Great Depression Recipes: Rhubarb Crunch

Freshly tugged from the garden, rhubarb awaits chopping.

Freshly tugged from the garden, rhubarb awaits chopping.

(Neighbor Nancy wipes the tiniest glisten of drool from the corner of her mouth as she shares this recipe. While the aroma of a fresh batch of Rhubarb Crunch fills her little home, she digs in the freezer for vanilla ice cream.)

Ah, rhubarb crunch time. It means that spring is officially here. It means that I must make sure the strawberries are doing well. For all too soon, the last of the rhubarb will be mixed with the first of the strawberries to make batches of Strawberry Rhubarb jam for Christmas presents.

From my earliest childhood memories, Spring covered dish Suppers always required a batch of Rhubarb Crunch.

I have had it covered in cream, drizzled with vanilla sauce. Hot. Cold. Scraped from the final bits of the pan. But, hot out of the oven with a single scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream … (sigh) … heavenly.

So from the depths of the family recipe box…(oh my, is this a crusty well-loved recipe card?! ) … here we go.

Rhubarb Crunch


Crunch bottom and topping:

1+1/4 cup Flour

1 cup rolled Oats, quick or regular

1+1/4 cup Brown Sugar

10 Tablespoons Butter, melted

Fruit Mixture:

4 heaping cups Rhubarb, diced

1 cup Sugar

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

1 cup Water

1 teaspoon Vanilla


In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and melted butter.

Press about half of this mixture into the bottom of a 9″x 13″pan. Set the rest aside.

Cover with all the diced rhubarb. Set aside

In a small sauce pan, combine the white sugar and cornstarch.

Over medium low heat, stir in the water. Heat and stir, until it boils and becomes clear and smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the entire mixture over the rhubarb in the pan.

Cover with the remaining oat mixture. This, of course is the “crunch” part.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit ( a medium oven ) for 1 hour.

Serve it warm or cold.

Top it with cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream.

Warning: Beware of the Rhubarb Crunch phenomenon. Do not tell jokes while eating this dessert, because as you laugh,it will feel like your jaw will blow off. The more you laugh the more it hurts. No one knows why and it happens every time.

So, with what are you going to top your batch?


How To Plant Potatoes In Containers — Tons Of Options

Whether you are trying to avoid contaminated soil or teach the whole first grade where in tar-nation their food comes from, growing potatoes in containers is a fascinating pursuit.

Potatoes are nifty in that all the good stuff is going on under ground away from your curious eyes. Unless you are planting them in those giant clear plastic snack barrel, you never really know what’s going on under there until you dig ’em up. Surprise! There they are.

Let’s take a look at a variety on container methods.

Just click the link that interests you.

Growing Potatoes … Straw — highly recommended for busy, busy teachers or anyone else that wants perfect, no-dig potatoes. Notice that the timing mentioned is for a specific locale. Now, combine this idea with any container below. a Plastic Bag — plus good basic potato growing info.

…in Pots

… in Tires

… in a Garbage Can

… in a Wire Cage — perfect for those odd pieces ( 10 feet ) of welded wire or chicken wire left over from some other project

… in Biodegradable Boxeslook about half way down the page

or simply

… in a Bag of Compost.

For more on the basics of potato growing, I highly recommend Cornell’s clear, concise guide for the home gardener. Click here for potatoes.

For more gardening articles, check the beginner gardening category on the right.

Happy planting!

Any other ideas?

How to Figure Out If Old Seeds Will Grow — Germination Test

Oh my! You have a cobweb in your hair. Were you digging around in the dark recesses of the basement again?

I see. Oh, look what you found! Some old seed packets from another year of over zealous gardening.

Will they grow?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Give it a whirl.

Here’s how:

We will use the example of corn for two reasons.

1. Corn seed looses it’s viability quickly. So it can always use pre-sprouting anyway.

2. I passed on some old corn seeds to my son’s 1st grade class for a little hands on math and science project.

Okay, let’s begin.

Most large seeds appreciate an overnight soak to plump them up and get them ready for sprouting. I just dump them in a mason jar and cover them with water. They will really suck it up and expand so don’t fill your jar more than 1/3 full of seeds. Then, fill it to the top with water.

