Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~Roy L. Smith

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~Charles Dickens

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ~Washington Irving

All of us at Old Fashioned Living wish you a very Merry Christmas! Please drive safe, stay warm and we hope you make many new memories with your families:)

~Brenda, and the Old Fashioned Living staff

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Modest Christmas Dinner from 1917

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

During World War I times were difficult and it was often hard to keep up spirits, especially around the holidays. I shared an article last week with gift suggestions from the Modern Priscilla magazine, written during 1917. They also shared suggestions for a "modest" Christmas dinner. This is such a fascinating look at how different things were back then. What we consider "modest" now, was sometimes thrifty during that time period. You'll find the article here:

My kids are all home, and we've been baking, decorating and wrapping all weekend.  I hope all of you are enjoying yourselves as well.  Remember to enjoy the Christmas season, even if that means cooking a little less, or resting a bit more!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Old Fashioned Frugal Holidays

Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance - each beautiful, unique and too soon gone. ~Deborah Whipp

First, I want to say how my heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones Friday in Connecticut. There are no words to express how horrific of a loss these families have suffered. Let us keep them in our thoughts and prayers, and treasure the children in our own lives, giving them extra hugs and kisses this week to help comfort our souls.

I was going through my books and recipes and came across a Modern Priscilla magazine from 1917. It's the December issue from that year and it is fascinating for so many reasons. World War I began in 1917 and by Christmas many families would have been without the men in their lives because they were fighting in the war. Money was tight, and morale was low, which meant the homemakers of that era were doing their best to give their family a nice Christmas within a very tight budget. I wrote an article sharing some of the tips sent in to the magazine that year. While I was writing I found myself thinking of little ways I could brighten our own holidays this year without spending too much money. We're cooking and baking from scratch, both for ourselves and our friends and family. My daughter and I are also sorting through our holiday decor, setting aside things we can recycle and craft into new decorations. We are also keeping things simple this year, focusing more on enjoying the time we spend together and less on buying a lot of gifts or running ourselves ragged.

You'll find the article here:

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Baking Under Way!

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. ~Agnes M. Pahro

My daughter and I have been making plans for our big holiday baking day.  She's 12 this year, and has been thumbing through the cookbooks and magazines for her choices.  We've also been asking friends what their favorite cookie is, and we already have our decorative bags and gift tags. It's fun having a full fledged baking partner to help during the holidays:)

In the midst of our planning I realized I hadn't done my yearly check of our baking ingredients, which led to an idea for an article on how important it is to pay attention to the shelf life of items such as flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.  I did some research and wrote the article, which you'll find here:

I hope your Christmas baking and gift buying is going well!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The First Snow Plus Christmas Fun!

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm writing articles this weekend in between decorating the house for Christmas. When I woke up this morning everything was coated in a beautiful white snowfall. It's just what I needed for holiday inspiration! I decorated the blog, as you can see, with pretty graphics. I'm always giddy when I look through the old fashioned pictures and postcards images I've collected over the years. I love decorating the blog almost as much as decorating my home.

Today I also wanted to share links to some of my favorite articles on Old Fashioned Living. Over ten years of articles makes for a lot of holiday tips and recipes:) I've been making homemade candy, cookies and crafts for 25 years now. The articles below I wrote with tips and recipes for making your own homemade gifts from the kitchen. I've given these gifts to teachers, co-workers, friends, family and special guests that drop in at the holidays. 

-Mixes for Tea, Chili and more...

-Gifts of Fudge

-Savory Treats and Mixes

-A Sandart Brownie Mix

-Tea and Beverage Mixes

-Homemade Candies from Nuts

-Homemade Candy Recipes

-Homemade Mixes for Coffee Lovers

-Bean Soup Mixes

-Cookie recipes including gingersnaps and pantry cookies, 
which I've made for years and everyone loves them.

