Seeking a Focus I Enjoy

This blog started out as a pioneer woman's recipes and remedies but it didn't attract a lot of visitors so I studied around and decided to write about one subject only: cinnamon and spices like cinnamon. That was fine and I might continue with that theme.

However, I miss the old time research for very old recipes and old time remedies and with the Great Depression once again coming upon us, such information would be useful. So please bear with me while I now zero in on what this recipe and remedy blog needs to consolidate to.

Cast Iron Cook Ware Healthier

I have been cooking in cast iron cookware for as long as I can remember. When I went to the doctor for routine checkup, I was told my blood was rich in iron. He asked me what I took? Geritol, etc. None of those, I said, but I do cook in cast iron cook ware. As older doctors tend to do, he shrugged off the idea that the cookware made my blood so healthy and rich. But then he couldn't suggest any other reason for the test results.

I shy away from aluminum for the same reasons, only in reverse. I think aluminum cookware poisons the food being cooked, not big time poison but over years, I think it could lead to Alzheimer's and other mental problems.
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Subtle Aroma of Cinnamon Drives Men Wild

Gentle Aroma of Cinnamon is an Aphrodisiac for Men

Men love pumpkin pie and the aroma of an apple pie sprinkled with cinnamon; men love cinnamon rolls -- but they probably don't realize that it is the cinnamon in the kitchen that makes them want to hug and kiss the cook.
Ginger and nutmeg also can do wonders.

Metal Bath Tub

When we stayed at Grandma's for a day or two, we had to take baths in an oval metal tub with only about twelve inches of water in it -- most of the water was cold.

Grandma would heat up a big pan of water on the stove and pour it in the water to make it luke warm. The cleanest kid went in the tub first because the dirtiest kid would spoil the clean water too fast.

Designing a Kitchen for the Elderly

My mother has moved in with us and we quickly saw many changes we would need to make. I added an island between the counter space and the refrigerator because Mom usually uses a cane and that only leaves one hand free unless she has something else close by to hold on to.

Also her water bottles, Ensure, and soda pop all have to have one bottle with a loosened cap so she can open it. Milk has to be bought in half gallons so she can lift it and it has to be placed on the door so she can reach it.

All her favorite snacks need to be at eye level which is not on the top shelf but the shelf below that.  This is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking care of your elderly parent.  

Also, as a caregiver, be prepared for one thing: even though you are continuously serving, helping, assisting, bathing, and feeling the weight of being responsible for your mom or dad, he or she may not actually think you are doing much at all.  And there is nothing that can be done about that. 

Remember, our children didn't think we did much for them either.  Caregivers are so undervalued.  I never realized what care giving meant until now.

Dishwasher Went Out for One Week

My dishwasher broke down a week ago and I quickly rediscovered why I love the dishwasher so much. I could clean the kitchen up in half the time when the dishwasher worked.   How easy life was when I could set the timer for the dishwasher to come on during the wee hours of the morning while I blissfully slept.

The next morning, when I got up and went to get coffee, my cup would be nice and hot for that first cup of coffee.  Ah, those were the days my friend.

Ozark Recipes and Remedies

In the Ozarks the kitchen is the heart of the home and it is often the women who make the heart beat.

Women bake bread, cook meals, clean the dishes and the kitchen daily, often dozens of times per day, and family and friends enjoy the cooking.  That is her reward.  If everyone eats a lot, she is usually happy.  I know that's how I feel.

The good food smells is what makes the kitchen is a good place to visit. She gets respect however subtle it is from all who eat what she cooks.  Someone is always at hand to assist in some way.  Not a bad life really.

Ozark Kitchens Revamped

Recipes and Remedies -- I'm still trying to find the focus of my Pioneer Cookbook blog.  Recipes and remedies is too broad a subject.  There is too much research involved and not too much passion either.

