Category Archives: The Country Kitchen

Foods, recipes, preserving, nutrition.

Recipe: Perfect Grill Burgers and Fries (Part I – Burgers)

I know … sometimes you just want to hop in the car and head to nearest Grill for a juicy burger and fries.  There’s no two ways about it.  You’ve got the craving!  Well, I assume most people get that craving now and then.  I certainly do.  And I know it’s genetic.  My mother has had these unexplained cravings pretty regularly all my life.  I’m just waiting to see which of my kids get it … Betsy I think.  But sometimes you just can’t do it.  Everybody in the family wants one and there’s no way you’re going to spend $8-12 a head just for burgers and fries for everyone.  Well, the luxury of having someone else do the cooking and the cleaning is pretty much what 75% of that cost is going toward, and if you can rope someone into being your assistant grill chef, and then whine a little and claim “I cooked!” as an excuse to get out of the clean up, you’re not doing too badly!  Because these really are the real McCoy.  I’ve been working on these recipes for half a dozen years, and I’ve got it down pat.  Put on your grilling apron, grab a lighter and lets’ go!


Okay, well, I know you’re all excited and raring to go.  But you have to actually back up a step and start with frozen burger patties.  I know.  Sacrilege.  But it’s part of the secret.  You don’t think your neighborhood Bar & Grill pulls out a lump of fresh ground beef and hand-shapes their patties every time you ask for one, do you?  Probably not.  I make my own frozen patties.  I bought one of these little gadgets:

This is a burger press I found on amazon. I bought mine from my local kitchen supply store for less than $10. Just for grins, go to Amazon and do a search for “burger press.” I never thought I’d be drooling over that many different kinds of burger presses – if you don’t have one you might suddenly finding yourself “needing” one!

I divide my ground beef into 1/4 lb. lumps, insert into the burger press, and … well … I press.  Then I have a flat 1/4 lb. burger, which I transfer to a baking sheet covered in waxed paper.  You could make your patties larger if you like – 1/3 lb. or more.  When the sheet is full I put it in my deep freeze for several hours until the patties are firm, then I trim the waxed paper between each row of two burgers (I can usually get four columns of two burgers each on a regular-sized baking sheet).  Then I stack them on top of each other and insert into a gallon-sized freezer bag and put back in the freezer until I want to cook them.  Easy-peazy. Or you can buy pre-frozen burgers at your grocery, but be sure they are 100% ground beef.  The good stuff. No “beef-hearts” on the ingredients label, okay?  Just 100% ground beef.

Once you have your frozen patties, you’ll need to fire up the grill at a “high” setting.  Here is your list of ingredients:

Frozen burger patties

Montreal Steak Seasoning

A-1 Steak Sauce

Specialty Hamburger Bun (deli buns, seeded buns, kaiser rolls, onion rolls … whichever you like best when you order a burger at a Grill or a Steakhouse.)

Butter (not margarine)

Mayo (for those who like mayo on their burgers)

Various  Burger Toppings: Onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, mustard, relish, sliced cheese of whichever variety you adore on a burger


Alrighty!  Throw those bad boys on the grill!  Close the lid and let them sit for a few minutes – 3 or 4.  Then flip them.  The side that was facing the flames should now be starting to soften and cook a little bit.  Pour a quarter-sized dollop of A-1 Steak Sauce into the midde of each burger, spread it all around with the back of your spatula, or if you are looking to dirty an extra utensil, with your basting brush.  Then sprinkle the Montreal Steak Seasoning evenly over the burgers.  The heavier the sprinkle, the spicier they’ll be.  This may take a little experimenting on your part to see just how spicy you like them.  Spicy is relative, though.  This just gives the burger an interesting little kick.  We’re not talking “buffalo wing spicy” here.

Cook your burgers as usual to the desired doneness.  You may wish to repeat the Steak Sauce/Montreal Steak Seasoning routine with the other side of your burger, depending on how thick your burgers are and how much flavor you like on them.  After the last time you flip your burgers before they’re done cooking, grab the burger buns and liberally butter the insides on both the top and bottom bun.  Put on the warming rack if you have one, or over a low flame on the grill rack if you don’t. Throw the slices of cheese on the burgers of whomever wants cheese on theirs to let it melt, then remove burgers to a platter.  Toast the buns, watching carefully not to burn them.  When they are toasted nicely, pull the top buns off the grill and smear them with mayo for the mayo-loving folks — this is pretty important — you want the mayo warmed by the hot bun. Now, pop a burger (or two) onto each bun.  Dress with desired toppings.  That’s all there is to it!  These are the best burgers.  I dream about them at night.  Okay, I don’t, but I do get cravings for them.  So does my Mom.



