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Wholesome foods

By Staff | May 17, 2013

ANGELA SWIETER said she enjoys freezing and canning her family’s fruit, vegetables and meat. She said she typically begins freezing asparagus in May and will continue freezing and canning goods until late fall.

DES MOINES – There are many reasons why Angela Swieter puts in the extra work of canning and freezing her own food – a job that isn’t as commonly done as it used to be.

“It’s a family tradition, and we like the way food was preserved back then,” said Swieter. “It is wholesome, all natural without any preservatives and additives.”

In addition to the gratification that comes along with eating what you raise, there is something to be said, according to Swieter, when you look through the cupboard full of jars that represent the hours spent preserving food.

Swieter grew up in Dumont and always enjoyed her time spent on her aunt and uncle’s farm. Although she and her husband, Russ Swieter, live in Des Moines, they still farm north of Bradford, what they call Oak Hollow. She is owner of Basking Babies LLC., where she offers services for birth, breastfeeding, baby and beyond.

Swieter said she learned some of what she knows about canning, freezing and cooking from Gwen Lee, her home economics teacher in Dumont, and her mother-in-law, Barbara Swieter.

ANGELA SWIETER cuts granola bars. Swieter, owner of Basking Babies LLC, tweaks recipes to include milk-boosting ingredients for her clients.

“My husband grew up with having a large garden and a mother that would freeze and can so she took me under her wing and taught be everything I know and I have now been doing it since 1975,” Angela Swieter said.

Swieter said the family cans and freezes everything that comes from the garden as well as canning meat from their livestock.

Asparagus, corn, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, rhubarb and squash are frozen, while she cans carrots, applesauce, pears, peaches, beets, beans, plumbs, green beans, tomatoes, meat, tomato juice, grape juice, pear juice, salsa and spaghetti sauce.

Swieter also makes her own apple butter and jams and jellies including triple berry flavors and strawberry rhubarb.

“I begin freezing asparagus in May and keep busy until I finish canning in October,” she said.

ANGELA SWIETER makes and sells soaps, including laundry soaps and bathing soaps.

A helpful tip Swieter learned from her mother-in-law for canning fruit, avoiding the sticky mess from making the syrup, is to make the syrup in the jar before adding fruit rather than ladling it into the jar from a pan.

“I will put the sugar in the bottom of a jar and add just enough boiling water to use to stir and dissolve the sugar,” said Swieter. “I will let that cook a bit, then I add my fruit. If more water is needed, it can be added then.”

Swieter added that everything she cans is sealed through a pressure canner and she suggests following those directions on how to properly seal the lids.

Swieter also makes her own soap. The first time was while one of her daughters was reading the Little House on the Prairie Books. Four years ago Swieter wanted to get serious about making her own soap so she sought out Barbara Swieter to learn the technique.

“I made soap again with her and this time I really paid attention,” said Swieter. “It was the last batch of soap she said she needed to make as she would have plenty on hand to last her the rest of her life. I am glad I asked, because she passed away in October 2012.”

“It’s a family tradition and we like the way food was preserved back then.” —Angela Swieter Basking Babies L.L.C. owner

Swieter makes soap that is mild enough for babies or anyone with sensitive skin; as well as bar soap that is grated for laundry and a soft soap for laundry that comes from a recipe from her husband’s aunt, Lois Novak.

“Aunt Lois said to be sure to do this outside or with a fan circulating the air because of the lye fumes and it is also good to have vinegar close by so if lye gets on the skin vinegar can be applied,” said Swieter.

“These are old, old recipes that come from my husband’s family,” she said. “We enjoy being frugal and thrifty, we butcher our own meat, so we use the lard and tallow to make the soap.”

Swieter also enjoys other aspects of being in the kitchen and has even prepared the dinner for her daughter’s wedding and the two rehearsal dinners for her sons’ weddings.

To go along with her business, Swieter also tweaks recipes to help new mothers with their milk production. She will add ingredients such as oats, flaxseed, steel cut oats and nutritional yeast to recipes including her “Boosting Cookies” and “Buffet Chat and Chew Bars.”

Apple butter

Wash and cut up apples. Do not peel or core unless the core is bad.

Cook apples in small amount of water on low heat until done.

Put cooked apples through a sieve or food mill to make pulp.

Using a large roaster pan stir together:

10 cups of apple pulp

7 to 9 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Put in 225-degree oven

Stir often scraping sides of the roaster; cooking until desired thickness

This may be canned or frozen.

Buffet Chat and Chew Bars

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup flax seed

2 cups nuts

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

Adding dried fruit is optional. Fruit that increases breast milk production include figs, dates and apricots.

This is also good with chocolate chips and/or raisins added.

Mix and press in to well-greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Note: These burn easily, so be sure to watch closely.

Penny Bigler’s chocolate cake and miracle frosting

“This is my mother’s recipe, and she was a chocolate lover. I have never had a better tasting chocolate cake,” said Swieter. “The frosting is really good, but does not travel well nor does it keep well. I usually take the frosting ingredients with me to wherever I take the cake and make it there.”

Cream together:

2 cups of sugar

2/3 cup of shortening

2 eggs


2 cups flour

2/3 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups water

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

Pour into greased 9-by-13-inch pan and bake until knife poked in middle comes out clean

FROSTING (make right before serving)


1 cup sugar

1 egg white

1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

Add: 1/2 cup of boiling water with mixer on high speed and beat until stiff

Then add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Boosting cookies

(Designed to help nursing mothers make more milk)

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons flax seed meal

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups oats, thick cut if you can get them

1 cup or more chocolate chips

2 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal and water, set aside for 3 to 5 minutes.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mix well.

Stir flaxseed mixture and add with vanilla to the butter mix. Beat until blended.

Sift together dry ingredients, except oats and chips. Add to butter mixture. Stir in oats then chips.

Scoop or drop onto baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper.

The dough is a little crumbly, so it helps to use a scoop.

Bake 8 to 12 minutes.

Easy oven rice


1 1/4 cup rice

1 can French onion soup

1 soup can of water

1 can mushrooms

Bake in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Stir after 20 minutes,

Squash casserole

(Enough for 20 people)

8 cups squash

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together and put in lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan and top with topping.


1 cup brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Swieter’s New Year’s homemade cooked

custard ice cream

6 eggs beaten

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook the above together until coats a spoon and slightly thick

Then add: 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons vanilla

Mix together and cool.

Pour into the ice cream can and stir in cream to approximately 3 inches from the top of the can.

Freeze using your hand crank or electric ice cream maker.

Grandma Swieter’s bar soap for laundry

Weigh out 4 pounds of tallow, lard or grease (Use leftover roast grease or grease from the hamburger pan, or melt chicken fat, lard or beef tallow).

Sprinkle 1 cup of lye over this

Add 2 quarts of water and stir carefully

Add 1/2 cup Borax

Stir to dissolve all ingredients. This may require 20 to 60 minutes until misture becomes a thick pudding-like consistency

Pour in to boxes lined with rags and let it set for about 24 hours to harden.

Break up soap and store in chucks to grate as a laundry powder soap (I use it for liquid laundry soap).

“Be sure to use the rags you line the boxes with in your laundry – they are full of soap,” said Swieter.

Homemade liquid

laundry soap

4 cups hot tap water

1 6- to 8-ounce bar of homemade soap

1 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved.

Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with mixture and then fill remainder with water. Shake before each use. (It does gel).

Optional: You can add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled.

Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil or citronella.

Yields 10 gallons of liquid soap.

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