Snowy-Day Soup

Vegetable beef barley soup

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Soup is a good hearty meal, or part of a meal, in most any season. However, when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling, as it is today, I like to make soup and enjoy its comfort and warmth.

Here is a soup from Amy Houts’ new cookbook for children, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. In her book, Amy concentrates on food from each region of the US. It is a cookbook that lets children really engage in the history of the United States through the food of a particular region.

This recipe, Beef-Barley Soup, comes from the Mountain States section. Amy writes: “The Mount States grow barley, a wonderful addition to vegetable soup.”

Beef-Barley Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
6 cups water
1 cup medium barley
1 (16 oz.) chopped tomatoes, with juice
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large (4-quart) pot, cook ground beef over medium heat; drain grease. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

Children can measure water and barley, parsley, salt and pepper. Adult can this to pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down heat to low, cover and simmer about an hour.
Serves 6-8

For more information about this book and other books for children, see: Thanks!

Lee Jackson
Family and Consumer Living Coach

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Cookies and Snow Days Go Hand-in-Hand

We in the Midwest have had a lot of snow days recently. This is the time you want to huddle up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cider and a cookie. I know it’s the New Years and we want to cut down on sugar intake and think very seriously about healthy living. However, done in moderation, most foods are good for us. Moderation and portion size are the key words.

Here is a cookie recipe I’d like to share with you from Amy Houts new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. This is from the section of her cookbook highlighting Midwest ingredients and food products. Her comment about this recipe says: “Minnesota is the leading oat-growing state in the United States. Besides eating oats as a breakfast cereal, oats give baked goods a wonderful texture and taste.”

Can you identify the ingredients that come from this grain in the following recipe?

Whole-Grain Goodie Bars

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Children can grease a jelly roll pan, 15-by-10-by 1-inch or use a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan.
Children can help measure sugar, oil, and eggs into a large bowl; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add oatmeal, white flour, wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and coconut. Mix well. Pour and spread into prepared pan.

Bake about 15 minutes for jelly roll pan, 15-20 minutes for 9-by-13-inch pan, just until center is set. Cool; cut into bars.

Again, portion amount is very important. They are nice and chewy and it may be difficult to eat only one, but they stay so moist they will still be very good tomorrow and the next day and the next…

Enjoy those snow days!

Lee Jackson
Books for home and family living

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Fresh Peach Cobbler

I promised you I would post my favorite Peach Cobbler. There is nothing like this classic blending of cobbler topping and sweet, fresh peaches for a superbly simple late summer dessert.

You will want to choose ripe yet firm peaches. These hold their shape better while baking. Like most fruit, peaches vary in their juiciness. Sometimes you almost have to stand over the sink to eat them because they are so juicy and the juice runs down your arm, and other times, their rather dry, leathery interior will cry for more juiciness.

For this recipe, you will need about 4-5 good sized peaches. You will need to peel them for the cobbler. If you are cooking with children, this is the part you need to do yourself because it is too dangerous for children to handle.

To peel fresh peaches bring a pot of water to boil. Place peaches in boiling water (enough to cover peaches) for approximately one minute (less if they are really soft). Then immediately plunge them in a bowl full of ice water. After the peaches cool off, this is when children can begin their work in helping you make

Fresh Peach Cobbler

The skins of peaches should slip right off. (If they are too hard you will have to peel them with a pairing knife.) Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Some peaches will have a dark red flesh that surrounds the pit. Take a spoon and scoop this out and discard as it can cause the peaches to have a bitter taste. Slice each half into 4 wedges. Gently toss peaches with 1/2 – 1 cup sugar in a large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes to allow juice to form. Then continue with the following:

1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk

Melt butter in 12 x 7 1/2 x 2 inch baking pan (2 quart) in 325 degrees F oven. While butter is melting, combine rest of ingredients in a medium size bowl and stir to blend. Drop evenly over melted butter; do not stir. Spoon peaches with their juice over the top of batter. Do not stir. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden brown and baked throughout.

