STORY CITY - Some say it all started in Nome, Alaska, when a 9-year old girl caught rainbow trout from a nearby river, cleaned them, cooked them over a campfire, and had them ready to eat by the time her gold-mining parents returned from working their claim.
"I've always been interested in cooking and baking, but as a child, it just became a necessity with my parents working all day as gold miners," said Silver Amenson, of Story City. "I remember wading into the ice-cold creek, holding onto the rope, because we'd been taught how dangerous the current could be, and catching dinner."
She was right in the middle of nature.
BAKERS IN TRAINING in the Amenson household are, from left, Aiden, 6; Benjamin, 11; Abigail, 9; and Christoffer, 2. The blue cookbook of favorite recipes, shown in this picture, has been passed down through the generations, and is already claimed by Abigail as the next to inherit. Lefse is from this family cookbook.
"I remember hiking with my mom to a campsite and seeing bear scat everywhere," Amenson said. "We heard wolves in the background, which was reassuring, because wolves and bears give each other a respectful distance, so we were pretty sure we were safe from bear attack."
Amenson's colorful life in Alaska includes tent-living in a gold mine camp with an outside cook stove, picking blueberries from the tundra for pancake breakfasts she would make over a campfire, taking baths in rivers and permafrost run-off, and, one time, having to be rescued by a small plane.
"My mom and I had gone to a mining camp to meet my dad," Amenson said, "but later discovered it was the wrong side of the river."
"We were really deep in the woods. We didn't have food or water, and nothing of substance to make a shelter. It was getting dark. Even in summer, Alaska nights are pretty cold."
Amenson said her mother made a shelter with what materials they could find and spent the night.
"Fortunately my mom had her harmonica with her, and the next day she used it to catch the reflection of the sun, alerting a rescue team flying over our location."
Amenson's far north adventures during her childhood took her to Homer, Cape Yakataga and the Arctic Circle, just to name a few places.
Her life's journey continued as Amenson moved to various locations, including a naval submarine base in Washington state, foreign countries including a stay in Cuba, and a deployment in Kuwait as a naval hospital corpsman.
Eventually, Amenson and husband Michael, also a Navy veteran, moved to Iowa, where he had longtime roots.
"Michael had grown up in Roland. When we heard his dad, Argyll, was failing in health, we knew it was time to return home," said Amenson. "I always felt like Argyll was a real dad to me. He was so much more than a father-in-law."
"He's also the one who passed down the treasured family recipes and the heritage cookbook to me."
The Amenson family, which includes six children, now live on an acreage in Story City called Egg Feather Farm. With an extensive garden, the family raises pastured chickens and two hogs.
"We grow onions, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, okra, pumpkins and sometimes melons," said Amenson. "We make a lot of fermented foods - pickles, pickled peppers, sauerkraut, yogurt and Kampuchea (very tart fermented tea)."
"We have laying hens; Aracuna and Buff Orpingtons," she added. "About every other year we will raise a couple of pigs."
From spring to fall the family raises broilers for sale, with organic feed purchased from Blue Stem, in Webster City.
And since all of this isn't enough to keep Amenson busy, she also homeschools her children.
Awhile back, she decided to open Silver's Spoon Bakery, selling her baked goods to several grocery stores and farmers markets.
Recipes come from the heritage cookbook, passed down through the Amenson family by Argyll.
The children also play a role in cooking.
"I'm the one who packages," Abigail Amenson, 9, said.
The fifth-grader has claimed the treasured heritage cookbook as the next to inherit.
"With Kringla, a customer favorite, we always sell a Silver's Dozen, which is 13 to a package."
Another favorite is lefse, Norwegian flatbread, which can be served numerous different ways, even as a dessert.
Silver's Spoon Bakery operates in the Amensons' certified home kitchen.
8 cups all purpose flour
3 cups water, boiling
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
Measure flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Bring water to a boil, take off of heat and add shortening, sugar and salt.
Stir until the shortening is melted. Pour the hot water mixture into the flour. (Note: It's important this is done while it is hot.)
Mix and gently knead the dough until it comes together and is smooth. Do not knead as long as bread; it will become cohesive.
Cover your bowl with a towel to keep the dough warm.
Measure out 1/3 cup dough and roll it out on a lefse board or a cutting board with a cotton sheet or something similar to help with sticking.
Make sure to generously flour your board.
Roll out to about 12 to 14 inches with a rolling pin. (Optional: use a lefse pin at the end to mark them.)
Bake on a 500-degree lefse griddle for about 45 seconds, until the bubbles just start to brown. Flip, bake the other side.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Dust with a 2 1/2 -inch brush to remove excess flour, then cut in half and package.
May be dried or eaten fresh.
To rehydrate dried lefse sheets, run them under warm tap water for about 5 to 7 seconds. Lay flat in layers between paper or flour sack towels.
Once they are moistened, let them sit for about 20 minutes, then take them out and refold.
Place in a towel to keep them moist and serve with butter and brown sugar, or cod and whipped potatoes and butter.
(Note: If you have a friend with starter, that will share with you, that is great. If not, you can make the starter with this recipe from Allrecipes.com)
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added.
Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Consider this day one of the 10-day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.
On days two through four, squish the bag once or twice a day.
On day five, stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.
On days six through nine, squish the bag once or twice a day.
On the final day, stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk.
Making the bread:
1 1/4 cups friendship bread starter
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 5.1-ounce box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
2 cups sugar
2 sticks margarine
2 teaspoons salt
2 egg yolks
Cream well, until sugar is dissolved.
Add 2 cups buttermilk with 2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in it. Move fast to create a geyser.
Add a tablespoon of vanilla and about 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
Stir in 6 cups of flour, which has 4 tablespoons baking powder added to it.
Refrigerate overnight, shape into figure eights, pretzel shapes, or S-shapes.
Bake in a 450-degree oven for about 8 minutes.