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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mom’s Unique Raisin Substitute


I don’t know if the Great Depression was an influence on Mom when she made oatmeal cookies and fruitcake, but let me just say, her ingredients were not the norm.

Now I know the Depression did cause some differences in the things people consumed in their daily lives like canned milk. Pop used canned milk in his coffee his entire life as opposed to cream, half & half, or even plain milk. There was no Coffemate or Creamora type products back in the day, but even when they evolved, Pop had nothing to do with them. I would not have thought this use of canned milk had anything to do with the Depression until I met a couple who lived down the street who were older, about the age of my parents would have been. The couple invited us over for homemade ice cream one summer afternoon. To our surprise, the ice cream was made from canned milk. So, I concluded from this event that canned milk must have been a staple in households during the Depression instead of regular fresh dairy products.


Well, apparently, dried fruit including the dreaded raisin, must have also been hard to come by during those Depression era years because Mom made oatmeal cookies with an alternative to raisins—gumdrops. Not being a fan of the raisin, I loved those oatmeal cookies. 

Gumdrop Oatmeal Cookies

But Mom expanded her unique “raisins” to include dried fruit and she made fruitcakes the same way she made oatmeal cookies with delightful, colorful, sweet gumdrops. I know. Some of you may feel that gumdrops have no place in the iconic fruitcake, but, in my opinion, those gumdrops took the traditional, but miserable fruitcake to a whole new level of exquisite and tasty cuisine. Those little sugary nuggets of spicy flavors perked up that dreary cake. I did not miss those raisins or those little bits of chewy dried up fruit one bit.

"Fruit Cake"

Some of you may judge or turn your nose up at Mom’s unique substitute for dried fruit, but I can tell you right now from my anti-dried fruit (especially raisins) taste buds, I loved her innovative “fruitcake”. 
My sister visited me one day about a year or two ago with a little present. She made oatmeal cookies with gumdrops instead of raisins. Memories of Mom washed over me in a cloud of warmth and love. I hadn’t tasted those wonderful cookies in over 40 years. 


Just for fun because it’s Christmastime, I’m giving away a Kindle copy of the Christmas anthology, WISHING FOR A COWBOY which includes my story, A Husband For Christmas to someone who comments.



Jane Pierpont and her son, Robin, survived the Titanic, but her husband went down with the ship and the emotional scars of that night have kept her and her son locked into that frightening event. Robin is terrified of deep water and Jane has nightmares and survivor’s guilt. She yearns for a family, a loving husband and maybe another child, but she feels disloyal to Michael’s memory whenever Teekonka Red Sky comes near her.

Teekonka Red Sky loves Jane and her son, but all his efforts to help them past their painful memories of the night Michael Pierpont died have been unsuccessful. Unwilling to give up, can his Lakota beliefs help him bring peace to Robin and free Jane to love again?


He laughed, the sound rich and deep, interrupting her. “I know your name…Jane.” He spoke her name softly, reverently as if it were a treasure.  He chuckled a little. “My first name’s about as long as my last.”

“Does Teekonka mean something in Lakota, like brave or warrior, or some such thing?”

“It means ‘talks too much.’ Figures, doesn’t it?” He did laugh then, and Jane couldn’t help laughing along with him.

He touched her face at the corner of her mouth with his finger. “Your face brightens when you laugh.”

Jane backed away. “You’re just flirting with me now.”

He flashed her a wide grin. “Yes ma’am, I am, but I also mean it. You are very pretty.”

She stood speechless unable to respond to him. She couldn’t remember the last time a man complimented her, let alone blatantly flirted with her. It felt good, like a warm hug on a cold day. He bent his head and kissed her. His lips, warm and supple, took hers in a tender way, so sensual, yet asking nothing more. Jane’s heart beat against her ribs, and heat flooded her core. All too soon, Teekonka pulled away and grinned.

Buy link: 
For the short story, A Husband For Christmas:   AMAZON
For the anthology, Wishing For A Cowboy: AMAZON

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. My mom learned to cook from her mother during the Great Depression. Living in a working class community where cuts and quality of meats could be sketchy, their solution was that all meats must be cooked thoroughly, which in their mind meant browned all the way through with any fat being "crinkly". It took us adult children years to convince her that a little but of pink or red on the inside of the steak would not kill anyone. Even so, if she had the choice she would always order her steaks well-done.

