabulous cook and baker. They had a family of seven children and lived on a farm in Amery, Wisconsin.

As a child I had visited their farm several times.  I remember that the house was quite a bit like the old farm house on our farm, and that they had a wonderfully big barn.

Of course, what sticks in my memory the most was the warnings not to wander down by the creek as there was lots of quick sand down there.  I have always wondered if there really was quick sand, or if the quick sand was like the skunks in the “skunk woods” back home and a very busy God always seeing everything I did…deterrents employed to protect inquisitive children from roaming physically or morally too far astray.

For the record, I still believe there was deadly quicksand by that creek, rabid skunks in those woods and that God never lets me out of his sight.

All of my great uncles were fabulous tellers of tales.  They had a gift of observation that could convert the ordinary into the hilarious.  Except for death, they could find something to laugh about in almost any situation….including storm destruction.

Uncle Alec’s story began by recounting the beauty of that summer day…the day that the tornado hit Amery and their farm.

He was outside working and hadn’t paid too much attention to the sky as thunderstorms were a common occurrence and a welcome one. They the cooled off man and beast while providing much needed rain for growing crops.  Thunderstorms were an exciting gift from God himself.

When lightening begin to flash and thunder rolled, Alec, like all farmers knew it was time to leave the field to work inside.  He had barn chores to do, so into the barn he went to ride out the storm.

As the storm approached it became louder and louder.  Alec looked out the barn door to see a large tornado barreling right towards his farm. There was no time for him to get to the house and the storm cellar so he hunkered down alongside the foundation of the barn.

The winds of the tornado were terrific as they attacked Uncle Alec, trees, house and barn….mostly the barn.  When the storm had finished leaving its mark on the farm, Alec sprung up to look about and see what the storm had taken and what it had left behind.

It had taken trees, parts of buildings and all of the feathers off of his chickens.  “Why, there were all my hens strutting around calmly clucking as if they did not have a care in the world…totally naked! There wasn’t a feather on them!  All I had was a bunch of naked chickens!!!!”

Angel Food Cakes like tornadoes seemed to always appear on our farm during the summer months.  Maybe that was because they are both funnel shaped? This recipe for Angel Lemon-Coconut Bars will give you the moist texture of Angel Food Cake along with the tang of lemon and the rich sweetness of coconut with none of the eternal egg white beating. This is the easiest Angel Food Cake or bar recipe you will ever make and probably the most delicious.  Enjoy!

Angel Lemon-Coconut Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 Angel Food Cake Mix (one-step method)
1 can of Wilderness Lemon Pie Filling
2 cups of shredded coconut

In a large steel or glass mixing bowl stir together the Angel Food Cake mix and lemon pie filling.  The mixture will foam up as you stir it. (Children love helping with this part.  It feels just like a science experiment in a laboratory that may just explode.  It doesn’t, but sure is fun to watch.  Gee, I wonder why both of my children are chemists.) 

Add coconut and mix in thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly on an jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  The bars will be lightly browned on top when done.

Frost the bars when they are completely cool.


3-ounces of cream cheese, (softened)
1/3 cup of butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

This frosting should be the texture of a spreadable cookie icing.

I have made and used this recipe when I did not have any cream cheese in the kitchen and the bars were still absolutely delicious.  Also, I have baked this in a 9 X 13 cake pan and served it as a dessert.

What Is On My Mind Today? Rock Picking Minnesota’s Farm Fields and Danish Puff Pastry


For the first week in June, it is rather cool today.  When there is enough humidity in the air fog up my glasses, I will know that summer has finally arrived in Minnesota!

The effects of summer heat and humidity is something a farm kid learns to dread at a young age while doing field work, especially rock picking.  Getting rocks out of a field is a dirty, hot, sticky, exhausting and a very boring job.

rock picking 3

However, it is important to pick rocks out of the fields that are bigger than the size of an orange.  During harvest hitting a rock with the combine will cause the combine’s sickles to break. My Uncle Myrwin always called these small rocks, “sickle-breakers.” Fixing a broken combine sickle is expensive and brings the entire harvest to a standstill. You can easily lose half a day or more driving to town and back, finding and purchasing the right part, then installing the part to repair the machine. When you have hundreds of acres of grain to harvest before a Minnesota winter hits, you cannot afford to lose any time.

So, every year just after school let out for summer vacation, when all of the town kids took swimming lessons, visited libraries for story time and played, us country kids would find ourselves day after day from sun up to sun down in a hot grain field looking for grey rocks.

