When I finally needed to hit the grocery store and restock, I discovered some of the things on my list were gone. The soup aisle was barren. My favorite salad dressing was not to be found. So I stocked up on the basic ingredients to make what I needed – kind of a do-it-yourself cooking project. Here are some recipes I discovered and have completely changed what I deem necessary ingredients.
    This all started when I could not find cream of mushroom soup. Ann told me she makes her own creamed soup. I found a recipe on the Tastes Better from Scratch website. It gave me a starting point, and I tweaked it to fit my tastes. Here are my shortcuts and what works for me.

Condensed cream of anything soup  
1 cup cold milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms (baby bella are the best flavored)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
    In a large saucepan, melt butter. Sauté mushrooms and onion till translucent, about 10 minutes. (Will be juicy; the liquid is flavor.) Whisk together milk and corn starch. Add to vegetables. Add chicken bouillon, pepper, garlic powder and dried parsley flakes. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 extra seconds to thicken. Use in recipes to replace one can of cream of anything soup. Can add celery or chicken if that is what you are looking for.
    Mark will eat this by the spoonfuls before I can use it in casseroles. Ann is right. Tastes better and I can control the salt levels. I will triple the batch to make casseroles for the freezer.
    With the garden going in, fresh spinach and lettuce will be hitting the table soon. My favorite salad dressing is raspberry vinaigrette. It is hard to find and when I do, it is never on sale. I found an unopened jar of raspberry preserves in the back of the refrigerator the other day. I remember buying it for a special recipe but forgot which one. Then I found this recipe and remembered what I wanted to make with it. Here are two options.

Raspberry walnut dressing by Better Homes and Gardens
1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
1/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
    In a blender, add everything except olive oil. Cover and blend until nearly smooth. With blender still running on low, drizzle in oil until combined. Serve with lettuce, spinach or fruit salads. Store extra in refrigerator.

Spinach walnut raspberry Salad with raspberry vinaigrette by California Walnut Growers
3 tablespoons raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup sliced, ringed red onion
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts
    Whisk preserves, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together. Add spinach and onion. Toss to coat with dressing. Add raspberries and walnuts tossing very lightly. Serve immediately.
    Probably the thing I have made the most during this stay-at-home order is bread. I finally read the instructions with my mixer on how to correctly use the bread hook to knead the dough. Amazing how well things turn out if you read the directions. I am baking at least six loaves of bread a week. Yes, it takes extra time but is so worth the effort as you bite into the heel with remnants of melted butter slices.

Oatmeal bread by Sister Geraldine
3 cups milk, warmed
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup molasses
3 packages, plus 2 tablespoons yeast
6-7 cups flour
    Warm milk and butter to 105-110 degrees. Remove from heat. Add oats. Stir. Pour into large mixing bowl. Add salt, molasses and yeast. Beat until smooth. Add flour, 1 cup at a time. Knead 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise about an hour or so. Punch down. Shape into three loaves. Place in greased pans. Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
    Why not candy bars? Whenever Matt comes for a visit, he generally brings us his mom’s bars. They have been a hit at graduation parties and potluck. Quick and simple to make.

Snicker bars by Corena Green
1/4 cup white syrup
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups butter
2 cups roasted peanuts
2 cups chocolate chips
Graham crackers
    Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with whole graham crackers. Boil syrup, butter and sugar for 4 minutes. Pour over graham crackers. Sprinkle peanuts and chips on top.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.