Grandma Swan Week

the best cook I have ever met has to be the farmer’s Grandma Swan… she created two cookbooks and handed them down to all of her children and grandchildren… I even have copies to give my children someday… so I decided this week to only use her recipes in my meals to the field and make it into a ‘tribute’ week to Grandma Swan…  I intend to do this every year out of respect for the way she cooked and what she taught me…

there are a few interesting recipes as ideas around what can be called a salad have changed and I didn’t realize that you could make pie came in flavours such as ‘Flapper’, ‘Mincemeat’, ‘Raisin’, ‘Apricot’ and ‘Sour Cream’

my hope was that these recipes would help the farmers remember the ‘good old days’ as they were out there…  even though I cannot re-create them the same way that Grandma Swan made them…

my daughter has been growing pumpkins this year and was so excited to use one for a pie…  and her favourite, roasted pumpkin seeds…

for the seeds she had to pick every seed from the ‘guts’ of the pumpkin

then she boils them for 10 minutes

finally roasted them with some salt in the oven and they were so delicious… it made me think if everyone had to work this hard to eat food, would we pay more attention to what we are eating?

the pumpkin got roasted and you can tell when it is done by piercing them

for the filling I scooped the pumpkin flesh into a strainer to drain any excess liquid off

I used the Vitamix to blend the pumpkin into a great texture to use for baking and pies… I froze what I wasn’t going to use and I will see if that works out or not!

both Grandma Swan and my Grandma Reed (who was an amazing pie maker at her own restaurant) used lard in their crusts…  so I have always used their recipes and lard…

the colour of fresh pumpkin pie is decidedly different than if you are using the canned pumpkin… it also has a fresher, lighter taste to it…

and the smell in the house is something I figured Grandma would be happy with…

this was another trick she taught me…  and I buy Whip It at our local store to put in whipping cream…  my daughter has a bit of a weakness for real whipping cream so she tends to volunteer to make it…  the key is to put the bowl and whisk in the freezer for awhile before you whisk up the cream…

I let the pies rest for about an hour after I cooked them and then put them in the fridge for a few hours before slicing them up…

Grandma Swan's Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry:

  • 1 lb lard
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • milk or water

Filling:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup hot milk
  • pastry for 10” pie shell

Directions:

  • for the pastry, cut up the lard and add to flour, salt, and baking powder
  • using a pastry blender, mix the lard in with the flour
  • beat the egg in a measuring cup and add 1 tbsp vinegar and water or milk until you get 1 cup
  • add to the lard/flour mixture and combine into a ball
  • cut into four and form four separate dough balls
  • wrap in saran wrap and place in the fridge to cool
  • for the pie filling, beat the eggs slightly
  • gradually beat in sugar, spices and salt
  • stir in pumpkin and hot milk
  • pour into pie plate lined with an unbaked pastry
  • bake in oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes
  • lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes until you can insert and knife in the center of the filling and it comes out clean

it was actually a little difficult to find a salad recipe that didn’t sound like a dessert…  apparently in 1987 it was totally fine to have salads named ‘Pistachio Salad Surpise’, ‘Molded Salad’, ‘Orange Sherbet Salad’, ‘Sunshine Jello’, ‘Creamy Pink Salad’, ‘Jello & Rice Salad’, ‘Strawberry Jello Delight’, ‘Jellied Shrimp Salad’ and then something novel sounding called ‘Vegetable Salad’

I settled on ‘Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad’… I used a product called Thieves to wash veggies and fruits that need it and it works really well…

the fun part was buying Miracle Whip and using it in a dressing… brought back many good memories… and makes a yummy dressing…

Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into small chunks
  • 2-3 bunches broccoli florets, cut into small chunks
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Directions:

  • in a large bowl, add the cauliflower, broccoli, onion and cheese
  • mix the Miracle Whip, vinegar and sugar
  • pour over the salad and combine
  • put in fridge for 1/2 hour to let the flavour set

one of the dished Grandma Swan was most famous for was THE BEST hash brown casserole ever… the men in this household filled the freezer with deer sausage this last winter so I used some of that to go with the hash brown casserole…

one of the best things about paying tribute to Grandma Swan is when I look through her cookbooks and cook the recipes from them I get to think about how it made her happy to cook for all the farmers in her life and how serious she took her role as the provider of great food in her household…  she was and is inspiring… love you Grandma… I hope my children use your cookbooks well someday…

hash brown casserole

  • Servings: one 9x13 casserole
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pint whipping cream, unwhipped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine

Directions:

  • mix together 1/4 cup margarine, salt, pepper, onion, whipping cream, soup and cheese
  • butter 9×13 inch pan and place hash browns in bottom
  • pour liquid mixture over hash browns
  • mix 1/4 cup margarine and corn flakes and put on top of potato mixture
  • bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

the farmer’s grandma

the farmer’s Grandma passed away at age 83…  she was the matriarch of a family that consists of her amazing farmer husband, 6 children, 22 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren…  (I could be wrong with this count…)

