In My Prairie Cookbook, Melissa Gilbert, star of Little House on the Prairie, offers fans comforting family recipes and childhood favorites. From prairie breakfasts and picnic lunches to treats inspired by Nellie’s restaurant, the 80 simple and delicious dishes—crispy fried chicken, pot roasts, corn bread, apple pie, and more—present Bonnet Heads (die-hard Little House fans) with the chance to eat like the Ingalls family. Gilbert’s personal recollections and memorabilia, including behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes, and more than 75 treasured scrapbook images, accompany the recipes. With answers to the most-asked questions from fans—on topics including the biggest bloopers, on-set romances, and what Michael Landon was really like—My Prairie Cookbook is a cherished memento for Little House fans and fans of simple prairie cooking alike.
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About the Author
Melissa Gilbert starred as Laura Ingalls on the hit show Little House on the Prairie. Post–Little House, Gilbert has appeared in Lifetime movies, served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and wrote Prairie Tale: A Memoir. Most recently, she was a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Gilbert is married to fellow actor Timothy Busfield.
Read an Excerpt
LITTLE HOUSE: THE EARLY YEARS
Little House on the Prairie began on the NBC network on September 11, 1974, and ended on May 10, 1982. During the 1982–83 television season, it was broadcast with a new title, Little House: A New Beginning. Michael Landon was the star and executive producer of the show and also directed the largest number of episodes — eighty-seven! And I was Laura (lucky girl).
How do I even find the words to describe what the early years of filming Little House on the Prairie were like? It was fun. Pure, unadulterated fun! Every day was a new adventure for me, playing dress-up in prairie clothes and working with such a warm and talented cast and crew. We quickly became a family.
The crew was very close. Some of them had worked together for decades — and a few of them had worked with Mike on Bonanza. Michael Landon was our boss, our father, and our mentor. Kent McCray was his co–executive producer, sergeant at arms, and best friend. Together they created an atmosphere of loyalty and the best kind of creativity. They also allowed us to have fun while we were working. Actually, Mike didn't just allow fun — he rather insisted on it.
From my very first day on the set, I felt that I was part of something very special. Working on the Little House set was a dream come true for an adventurous little girl like me. There were other kids to play with and also dogs, horses, cows, chickens, wolves, and rabbits — all of them were tratined and there for me to play with. And play I did. In many ways, it didn't feel like work. I suppose that's the way it should be for a child in my business. Though I could and would hunker down and be serious in a heavy scene, I remember the early years as being more fun than I could have dreamed.
I also remember watching the adults around me in absolute awe. I was thunderstruck by Karen Grassle (Caroline). She was so beautiful and different — earthier than any woman I had known before. She was very well trained as an actor and had a grace that drew me to her. I'd watch her breathe and the way she moved her hands. She was the personification of beauty. And Victor French (Isaiah) could make me laugh until my sides hurt. He could also make me cry by looking at me just the right way.
I didn't fully know it at the time, but I was surrounded by some of the most talented actors in the business. I was also lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly talented crew. They all did their very difficult jobs so well that they made it look easy. They spoiled me forever. To this day, I am totally perplexed when a crew doesn't work well together. I am also perplexed when a work environment isn't fun. Hey, I learned from the best, so I have very high expectations!
PUFFY OVEN PANCAKE
This dish is a variation on the classic baked pancake theme. I found that when my whole family was at home, it was really hard to serve them piping-hot griddle pancakes all at the same time. So I started playing around with recipes that could be baked in the oven. This is my own version of what some people call a "Dutch baby." That seems like a really gruesome name to me — puffy pancake sounds so much more appetizing. I prefer mine with just a touch of powdered sugar. Feel free to serve yours with your favorite syrup, jelly, or fruit. In fact, you can put all the toppings on the table and let everyone create their own breakfast treat.
5 tablespoons (70 g) unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
Put the butter in a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) glass baking dish and place it in the oven for a few minutes to let the butter melt. Carefully tilt the dish so that the bottom and sides are coated with the butter.
Whisk together the flour, eggs, and milk in a large bowl. Pour the batter into the dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and puffy.
Serve with the syrup and fruit.
