Meals with Marge cover

Every year until late spring, my husband Stan’s family spent more time in the woods than most people.

They cut poplar, hemlock, birch, spruce, balsam, pine and maple trees. His father cut pulp on contract for logging companies. By the time Stan was 14, he was also cutting wood. At the end of each day they were allowed to load any leftover pieces into their trunk to take home and use to heat their house.

This was in the 1950s and 1960s. The pay was 8 to 12 cents per eight-foot log. They would be lucky to cut 100 trees per day. At that rate, they would make $8 per day.

In the spring, his father, George, would start to peel poplar trees. These trees would be used to make high grade paper. In later years, machines replaced people to peel poplar trees. In our computer age, the amount of paper being used has decreased drastically.

In the fall of the year, the family would pick greens. When I asked Stan if this were something his mother and the children did, he said this was something they all did when there wasn’t other work. Since his mother had 10 children, I assumed it was a full-time job just taking care of that many children, but the younger children were brought along when they worked.

“Greens” are small saplings growing on the forest floor and are used to make wreaths. The pay for picking greens usually amounted to $6 to $8 a day.

When I listen to Stan talk about the long, hard workdays, I understand why now, so many years later, he was still happiest when he could be working in the woods.

We enjoy watching Alaska wilderness shows, where people have chosen lifestyles of living off the grid. Of course, after a few years these people probably aren’t “roughing it” as much as they did before the TV cameras found them.

Can you imagine having to live off the land when there isn’t a choice? I am sure that my husband is the self-sufficient, non-materialistic person he is because he grew up learning survival skills out of necessity. It was a way of life, the pay was low, but the lessons and benefits were lifelong.

I recently had a reader of my column ask if I could start including some sugar-free recipes for diabetics or people on a low calorie, low sugar diet. I would be happy to do that. I hope the following recipes will help you.

Low Calorie Spiced Tea Mix

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar-free orange flavored drink mix
  • ¼ cup sugar-free lemonade flavored drink mix
  • 3/4 cup sugar-free iced tea mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, stirring until blended. Store mixture in an airtight container.

For each serving, place 1 teaspoon mix in a cup. Add 1 cup hot water, stirring well. Serve hot.

Apple-Spice Muffins

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine, divided
  • brown sugar substitute to equal ¾ cup brown sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup skim milk
  • 1 cup peeled, finely chopped apple
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

Cream ¼ cup margarine in a medium bowl; gradually add ½ cup brown sugar substitute, beating at medium speed of an electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well.

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon ground allspice and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with skim milk, stirring just until moistened. Stir in finely chopped apple.

Spoon batter into muffin pans coated with cooking spray, filling two-thirds full.

Combine remaining ¼ cup brown sugar substitute, ¼ cup flour and ½ teaspoon allspice in a small bowl. Cut in remaining 2 tablespoons margarine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly over tops of muffins.

Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Baked Salmon

Makes 4 steaks

  • 4 (1/2 ounce) salmon steaks
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried whole dillweed
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Rinse steaks thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry with paper toweling.

Place steaks in a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Brush with lemon juice. Sprinkle evenly with dillweed, parsley and pepper.

Bake at 350 F for 25 to 35 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Carrot Casserole

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 cups cooked, mashed carrots
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) shredded low-fat process American cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • vegetable cooking spray

Combine all ingredients, except cooking spray. Stir well. Pour mixture into a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish, coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 325 F for 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Whatever it is you want personally for yourself—whether it is stay at home and raise your children or stay at home and don’t have any children or marry well or take on the world and conquer it—whatever you want to do, do it to the fullest.

Enjoy the simple pleasures of life and, of course, eat well.

Call or email me with questions or comments. I can be reached at 920-980-3885 or email

Send your favorite recipes to be included in this column to me at The Sheboygan Sun, 606 Fremont St., Kiel, WI 53042. Please include your name and phone number in the event I have questions.

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