Peanut butter in my soup

It’s soup weather here on the Plains, and this recipe is one of my favorites.  It is so easy that you will have a tasty soup in less than 30 minutes.  It also freezes well.

Moroccan Peanut Butter & Tomato Soup

  • 1 – 28 ounce can finely diced tomatoes with onion & garlic
  • 1/4 cup to 1 cup creamy peanut butter (depending on the number of calories and the intensity of peanut butter flavor you want.  I use 1/4 to 1/3 cup, but the original recipe called for 1 cup.)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder (or less if you like less heat.  I use 1 Tablespoon.)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin (or less if you like less heat.  I use 1 teaspoon.)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups water


In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients except water.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Then, stir in the water and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Note:  For a smooth soup, use a food mill or “stick” blender to pulverize the tomatoes before mixing them with the other ingredients.



Cornmeal is one of my favorite tastes.  When I came home from college for a weekend, I would make a pan of cornbread and eat it all by myself.  I made it from scratch in those days, because that’s what we did at our house.  It was yellow and sweet and tasted as good as any cake.  Today, the Jiffy cornbread mix gives me the same satisfaction.

In addition to traditional cornbread, I love yeast bread and sourdough bread made with cornmeal, Mexican casserole with cornbread topping, cornbread stuffing, and Trader Joe’s chicken pizza with cornmeal crust.  And when it comes to sweets, the following cornmeal sugar cookie recipe is a winner.


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Extra sugar

Cream the shortening and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy.  Add lemon and vanilla extracts.

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture.

Roll dough 1/8-inch thick on floured surface.  Cut cookies with 2-1/2-inch cutter.  Place on greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400-degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from pans.  Cook on racks.  Makes 6 dozen.  May be frozen.

ALTERNATIVE.  Use an ice cream scoop to make small balls of dough.  Roll the balls in your hand and then in extra sugar.  Pat down to approximately 1/4-inch thickness.

Dough can be formed into cookies that are frozen individually and then stored in a plastic bag.  Bake cookies a few at a time to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Popcorn balls

Popcorn was a favorite snack in our family.  We all liked it, especially dad.  When we were kids, we used a deep cast iron frying pan to pop the corn, and then poured it into a very large white enamel dishpan.

Popcorn balls were a special treat.  We always used the recipe from a “cookbook” mom had purchased for 10-cents when she was a little girl in 1928.  It was actually a series of magazine-size pages that were brittle with age.  The pages were rolled up lengthwise, and I remember worrying that they would shatter and the recipe would be lost forever.

I have never found a popcorn ball recipe like this one, which uses molasses rather than corn syrup.  You will need a deep 6-quart kettle, because the molasses candy syrup takes up an unexpected amount of space when it starts to boil.  You definitely do not want it to boil over onto the stove.  NOTE:  Pop the corn before making the molasses candy, because the candy needs your full attention and you need to move quickly once it is ready to pour onto the popped corn.

Clara’s Popcorn Balls

  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar
  • 1/6 tea. cream of tarter
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • Very small pinch of baking soda
  • 1 tea. vanilla

Mix the molasses, sugar, water, and vinegar in a deep kettle.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.  When the candy begins to boil, add the cream of tarter.

When the candy reaches a hard ball stage (260-degrees F.) add the butter, baking soda, and vanilla.  The mixture is very hot, so handle with care.

Pour the hot candy over popped corn and stir to mix well.  Let it cool so it can be easily handled.  Butter your hands to prevent sticking and form popcorn balls.

How much popcorn?  The recipe does not say, but I suggest three or four full-size microwaveable bags of popcorn – or somewhere between 50 and 60 cups.  Put the popcorn in a very large pan or tub.  Don’t forget to remove any un-popped kernels.  Perhaps, start with half of it and then add more as you see how much corn the candy will cover. If you try to cover too much popcorn, there won’t be enough sticky candy to hold the balls together.  But it will still taste good!

Sour cream cherry chip cookies: Another childhood food memory

It was the late 1950s.  Mom always out did herself when it came to making Christmas cookies.  She made drawers full – literally.  She made enough cookies to more than fill a three drawer dresser that was located in a room we did not heat during the winter months.  After both dinner and supper, she took a plate into the “back room” and returned with a dozen cookies – two for every member of the family.  How many cookies did she make?  We ate at least two dozen every day from Thanksgiving until some time after Christmas.  So let me guess – 80 dozen?   100 dozen?  It was a lot of cookies!

One year she apparently decided to hide some cookies, too.  And she totally forgot about them.  In March, my sisters and I were digging in the “rag bin.”  It was actually a tilt out wooden flour storage box in the pantry. We never used the bin for flour, so it was a perfect place to store rags.  At the bottom of the bin, we found a small round metal tin filled with soft sour cream cherry chip cookies.  It was like forgotten treasure, although truthfully, I recall they were a little stale.  But we were so excited to find and eat them that I still remember the experience and the taste more than 50 years later.

I don’t have a recipe to share.  Mom may have started with the Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Drop recipe that appears on page 182 of the “Big Red” Betty Crocker Cookbook  we used throughout our childhood.  I do not recall that mom, my sisters, or I every again made soft sour cream cookies with cherry mini chips. Maybe this year?

Cake-with-water: Favorite childhood food memory #1

Growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota in the 1950s and 1960s, a favorite sweet treats was warm chocolate cake with Vanilla Butter Sauce. We called this dessert “cake-with-water.”  Mom made the chocolate cake from a recipe she knew by heart.  It was a dense cake, and maybe even a bit dry.  But it worked just fine as the base for a substantial amount of the sauce.  Here’s that recipe:

Vanilla Butter Sauce

In a sauce pan, melt 1/2 cup butter over medium heat.

Add 1/3 cup sugar and 3 Tablespoons cornstarch.  Stir well.

Add 1-1/2 cup water and 1 Tablespoon vanilla.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce comes to a full boil.  Boil for 1 minute.

Place pieces of chocolate cake in shallow bowls.  Pour sauce over the cake and serve immediately.  [Because the sauce is thickened with cornstarch, it does not “hold” well, so eat it all right away!]