-Gifts for the Breakfast Lover-

Lastly I wanted to share a picture I took this morning of the snow covered pine tree in our front yard.

I hope you have a lovely weekend,

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Tips: The Holiday Table

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens

Tomorrow is December 1st, and so begins the Christmas season, at least in my mind.  If we base it on when the stores started carrying Christmas items, then it began back in October, but as usual, I ignored that early marketing. This weekend we're putting up our decorations, and our Christmas tree, which I love doing each year. My tree is a hodge podge of ornaments, some from when my husband was a kid, as well as all the handmade ornaments my kids made over the years, and things given to us by friends and family.  I love opening the boxes, and looking through everything we've collected over the years. I hope all of you have special ornaments and decorations too.

The first article I wrote for this holiday season has tips on decorating the family table.  I share my own ideas plus a few out of a vintage book from my collection.  You'll find the article here:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at Old Fashioned Living are thankful for all of our readers. You've been with us for many years and we are grateful for all of your support. Personally, I am thankful for the support and friendships I've made through OFL. I've known many of you before my daughter was born 12 years ago!

We hope you have a blessed and memorable Thanksgiving.

I finished another article just in time for the week's festivities:

I'm sharing tips on baking and microwaving sweet potatoes and some old fashioned recipes. Remember, they aren't just for Thanksgiving:)


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Week: Pie Crust Tricks

Thanksgiving week is here, and it's almost time to get out the Christmas decorations! Despite the crowds and commercialism, I love this time of year. I remember as a kid listening to Christmas music and waiting for my favorite holiday shows to air, hoping it would snow before Christmas Eve and putting up the Christmas tree.  I still love all of those things, as do my kids, so we're looking forward to getting out all of our favorite things this week. Yes, even my 18 and 19 year old help decorate:)

I've bought most of the food for our dinner on Thursday, except for a few things I'm going to pick up on Tuesday when I go out for an appointment. This year feels odd since both of my boys have graduated high school, and are going to college plus working. We had to figure out when the best time would be for dinner, juggling everyone's schedules as best we could. Unfortunately, we can't travel to either of our parents' homes because my son and husband work the day before and after Thanksgiving, but the five of us will be together Thursday, late in the afternoon for turkey and the fixings. Serving dinner a little later than usual isn't a big deal for me. I'm just thankful that we can be together.  

This week I'm writing articles that I think will be helpful through the entire holiday season.  The first one focuses on traditional pie crust.  What is the trick to a successful crust?  I share recipes and tips from the 1930's and 1940's when most people made their own pies and crust for the holidays. The article is here: . I think you'll enjoy the tips and the recipes.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Breakfast Breads for Holiday Mornings

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. ~E.P. Powell

It's hard to believe November is here, and the holidays are so close. I've been going through my recipes, trying to decide on dishes, which is always a tough call because I have so many choices. In order to bring everyone together on Thanksgiving for dinner, we have to wait until around 6 p.m. to eat this year. I'm starting out the day with a hearty breakfast, including some type of bread. I've narrowed it down to a few recipes, of which I will most likely choose two.  I shared these in a new article on OFL, which include tips plus the following recipes:

-Crescent Cinnamon Rolls
-Orange Cinnamon Buns
-Honey Pecan Breakfast Ring

You'll find the recipes here:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cold Weather Soups for Fall

The witches fly Across the sky, The owls go, "Who? Who? Who?" The black cats yowl And green ghosts howl, "Scary Halloween to you!" ~Nina Willis Walter

Here in Michigan the high temperature today is 44 degrees F., and my twelve year old and I are heading out soon to "trunk or treating" at one of the churches in town, and stopping by the fire station. After that we shall have to see how cold we are:)

Yesterday I was walking out to the mailbox and realized I needed to pick up some ingredients for a nice, hot creamy soup. This led to my writing an article with yummy soup recipes that are easy to make and thrifty. I share recipes for:

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Virginia Vegetable Soup
Potato Chowder
Clam Chowder
Cream of Corn Soup

You'll find the article here:

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Holiday Cookie Recipes and Tips

Sometimes imagination pounces; mostly it sleeps soundly in the corner, purring. ~Terri Guillemets

The holidays are around the corner, and that means cookies.  The years that money was tight, we made cookies and breads to package up for family and friends.  Soon, the stores will be running sales on baking essentials so it's the perfect time to stock up on flour, sugar, oil, baking powder, soda, brown sugar, vanilla, stick margarine and butter, plus chocolate chips, coconut and nuts.  I do this every year and it saves time and money to stock up before the holidays.

My third and final cookie article this week focuses on the rolled or cut out cookie.  I share tips, and recipes for this classic type of cookie that is perfect for the holidays. 

You'll find the article here:


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Icebox Cookies Never Go Out of Style

What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick

I continued with my series of articles on cookie baking with the next one featuring tips for icebox or refrigerator cookies which are a touch more difficult than drop cookies, but worth the effort.  The holidays are just around the corner, so one can never have too many cookie recipes. I include an old fashioned recipe for a cookie dough that can be frozen and baked as needed. 

You'll find the article here:


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Season for Baking

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~Henry David Thoreau

With the coming of Autumn, I have been baking. I've baked pumpkin bread, banana muffins, cookies, banana bread and lemon bread just in the last two weeks.  Fortunately, I've had several teens and my 12 year old, in and out of the house, so I don't have to eat it all myself:)  When I was looking up a drop cookie recipe I came up with the idea of writing an article for each type of cookie; drop, refrigerator, bars, etc.  I started out with drop cookies since my daughter had asked for a double chocolate cookie earlier in the week. 

The article has my tips plus a couple of vintage tips from cookbooks, and the recipe for the cookie I made for Emily.  You'll find it here:

Next week I'll share tips for the other methods of making cookies.

~Have a wonderful weekend! Brenda

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Soups to Warm Up Cold Days

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.
~Emily Dickinson

Saturday we spent the day at our small town's fall festival.  We ate bake sale cookies and hot chocolate, watched the parade and the lumberjacks playing with logs:) It was a lovely day.  

Fall always makes me want to bake, but I also love getting out my favorite soup recipes, which are perfect for warming up on a cold, blustery day.  I wrote an article after I was looking through one of my old cookbooks for soup ideas. I ran across a section in one of them with tips on seasoning soups with herb vinegars, herb bouquets and more.  My herbs are doing wonderfully now that we're past that dry period we experienced this summer, and I've been harvesting them quite heavily before the cold weather sets in.  I think you'll enjoy the tips on  making your own herb vinegar.

You'll find the article here:

I hope you all have a wonderful week,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's Apple Season!

Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter. ~Carol Bishop Hipps

Today was one of those wonderful autumn days where the breeze was cool, but not cold, the sun was shining on the brightly colored trees and the air was crisp and fresh.  I walked out to my raised bed and snipped herbs to use in vinegar, and enjoyed the day.  I love everything about fall days, including the harvest of apples, pumpkins and squash.  I wrote an article for OFL today with vintage apple recipes from several of my favorite old cookbooks.  You'll find recipes for:

Apple Corn Cakes
Steamed Apple Pudding
Apple Sponge
English Apple Pie

I provided notes after each recipe explaining some of the old measurements, such as "butter the size of an egg".  I love the old measurements:)  

The article is here:


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homemade Baked Goods for All

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

As a mother to three kids I have participated in book fairs, candy sales and more fundraisers than I can count, but my favorite will always be bake sales.  Who can resist homemade baked goods?  I wrote an article for OFL with tips on holding a bake sale and shared one of my favorite bread recipes that has some really nice variations.