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Using the Oven to Prepare Your Tomatoes for Canning

Photo Credit: benketaro

Rebekah N. from Rapid City, South Dakota remembered me mentioning an alternate way to can tomatoes in Episode 34 of Small Home Farm Radio.  She asks:


Hi Erin!
I just discovered podcasts & have loved listening to your show!

I am just starting out with gardening this year. I remember a tip you had at the end of a show on canning tomatoes. You mentioned something about putting the tomatoes in the oven. Do you remember what the tip was? I can’t seem to find it among the podcasts.

Thank you!


Canning Tomatoes an Easier Way:

I don’t like to stand over the hot stove scalding my tomatoes.  Here’s an easier way to prepare them for the canner:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash your tomatoes, core them, and cut them in half.  Place them in a large roasting pan in the oven for about half an hour.  Remove them from the oven, take the tomato chunks out of the pan, leaving the juice behind in the pan.  Remove the skins and cut them into whatever sizes of chunks you like to can – I dice mine roughly.  Now heat them in a pot so they are nice and hot, then put them in your hot jars – the tomatoes and the jars need to be hot so your jars don’t crack when you put them in the canner.  Can them the conventional way, adding 1 TBSP. lemon juice and 1 tsp salt to each quart jar., them filling with tomatoes to the top, leaving 1-inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles from the jars by pushing the handle of a wooden spoon down the bottom of the jar and moving the tomatoes around slightly to let the air bubbles escape.  Wipe the rims with a clean, wet cloth, adjust the lid and ring and process for 1 hour and 25 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

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Guest Blog: Almond Flour Pancakes from The Canny Preserver

Almond flour pancakes with a strawberry puree and whipped cream topping.

Note from Aspendale Farm:  For those of you who aren’t following The Canny Preserver’s blog, you are missing out!  But be that as it may, I could not sleep well knowing I had let her most recent post go unnoticed by the Small Home Farm Radio crowd.  She sent me this recipe a few weeks ago before she published it.  I’m always game for a new recipe substituting almond flour for wheat flour (not to mention that most of the recipes she sends me are keepers!)  And – oh my!  These are *so* good.  So, so good!  I’ll let her tell you…

Almost Paleo Pancakes

Don’t shut down on me yet.  I know I said the “P” word!  And while paleo and gluten-free are certainly hot topics and very trendy today, I’m betting most of you are like me and when you hear those words (along with vegan or vegetarian) you think, “Uuuughh, groan, whine”.  I’m of the mindset that food is good, and I like to eat it.  I like to eat it ALL.

…Unless of course you *can’t* have something.  I had to give up dairy proteins in all forms for a few months when each of my girls were newborns because I was breastfeeding and the milk proteins I was eating gave them miserable colic.  THEN I was grateful for all the dairy-free recipes I was able to dig up.  And one time I got a bug in me to purchase a vegetarian cookbook because I was convicted that my family was centering ALL our meals around animal proteins.  (That book proved to be more helpful in the SIDE DISH department than with the main course.  We are just too carnivore-ish ;) )

There’s plenty of solid reasons for trying new lifestyle changes, though.  I have one friend who discovered, once she went completely vegetarian for a month, that her body does not handle animal proteins well.  Now she serves meat, poultry and fish as a treat instead of daily rations.  I have another friend who co-wrote with her husband a really great post on going mostly paleo/primal.

I actually enjoy a dietary challenge from time to time.  I think it opens the doors of culinary creativity, and almost always introduces me to new foods that I would not have thought to try – or new ways to use foods that I wouldn’t have tried on my own.

Right now my husband and I are nearly done with a detox/diet that we started at the end of March. We’re at the end of a 3-week phase where we can’t have starches or sugar.  It has not been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, largely due to several recipes I’ve tinkered with, some of which are now permanent additions to my culinary repertoire.