    1. Sean, I cook meat like your mom. I don't like to look at pink meat. It just turns me off. But more importantly to me is that I know there will be no bacteria or parasites in that meat. I'm weird that way. LOL
      I saw a CT scan of a woman suffering with headaches and odd behavior who had living cysts embedded in her brain due to eating pork that was not thoroughly cooked. I will never forget it.
      My parents told the story of a time in the Great Depression when they looked for mushrooms in the woods to eat because they had little else. Good thing Pop knew which ones were not poisonous. Those were certainly desperate times.
      Thank you so much for dropping in and commenting on my blog today, Sean.

  2. I will never look at gumdrops the same again LOL. Very colorful!!

    1. Kristy, gum drops are one of my favorite sweets--better than chocolate. Maybe that's why I was a big fan of Mom's "fruit cake" and oatmeal cookies. They are tasty little morsels of yummified goodness.
      Thank you for coming over here and commenting. I really appreciate it.

  3. They do give both the cookie and the cake some pretty colors. Your mom was just ahead of her time. Nutritionist always say to eat a colorful plate. LOL! My parents also used canned milk, even when we had fresh milk in the refrigerator. Now I know why.

    1. I didn't realize how much canned milk must have been a household staple during the Depression until the ice cream incident. I guess they got used to it and liked it even after they could get fresh milk or maybe they still had that fear that they needed to store up on canned goods--just in case. My grandmother had a drawer full of scented soap, but she rarely used any of it because she was saving it for that special time in the future. She used Sweetheart soap most of the time. I don't think they even make that any more. It smelled great though.
      Thank you so much for your comment, Livia.

  4. Sarah,

    Gumdrops are a fabulous alternative to the dried fruit in fruitcake. My paternal grandmother always made the traditional fruitcake, and my memories of it are just... yuck. lol I do not like the taste of orange and lemon rinds, which is my predominant memory of the flavor in her fruitcake.

    My parents were born in the early '30s, and my dad grew up poorer than my mom. The food my dad absolutely hated, and therefore I didn't grow up with it, was any sort of beans. He'd eaten so many beans as a really young child that he had a lifelong aversion to them.

    1. I can see why your dad was not fond of beans. Most people were poor in the Great Depression. I guess it was like the great equalizer.
      Pop had wanted to become a doctor, but when the Depression hit, his dream of becoming a doctor dried up. It wasn't until post WWII after serving in the Navy that Pop could get the money through the BI Bill and went back to college. By then he had a wife and a daughter so he became a meteorologist instead.
      See--I don't like those little hard, flavorless bits of dried fruit either. Give me some sweet gumdrops and I'm a happy clam.
      Thank you so very much for coming over to my blog and commenting, Kaye.

  5. Gumdrops! What a tasty idea. I love raisins, but I will have to try the gumdrop substitution. Great story.

    1. Robyn, I love grapes, but raisins are like little rocks and taste weird. They're loaded with iron, so I understand, so it's good you like them. My mother used to put them in oatmeal. My oldest niece, Christy, once said with joy on her face, "Nana, I want some oatmeal with bugs in it." Kids. God love 'em.
      Thanks for dropping in and commenting.

  6. Sarah, Your gumdrops do not surprise me at all. They were popular in cookies where I grew up. So, I do believe you are correct about it being part of the depression era.

    So glad you had the chance to partake of them again. Merry Christmas, and I loved that story. In fact I loved the whole anthology. Doris

    1. Doris, you little darlin', thank you so much for liking my story in the Christmas anthology. I'm going to be writing the story of Kyle Red Sky, Teekonka and Jane's son, now all grown up and deeply in love with a mysterious woman. I liked the stories contributed by the other authors, too. There's some crazy, imaginative minds at Prairie Rose.
      Those innovative people who lived through the Great Depression seemed to be able to adapt to just about anything and come up with a solution. I love gum drops so they're a perfect solution as far as I'm concerned.
      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday, Doris, and thank you so much for coming.

  7. Sean K. Gabhann is the winner of the Christmas Anthology, WISHING FOR A COWBOY in Kindle. Congratulations, Sean. Please send me your email address so I have it to send you your gift. My email address is starcriter at yahoo dot com