I may let this blog fade away or try to get someone else to write the entries. Someone who is passionate about writing about old Ozark kitchens and the women and men who ate, worked, and socialized in them. I need an older woman, Ozark born and raised, to write this blog.

Is it possible for such a woman to exist who can also use the Internet? She would be rare indeed. Contact me if you are that woman.

Civil War Recipes for Soldiers

Confederate soldiers often died of dysentery and for good reason. As the civil war raged on and the South depleted their funds, the troops had to eat whatever they had or stole or found or die of starvation; they usually did eat the mess but did so with one hand holding the nose and the other holding the spoon.

Horse meat was a common staple, dog meat also. The preserve the horse meat the cook would throw the raw meat in a big vat of saltwater where it would sit for days, regardless of temperature.

Cast Iron Cookware

I use cast-iron cookware for all cooking. A well-seasoned pan, skillet, or dutch over of cast iron is easier to clean than the chemical-rich Teflon ware. The cookware is heavy, I'll grant that. But so what. It keeps me in shape, my arms are not getting weaker with age, but stronger.

Our blood is rich with iron according to our doctor; I believe it is due to cooking in these cast-iron skillets and pans.   My cast-iron skillets have been in use since at least the 1940s.

I have three large cast-iron skillets, two small cast-iron skillets, a cast-iron sauce pan, a dutch oven,  cast-iron muffin pan, and cast iron lids that work on various pans.  I keep them well-seasoned and believe me, they are easier to clean than Teflon pans.

I've cooked in these pans for at least twenty years. I highly recommend them.

Neon Open Sign in Kitchen

You know you are a successful cook when you get a neon open sign to put in your kitchen. Well, at least you can turn it off when you don't want to cook.

Ozark cooks are so seasoned at the job that they seem to prepare a wonderful meal without any effort. You might even think the meal just appeared out of nowhere.

And after the meal, you walk into kitchen and it's as clean as if nothing had transpired at all just an hour ago.  Yet, my experience in the kitchen has me convinced that there is no meal so simple and easy that it can ever take less than 2 full hours from start to putting the last washed dish away when the meal is over.

My Kitchen

This table sits in a bay window overlooking an acre of oak, pecan, and walnut trees. If you stand in front of this table and look out, you'll see redbirds, blue birds, yellow finches, woodpeckers, and squirrels at the sunflower seed bird feeder from dawn til dusk.

If you look to your left you'll see an attractive chicken house with windows and a tiny hay barn where we keep straw bales for the chickens. We gather about 3 brown eggs a day on poor days and 7 eggs on good days during the summer. All of our nine chickens have names and several can be called by name.

Now still standing in front of this table look out the bay window on your right. You are looking at our water garden full of colorful koi and all sizes of goldfish. This picture was taken toward late afternoon. It faces due west. This is where I make our morning to-do list (things that absolutely must be done today). We can do more but never less than on the list.

Now turn around. You are now looking into the rest of the kitchen. There are two doorways into the kitchen. My grandchildren can chase each other in circles through the kitchen, living room and our office without slowing down.

I have an antique enamel baking table in the center of the kitchen with all our cast iron skillets and pans hanging from the base of it. The kitchen is small but efficient and I feel like I clean it continually (which I do).

During the warm days, we leave the outside door open because we have a very large screen porch which is an extension of the kitchen all but cold winter days. I can cook a meal for us (just my husband and me) in no time at all but no matter what I cook, I spend 2 hours. Preparing, cooking and cleaning up afterward. Even if it's a pizza because we always want to add more to it.

Leftover Creations

Preparing meals for supper is a creative job. The cook imagines various combinations of foods already prepared and in the refrigerator with a few ingredients added and then creates a new meal from it. This is the sign of a very good cook.

"Cooks" who throw out food left over from previous meals simply lack imagination. One of our favorite creations is made from leftover meatloaf.

We now always make extra meatloaf just to have our newly created meal which is spaghetti with meat loafs balls. Quite simple and very delicious.

