It happens every year about this time. I get homesick. I don’t know if it is summer, the weather, or just a general life cycle. I remember summer days of growing up—staying out with friends until dark, playing in the woods and along the creek bank all day, catching lightning bugs and then going home to the safety and security of the home that mom and dad provided. For many years it was our tradition to make the thousand-mile journey to Pennsylvania to grandma’s house for the Fourth of July reunion. It was the only time in the year that I saw my grandparents and cousins on Mom’s side of the family. What an adventure those trips were because most things were different from all I knew back here in Tennessee! And then there comes a time in a person’s life when you really can’t go back home or to grandma’s house again—at least not in the physical sense. Sure, the house may still be there, but the people are different and all the old familiar things are gone, even the neighbors. And I suppose that is one of the reasons that I enjoy cooking and collecting recipes because without a doubt there are very strong connections between people and food. In some ways, traveling through my cooking and collecting is the closest thing I have to “going home.” If you are blessed to have family and loved ones nearby and can spend time with them, do not pass up that opportunity and cherish the time you have with them. If there is one thing I have learned these past six months it is this: No matter how much time you have with those you love, it is never enough. Enjoy the July 4th holiday and let us all count our blessings both great and small.

Obst Kuchen

Richard’s Note: The German name means “fruit cake,” but it is not the kind that you may be thinking of. I like to make it throughout the year, but particularly in the summer with so many wonderful and beautiful fresh fruits and berries available. I particularly like to use peaches and blueberries. It is simple and easy to make and is a real show-stopper. Everyone loves it! There is a special pan designed for it, but if you don’t have that pan. You can easily substitute a flat pan. When you make the cake batter, you’ll think there is not enough, but it is just the right amount. A few years ago one of the cake mix companies came out with a little fluted pan in which to bake a one-layer cake. It baked up a cake that had a little depression in the top of the layer designed for pie filling to go on top of the layer. If you still have one or run across one at the second-hand stores, they are perfect for baking this cake. I sometimes make this cake and do not use the pudding layer. And sometimes I use a sweetened cream cheese layer instead. This can easily be made RED, WHITE, AND BLUE for the 4th!

Cake:

6 Tbs. all-purpose flour

6 Tbs. granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

3 eggs

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat to 350°. Grease the pan. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix with hand mixer until light and fluffy—about three minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on rack for about five minutes. Turn onto plate or rack to cool completely.

Filling:

Prepare one package vanilla instant pudding but use only one and three-fourth cup milk. Let pudding thicken and then add to the base. Cover with fruit of choice. If using canned, drain completely and reserve juice.

Glaze:

Measure one cup of juice or syrup from fruit. Add one-fourth cup sugar and bring to a boil. Make a paste of three teaspoons cornstarch and two tablespoons water. Add to the boiling syrup and cook until thickened and boil for one minute. (Note: I sometimes add a small amount of gelatin to compliment the flavor of my fruit, but it is not necessary.) Starting in the center, spoon the glaze carefully over the fruit, making sure all of it is glazed well. Chill for at least one hour. Serve with Whipped Cream.

Aunt Dorothy’s Broccoli Salad

Note: The diverse ingredients mesh together to provide a taste that leaves people asking for the recipe and requesting it for upcoming events.

1 cup onions, diced

3/4 cup sugar

2 cup mayonnaise

1 cup raisins

4 large heads of broccoli

1 lb. fried bacon, crumbled

Mix first four ingredients and refrigerate approximately 12 hours. Break broccoli into small florets. Mix in crisp bacon. Pour the dressing over the broccoli and mix well.

