I'm a Centerfold!

Well, sort of…

You can stop laughing now.
I am in a magazine, but I’m not exactly the centerfold. The actual centerfold pages are 42-43.
I’m on pages 72-73. Well, really I’m on page 72. The story is on page 73. And that’s on the left column of the page. (The other column is the recipe. And that’s only about one-third of that column. The rest of the column belongs to two other recipes.)
Really. You can stop laughing now.
Oh, and I have my clothes on. Trust me on this: I’m doing you a favor.
But seriously, stop laughing!
Last August, one of the food competitions I entered at the Iowa State Fair was sponsored by Our Iowa magazine, called Our Iowa Church Cookbook Favorites. Each year the magazine sponsors the division and they choose a different category. For the 2012 fair the category was coffee cake. And I won first place!
I prepared a rhubarb coffee cake recipe from a church cookbook whose recipes I grew up on. It was published way back in 1977 for the Wellsburg Reformed Church, comprised of tons of the best recipes from the ladies of the church. This recipe was submitted by Mrs. Carl L. (Ann) Nederhoff.
Part of winning the contest is the prize money, $400, given to the kitchen fund of the Iowa church from whose cookbook the recipe was taken. The other part of winning is a spot in the “Recipes They’re Proud to Share” feature in an issue of Our Iowa. Back in September, a photographer from Des Moines, Perry Struse, spent an entire afternoon at my house photographing me, the coffee cake, and me with the coffee cake (by the way, it wasn’t the winning coffee cake; I did make a fresh one for the shoot – two, actually). He made the long day a fun one, and even shot some photos of my daughter and me.
Yesterday, a package arrived in the mail with an Our Iowa apron, as well as an advance copy of the February/March 2013 issue. So, I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this or not, but...do you want a sneak peek?

That’s my daughter in the recipe card photo, pretending to chew on a piece of rhubarb. I think she’d rather just eat her rhubarb in the coffee cake.
If you’re interested in the story along with several other coffee cake recipes from the contest, you can subscribe to Our Iowa magazine on their website. Or, you can visit one of the retailers which carry the magazine. You can find a list by clicking here.

(Personally, I would get the subscription. I’ve been a subscriber myself since first spotting the June/July 2010 issue at The Machine Shed Restaurant. I even give gift subscriptions, and I’ve never done that for any magazine ever. I subscribe to several magazines, and this is by far the one I cannot wait to arrive. I read absolutely everything in it, which takes a long time because it’s not filled with a bunch of advertising the way most magazines are. It’s published by Roy Reiman, founder of Reiman Publications, which originally published magazines like Taste of Home, Birds & Blooms, Country…..so you know this is quality. And it’s written and photographed by fellow Iowans. Definitely a gem for touring the great state of Iowa!)
Another unanticipated perk for me of winning this contest is that I finally now have in my possession my very own copy of the church cookbook! Every summer I “borrow” my mom’s copy in search of a great recipe to fit the magazine’s contest category for the upcoming state fair. So I asked the church if they knew where I could find a copy. 35 years after it was printed meant my chances were not good. But they came through and located a copy and sent it to me. I’m so grateful! Now I can browse and bake some of the recipes from my childhood whenever I want!
Before I share the recipe for the coffee cake, I want to take a moment to thank not only the Wellsburg Reformed Church for the cookbook, but also Our Iowa magazine for a fun experience: at the fair, during the photo shoot, and through phone conversations with Paula Wiebel (editorial assistant and wife to editor Jerry Wiebel). I am grateful for the generous prize money; I know the church will put it to good use. And thank you especially for including me in my favorite magazine...even if I’m not the centerfold.

Yours in pie (uh, I mean coffee cake),


Rhubarb Coffee Cake
from the Wellsburg Reformed Church cookbook, “Happiness is Good Cooking,” page 116*

For cake:
2 ½ c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ c. butter, softened

1 ½ c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. buttermilk

3 c. chopped rhubarb

1 c. packed brown sugar

½ c. chopped walnuts

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl and set aside. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, and mix until combined. Fold in rhubarb.

