Category Archives: Food

Apple Dumplings

In spite of the snow flurries in the air and awakening to a slight snow accumulation on the ground twice already, my heart is stuck in a state of autumn.  In fact, I’m still in my apple-baking-autumn mood.  I’d like to share a peek at the most delicious apple recipe you will have ever set your eyes upon!  Actually, it may not be the most beautiful. . . .it is simply the most decadent, mouth-pleasing apple treat I’ve ever put onto these taste buds.   Ok, old-fashioned apple pie is right up there too.

Last fall, when I told my dear daughter that I was going to start up a blog about the joy that happens on an ordinary day in the Minnesota countryside, she laughed and said,”Oh, so you’re going to be Pioneer Woman.”  I replied,”No, I’m pretty sure that Pioneer Woman wants to stay on as Pioneer Woman so I am going to be BeckyRedBarn.  Anyway, she’s always talking about her husband’s cute butt and my husband, your dad,  almost doesn’t even have a butt. . . .so I could never do that.” Sorry, Honey!  Looking back, daughter-dear most likely thought I was kidding!  This same pretty girl, got me started(the perfect Christmas gift)on my Pioneer Woman cookbook collection.  A redhead mama, Ree Drumond, who somehow ended up in Oklahoma with her pack of kids, dogs, horses, hubby, own TV show, and on and on, sure can put a special twist on recipes that use, for the most part, ingredients  easily acquired in my country grocery stores.  If you are dying to try this apple dumpling dish you can check Ree’s website, buy the book or give me a call and ask me how to do it, ok?  We are talking about using store-bought crescent roll dough here, friends, a couple of apples and a few simple ingredients to bake up somethings that is the most delicious. . . . . .oh, yes, I already said that.    www.pioneerwoman.com

When you leave a pan of this heart-stopping- apple-goodness on the counter there are NO rules attached.  You can dig into it wherever you want to . . . .so it looks!

Here’s a little shot of the beautiful book and it’s popular author!

The dependable McIntosh variety gives a dense, good-sized, apple wedge to wrap up in the apple dumpling. 

Don’t you just love the inside of a big, perfect apple?

Did I mention how delicious this apple recipe is?   

 

 

 

Perfect Baked Apple

Can cooking with apples get any easier than tossing together the apple crisp recipe?  It  can!  Use the microwave to hustle up your very own ‘baked’ apple;  a high-speed method your hungry-for-an-autumn-goodie self is going to appreciate.

First off, we employ a sharp paring knife to cut out the core of the apple and create a neat little well in the center.  Filling your well is up to you. . . or simply do as I do.  Tuck in a teaspoon of brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon, a shake of nutmeg, 1 tsp of chopped walnuts and 1 tsp. of butter. Place in your MWO, uncovered, on the prettiest MWO safe plate you have.   I suppose the ovens vary.  Don’t they always say that?  In the RedBarn kitchen I push the 3 minute express button(high heat) and that works out perfectly.   Letting the apple stand 1 more minute, before you dig in or serve, will allow the sweet syrup in your apple well to cool and thicken just the right little  bit.

This is unbelievably delish for a week-day breakfast . . . .curled up by the fireplace with the latest copy of Flea Market Decor.

If your well leaks that’s ok!  Somehow you will figure out how to cut into your baked-apple treat, dip, swirl and smack until every last morsel of fruit and syrup has tickled your taste buds.  My guilty secret-I rarely chop the walnuts. 

Words on the serving saucer read, ‘moment by moment grace unfolds’.  We all  need a daily portion of that; both for giving and receiving.

 

Hot Apple Crisp

Here is a family favorite apple recipe that has been baked in our Minnesota home well over 100 times.  It could be shocking to tally up the actual hours this mom has spent in this kitchen, nestled up to this primary counter-top preparation corner with  this paring knife in hand.  I’m guessing  that thought could apply to many of you.  Ahhh,  there’s no place like home and nothing more rewarding than serving up culinary creations, centered around  freshly picked autumn apples, to the’ peeps’ that we love.  Right?    This popular dessert dish mixes together quickly and disappears just as fast when you pull it from the oven and say, ‘go’.