Modern Kitchen in 1930s Era

I'd still love to have an old cooking stove like the one in the old photo on the left. During this era manufacturers had to create pretty useful appliances to get families to spend hard-earned money for such luxuries.

My grandmas (both of them) had stoves like this one by the time I was born. Their stoves were different from each others stoves and both were different from the one shown here. But all these women had warming ovens, bread ovens, water pots to hold boiling water (or was that a figment of my imagination).

But you get the idea. Stoves were for cooking big-time meals and were built sturdy and useful because women had something cooking on the back burner throughout the day.

This picture can be copied and saved as long as you let folks know where you got it by linking back to this blog. Thanks a lot.

Household Tips from the Past

Kitchen Tips from Grandma's House
Published in Country Folk Issue #2 pictured on left
I am the publisher and editor of that little magazine

Repair Cast-iron Cookware
Did you know you could repair cracks in old cast-iron cookware? Here is how you do it. Beat some egg whites to a froth, then add enough powdered quick lime to make a consistent paste. Take some iron-file dust and stir it into the paste until it gets thick. Fill the cracks of your ironware with this cement. Wait at least a month before you use the pan.

Keep the Flies Away
Brush your screen doors with kerosene to prevent flies from entering the house every time someone opens the door. This is the way Grandma kept out the flies.

Better than Bleach
Make a faded old dress perfectly white by boiling it in cream of tartar water. This is still a useful tip.

Raisin Cake No Eggs

There is just something about the folks who live in the Ozarks that I always liked -- for Ozarkians, personal independence is worth more than material gain. These folks have a great strength of spirit. I love that quality about Ozark people and I honor that quality in all my writings.

This recipe was created in the Ozarks out of necessity by a woman or maybe several women who needed to bake cakes but did not have eggs available, either because they didn't have chickens to lay eggs or the chickens had stopped laying eggs.

Raisin Cake No-Eggs
1 cup raisins
2 cups water
1 teaspoon soda
2 heaping tablespoons lard
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch each of salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger

Cook raisins and water down to one cup of juice. While still warm, add lard and soda. Add enough sugar and flour to make a light batter but don't let it get stiff. Bake in moderate over or in cast iron skillet until done.

Fresh Strong Coffee is Everything

A good strong fresh cup of coffee is everything to an Ozark woman. She can have a list of chores a mile long and get it all done as long as she knows that fresh pot of coffee waits at the start and stop of the day.

The first thing that happens when company arrives is to brew a fresh pot of coffee and mix up a quick bread and put it in the oven.

She's so good at hosting that all of that can happen as if by magic as she ushers her guests gently to the screen porch.

That's called Ozark hospitality and it can't be matched.

Curds and Whey

I read a little poem many times in my 1953 Collier's Encyclopedia Children's Edition set, the red book (I still have these books). One poem I enjoyed for reasons I know not was "Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey, when along came a spider who sat down beside her, scaring Miss Muffet away."
There was a little illustration on the page of a spider dropping down on a web beside a little girl wearing a cap sitting on a four-legged short round stool.

But I grew up and went on with life and started researching rare old recipes and when I came across a recipe for "Curds and Whey" I was taken aback. Curds and whey was a real food.

One of my favorite foods is large curd cottage cheese and I do believe that curds and whey is old-recipe cottage cheese.

Here is the recipe

Curds and Whey -- a recipe about 150 years old

Warm but do not boil 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream.

Pour warm milk mix into a warmed deep dish. Add rennet or junket into it, cover the dish, and set it in a warm place.

When the milk becomes a firm mass of curd and the whey looks clear and greenish, set the pan in ice or a very cold place.

Serve with sweetened cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. I first published this recipe in my magazine, Country Folk Magazine, about 20 years ago.

Grandma's Big Kitchen

No matter how many people were at Grandma's place, they all ended up sitting or standing in the kitchen. Grandma's kitchen was white, white cabinets, white icebox, white walls. But her stove was black and she always had a fire burning. She used wood in the stove. She did not have a hot water heater either so a kettle of water was always simmering on a back burner.

