Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Treat with Abe and Mary Lincoln


Abraham and Mary Lincoln 
in photographs taken in Springfield in the late 1850s

One of my favorite parts of doing the research for my book Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen was the discovery that the successful lawyer would come home and put on "his blue apron" and help his wife Mary prepare dinner for their three boys. He also stopped by Springfield's community pasture to bring home the family cow for milking.

There are so many ways to learn about our nation's sixteenth president. And as Valentine's Day is upon us I am delighted to think again of their love story. Mary was a headstrong, vivacious young woman. Abraham was a busy lawyer. They met at the Springfield home of her older sister who was married to the son of the former governor of Illinois. Soon they were seen as a couple and dances. He said, "I wanted to dance with her in the worst way." She responded, commenting on his dancing experience, "and he certainly did!"

For the next twenty-six years Abraham and Mary worked together through successes and family tragedies including the death from illness of two of their four sons. I think Mary was Abraham's intellectual equal. She was smart and politically savvy. She had a strong temper which he calmed with humor and kindness, or tried to anyway.

Food is another avenue to studying Lincoln's life and the life of his family. I found dozens of great recipes in my study, tested them, and then settled on just more than fifty for the book.

This easy ice cream is one of my favorites. It is more than half berries and their juices. So the eating experience is uniquely delicious--a mixture of the crystalline texture of Italian ice and creamy ice cream. You can make it even if you don't have an ice cream freezer. Mary may have had the use of one for their June strawberry parties. The grocery store ledger of their account lists "salt for ice cream" as one of the purchases.

Like many in Springfield, Abe and Mary had "strawberry parties" 
to delight in the fresh berries of the season. 
This recipe from that era is made with half crushed berries and half cream 
for a delightful and delicious eating experience. 

1850s Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups fresh strawberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups full-fat cream
1 cup milk

Wash the berries and remove the green stems. Crush them, or chop finely. Mix with sugar and set aside for an hour, stirring, so that the berries will release their juice. Combine with the cream and put in the refrigerator freezer to chill. You can then churn following the directions for your ice cream freezer, or continue to freeze in the refrigerator until frozen, stirring every hour or so. Whichever method you use, you will need to thaw this slightly to enjoy. 

Makes about 2 quarts of churned ice cream 

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Simple Treats to Celebrate Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

Abraham Lincoln with his youngest son Tad 1864

I love cooking from old recipes. I started tinkering with them when I received my grandmother's wooden recipe box from the 1900s. It was filled with cards written by her hand and by several of her friends. The dishes carried the names of those who added to this collection for her bridal shower gift. Lerry's fruitcake. Mother's bread starter, Helen's cookies... you get the idea.

Over the past three decades I've continued my exploration into recipes of the past and have studied how those foods can help us understand the lives of people and the times in which they lived. I've written a two-book series exploring 100 years of midwestern farm cooking and life, another on WWI food conservation, the book on Prohibition has some super ice cream recipes, and explored changes in women's during the dynamic the 1950s Potluck Paradise. But I think my favorite may be my book about Lincoln.

In Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen I wrote about Lincoln's life from his Kentucky birth, Indiana boyhood, beginnings of his political life in Illinois, and his service in the White House. By reading about and then replicating his favorite foods, I discovered his progress from a self-sufficient farming lad to the statesman who fought to save the nation.

This recipe is one of my favorites from that collection. I found the original recipe as I read the microfilmed issues of the Springfield newspaper he would have read while serving as postmaster in New Salem. He read everything he could get his hands on... even his neighbor's newspapers as he walked out to their cabins to deliver them. Or while he waited for them to come in and pick up the mail.

So on February 12, celebrate Abraham Lincoln's 208th birthday. Make up a quick batch of these tasty treats. You can serve them with a mild cheese, a bit of preserves, or even ham. Or just have them plain with a glass of wine or milk. 

Apees--a delightful crisp treat 
flavored with cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and caraway seeds. 
Easy to make and a "good keeper" if you can keep people out of the cookie jar


2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting rolling surface
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon mace
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 cup (one stick) cold salted butter
1/3 cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and caraway seeds in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like uncooked oatmeal. Stir in the white wine with a fork and then knead the dough with your hands. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 1-inch squares, place on ungreased baking sheet and prick two or three times with a fork. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
Apees shrink as they bake.  
Makes about 7 dozen small cookies. 

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From a Clear Lake Kitchen--Treats from the 1950s for the Winter Dance Party Celebration

It's Winter Dance Party Week here in Clear Lake. This annual event at the Historic Surf Ballroom celebrates the cultural contributions of the three rock and roll musicians--J.P. Richardson, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly-- with concerts, dances, and a memorial trip to the nearby field where the plane carrying the artists crashed on February 2, 1959.

