Tag Archives: mother’s recipes

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 #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

SAM_1910

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.

SAM_1914

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.

SAM_1911

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.

SAM_1890

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.

SAM_1897

SAM_1898

 

 

 

SAM_1895

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.

SAM_1899

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.

SAM_1901

SAM_1902

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