Aunt Dorothy’s Salad Dressing

1 to 1 & 1/2 lbs. iceberg or leaf lettuce

3/4 cup cucumbers, sliced thin

1/2 cup green onions with tops, sliced

2 Tbs. parsley, chopped

4 slices bacon

2 Tbs. bacon grease/drippings

4 Tbs. vinegar or lemon juice

1 Tbs. sugar

3/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

Tear lettuce into small pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Add cucumbers, onions and parsley. Fry the bacon until crisp. Break into small pieces and crumble over salad greens. In a small bowl, combine bacon grease/drippings, vinegar, salt and pepper. With a fork, beat the mixture until it is creamy. Pour over salad greens and toss well. Serves four.

Pennsylvania Dandelion Salad

Gather enough dandelion greens for a salad bowl full. It is best to gather the greens before they make flowers. Wash them thoroughly and rinse well. Make the following dressing and pour over the greens and serve at once. This dressing is good on any combination of greens.

Dressing:

Richard’s Note: We always used cider vinegar and less cornstarch than called for.

4 slices bacon, fried crisp. Save drippings.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. cornstarch

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup vinegar

1 cup cream or milk

Combine sugar, salt and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add egg and vinegar. Stir in crumbled bacon and some of the drippings. Add the cream and cook until the mixture reaches desired thickness.

Aunt Dorothy’s Zucchini Pie

Her Note: I took this to our camp reunion and ended up passing out several copies of the recipe! If it seems watery in the pie shell, it’s ok. Just let it sit overnight before cutting.

6 cups zucchini, cut into slices with seedy center removed

Steam for 15 minutes and then drain very well.

Add:

1 & 1/4 cup sugar

1 & 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 & 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1 & 1/2 tsp. flour

1 & 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Put into bottom crust and dot with butter. Put on top crust and make steam holes. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes and then at 375° for 35 minutes or until nice and brown. Cool completely before cutting.

Good Cranberry Salad

Not just for Thanksgiving anymore! This is also delicious made with Splenda!

12 oz. fresh cranberries

1 cup sugar

1 cup chopped nuts

12 oz. jar orange marmalade

Mix all together and pour into casserole dish. Bake in 300° oven for one hour.

Cottage Cheese Salad

This can easily be adapted to a no-fat, no-sugar version!

1 pkg. orange or lime gelatin

1 pint cottage cheese

1/2 cup salad dressing

1 small can crushed pineapple

1/2 cup nuts, chopped fine

Dissolve gelatin in one cup boiling water and one-half cup cold water. Add ingredients. Pour into 2-quart Pyrex pan and refrigerate until set.

Tomato Salad Dressing (French)

1 can tomato soup

1 soup can vinegar

1 soup can oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 onion chopped fine

Dash of salt and white pepper

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed. Chill in refrigerator. Can use glass jar or other covered container. If you want it to be smoother, strain all after chilled. Can also mix in food processor.

Chicken Lasagna

9 raw lasagna noodles

4 to 6 chicken breasts

2 celery stalks

1/2 cup onion

Salt

10 oz. frozen broccoli, cooked

1 cup peas, cooked

16 oz. low-fat cottage cheese

1 & 1/2 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup sour cream

Layer lasagna noodles. Cook chicken breasts covered with water, celery stalks, onion and salt. Shred or dice the meat after cooking 30 minutes. Spread lasagna with chicken, vegetables (broccoli and peas). Add cottage cheese; add cheddar cheese, grated, on top. Cover all with broth from cooking chicken. Top with sour cream. Bake at 325° for 45 to 60 minutes.

Barbecued Ham

This is very popular around the Pittsburgh area. It is simple and easy to fix and is perfect for a picnic or a gathering. You can easily double this and make it in a crockpot to feed a crowd.

1 lb. chopped chipped ham

1 bottle Heinz chili sauce

1/2 cup water (measure water and pour into the chili sauce bottle, shake it and then pour over ham)

2 Tbs. dry mustard

1 Tbs. vinegar (or a little less)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Combine and simmer for five to 10 minutes. Serve on hot buns.

