Category Archives: My Mother’s Recipes

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #9

The above photo is of my youngest brother, Jeff, my mother, and my grandmother in our kitchen. My grandmother was actually the gumbo queen in our family. The photo below looks like it was taken at one of our Christmas open houses.Scan_20181105 (7)

Gumbo

One of the most iconic recipes in the South is gumbo. The dictionary’s definition of gumbo is “a soup or stew thickened with okra”. I take issue with this for two reasons. First, there are variations of gumbo by region in the south and some Louisiana gumbos do not have any okra at all. Second, the okra isn’t what thickens the gumbo. Roux thickens the gumbo.

My mother had a gumbo recipe in her cookbook. You will find that all gumbo recipes are best if you make them using ingredients you love. For instance, I don’t use chicken or sausage in my gumbo, because I prefer only seafood. You may like chicken and sausage better. Either way, yours will be tasty. There’s a secret ingredient or two I’ll share at the end.

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In case you can’t read this, the ingredients are as follows: One big ham bone, or chopped ham (2 cups). Simmer in water. (She says add the 2 cups crawfish tails and/or cleaned shrimp here. But experience tells me those little morsels will become rubber. Best wait until the end to add them.) 2 cans stewed tomatoes. (I use diced canned and fresh tomatoes.) 1 whole green pepper seeded and chopped. 6 garlic cloves, minced. 3 cups cooked, diced chicken. (I don’t use chicken or sausage in my gumbo, only seafood.) 2 Tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning.  6 whole bay leaves (I take umbrage here. I can not stand bay leaves. Nope. This isn’t the proper gumbo flavor in my opinion, but you may love bay leaf, so I’ll be quiet.) Bring to a simmer and stir often and serve over rice. She forgot to put okra. She always used okra, so she forgot to write that in. We all love okra.

My mother was from the Midwest where every good soup or stew had a ham bone in it. But southern gumbo doesn’t always have a ham bone in its broth. I’m afraid I went a little “hog-wild” and excluded the ham bone, opting instead to add bacon grease to the roux, as I used two boxes of store-bought chicken broth.

And you need a good roux for your gumbo.

Here is how I make Roux: Peel the raw shrimp, saving the shells, and put the shrimp in the refrigerator to keep very fresh. (At this point I’m going to put my fresh fish fillets in milk in the fridge, this takes the “fishy” flavor out.)SAM_1948

 

 

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Take the shrimp shells (we always call them peels) and put them in the fry pan and add about two cups of water. Boil until the shells are very soft. Strain through cheesecloth to make sure and get the little bits of shell out, discard. Reserve the liquid.

Add three tablespoons of flour to a cup of water (don’t use cornstarch) and stir until dissolved, set aside. Put two tablespoons of bacon grease in your pan with the shrimp peel liquid (remember, you’ve removed the shells) and turn up the heat until it is boiling, add the flour water and stir until thick.SAM_1958

 

 

 

 

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Turn down the heat and add a little more bacon grease so the mixture doesn’t burn. Keep stirring the bubbling mixture. It will turn a nice brown. This is roux. You add it to the boiling gumbo at the end and the gumbo will thicken.

Okay, so you’ve done the roux. Set it aside. It doesn’t matter if it cools.

So now, for the gumbo: You’ve got your seafood keeping cold in the refrigerator. Good. Shrimp, fish, crab, whatever is fresh. If using crab – boil and clean first. Then, add the crab still in the shell to the broth. It can cook along with all the veggies. The crab shell adds good flavor, and picking the crab meat out at the end is part of the experience.

Your broth is important. If you want to make your broth ahead of time that is fine, or use the boxed broths from the store. I never use anything stronger than chicken broth, in other words, don’t use beef broth. Using a ham bone to make your broth is fine, it makes a good broth, but watch your salt content. You don’t want it overly salty.

