Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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coffee cakeThis is delicious and fragrant comfort food if there ever was any. I’ve been making this for many years, and the smell is just heavenly. How heavenly? A number of years ago I was awaiting delivery of something, can’t remember what now, but what I do remember is the reaction. Two men and the truck arrived in the driveway, whereupon they got out and came to door. When I answered, the driver said, “I don’t know what you’re making, but the smell outside is just incredible!!!” I was a bit shocked, not realizing my wonderful aromas had carried that far. This cake is not for those counting calories, as it contains fair amounts of sour cream, butter, brown sugar and eggs, but the result is well worth it. Plus, you can always freeze it.

The original recipe comes out of the first cookbook I ever bought when I was first married, so don’t laugh: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. That was some time ago now, but over the years, it has maintained its comfort food status. Probably a number of you can find this recipe in your own collections, as I’m sure it’s been kept through the ages. A good cup of tea, and you’re living! So, thanks to Betty, here’s the recipe:


1½ cups sugar*
¾ cups margarine or butter**
3 eggs
1½ tsp vanilla***
3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour, I used all purpose
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1½ cups sour cream

Filling, mix:

½ cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts (I use pecans, but walnuts will work very well too)
1½ tsp cinnamon.

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease tube pan 10-inch-by-4-inch or 12 cup Bundt pan, (I usually use the tube pan). or 2 loaf pans, 9-by 5-by-3. Beat sugar, margarine/butter, eggs, and vanilla in large mixer bowl on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 2 minutes. Beat in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt alternatively with sour cream on low speed. Prepare filling.

For tube or Bundt pans, spread 1/3 of the batter (about 2 cups) in pan and sprinkle with 1/3 of the filling (about 6 tbsp); repeat 2 times. For loaves, spread ¼ of the batter (about 1½ cups) in each pan and sprinkle each with ¼ of the filling (about 5 tbsp); repeat.

Bake until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour (note: this could be less, so keep an eye on it). Cool slightly; remove from pan(s). Cool 10 minutes. Yield 12 to 14 servings.

*The last time I made this cake, about a month ago, I cut the sugar down to 1 cup with no appreciable difference in quality.

**I really urge you to use real butter here for the flavor.  

***Please use pure vanilla extract here: The flavor difference is amazing. An older bottle of the fake stuff will smell, of all things, like flowers or perfume. Don’t think you want that.

 You can follow the further adventures of Sue at for info on food, travel, and shopping in eastern Ontario among other spots. She'd love it you came for a visit!


Here is a simple recipe that provides a sweet, cool treat and helps clear out some space when the turf war between fresh blueberries pick last month and applesauce from yesterday gets heated in the freezer.

the milk


2 quart saucepan
hand-held strainer
small mixing bowl


1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
2 cups milk

Combine blueberries, sugar, and water into the saucepan. Heat on medium-high until mixture boils.  Lower heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

When mixture thickens, remove from heat and strain into mixing bowl. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. Use ¼ cup of syrup with 1 cup of milk.



I absolutely love autumn, especially where we live in rural Ontario. The bugs are gone, the weather is neither too hot nor too cold, the leaves are brilliant in colour and pumpkins are ready! I enjoy growing a variety of pumpkins and squash for their eye catching beauty and delicious flavours. One recipe I make a lot of and has proven to be popular seller at our farm is my Pumpkin Maple Butter. Our Farmhouse Decorated With PumpkinsMost customers purchase it to spread on toast or scones, but recently I was told by one customer that they use it as a glaze on salmon. Sounds wonderful! I enjoy making this preserve as it is something that does not require your immediate attention to ‘can’ down. Pumpkins picked fresh from the garden store very well in a cool, dry pantry until January or later. That way you can make this preserve when time permits. I would like to share my recipe with readers.

Irish Hills Farm Pumpkin Maple Butter

Cooking Pumpkin For Preserving

2 ½ pounds organic pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp salt
brown sugar