Most of the peaches will sink to the bottom where they will form a thick, rich sauce. I like to serve this cobbler warm and upside down on a plate with a scoop of ice cream.

You and your family will enjoy it. Easy, too!

Best to you,

Lee Jackson
Helping promote family well-being through knowledge and skills

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New Cookbook Almost Ready!

When you take a look at our website  you should be able to turn the pages on our new cookbook by Amy Houts, Cooking Around the Country with Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities. It’s fun to see it coming together and looking very good – we’re excited!  Go ahead and see what you think:  see NEW COOKBOOK.

On the page it says the author has not put in the ordering information yet – but on the website order page, you can order the book and it will be shipped as soon as it gets published.  This way you can receive one of the first signed and numbered copies.  Would love to hear from you.

Lee Jackson

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Going Food Shopping at the Farmers’ Market


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Going to the local farmers’ market with your child helps him or her learn where their food comes from. Here your child will see the many varieties of fruits and vegetables that are grown right in your own region.

Understanding that the corn in the can or frozen package really started as corn in the husks on the cob is sometimes hard for children to comprehend. Seeing carrots with bushy tops and not perfectly scrubbed clean in plastic bags can be eye-opening for them as well. Even seeing the quantities of melons in the back of pickups and truck beds piled high with corn is really quite a sight.

I always think of the hard work that goes into growing this food and getting it to market. I know that those who work the soil are always dependent on Mother Nature to bring the rain and sunshine just at the right moments. The fruits of their labor relies on cooperation from the elements.

Even though farmers’ markets offer food at the peak of freshness, we still must be concerned with maintaining the freshness and keeping it safe for eating. It’s always a good idea to go right home to get perishable foods in the refrigerator.

Some produce can be ripened on the kitchen counter and then stored in the refrigerator. Foods such as peaches, nectarines, pears, and plums fall into this category.

Some foods taste best at room temperature, such as onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and squashes. They need to be stored in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight and areas where meat is prepared.

I always like to prepare what I bought as soon as possible. The last time I went to market I bought some beautiful looking onions. I hadn’t baked onions for a long time but remembered how my grandmother used to just set the onion on the top of the cover from a metal coffee can. (I suppose because aluminum foil wasn’t readily available and the juices do run out – can you remember the time before aluminum foil)??

Anyway, baked onions are delicious.

This is what you do…and it’s easy enough that kids can help and be part of the “going to market and then using the fresh food” experience.

Baked Onions

Cut off both ends of the onion and peel the outer skin. Cut an X in the center of the onion and dribble on some olive oil or add a dab of butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place each onion on a piece of foil and wrap tightly. Set in a baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour, or until tender. You can sprinkle top with freshly grated Parmesan, or crumbled cooked bacon, or some fresh herbs.

Serve with any meat dish or pasta.

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New Food Innovations

Cucumbers grow on vines

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I just ran across an article in a college magazine about changes college kids are enjoying in their cafeterias. One food service offers “the real thing” in flavored filtered water.

Individual dispensers are filled with layers of ice with cut up fruits and vegetables. Foods such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, strawberries, cucumbers and other seasonal foods and vegetables are added to the ice to create water that has the flavor of the food. I would never have guessed their favorite flavor is cucumber! The report stated the students are drinking their way through about 150 gallons of filtered, flavored water per day and cutting down on soda drinking.

Another innovative feature of this cafeteria is to go tray-less. This may require more trips to the food counters but the students are responding positively. Going tray-less is saving on water and wash products, as well as on the amount of food wasted.

This sounds like they are taking seriously environmental benefits. Good for them!

Lee Jackson
Books for home and family

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Father’s Day Strawberry Shortcake

Garden Strawberry "Fragaria".

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I want to share with you my absolute favorite strawberry shortcake recipe. This is not one of those individually wrapped bland cakes always found in the strawberry aisle of your grocery store. No, yours will be a piping hot, melt in your mouth treat, heaped with juicy, luscious strawberries.

