Autumn Chisholm approaches her cooking like she does most other things in her busy life-in stride, but also determined to do it well.

Her family-which includes her husband, Kem, and their five children-is at the heart of her efforts. But she’s done her fair share when needs arise for extended family, the church and other special causes.

But it’s not like she has nothing else to do.

Five years ago, she and her brother, Tim Kaufman, bought hogs on the family farm west of Durham from their father, Dalmer Kaufman. All three families live within a couple of miles each other.

By day, Chisholm’s job is tend after the farrowing barn and nursery and help feed their 80 sows.

On many nights, she and Kem are on the road to watch one of their children participate in sports or some other school activities. With three children in three different colleges, another in high school and the fifth in middle school, that means a lot of driving.

“I don’t cook as much as I did,” she said, almost apologetically. “The hardest part is having bread for sandwiches.”

That’s right. From the time her children were small, Chisholm has baked almost all the bread her family eats-and that’s no small accomplishment.

“Once in a while, I’ll have to go buy bread,” she said. “I think sometimes my kids think boughten bread is a treat. We did at home because Mom always baked.”

As the only girl growing up with three brothers in the Kaufman household, Chisholm said learning to cook and bake was a “process of necessity.” But it also was sometimes a bone of contention between daughter and mother.

“My mom was a wonderful cook,” Chisholm said. “But we always argued-not about who was going to cook, but who was going to work out in the field. Both of us preferred that over cooking.

“As the process went, we both cooked,” she added. “Being the only girl helped.”

Chisholm still remembers the first complete meal she planned and cooked by herself-meat loaf, baked potatoes, a salad and peach cobbler.

She was 10 at the time, and her mother had just given birth to her youngest brother, Tom.

Recalled Chisholm: “We were cutting silage at the time and Grandpa said, ‘Grandma says you should take this-and-this out and she’ll help you make lunch.’ I looked at Grandpa and said, ‘I already got it started.'”

That’s pretty much how it’s gone ever since.

Chisholm cooks with and without recipes. The cookbooks she collects aren’t so much a source for cooking, she said, but for entertainment.

“Sometimes for pleasure reading, that’s what I’ll read,” she said. “I read cookbooks because those you can put down. If you get involved in a novel, it doesn’t always work that way.”

Over the years, she’s indulged in a variety of speciality cooking, but her family-especially her two sons, Chris and Steven-enjoy the basics: meat, potatoes and bread.

“When it comes to meat and stuff, very seldom do I use a recipe because the kids just like it plain,” Chisholm said.

The meat of choice, as you might guess, is pork.

“We cook with very little beef, probably because we don’t raise it,” she said. “We’re pork producers.”

With pork being leaner these days than it used to be, Chisholm said pork has become a healthy choice, too. And it tastes great when it’s well prepared.

“I know there are people who have told me, ‘I just can’t eat pork,” Chisholm said. “But they’ve eaten my dishes at the potluck, and they haven’t suffered any.”

Another reason Chisholm has cooked as much as she has over the years is the location of their home, some 10 miles north of Hillsboro.

“Out here in the country, you don’t run to the store,” she said. “I have a pantry downstairs, where I try to keep the staples that we use all the time.”

You’ll also find a lot of canned goods in that pantry, including tomatoes, pickles, peaches, cherries, apricots, and applesauce and apple butter.

“We used eight to 10 bushels of apples this year,” she said.

These days, Chisholm’s daughters-Keli, Kara and JuliAnne-share the cooking load in the Chisholm household as they are able, and the two boys can fend for themselves, too.

While her mother was particular about others making messes in her kitchen, Chisholm has developed a more laid-back approach.

“I’m not one who says you have to stay out of my kitchen,” she said. “My kitchen may not always be clean when you come, believe me.”

A family favorite over the holidays are peppernuts, which became one of the earliest cooking experiences for the Chisholm daughters.

“It used to be that the first Thursday and Friday of November were parent-teacher conferences. We’d use those days to bake peppernuts.”

Beyond that, her holiday cooking habits are pretty normal.

“At Thanksgiving time, ham is probably a little more prevalent than turkey,” Chisholm said. “Although my kids eat them both because they love mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Caramel Apple Pizza

1 (18 oz.) refrigerated sugar cookie dough (I use one-half recipe of Martha Jost’s White Christmas Cut-out Cookies from the original Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church cookbook.)

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

4 cups sliced peeled tart apples (“I seldom peel,” Chisholm said.)