Put the pumpkin in a pan with 2 cups of water and cook approximately 30 minutes until tender. Drain. Mash the pumpkin or use a food processor or blender to make into a puree. Stir maple syrup and spices into the pumpkin puree.  Measure all the puree into a large pan, adding 1 cup of brown sugar for each 2 ½ cups of puree. Gently heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil for 10 to 20 minutes until the mixture forms a thick puree that holds its shape when spooned on to a cold plate. Spoon the pumpkin maple butter into sterilized jars, leaving ¼” head space. Process the jars with new lids in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Store the Pumpkin Maple Butter in a cool, dark place and let sit for 2 days before eating to let the flavours meld together.Canned Pumpkin Maple Butter



ginko nutsYou can smell ginkgo fruit long before you arrive at the tree, and it’s not a pleasant experience. But once you get rid of the stinky orange pulp, there is a culinary jewel waiting in the “nut” inside.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is a fascinating tree. Apparently it is a living fossil that evolved before there were flowering plants. Ginkgo’s fan-shaped leaves with veins running all the way to the edges of each leaf are unique among trees. In autumn they turn bright yellow before falling. The leaves are the part of the tree used to produce the memory-enhancing tinctures you can buy at the health food store. These trees are disease and insect resistant and can be extremely long-lived. There are ginkgo trees in China that are close to 2,500 years old! They are also pollution-tolerant, which is one reason so many ginkgos have been planted as street trees in cities.

There is a catch, though: there are both male and female ginkgo trees, and only the males were intended to planted used as street trees (they don’t produce the smelly fruits). But when they aren’t fruiting, the male and female trees are difficult to tell apart, and numerous fruiting female ginkgos found their way to our streets and parks. That’s good news for urban and suburban foragers. The orange fruits, about the size of a ping pong ball, ripen and fall to the ground in the fall. Inside the smelly pulp is a thin-shelled kernel about 3/4-inch long that is easily cracked. And inside that there is a pistachio-green “nut” that is delicious once roasted.

The roasting part is not optional — raw ginkgo nuts are not edible. See the directions below for how to roast ginkgo nuts. I should mention that scientifically ginkgo nuts are not really nuts and ginkgo fruits are not really fruits. Somehow roasted gametophytes doesn’t sound as tasty as roasted ginkgo nuts, so I’m going to stick with the commonly used culinary name and ignore the scientific jargon. Ginkgo is a popular food in Asian communities where people often “field dress” — clean on the spot — the nuts. You’ll know that’s what happened when you find a heap of the smelly pulp at the base of a ginkgo tree and all the nuts are gone. Then again, you don’t have to be in an Asian community for that to happen. It also occurs if I got there before you did.

Autumn and early winter storms can be a boon to ginkgo collectors. The smelly pulp gets washed off of fruits that had already fallen to the ground, sparing foragers from the messiest part of the harvest. Some people get a rash from the juices of the pulp. Just to be on the safe side, wear gloves or cover your hands with plastic bags when collecting ginkgo. What do ginkgo nuts taste like? Sort of like a cross between walnuts and a barely pungent cheese such as brie.

How to Roast Ginkgo Nuts
Reminder: this is not optional. Raw ginkgo nuts are not edible. Wash off any pulp clinging to the shells. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 300-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.

Tamari Ginkgo Snack

Toss already roasted (see instructions above), shelled ginkgo nuts with a little tamari or soy sauce. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 5 minutes or just until the tamari coating dries on the nuts. Really good with a pint of homebrew.

Ginkgo “Cheese” Spread
Puree roasted, shelled ginkgo nuts in a food processor with just enough extra-virgin olive oil to make a smooth paste. Mix in salt to taste.

Preserving Roasted Ginkgo Nuts
The best way to preserve ginkgo nuts is to store them, roasted but unshelled, in tightly sealed containers in the freezer.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.



Fall is in the air, and I have been busy making lots of yummy autumn treats. One of my favorites is this delicious Crockpot Candied Cider. Delicious cinnamon candy melts into the juice adding a delightful sweetness to this hot beverage. The aroma it lends to your home is a pleasure in itself. Enjoy this treat on a brisk fall evening and enjoy its comforting warmness.

Crockpot Candied Cider Recipe


1 cup organic Cinnamon spice candy (like Pure Fun Organic Cinnamon Spice Jaw Boulders)
64 ounces organic apple juice or cider

Simply spread cinnamon spice candy around the base of a crock pot. Pour apple juice or cider over the candy. Turn the crock pot on low and give it a stir. Continue stirring every 30 minutes until candies are completely melted. This process should take a couple of hours.

Candied cider is great for a fall gathering and makes several servings. If you wish to share with a smaller group, it can easily be halved. Enjoy this sweet taste of autumn. Cheers!


