Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day food

Most holidays revolve around food, and Memorial Day is no exception. The most important, aspect, however, is remembering those who have given their lives to allow us the freedom to live our lives as we wish and to have all that great food to eat.

Today was the annual opening of the Crazy Mountain Museum in Big Timber.

There is always a barbecue.

And wherever food is sold in Big Timber, the Sons of Norway (seemingly solely represented by the daughters of Norway) are selling homemade lefse and delectable Norwegian cookies. Note the lovely hand-painted sign.

The museum has a wonderful garden of flowers that Lewis and Clark noted on their journey through the area. It's definitely spring at the museum.

Inside, my favorite display is the miniature diorama of Big Timber in its early years. It's interesting how so much of today's town can be seen; so many buildings are the same. To give you an idea of the size of these mini buildings, all done to scale, I could put a house in the palm of my hand.

A silent auction also took place. I am always intrigued by the seemingly infinite number of flavors of jelly. This hibiscus one was new to me.

But I really came to see the Kill Kare Klub display honoring its 100th anniversary. This club was formed in 1910 as a way for area women -- many of whom were isolated on ranches -- to enjoy a few relaxing hours with each other. It's still going strong, with get-togethers including quilting bees and eating homecooked food. In 2007, the group published a cookbook that also tells stories of the hardworking women who have belonged to the club.

I got permission to include here a tasty recipe from the cookbook, submitted by Julie Sanders, who is known throughout Sweet Grass County and beyond for her cooking, especially her breads. At local bake sales, all you have to do is tell a prospective customer that "Julie made the bread" and it's a sure sale. Her meat loaf is terrific, too. In fact, all the recipes I've tried in the cookbook are nice.

There are still a few copies of the cookbook for sale at the museum (telephone: 406-932-5126). [Note: If you're Norwegian, you really need this book, with its section on Norwegian dishes -- among them, Lutefisk Pudding -- and all the words to "Lutefisk, O Lutefisk" (sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum").]

Best Meat Loaf

4 pounds ground beef
4 eggs, beaten
2 x 10-1/2 ounce cans of onion soup
8-ounce package cornbread-flavored stuffing mix
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup catsup
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine ground beef, eggs, onion soup, stuffing mix, and salt. Divide into thirds; form each into a loaf. Place loaves into a 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until well browned. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining ingredients; set aside. Drain juice off meat loaves and top with brown sugar mixture. Bake an additional 30 minutes.

Makes 16 servings. Also makes great sandwiches the next day.

[Note: Julie has a big family, who all work hard on the ranch. You might want to quarter the recipe, or freeze the leftovers.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

California farmers market cooking

As a sort of guest editorial, I present the Placer County Real Food from Farmers Markets cookbook.

Placer County is in Northern California, where they celebrate an annual Satsuma mandarin festival, and in season you can buy fresh persimmons and Meyer lemons. Their farmers markets run year-round.

It ain't Montana.

But the idea of the cookbook is intriguing: each week during the year, shop at the farmers market and prepare a meal from those ingredients. Some meals include preserved food, but that, too, is purchased from the local farmers.

I haven't tried any recipes yet, but I have thoroughly been enjoying the book. The photos are beautiful, the sidebar stories and quotations are inspiring, and everything about it is friendly and warm. So even if you don't cook, you'll enjoy reading through it.

Be sure to view the YouTube video featuring author Joanne Neft talking about how she came to write the book, along with chef Laura Kenny.

The flap of the book describes the author: "Joanne's goal is to help people understand the benefits of eating in-season locally grown healthy food and to support the farmers who grow it. Visit your local farmer markets to share in the adventure."

Order your own copy at