Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 22, 2010

Grandma's Kitchen: Thanks to joy, strength


To all my dear reader-friends, I am sure this is tacky, but my column today is both a food column/thank-you note, so please indulge me.

I can never thank you enough for all of your thoughtful cards, notes and e-mails. They have been my joy and my strength. You and your friendship are the biggest perks of this job, and I really appreciate the Record-Eagle letting you know why I was absent.

I have really missed our visits, and hope you all had a great winter so far. My winter has been a new experience, and has taught me so much.

It's been my lot in life to find
At every turning of the road,
The strong arms of a comrade kind
To help me onward with my load.
And since I have not wealth or gold,
And love alone must make amends,
My constant prayer is while I live,
God make me worthy of my friends.

I loved the note from Jeannette, who asked if I was cruising on the Caribbean. Actually, I was cruising the halls of Munson Medical Rehab Unit. This was after having a stroke Dec. 13.

I cannot say enough good things about the angels of mercy on that unit. Love flows knee-deep there; what they know and practice is that love heals, and I am exhibit A! I'll feel forever indebted to every person on the unit, and the sweet therapists and nurse who came to our home from Munson Home Health Care after my discharge, continuing the great work that was started there.

My wonderful church family has been my strong support as well.

This has been another great learning experience only a brain injury can bring. I know myself much better and have a deeper understanding of others suffering stroke and other brain trauma. My world is different and wonderful, and life is going forward.

I have to tell you, too, that my girls have been their usual wonderful selves. I have not been alone one day, while in the hospital or since. I have been pampered and spoiled, and am loving every minute of it! I am so thankful for my blessings.

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One thing I have learned is that I love to be read to. Have you been read to by another adult since you became one, or do you know someone that you could read to? What a wonderful gift you have to offer.

My girls have been reading to me every day, and it has become my favorite hour (or more). I have never recommended a book in my column, but I love these so much I want everyone to read them. They are about a young Norwegian woman who moves alone from Pennsylvania to the Dakota prairies as a homesteader. It is the story about life as she progresses from homesteading, to becoming a wife and mother of six children. Her only tools were her intelligence, determination and hard work.

These books were written by her daughter, Carrie Young. The three books that we have just finished are available in paperback. They are "Nothing to Do but Stay," "The Wedding Dress" and "Prairie Cooks." They are centered on the Norwegian customs, foods and lifestyle as experienced by two generations of prairie women.

Since all of the homesteaders were farmers, many chapters are devoted to graphic descriptions of cooking for threshers, whose backbreaking labors were fueled by five meals a day. To pique your curiosity, here's a recipe from the book "Prairie Cooks" that is so old, you may have to ask your mother or grandmother about it. I am sure they had it at a church potluck.

Glorified Rice

(A dainty dish for Ladies Aid meetings, not meant for threshers.)

2/3 c. rice, boiled until light and fluffy, rinsed with cold water, drained thoroughly

1 (15 oz.) can mandarin orange sections, drained

1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained

21/2 c. miniature marshmallows

1 c. whipping cream

1 T. sugar

1/4 t. vanilla

1/2 c. toasted chopped walnuts (for topping)

In a large glass bowl, combine rice, oranges, pineapple and marshmallows and mix well. In another bowl beat the chilled whipping cream until it holds soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into the rice/fruit mixture until well blended. Before serving, sprinkle walnuts over top.

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Vicki is here this week and we love to experiment with recipes and such. So, when Rebecca Lindamood put her recipe for homemade natural soap on her blog, we decided it might be fun to make it. It is made of natural ingredients and is very inexpensive. Best of all, it is quick and easy to make.

Storing it might be a problem if the whole batch of five gallons is made, so Vicki and I started with cutting the recipe to one gallon so we could try it for quality before we shared it with you. And we do like it. It does not suds, which is great for your front-end loading washers.

We were surprised when Vicki picked up the ingredients at our local market. The checkout clerk took one look and knew she was making soap, so it must be catching on. At only 1 cent per cup, no wonder!

We thought you might be interested, so although it's not a food item, it usually comes out of the food budget, so here it is. We recommend you start with the one-gallon recipe to make sure you like it, too. The Ivory soap gives it a delicate, clean smell. If you desire more fragrance, add a few drops of floral or herbal essential oils.

Natural Soap Recipe

1/4 bath-size bar of Ivory soap, grated into 1 c. warm water

1/4 c. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda

1/8 c. 20 Mule Team Borax Natural Laundry Booster

Heat grated Ivory soap and water in small pan, stirring until dissolved. Set aside. Dissolve washing soda and laundry booster in one gallon warm water. Stir in Ivory soap until well blended. Cover tightly and store overnight. The next day, use a metal spoon or whisk to break up (it will be like gelatin) and stir until slightly lumpy. Store in tightly covered container. Use one cup of detergent for a full load.

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Parting shot: You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future.

Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached at coachngrandma@charter.net. For more Grandma's Kitchen columns by Edna Shaffer, log on to record-eagle.com/ednashafferednashaffer.