You'll find the article here:


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Feeding Your Neighborhood Birds

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. ~Henry David Thoreau

I remember the first year my husband and I moved to a duplex, and though it was still in the city, it had a backyard with a maple tree. I hung my first birdfeeder and was hooked. I love feeding and watching the birds, especially in the winter. We live in the country now, and I still put out birdfeeders, but I also plant flowers and herbs that I can leave the seed heads on for the birds. I wrote an article for OFL this week explaining which plants will provide seed for the birds in the fall and throughout the winter.

The article is here:

I hope you have something planned for outdoors this weekend. We are visiting my son at college, which has a beautiful campus. It's homecoming and they have family activities scheduled all afternoon. I can't wait:)


Monday, September 24, 2012

Freezing the Summer Harvest

A tangerine and russet cascade
Of kaleidoscopic leaves
Creates a tapestry of autumn magic
Upon the emerald carpet of fading summer.
~Judith A. Lindberg

I meant to blog this weekend but we ended up taking a family outing to an art festival in the city. We've went every year for four years now, and it was nice to walk and chat
with the kids. We even picked up my son at college to come along with us. We shared Chinese food from a stand outside a sushi restaurant, and had a lovely day.  Our next outing is apple picking!

Fall has been in the air, and I realized I hadn't given any harvest tips yet, so I wrote an article on freezing homegrown produce and herbs .  Freezing is a good way to go for preserving many vegetables and herbs. I share what freezes best, and which methods work well.  

The article is here:


Friday, September 21, 2012

Planning for Spring Blooms

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life. ~R. Search

Each spring I take walks around our property looking for green popping up from the ground.  It never fails that I look a tad too early, and wonder why the daffodils aren't sprouting yet. It's hard to be patient after a long winter.  It's even more difficult to gear up for planting in the fall for blooms that won't be seen for several months.  I wrote an article the other day for Old Fashioned Living on naturalizing bulbs.  Yes, I was a bit long winded, but there were a lot of tips to share on the subject.  Naturalizing is such a whimsical way to plant bulbs that it's hard not to smile while I'm writing:)

The article is here:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Putting the Garden to Bed

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

It's almost time for the garden season to end here in Michigan, and that means "putting the garden to bed" as the old phrase goes. I wrote an article for Old Fashioned Living with tips on putting your fall days to good use preparing the soil, storing bulbs, bringing in herbs and more. I love working outside in the fall! You'll find the new article here:

This was a rather odd garden season with the heat and lack of rain. My roses are doing better now than they were earlier in the summer, now that it's not so hot.  The gladiola, hibiscus and even the calendula were light on blooms too. I'm looking forward to the fall color in Michigan this year, and the crisp cool air.  We're planning on preparing a place for a new herb garden this fall.  I hope you all are enjoying the last days of summer.


Friday, August 31, 2012

A Labor Day Menu for Friends and Family

All of us, from time to time, need a plunge into freedom and novelty, after which routine and discipline will seem delightful by contrast. ~André Maurois

I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day weekend.  My two boys started college classes this week, and my daughter is starting middle school on Tuesday, so it's been a busy week and we're ready for some relaxing.  We are thinking about heading out to Lake Michigan for a walk on the pier, which my husband and I have been doing together for over twenty years now.  We always go later in the day, and stay to catch the sunset:)

I put together a Labor Day menu I hope you all will enjoy.  It includes:

Grilled Chicken Wings & Legs
Spicy Grilled Burgers
Red Potato Salad
Savory Coleslaw

You'll find the article here:

Drive safely this weekend and enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Easy Weekday Casseroles

The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

When I wrote the newest article for Old Fashioned Living  it had cooled off a bit here in Michigan, and my thoughts were drifting towards autumn days.  Now it's back up to 90 and humid, and I'm avoiding the oven again.  The nights are still cooler than they have been though and I know those autumn days really are on their way.  Casseroles are great weekday dishes during the cooler weather, and I've shared a few recipes and tips in that newest article.  You'll find:

Easy Pizza Bake
Ham and Noodles Casserole
Easy Chicken Tetrazzini
Salmon Noodle Casserole

You'll find these recipes here:


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Easy Meals for Busy Families: Mexican Chicken

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. ~Robert Maynard Hutchins

I wrote an article for today that includes a recipe for slow cooked Mexican Chicken and refried beans. This is one of my favorite meals because it can be used for burritos, tacos or nachos with little fuss plus leftovers are great for after school snacks or lunches.  The chicken can also be used in recipes for white chicken chili or chicken enchiladas.  