I have begun to write about her roughly 7 times now, have had to stop, delete and re-do…  and I am still at a loss for words to describe how knowing her has impacted my life… and without a doubt all of her family members lives…  I’m sure on different levels and for different reasons…

there are her children who love her dearly… there were those that saw her on a daily basis for coffee and cookies… those that farmed with her… those that had the occasional Sunday brunch… those that were lucky enough to learn how to make bread and buns under her instruction… those that played tennis or kaiser with her…  and those that saw her through her last years, fighting an invisible disease that no one knew was there…

no matter what the role or relationship the members of her enormous family had in her life, every single one of us is a better person because of the life that she lived… it was a selfless life, filled with generosity and service… hard work does not even scratch the surface when it comes to the way she lived…

there was a joy, a magic (as one of the farmer’s cousins recently pointed out) in the way she went through her day…  the organization and planning it took to raise 6 children, help raise their children and never turn down a visitor is extraordinary… how she always had the freezers and the cold room full of baking and food…  how fresh buns and bread magically appeared with no sign of mess or stress…

I met the farmer’s grandma 18 years ago…  I’m sure when she met me she wondered what this city girl was going to do on a farm… she would have been right because I wondered what I was doing here…  and this is when she impacted my life the most…  and when I needed it the most…

forever patient, she always seemed to have time for a tea and a visit…  I was enthralled with the way she did everything… I had never seen anything like it…  she had 6 bathrooms to clean! (I went in all six during one visit and they were all clean… and by ‘I went’ I merely mean I peaked…)

I realized that if I was going to succeed in making my farmer happy, she was one I could definitely learn from… I remember her showing up at our house one morning, in the summer, at 7:30 am with bread dough to be rolled out…  she had taken me literally when I had mentioned I needed to learn how to roll out bread dough and here she was…  she laughed that she had woken me up and on we got with it…

unfortunately, I could not do anything even close to how she did it…  we spent our summer’s going to her and grandpa’s cabin (which is now the farmer’s and my cabin)… most of the farmer’s lake memories go like this…

‘Grandma always would climb to the top of the hill where the saskatoon bushes are and pick berries and make the best jam…  she told me that the over-ripe berries make the best jam’

‘Grandma would be up in the morning making an egg casserole, fresh bread to toast and bacon’

‘Grandma is the best partner for Kaiser…  she never gets mad when you mess up… she actually makes it seem like it could have been her fault’

‘Grandma had a lava lamp up here and we used to burn our hands on it all the time’

‘Grandma washed the window on the screen door at least 5 times in a day when we all were here’

‘Grandma always had cherries and I was allowed to eat as many as I wanted’

‘the best orange juice I’ve ever had was in Arizona when Grandma would make freshly squeezed orange juice’ (not related to the lake but he tends to tell it when we are having orange juice at the lake)

this spring, when I was up cleaning the cabin, where most of my memories of summer reside, I did my best to clean it top to bottom the way I remember her doing…  but I know she would have re-cleaned my cleaning job without me knowing if she could have…

I saw her cleaning the oven at the lake one time and she said ‘there are just some jobs you have to do… no way around it…’

through watching her and through hearing the way the farmer talked about her, I realized how important cooking and cleaning and being there for your family is…  it is such a practical way of saying ‘I love you’…  and if you do it with a sense of joy and a smile it not only fills the belly’s of your family but it fills their souls…

to date I have shared 12 of Grandma’s recipes on this site…  my guess is at least three times more than anyone else I have drawn recipes from… and when I was looking over which ones I have used it only reminded me that I should be using way more for the farmers in the field…  they would appreciate it I’m sure…

macaroni salad, layered salad, german chocolate cake, lemon meringue pie (twice), italian breadsticks, whipped potatoes, cucumber dill saladpeach cobbler, cauliflower taco salad, white bread, clam chowder, and caesar salad dressing

on Father’s Day, my dad was out and I cooked a Sunday brunch in honour of Grandma Swan…  the farmer has so many memories of Sunday brunches with Grandma and my dad has been a recipient of a few as well…

Grandma had two cookbooks published… I refer to these weekly for sure… the first cookbook was published in 1987 (co-authored by Dawn Bevan) and is titled Sure… You Can Cook! “The Happy Cookers”… they put together another one 18 years later (same title)…  I have copies of these cookbooks to give to my three children when they move out someday…

the moment I tasted her Griddle Cakes I knew you never should make pancakes with a mix…  nothing is better than her buttermilk pancakes… (again, I cannot make them the same way she did)

Grandma Swan was the ‘Pioneer Woman’ long before you could gain any fame by cooking…  she was practical…  they went through times in farming where money was scarce and food was tight…  she cooked, baked, canned and gardened not to blog about it or put pictures on Instagram…  she did it out of necessity and was excellent at it…

this is my tribute and my account of Grandma Swan… my biggest regret is not writing this a week ago and being able to read it to her…  I know other’s knew her in a more intimate way that the farmer and I did and many in our large family are going through a very hard time grasping saying goodbye to someone so special…

the farmer was able to take our two boys and see her before she passed away…  she was unable to speak but she wrote a note to him that forever will spur him on to work harder and live more generously… and it was ‘I’m so proud of you… always be a family’

she will forever be my inspiration to cook, clean, work hard, smile and spend time with family…  I will not come remotely close to what she was able to accomplish in life, but that is ok…  she was the best of the best…

she fed us and she loved us…  and we loved her…

baked hash brown casserole

  • Servings: 1 9x13 casserole
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pint whipping cream, unwhipped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine

Directions:

  • mix together 1/4 cup margarine, salt, pepper, onion, whipping cream, soup and cheese
  • butter 9×13 inch pan and place hash browns in bottom
  • pour liquid mixture over hash browns
  • mix 1/4 cup margarine and corn flakes and put on top of potato mixture
  • bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

griddle cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

Directions:

  • combine dry ingredients
  • add all liquids and beat together
  • drop from spoon on preheated griddle
  • grease lightly
  • fry at 375 degrees