Grab a tray or cookie pan.

Cover the tray with a layer of wet ( not really drippy, but good and damp ) paper towels.

Spread the seeds (corn, in this case ) in a single layer on top of the wet paper towels.

Cover with more damp paper towels, because corn prefers darkness to germinate.

Keep them moist with a spray bottle of water.

Note: Be careful and read the seed packet some things need light to germinated and therefore don’t get the top layer. These are trickier because you need to give them a little spritz of water more often so that they stay damp.

Wait and watch.

Plant whatever sprouted and you’re off.

Now you know what that germination percentage means on quality seed packets. 87% germination would mean that 87 seeds sprouted for every 100 attempted.

This is also a great demonstration of turning fractions into percentages. Kids dig it.

Tada! You did it yourself.

What is the oldest seed packet in your house?

Sour Dough Starter Tutorial

Thanks to Rhonda, a dear reader, for the great tutorial that follows. Her sour dough has been alive for years.

With bread prices on the rise (tacky pun fully intended. If a writer doesn’t intend a pun, they should use a dad-blasted thesarus. Sorry. Pet-peeve.)

Oh dear, where was I?

Ah yes, expensive bread. Making your own is a great alternative. However, yeast prices are no picnic either. So, sour dough it is. Once you get it going, your set. And there are ever so many thing you can do with it.

I do love expert advice.

Here it is, pasted directly from the e-mail

Hi Nancy,

Well, I finally found a few spare minutes to start this sourdough “recipe” (if you can call it that).

First of all, let me stress how important it is to use organic ingredients at least to start your starter to help your starter get a good start in life. Water needs to be non-chlorinated, and the fruit you use should be organic. Just bear with me. I use Bob’s Red Mill, but I live in the Pacific Northwest and his mill is local (less than 40 miles from my house). Grinding your own is good, too, if you have your own mill (the fresher the better). For water, please use filtered water or good tasting well water with no chlorination. Alternatively, you can buy good spring water from the grocery, or if your tap water tastes good, just set some out overnight (lightly covered with a kitchen towel to keep the bugs and dust out, the chlorine will dissipate over 24 hours). Don’t use metal with your sourdough, just a plain old wooden spoon will do just great.

So, you will need:

3 organic apples for juicing or a bunch of organic grapes
5 pounds organic wheat flour (either whole wheat or all-purpose)
2 pounds organic rye flour (rye is a traditional flour for starters… it just seems to really jump start your starter)

That’s it for ingredients. I will walk you through day-by-day… (all are estimates, depending on the “growing” conditions in your kitchen – I have a relatively cool house, 60 degrees during the day and about 68 in the evenings, you definitely do NOT have to keep your house at 85 degrees. )

DAY 1: Juice three fresh organic apples (or a bunch of organic grapes to equal about 1 cup juice), strain and place liquid in a partly covered jar or jug. (I use a quart canning jar with plastic wrap placed over the top, poke about 7-10 holes in the plastic with a toothpick).

DAYS 2-7: When the juice is obviously bubbly and fermented, pour it into a glass or ceramic (not metal), add 1 cup flour wheat flour (all-purpose or whole wheat, or a mixture of both) and ½ cup rye flour and leave, covered with plastic wrap poke with holes or in a loosely tied plastic bag.

DAYS 4-10: Add another 1 cup flour and ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup water, mix well and leave on your counter. At the end of day 10 (or before 10 days), there should be visible bubbles in the mixture, but if not, no worries, your starter is just taking its time and developing some lovely flavors for you. Don’t stress out over this, it is NOT brain surgery or rocket science, think of it as a garden, some seeds just take longer to germinate is all.

DAY 11: Add another 1 cup of flour (again, white or wheat), ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup water. Stir and leave on the counter, loosely covered.

DAY 12: Discard half the mixture and add another 1 cup of wheat flour, ½ cup rye flour and ¾ cup flour, stir and leave on the counter as before.