You'll find the recipe with variations and more pictures here:


Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School Tips: The Lunch Box

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

The second article I wrote for our Back to School theme this week includes tips for keeping school lunches nutritious, varied and thrifty.  What works for one child may not work for another, so flexibility is important. I found a few great tips in a home economics book that was published in 1933.  It also made me appreciate the insulated lunch bags and ice packs we have available to make packing a lunch much easier.  This is one reason I love cookbooks from the early 1900's.  They tend to have thrifty recipes made from scratch with basic ingredients.

You'll find a recipe for a unique egg salad and nice ideas for sandwich spreads. The article is here: .

Even if you don't have kids in school, you'll still love the lunch ideas!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School Tips: After School Snacks

What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. ~George Bernard Shaw

School starts here in Michigan the day after Labor Day, but I know many states have started already. It's going to be a strange year for me because for the first time I only have one child in school. My daughter is going into 7th grade, my oldest is starting his second year of college, and my middle son is starting his first year of college. I remember writing articles for Old Fashioned Living when Emily was born, which means I've known many of you for over 10 years now.  The time has went by very quickly, and it's hard to believe my daughter is 12 already. 

All this week I'll be sharing Back to School tips and recipes, but they'll also come in handy for work lunches and college care packages. I've certainly learned a lot through trial and error:)

The article I wrote for today has after school snack recipes and tips. You'll find tips on items to keep in the refrigerator and pantry, plus these recipes:

Easy Apple Butter
Indian Muffins
Spicy Cheese Scones

The article is here:


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homegrown Vegetable Recipes on OFL

Where flowers bloom so does hope.
~Lady Bird Johnson

Yesterday was beautiful here in Michigan, and the rest of the week is suppose to be nice too.  I'm doing a happy dance to celebrate being able to feel a breeze, and sit under our maple tree to read a bit.  I'm also harvesting cucumbers, herbs and some tomatoes, though a couple of the plants did not do well during the heatwave.  I hope all of you are getting a nice mix of sunshine and rain instead of the heat like we had here.

This week I have a new article on Old Fashioned Living with recipes using fresh summer vegetables. You'll find recipes for:

Roasted Garlic New Potatoes
Tomato Basil Soup
Zucchini Soup
Spaghetti Primavera

If you have vegetarian friends these are easy recipes to convert when they come over for dinner.  The soups are especially delicious. 

The article is here:


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer Favorites: Corn on the Cob

You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity. ~Hal Borland

I'm heading out on a mini vacation near Lake Huron, but wanted to share my latest article on Old Fashioned Living before we took off. Corn on the cob has always been one of my favorite summer vegetables. I've already looked up the address of the farmer's market near where we're staying so I can pick up some fresh corn to grill over a fire.

The article has tips on a basic method of boiling corn, and three methods of cooking corn on the grill plus a few recipes including:

Savory Grilled Corn on the Cob
Caesar Style Corn on the Cob
Savory Corn on the Cob

You'll find the article here:

I love these recipes, but I'll take my corn with butter and salt anytime and still be a happy camper:)


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Entertaining: No Bake Desserts

Donning a glove for a backyard toss, or watching a ball game, or just reflecting upon our baseball days, we are players again, forever young. ~John Thorn