Turkey Rolls

10 to 12 slices (medium sliced) turkey breast

1 pkg. Stove Top dressing, prepared according to directions

Roll up dressing into turkey slice. Place roll-ups into a 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pour chicken gravy over the whole top of the roll-ups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350°. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Oven Baked French Toast

1 (8 oz.) loaf French bread

6 eggs

1 & 1/2 cup milk

3 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/8 tsp. salt

Ground cinnamon, optional

Powdered sugar

Strawberry Mixture:

1 lb. strawberries

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

Cut bread into 1-inch slices. Arrange closely in a 9x13 pan in a single layer. Beat eggs; whisk in milk, three tablespoons sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Top with strawberry mixture.

Pumpkin Pie Squares

This one sounds as if it is just made for fall!

1 cup flour

1/2 cup quick oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

Mix together as for a pie crust. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

1 (1 lb.) can pumpkin

1 (13 oz.) condensed milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. cloves

Beat together and pour over crust. Bake 20 minutes at 350°.

Topping:

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs. butter

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle over part baked squares. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Pan Cookies

Note: This recipe would be perfect for letting the kids do it!

4 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cans Eagle Brand milk

2 cups nut meats (chunks)

2 cups (or more) chocolate chips

2 tsp. vanilla

Grated rind and juice of two oranges

Put all ingredients in large bowl and mix by hand with large wooden spoon. Spread on lightly greased 12x18 cookie sheet. Bake in 350° oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Cut in 1-inch squares when slightly cool and place on wax paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sally Jessy Raphael’s Stuffed French Toast

This sounds like a good recipe for company or a special occasion breakfast. Make it the night before and breakfast is a breeze!

8 slices bread, crusts removed (large cubes)

2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese (cut to large cubes)

12 eggs

2 cups milk

1/3 cup maple syrup

Place half the bread in a 9x 13 casserole dish. Place cream cheese on top of bread, then remaining half of bread on top. Mix eggs milk and maple syrup. Pour over the bread. Put Saran Wrap over the casserole and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until done. Serves eight. (Note: Can be served with additional maple syrup and fruit.)

Black Walnut Fudge

Richard’s Note: I liked this recipe because it sounds like the one Mother used to make. We had a large old black walnut tree back home, which hung over the house and when the nuts would drop it would sound like the Siege of Chickamauga! After shelling the nuts we would pick out the meats and Mom would freeze them for her delicious candies and cakes!

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. corn syrup

2 Tbs. cocoa

2 Tbs. butter

2/3 cup milk

1 cup chopped black walnuts

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar and cocoa and add milk and syrup. Cook until soft-ball stage dropped into water. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and allow to stand until cool. Beat until creamy and add nuts. Turn out onto butter pan and cut in to squares when set.

Oatmeal Carmelitas

1 cup flour

1 cup quick cooking rolling oats

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. soda

1/4 tsp.salt

3/4 cup butter, melted

1 (16 oz.) pkg. of chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup caramel ice cream topping

3 Tbs. flour

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, soda, salt and melted butter. Blend well at low speed to form crumbs. Press a little more than half of the crumbs into a 7x11 cake pan (lightly greased). Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pecans. Blend the caramel topping and the three tablepoons flour. Pour that mixture back and forth over the chips and nuts to cover. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer until golden brown. Chill for one to two hours; cut into bars.

Taco Soup

Note: Soup won’t get much easier than this!

1 lb. ground round, browned with 1 large diced onion

1 pkg. taco seasoning

1 pkg. Ranch dressing

32 oz. diced tomatoes

2 tomato cans water

1 can Ranch-style beans

1 can whole-kernel corn

Mix all together and simmer one hour.

Cole Slaw

2 to 3 finely chopped or grated cabbage

1 medium onion sliced into thin rings

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Dressing:

6 Tbs. cider vinegar

6 Tbs. sugar

1/2 to 1 Tsp. celery seed

4 Tbs. salad oil

2 tsp. salt

Blend dressing ingredients. Pour over vegetables. Toss gently and chill for a few hours before serving.