Bring the broth to a nice simmer and add the pepper, the garlic, the tomatoes, and the okra. Use fresh okra. Always make sure as you slice up your okra that you use okra that the knife slices right through. If the okra is too tough for your knife, it’s going to be too tough to eat.SAM_1952

Okra, to me, makes a gumbo a better gumbo, but I was raised in Texas eating my mother’s and my grandmother’s gumbo. (I have been working for years to make a gumbo similar to my grandmother’s.) She died with her recipe. I think the entire family has been working on this for all these years, too. It was THAT good!

SAM_1951Here is a picture of Tony’s Chachere’s Cajun seasoning. You can get it on Amazon if you can’t find it in the store.

But the real secret ingredient and the other thing my mother forgot to mention in her recipe is the gumbo file. That’s pronounced ‘fee’ lay’. File is made from ground sassafras leaves. It is also a flavoring in the old-fashioned fizzy drink sarsaparilla. Without file you will have a nice seafood bouillabaisse. I’m sure you can find gumbo file online, too. I get mine at H.E.B. You just have to look for it.

So now you’re going to bring all your veggies to a nice boil for about thirty-five minutes. You want the okra and pepper to be very tender. If you love spice, add a tiny bit of Tabasco to your gumbo. A tiny bit, I say, because one extra drop and whooo-eee, call the fire department! SAM_1963

Now, you can add your fish fillets, they will break in pieces as they cook, and always add your shrimp last. When you see the fish is flaking, and the shrimp are a nice pink, add your roux and stir.

The gumbo is done and you’re now in for a real treat. Serve it up with a bowl of hot rice. Be sure to let me know how your gumbo experience turns out.Scan_20181105 (4)

Here’s a photo of my beloved grandmother with fish that my brother Jon, in the photo, and my grandfather caught. Looks like catfish and some flounder. The photo looks to be about from 1967. You can bet there was a big fish fry, and likely some gumbo for the entire extended family.

I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful this year. Have a happy one.

Here are my grandparents at Thanksgiving.Scan_20181105 (6)

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes ~ Photos

I haven’t been able to sit and share with you all summer although I have been cooking my mother’s recipes. I will be adding more recipes. I thought for today, Labor Day 2018, I would share old photos of my mother and father. The feature photo was taken at their 50th wedding anniversary party.

I’ll start with Grandpa Leask and my Uncle Glenn.Scan_20180902 (26)

Here’s a photo of my mother chasing geese with her older sister Kay.Scan_20180902 (19)

Here’s a photo of my mother with her little brother, and a white dog.Scan_20180902 (20)

They are in the front yard of this house.Scan_20180902 (13)

Scan_20180902 (11)Skip ahead a few years and my mother is standing in almost the exact spot.

This coat my mother is wearing is a muskrat coat she purchased after saving up a long time at her first job. She gave it to me when I went to school in Chicago.Scan_20180902 (10)

 

 

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I love my mother’s plaid dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my dad in plaid around the same year.Scan_20180902 (17)

These photos were taken the same year 1943. My Dad in Houston, TX and my mother in Waterloo, Iowa.Scan_20180902 (15)Scan_20180902 (18)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here’s one of my favorites of my mother.

 

 

 

 

 

My mother and father are standing on the street in front of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Waterloo, with my brother Bobby.Scan_20180902 (28)

This photo was taken in 2004.Scan_20180902 (2)

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #8

Ginger Snaps

I wanted to post some photos of my father on this Father’s Day. My mother wouldn’t have been the great cook she was without him. Even when, at the end of his life he couldn’t eat, he looked out at the spread that Thanksgiving day and proclaimed to all the family present, “Your mother is such a wonderful cook!” We had no idea he was so sick. He died two months later.

Scan_20180617 (5)He was born in South Africa, but grew up in San Antonio and South Houston. He shared a passion for mechanics with his father. He didn’t do so well academically. His worst subject was English. I believe he could hardly read his entire life. His dyslexia must have been off the scale. He was brilliant. He could put anything together by looking at it. He had no patience until he was an old man. He loved a good practical joke. When he was young, he and some friends took a preacher’s car and pushed it off a cliff. It took a long time for the preacher to find his car. My father and his friends winched it out of the gully and fixed it up good as new.  He was in the Navy during WWII, but saw no action. He helped repair and build ships, stationed in Chicago and San Diego. He didn’t like to talk about his service. My mother said it was because he felt ashamed that he didn’t get shipped to the front lines, though the war was mostly at an end by the time he was in.