FRENCH BREAD FRENCH TOAST
French toast is an all-around favorite here at my house. I've made many variations over the years, but this one, with sturdy, super thick–cut French bread, is the biggest hit. I love that I can please everyone's palate with the choice of topping. I put sliced strawberries, blueberries, sliced bananas, assorted jams, jellies, maple syrup, boysenberry syrup, melted butter, and confectioners' sugar on the table (same as the puffy pancake, opposite). You want to know how I know my family loves it? There is absolute silence at the table for at least 15 minutes!
Serves 4 to 6
6 large eggs
Confectioners' sugar, for serving
Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a large bowl. Pour them into a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish. Add the bread slices and soak the bread in the egg mixture for about 5 minutes on each side (the bread should absorb all of the liquid).
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the bread in batches until golden on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.
HOMEMADE SAUSAGE WITH APPLES
I always loved shooting breakfast scenes on Little House. The whole soundstage would smell of sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, and whatever else we were eating in the scene. There was often plenty left over, so when the scenes were over, I would eat and eat and eat. Breakfast sausage has always been one of my favorite choices, so I started playing around with a recipe for homemade sausage and started pairing it with various flavors. The combination of the smokiness of the pork sausage patties with the sweetness of the apples makes a great energizing start to a busy day. Or it can be served as part of a larger spread with eggs and biscuits — or serve it with my French toast (this page). It's also the perfect beginning to a cozy stay-in-your-jammies Sunday.
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds (910 g) ground pork shoulder
Mix the pork, sage, salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne (if using) in a large bowl. Form into 8 patties.
Fry the patties in a large skillet until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
Cook the apples in the same skillet in the sausage drippings, turning them over until they are evenly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the apples and cook for a few minutes longer, until they are glazed.
Return the sausage to the skillet to warm it before serving with the apples.
STOVETOP BISCUITS WITH SAUSAGE GRAVY
Now this is prairie food. I've actually eaten biscuits and gravy from an authentic chuck wagon. I'd eat biscuits and gravy anytime, anywhere. Though if I did eat biscuits and gravy as often as I'd like, my rear end would be as wide as the prairie itself. I've included a recipe for from-scratch biscuits here, but true confession: I love the recipe from the Bisquick box. Serve this with fried eggs, if you like.
Serves 8 to 10 in a normal home, but 4 to 6 with my dudes
12 ounces (340 g) hot bulk sausage
Put both kinds of sausage in a large pot and cook over medium heat until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the fat, and then add the flour to the sausage. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook until the sausage is well coated with the flour. Add the milk and cook, stirring, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it reaches the desired thickness.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the biscuits.
Makes 12 biscuits
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the lard and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture is mealy. Add the milk and mix until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into 6 balls. Flatten each ball to be about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
Melt a tablespoon or two of lard in a medium castiron skillet over medium-low heat. Add 6 dough pieces and fry on both sides until browned, about 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
CRISPY HOME FRIES
This recipe is so yummy and really easy. It's a great basic technique to master, and you can dress it up any way you want. Add fried eggs and your favorite shredded cheese on top, or sprinkle with chopped smoked trout and sour cream. You can mince some bell pepper or cooked chopped bacon and add it to the onion layer while cooking. You could even serve these home fries for dinner with a steak and gravy on top. Be creative and have fun, and your family will thank you.
Serves 2 to 4
3 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, or peanut oil
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until sizzling. Place a single layer of potato slices on the bottom of the pan. Add a light layer of sliced onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add another layer of potatoes, another layer of onion slices, and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Keep layering until you've used up your potatoes and onions.
Lower the heat to medium and cover the skillet. Let it cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes, until the potato layer at the bottom is nicely browned. You can move it aside a little bit with a spatula to see if the bottom edges are browned.
Gently flip the potatoes over, a section of the pan at a time, so that the layer that was on the top is now on the bottom and the browned potatoes are now on top. (Or, if you're feeling daring, invert a dinner plate over the skillet and flip the whole thing over, then slide the potato cake back into the skillet.) Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, coaxing it to the bottom of the skillet. Cover and let it cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the bottom layer is browned.
Remove the lid and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Slide the potatoes onto a platter and cut it into servings. Serve immediately.