I wrote an article for OFL this week with recipes for no bake desserts, because we all know heating up the oven during these hot, humid days is expensive and only adds to the heat of summer.  With two teenagers, and a preteen at home, plus assorted friends dropping by, snacks and desserts go quickly at our house.  These recipes can be easily doubled, and they don't take long to whip up either, which is a big plus during the busy summer. The recipes include:

Citrus Ice Cream Pie
Chocolate Cherry Tarts
Chocolate and Fruit S'mores
Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Visit OFL for the full recipes and tips at:


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer Fruit Goodness

Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend. ~Zenna Schaffer

Today I have an article up on Old Fashioned Living with summer fruit dishes.  I've been buying plums and peaches a lot the last two weeks, but picked up a really nice watermelon yesterday that was sweet and juicy.  We go through a lot of fresh fruit at our house in the summer, and when I can manage to save a bit aside I love making desserts.  Cantaloupe has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.  I actually like it more than watermelon:) 

In the article you'll find recipes for:

Melon Parfaits
Summer Fruit Tarts
Grilled Peaches and Ice Cream
Summer Fruit Sundaes

The article is located here:

We finally were blessed with some hard rain yesterday and today. I hope you were too!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cool Soups on Hot Summer Days

A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm. ~Bill Vaughan

The heat wave in Michigan broke, but it's back again. My poor grass is actually crunchy at this point, and there is no rain in sight.  I've been avoiding using the oven at all costs, and grilling in early evening, or using the stove.  Tonight I made grilled pork chops, salad and baked beans cooked in the microwave.  I wrote an article for Old Fashioned Living this week with recipes for chilled soups.  They are a delicious alternative to hot appetizers or soups, and are an elegant dish to serve guests.  I share recipes for:

Cool Cucumber Soup
Chilled Cherry Soup
Cold Avocado Soup
Gazpacho (Cold Tomato Soup)

You'll find the recipes here:


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer Fruit: A Watermelon Basket

That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We gave my middle son an open house in June for his high school graduation.  We served hot and BBQ chicken wings, coleslaw, cheesy potatoes, and pulled pork, along with a taco bar.  Everything turned out great, but the hit of the party was the Watermelon Basket.

I've written an article with step by step instructions for the basket, and variations on the theme for baby and bridal showers.  You can find the article here:

I hope you all our staying cool and hydrated during the heat wave we are experiencing!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July Celebrations

If anyone, then, asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him - it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known - the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties. ~Henry Ward Beecher

It's been a hot, chaotic summer so far, and I'm hoping for a few cool days and less chaos in July. All of us at Old Fashioned Living hope you have a safe, happy Fourth of July week. We have some great ideas to help you with your celebration:

Watermelon recipes are delicious if you can keep it around long enough to cut it up:)

A summer menu complete with burgers, pasta, muffins and Banana Split Squares for dessert.

I love the recipes in this article on Cool Tea Refreshments, which include the use of fresh mint. Any variety of mint can be used, including spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint or even chocolate mint.

Enjoy your week!  ~Brenda

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer Goodness: Homemade Ice Cream Toppings

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. ~John Lubbock

Today I have a new article on Old Fashioned Living with recipes to make your own ice cream toppings, including:

Chocolate Sauce
Vanilla Sauce
Fruit Sauce
Strawberry Hard Sauce

All of these sauces can be used with other desserts too; such as pound cake, angel food cake, fresh fruit, pancakes or waffles.

You'll find the article and recipes here:


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Old Fashioned Summer Beverages

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James

Today I have a new article on Old Fashioned Living with recipes to cool you down this summer.  Two non-alcoholic recipes and two with a little pick-me-up are included. 

Iced Mint Cocoa
Raspberry Mint Lemonade
Champagne Punch
Nasturtium Punch

I'm always singing the praises of nasturtiums, and this punch is a perfect way to use the blooms, no matter what variety you grow. 

Old Fashioned Summer Beverages with recipes is available here:


Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Party for 200: Part Two-What to Serve?