Scan_20180617 (3)He loved my mother most dearly all of their sixty years together. She loved to cook for him.This ginger snap recipe is one my mother made often. They are easy to whip together. Mind you, the recipe is down to the bare bones, so I will explain some things I learned, because I made them several times to get them just right.

The ingredients are easy:

SAM_1936When my mother says shortening she means “Crisco”. Do not substitute. This is a cardinal rule with Crisco. That’s always the case, but in this instance, here’s what happened to me.

I first made the recipe with coconut oil because I had no Crisco. The cookies tasted fine but had a strange consistency – like powder when you bit into them. I guess that means, they weren’t that good. I took them to school with me though, and someone ate them. Bless them.

SAM_1937The next effort to making them, I used butter, because I still had no Crisco. They were delicious, but a bit like hard-tack to bite into. So again, for this recipe…use Crisco.

Finally, I used Crisco. Perfect consistency. A bit chewy on the inside, and crisp on the outside.

The ingredients are precise – don’t use two eggs, only one. When it says twelve minutes at 375 degrees F. it means just that.

Also, don’t leave the dough in the fridge overnight, and then think it will be easy to pull out of the bowl. No. The dough when chilled is hard and non pliable, like dried paste. Leave in the fridge only 15 minutes. I don’t have to tell you the lengths I went to trying to get that first batch out of the bowl after leaving in the fridge overnight. I just had no time the evening before to bake them.

SAM_1939So the next time I rolled the dough into a long tube shape. Much easier to slice and lay out on the cooking sheet. If the dough is cool, it’s very thick. Trying to scoop and roll them into a ball with a spoon is a bit like trying to spoon out very frozen ice cream, needs to warm a bit first. Just roll into a roll and wrap in wax paper or a parchment sheet.  If you don’t cool in the fridge for fifteen minutes the dough is very sticky and uncooperative. Cooled, it is very easy to slice and lay out on the pan.

When I take cookies out of the oven, I always flip them over, because the heat from the pan continues to brown them on the bottom. This insures an even color all around.

The end result was really good. These are cookies that are guaranteed to bring back good memories for you. For me, the ginger and molasses in this recipe remind me of so many great holidays with my parents. I think you can see some empty spots on the pan of cookies.SAM_1941

Note: Everything is so easy to buy at the grocery. Cooking from scratch is going to a lot of trouble, going an extra step or two. So many times we are busy and feel pressed for time. Indeed, time is a very precious commodity. Even getting a decent home-cooked meal ready every evening can feel like a burden. Just keep in mind, the reason we would cook a cookie recipe is to share our good memories with our loved ones. I remember when my son was very small he asked me how I made what ever it was we were eating that evening and I told him that I had made the recipe from scratch. He looked at me with that adorable four year-old matter-of-fact way he had and said, “I don’t know where you get scratch, but I hope you can find it and make it again.”

 

 

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #7

The photo above is of my parents at the completion of their first home. My father built it with his GI low-rate loan. This photo is likely circa 1950.

Spaghetti sauce

I found this recipe dated 1990, but I remember my mother cooking spaghetti sauce long before this. I suppose she always went by “feel” with her ingredients, so must have decided to write it down. This recipe makes a big pot, so have some freezer containers handy. .SAM_1922

There was a time back in the 60s when my mother used the Lawry’s Spaghetti sauce pack to make sauce. You know what I’m talking about – those little packets you can still find in the “packets” section of the store near the canned meats? It must have been a craze back then, all the little packets, and frozen TV dinners, and other “things” to make life easier, that didn’t work. The Lawry’s spaghetti sauce was not bad, but this homemade recipe will knock your socks off.