Spread batter in greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Combine brown sugar and walnuts in a bowl; sprinkle on top of batter. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For topping:

½ c. butter

1 c. sugar

¾ c. evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine butter, sugar, and evaporated milk in saucepan and heat until boiling. Boil for 3 ½ minutes; remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat well. Pour over warm cake just after it’s removed from oven. Poke holes in cake to let topping soak in. Cool on wire rack.

*If you have a copy of this cookbook, you may notice that flour is not listed in the original recipe. In my mom’s copy, she hand wrote “2 ½ c. flour” – a great perk about living in a small town: when something’s missing from a recipe, you can ask the contributor yourself.


Happy National Pie Day!

It’s National Pie Day! I hope you made a pie to celebrate, because I didn’t.  In fact, I haven’t made a pie, a real pie, in almost a month. You would think that someone who makes a pie every week and writes a blog about it would make pie a little more often than I have lately.

Well, I’ve been doing other things with my time. More important things. Things that need some attention.
I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, but when I turn the page on the calendar and begin a new year, I do tend to reflect on what the previous year was like and what I want to change. Mostly, I re-evaluate my priorities. And this year, my theme, if you will, is simplicity.
I know I won’t make everything in my life as absolutely simple as it could possibly be. But simplicity itself is not the goal, nor is it the point. I want to simplify the things in my life so I can focus on what’s truly important to me. Like my family.
Monday was a no-school day for my son. It was not for my daughter, but we made it one by skipping preschool at the last minute to spend a fun day together. We spent part of our time at the library. After my son checked out what seemed to be every title in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, as well as some “Fact Tracker” titles as non-fiction companions to The Magic Tree House series (“Jack and Annie books” as my son lovingly refers to them), we headed home to do a little reading.
This is one of my son's latest favorite reading positions.

(Mary Pope Osborne, I hope you’re reading this. I don’t want this to sound pushy, but I’m afraid it will. You already do a fabulous job at writing quickly. A new title every four to six months is most impressive, but do you think you could write even a little faster and turn out new Magic Tree House titles more often? Like the wind that spins the tree house at the start of each adventure, my son has now blown through nearly the first half of your series at warp speed, currently reading #23, Twister on Tuesday. He has tunnel vision on #47, Abe Lincoln at Last, and at this rate, he’ll probably be finished with the entire series by April. And then what will we do? Do you have a plan? Otherwise, we’ll have to start looking for another great series that turns history and geography and the wonders of the world into incredible magical adventures that engage children in text while teaching them almost everything they’ll ever need to know about almost everything that has ever happened since the beginning of time. I’m exaggerating here, but you know what I mean. You should. You wrote the books. So what do you say?)
After some time reading, we spent the rest of the day, I believe the coldest so far this winter, engaged in winter-themed indoor projects. We designed snowflakes out of toothpicks and marshmallows:

These marshmallow-and-toothpick snowflakes were inspired by Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.
We created snowflakes to hang in the window by folding and cutting shapes out of coffee filters:

And we made more homemade play dough, this time leaving it un-tinted and sprinkling in some glitter to make it sparkle like snow:
You can find our favorite play dough recipe at How Does She.
And none of this would have been possible if I had instead spent the day doing all the “extras”, like scrubbing the grout lines in the tile floor (I’d rather pay someone), cooking a gourmet seven-course dinner (we had leftover beefburgers instead), or writing a blog post about a pie that took another hour or more of my day just to make (leftover homemade oatmeal cake is just as sweet).
While simplicity has its advantages, I do realize it can also mean missing out on some things from time to time. And that’s why I won’t entirely give up the “extras,” I’ll just keep them in perspective and do them when it works for me to do them. But simplicity can also mean having more time to do some things you would like to do more often (like actually doing some of the fabulous projects with my kids that I find on Pinterest), because you refocused your priorities and simplified other areas of your life.
Like reading. I don’t get to read as much as I would like. I enjoy writing, too, but as Shelley Harwayne, one of my favorite authors on teaching writing, likes to say, I’m a better writer because I read.
My latest choice for reading is accompanied by a nice hot cup of pomegranate green tea. And by reading, I mean it sits on a basket in between me glancing through the table of contents and browsing a page or two.
While baking a pie every week and writing a blog about it has been mostly for me, I still have not placed myself high enough on my list of priorities. Mainly, I haven’t focused on taking care of myself in the ways I want to. I know that simplifying my life will allow me more time to do that as well.
So, Pie on Sunday is not going away entirely. I’ll still share the recipes with you, and maybe some stories, but I won’t be making pie as often as every week. I love pie, and so does my family, but quite frankly, we miss all the other treats I used to bake when I wasn’t making so much pie!
I hope you do get to enjoy some pie on this National Pie Day, on Sunday, or any time you get the chance. As for me, I’ll be enjoying more time with myself and with my family, on Sundays and every other day in between, and we’ll share some pie when it’s simple to do so.
Yours in pie, and in simplicity,

