Monday, February 29, 2016


I do love seeing the birds around our house, especially the cardinals. But we have other birds also ... tufted titmouse, wrens, snowbirds (chickadees), flickers, woodpickers, some we don't know the names of, gold finches, and of course, sparrows, to name a few. We can go through quite a bit of bird seed. When I saw this recipe for a peanut butter suet in Wanda E. Brunstetter's The Best of Amish Friends Cookbook Collection, I knew I had to give it a try. The recipe was from Miriam Miller of Stanford, KY.


1       cup crunchy peanut butter
1       cup lard (I used shortening)
2      cups quick oats
1/3   cup sugar
1       cup wheat flour
2      cups cornmeal
1       cup wild bird feed

Melt peanut butter and lard together. (I did this in a 4 - cup glass measuring cup in the microwave for about 30 seconds.)

Stir in remaining ingredients. (I placed the ingredients in my large mixing bowl, stirred them up
and then added the melted peanut butter/lard
and stirred it on the stir setting of the mixer.

Press into cake pan. (I used a 9 x 13 - inch pan and pressed it using a wooden spoon.)

Allow to cool,
then cut into squares. (I used my wire container as a guide. The two smaller ones I will put in contained together.)

Store in freezer or cool place.

If you are wanting to use it in a wire suet holder, you need to freeze this so that it holds together. 

The first time I tried it, I had just left it overnight in the kitchen. While most of it stayed together, it crumbled quite a bit. (The birds ate it though.)

I decided to place the pan in the freezer and tried it the next day (after it had stayed in the freezer 24 hours). This worked better but it still broke up a little. (The birds ate this one too.)

The next day (after it had been in the freezer 48 hours) it came out whole and perfect.

Don't let any crumbs go to waste though. Just put them in a dish or feeder for the birds.

Friday, February 26, 2016


My friend Lynn from California asked me to teach her to crochet. We were retiring from the same middle school.  I think she wanted to be able to do some things she never had time to do when she was a counselor. I taught her the basic stitches and then how to crochet a "hanger" for towels to use for drying your hands. That was 10 years ago. The last time I heard from Lynn she wrote that she was still making the towels.

I thought I would show you how easy they are to make. I hope you will be comfortable enough with the process that you will learn to experiment on your own. You can't make them wrong. While the start is always the same, the rest is rarely the same when I make them.

You start by cutting a kitchen towel in half. I usually buy the towels that have a design that fits half of the towel, but you don't have to restrict yourself to this kind of towel. If you do though, you will be able to make 2 hanging towels from the one towel. You probably will not want to use a towel in which the design/picture would be upside down. I have used solid towels that turned out really pretty. I usually use a variegated yarn then for sure.

After you cut the towel in half, I stitch about 1/4 of an inch from the raw edge. (You don't have to do this if you don't have a sewing machine. You will just have to make sure when you "punch" the hole in the towel to "cast on" the stitches, you are a good distance from the raw edge. I have also seen people fold the towel under slightly on the raw edge and cast over this folded edge.)

I usually use a knitting needle to punch the hole. I have used the crochet needle, but this is hard to do if you are using a good quality towel. I see directions that tell you to cast on a number of stitches. I don't worry with this. I just keep about the same distance between each hole. 

Once you punch the hole below the 1/4 inch stitch you sewed with a machine, insert the crochet needle in the hole from the front and catch the yarn in the back. Bring it through the hole pulling the loop up even with the top.

Then I wrap the yarn around the needle and pull it through to make a stitch. This is a single crochet (sc) stitch.

Finished across the top of the towel. Count the number of sc stitches that you cast on.

Usually for the first row, I double crochet across the towel. Remember to chain three before you turn the work to crochet across. This chain 3 (ch 3) counts as the first double crochet (dc) for the next row (always). That means that you don't work in the first stitch of the row. You will skip over and insert the needle in the second stitch to "make" the first dc on this row. By making a dc in the last stitch, you will have the same number of dc stitches on this row as when you cast on.

Important to remember - You can use any pattern you want to work down from the number of stitches you cast on to between 8 and 11 stitches for the "handle" part. You will reduce the number down by skipping stitches on the previous row as you work across with dc stitches. You can take as many rows as you like to accomplish this. That is where the fun is (for me). I love to experiment with different looks. Sometimes I will have "skipping rows" after each other and sometimes I will put a "solid row" between them. A solid row just means that you dc in every stitch and the number of stitches will remain the same. Sometimes I will dc a # of stitches (2 or 3) and then skip the next stitch and then repeat. It often depends on the total # of stitches I have worked down to (might want to do a little math to see what combination will work with the number of stitches you will be working with). If you get to the end of the row and you still have one more stitch you need to do but you have finished the "pattern" you were using on that row, just do another dc in the last stitch. You want to make sure you end each row in the last stitch (that ch 3). Once the towel is hanging, you won't notice it.