In reality rock picking season only lasted for several weeks from the time the plants were big enough to be visible in rows until the soybeans began to bloom or the corn became too tall to fit under the tractor’s axles. In my mind’s eye this character building torture lasted for almost the entire summer. There is nothing more endless looking to a young child sitting on a flatbed wagon than a couple hundred acre field full of rocks.

rock picking 2

In addition to boredom, one thing you could always count on during rock picking season was intense heat and humidity.  The crops loved it, but it sure wilted this kid.

On a family farm everyone has to pitch in and rock picking was no exception to this rule. We usually had two, but on occasion, when the plants were getting too big and we had fields left to do in a hurry, we used three rock-picking crews.

First, there was what I would like to call the slow crew with the little red H Farmall tractor pulling the wooden flatbed rock wagon. This crew prided themselves on accuracy. Many a time they were spotted in a virtual standstill seemingly sifting gravel on top of hills, to make sure no “sickle-breakers” got away.  It was the firm belief of their leader that small rocks would grow into big ones by the next year so there was just no point in not picking them all.

rock picking

This crew usually consisted of the very young, the old and the slow moving. A very prominent state-sanctioned slow moving vehicle sign was clearly displayed at all times on their tractor as a constant reminder of output expectations and of them being a field or road hazard.

It is important to note that this crew was made up of our most dedicated hardworking and thorough folks who were accustomed to long hot hours in a field.  No slackers here. They were the family traditionalists and came prepared to get the job done.  They strictly adhered to the farmer’s official dress code of a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants. They wore this uniform no matter how hot or humid the weather.

Should some misguided young wimp decide to challenge tradition and swap long pants for short, on a hundred degree day sitting in the blazing sun in a windless field of heat seeking black dirt while believing that the evaporation of their sweat is only serving to increase the humidity and misery index further, payback for violating the dress code was swift and merciless in the form of wooden slivers embedded in the back of soft tender thighs.

The sliver reprisal by the wagon was a two-for, as they hurt worse coming out, than going in. One of the traditionalists would get out their ever-ready tweezers that came with the jack knife kept in the middle pocket of their overalls and sadly shake their head while removing the sliver muttering, “Some people’s kids.”

The injured rebel, who had thought they had a cause, instantaneously learned that the wearing of the official farmer’s uniform of a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants was a generational homeopathic preventative for in the field unsanitary surgical procedures and major sunburns.

The second rock picking crew was built for speed…not accuracy.  It consisted of three members. One to drive and two to jump off and on the big red International tractor. The rocks they picked were deposited in a homemade skid that was mounted behind the driver just above the tractor’s wagon hitch.  This team’s quality control was inversely affected by the speed of the tractor and teenage attitude. The speed of the tractor usually increased the closer the rock picking season came to high school football training or date night.

Rock picking procedures established by this crew could be described as the original cross-fit exercise program–simultaneous weight lifting, throwing and running. It was part of their official bylaws that any”sickle-breaker” that was not in plain view would be disregarded. As they must concentrate on getting the best tan on their shirtless chests while finding, lifting, carrying and tossing the largest rocks in the field to build muscle, and improve the chances of the school football team winning the conference and them getting a girlfriend.

To increase aerobatic capacity rocks were picked on the run. The tractor must never slow down or stop. Should a member violate this rule, they had to eat dirt.

This rock picking crew could be seen racing up and down the fields at high speeds bare chests glistening in the sun, shirt tails flapping in the breeze as they occasionally picked rocks when not dodging lit firecrackers or dirt clogs.

It is important to note that an occasional female could be promoted to be on this team. However, no matter how concerned the fellows were for the girl wilting in the heat, only the boys could go shirtless in the field.  Regardless of how hot it got, any suggestion to the contrary would have killed off all of the old people in our entire community and most of the Mennonite neighbors, and in all likelihood would have gotten a robust Lutheran farm gal a one-way ticket to a place hotter than that field.  Yes, shirts for girls was the rule and like a horse in the old days that included being fully harnessed.

If you didn’t see this rock picking crew you could always hear them. Their work ethic necessitated the constant revving of the tractor’s diesel engine, a radio blasting rock and roll music, and shouts of general mockery to advertise their superior expertise and provide a motivational shaming to improve the progress of all the lesser rock picking crews.

The old folks prayed for that crew a lot.