 P.S. If you don't want to have to remember to keep checking back here for new posts, just subscribe by email, and you can get new posts in your inbox. Simple.


Mileage from a Chicken Pot Pie


What do these two pictures have in common?


(I know. I’m the Queen of Strange and Unusual Connections. I can’t help it. It’s the reading teacher in me.)

Allow me to explain…

(Well, I’ll explain the connection between the two pictures. You’ll have to figure out the reading teacher part yourself.)

My sister sent me this photo she took of the odometer in her car when it turned 400,000 miles just the other day. No extra zeroes in that number. That’s correct. Four-fifths of the way to a half-million miles.

She drives a 1995 Toyota Camry. Well, now her husband mostly drives it. They traded in his much newer car for another much newer Camry. (The one she now mostly drives.) And that officially makes them a Cam-Fam. (Get it? That’s Camry and family put together. I made it up. Like you didn’t know.)

And me? I’m green with envy. I mean, how many people out there can say they have 400,000 miles on their car, 385,000 of which they put on it all by themselves? (Not including Ferris Bueller. And he didn’t even go anywhere.) But, that’s what you get when you take excellent care of your car, people. My sister is the only person I know who actually waxes her car by hand and follows the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual to a T. Contrary to the popular belief of most men, those manuals really are worth reading.

What does all this have to do with chicken pot pie? Well, it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, unless you count the recipe. But chicken pot pie can definitely get you some mileage. I mean, how many dishes out there can you serve without a crust and still call it a pie? (Okay, not counting Boston Cream Pie.) That’s the point. You can serve chicken pot pie pretty much any way you want and still call it pie.

I prepared this chicken pot pie over the weekend, and it was the perfect answer to a bitterly cold January day. My friend, Jill, gave me the recipe several months ago, and I’ve made it three times already. I love that there is no canned soup in it, and even so, it’s still just as simple. Jill makes hers with top and bottom pastry crusts, but I changed it a little and used a biscuit topping instead. I love the buttery goodness of the biscuits with the creamy taste and texture of the chicken filling. Definitely comfort food to warm you, body and soul.

Dare I say it? Warm your engine and get some mileage with this chicken pot pie, no matter how you make it.

Yours in pie,


 Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

Filling recipe from Jill Kinnison

Biscuit recipe from Taste of Home 

For the filling:
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. onion, chopped
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½ c. chicken broth
2/3 c. milk
2 to 2 ½ c. shredded, cooked chicken
2 c. or more frozen mixed vegetables (I used peas and carrots)

In skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk, stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly and thick. Add chicken and vegetables. Remove from heat and pour into greased 9” square (or larger) baking dish.

For the biscuits:
2 c. all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
½ c. cold butter, cubed
2/3 c. milk

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; stir in milk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly-floured surface; knead 8 to 10 times. Pat or roll out to ½-inch thickness. Cut with 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter.

Place biscuits over chicken mixture in baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for about 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.  

I shared this recipe on:

Full-Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Church Supper at Everyday Mom's Meals

 Check out all the great recipes at these Linky Parties!


Specken Dicken Recipe

For more on Specken Dicken, read my post about our family Traditions.

Specken Dicken

2 c. white flour

2 c. dark flour (graham whole wheat or graham rye, if available)

½ c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1 to 2 tsp. anise seed

1 T. dark corn syrup

Buttermilk, enough to make batter just right, about 2 quarts

1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in a little warm water

Bacon, cooked and cut into little pieces

Metwurst, sliced in little pieces and then cooked

Combine ingredients (flour through baking soda) as you would for making pancakes, combining wet ingredients first and stirring in the dry ingredients. (Add more of the buttermilk as needed.) Place a few pieces of each meat on hot griddle (medium-high heat) and cover with pancake batter for regular-size pancakes. Flip when bubbles appear and begin to dry. Serve with butter and dark Karo syrup or regular pancake syrup.