Here is one pattern you could use.

In my example, I ended up casting on 81 stitches.

Row 1  - Cast on 81 stitches, ch3 turn

Row 2  - dc across same 81 stitches, ch 3 turn

Row 3  - *3 dc skip 1* repeat across , dc the last 4 stitches, ch 3 turn (61 dc)

Row 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 - Repeat Row 3, until you are down to 8 - 11 stitches (11 dc )

Row 11  - dc, sk 1, 2 d, sk 2, 2 dc, sk 1, 2 dc (8 dc), ch 3, turn

Row 12 - dc across, ch 3, turn (8 dc) 

Continue this until you have the long enough to go double back over to hang. (Usually about 11 times.)

To make the button hole. dc a few stitches (3 in my example), chain 2, dc the last 3 stitches (8 stitches)

Last row  - dc across. Cut yarn leaving a couple of inches to weave through the finished work and then cut off excess.

Finished towel....

Hanging on the door of my oven....

It is the one on the right. The one on the left I obviously used a different pattern.

This is the one on the left. For the fourth row, I repeated the pattern of a *sk 1 dc*, across. Then went back to the *sk1 3 or 4 dc* and then came back with the *sk 1 dc* pattern. Like I said you can make any pattern you want.

This is another towel I made. This time when I started a "reducing row" I did the *sk 1 dc* across. The next row I dc across to have the same number of stitches I had had in the previous row.

In this one I  *DC, sk 1* across for 2 rows and then DC across.

I didn't mention it, but you probably know from the pictures. After you are finished just sew a button on the "hanger" on about the second row once you start it.

When the towel has worn out, just remove the button and use it on another towel. I like to do seasonal towels to have hanging in my kitchen. 

I hope you will give this a try. Let me know how it turns out. You may have discovered a new hobby to pass the time. You can easily complete one in an evening while watching television. You can keep it for yourself or give them to your friends as Lynn does.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I normally go out with my friend Janice on Fridays to estate sales. Last Friday though Janice and her husband were leaving to go out of town to watch their twin granddaughters play in a basketball tournament in Nebraska. I knew about my "free" Friday for a week and had spent some time thinking of other things I could do to entertain myself for the day. One of them wasn't going to "work" at Hillcrest Thrift Shop, but when Cindy called me desperate for someone to work the register from 12:30 to 3:30, I couldn't say no to her.

Even though the Friday "crew" wouldn't be expecting a treat from me, I found myself Thursday night looking for something to make the next morning to surprise them at lunch. The recipe I found sounded like something I had made before, but when I searched on my blog, I didn't find the recipe. I did find a recipe for German Apple Cake though. To keep them separate, I thought I would name this one appropriately Fast and Easy German Apple Cake.

I didn't this time, but if you were counting calories, you could use a sugar-free yellow cake mix and no-sugar-added apple pie filling.

It was a BIG HIT at Hillcrest Thrift Shop.


1         box yellow cake mix
3        eggs
1-1/2  cups flour, separated
1         can apple pie filling
1/2     cup sugar
1/2     cup margarine
1         teaspoon cinnamon
1/2     cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 - inch pan. (I used my homemade Pan Grease.)

Combine the cake mix and 1/2 cup flour to incorporate ingredients. Then add the eggs, and pie filling. Stir (low speed with mixer) til totally moistened. 
Then increase speed and beat for 1 minute.

Pour into pan and spread out evenly.

In a different bowl, coming the rest of the flour (1 cup) and the sugar with a whisk. 

Cut the margarine into the flour mixture until the texture looks like coarse crumbs. (I thinly slice the margarine first and then use my fingers to break it up and combine it with the flour,etc.)

Add the cinnamon and nuts.

Sprinkle over the top of the cake batter.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove and cool in pan on wire rack.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I get tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every morning. The other day I decided to bake this Baked Oatmeal from my Amish cookbook, The Best of Amish Friends Cookbook Collection. The recipe belongs to Barbara King of Paradise, PA.

I followed her recipe but thought I would add a little dried fruit since I had substituted stevia for the sugar. I ate it hot for breakfast that morning, but while I was eating it, I couldn't help but wonder what it would taste like if I crumbled it and served it over my Greek yogurt. Anxious to see how it tasted, I fixed it that way a few hours later for my lunch. That is how my husband and I have been enjoying it since. You can heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds or just crumble it cold over the yogurt. Either way it is super!