Finally, there was a third tractor that was used for rock picking.  It was a very old John Deere with a front end loader.  My grandfather purchased this tractor on the black market, just after World War II. It is still on the farm today. This tractor was used sparingly for rock picking due to respect for its history and age. It had many other farm duties such as; digging ditches, cleaning out the cow manure pile, burying the farm’s garbage piles and in the winter clearing out the long snow covered driveway.

When used for rock picking this rusty old green tractor sported a driver and usually two pickers.  The pickers rode in front of the tractor in the loader.  This was most dangerous, as the loader’s controls worked in the opposite direction from what logic would dictate. T

The safety protocol most commonly deployed to protect this crew was quickness. Quick thinking and moving.  When you did dump out your fellow pickers for what ever reason while the tractor was moving they had to quickly to roll away from the tractor tires.  Then, pop out behind the tractor, run, catch up and jump on again.  If you dumped out anyone more than once, you were no longer allowed to drive and could expect to get hit with multiple hard dirt clogs. No rock-pickers were ever squished.  Safety first was always our motto.

Rock pickers get hungry, no matter what crew they were on.  Dinners were our big meal and were usually brought to the fields and served picnic style. The food would arrive at noon and was always hot. Whether fried chicken, potatoes and gravy or a casserole (or a hotdish as we call casseroles here in Minnesota) nothing ever smelled or tasted so good.  As on most farms, salads were served for the cattle, hogs and chickens.

Sometimes suppers were also delivered into the fields.  They could be leftovers or just sandwiches, chips and pop. No matter which meal was delivered it was always accompanied by plenty of home-baked, breads cookies, bars, cakes, pies and pastries to provide energy and help replace the many calories we had burned off working hard in the fields all day.

The family members that stayed behind in the kitchen also knew what heat and humidity really was….there was no air conditioning in any home back in those days and baking still had to be done. Only small electric fans and open windows were available to help cool down those cooks in those hot, hot kitchens.

I can still picture those loud little oscillating fans blowing the dead insect covered fly strips dangling from the kitchen ceiling light back and forth in the breeze.  My grandmother expertly ducking out its way to prevent the yellow ribbon of bug death from sticking to her hair or dropping flies into her cooking.  Oh, the horror of having a bug cemetery wrapped around your head!

bug death

Those hot cooks and kitchens never let the field workers down.  We were always fed and fed well.

Danish Puff Pastry would have been too fragile and sticky to be included on a field meal menu. It was made for special occasions as a treat or to impress guests. It is a wonderful light summer pastry that can kept simple when topped with just icing and nuts or dressed up with fruit pie filling or preserves and icing. Either way this pastry is a real gem.

Danish Puff Pastry 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup flour
1/2 butter
2 Tablespoons of cold water

In a small bowl mix ingredients together like a pie crust.First cut the butter into the flour, when that is combined, add the water and mix into a dough.

Put crust dough onto an ungreased  cookie sheet and pat into a 6 X 12 inch rectangle.

Puff Pastry Top:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 cup flour
3 eggs

In a medium-sized sauce pan bring water and butter to a boil.  Remover from the heat; add the almond flavoring.  Then, quickly beat in flour.  When the batter is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time.  Beat well after each egg, until that egg is completely combined into the dough before adding the next egg.

Spread the batter over the crust to the edges.

Bake for about one hour.  The batter will shrink over the crust and be golden brown. Cool completely.

Top with icing and nuts, or with some fruit pie filling or preserves then drizzle with icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract
milk or cream

Put powdered sugar into small mixing bowl. Slowly stir in milk or cream one tablespoon at a time until the icing reaches the consistency you desire.  Icing is usually the consistency of syrup.

Add flavoring.  Stir until combined and drizzle over cooled puff pastry.




Recipe: When Too Hot to Bake Make No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

These are the best when it’s hot. I make them, then just keep them in my freezer for a cool summer treat.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

cookie dough

This recipe for no bake chocolate chip cookie dough bars is a very tasty cool treat to break the summer heat.  It has no eggs in it so there is no danger of food poisoning from eating a dough made with raw eggs and is so easy to make the kids can do it.  Just some measuring and stirring.  The melting of the chocolate chips in the microwave for the frosting would require adult supervision in my world.

If you want to make a 9X13 sized pan of bars, double the recipe.  It’s good for kids to practice math in the summer.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars (no bake)

Need:  8 X 8 inch cake pan (greased), electric mixer or a fast spoon.

Cookie Dough:
1/2 cup room temperature butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14…

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Recipes: Chocolate Chip Cookie Day….Let the Chips Melt Where They May…and many other Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes.