DAY 13 AND BEYOND: Repeat the above every day until your starter is alive and jumping. You will know this because the starter will rise up the sides of the bowl in between feedings and will start to smell sharp and cidery (before you stir it down it might smell like alcohol – this is just fine, it is a by-product of the yeasts and bacteria “breathing”). If you feel the need to get the starter going more quickly, feed it twice a day. I know this seem a little wasteful, but you will only be throwing it away (put it on your compost pile) for only a few days. When it doubles in the container in less than 24 hours we are ready to make some bread, cake, waffles, pancakes, biscuits, et cetera.

The starter as it gets mature, after it sits for a day or two will usually develop a layer of liquid on the top. It will range in color from clear to gray to black. Any of these colors are just fine, this is called “hooch” and is normal. If, though, you see a pink or red color on the top of your starter, just throw it out and start over again. Usually if you keep your starter fed and happy you will not have off colors or smells.

Seems like a lot of work, but it is more like a pet, you have to feed it, water it, and clean up after it, but the end result is beautiful, yummy baked goods, and no more reliance on the grocery store for that expensive dried yeast.

Nancy, next week I will walk you through your first loaf of bread and give you some ideas as to how to use up those discards. I will also teach you how keep your sourdough happy and how to store it in the refrigerator. I use my starter three to four times a week, so I don’t usually keep it in the fridge, but when I go on vacation, I cold sore it, either in a really cold root cellar or in the refrigerator.

Hope this is helpful, if you have ANY questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail.

Sorry, no pictures; that is a little out of my comfort zone. 🙂

Gotta go, my sourdough is calling me, she’s hungry and ready to help me make some lovely waffles for tomorrow morning.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I fully intend to hold her to the further sour dough lessons.

Feel free to ship question to me and I will bundle them and forward them to our new beloved expert.

Thanks Ronda!

Who wants to go with me to her house for waffles? I have a gallon of maple syrup from this years harvest to bribe our way in the front door.

After Hours Mischief at Neighbor Nancy’s

After the work of the day is done, the serious playing begins. When you live next door to your pop. And your pop is an antique truck fanatic. Well, let’s just say that it is charmed life I have lived. Here are a few pictures of the recent typical adventures.

One of the first adventures of Spring includes a tow to the top of the hill for an exciting roll start for the poor winter weary little Model A engine.

One of the first adventures of Spring includes one Ford pulling another to the top of the hill for an exciting roll start for the poor winter weary little Model A engine.

You know, I don’t think I ever saw the Waltons try this method. Too bad they didn’t have an F-250 to do the job.

After the tow up the hill, my pop unhooked the chain and whirled around the corner, popped the clutch and the engine roared to life. Every Spring, he tries to start it cold, but after such a long period of hibernation, he always end up doing it this way. Of course, this way is much more fun.

The towing of the Model A pick-up is a signal for me. It means Summer is coming. That the garden better be underway. That I need to stock up on chocolate chips for all the cookie requests.

“Hey, Naner, I’m headed to such-and-such truck show. Do you think you could make a batch or two for my truck buddies and I?”

“Of course, Pop.”

I don’t mind, ’cause a nicer bunch you’ll never meet.

And so it goes. Parades, auctions ( that mortify my mother as she wonders what’s coming home next ) and loads of antique truck shows. The loading, the hauling, the hearty breakfast before dawn on the road at “the best little diner” in some very specific town en route.

Did I mention that my dad knows all the best food places in a 100 mile radius of our house? Bingham’s for cream puffs, Snydersville dinner for pie, and a zillion other places each with their own specialty.

After arriving at any show, the big bustle is around the trucks as they pull in and unveil the latest of beautiful restorations. After some hand shakes, how do-you-dos and chatter about who brought what, they begin to migrate.

Oh, yes they stroll around contemplating each treasured antique, but it all leads to one eventuality. Food.

Barbaqued pulled pork or chicken, vinegar fries, funnel cakes, snow cones, popcorn from the antique popper wagon, lemonade from a barrel. And let us not forget that he still has a giant bag of “chocolate chippers” in the cab of a centrally located show truck (for easy access.) Oh, it is just marvelous!