From 1973 to 1975 I worked as a baker in the kitchen of the college I attended, Emmaus Bible College in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. I worked under an Italian head cook named Ruth Calgano (I may have that spelling wrong, sorry). She was a stickler about her red sauce. She taught me that a little sweetness in the sauce makes it better, so she always added honey. She called it her secret ingredient. She also said time and again, never cook the meat in the sauce, you add it after. I can picture her waving her hand at me as she said in heavily accented English, “Don’t cook the meat with the sauce!”

Okay. Okay.SAM_1923

I had never seen this recipe for red sauce until I was looking in the book for something I could cook that wasn’t sweet. So here goes the tomato sauce adventure!

I went to the grocery store to get all fresh herbs because I like to use them instead of the dried. Of all things, my grocery store had just closed due to a power failure. So here I am at home with a bunch of dried herbs, and no celery. However, I find I have dried celery leaves – yes, it’s a thing – and my dried herbs are not too over their use-by date.

10 cups is a whole lot of tomatoes, and I only have six of them. So I will have to use the cans of crushed and diced tomatoes in my pantry. I will cut the added salt by half because tomatoes in the can have added salt, and flavor.

Did you know they add the tomato flavor to the canned tomatoes? It’s true. Here’s a little side story: My political science teacher at the University of Houston told the class one day that because of the way the large tomato farms had developed automated machines to pick the tomatoes, the tomatoes would burst all over the place. So the tomato had to be genetically modified to have a tougher skin so the machines didn’t crush them. While it was true the tomato was then more square, and had tougher skin to withstand the mass pickings, they no longer tasted like tomato. Unfortunately this is even true of “heirloom” varieties now, though they are getting closer to having flavor again. Even with scientist presently trying to reverse the action of the sixties, tomatoes do not have the rich sweetness I remember the fruit having as I picked them from my grandmother’s garden – though those did tend to bust during the picking.

Enough with the side story. Here’s a sweet photo of my mother with her grandfather Leask in front of his home in Mason City, Iowa.Scan_20180515 (2)

 

 

 

Back to the task at hand. I chopped 3 medium sized onions. They are especially pungent and I do cry. While these are sauteing in a tablespoon of good olive oil, I put my celery leaves in water, along with all my dried herbs and garlic. Somehow I think this might reconstitute them. I’m dreaming, but I do it anyway.SAM_1927

 

To peel the tomatoes I drop them in boiling water and watch carefully until the skin splits. I put them in ice water to stop them continuing to cook. I rub the peel off and chop them up and add them to my 20 oz. of crushed tomatoes in a bowl, which I set aside.SAM_1929

I am not going to use white sugar, sorry Momma. I don’t have any honey either, so I use molasses. Also, I don’t have any chili pepper (I don’t really know what that is.). I use cayenne instead, but only half a teaspoon of it because I want the sauce edible!! The onions are now a nice golden color, so I add my reconstituted mess of herbs. Now it looks like pesto. I add the tomatoes and the other ingredients together in a large pan. It has the consistency of marinara sauce. Very lumpy.SAM_1930

As soon as it is bubbly, I turn the fire to low and put a lid on it. I sit next to it and watch another episode of the Inspector Lynly series on Britbox from the laptop in the kitchen. We live in such an amazing era.

After an hour the liquid has been reduced somewhat. It smells delicious. In order to smooth the sauce out I use an immersion blender. I have found that the immersion blender is something I would rather not do without. That and the rice cooker seem extravagant until you have them and find yourself using them all the time. Besides if you put hot liquid in a blender it will explode. I won’t explain how I know this is true.SAM_1932

I wish you could taste it. This is awesome-sauce – despite all my dried ingredients, and despite no sugar or chili pepper. It made a large amount so I put two thirds of it in freezer containers and into the freezer.

I had some ground sirloin in the fridge – so I sauteed it (in a separate pan, NOT with the sauce!) I cooked some spaghetti and combined the meat with the cooked sauce and added it. Another good recipe from my mom. YUM!Scan_20180515 (4)

To the right is my mother at twelve. Her school picture.

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In honor of mother’s day, the above photo is my mother’s mother. Grandma Hollopeter taken sometime in the 1940s. Perhaps out at the farm in Dunkerton, Iowa, there was no note on the back.