Today is Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  In preparation for the momentous occasion, I made a new cookie recipe yesterday.  This recipe calls for chocolate chips, but they are melted and spread over a layer of caramel that rests on top of a shortbread cookie.  A little sprinkle of sea salt on the chocolate and you have one of the best cookies you will ever eat!

I would also like to introduce you a wonderful invention for bakers….Kraft Caramel Baking Bits.  No more taking all of those plastic wrappers off of caramel candy. They are located in the baking aisle of your grocery store somewhere near the chocolate chips and shredded coconut.

caramel bits

This recipe for a delightfully modified chocolate chip cookie is from the website:


caramel cookie

Sea-salted, Chocolate-Caramel-Shortbread Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. 


1½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.  When well combined, add vanilla.  Mix.  Then add 3 cups of all-purpose flour and salt.  Mix until mixture forms a dough ball.  It will be in small chunks for a while, but keep going you will get there.  Form dough into a large ball with your hands.

Sprinkle a clean counter top lightly with flour.  Roll the dough out until it is about 1/3 of an inch thick.  Cut out round cookies that are about two-inches in diameter from the dough.  Form the dough scraps into another ball and roll out for cookies.  Continue until all of the dough has been cut into cookies.

Place cookies on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until they are just barely beginning to brown around the edges.  These cookies do not spread out when baked.  I easily had a dozen cookies on each cookie sheet.

Remove from oven and cookie sheet. Cool completely.


two-11 ounce bags of Kraft caramel bits.
2 Tablespoons of heavy cream (whipping cream)

When the cookies are cool. In a medium-sized micro-wave safe bowl add caramel bits and cream.  Begin by heating for one minute. Then stir.  Continue to heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval.  Continue this process until the caramel is smooth.

Using two teaspoons, crop about a teaspoon of caramel on top of each cookie. Spread the caramel to almost the edge of the cookie.

When all of the cookies have been topped with caramel.  Let them cool until the caramel sets.

Chocolate Topping

1 10-ounce bag of either semi-sweet or milk-chocolate chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons of heavy cream
Sea salt

In a small microwave safe bowl add chocolate chips and heavy cream.  Heat for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue in 15 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Using two teaspoons, crop about 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate on top of each cookie.  Spread to almost the edge of the caramel.

Sprinkle each cookie with a tiny amount of sea salt.

Let chocolate set and serve.

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Bloggers note:  Should you be in a pinch for time this recipe would make great bars.  Press the cookie dough into the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or just until it begins to brown around the edges.  Remove crust and cool.  Then, melt caramel and chocolate per recipe instructions and spread on top of the bars. 

Other Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes on this blog

Recipes: St. Patrick’s Day Special… Leprechaun Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipes: Church Ladies Critique and Chewy Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: Protect Your Neighbors–Serve Pie…Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie

Recipe: Bumpy Crunchy Cookies

Recipe: When Too Hot to Bake Make No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars

Recipes: Minnesota May, Open Windows, Open Houses and Graduate Gifts…Wisdom and Chewy Chocolate Brownies.


Winter 2018 was a very long one.  First there were months of cold and then, just when a person would think spring was on the way…April blizzards.  One right after another.

This morning is beautiful! The grass is getting green, birds are singing, and there is a mama and papa wild duck couple waddling around just outside the fence of my backyard.  Color, joy and romance have returned to the great state of Minnesota. It is finally warm enough to throw off the winter blankets and throw open the windows.

Oh sure, there are still piles of snow here and there, and it will be sometime before any of the flowers that survived the April 2018 rabbit scourge bloom, but if one tries as hard to ignore the remaining snow drifts as one does those extra insulation pounds…it looks like spring, smells likes spring, feels like spring and sounds like spring.

The month of May in Minnesota sends gardeners to their knees, farmers to the fields, hikers to the woods, and friends and relatives to graduation open houses.

Most graduation party menus include more that just salads and sweets.  There is usually a meat entree, beans and a couple of fruit or vegetable appetizers.  To wash all the great food down or just stay hydrated on a hot afternoon–a tangy cold beverage or punch recipe is always greatly appreciated by party goers.

I hope that these kitchen-tested recipes for salads, meats, bars, cookies and beverages make hosting an open house for your loved one easy.