There are events Wednesday through Sunday. You can find more information about the Dance Party history and events at this site:

Music wasn't the only thing that changed during this exciting decade. Foods became fun, too. Chips leapt out of a sack, cheesy slices in flat cardboard boxes emerged from newly built pizzerias, and paper-wrapped steaming burgers in soft buns were bought by the bag full at fifteen cents a piece.

While grown-ups may not have been exactly enamored of the sock-hop boppers dancing to 45s in basement rec rooms, they did enjoy whipping up tasty refreshments quickly from their pantry basics.

So to celebrate this party weekend, I opened up my copy of Potluck Paradise which features recipes adapted from community cookbooks of that decade, tuned into the oldies, and made a couple of my favorite treats.

 Shrimp and Cucumber Salad 
1950s homemakers would have pulled the pimento and a can of shrimp from the pantry. 
Today we can use canned, frozen, or even fresh shrimp. 

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
2 tablespoons non-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons non-fat mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cumin, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 cup small salad shrimp
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon minced dill gherkin pickle, low sodium version
1 Haas avocado

Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise and seasonings in a small mixing bowl. Reserve a couple of shrimp for garnish and chop the rest into three or four pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and carefully mix until shrimp and vegetables are coated with the dressing mixture. Cut the avocado in half. Remove pit. With a small spoon, scoop out about half of the avocado flesh, chop and mix with shrimp. Make it a little easier to eat by scoring the remaining avocado in a criss-cross pattern Mound shrimp mixture into avocado shell, garnish, and serve with crackers or your favorite chips. Refrigerate any leftover filling and eat within two days.


Cranberry Pineapple Sipper  
This non-alcoholic cocktail is a refreshing way to stay awake 
just to be sure those teenagers made it home safely before curfew!

Cranberry Pineapple Sipper

2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients. Chill for at least one hours. When ready to serve, strain to remove the cloves and serve over ice, or in a wine glass.

Copyright 2017 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day with this Magic Chocolate Cake!

 From a Clear Lake kitchen window---Yup! that's snow all right!

After looking through my kitchen window at the winter wonderland, I was delighted to learn through the magic of the Web that today Friday, January 27, 2017 is National Chocolate Cake Day.    Well, that's just what the doctor ordered to help get over the exercise from shoveling and show throwing 15 inches of heavy snow the past two days.

Ah but what kind of cake to make? "Easy does it" ruled the day as I leafed through my copy of Potluck Paradise and landed on an old time favorite. Magic Chocolate Cake! This rich cake has a wonderful texture that stands up to chocolate frosting or ice cream. It freezes well... if any is left over.

It couldn't be easier to make. No mixer, no mixing bowl. Just an eight- or nine-inch square pan,  a handful of ingredients you probably have in your pantry. and a fork to mix it all up with. Oh! and the oven, of course.

Magic Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cocoa powder--not instant cocoa mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose vegetable oil, such as Wesson
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt into an ungreased 8x8- or 9x9-inch pan. Make three depressions in these ingredients. Pour the oil into one, the vinegar in another and vanilla in the third. Gently pour the milk over the entire pan and stir carefully with a fork until all ingredients are well blended into a slightly lumpy batter. Bake until cake is firm in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost with ready made frosting or this chocolate cream frosting. 

Chocolate Cream Frosting

3 tablespoons butter
3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 cups sifted powdered sugar.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar and water, increase heat to medium and bring to the boiling point, stirring from time to time. Boil for three minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm Add enough sifted powdered sugar to make a spreading consistency. This makes enough frosting for two cakes. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or frozen.for two months. 

Happy National Chocolate Cake Day!

Copyright 2017  Rae Katherine Eighmey, all rights reserved. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Never One to Look a Gift Cabbage in the Mouth.....

...but this one was HUGE!!  Fortunately I was only offered half of it. My friend kept the other half.

Still.... there is was... Big, beautiful light green, so crisp and fresh that it spattered me when I sliced it. What to do with this wonder?

I thought about cole slaw, but that would have been a lot of slaw. It is summer and too hot to make a boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage.

Then I got to thinking about the leftover pork loin in the freezer. I had made it in the slow-cooker, simmering in concentrated apple juice and white wine seasoned with some cumin. When it was finished I spent the time to fully reduce the cooking liquids as a sublime glaze--if I say so myself. We enjoyed part of it for July Fourth. The rest was just waiting for another time.  The richness of the meat would be a great counterpoint to my usual red cabbage cooking method. But even that is a "winter recipe." Maybe fresh herbs would make the difference. So I'm calling this Sweet and Sour Summer Cabbage. And if we didn't eat it all, I could easily freeze it.