I shared this recipe on Full-Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage. Check out all the great recipes at her Linky Party!



Cranberry Pear Pie

Specken dicken.

Ever heard of it?

Most likely, you have not. In all my life, I’ve only met one person outside my little hometown who ever has heard of it, and that’s all he could say about it. He had heard of it.

If you’re wondering, specken dicken is a pancake with meat in it. It was derived in Germany, where my family’s ancestry begins, and it was traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck. I thought I read once that long ago it was believed that if one could afford to put meat in the pancake, then they were set financially for the year to come. But I can’t find that reference in my quick online research, so I’m not positive that’s completely accurate.

Also in my quick online research, specken dicken is the only spelling I came across. But having come from the small Iowa town of Wellsburg with strong German roots, I checked through several hometown cookbooks, as well as my grandma’s recipe, and came across a few more spellings: speck and dicken, speck-n-dicken, spec an dicken. And just as many recipes for it.

Last weekend, we celebrated Christmas with my family at my sister’s house. Since it was only a few days until New Year’s Day, my sister whipped up a batch of specken dicken so we could celebrate the start of the new year with an old family tradition. This is one we grew up with every New Year’s Day at my grandparents’ house, with my grandma and aunt spending most of the afternoon into early evening preparing these pancakes over hot griddles. That’s actually what I meant when I said my sister whipped these up, and we both understood why Grandma seemed so worn out when the dinner was over!

In our family, we eat specken dicken with the meat cooked right into the pancake. We use cooked bacon pieces and cooked pieces of metwurst, then pour the pancake batter over the top of the meat on the griddle. Metwurst, pronounced “metvuss” where I grew up, is a strongly-flavored German sausage, and chances are pretty good that if you’ve never heard of specken dicken, you’ve probably never heard of this sausage either. Traditionally, we serve the pancakes with butter and dark Karo syrup, though most people prefer regular pancake syrup.

(If you want the recipe, you can get it by clicking here.)

Another tradition that has developed over the past several months in my home is pie on most Sundays. And in case you were wondering, we did have pie last Sunday, once we let our stomachs rest a little after filling them with specken dicken. I made the pie and brought it along to my sister’s house. I found this recipe for Cranberry Pear Pie at Taste of Home.

The recipe comes from Helen Toulantis of Wantagh, New York, and it was originally published in the November/December 2005 issue of Country Woman Magazine. I loved the fresh flavor of the pears, and the cranberries added just a little zip and gave the pie some festive splashes of color. And I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a crumb topping.

Well, I have another Sunday evening tradition to tend to. Tonight is the premiere of the third season of Downton Abbey on PBS. I’ve been watching since the first season, and I can hardly wait to see what Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley (the Dowager Countess of Grantham), will do to clash with Shirley MacLaine’s new character, the American, Martha Levinson, as the mother of Cora (the Countess of Grantham). I also cannot wait to find out what is going to happen to John Bates, the former valet convicted of murder, and his devoted wife, Anna, the head housemaid. Will she be able to save him? And of course, there’s the wedding of Lady Mary Crawley to Matthew Crawley. (I think you’d better watch if you have questions about that.)

TTFN. I’m off to enjoy a cup of tea while devouring Downton Abbey. Now, if I only had a piece of pie…

Yours in pie,


Cranberry Pear Pie

Pastry for single-crust 9-inch pie

2 T. all-purpose flour

½ c. maple syrup

2 T. butter, melted

5 c. sliced, peeled fresh pears

1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries


½ c. all-purpose flour

¼ c. packed brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. cold butter, cubed

½ c. chopped walnuts

Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, syrup and butter until smooth. Add pears and cranberries; toss to coat. Spoon into crust.

For topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle over filling.

Cover edges of crust loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Remove foil; bake about 45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

I shared this recipe on:

Church Supper at Everyday Mom's Meals
Full-Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

Check out all the great recipes at these Linky Parties!