Category Archives: My Mother’s Recipes

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!

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

Cooking My Mother’s Recipes #1

20171225_140135.jpgIt’s Christmas and my mother’s been gone four years now. I think of her most at this time because it was her and my father’s favorite season. They loved Christmas and New Years.

They were married on January 8. When my father died on January 7 at the age of 80 my mother remarked they were one day short of their 60th wedding anniversary. I said, what’s one day. You were married sixty years. No, she said, we were married 59 years. And that was the end of the discussion. So like her to be precise.

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My mother and father. The little flower girl is my cousin Jan.

One thing she wasn’t precise in was her recipes. Don’t get me wrong, she did know a thing or two about cooking. But I rarely saw her use a measuring cup. She would experiment until they were right enough to write, but she still hardly ever used exact measurements when she was doing the actual cooking. So at this time I am starting a new series. I’m going to attempt to cook every recipe she wrote down in her recipe book.

Cooking my mother’s recipe’s came about because I found this cookbook where she’d been storing her handwritten recipes. I thought of all the times she’d cooked them. I remember so many of these. In her later years she wasn’t able to cook these but she continued to cook small bites until she was forced to go into the nursing home. She didn’t want to go, but when she got there, she loved it….more people to tell her stories to! It was a beautiful place.

So going over the recipes I thought – how would my mother do this? Or, what would my mother say about this? Or, how would my mother feel about this? You see, my mother cooked with a passion. So for the love or her cooking and for my mother – I give you the first in a series.

Every Christmas that I can ever remember my parents would have a lavish open house. I say lavish, our first home was a little square frame house in South Houston, Texas, with a crack in the foundation an inch wide at which my brothers and I would set traps for lizards on the inside of the house! My mother’s open houses were magical filled with good food, and fun decorations, like the paper fireplace stuck to the wall with tape, the electric “burning” logs giving no heat, the paper streamers made from painted grocery sacks, and the popcorn and cranberry chains we spent hours stringing and placed delicately around the real tree. We always had a real tree and it would perfume the house with the scent of Christmas. It was still a lavish affair in my child eyes. Later down the road of life our houses grew as did the Christmas open houses.

My mother spent days on food preparation. We four kids helped decorate cookies, of course, but we had little to do with the actual food that made the banquet such an affair to remember. I’m thinking of the hot plum pudding, and the steaming wassail, the candies from around the world, the honeyed ham, or the finger sandwiches. I will try to recreate for you each of these things as time goes by.

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Ingredients. I left off the lemon. Don’t forget the lemon!

Each of my endeavors to cook these recipes will come with step by step photos to give you an idea about what it looks like.

The first recipe I will do is one I have made for years with my mother’s blessing. Mine never reached the level of deliciousness that my mother’s would though. You’ll have to try this and make your own adjustments to fit your tastes.

This is my Christmas gift to you, my dear readers: Mary’s Shrimp Dip

Ingredients:

1- 8oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 cup Hellman’s Mayonaise

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 lemon (the juice and lemon jest)

1 cup diced shrimp (my mother would say make large enough pieces to look like there’s shrimp in that dip!)

Cook the shrimp. I use the frozen E-Z Peel large shrimp. You can find them in a lot of stores. Bring the water to a roiling boil. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid Cajun Shrimp boil. Add the raw shrimp to the water all at once. (You don’t have to thaw first). Bring to another boil – about a minute or two, let boil for a minute. Turn off and let soak for five minutes. Drain, cool, peel and chop.

Mix it altogether.

It’s always better the next day so make it ahead of the party.

Even if the party is just you, this is so delicious it’s like a party in a bowl.

Remember, don’t increase the lemon if you increase the amount of the dip. (learned that the hard way! Plus, I didn’t read the little side note my mother made. “when doubling only use 1/2 lemon.)