August 6, 2019

The Next LauraPalooza Laura Ingalls Wilder Conference

Did you know there's a conference focused on Laura Ingalls Wilder? It's called LauraPalooza. This year's conference was held in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the timing didn't allow me to go.

Please note: If you are reading this blog post in an email, you may not be able to see all images or click on links unless you go to the blog by clicking the title of today's blog post. 

However, by following other Laura Ingalls Wilder-focused people and the hashtag of #LP19 on social media, I read and saw pictures of some highlights. I also learned the next LauraPalooza will be held near Malone, New York in July 2022.

I can't wait!

July 22, 2019

Grasshopper Plague On the Banks of Plum Creek

Have you given much thought to those grasshoppers which tormented the Ingalls family and other pioneers? Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of the despised insects in her Little House books. As a child I wondered if she exaggerated the account.

I no longer wonder. Now I research.

(And some of that research will be part of The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide coming out in 2020.)

Spoiler alert: Laura Ingalls Wilder's books are historical fiction, but her account of the locust plague was accurate.

Rocky Mountain Locust (fig. 1) and
Red-legged Grasshopper (fig. 2). 
Public domain, from The More Destructive
 Grasshoppers of Kansas, 1897.
Now extinct, the pests were actually the Rocky Mountain locust. Grasshoppers and locusts are quite similar. When crowded, locusts develop long wings and they migrate in big swarms and cause incredible damage. Grasshoppers don't swarm by the millions. And though grasshoppers eat plants, they won't eat every crop in a region. Rocky Mountain locusts (Melanoplus spretus) species darkened the skies of the midwest between 1874 and 1877 and ate their body weight in food daily.

June 7, 2019

Old-Fashioned, Self-Turning Doughnuts with Recipe

In Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, Farmer Boy, it's obvious Almanzo loves his mother's doughnuts. He even fills his pockets with them before heading outside to work.

Mother Wilder liked her doughnuts to turn over by themselves so she twisted them. Mother kept a fresh supply in the doughnut jar for snacking. 
Homemade doughnuts do not stay fresh for long. You’ll want to enjoy these the same day—or even the same hour—you make them. (They also freeze great!) Old-fashioned doughnuts aren't as sweet as the doughnuts from most bakeries.

Mother made self-turning doughnuts. If you want to make the round doughnuts (or doughnut holes) you can still use this recipe, just use a doughnut cutter or a glass paired with a bottle cap to cut the dough--or biscuit cutters.

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Self-Turning Old-Fashioned Doughnuts Recipe

Helpful/Needed Equipment:
oven mitts
large pot
slotted spoon
kitchen thermometer (instant or candy)
paper towels
32-48 ounces shortening (or vegetable oil)
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk* (see below for a buttermilk substitute)
1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
½ cup sugar
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
What to Do:
1. Scoop the shortening into a large pot or deep fryer over medium heat. Slowly adjust the temperature, if needed, to keep the temperature between 365° and 375° F (185° and 191° C) while cooking. It takes time for the shortening to melt and to reach this temperature. Do not use high heat. Monitor the temperature.
2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside.
3. In large bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and sugar together.
4. Quickly stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of flour if mixture is too sticky to handle.
5. Sprinkle flour on a large, clean work surface. Place the dough on the flour. Knead the dough a couple of times.
6. Check the temperature of the oil. Adjust the heat to keep the oil between 365° and 375°.
7. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly sprinkle it with flour. This will be where you set the doughnuts before frying them. The parchment paper or sprinkled flour will prevent them from sticking to the cookie sheet.
8. With a well-floured hands (or a floured rolling pin), flatten the dough until it is between ¼ and ½ inch thick. With a floured knife, cut dough strips that are about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Then cut strips that are 1x6 inches long. 
9. Take a strip of dough and roll it into a 10-inch rope. Holding it in the middle, twist the ends together to create a sort of braid.
Twist each "dough rope."
Pinch the ends together and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat this for the rest of the doughnuts. You can also make doughnut holes with scraps of dough.
Place dough ropes on a floured surface or parchment paper while the oil and wait for the oil to warm.
10. Combine the ½ cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon together and set aside.
11. Carefully slide one doughnut off a large spoon and into the melted shortening. After about two minutes, it should be brown on both sides.
• The doughnut may not turn over by itself if it isn’t twisted enough. If it is browned on the bottom, you can flip the doughnut using a large spoon.
• If it takes longer than three minutes to cook, your shortening is not hot enough.
12. Use tongs or the slotted spoon to remove the doughnut from the melted shortening. Dip it in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Then place it on a plate covered in paper towels.
13. Continue cooking doughnuts. You can cook a couple at a time but do not overcrowd the pot.
14. Ideally serve the doughnuts freshly made.
You may like trying some plain doughnuts, too. 
Old-fashioned twisted doughnuts inspired by
 Laura Ingalls Wilder's
Farmer Boy book.