After all that, you might as well walk the hundred or so miles home, cause you’ll never get the calories off any other way.

Of course, it’s not all about the shows. There’s a lot of just local fun to be had, too.

The big question: What is the best way to take a bunch of people to the local dairy for ice cream?

The way "little boys" of any age go for ice cream.  They might go a whopping 15 mph.  Zippy!

The way "little boys" of any age go for ice cream. They might go a whopping 15 mph. Zippy!

While I no longer wear roller skates to every show and pray there’s a pool, I do still enjoy the occasional show or a ride  for ice cream.  If for no other reason, it is fun to see my father’s world.  A world where the toys are big, the food says Summer and the friends are true. It is a fantastic way to catch a glimpse of the character that is my pop.

Great Depression Recipes: Asparagus Timbales

Well hello there!

You look a little crisp. Did you spend the whole day in the garden? Me, too.

For those of you further south than I, here is another asparagus recipe for your garden gleanings. Again, this recipe is courtesy of the USDA circa The Great Depression. Hurray for tax dollars at work.

Asparagus Timbales


3 Tablespoons butter ( or marg.)

3 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

2 cups cooked or canned asparagus, finely chopped.

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

3 eggs


Over medium-low heat in a medium sauce pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and let it bubble until the starchy smell leaves and it begins to smell like buttered popcorn.

Add the milk and continue to stir as it thickens.

Remove from heat and add asparagus, salt, pepper and thoroughly beaten eggs.

Pour the mixture into buttered timbale molds.

What? No timbale molds? Me neither. In fact I had to ask my ex-cooking teacher mama what the heck they were. “Thimble shaped” molds. Whatever.

Instead, pour the mixture into any buttered oven-safe single-serving-size bowls. So ramekins are fine …. but the straight sides might make clean removal a little tricky. Serve in the ramekin, but warn everyone they are hot as the Dickens.

Ah, oven-safe custard cups. Perfect. Rounded bottom. Okay, moving on.

Now place the little bowls of asparagus sauce in a pan of water.

Personally, I place the bowls in the pan on the oven rack then slowly add the water so I don’t flood everything.

Bake in a medium oven ( about 350 degrees Fahrenheit ) for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has set nicely.

Serve hot in the molds or overturn onto each plate and garnish.

Boy, is anyone else getting hungry?

Neighborly Advice Vol. 4 — Mostly Gardening Edition

Climb over the fence and join your neighbors in a learning adventure.

Climb over the fence and join your neighbors in a learning adventure.

With beginner “how – tos” on making marshmallows, starting a garden, planting potatoes, herbs and onions, charming row markers, slow-roasted tomatoes, foraging free food, kids’ activity to-do list, 100 ways to cook eggs, tabletop gardening, and even starting an aquarium, you’ll find some new adventure to begin this weekend.

We shall start with some simple wise advice for everyone

A Survival Guide For The Economic Times

Now that the weather is getting nicer, it seems that everyone is either in the kitchen or in the garden.

In the Kitchen

Since we are cleaning up the grill for the season, how about making the freshest fluffiest marshmallows for a little after dinner roast? Okay, who knows all the words to Catalina Magdalina. ” Oh, she had a funny name, but she wasn’t much to blame. That’s what she’s called just the same, same, same… OoooH..”

Ahem. Sorry. Once I get singing, things just get right out of hand.

Homemade Marshmallows

Oh my! Look what Joel and Dana are up to. Someday, I’m just gonna show up on their doorstep for…

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Eggs are still one of the more affordable proteins out there. Plus, if you have a backyard flock you are always looking for recipes. Well, here’s…

100 Ways to Crack an Egg

In the Garden

So you’ve wondered what the heck are they talking about with all these different kinds of seeds. Oh look! Finally, a clear, concise explanation.

Organic, Heirloom and Regular Seeds Explained

Everyone should know how to plant potatoes. Let’s watch this family to learn their simple, common method. Very easy.