Salad Recipes

 Coleslaw with Lemon Dressing

– Stairway to Heaven and Luscious Lemon Jello Salad

– Four Roosters and Chicken Pasta Fruit Salad

– Chicken Pasta Fruit Salad

Easy Sweet and Sour Cabbage Salad

An extra large bowl

1 green bell pepper finely chopped
3 packages of fresh coleslaw mix

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium-sized saucepan bring sugar, oil and vinegar to a boil.
Poor over the cabbage and chill over night.

This recipe comes from the home of my mother-in-law Lois Turgeon.

Italian Pasta Salad

A extra large bowl

1 box of tri-color Rotini pasta, cooked
3/4 cup of onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup of celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup of ripe olives, drained and sliced into thin circles
1/2 cup of pimento stuffed green olives, drained and sliced into thin circles
1-1/2 cups of red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 package of sliced pizza pepperoni, cut slices in half

Pour one 16 ounce bottle of Kraft Tucson House Italian Dressing over the salad ingredients. Gently toss together until evenly coated with dressing. Chill overnight.

Rhubarb Salad

This is rhubarb season in Minnesota and when I saw this recipe for a rhubarb salad in the Trinity Lutheran Church from my hometown of Grove City, MN,  I had to include it.  While this recipe gets rave reviews in the cookbook, I have never made it, so you are on your own.

2 cups of chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
One 3 ounce package wild strawberry jello
3/4 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
One 3 ounce package of softened cream cheese

Simmer rhubarb, sugar and water until rhubarb is tender and cooked.  This takes about 10 minutes. Stir in jello, cool.  Add celery, nuts and softened cream cheese. Pour into gelatin mold.

Chill until set, un-mold and serve.

Chinese Coleslaw

An extra large bowl

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 large head of cabbage shredded or chopped
8 green onions, finely chopped, include the green tops
6 Tablespoons RICE vinegar. (not use rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 packages of chicken-flavored Ramen noodle soup mix.

In a skillet, brown sesame seeds and sliver almonds in the two tablespoons of oil. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the chopped or shredded cabbage and 8 green onions. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together the rice vinegar, sugar, salt, oil and pepper.  Stir in the flavor packets from the two Ramen noodle soup mix packages.

Pour dressing over the cabbage mixture and gently toss together until the cabbage is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving break up the Ramen noodles and add to the salad with the toasted sesame seeds and almonds for

Bar and Cookie Recipes

– Grandmother Esther’s Fabulous Lemon Bars

– Apron Protocol and Pineapple Bars

– Stuck in the Mud Fudge Bars

– Grandma’s Melt in Your Mouth Sugar Cookies.  (Roll the cookies in sprinkles that match your school colors)

Butter Cookies: A Century Old Recipe from a Century Old Farm ( Cut out the shape of your school mascot and frost cookies in your school colors.)

– Spring Calves and Buttery Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

–  New Tried and True Cookie Recipes: Chocolate and Caramel-Filled Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies, Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies and Rollo Candy Double Chocolate Pretzel Bites

– Church Ladies Critique and Chewy Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies


Whether is is a pork,beef, lamb, chicken or turkey graduation meat entree’s are usually sauced, shredded and served on a bun.  The key to getting the meat tender enough to shred with a fork, is to cook it at a low temperature slowly over a long period of time. Barbecue grills, smokers, ovens and crock pots can all be used to slow cook meat.

Poultry needs to be cooked at a higher temperature than beef, pork or lamb.  I slow bake poultry at about 300 degrees until the juices run clear and the meat easily pulls away from the bone.

A three to four pound roast will make about eight large sandwiches or 16 mini-sandwiches or sliders. To prepare Beef, pork and lamb in your oven season the meat, cover it and at 250 degrees for about eight hours. The roast should be basted  frequently with your favorite sauce.

Barbecue sauce:

1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 thick slice of lemon
1 onion, finely diced
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke

In a large saucepan combine vinegar, water mustard, pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt, lemon, onion and butter.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Stir in ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat.  Use as a baste or sauce for pork, beef, lamb, turkey or chicken.

Yield: 2 cups which is enough for 3-4 pounds of meat

Easiest and Best Barbecue Sauce Ever

2 jars of Heinz chili sauce
1 3/4 cups of concord grape jelly

In a medium-sized sauce pan combine the chili sauce and grape jelly.  Cook over medium heat until grape jelly is melted.

Sauce is great with meatballs, chicken wings, chicken, turkey, beef and pork.

Yield: about 4 cups and is enough for 6-7 pounds of meat.


