Tag Archives: grandmother

Old-fashioned Nut Loaf


Here it is, the bread with graham cracker crumbs in it! I considered everyone’s advice about the confusion between graham flour and graham cracker crumbs. I waffled back and forth about which ingredient I would try but finally settled on graham cracker crumbs. It was too unusual an addition (at least for me) to a quick bread not to try.

Once I remembered to get graham crackers at the store (it took a few visits) I was ready to go. The rest of the ingredient list is short an simple. In fact, I almost didn’t notice something rather odd about this recipe: there are no eggs or oil. The only liquid and fat comes from milk. I’d say that makes this an easily veganized treat!

I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the graham cracker crumbs. They looked so insignificant blended into the flour. Could they really add any flavor? I was wrong to doubt, as Joanne pointed out, graham crackers make everything better!

This bread has a unique sweet, nutty flavor that I can only attribute to the crumbs. They probably also contribute to the beautiful golden brown color of this loaf. It borders on too sweet for me but the flavor is lovely and unique. The nuts are almost secondary to the bread in which they’re suspended.

I felt like I’d entered a time warp eating my half-muffin bread tasting, like I was eating something people made during the depression when they were trying to come up with creative ways to use the ingredients they had on hand. That could very well be the era this recipe comes from. Helen’s file seems to include recipes from almost an entire century and from all over the country.

Break out that food processor (or a plastic bag and hands for smashing) and make some graham cracker crumbs for a old-fashioned nut loaf. Then sit down for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon to enjoy a little time travel.


I made 2 mini loaves and 3 large muffins…and had a bit of an overflow in the oven.

Nut Loaf
from Helen’s recipe file

2 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 pinch salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda stirred in to…
2 cups sour milk (I used buttermilk)
i cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, salt, and sugar, stirring with a whisk to blend completely.
Add baking soda to buttermilk in a separate bowl, stirring until there are no lumps of soda left. (Different method for baking soda. I’ve never seen this before but it works!)
Pour buttermilk into flour mixture. Stir gently until combined.
Fold in nuts.
Pour batter into a greased loaf pan or mini loaf pans/muffin cups.

Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes (mini loaves/muffins) to an hour (large loaf).
Remove when the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool, slice, sit, eat, and wonder if food is the best time machine we have.


Filed under Bread, muffins

“Graham” as in Graham Crackers?

I have a recipe all picked out for my next installation of the Recipe File Project but there’s a bit of a problem: ingredient confusion! This was bound to happen with recipes penciled on scrap paper from at least half a century ago. This one is written on the back of a guarantee for coal from the North Western Fuel Company. Anybody up for Nut Loaf from a coal-fired oven? I know my great-grandmother used to bake pies in the wood stove at the family fishing cabin.


So here’s the question: In a recipe for Nut Loaf, what does “1 cup graham” mean? Is that graham flour or graham cracker crumbs? First I was leaning towards flour but there’s already 3 cups of flour called for. Graham cracker crumbs kind of make sense and would certainly be a novel addition to a quick bread.

I think I’m going to go with graham cracker crumbs (once I remember to buy graham crackers) unless anyone tells me otherwise. But really, I’m looking for your input!


Filed under Bread, inspiration and musings

A is for Aspic

        I know that lovely copper ring looks a lot like a Bundt pan but if you saw it in person, size would rule that out.


        I first saw this odd pan on a visit to grandmother Helen’s shortly after I moved to Denver, the city neighboring Helen’s long-time home. She was living in the local PEO house along with a handful of other elderly characters (I always joked that they should start a detective agency or something). I remember her ushering me into her minimal kitchen and pulling out this pan/mold thing in excitement.
“This is an aspic mold. Do you know what aspic is?” she said.
Of course I didn’t know what it was.
I don’t remember how she described it but she immediately pulled a newspaper clipped out of a pile and presented me with a recipe for Tomato Aspic.
“I think you’d really like this.” She said. “It’s just so fresh and nice and has all these lovely crunchy vegetables in it.”

We talked about tomato aspic for a while. Oh how I wish I’d had a tape recorder with me!

After she died I thought about aspic a lot. It came to symbolize the last months of my relationship with me grandmother. I always thought it was odd that she’d shown me the mold and the recipe but had not given them to me. Maybe she knew they’d be mine soon anyway. Maybe it was some kind of a test to see if I could connect the two items later when they turned up among her possessions.

I could have cried when I pulled the tarnished copper mold out of a cardboard box at my dad’s house earlier this summer. It was here! I hadn’t imagined the whole tomato aspic conversation! If only I could find the recipe she’d shown me…but it was there too! I recognized the yellowed newsprint as soon as I saw it. At that point I knew what Helen wanted. She wanted me to make tomato aspic, to try something new a different, and to think of her.

Unfortunately, I had kind of a hard time getting my aspic out of the mold. Any advice for a molded salad newbie?..But look how red and beautiful it is!

Tomato Aspic
From Menu Planner Cookbook by Miriam B. Loo (reprinted in an unknown newspaper)

“The fresh taste of tomato comes through in this deep red aspic.”

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cool chicken broth (your own or canned)
4 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into fine strips (I used 3 different small heirloom tomatoes and the colors were beautiful!)

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over chicken broth and soften for 10 minutes.
Combine tomato juice, celery, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, celery seed, salt, sugar, and white pepper in a saucepan.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add softened gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Set saucepan in cold water and stir until mixture is cool (I put a few inches of water in the sink).
Fold in tomatoes.
Rinse a decorative 2 qt ring mold with cold water, pour in tomato mixture.
Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Unmold and serve on lettuce leaves with the following dressing.

Dill-Mayonnaise Dressing (I didn’t make this dressing. I used Annie’s ranch dressing instead.)

1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.

Blend all ingredients well ad let stand for an hour to develop flavors.

What did Lee and I think of the aspic? Well, it was different that’s for sure. My mold was too small for the whole recipe so poured the rest into two small bowls and we ate that with grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (it was like tomato soup and grilled cheese!). I served the aspic over a green salad with ranch dressing and it was a great combination of flavors and textures. The aspic was much more intensely tomato-y than I expected it to be. It was a little too intense for Lee. He made me promise only to serve tomato aspic in very small quantities in the future.

I will be making this again. Maybe for a potluck because it’s just so strange and retro.


Filed under other goodies

Starting with A

My grandmother organized her recipes and newspaper clippings alphabetically. It seems appropriate to start with the A’s in my quest to sort through and cook from her file.

Today I made labels for the sections in the new folder I got last week. Then I went through the papers that had fallen out of the old folder. Most of them came from the A,B, and C sections but a few were difficult to categorize (an obituary in a recipe file?).

There are some really, really old handwritten recipes in the B’s and C’s. Bread, cake, and cookies were ever popular with my grandparents and great grandparents! I think looking at these old recipes will always take my breath away and leave me more than a little awestruck at what I’m holding. I promise, those slips of paper, ingredient lists, and vague instructions will be on here soon.

Until then Lee and I are off on a weekend visit to my aunt’s house. I can’t wait to relax by the pool and catch up with my aunt. I also have the urge to do come canning before the summer is over so hopefully I can pick up some jars on our travels.

Next week I’ll be making something using this lovely kitchen inheritance.


Does anyone want to guess what I’ll be making?


Filed under inspiration and musings