* You can purchase buttermilk, but I always make my own. To make buttermilk for this recipe, place 1 ½ teaspoons of white vinegar in a measuring cup. Add milk to fill to the ½ cup line. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes before adding the buttermilk to the recipe.

I hope you enjoy this self-turning doughnut recipe inspired by Farmer Boy. It's just one of 75 activities included in my upcoming book to be published in 2020 with Chicago Review Press.

 Happy Trails! ~ Annette

 Annette Whipple is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

May 29, 2019

Apples 'n' Onions Recipe

Royal and Almanzo both loved their mother's cooking. While working in the ice-house they talked about their favorite foods. Almanzo's favorite was apples 'n' onions.
This apples 'n' onions recipe can be adapted to for your preferences. If you aren't a fan of onions, just add a few pieces. Try it as a snack or serve it as a side dish with pork.

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Apples 'n' Onions Recipe 

1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
3 apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)

May 9, 2019

Soda Crackers Recipe

The Ingalls family left their railroad shanty behind and moved to the surveyors' house just in time for winter. Ma celebrated with canned peaches and soda crackers! Make your own soda crackers as you read By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder with this recipe.

The flavor and texture of the soda crackers surprised me. They were soft and full of flavor. My oldest daughter and I found them irresistible. We couldn't stop snacking! I tested the soda cracker recipe for my upcoming book, Laura's Prairie Companion, but we'll definitely make these again.
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Soda Cracker Recipe

Note: Be prepared to chill the soda cracker dough overnight in the refrigerator.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant or bread yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon shortening
salt (sea salt or pretzel salt work best)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
What to do:
1. Stir ½ cup flour (not all of it), yeast, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir well. Mix in the warm (not hot) water and shortening until combined.
2. Now mix in ¼ cup flour to make a drier dough you can knead.
3. Lightly flour a work surface. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes.
4. Oil the inside of a medium or large bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl and then flip the dough over so all sides of the dough ball are coated with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
5. Remove the soda cracker dough from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 425° F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.
6. Deflate the dough by gently punching it once. Then place it on a floured work surface. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
7. On the floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a very thin rectangle. It should be about 1/16” thin.
8. Fold the dough like you are folding a piece of paper to put it in the envelope. Take one end and fold about 2/3 of the way across. Then take the other end and place it on top of the other end, creating three layers of dough. 
9. Pick up the dough and add another dusting of flour below it. Roll the dough out again, making sure it is 1/16” thick. If it doesn’t want to roll and stretch, let it rest for 5 minutes. You want this to be as thin as possible.
10. Transfer the dough to the prepared cookie sheet.
11. Use a fork to create lots of pinpricks all over the dough.
12. Cut the dough into squares. A pizza cutter or sharp knife will work well.
13. Separate the dough squares slightly. The soda crackers should be close together but not touching.
14. Lightly sprinkle the soda cracker dough with salt.
15. Bake the crackers for 10-15 minutes. They should be lightly browned.
16. After removing the crackers from the oven, brush melted butter on them. When completely cooled, snack on these soda crackers. Store any leftover soda crackers in an airtight container if they're not devoured instantly.
Will you try this recipe? I hope so! Let me know what you think! 

Happy Trails!
Annette Whipple is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

March 31, 2019

Manuscript Process

Some of you have been asking, so I thought I'd share an update on my companion guide to the Little House books. The manuscript is due May 1. That is soon! At this point it's tentatively called Laura's Prairie Companion. It'll be out spring 2020 with Chicago Review Press.
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Getting Started

Over the course of the past five and a half years, I've read each of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books at least three times. I created charts for each of the books and took notes within those charts. I also read widely about Laura Ingalls Wilder and even took a research trip to the Almanzo Wilder Homestead in New York. (It's only about eight hours from me, so it was the easiest home site to visit.)
(A side note: I found this book (monograph) fascinating. Nancy Cleaveland's research is meticulous. If you're curious about the truth behind Laura Ingalls Wilder's own education and teaching experience, you'll want to read this. My favorite part was the teachers' exam. I suspect many certified teachers today would only pass it with some serious studying (including me though my certification has expired). You can get this book through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society.)

February 7, 2019

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder

It's been 152 years since America's beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. She was born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin. 

Happy birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder! 

Laura's books engage readers with part of America's past. Children and adults alike appreciate the way she fictionalized her life to make readers love the Ingalls family-despite their flaws.
Learn more about illustrator, Renee Graef
Read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder life here.

Want to celebrate? You'll want to read these posts about planning a Laura Ingalls Wilder celebration.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, age twenty-seven.
Photo courtesy South Dakota State Historical Society. 
Used with permission.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Party Planning
Laura Ingalls Wilder Themes
Laura Ingalls Wilder Activities
Laura Ingalls Wilder Food

~ Annette Whipple