BONUS RECIPE:  I also had a package of frozen brussel sprouts. They came in a “steam” bag so I microwaved them. Then I also microwaved some bacon until it was crisp, chopped it up, put it in with the cooked sprouts and added a tablespoon of unsweetened applesauce, and half a cup of heavy whipping cream. It went well with the spaghetti. Try it, you’ll like it.

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #2 (Redo)

The feature photo was taken by my mother. I believe it is Christmas of 1962 because my youngest brother is so small. He would have been about sixteen months here. We are sitting on the front porch of the Ave B. house in South Houston.

My mother would often work on recipes over and over again until they were great. The thing about the Rumtopf cake recipe I have in #2 is that this would likely be the original recipe. The last time she made this cake was when she would have been in her seventies and it was remarkable.

I wanted to redo the Rumtopf cake because the original cake recipe wasn’t very good. So I’m combining the dump cake recipe with the rumtopf fruit that marinated in an expensive (for me) bottle of Calvados.

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I used crushed pineapple from a can and dried tart cherries from Trader Joe’s. Yummy all by itself. I added a cup of white sugar and the entire bottle, which at this point came to about two cups of the Calvados. You can substitute Triple Sec, but I wouldn’t. I stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved.

I stir the mixture once a week. Six weeks go by.

Check the recipe under My Mother’s Recipes #4. This is the dump cake recipe. I’m going to use it for the cake part.

With a few differences such as using a box of white cake this time and one and a half sticks of butter, and no nuts, the recipe is the same. I buttered a glass 9′ X 13′ casserole dish. I poured about two cups of the fermented fruit mixture into the dish. It smells divine. Okay, I tasted it. It’s delicious. It would also make a great ice cream topping.

I have a little left in the jar that I pour into a freezer container and freeze. I don’t want a bit of it go to waste. My mother would be proud.20180308_174036

 

Sprinkle dry box cake mixture over the top of the fruit evenly. Pour the one and a half sticks melted butter over the top of that. Yes, I know the recipe calls for two sticks of butter – or one cup – but the fruit had plenty of liquid in it to make up the difference, so I cut a quarter cup of butter and call it “diet”!

 

Bake for one hour at 350 degree F. Oh wow, it smells delightful! It’s obvious I couldn’t take the photo of a complete cake fast enough. Except for the six week wait for the fruit to ferment properly, this is a quick cake to make. Enjoy!20180308_174016

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #6

Scan_20180401 (4)Above the photo is of my mother during a picnic in 1954. She told me she was pregnant with me and wasn’t feeling well.

To the left is my mother in 1928. She was four. This was taken at their home on Randolph St. In Waterloo, Iowa.

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The photo on the right is of my father at about the same age. He was in South Africa. He and his baby sister, and his parents moved to San Antonio, TX when he was seven.

 

Cheese Cake

If you’re like me you have a favorite dessert, perhaps two or three favorites. The world is awash with desserts to tempt the most austere soul. I have two favorites and I’ll cook one of them for you today. My two most favorite desserts are bread pudding and cheesecake. I wonder what your favorites are. Could you share in the comments?

SAM_1907There are two definitions for cheesecake. One is a cake made from sweetened cream cheese and eggs and baked in a crumb crust. The other is a photograph of an attractive woman in minimal attire.

While my mother was a very modest, shy woman who loved to be around people, initiating a conversation made her uncomfortable. My father, on the other hand, could engage the most sincere wallflower in conversation, and that’s apparently how things happened for them.  Until the end of his life, he did business by inviting people to share a cup of coffee. He loved my mother and every bit of her cooking.

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But while we’re on the subject I thought I would share my mother’s cheesecake pose. This is about 1942, in Dunkerton, Iowa.

On to the recipe for today.

Crust ingredients are: 3/4 cup butter, softened or melted; 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar; 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, or approx. 24 crushed crackers. Mix together until it is crumbly.SAM_1909

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Press into a 9″ spring-form pan. (mine has a glass bottom). The butter should hold it together nicely. Do not bake it yet. Wait for the creamy middle!