Three-Bean Salad 

1 can, 16 ounce, green beans
1 can, 16 ounce, yellow wax beans
1 can, 19 ounce, kidney beans
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup white sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse beans. Combine beans in a large mixing bowl.  Add red bell pepper and onion.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together sugar, vinegar and oil.  Pour over beans.  Season with salt and pepper. Toss ingredients together until evenly coated. Chill overnight.

Yield:  8 servings

Three-Bean Bake

This recipe can be made in either the oven or a crock pot.

Preheat over to 300 degrees.  Grease 9 X 13 X 2 inch baking dish

1/2 pound of ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound of bacon, diced, fried and drained
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 Tablespoon cider vinegar
2 cans (16 ounce, each) pork and beans
1 can (15 ounce) kidney beans
1 can (15 ounce) butter beans

In a large skillet, brown beef and onions. Drain off fat.  Stir in ketchup, brown sugar, salt, mustard, vinegar and fried bacon bits.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Next, add all of the beans.  Mix together well.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 1 1/2 hours or until bubbly.  If you are using a crock pot, cooking times will vary depending on if you use the low or high hear setting.

Yield:  8 servings

Crock Pot Vegan Baked Beans

2- 28 ounce cans of vegetarian baked beans
1 onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/3 cup ketchup

Add all of the ingredients into a large crock pot. Mix together thoroughly.  Cook for at least an hour or until onion is tender   Keep warm in crock pot until ready to serve.


Dip for Fresh Strawberries

1 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. With a electric hand-mixer beat until light and fluffy.

Serve with fresh strawberries for dipping

Yield: 1 1/4 cups.

Fruit Pizza
Make the glaze first as it has to be completely cool before you put it on the fruit. 

3/4 cup water
1-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup unsweetened orange or pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium heat,  while stirring constantly to prevent scorching, boil the glaze ingredients together until thick.  Cool and paint over fruit with a pastry brush.

2 sticks of butter or margarine
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a medium-sized bowl mix ingredients together with your clean hands.  Press dough evenly into to bottom of a pizza pan.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Crust should just start to brown. Cool completely.

One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Mix together with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread evenly over cooled crust.

Artfully arrange sliced fruit and berries over cream cheese filling.  Fruit can include: strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, grapes, kiwi, pineapple, peaches etc…

Use a pastry brush to cover fruit with glaze. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve cut into wedges or squares like you would a pizza.


One 12-ounce can of chickpeas
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup of lemon juice
1 garlic clove, fresh
3 Tablespoons of water
Olive oil

In a food processor puree chickpeas. Add lemon juice, sesame oil, garlic and water. Pulse a couple of times to combine.

Transfer hummus to a small serving bowl.  Smooth out with knife, and add just enough olive oil to cover the surface. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Stir in oil just before serving.  Serve with pita bread triangles.

Yield: 4 servings

Vegetable Pizza

Two, 8-ounce packages of refrigerated crescent rolls. (16 count)
Two, 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dry dressing mix
6 cups of assorted fresh vegetables, finely chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

To make pizza crust, unroll crescent rolls, press seams together and pat into a 15-1/2 X 10-1/2 X 2 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees  for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Set aside.

The pizza filling is made by stirring together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and dry dressing mix in a small bowl. Spread filling evenly over the cooled crust.

On top of the filling sprinkle the finely chopped fresh vegetables. Vegetable options could include: broccoli, cauliflower, green, red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced green onion, black olives, green olives, celery or shredded carrots.  Try to pick vegetable of different colors to make pizza more colorful.

Top with the shredded cheese and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve cut into squares.

Yield: 32 appetizers.


Rhubarb Punch

6 cups of rhubarb, chopped fine
6 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
one, 6-ounce can of frozen orange juice
one, 6-ounce can of frozen lemonade
2 quarts of lemon-lime soda

Put rhubarb and 3 cups of water together and boil until rhubarb is cooked.  Strain the mixture to get the juice.  Boil the juice again with the 2 cups of sugar. Cool.

To the cool rhubarb juice mixture, add orange juice and lemonade, 3 cups of cold water and lemon-lime soda.

Serve in punch bowl with ice.

Sherbet Punch

This recipe is easy, tastes great and you can change the color of the punch by just choosing different flavors of sherbet and sliced fruit or berries.