Planting Potatoes

Next, we’ll turn to the experts for info on…

Planting Onions

Herbs for the Home Garden

Here’s two nice little getting-started-in-gardening tutorials. You can do it.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

How to Start an Organic Garden

Once you get your stuff in the ground, you should try making these simple charming…

Row Markers

I don’t know about you, but I like to bring a little of the outdoors in. Why not try…

Indoor Tabletop Cactus Garden

And to calm ourselves, nothing is more peaceful than an aquarium. And guess what? When it’s time to change the water, give it to your garden. Aquarium water is wonderful fertilizer!

The Home Aquarium

Up In the Treehouse

Young or just young-at-heart try something new.  It's an adventure everytime.

Young or just young-at-heart try something new. It's an adventure every time.

100 Things to Do Before Kindergarten

In the Wild (Free Food Through Foraging)


That’s it for this week’s edition. See you next week for more tips from our smart neighbors.

Go outside and plant something.

In case you missed the past editions, here are the links:

Neighborly Advice Vol 1pizza dough, making jam, using a pressure cooker, learning to knit, rescuing lost stitches, adding goats to your backyard

Neighborly Advice Vol 2 — kool-aid dye, spinning wool, kids’ activities, natural egg dyes, keeping chickens, line drying clothes, making applesauce, finding your sanity, pickling eggs, frugal groceries, growing peas, tomatoes and even worms

Neighborly Advice Vol 3 — grocery budgets, foraging free food, starting a garden, seed tape, hemming pants, chickens, turkeys, fruit trees, goat cheese, fermentation, kid’s activities and my favorite book sale

How to Plant Potatoes

30# of seed potatoes cut for curing

Seed potatoes cut for curing outside in the sunshine

Oh! I am very so glad you could join me today. Grab a cup of fresh coffee from the pot and let’s have a little chat about potatoes.

Since potatoes are a surprising source of vitamin C and are ever so prolific and easy to grow, let’s give it a go.

For each pound you plant an okay yield is about 10 pounds and a great yield about 20 pounds.

Personally, I forget to weed them, or forget to hill them enough as they grow or forget to even harvest them… once. I yield around 10 pounds per planted pound. Obviously, if you try, I’m sure you could do better.

Let’s begin.

Start with nice seed potatoes… oh, any kind you like is fine. Russets seem to have a zillion eyes and are usually an easy start. Katadin, Kennebec and Yukon Gold are all good keepers and generally easy enough to find. Well, at least at the seed and feed in my neck of the woods.

Cut each potato with a clean, sharp knife so that each piece contains one or (better) two eyes and is no smaller than an inch. Avoid putting the freshly cut side against the cutting board or touching it any more than necessary. Think of it like an open wound. You don’t want to introduce germs or viruses.

Carefully lay the pieces on their skins, in a single layer on any flat thing you’ve got. Place them in the sun for at least one whole day for the cuts to cure.


So they are less prone to disease when you plant them. If you cut your hand wide open, would it be wise to jam it directly into the soil or might you give it a little healing time?


I like deep beds. They are like raised beds minus the expensive, bug-attracting wooden sides. The 4’wide bed is never walked on and entirely reachabe from one side or the other.

Now imagine a domino. A double five to be exact. Okay with an extra dot between the left 5 and right 5. This is my planting pattern. A little staggered with no plant any closer than 20″ for maximum yield in a minimum space.

Now imagining that pattern, plant your seed potatoes 3 of 4 inches deep. The first five potatoes you plant will look just like the 5 from a pair of dice.

You know, I was going to take a picture, but by the time I finished putting them in and hiked back up the hill…I was just too pooped to care.

Hopefully, this makes sense.

Feel free to ask for clarification. In tomorrow’s “Neighborly Advice Vol 4” there will be another method. And they took pictures. In my defense, there are 4 of them planting and just one of me.

Did anyone understand that?

Where the heck did I put that tube of muscle rub?

If you go to the kitchen, could you grab me a cup of coffee, please?

Great Depression Recipes: Asparagus on Toast

Hi there! If your not an asparagus fan, remember there is a whole category of Waiting-for-Payday recipes over there on the right.


I’m ever so glad you could join me today. Grab a fresh cup of coffee and a warm cappuccino muffin.

I was walking around the garden looking for signs of returning perennials and it occurred to me that those of you in the more southern climates, probably are ready to harvest some young, tender asparagus.