 

 

 

 

SAM_1905I should add that this recipe is written on my mother’s USAA notepad I remember she kept at work. (She worked as my dad’s office manager. He had a car damage appraisal company.)

The creamy middle is made from: 2 pkg. cream cheese. (She always used Philadelphia cream cheese. She was a stickler for some brands. Woe be the day the A & P store closed!); 1 cup white sugar; 4 eggs; 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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The topping is: 1 pint sour cream; and 3/4 cups white sugar. Note: at the bottom of the recipe my mother made a note to put the topping on before baking. I did and immediately saw my mistake. Don’t do it! Put it on the top of the cooked cheesecake.

 

Mix the filling for 20 to 25 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed.

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Don’t do like I did years ago when I tried to double the recipe for my daughter’s tenth birthday. I intended to make a large enough cheesecake for two or three families at once. As I mixed it with my ancient stand mixer on HIGH, the motor burnt up. The cheesecake carried an overtone of burnt engine oil. Don’t ever overload an old mixer. Do use a heavy duty mixer if you have one. I don’t any longer, but I have a good hand-held one. These ingredients need to blend together in a heavenly creaminess.

SAM_1912  Pour the creamy filling onto the crumb crust. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes. I started out with the timer at 40 minutes but I had mistakenly added the sour cream to the filling, and it was far creamier than the usual. It needs to be slightly brown on top and pulling away from the sides of the pan a bit. So this took about 70 minutes all together for me. I think because the sour cream in the batter didn’t allow it to set as fast. SAM_1920

As you can see the sour cream didn’t hurt too much being inside the cake instead of on the top. You can also see this is nothing like a New York style cheesecake from the frozen foods section of the grocery. The taste is unbelievably vanilla-like and creamy, mixed with the butter-graham flavor of the crust… Yum!  Enjoy!

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #5

I’ve posted the photo above from my family tree. The couple are my great-grandparents. They immigrated to Canada from Scotland and then entered the United States and settled in Mason City, Iowa. The girl on the far right is my grandmother, Mary.

Sponge cake

Scan_20180206 (3)Here is me and my family at the table, probably 1961.

I don’t know if my mother’s recipe for sponge cake was one passed down to her from her mother and her grandmother, but it may well have come from the ancestral home in Scotland. I know my mother made this cake many times because she talked about making it. I don’t remember her making it. It may be I was just too young.

I did remember the taste of it after I made it.SAM_1891SAM_1892

She liked to experiment with new recipes and this one must have been one she decided she didn’t need to make in lieu of the new ones.

It is a simple cake to create from scratch and requires few ingredients. I hope you’ll come along and bake it to taste the delicious, fluffy egginess of it.

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You will need a candy thermometer. That’s the most exotic thing about this recipe.The ingredients are: 1 cup flour, 1 teas. cream of tartar, 1/4 teas salt, 1 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1 teas. vanilla, 7 egg whites, 7 egg yolks.

Add Cream of tartar to egg whites and beat egg white mixture until stiff. This is the perfect Easter recipe. Let me tell you about the eggs I used. My brother gave them to me. They’re from his free-range chickens, and his wild ducks. The duck eggs have larger yolks but as you will see the dark yellow yolks from all the eggs made for and extra rich, and very yellow cake.

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Boil sugar and water to soft ball stage (on candy thermometer). You might think this is too much of a complication. It is really very easy and takes less than five minutes.

Pour hot syrup over the egg whites and beat for 5 minutes, adding the vanilla and the salt.

Add to the white fluff, the  beaten egg yolks. (These will be creamy not fluffy).

Lastly, fold the flour  into the fluffy mixture.

Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

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Here is what is not written on the recipe but is how my mother taught me when making an angel food cake from scratch, which is much like the type a cake a sponge is.

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Turn the hot pan upside down using something to hold the pan’s edges off the counter. I used cereal bowls. My mother used to use her laundry starch bottle.  Let sit for another hour like this. The cake will be fluffier. After an hour, gently tap the bottom of the tube pan to loosen and slowly pry the cake free. (It should be cool enough to handle.)