This particular recipe is one of those keepers.  Now, honestly, nothing beats good old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes slathered with butter and maple syrup.  But these grain-free pancakes are delightfully versatile as a breakfast food, a mid-day snack, or dessert!!  I haven’t tried them with syrup yet since we can’t have sugar for another 4 days (but who’s counting?) but that’s no matter.  They are really good with strawberry puree and whipped cream! I say these are “practically” paleo because I do use dairy, which is not part of the traditional paleo diet.  You can sub out the yogurt for applesauce and the milk for almond or coconut milk like the original recipe calls for, if you are trying to stick with true paleo.  And omit the whipped cream, of course.  (The first time I made these I used applesauce, and I will say they are sweeter, but much more prone to crumbling.)

One more note:  I think they are actually better the next day.  The last batch I made, I made on Saturday night so we could eat them Sunday morning.  Just re-heat them for 30 seconds or so in the microwave or in the oven for a few minutes.

Almost Paleo Pancakes (makes about 8-10 small cakes):

  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Flour (almond flour is simply almonds pureed in the food processor!)
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani 2%, but fat-free would work, too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup Milk (I used raw whole milk.  Skim, low-fat, or almond/coconut milk would also be good!)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut (optional, but delicious!)
  • Coconut Oil for greasing the griddle


  • 1 cup Strawberries and/or other fruits (pureed in blender or food processor)
  • Whipped Cream


Mix all ingredients in a bowl, except coconut oil.  Batter should be slightly runny.  If it’s still thick, add more milk until it resembles typical pancake batter.  Grease griddle or pan with oil.  Spoon batter onto hot griddle into 2-3″ rounds.  When sides begin to brown, flip pancakes.  Brown the other side, then serve warm!

Add pureed strawberries and whipped cream.  If strawberries aren’t super sweet, you may want to add a packet of stevia or a teaspoon of sugar while pureeing.  Typically they won’t need it, though.  Especially if they are in season!  Leftovers should keep in the fridge at least a week.


One caveat.  If there are more than just one or two people eating these pancakes, you will never have an opportunity to see if they really taste better the next day.  There will be none left and you will all be fighting over the last one.  😉

Have a great week, and happy home farming!  (And cooking!)

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Miller’s Amish Bakery Peanut Butter Cookies

Photo by Jamie L. Pearson. Some rights reserved by j.l.p.

Looking for a great idea for a plate of “Honey-Do” list cookies?  You know, the kind you make when you give your Honey a list of things around the place that you’re hoping he or she will do?  You’d be surprised at how far a plate of cookies can carry someone down that list!  LOL!

I like peanut butter a lot – especially when it’s paired with chocolate!  But there are two peanut butter items that I don’t care for – Buckeye Candies (I know, I know.  I’m insane.  That just leaves more for you, my friend) and peanut butter cookies.  That is, until I tasted the peanut butter cookies from Miller’s Amish Bakery on Miller Road, between here and the next rural town.

I was just being polite, really, when my friend Chantel told me I “had” to try one of these fabulous peanut butter cookies.  She didn’t know I didn’t like peanut butter cookies, and she was so excited about them I didn’t want to deflate her.  I determined to break off a small chunk to try, then discreetely pass the rest of my cookie around for the kids to share.  Huh uh! Not once I’d actually tasted this peanut butter gift from heaven!  I ate the whole thing and tried not to keep glancing back at the plate of remaining cookies.  Was it obvious I wanted more?  I started scheming about how to get some of those cookies for my very own!

As you may already have figured out, I love to tinker with recipes, and this became my new quest … to find a cookie recipe that tasted so peanut-buttery crisp-sugary.  I know, that’s not really even a description.  Whatever.  Just bake these cookies and eat them.  You won’t care how goofy my elaborate praises sound.

The difference between the bulk of the peanut butter cookie recipes out there and these – and maybe why I like these and don’t care for most peanut butter cookies, is that this has no flour.  It’s mostly just peanut butter and sugar and a smattering of other cookie ingredients.  Let me know what you think if you try them out!

Miller’s Amish Peanut Butter Cookie (Copycat Recipe)

2 c. peanut butter (Jif is my favorite, hands-down)

2 c. white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. baking soda

1 pinch salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease lined cookie sheets with butter or baking spray.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Stir in baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
  •  Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and press cross-hatch marks into the top with a fork.
  •  Bake about 9 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes on sheet, then when the cookies have firmed up enough to use your spatula, transfer to a cooling rack or newspaper to cool just enough to touch. Then you can eat them. I can’t wait until they’re any cooler than that, and I’ll bet you can’t either. Unless you have no taste buds. In which case, why are you making cookies in the first place? Go make a salad.