Now remember, if you just planted your asparagus patch this year, no harvesting yet, so the roots have a chance to develop. Year two, you may harvest ever so lightly. Year three, harvest away until about the end of June or Early July

Today I have an old recipe courtesy of the USDA from way back in the ’30s.

Asparagus on Toast

Thoroughly rinse the asparagus.

With a nice, sharp knife, scrape off the little scales.

Break of the lower, fibrous end. Usually it will naturally snap it just the right place.

Now either leave the remaining stalks as is or cut into 2 inch pieces.

Drop however much you are going to use in lightly salted boiling water and simmer for…oh…about 15 to 20 minutes.

After you drain it, arrange the asparagus on a piece of buttered toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, “pour melted butter or other fat over the top” and serve immediately.

Okay, so they were a different generation. Can you just feel your arteries clog?

My non-heart-attack variation:

Make a roux. (look up “roux” in my search bar on the top right )  Oh you know, 2 T butter and 2 T of flour heated and stirred ’til the starchy smell goes

Add about 3/4 cup of whatever white wine you might have laying around. Stir until thickened. Then pour it over the unbuttered toast. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, chives, and perhaps a touch of dill.

Cheapest non-heart clogging variation:

Butter the toast with your favorite “spread.” Then add salt, pepper, chives and dill to taste.

If I was feeling particularly naughty, I might make a cheese sauce to top this.

Panic Gardening: For the Beginner Gardener Afraid Their Family May Go Hungry

Okay, it sounds a bit grim, but in this economy…

Let’s say that no one in your household has a job. The pantry is getting emptier by the day and you have never gardened. What do you do? How do you make sure the kids don’t go to bed hungry?

It’s scary. I know. I’ve been there. If you are experiencing this right now, you have my deepest sympathies.

First, get a tissue and wipe away your tears. Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take some action.

The Great Depression survivors learned to grow as much as they could. You can, too.

What I am about to share is an emergency garden. Low start-up, low maintenance, high yield, well rounded nutrition. You won’t be winning any culinary awards from your harvest, yet the family will survive relatively healthily.

Hopefully, you can scrape together about $20.

The Basic Easy-to-Grow Prolific Crops:

Potatoes the average “seed and feed” will sell you 10 pounds of seed potatoes for about $5. A lousy crop will yield about 10 pounds for every pound planted. A really healthy harvest can yield 20 pounds per pound planted. More on planting these coming soon.

Soybeans — from 1 pound of seed that costs about $2.70 per pound, you will harvest phenomenal amounts of protein! I got mine here: Peaceful Valley. Harvest early for little sweet, nutty bursts of protein. Freeze what you don’t eat fresh or let them dry in the garden for next year’s seed or dry storage. Click here for container gardeners Garden planting advice coming soon.

Swiss Chard — Loaded with iron, b vitamins, and potassium, it can be substituted anywhere you use spinach. Because it can handle more summer heat, it can be harvest longer for more high nutrition food in the long run. Eat fresh or stuff your freezer full of it. Easily started from seed. It your trying to grow a years worth, grow a 2 ounce packet of seeds( around $2 ,) planted 4 to 6 inches apart. Click here for more on Swiss Chard

Tomatoes– For climbing varieties that require staking, New Girl and Pink Beauty are considered easy choices with excellent flavor. For bush varieties that do not require staking or pruning, give Celebrity a try. Share you used coffee grounds with your tomatoes to help keep them happy. Also, since tomatoes are acidic, they are easily canned by water bath method. All you need is canning jars, lids, bands and a stock pot to preserve your harvest. They are a real confidence builder when it comes to learning how to can. Easy peasy.

For tomato growing tips check Neighborly Advice Vol 2

You can do this.

Throughout these articles are many little money saving ways to get started. As harvest come in, we will learn some basic preserving. Hang in there. Check the many articles in the beginner gardening category to the right for more information.

Roll up your sleeves and dig in!

(With a worried brow, Neighbor Nancy sharpens her knife to cut more seed potatoes to cure in the sunshine for a few days before planting.)