Hello, friends and neighbors. Aren't you glad you live in this valley, and not in the lower Mississippi Valley? Of course, they need the water the rains bring, but they don't need flooding and winds that blow everything crazy. We can complain about the weather in the Ohio Valley, but, all in all, it is usually a pretty nice place to live.
We had a small garden this year - only two dozen tomato plants, and those not well cared for, but they are doing their best to keep me busy doing things I had promised myself I wasn't going to do this year. The latest project as of this writing is a roaster of tomato sauce. It started out to be just a pot of sauce for pasta, but somehow grew like a soup does when one starts it. Anyway, it was on a day when my energy was pretty good, and once it was started, there was no turning back. I even seeded (and skinned) the tomatoes so I could eat it, also, and then just started adding things like onions and peppers, sugar and vinegar, lots of garlic, salt and spices. No recipe and no measuring, and it still turned out pretty good. So, don't be afraid to just start cooking something. Use your taster and add whatever you like and it will turn out pretty good. I had to go from my soup kettle to the 18-quart roaster, but that isn't unusual.
How about that 30-cent rise in gas prices in just half a day. Now, the stations were pumping the same gas as they were before - no new tankers in the driveway - so how do they justify that price increase on something they had already purchased? Do they think we are all stupid? I told husband Norm I was going to saddle up one of those hay-burners in the pasture and ride it to town. Of course, no one believes me since I don't even go into the pasture. This government in Washington is almost making me do what I would never expect to have to do in this lifetime. I check my phone messages only once a day or two because of all the calls trying to tell me how great those in Washington are. I guess they think because we live in a rural area, we will believe things are hunky-dory and won't see for ourselves the mess we are in now. If I were 30 years younger, I would be out there shaking things up. As it is, I'll just stay at home, cook my tomato sauce and complain to my family about the state of affairs and the intelligence (or lack thereof) in government.
I guess most older folks feel they may have missed their true calling in life when they think back over the decisions they have made. Nothing one can do about it after it is done, so we might as well think about the future and what we can do to improve things now. A person is about as happy as one decides to be, so it is up to us to find that ray of sunshine. We can't change anyone else, only how we react to their decisions. Hard to swallow sometimes, but necessary for mental health.
A neighbor commented on how nice our yard looked with the picnic tables and swings, just like a park. We didn't tell him we have just been too busy to put them away. I guess they will all just stay there until winter if they please those who drive by.
This weekend is the last hurrah of summer and lets us celebrate it with a long weekend. Lots of fairs and festivals and still time to do some serious grilling. It has been too hot to spend much time outside, especially over a hot fire. Hopefully, fall will be nicer to us and give us some enjoyable days and evenings. It is even time to take along a sweater as we head out to the football games. If you have any students in school, or know any, do try to go to the high school games. The players really appreciate knowing someone is there to watch them. They may act like big shots, but there is still a kid in them and they look for approval. Don't yell at them if you think they have made a mistake - they are just learning and playing a game. And they still aren't too big for a hug when they come off the field after a game.
As we put away the shorts and get out the sweaters, we need to do the same thing to the kitchen. If the soup pot is convenient and the crockpot is on the counter, we are more likely to use them as the weather, (hopefully), turns cooler. With fall fruits ripening, now is the time to enjoy that fresh apple right off the tree, or a nice, juicy pear. Don't forget to freeze some for the winter or put up a few cans. The holidays are coming and the food prices are expected to increase. Jars of jelly or pickles make a great Christmas Gift Basket. Now is a good time to stick away some Christmas gifts, if you can remember where you hide them.
Enjoy this season, the sunshine and the rain. Fall is a beautiful season, so keep memories of it for when the cold winds blow.
GERMAN APPLE KUCHEN
One-half plus two tablespoons sugar
Two cups all-purpose floor
Three-fourths cup butter
Four large cooking apples (like Granny Smith), peeled and sliced
One-cup heavy whipping cream
One-half teaspoon vanilla
Zest from one lemon
One-half cup sugar
Cinnamon - for top of kuchen
Mix sugar, flour and butter (crust ingredients) in food processor as for piecrust. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Combine all other ingredients for filling except cinnamon and mix well. Press crust into large spring-form pan and arrange apple slices in rows around the crust. Be sure all the crust is covered with apple slices. Gently pour filling over apple slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
FRESH APPLE CAKE
One-and-one-fourth cups shortening
Two cups sugar
Two teaspoons vanilla
Three cups flour
One-teaspoon baking soda
Three cups chopped apples
One cup chopped pecans
Sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for top
Cream shortening and sugar well. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add. Add apples and pecans. Pour into greased pan and sprinkle top with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake in preheated 350-degreee oven. A 13x9x2 pan takes about 45 minutes. A tube pan takes about 80 minutes.
One-cup brown sugar
One-half cup shortening
Two-thirds cup sour milk (or buttermilk)
One egg, beaten
One-half teaspoon salt
One-and-one-half cups oats
One-half teaspoon cloves
One-half teaspoon soda
One-half teaspoon baking powder
Two cups flour
Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and sour milk. Combine dry ingredients and add. Add oats and raisins. Drop by spoonfuls onto lightly greased coolie sheet and bake for about ten minutes at 410- to 425-degrees. If you use parchment paper on the cookie sheets, you don't have to grease them. Other ingredients can be added such as nutmeats or mini M&Ms or chocolate chips. You can make the sour milk by putting a spoonful of vinegar into the measuring cup, then filling it with milk to the correct mark.
GREEN TOMATO PIE
Pastry for double-crust pie
One-half cup brown sugar
Two tablespoons flour
Grated rind of one lemon
One-fourth teaspoon ground allspice
One-fourth teaspoon salt
Four cups peeled and sliced green tomatoes
One tablespoon lemon juice
Three tablespoons butter
Line pie pan with pastry dough. Mix the sugar, flour, lemon rind, allspice and salt together. Sprinkle just a little of this on the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange the tomato slices, a layer at a time and sprinkle some of the sugar mixture on each layer. Sprinkle the lemon juice on each layer and put a dot of butter on each slice of tomato. Keep layering until you reach the top of the pie pan. Cover with latticed top crust and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Brush top with egg or cream wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar for a sparkly top.
* * *
Patty Christopher is a longtime food columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org