Your Dad will want you to make this dessert again and again – until the strawberries run out…

Strawberry Shortcake

2 pints fresh strawberries

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup milk

Wash strawberries in cold water with a dash of vinegar. Swish and drain. Children can help remove stems by using a plastic knife and cutting each in half. Add about 1/2 cup sugar over berries and let stand at room temperature about an hour.

Grease 1 – 8 x 1 1/2 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, measure flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening using two knives or a pastry blender until shortening pieces are the size of peas. Stir in milk and stir with fork until just blended. Spread batter into prepared cake pans. Dot with butter.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly brown and crusty.

Cut into 6 or 8 pieces. Split each piece in half on serving plate. Have butter available at table so each can spread butter on hot shortcake according to individual wishes. Then pass the strawberries that have oozed some of their juice upon standing.

Enjoy, and wish your Father a Happy Day!

Lee Jackson
Books for children, families, and parenting professionals
Check out a FR ee Recipe Sampler at:

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Kids in the Kitchen

I have been involved in a very exciting publishing project. Amy Houts, one of our authors, has a new children’s book coming out this summer and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

This new cookbook, “Cooking Around the Country With Kids: USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities” makes cooking with kids come alive! It has an American heritage flavor that helps children experience our country’s vast cultural diversity through food.

Children learn about regional food differences by preparing authentic recipes from various parts of our country. Amy has woven together fun activities along with a little food history and geography of each region showing where our food comes from.

Now I want to share just a bit of my excitement over this new book by sending you a FRe e Recipe Sampler from Amy’s new book.

If you want to be on the cutting edge of discovering this treasure trove of regional recipes, sign up below for her FRe e Recipe Sampler. You will be glad you did because it has one complete chapter from the book. This is the first sneak peak at what she has written to get kids excited about cooking across America.

Click here on SnaptailBooks to get the Fre e Recipe Sampler activated.

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Cooking at Home – The New Survival Tactic

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Aren’t you glad you know your way around the kitchen and can prepare good food for yourself and others?  Hopefully the recipes in this blog have helped you come up with some tasty dishes to set before the king (I mean, friends or family).

The media tells us we are in a new era of thrift. There is a suggestion we may not be able to eat out as often as we would like. Perhaps the days are gone when everyone can go out for pizza or hamburger after a game.

This is not all bad. Think of the money you are saving. You can still invite your friends over for snacks. These late winter days continue to call for some popcorn popping time or quick and easy snacks like the following:

Bagel Pizzas

2 bagel halves
About 4 tablespoons or more
of tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup grated cheese
Toppings of your choice

Place bagel halves on a cookie sheet with cut side up. Spread with tomato sauce and oregano. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Add any toppings such as pepperoni, cooked hamburger or sausage, olives, extra cheese, or what is available. You or an adult helper can put the pan in a hot oven (375 degrees) until cheese melts.

Should be yummy, especially eating with your friends or family.

Here’s to your happy “cooking at home” days,

Chef Crombie

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Apple Expert Shares Favorite Recipe

I’ve invited my good friend, Lee Jackson, to share one of her favorite apple recipes with you. Lots of apples are now available at orchards and stores, so this recipe will help you know what to do with all those apples.

The recipe is from her newly revised apple cookbook, From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers, which just won a first place cookbook award from Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Bookmark this recipe and serve it for Thanksgiving or any special time. You can see this recipe and many, many more at

Glazed Dutch Apple Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups apples, unpeeled, but diced
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

1 cups apple juice

In mixing bowl, place diced apples and sugar. Let stand for 15 minutes for the apples to become moist. Then stir in eggs, oil, dry ingredients and vanilla. Blend in nuts. Pour into greased and floured angel food cake pan or Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 degree F. for 50-60 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert on serving plate. Prick cake with toothpick and pour Hot Glaze over cake. Serve warm or cold.

Hot Glaze: Boil 2 cups apple juice over medium heat until it is reduced to 1 cup. Have an adult pour while hot glaze over cake.

This will make about 24 servings, good for a large holiday gathering.