1/2 gallon of lemon or lime sherbet.
2 quarts of Sprite
Lemon and lime slices

Fill punch bowl 3/4 full of cold Sprite. With an ice cream scoop add 1/2 of sherbet.  It will float and become foamy on top. Stir gently 3-5  times.  Add fruit slices on top of the punch bowl. Serve

Yield: Serves 24. (enough for two bowls)

Methodist Champagne

Two, 46-ounce cans of pineapple juice
1 quart ginger ale
1 quart sparkling white grape juice
Two, 6-ounce cans of frozen lemonade concentrate

Chill  pineapple juice, ginger ale, and white sparkling grape juice.  Combine chilled juices and ginger ale with thawed but cold lemonade concentrate. Stir until combined and serve in punch bowl with ice rings.

Ice Ring:
Use a ring shaped jello mold and fill 2/3 full with water.  Add colorful fruit such as cherries, blue berries,raspberries, strawberries or citrus slices.  Freeze.  Unmold and add to punch when it is time to serve.

Easy Classic Red Punch

2 large cans of Hawaiian Fruit Punch
1 quart of ginger ale
1 quart of Sprite

Mix together and serve in a punch bowl with ice.

Classic Red Punch

4 packages of orange or cherry Kool-Aid
8 quarts of water, cold
Two, 46-ounce cans of Hawaiian Punch, chilled
Two. 46-ounce cans of pineapple juice, chilled
1 can, 6-ounce frozen lemonade

In a very large container mix together punch ingredients.  After well mixed  and right before you serve add 2 quarts of ginger ale.  Add ice and serve your large crowd.

Pineapple Raspberry Punch

5 cups of pineapple juice
1 quart of raspberry cranberry juice
1 pint of raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Chill all of the ingredients.  Combine in a punch bowl with ice.

My gift to this year’s graduates is a little advice and this recipe for chewy, chocolaty, fudge brownies.  Successful adulting often requires less beer and more chocolate.

Chewy Cocoa Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly grease a 9 X 13 baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  Set aside.

1 cup butter, melted and cool
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-12 ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the melted butter, oil and sugars.  Beat with electric hand mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until the mixture is smooth and becomes a lighter shade of yellow. This takes just over a minute or so.

In a small bowl sift dry ingredients together: cocoa, flour and salt.  With a mixing spoon or rubber spatula foal dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture. Mix until JUST combined.  Over mixing will make your brownies more cake like and less chewy.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the 9 X 13 inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until the center of the brownies is set to the touch.  The middle will still be soft and if you check with a toothpick at this time it was come out covered in batter.  Remove brownies from the oven and cool.  Dust with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.

Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates! May your future be as bright and colorful as this morning’s sunrise! 

Blogger’s note:  Food poisoning is a very real hazard during any potluck or party, however the heat of summer greatly increased the likelihood that you or your guests could be come very ill.  To a cancer patient such as myself with a compromised immune system, food poisoning can be deadly.  Be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Take extra precautions when handling raw meat or poultry.  Always wash your hands, any surface you are working on or any utensils you use when working with raw meats.

Also, remember that some of your guests may have food allergies or are on medications that require them to avoid certain foods. Nuts, shellfish and for heart patients grapefruit juice come to mind.  Know what you are serving and accurately share all of the ingredients with guests who ask for that information.  A little bit can make a person very ill and in some extreme cases food allergies and drug interactions can be deadly.

Then, too, if you are serving alcohol at your event, do not and do not let your guests drink and drive.

Recipe: Spring Calves and Buttery Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

calves running

The snow here in Minnesota is finally melting.  The sun seems warmer now and brighter too. Winter’s thick blanket of silence has already been replaced with the sounds of song birds merrily singing away and geese honking as they pass overhead on their yearly trek north.

As the snow melt water and mud recede, plants quickly emerge.  Filling a color-starved world with a much welcomed emerald carpet.  Farm pastures quickly become great green waving seas of luscious grass.

pasture spring

On our farm the cows and the year-old calves were kept inside the big barn during most of the winter. It just got too cold for them to be outside.  So, it is a joyous day for the entire herd when they are finally released from their stalls and pens and shepherded out the barn door into a world of bright light and fresh air.

cows in cold barn
Cows in cold barn

Joyous it the right word for the first day that the cows are let out again into the pasture.  Even the old cows kick up their heels and cavort about like young heifers.  However, it the young stock that really put on a show.  At first they just buck, jump and kick.  Then, they sprint around chasing each other like a bunch of big frisky puppies.

cows happy

Not only does spring get the cows out of the barn.  It is also the time of year when the cows get their calves out of their wombs.  When a cow was ready to give birth she would often wander off by herself to some remote area of the large pasture.  There she’d give birth and hide her calf.  Much like a mother doe.

cow and calf

Old bovines, just like most of the rest of the world, always think they are much smarter than the farmer. So, shortly after giving birth a much thinner version of the old gal, often dragging her nasty slimy after birth while displaying a vermilion stained behind, would show up at feeding time acting like nothing new was a foot.