My mother wrote – “ummm – good!SAM_1903

 

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #4

My mother loved to cook but with four children she found herself barely able to manage more than a few tried and true go-to recipes a week. To cut corner and save time she would clip magazine and newspaper recipes to tape into her recipe notebooks.

Here I am…I promised to cook her very own recipes, which are handwritten on 6 x 4 index cards and taped into the same notebook. Today, though I thought I would try one of those clipped recipes because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.

SAM_1886Certain recipes can be a huge deal, like my mother’s plum pudding, or her from-scratch sponge cake. Then, there is the classic “dump” cake. I’ve tried a multitude of dump cake recipes over the years. This one, as you can see it is in the tiniest print possible, is the best one by far.

The ingredients are simple:

2 cups applesauce (I used unsweetened)

a 16 oz. can of crushed pineapple

1 butter recipe box cake mix

1 CUP of melted butter (yes, that’s two sticks…don’t skimp. This isn’t diet food!)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

SAM_1887Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish (I used a glass one) with oil spray (Pam). Preheat the oven to 350 degree (F.) Dump the applesauce into the baking dish, spread. Dump the pineapple from the can (don’t drain) onto the applesauce. Sprinkle the dry cake mix over the fruit. Pour the melted butter evenly over the top. DO NOT MIX any of it. Sprinkle with chopped nuts (I used roasted pecans.) Bake for 1 hour. Your house will smell lovely.

Oh my! The family will be impressed! Enjoy!

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #3

Scan_20180206My earliest recollection of my mother’s cooking was that there was a lot of food and it was good. We often had relatives at dinner. My mother would cook a large meal and we might eat leftovers for a few days after. Sundays after church we would run across the field from the white stucco church building on Spencer Highway in South Houston to our house, an asbestos tiled two bedroom, one bath house frame house painted bright yellow with white trim. We knew we would find some good cooking smells coming from the kitchen.

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My three brothers and me in front of our house in 1963.

Here’s a picture of the house. It had a white pebble roof. My brothers and I would swing onto the roof from a nearby tree and use the rocks as ammunition in our never-ending battles with invading armies of terrifying gorillas. Of course we weren’t supposed to get on the roof. The rocks would fall off. My father kept a bucket of tar in the back yard to slather on if a leak developed and then he would plant more white pebbles in the tar. The bucket would warm up in the summer sun and we would grab handfuls of tar to make things – usually a mess.

Every Sunday there was waiting in the hot oven a ham, or a pork shoulder, or a roast. It would be our only real meat for the rest of the week. Not that we were lacking. We always had food, but that was down to my mother’s creativity. A lot can be done with leftovers. Then there was baloney, or Spam, or hot dogs.

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Sunday dinner. From left PawPaw, his sister visiting from South Africa (Auntie), baby brother Jeff, Mom. August 22, 1963

In this photo the grownups and the smallest children were dining in the soon to be completed living room of my grandparents’s new house. That is a cement mixer in the back. The blue and white willow china was Nannie’s everyday dishes. I have the coffee pot and espresso cups from the set.

Scan_20180206 (4)The other technicolor picture is the “kids” table. I’m at the far right in the blue and my cousin Karen is next to me on one side and my oldest brother is on the other side. Going the other way is cousin Paul, Kathy, brother Jon, and cousin Mark. This is a quick run down memory lane, but my cousins and brothers may appreciate the nod to the past.

As I grew and became more aware of others I came to realize that my mother liked to find recipes where she could save time using canned ingredients. Some of her favorite recipes in those days would not be very appealing these days when we have such lovely fresh things to cook with and so much choice! Today’s recipe I’m going to take one of my mother’s “canned” goods concoctions and substitute one fresh ingredient. I hope you like it.

Mary’s Snappy AsparagusSAM_1869

Ingrediants: 1 can asparagus

1 can Cambell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup

1 can French Fried Onions

As you can see I’ve substituted the canned asparagus with fresh asparagus. Canned asparagus is mushy. The soup along with the mushy canned vegetable would be not very appetizing.