We usually make just a half batch, or else we’ll eat more cookies than is reasonably sane. Just ask my sister- and brother-in-law who may well have actually witnessed the horrific spectacle of me eating four cookies at a go over the weekend. <Shakes head sadly>

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Waste Not, Want Not – Organize Your Refrigerator!

© Chef | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Chef | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

One of the organizational struggles that can actually increase your food costs is refrigerator organization!  How many times have you thrown out limp vegetables or half-empty containers of this or that?  If you’re like me, probably pretty regularly!

We have kept a twelve inch two-tiered lazy susan on the tallest shelf in our refrigerator for years in an effort to corral loose pickle jars, cottage cheese containers, half-used black olives, the bacon grease I save for making the occasional batch of fried potatoes…  It’s worked okay, but as you may figure out if you think about it very long, a round lazy susan wastes space on a rectangular refrigerator shelf.  And if you spin it too fast – well, use your imagination!

This week, the plastic on our lazy susan finally cracked and we needed to do something about it pretty quickly.  Since I’ve realized – just from using it – that the lazy susan hasn’t really been the best solution to being able to store and access all these little odds and ends, I started a search for something that would work a bit better, and I’ve been rewarded amply for my efforts!

On Amazon I found a product called “Binz” that are, well, bins that you use in your fridge, freezer, or pantry to store items.  At first I thought it would just be a waste of money – they’re not inexpensive.  Each one is in the ten-plus dollar range.  But there were a lot of really good reviews.  Reviewer after reviewer insisted that they really do help with refrigerator organization – particularly that age-old challenge of keeping things from getting lost in the back of the fridge!

See if you can find these 4" wide Binz, or the 8" wide Binz at your local kitchen supply or home goods store, or order them online.  I find them quite sturdy - and truly useful!

See if you can find these 4″ wide Binz, or the 8″ wide Binz at your local kitchen supply or home goods store, or order them online. I find them quite sturdy – and truly useful!

I was surprised to see them showcased at my grocery store this week, and I picked up two small ones and a large one to try them out.  I could always return them or buy more depending on my experience.

I haven’t had so much fun cleaning out and organizing my refrigerator in – well – ever.  I would never call it fun.  But I had fun this afternoon!  And by gosh and golly – it really does work.  The bins are just deep enough to go from the front to the back of the fridge without leaving space behind for anything to get lost.  You pull one bin out and everything in that row comes with it.  So it’s no hassle to have sweet pickles all the way in the back of a bin.  They’re as easy to get as the olives in the front of the same bin!

Okay, this may not thrill you all the way to your socks like it does me, but waste has been a huge problem in our busy family of six.  Whether it’s little dabs of leftovers, or partially unused ingredients of some sort, I always feel like I’m just throwing my dollars in the trash if it’s too yucky (as is often the case) to even feed the hens.  It’s just too easy to push stuff to the back without meaning to.  And there it stays.

I was so inspired that I left one shelf, probably about 8″ tall, free to put what I call “Things To Use Up.”  Yeah, I labeled it with my trusty label maker.  I’m that big a geek.  But I was excited about the idea.  I think that, after purchasing two more of the 8″ wide bins I can put these leftovers and half-used containers of diced tomatoes in them.  I even pulled a head of cauliflower out of the veggie drawer that I’d bought for something special and ended up not using.  I added it to that shelf so I remember to use it up right away.  If it stayed in the drawer under the spinach and carrots and things we use regularly, I’d have lost it for good until I discovered on fridge clean-out day that it was covered with mold and unsalvageable.  This way, I know to search my “Things to Use Up” shelf every day when I’m planning meals.

I hope that if you’ve struggled with food waste like I have, you’ll find my tips helpful.  You might think about saving a few dollars up so you can give Binz a try.  And you might like the idea of setting aside and labeling an area for “Things To Use Up” that you can check regularly when you start meal prep for the day, too!  I considered the Binz I brought home my Valentine’s Day gift … to me.  I have a feeling I’ll like them even better than fresh-cut flowers – and I’m pretty sure the happiness they’ll bring me will last far longer!