2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

1/3 cup chopped pecans

Press cookie dough into a greased 14-inch pizza pan (stone works great, too). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly gold. Cool.

Beat in a mixing bowl: cream cheese, peanut butter, brown sugar and milk until smooth. Spread over cookie crust. Combine apples with lemon juice and water, drain well. Toss with cinnamon. Arrange over cream cheese mixture, Drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with pecans. Cut into wedges. May be made several hours before. Yields 12 servings.

Blueberry Pudding Cake

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or any other fruit)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted


3/4 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

Toss fruit with cinnamon and lemon juice; place in a greased eight-inch square baking dish. In a bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and baking powder; stir in milk and butter. Spoon over fruit. Combine 3/4 cup sugar and cornstarch, sprinkle over batter. Slowly pour boiling water over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until cake tests done. Serve warm with ice cream.

(I always double the recipe and put in a 10x15x2-inch pan. This is best served warm. We often make it while we eat Sunday dinner with last-minute guests and everyone thinks we planned it! Great with peaches, apricots, raspberries and tart cherries, too.)

Never Fail Wheat Bread

2 tablespoons dry yeast

1-3/4 cup warm water

1/3 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

3-1/2 to 4-1/2 cups white flour

1 egg

1/4 cup oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

Put 3 cups white flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, salt, sugar and yeast in mixing bowl. Add water, oil and egg. Knead, adding enough white flour to form a soft, pliable dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Let rise in warm place in greased bowl, covered with towel until doubled. Punch down. Shape into two loaves or 24 dinner rolls. Let rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for loaves, 15 minutes for rolls. Cool on racks.

(This dough can be frozen when shaped, thawed and allowed to rise and baked as directed or refrigerated. Then set out into shapes, allow to rise and bake. May be frozen in sealed plastic bags one to four weeks, or refrigerated two to 24 hours. We do all kinds of tampering with this recipe and it is very fail-safe.)

Mom’s Peppernuts

3 cups flour

1-1/2 cup sugar (I often substitute honey for part.)

1/2 cup margarine

2 eggs

1 cup raisins, ground

1/2 cup nuts, ground

1/2 cup coconut, ground

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Raisins, nuts and coconut can be ground in a meat grinder or food processor.

Cream margarine, sugar, eggs. Sift dry ingredients together. Add ground mixture to egg mixture. Beat well. Add dry ingredients. Dough will be stiff. Chill. Roll into 1/2-inch ropes, freeze. Cut in 3/8-inch pieces. Bake on cookie sheets, lightly sprayed, at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes. If you like a hard cookie, bake the longer time. Best made two months before Christmas and stored in an airtight container. Double recipe makes 1,000 cookies.

Bumbleberry Pie

5-1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups shortening

1 egg

1 tablespoon vinegar

3/4 cup cold water

Combine flour and salt, cut in shortening. Whisk egg, vinegar and water, sprinkle over dry ingredients. Toss. If needed, add more water, one tablespoon at a time until dough forms into a ball. Divide into quarters; cover and chill, 30 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, roll out two balls to fit two nine-inch pie pans.


2 cups (each) fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries

2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, chopped

4 cups chopped peeled apples

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine filling ingredients – spoon into crusts. Roll out remaining dough to cover pies. Seal and flute edges – cut vents. Beat one egg yolk and two tablespoons water. Brush over pies. Bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes or until golden brown. Will need to clean oven after baking pies! Use deep-dish pie plates. Yields two pies.

Stacked Enchiladas

(My most requested recipe.)

3 to 4 lbs. lean ground pork (brown)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped green pepper

3 cans pinto, red or kidney beans (or combo), rinsed and drained

3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

3 cans (10 oz.) diced tomatoes and green chilies, or three cans stewed or fresh-diced tomatoes plus 3 (4 oz.) cans green chilies

3 teaspoon chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar

1-1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mozarella

12 flour tortillas

To browned meat add onion and green peppers, cook until vegetables are tender. Add beans, tomatoes, chilies and seasonings. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

In a 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow cooker, layer meat mixture, flour tortillas (two per layer) and cheese-ending with cheese. Cover and cook on low for five to seven hours (or high for two to three hours). Will serve 12.

(This is a great dish to do ahead. I often make it the day before, put it in the fridge overnight, remove from fridge in the morning and let set for about one hour to come to room temperature. Then slowly heat for supper. Adjust temperature and time accordingly.)

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