Figuring out what to serve for a gathering of 100-200 people isn't easy. We took several things into consideration when trying to decide the menu:

1. What dishes had been favorite in the past at family gatherings?
2. Was the food fairly easy to cook, and not overly expensive?
3. Would the food do well on a buffet table in warming trays?

We used 18 quart electric roasters to cook most of the food. We borrowed roasters from family and friends, who dropped them off at the hall that morning, or the day before the party. We went through one roaster each of the potatoes, green beans, baked beans, and the meatballs. There was a little bit of ham left at the end of the party.  My brother in law provided the fried chicken, picking it up a couple hours before the party. We kept it warm in the oven until it was time to serve the food. 

Menu items:
1 boneless ham, sliced and heated
100 pieces of fried chicken, prepared and kept warm
Cheesy Potatoes
Green Beans with Bacon
Baked Beans
Sweet and Sour meatballs
Swedish Meatballs
5-6 dozen rolls and butter

Brenda's Cheesy Potatoes

8 32 ounce bags frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
10 cups sour cream
5 12 ounce bags shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup sauteed onion
4 Family size cans (26 ounces each) cream of chicken soup
16 ounces bacon, cooked until crisp

Drain the bacon on paper towel after cooking, set aside to cool. In a large bowl combine the sour cream, and the soup, undiluted. Whisk together until smooth. Place all of the hash browns in a roaster pan, top with onion and cheese. Add the sour cream mixture, and stir with a sturdy spoon. This will be fairly hard to do, but try to mix the ingredients as best you can. Cover the roaster and set the temperature to 350 degrees F. After 20-30 minutes, stir again. As the ingredients heat it will get become easier to stir. Crumble the bacon and add to the potatoes after an hour or so. Continue to stir every 1/2 hour. When the cheese has melted, and the potatoes have heating through, turn the temperature down to it's lowest setting. Keep the lid on until ready to serve.

Notes: The potatoes ran out just as all of the guests came through the line. This dish was a huge hit, and I wouldn't change a thing. I started out with a very basic recipe for six servings, and made changes as I went along. I found shredded hash browns worked better, plus I thawed them overnight in the refrigerator before using them in the recipe. I used a sweet onion for the recipe.

The Meatballs

The meatballs come in 5 pound bags from Gordon Food Service. These are a nice quality ground beef meatball that we've used for years. We went through 20 pounds of meatballs for the party. They were divided and put into roasters. The Swedish meatballs were made with cream of mushroom soup poured over, cooked until heated through and kept on warm until ready to serve. We purchased BBQ sauce, and cans of sweet and sour sauce, which we poured over the meatballs, the same method we used for the Swedish meatballs.

I remember serving Swedish meatballs at our wedding reception, over 23 years ago. Some dishes remain popular throughout the years and never fail to please people. While cooking for almost 200 people is exhausting, it's also rewarding. I loved that our 18 and 19 year old sons helped us cooks and serve the food for the party. Working beside them is something we'll all remember.


Friday, June 8, 2012

A Party for 200: Part 1 Appetizers & Cold Food

Last weekend we cooked for almost 200 people at the 50th Anniversary party for my husband's parents. They have three sons, all married, and each family was responsible for a different part of the party.  Buying and cooking the food was our responsibility. My husband managed a restaurant before moving to Grand Rapids almost 25 years ago, and since then I've helped him cook food for three weddings and a retirement party, plus many small gatherings over the years. We only do this for family, and we keep the costs down as much as possible to save everyone money.  

I decided this would be a great experience to share on the blog. I'll be dividing the tips and recipes into at least two posts, possibly three.  Today I'm covering the appetizers and cold food. I've listed what we served, and below that in the notes I've gone over the amounts, recipes and tips.

Cold Food
10 pound container prepared coleslaw
10 pound container prepared potato salad
Fruit salad, homemade-recipe below

We actually bought two containers each of the coleslaw and potato salad, but only used one. Fortunately, we are having an open house for our son who just graduated from high school, and will be able to use it in June.