Ingredients:

6 cups apples(I’ve used 20 different varieties and have never heard anyone complain about the apples) My favorite are the sweet, pear-like, Honey-golds.

1/3 cup  flour

1 cup rolled oats(your choice, old-fashioned or quick-cooking)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup melted butter

 

-Butter a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and place your apple slices into it.

-Mix your dry ingredients, add melted butter and mix until large crumb size.  Sprinkle over apples.

-Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

Don’t forget to have vanilla ice cream in the freezer . . . . . . . someone will surely decide it is necessary for  loading on top of their share.

A brief moment, as the entire pan of apple-crisp sets yet intact!

A closer look.  All the better to tempt you with, my dear!

Home from hunting, dish up some apple-crisp and inhale!   Did you taste that, dear child of mine?

The much-loved Honey Golds!  Prettiest apples=way up top in the tallest tree!

Apples

We define our inner self  by a sign of the zodiac, a part of the country we spent our early years in, where our ancestors originated, our high school or college campus days. . . . .

Well, then, what specific FRUIT would best define YOU?  Ever thought about that?   Possibly you can choose to see yourself as a luscious raspberry, juicy peach or beautiful bowl of blueberries.    An easy-peasy choice for me. . . .I’m an apple!     Apples go way back into the roots and history of us country folk; apple blossoms opening on the kitchen table in a blue Ball jar, apples stored through winter destined to become pie at every holiday dinner.

Today I took a stroll through our old orchard.  My dad planted an apple orchard in his retirement years.  Ya know, some farmers just don’t do the retirement thing very well!  So many memories of picking, selling, tasting new varieties, early frosts moving in, my children helping out,  mom baking and  delivering, trying new recipes.  Good memories!  The orchard has gone untended for years.  Some of the trees didn’t get the memo to shut down production and are continuing to produce some lovely apples.

In everything give thanks. . . .ok, I’m truly thankful for the beauty that exists on this windy-chilly day in the old hillside orchard, the tall abandoned prairie grass surrounding each tree, the colors and textures apparent in a late autumn scene, and the magical sense of wonder I feel when picking a perfect apple.  Since I know for a fact that I am an apple, it is a part of me I celebrate each late October.  I’m planning an apple-baking-spree!   Let’s get this straight. . .it will NOT be a week for dieting.  I will be sharing the reviews on the chosen recipes and wouldn’t think of doing so without some generous sampling!

Colors of late Autumn: dusty greens and golds, browns, tans, pale blue. . . .bright red. 

The attractive texture and design of nature on her own.

Thanks for hanging on until today! 

Apple pie, apple crisp, apple cake or pressed for juice?

Even beauty in the weathered wood of the faithful apple-picking boxes! 

Crunch, picked an extra box of apples to serve as treats to the horses!

Little Garden Keeps On Giving

Glowing, gentle autumn days  qualify as ‘joy in the countryside’ without any further  discussion.  The air smells clean, farm crops have been gleaned from the fields and the prairie grasslands in this small piece of the world have changed from green to golden one more time.

Taking an evening walk down behind the RedBarn gives me the needed exercise of hiking back up the hill and the peaceful moments one needs to reflect on a pleasant day.  If I stop at the garden it’s impossible to climb the hill empty-handed.  My mind starts chattering,” See those few red tomatoes?  Take a carrot or two. The pepper plants are on their second round!   September is fall so you can start to pluck the gourds and pumpkins for your viewing pleasure, you know.”  A little of this and a little of that until one more time. . . .a full basket is climbing the hill with me.

I’m grateful for the gifts that come from a small patch of Big Stone County country soil.  It’s the gift I would give to every person in need. . .if I could.

Excitement In The Hen House

You should hear the squawking!  My long-time RedBarn hens are not all that eager to share their comfortable coop with the new-comers.    Ever heard of ‘pecking order’?  It’s real!  There’s a loud ‘baaaaawk’ each time haughty, black Princess Rocky, the dominant hen, peck-thumps a newbie.  It’s already getting less often though and she doesn’t throw a large enough threat to keep any of the ladies away from the feed pan.

Neighbor, Joanne, is moving.  Sigh!  In all that picking up a home and family and moving them  hours away entails, she has decided to gift away her laying hens.  I’m the proud owner of three more chickens!