SAUSAGE AND EGG BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
I start this hearty country dish on Christmas Eve to serve on Christmas morning. It's a family tradition as well as a family favorite. There's usually an army at my house — my boys, their women, my husband's kids, and their significant others. But this is especially great for a company breakfast any time of year. You can cut this recipe in half if you have fewer than the twelve mouths that I have to feed.
3 pounds (1.4 kg) ground bulk breakfast sausage of your choice
Brown the sausage well in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain thoroughly.
Beat the eggs, milk, mustard, and salt together in a very large bowl. Add the bread, cheese, and sausage and mix to combine. Pour the mixture into two 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) glass baking dishes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the baking dishes from the refrigerator to take the chill off and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Bake the casseroles for about 50 minutes, until firm throughout and browned on top. Serve hot.
AMANDA'S CHUNKY EGGS
My friend Amanda is one of the funniest and most creative people I know. We've been friends since I met her on the set of Touched by an Angel. She is also the fittest person I know. Her philosophy — and mine — is to eat foods as they are intended. For example, sugar instead of artificial sweetener, nothing reduced fat, no chemical alterations, nothing genetically modified. Just eat in moderation. Amanda, whom I've nicknamed Fancy Hands because she is a remarkable massage therapist, made these eggs for me the day before I opened in the Little House musical a few years back. Now, I don't drink alcohol, but Amanda insists that I tell you to "Enjoy with a Bellini!"
8 large eggs
Beat the eggs and milk into submission in a large bowl.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring. As it begins to set, add half of the cheese and continue to cook and stir. Remove from the heat when the eggs are fluffy but not dry.
Add the remaining cheese to the hot eggs and quickly stir for a moment. Place 1 or 2 slices of tomato on each plate and top with the chunky eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
KELLY'S CREAMY EGGS
This recipe is one of my favorite breakfast recipes of all time. It's great for a big crowd. I first had it when visiting my friend Brian Wimmer in Sundance, Utah. A whole bunch of us, about ten adults and about twenty kids, got together at our friend Kelly Warnick's place in Wales, Utah. We all went out for pizza and to a drive-in movie and we all stayed over, some in the house, some in the tree house, some in tents, and I slept in the back of Kelly's vintage pickup truck.
The next morning, we were all starving, and Kelly served us these eggs, which are so rich and warm and yummy, and so simple. Kids love them, and so do adults!
Serves 6 to 12
3 cups (720 ml) heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Pour the cream into a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) glass baking dish. Crack the eggs directly into the dish, spacing them out evenly in the cream. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Feel free to get fancy here. Use garlic salt or even yummier truffle salt.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Serve hot over toast.
SPICY PUMPKIN MUFFINS
I especially love to make these muffins a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. They get everyone in the winter holiday mood. I serve these warm with cream cheese to spread on them. I usually leave out the golden raisins, but they do make a lovely addition if you like raisins.
Makes 24 muffins
2 cups (250 g) self-rising flour
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Grease and flour two standard 12-cup muffin pans.
Mix together in a food processor (or use a handheld electric mixer) the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the butter and blend until it resembles coarse meal. Add the raisins, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and eggs, and mix until moist.
Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them three-quarters full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Remove them to a wire rack to cool.
Excerpted from "My Prairie Cookbook"
Copyright © 2014 Melissa Gilbert-Busfield.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
SOUPS AND STEWS,
INDEX OF SEARCHABLE TERMS,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A book any Little House on the Praire fan would want in their library.After reading, you will have many hours of enjoyable recipes to make for you and your family.
Lots of pictures and stories from the series and great recipes.
I couldn't wait to purchase this tribute to "Little House On The Prairie". The recipes really have little to do with the show specifically, which was a disappointment (I was hoping for some contributions from other cast members), but Melissa Gilbert brings the personal, tried and true flavor to the style of cookbook I prefer. My Mother collected cookbooks and read them as if they were books and "My Prairie Cookbook" IS both. Half-Pint shares her experience, her life in Walnut Grove, transporting the reader and bringing back all of the wonderful memories of the Little House series. There are touching, "scrapbook-like" pictures from the show and behind the scenes, as well as photos of many of the recipes. Melissa tells her own story about the recipes, making the reader want to try them all. I can't wait to cook and eat with Half-Pint and neither will you!