Cheese Tray
2 vegetable trays with Ranch Dip
1 large relish tray
Baked Mushrooms

Salads: We actually bought two containers each of the coleslaw and potato salad, but only used one. Fortunately, we are having an open house for our son who just graduated from high school, and will be able to use it. We worried that we should have had a third salad, but decided to go with the fruit salad instead of a pasta salad. I'm going to give you an approximate recipe for the fruit salad below, but my husband changes it a little bit each time, so it's never exact. In the notes below the recipe I'll go over what doesn't work and what does.

Cheese: We bought three 2 pound blocks of cheese: Cheddar, Colby Jack and Hot Pepper. We cut each block into cubes, rather than buy it already cubed. It was MUCH cheaper. The picture below shows the tray we made with the cheese.

Vegetable Trays: We bought way too much on these, but brought them home to eat. With 2 teen boys and friends over we didn't waste too much. I'm going to list what we actually used, not what we bought.

2 pounds baby carrots
4-5 green peppers, cut into strips
1 head broccoli, cut into pieces
3-4 cucumbers
2 stalks celery
1 pound radishes
2 pounds Ranch style dip

This made two vegetable trays. We were surprised we didn't have to refill these at least two more times. The way the room had to be set up, a table was placed away from the buffet line for the cold appetizers. In the past they were placed next to or in the same row of tables as the buffet, and we used far more vegetables.

Relish Tray: We had one large relish tray with olives, dill pickle spears, bread and butter pickle slices, and pepperoncini. We only ended up needing the one tray. 


1 cantaloupe, cubed
1 mango *see note
8 kiwis, quartered and sliced
1 quart fresh strawberries
1 pound bag frozen mixed berries
3 pound bag Fuji apples
1 pound bag frozen blueberries
3 medium cans mandarin oranges, juice reserved
3 medium cans pineapple chunks, juice reserved
1 pound bag shredded coconut

6 eight ounce containers Yoplait Orange Cream Yogurt
2 eight ounce blocks cream cheese, room temperature

Core and dice the apples into a large bowl. Add the juice ONLY from the oranges and pineapple chunks into the bowl with the apples. Allow this to sit and soak while cutting up the other fruit. It's important to drain all the fruit, fresh, canned and frozen using a colander. Drain off the apples after everything else is finished draining, discarding the juices. Place all the fruit in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the yogurt and the room temperature cream cheese. Using a mixer, beat until smooth. Add to the fruit in the bowl, stirring gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This made two deep foil roaster pans-- they were about 7x11 inches or so.

Notes: The mango was a huge mistake- we wouldn't use it again. My husband has been making variations of this type of fruit salad for years. Bananas, no matter how firm or fresh, never seem to work well either. Seedless fresh grapes, watermelon or cherries have all been wonderful. Substitute any of those for something in the recipe, with the same amount and it should be fine. In the picture you'll see more than one mango, but we only used one, but as mentioned they didn't do well.


1 box Herb Flavored Stuffing Mix
4 pounds regular sized mushrooms
1 stick butter
12 ounce bag finely shredded Cheddar Cheese

Prepare the stuffing as per the instructions on the package. Wipe off the mushrooms. Scoop out the mushrooms, putting aside the stems. Set the scooped mushroom tops in a 9x13 pan or a pan large enough to hold them all. Chop the mushroom stems and add to the prepared stuffing mix, stirring well. Carefully stuff each mushroom, brush the tops with melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Notes: I kept wanting to add more to this recipe--herbs, spices etc. but my husband shooed me away. He was right, because these were gone VERY quickly. We could have easily doubled the recipe. People loved the mushrooms. My husband did say to mention that he sometimes adds sauteed, chopped onion and celery.

Next, I will go over the hot food we served.  

On OFL we have an article on figuring out seating for parties: