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Return to Basics: Real Food Recipes from Antique Cookbooks

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I never got the chance to cook with my grandma. She was a real foodie before it was hip, cooking naturally from foods grown and raised on the family farm. By all reports, she was an excellent cook. My mom and uncle (her twin) still talk about attempts to emulate her fried chicken, her gravy and even something they call 'grease bread' that involves grease and sugar. Fortunately, as a small child, I did get the chance to know my grandma and grandpa for a short while. But now, as an adult with children of my own, I’m beginning to learn more about my grandmother from one of the primary focuses of her life: her cookbook.

Originally written in 1908, my grandma’s copy of Rumford's Complete Cookbook is tattered and scribbled upon (mostly by her children or perhaps even her siblings...she raised her younger siblings from the age of 13 when her mother died). It’s filled with tiny windows into life at the turn of the century when my grandma and her family came over on the boat to start a new life in the middle of a new country. Back then, home cooks didn’t have convenience food. The recipes are filled with real, whole food ingredients. So, when my mom recently bequeathed my grandma’s cookbook to me, saying she’d love for someone to get some use out of it and that her mother would love that I was so interested in it, I was overjoyed.

Each time that I cook from this book, I feel connected to her past and to a time when organic, real food cooking was...just the way it was. Her cookbook is an inspiration. My grandparents ran a flower and vegetable farm. If they ate it, they likely grew it or raised it, including chickens and pigs. My mom told me a story once that her mother told the kids not to name the chickens because that would make them too hard to eat. When it came time for that chicken to be butchered, the kids ate merrily, but my grandma was the one who couldn’t bare to stomach it.

I think of that and other stories when I flip through the tattered yellow pages of the book. I’ve learned so much and found so many delicious wholesome treats for my family to share. It’s amazing how simple a recipe can be. Sometimes, we get caught up in what’s new and hip and forget what’s delicious! So, today, I’m sharing absolutely the simplest muffin recipe I’ve ever crafted, adapted from one of my grandma’s cookbooks.

While most of us can't walk out the back door to select fresh eggs and milk a cow for these muffins, we can select the best organic ingredients to craft the best muffins possible. 

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Cinnamon Honey Muffins


5 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg, well beaten 
1 cup whey
2 cups whole wheat white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons honey granules or sugar 
1 heaping Tablespoon cinnamon

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From the Organic Authority Files


Preheat oven to 400F.

Brush muffin wells with melted butter, reserving remainder for muffins. Place in the oven to warm.

Mix the egg, whey and remaining butter and beat well. Combine remaining ingredients except honey. Stir into wet ingredients just enough to dampen flour.

Fill the muffin wells 2/3 full and bake 25-30 minutes.

Spoon a tablespoon of honey over each muffin and serve hot. 

Yield: About 12 muffins

Don't have Grandma's cookbooks? Seek out these modern sustainable cookbooks for inspiration.

Follow Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter

images: Kristi Arnold

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