So I grabbed my big knife and my biggest skillet with a lid and started shredding away. Stepped out into the garden for some fresh dill and a rosemary branch to give it the seasonal light flavor I was seeking.

It was way better than I thought it would be. Ta-DA--a new "go to" favorite. Figured I'd better blog it to share...and not to lose for the next bountiful gift!  Hope you enjoy it, tool

OH!  One more thought -- there won't be any going in the freezer. Have enough for tomorrow and maybe one more night. I DO love great leftovers.

Sweet and Sour Summer Cabbage

1 large green cabbage (or half a huge one)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 4-inch branch fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped
5 or 6 3-inch branches of fresh dill, ferny leave slightly chopped, stems discarded
salt and pepper to taste.

Shred the cabbage and put in a bowl with water. I had about 16 cups of shredded cabbage.
Melt the butter in a very large skillet with a lid. Gently scoop the cabbage into the frying pan, leaving most of the water behind. The water clinging to the shreds will spatter when it goes into the pan and will steam the cabbage as it cooks. Cover and steam for a few minutes, stirring with tongs to lift the cooked shreds to the top. When the cabbage is tender, add vinegar and sugar, stir to mix well. Then add the herbs and seasonings. Cover and lower heat. Simmer over very low heat for five minutes or so. Best made ahead and reheated so the flavors can meld.

Copyright, 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From a Clear Lake Kitchen: Taking Stock Before Planting, Raised Beds and Herb Butter

Last summer's bounty was put up in jars, stashed in the freezer, and inventoried on my "storage harvest" peg board.

On the left are tags for what we will still be enjoying before we can harvest the delights from this year's garden and the Clear Lake Farmer's Market. When we pulled goodness from the freezer or pantry, I stowed its tag down at the bottom of the board, ready for this year's new inventory. We sure had a lot of super food!

The garden stores are jumping with possibilities. Seed packets are everywhere, of course. You don't have to wait for mail order. The usual seed suppliers have their tempting carousels stocked with new and old reliable varieties. I spied a display of heirloom from Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah at Hy-Vee the other day.  So a pea variety from 1898, beets from 1892 and 1828, and some Australian heirloom "five color silverbeet Swiss chart" fell into the cart.  Plants that help northern Iowa gardeners get a jump on the season are all around. Tomatoes and peppers of all kinds, even cucumbers and zucchini are ready to be placed oh! so carefully in the ground.

I'm ready!  But before I get too carried away, I want to stop and think a bit about how to make the best use of my limited garden space. That's where the storage harvest peg board has come in handy. I can look at what we've enjoyed the most and make sure I plant for that.  I'm down to one package of the creamed squash casserole. Counting the tags, I see I had put by ten of them. So it might be worth having two of the the nice yellow bush squash plants.

I also need to think about where I want to plant.  With the garden getting full, I'm planting herbs and lettuces in pots.

And maybe even a raised bed.  Woodford Lumber and Home has designed and exhibited a particularly efficient one at the Green Expo held at the Surf and the Woman's Expo at Southbridge Mall. It is a pyramid! Made of cedar. The boards have interlocking slots near the ends--kind of like Lincoln Logs fit together. No nails or screws! A child could put it together! The three levels would provide about thirty feet of "row" on a thirty-inch square base. And in the fall, you can pull it apart and stack the boards flat if you want to. Or just leave it ready for next year.

Full grown pyramid raised bed. 


Two views of the planter. See how the boards interlock in the side view and how they stack in the view from the top down. 

And now for the Herb Butter recipe!

This herb butter was one of the favorite freezer items.

Fall-Garden-Clearing Herb Butter

So just what do you do with all the flourishing herbs when the killing frost is pending? I didn't have room in the house to pot them up and bring inside.  Some-- like sage -- will winter over.  Pesto is a wonderful way to preserve abundant basil. But what about rosemary, parsley, thyme, marjoram, and others?  The herb butter is easy to make and keeps well. Ready to spark up simple mashed potatoes, boiled vegetables, simple sauce for fish, or even melted and mixed into bread crumbs for a savory casserole topping. 


bunches of fresh herbs -- rosemary, thyme, parsley, whatever you have in your garden

good quality butter (for my garden I used 2 pounds of butter)

Wash and dry the herbs. Remove from stems and process in food processor until very finely chopped. 

Mix with an equal amount of soft butter. 

Form into logs, wrap in freezer-quality plastic wrap and seal the logs in freezer bags. 

To use, slice off what you want and reseal the package. 

copyright 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.