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Mom’s Homemade Wheat Bread by Don Roylance

© Photoeuphoria | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Photoeuphoria | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Makes four loaves
2 Tbs yeast
2 c warm water
6 tsp sugar
2/3 c honey, brown sugar or white sugar
2/3 c oil
2 Tbs salt
5 c warm water (hot from tap)
12 to 13 c whole wheat flour
1 c white flour
Directions: Dissolve yeast in 2 c warm water mixed with 6 tsp sugar. Combine honey or sugar, oil, salt, 5 cups warm water. Mix in 7 cups whole wheat flour. Add yeast mixture. Add 1 cup white flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour. Knead for 15 minutes. Add 3 to 4 cups more whole wheat flour to make dough just stiff enough that you don’t stick to it when touching it. Knead 15 more minutes. Divide dough into four equal parts. Shape into small loaf shapes and put into generously greased pans. Let rise covered in warm location for 25 to 30 minutes until well shaped. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Eat hot with butter and jam or honey.
Makes two loaves
1 T yeast
2 c warm water
3 tsp sugar
1/3 c honey, brown sugar or white sugar
1/3 c oil
1 T salt
2 1/4 c warm water (hot from tap)
6 to 6 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white flour
Directions: Dissolve yeast in 2 c warm water mixed with 3 tsp sugar. Combine honey or sugar, oil, salt, 2 1/4 cups warm water. Mix in 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. Add yeast mixture.  Add 1/2 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Knead for 15 minutes. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups more whole wheat flour to make dough just stiff enough that you don’t stick to it when touching it. Knead 15 more minutes. Divide dough into two equal parts. Shape into small loaf shapes and put into generously greased pans. Let rise covered in warm location for 25 to 30 minutes until well shaped. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Eat hot with butter and jam or honey.

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Homemade Sausage Recipe


Winter time is a great time to play around in the kitchen.  There’s not so much going on outside on the farm, and there’s plenty of food in the larder.  If making homemade sausage sounds like fun to you, pull some of your pork out of the freezer, or buy some at the store.  If you don’t have a grinder and don’t want to go through the tedium of chopping it by hand, buy pre-ground pork from the local market.  Here is a recipe for homemade sausage links.  If you prefer different seasonings, there are plenty of recipes out there on the internet!

Homemade Sausage 

4lb lean pork

2 lb pork fat

2 1/2 level tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

about 1 tsp. mixed herbs (1/4 tsp each of ground bay, allspice, thyme & paprika)


sausage casings if making links (sheeps’ casings are a good size for this recipe)

Put your meat and fat through a meat grinder or dice it up with a butcher knife on a chopping block.  Put in a large bowl and add seasonings.  Mix together well.  Sautee a tsp. until cooked through and check your seasonings.  Add more if needed and mix well.  If you’ll be making patties or cooking as bulk sausage, use as is.  Otherwise, add water, 1/8-1/4 c. at a time until the mixture feels “loose” so that it will be easy to stuff into your casings.  The drier the mixture, the more difficult it will be to stuff the casings.

Wash the sausage casings well, especially if they have been stored in a salt brine, to take the excess salt out of them.  Wet the outside of your sausage horn, or your funnel or pastry tube.  Cut your casings into lengths of 2-3′ for easier handling and storage.  Now push one end of the casing up onto your horn/funnel/tube and run water through the other end of the tube and through the casing.  While the water is running through, push your casing up onto your horn until all but the last 4-6 inches are pushed onto the horn.  Leave the last several inches so you can tie it and keep the sausage from pushing out the end.  It’s best to tie the end after you’ve begun stuffing the sausage so you can push any air bubbles at the end out of the casing.

Put your meat mixture into the grinder or your pastry bag or the funnel and push it through into the casing, guiding it and gently twisting the sausage and casing completely around every 5-6 inches to make the individual sausage links.  When you get to the end of your piece of casing, tie off with kitchen string.

Cook them as you would any sausage links, or freeze them for later use.

If you want to make more of a salami (a French Saussison), add an extra 3/4 tsp salt, an additional 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper, one clove minced garlic, 1/4 c. cognac, 1/4 tsp. saltpeter and 3/4 tsp. sugar.  Sautee a teaspoonful to check for correct seasoning, then stuff the sausage mixture into a beef bung and cure for three days in the fridge or at room temperature between 70 and 80 degrees farenheit.  When cured, poach in simmering water or simmer broth and wine about 30-40 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165-170, or juices run clear.  Serve warm with side dishes such as potatoes and sauerkraut.  The saussison will look pink on the inside once it is cooked as a result of the saltpeter.  It is safe to eat.

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