The birth announcement would go as follows, “Well, that one has a calf somewhere!”

Then, the yearly spring ritual of finding and retrieving her calf commences.

The story below describes this process.

Going to Get the Calves

Aviary Photo_131059720625868771

Having grown up on a dairy farm, I have memories of cows.

Every morning and evening we’d go down to the cow yard with grandpa and dad and call the cows in from the pasture. We’d all stand there by the silver barbed wire fence, bathed in the colors of the rising or setting sun, hands cupped around our mouths, yelling, “Ca, Boss…. Ca Boss” at the top of our lungs.  As I recall calling in the cows at odd hours of the day was strictly frowned upon.

Soon, the cows, in a nice straight line, would come in from the pasture. They would climb the worn wood ribbed ramp into the barn, find their very own stall and patiently wait to be milked.

Oh sure, on occasion you’d get a beller’n bossy, but all and all they were quite well behaved.

In the spring when the calves were born was my favorite time of the year. Our cows always gave birth to their calves in the pasture. They’d hide them and we would have to go find them.

calf hidden
Hidden newborn calf

Grandpa would hitch up the small gray metal grain wagon to the little red H Farmall tractor and the search and rescue mission was on.

Red Farmall Tractor

We were all lookouts, and you had to, stealing a cow’s baby after all the effort she’d just expended made her mad. Who wouldn’t be?

The goal was to distract the cow while grandpa put the calf in the wagon, got back onto the tractor, put the tractor in road gear so that we could go faster than the cow could give chase, and then to get out of the pasture before the cow could escape.

cow charging

Grandpa was 82 years old, so being distracting was something us kids had to excel at. Besides who hasn’t had to stare down and taunt an angry bovine a time or two in life?  Excellent life-skill training!

Once we had successfully gotten the calf into the wagon and grandpa safely back onto the driver’s seat and headed in the right direction towards the pasture gate, the cow would inevitably charge the wagon to save her baby.

elephant charging

With the tractor in road gear and grandpa with one hand, minus a thumb, on the steering wheel and the other hand holding onto his faded and frayed yellow straw hat that grandma assured us he’d had since birth, and as the wagon gleefully bounced over every cow hump and pocket gopher mound in our path—one of us would comfort the calf.

Meanwhile, the other members of the team sat on the very back edge of the rocketing, jumping and bucking wagon wildly flailing their feet and legs in mid air. Occasionally, feet coming into contact with the cow’s forehead each time she got too close to the wagon.

Naturally, the whole operation could have become dangerous had the cow decided to ignore the preventive foot volleys and chose to join us in the wagon, or if any of us had been over the age of 10 or under 80. Safety first! That was our motto.

When we were safely out of the pasture, the calf was gently carried inside the barn, checked over, thoroughly petted and fed.

feeding calves

All of the calves were kept together in the barn until they were old enough to be turned out to pasture—weaned. The cow’s milk would come in shortly after the birth of her calf.

Each Minnesota dawn and twilight would find us all standing by the fence, calling the cows home from the pasture to be milked. Inside our big red barn the cow would walk to her numbered stall and wait to be milked. The calves safe and warm inside the barn would watch their mamma’s parade by each morning and evening. Somehow they too learn the milking routine.

Throughout every season, the milk was sent to the creamery in town, to be processed, and sold to city folk.


Butter makes bakes better!   This recipe combines the rich taste of butter and chocolate with sweet caramel and the salty crunch of pretzels.  Just like a like every newborn calf… this one’s a keeper.


Buttery Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of butter, softened
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 bag (11.5 ounce) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag (11 ounce) of Kraft Caramel Bits
1 cup of chopped pretzels
36 small pretzel twists for garnish

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer cream together butter and sugars.  On a high speed, beat them until they are light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.  Turn mixer down to low setting and slowly add the dry ingredients.  Mix until completely combined.  Add chocolate chips, caramel bits and pretzels and mix slowly until evenly distributed.

Roll a large tablespoon of dough into a ball.  Place cookies about two inches apart on top of the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Press a pretzel twist into the top of the cookie, slightly flatting the cookie.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edge of the cookies just begin to slightly brown.  Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of  minutes.  Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack or clean counter top and cool them completely.

May the joy of spring be yours!