2       eggs
1        cup sugar (or stevia)
1/2    cup butter or margarine, melted
3       cups oatmeal (I did use Old Fashioned)
1        cup milk (skim will work)
2       teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt


Add a 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice. (I added 1/2 cup of chopped dates.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the eggs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Beat with a whisk.

Add the oats, milk, baking powder, and salt; stir until well blended.

Pour mixture into baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Add milk or scoop of ice cream. OR crumble it and serve it over yogurt. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Right now I have bananas in three stages of ripening. That means I am always on the lookout for  recipes using bananas besides banana bread. I have so many recipes for banana bread, but I have to recommend my latest great find. This recipe has replaced my all-time favorite Banana Split Bread.

I saw this recipe for Banana Drop Cookies a few weeks ago and decided they would be the perfect next cookie for me to bake. That's how I spent part of my Saturday morning.


1/4       cup oil
1/2       cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2       cup sugar/stevia blend (or 1 cup sugar)
1           egg
1           cup mashed bananas
1           teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4   cup flour
1/2       teaspoon baking soda
1           teaspoon baking powder
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon (I did use the latter)
1           cup old-fashioned oats
1/2       cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour two cookie sheets. (I just lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper. So much easier to clean up. Plus I like the end result of the cookie.)

Combine the oil, applesauce, sugar, bananas, egg, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat well.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spice together. Add to the oil mixture
and mix well.

Add the oats and nuts and
stir well.

Drop using a cookie scoop (mine holds 1 tablespoon of water) drop batter about 2 inches apart. (I usually cook 12 cookies at a time.)

Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown.

Cool on cookie sheet a few minutes before removing to finish cooling on wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Here is a picture of my bowl of bananas. Can you see the three stages of ripening? The "youngest" ones are on the bottom.

Believe it or not that top banana when peeled will still be nice and firm. 

How can this be you might ask? 

It is a trick I learned from Pinterest, I think, not sure. Wherever I saw it, it has to be right up there at the top of my list of Best Tips Ever! 

Here is the tip .... when you bring the bananas home from the store, separate them. You can then stack them in a bowl. I don't know why it works, but I can tell you the top banana is probably two weeks old. I have used them when the peeling was totally brown but the banana wasn't when I peeled it. In fact, one of the bananas I used to make these cookies was solid brown. When the peeling gets black, the banana will finally be ripe. You know when recipes tell you to use "ripe" bananas. They are soft and a very light color not white like a firmer banana. 

I see other tips all the time ... like wrapping the ends while still bunched together with foil. I don't think this works. I don't really know. I figure ... why waste the foil when just separating them will work for sure. Hope you will give it a try. 

Friday, February 19, 2016


I certainly think if I needed cheering up, chocolate would help. Agreed?

This recipe with the cute name of Chocolate Cheer-Up Cookies is an original recipe by Beverly Lewis's daughter Julie and in her The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook. Bev notes, "The perfect encouragement gift for a shut-in or sad friend...Delicious!" 

I thought I would make a batch and take to Hillcrest Thrift Shop this past Tuesday. I had some white peppermint M & M's that were red and white that I thought I would use. I hadn't opened the package beforehand and was surprised when they were so large. Regular M & M's  would probably look a little better, but the volunteer at Hillcrest loved the peppermint taste. Dana said she thought the cookie would taste good even without them. I agree with Dana. They should definitely be stored in a container with a lid. .... unless you like really crunchy cookies. They are softer and moist when stored in a cookie jar with a lid or a similar container.


1/2       cup butter
1           egg
1/3       cup sugar
1/2       cup brown sugar
1/2       teaspoon vanilla
1           cup sifted flour
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2    oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2       cup M & M's

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. (I did the latter.)

Combine together the butter, egg, sugars, and vanilla. (I heated the stick of butter in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds to soften it a little first.) Beat until smooth.

Sift together the dry ingredients. (I sifted the flour before I measured it.)

Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.

Stir in melted chocolate. (I used 3 squares (1/2 oz each) of Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet premium baking bar. I heated it on 50% power for 1 minute and stirred til melted. I "stirred" it with my mixer to make sure the chocolate was well incorporated.)

Add the M & M's using a spoon or spatula.

Drop dough on cookie sheet using a cookie scoop, at least 2 inches apart. Cookies do spread when baked. (Mine holds 1 tablespoon of water.)

Bake 9 - 10 minutes. 

Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.