In order for this recipe to come out as my mother would have planned, I will have to cook the asparagus. I choose to saute these stalks in olive oil using a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

I’ve found young stalks. It is February when asparagus is ready to be cut here in the south. If the stalks do not make an audible “snap” when bent they have been sitting too long in the store or are too tough to eat. By September the stalks you find in the grocery are thick as my thumb.

cut in pieces

You must cut the ends off way up the stem to get to the tender more edible part. With this young asparagus all I’m going to have to cut is a few inches from the bottom and rinse in cold water to knock the dust off. Then I will cut into inch long pieces to saute.

Yum! I actually like asparagus raw. Tastes like sunshine!

 

before cooking
Before cooking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

after cooking
After cooking the asparagus turns a bright green as the heat brings the chlorophyll to the surface

The recipe calls for layering the asparagus and the cheese soup. But my efforts layering the cheese soup were comical.mixed in cheese soup

 

 

 

 

The soup from the can is thick. I found that mixing the two together was better.

Put the onion on top and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. You can also put this in the microwave on high for five minutes. I sprinkled some cheddar cheese on top, too.

Here is the end result. It turned out very tasty. I served it alongside lemon pepper chicken tenders and bow-tie macaroni with mushroom seasoning from House of Seasons.2018-02-06 18.53.54

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #2

My husband and I would go to my parent’s house at least once a month when our kids were little. My parents didn’t live far from us. Because my mother loved to cook for others she would invite us over for supper more often, like when she had cooked a big meal.  Beginning in the late 90’s I would see a crock jar full of fermenting fruit on her baker’s rack.

20171110_164315

 

When I asked what it was she said she’d gotten a new recipe from one of her GMC camper’s club friends. They loved traveling around Texas in their GMC camper. There was a group who would meetup regularly at the various state parks. Mom said the recipe was German and the fruit in the jar was fermenting for it.

When she first made it, I wasn’t a big fan. It tasted a little “off”. It was too doughy and didn’t have much flavor. As years went by the cake kept getting better and better. It’s as if she wouldn’t accept that she couldn’t get it perfect, so she kept tweaking, and making us taste the result. The last time she made it, it was heavenly. It tasted like a chewy, gooey butter cake with fruit. It was melt-in-your-mouth good.

The above picture of fruit I had left fermenting in a closed glass jar for six weeks. It’s a pretty glass jar, more like a candy jar. My concoction was a combination of canned peaches and canned pineapple. I put a cup of rum and a half cup of brandy along with the sugar and the syrup from the cans.

20171110_164743The recipe as you see it here has no flavoring in it. I made this as it is stated and when it came out, it was pretty awful.  I think this must be her original recipe that she wrote down so long ago.

Ingrediants:

1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 teas. baking powder, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 teas salt, 1/2 stick butter.

So to tweak: the fruit was good. I think you should add a 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and add melted butter, lowering the milk amount.

You’re probably wondering what the staining is on the paper. This recipe book is over fifty years old. My mother has recipes cut out from newspapers and old magazines included. Some of those papers are not acid-free and bleed their chemicals a little into the other papers.

You want to start your Rumtopf six weeks or more ahead of making this recipe. You can google it, but take it from me, some fruits are not good at staying firm and identifiable in six weeks of soaking up rum. Or maybe it’s from taking random tastings of the rum that makes the fruit look fuzzy. Never mind. Remember to stir the mixture weekly. Don’t use apples, they get mealy. Pineapple and peaches work, either fresh or from a can. You can use them individually or by themselves. Apricots work. Pears get a little lost, so add some nice firm peaches to hold their hands. Try adding some dried cherries to the mix for a pretty contrast, because it may as well be pretty while it’s sitting on your counter for six weeks.

So this is a picture of the cake before I put the Rumtopf on top and baked it. I forgot to take a picture of the finished cake. Picture the same picture a bit browner with fruit dotting the top. Honestly, this wasnt’ as good as what my mother was making in the end. Imagine this with a brown crust and dotted with fruit.