Cleanest Kid Bathed First
If one of us kids needed a bath she got out a big oval-shaped metal tub and put it on the floor right in the middle of the kitchen. She filled it half full with pump water and then added boiling water to it until it was luke warm. The cleanest person got to take the first bath in the tub, then the next cleanest one, and the dirtiest person went last.

I spent the night at Grandma's whenever I got the chance. Roosters crowing at dawn did not wake me up; I woke up smelling something baking in the oven, usually morning biscuits. Grandma was always in the kitchen. She was in the kitchen before I went to bed and she was there when I got up.

She was there when it was 90 degrees outside and she was there when it was snowing. When I remember Grandma I remember her kitchen and can almost smell the aroma of baking bread.

Sourdough Bread Starter

If you want to make homemade bread you can buy yeast to make it rise or you can make old-fashioned homemade sourdough bread starter right in your own kitchen and create true sourdough bread which tastes amazing.  Here is the old recipe to make the starter.

Sourdough Starter
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons buttermilk

Mix ingredients in a glass container; cover with a towel and let stand in a warm place for a few days until it has begun to ferment. As it begins to sour it will have a consistency of butter. Cover and store in refrigerator. Each time you take out a helping of the starter, you need to replenish it with the same amount of flour and water.

As long as you keep the sourdough starter cool and replace equal amounts of flour and water for the sourdough starter you removed, your starter will last a long time. Usually a bread or biscuit recipe calls for about one cup of starter.

The aroma of fresh-baked sourdough bread is irresistible and makes everyone who enters your kitchen fall in love with you. You'll get hugs and kisses and smiles. At least that has been my experience.

Author Bio

I was born in the eastern part of Kansas (Lawrence) and spent my childhood barefoot and wild. I put on my first dress when I had to start school at the age of six which immediately handicapped me as to what activities I could partake in.

Playing Cars and Trucks in the 1950s
To this day my most cherished memories are of playing cars and trucks with two of my brothers (we were 13 months apart in age -- poor Mom).

Playing cars and trucks meant we built tiny little villages or towns using sticks, moss, gravel, bark, twigs with leaves (for trees), and we molded miniature furniture, pottery, and other items from clay that we got from a deep crevice where the roots of the trees protruded from the bank.

We used sandstone to create little pans, chairs and other items, patiently sanding one stone against the other to form whatever it was we wanted to create. We called this game cars and trucks because we each had a little toy car or truck that we drove on our little gravel roads and parked in front of each of our created houses. We each created a business of some sort also.

My brother Reed created a quarry and piled tiny gravel in a heap and would haul it to where ever we wanted him to. He got the quarry idea because he got a dump truck for Christmas. The pay for hauling was the thrill of hauling, we never even though about the money aspect of things.

We loved playing cars and trucks so much that when Mom and Dad built a new house for us to live in (and I do mean they built it with their own hands), we moved in before it was completed. My room had only linoleum on it at first but Dad was putting in hardwood floors, room by room.

Anyway, before he got to my room and since he was going to cover it with hardwood, he painted roads on the linoleum and on cold days or rainy days, we played the game there. This took a different creative act since our usual elements (dirt and rocks) were not allowed in the house.

Memories Come Back in the Ozarks
Time passed and we all matured. But the three of us always kept our creative side alive.

One brother is a writer and poet, another one loves carpentry and building things, and I turned out to be a writer and publisher. Which bring me to the reason for telling you all this.

We moved to the Missouri Ozarks about two decades ago (we being my children and I). Moving here was like going back in time to the 1950s and it is still like that but not as much.

This area is rich in unrecorded history but for this blog I'm going to concentrate on the history of Ozarks kitchens, cooking, and recipes. I hope you'll stay turned.  And I hope I'll stay focused on making this blog rich in Ozark history through the kitchen scene.