Even as we wave buh-bye to summer, many of us still are reveling in rich, ripe, heirloom tomatoes, as well as in ice creams, because both just keep getting better and better. One of the earliest ice cream companies we know of is Bassett’s, out of Philadelphia. As a kid, Tom Hughes, co-Bassettbfounder of The Food Museum, recalls that hitting the Bassett’s counter at Philly’s Reading Terminal Market was the highlight of a trip into the city, for a kid from suburban Jersey. “My Dad and I headed straight to Bassett’s on arrival, jumped on those stools, and I ordered pumpkin ice cream.”

The place where this still thriving company was born is also in New Jersey, in Salem. There, in 1861, a Quaker schoolteacher and farmer named Lewis DuBois Bassett apparently first hooked up his mules to a churn and began making ice cream in his backyard. We do not know where his farm was, as evidently it has not been preserved. So a food heritage site for New Jersey has been lost. Not lost, however, is the mythical tale of another Salem resident, one Colonel Robert Johnson, who was said to have risked his life in 1820 to eat in public, on the courthouse steps, a tomato.

Yes, people were extremely wary of tomatoes at the time, and considered them poisonous.  Earlier on in history people thought the tomato’s close cousin, the potato, also was to be avoided. Both were unfamiliar to Europeans, as plants of the Americas, and the potato’s berries were indeed filled with a toxin. (Compare a potato and a tomato plant some time. If the spud’s berries form, they will remind you of the tomato’s fruit.)  But—-there apparently is no historical basis for the tomato-eating story. It does seem true, however, that the good Colonel brought tomatoes to Salem in 1820, planted them, and likely persuaded others to grow them.  jerseytomatoNew Jersey did become tomato central over the years, with Campbell Soup’s Camden, New Jersey plant turning out tomato soup for decades. 

A guy named George P. from Denver recalled: ”I worked at RCA in Camden, between 1975 and 1980, just before Campbell's moved their tomato soup operations to California. I still can smell the tomato soup being made in Camden. The smell was so sweet and delicious they could only have been Jersey tomatoes.”  Back to Bassetts (somewhere along the line they dropped the apostrophe). According to the company timeline, Mr. Bassett did not begin marketing his ice cream to the wider world until 24 years later — had he retired from teaching — when he set up shop at 5th and Market Street in Philadelphia. Once the Reading Terminal Market began in 1892, the business was moved there, with Bassett apparently becoming the first merchant to sign a lease.

Vendors of fresh produce had long done business at informal markets in Philadelphia, beginning in at least 1680, and over the decades assorted markets had taken root. The Reading Terminal Market has its own food heritage tale to tell, as this booming hub of food slid into disrepair and disuse in the 1970s, and was rescued, repaired and revived through the hard work of many food fans and historic preservationists. ( As cities revive and reinvent themselves, as people decide they want to live and eat near where they work, and bike or walk to everything, old food markets become once again vital.)

Bassetts Ice Cream got a major boost when the founder’s Bassettcartbgrandson, Lewis Lafayette Bassett, Jr took over in 1925. The guy was into “exotic” flavors, and new technology.  According to the company, in 1935 Bassett “ships 10 quarts of ice cream, packed in dry ice, via freighter from New York through the Panama Canal to the American Embassy in Tokyo. The voyage takes several weeks but the ice cream arrives in perfect condition.”  In 1959, LLB Jr made up a large batch of borscht-flavored ice cream that was delivered to Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev, making his first visit to the US. Did he eat it? Like it? We do not know. Borscht-flavored ice cream is not on Bassetts ice cream menu today. 

Bassetts is still in place at Reading Terminal. 'Jersey' Tomatoes still are synonymous with summer, and Rutgers University is working to keep Jersey varieties tasty.

For more food history and heritage, visit The Food Museum, and like us on Facebook.


Kale is one of the last plants to go in my fall garden. I am constantly looking for new ways to cook it before the season ends, and even use it from preserved from the freezer in the winter. Biscuits are a perfect way to use kale for breakfast or dinner, tucked into a savory biscuit with crispy bacon. Serve with delicious toppings like homemade mayonnaise, sliced ham, scrambled eggs and extra smoky tomato jam. These biscuits make a mean slider, loaded with more home-cured bacon, of course.

Savory Kale Bacon Biscuits with Tomato Jam

Savory Kale-Bacon Biscuits Recipe

2 cups wheat flour
2 cups kale leaves, stems removed, chifonaded
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbed
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup melted bacon drippings or olive oil
1 large egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced green onion

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a bowl. Separately, combine yogurt, kale, bacon drippings or olive oil, egg, garlic and green onion. Add wet ingredients to the dry, and gently stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few turns. Form dough into a ball, cut out biscuit rounds with a floured cutter, and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

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