First day, only two brave chickens layed an egg. Both factions in the hen-house were upset and must have held them in.  I’ve never layed an egg.  Ok, don’t get technical or ask my kids about this.   Best guess is that a hen can only hold out so long.

‘Drum roll’ for the walk from house to chicken coop on day two.   Oh my,  one feathered lady has laid a green egg, among the little pile of brown ones.  I’ve never tired of picking the brown eggs; eyes lingering in gaze and thoughts full with contemplation of their smooth and natural beauty.   Yet, reaching in to touch and hold the green egg gave me a smile that I could feel spreading huge across my face.   It is a beautiful, pale aqua colored egg.  The new hen responsible for the pretty gift looks to be of the Americana breed of chickens.  Thank you, Joanne.

My little granddaughters have so many precious names for the hens but I have to ask often, “What’s her name, again?  How can I remember all of the creative, girly, hen names?”   Wonder what the little girls will think of my name selections.   Something to definitely signify green for the brown hen who is the layer of the green egg(makes sense to me).  Chlorophyll, I like the sound of that.    The  white hen can be named Chlorox(yes, the h is added for her very own touch).   Since  we love Halloween around here and the black hen is a mite(pun intended) scary looking  she can be  Chlorella.  Sounds like a good-witch name to me!  I might be able to remember  audacious hen names such as these.

‘Chlorophyll’

 ‘Chlorox and Chlorella’

Moments To Remember

Some days ‘moments’ come into your life, as unexpected blessings, and you are left with a great-big heart full of stuff to deal with.  Such a problem!  We left the dog on the porch in charge at the RedBarn and had been running around the state, exploring the Ottertail Lake country, when we walked into a gas station for a cup of coffee and were surprised to see the son of a dear old friend.  Son said, “Dad has had a pretty rough year and it’s his birthday today.  If you can find the time, why don’t you stop out at the cabin for a visit? It’s only a few miles from here.”  We did.   Friends, Ray and Peggy, are superb hosts and couldn’t do enough for us.  Cripes, I felt like it was my birthday; drinks, snacks, tour of their cabin-that’s-more-than-a-cabin and then we heard, “Of course, you are staying for dinner!”

Why is it so much fun when  all of the girls get to sit at their own table?  We shared our stories of good times and bad. . . .and everything in-between.  Each girl(we’re girls forever) at the table could fill a binder with stories of family tales, old boyfriends, health dilemmas, crazy good times and sorrows endured.  There was neighbor, Ramona, who warned, “Just don’t ask me what I do ’cause right now I’d have to say I don’t know.”  She is walking on crutches since she jumped into the lake, off the pontoon, to save her little 3-year-old granddaughter and broke her leg.  Squeezing in some cherished hours of Minnesota summer lake time was cousin Beverly, from Las Vegas, NV.   She had designed her trip around one last visit with a sick and elderly uncle in North Dakota. Not an easy thought.  It’s hard to talk about Peggy in a sentence or two!  We all have a complex friend like her. . .if we’re really lucky.  She has the best jewelry of anyone I know, goes to church on Sunday, is a nurse  and would teach you how to chug a beer or change the oil in your car. . .if you needed her too.

A table full of kindred spirits, all enjoying the girlfriend love that bound us together, if only briefly, right there under the patio umbrella.

Among the laughs and the raving comments about Ray’s tender grilled pork and Bev’s ‘Corn Salad’, Bev shared, “I wrote a cook-book full of 30 minute meals once, long before the thought ever entered that pretty head on Rachel Ray.” That’s the breaks, Bev!   This is by far the best corn salad I’ve ever tasted. . .and you look like a star to me!  We were lucky to get a photo as the salad quickly disappeared when passed to the other table.

Thanks for the ‘moments’ to remember, girls!  Oh yah, “Happy Birthday, Ray.  You’re a real stud!”

Perfect hostess

Secret Corn Salad ingredient: stir in Chili Cheese Fritos just before serving! 

“Did you really take a picture of me EATING?” You are great fun, Ramona!

Meander Time

Folks who live among the villages and countryside of the Upper Minnesota River Valley know what ‘Meander’ means.   Each fall, first week-end in October, we shift into Meander gear and greet our many guests from around the  area, region and some from other states.  Of course, there’s a committee that meets all year long to get it just right and tweak the details in the mighty fine brochure covering the event(and a whole bunch more if you’re them).

We have some tremendously creative people living and working in this rural area of Minnesota.  During the Meander weekend they put their best wares out and welcome the shoppers and visitors.  I’m so proud to share the RedBarn space with some of these amazing people!!  An artist called a few days back and left a message about coming out to help clean the barn in readiness for Meander.  That was so nice!  It’s a big building when it comes to those dusting and sweeping up chores so the help is much appreciated!  Great thing about art in a barn?    No one notices if you miss a cobweb or two; kind of adds to the ambiance!  I find that I do less and less each year to spruce up our RedBarn country place.  The visitors are simply happy to be out in the countryside; visiting, eating at every stop, grabbing beautiful one-of-a-kind creations, picking the perfect pumpkin.  They don’t care one lick if I swept the porch, washed the windows on the house or made sure to reach under the big pine trees with the push mower.  My hubby did promise to  get our new(old) weathervane attached on the top of the RedBarn before Meander.  You can glance up to the roof top and check for yourself if you stop by.   As October approaches each fall, I’m smart enough to capitalize on the opportunity and whine about something that needs to get done.   This little idea of mine has turned into a major project . . . . .maybe I should be careful about using the word smart until it’s bolted up top the barn.

Friend, Doug, decided to show-off, for a few of us lucky local creatives, in an Ortonville  storefront window.  Wonderful and catchy idea; large art poster placed on an old door painted black!

 

How’d You Like Your Potato Done?

Well, certainly not like this!!!  I’ve started a little country-girl habit of running down to the garden and digging just enough potatoes to go on the grill, with something else, for our evening meal.  Once their lovely Yukon Gold skins get scrubbed up and poked with a fork they hit the top rack of the grill and slow-roast for 30 minutes before any meat option joins them.  It creates the most delicious baked potato flavor that can possibly exist in the whole wide world.  I mean it!!   Getting late, nearly 7:00 p.m., so I recruited some  help from my tired hubby last night.  Thinking back, I felt kind of ‘squirmy’ inside when I asked him to go start the grill.  That must be the feeling you get when you know you should ‘go with your gut’. . . .and you don’t.  Ten minutes later, in the middle of stirring a pan of  frying onion on the stove top, my gut squirmed again and I called from the kitchen to the man on the couch, “Hon, you maybe should check that grill.  It gets a little hot lately, even on medium.”

Here’s the point where I’m really happy about living in the country.  As I peeked out the window and saw him approaching the grill, I asked what the temperature gauge was reading. (I could already see the flames shooting out)  The man was reaching to lift up the grill cover.  Now, I can handle burnt potatoes but not burnt husband!   Let’s just say that I ‘raised my voice.’  ” Ah, the temperature gauge says 1000 degrees,” he replied through a very faint smile. He felt bad and even suggested that they may be ‘just fine’ once everything cooled down.  I agreed, of course. . . .just to get him to back away from that HOT grill.

I love that man and he’s good at so many things.  He sure  does know how to get out of cookin’!

 A couple of lucky leftovers got tossed in the microwave, after we laughed our fool heads off!

Eggplant

Oh, eggplant, dear eggplant, you of majestic, royal hue and curvaceous shape among the garden fair, why, oh why, can’t I acquire a taste for you?

I did not,  technically, lie to Liz when she graciously offered to pluck a large eggplant from her fair plant and add it to the pail full of garden gifts she was filling for me.  My silent nod meant,” yes, I do love it and really, really do want it. . . .just not for eating.”

The early Monday morning sun came streaming into the back yard screen-porch and created a gift of light upon the  table still life setting. Wow!  Simply watching the sunlight rise and fill the morning space  felt like a personal late summer gift from my Creator.  I’ll admit, there is also a feeling of all-around general triumph in seeing the sunrise and feeling the cool air. . . . .when you’re not often described as a morning person.

may break down and try the Baba Ghanoush(roasted egg-plant dip)recipe I have pinned to my kitchen board.  Must be a good sport and give the whole eggplant-eating-thing one more try!