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My Mother’s Kitchen

Dinner at my house, growing up, was never a mystery; If it was Thursday we were having Macaroni & Cheese and on a Friday we would be having Liver and Onions or fried fish.  On Sunday it was usually fried chicken, city chicken and sometimes beef.  Beef was expensive so it was a rare treat, well, if you like very well-done steak. 

The rest of the week we ate casseroles:  tuna fish and noodles, chicken tetrazzini, Hungarian galosh, occasionally scalloped potatoes and ham or savory rice. There was always dessert – apple dumplings were my favorite and then brownies, cake, pie but always something sweet. 

My mom was not an adventurous cook but she was organized.  She kept a calendar of meals to prepare and stuck with it.  Years later, when talking to my older brother about cooking at home I realized that our meals were pretty much the same every week.  There was little variety, even though she owned a variety of cookbooks, mostly Better Homes and Gardens and their many special cookbooks.  There was also a Pillsbury cookbook and Better Crocker.  What all these meals had in common was that they were made from scratch, involved some form of Campbell’s cream soup, canned mushrooms and canned tuna. 

We were a large family that lived off of casseroles, primarily because there was very little prepared food available.  TV dinners and hamburger helper showed up during my teen years in the 60s.  While my older sister and brothers loved the casseroles and still make them to this day I found them extremely hard to put in my mouth, much less to digest.  My youngest brother invented a way to fill his mouth with just enough food and leave the dinner table for a bathroom break. 

I was talking to my older brother one time about my son being a selective eater and my sister piped in that mom always said I was a picky eater.  And that is a fair statement.  I do not like the textures of some combinations of food and there are only a couple of recipes that I will eat that involve cream soup.  My child has never experienced casseroles in his house growing up. 

No matter what our tastes my brothers, sister and I all learned to cook.  I don’t remember there being a lesson of sorts but we each spent our time in the kitchen with our mom cooking.  I remember my mom taking leftover pie dough and rolling it out into a small circle and putting sugar and cinnamon on it and baking it for me to have as a snack. I also remember receiving my first Betty Crocker cookbook for kids; very excited and ready to make every recipe.

Over the years I have continued to enjoy cooking. I will try new recipes and play around with spices. My son has taken this a step further and creates his own healthy recipes.

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Cooking, Writing, Baking and Quarantine

The Covid19 virus has given us all more time to think and try out things we have not done before or at least not done in a long time. I have always loved to cook and sometimes bake. Lately I have been wanting to cook and bake more. I was very surprised that when I went to the grocery store that there was little flour and no yeast. It appears that a lot of people are baking. And they are not alone. I too have been thinking about baking more and trying some recipes in the cookbooks sitting on my shelves. Even though my recent attempt at cookies and muffins did not turn out well I’m still eager to do more. Now I just need to find some yeast.

I am curious to know if others are cooking or baking more and what. Did you learn to cook as a child or is this new? If you have children are you teaching them? I would love to hear your stories.

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Dealing with Covid19

I haven’t been keeping track of the days but I think we are probably in the second or third week of Covid. In some ways I am luckier than others. I am retired and don’t have to go out much and am at home more. Still I needed a day of doing things differently. So I ditched my routine except for the breakfast and stretching. I started by planting my blanket flower seeds in some seedling trays. I have never planted seedlings before in trays so we will see how it goes.

I also did not want to write today. I am reaching some blocks in my memoir writing and needed to step away. So I worked in the flower garden and baked. Now baking is not my best skill as you can see in this photo. Still the cookies tasted ok. That’s what you get when you try to reduce a cookie recipe. There is something about the right proportion of liquid to dry items. The muffins turned out better.

How are you coping with Covid my friends? Stay healthy.

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Our Mothers’ Kitchen – Springerle Cookies

In the face of Covid19 I am trying to remain positive, follow a routine, read, write and watch television. An abundance of rain offers no help here in the Midwest but as with all things these will pass and we will get back to “normal” or a new “normal”.

I started looking through box of family papers that have been sitting in the closet for years. I pulled them out the other day and started reading some of the letters. These are letters from the 1930’s and 40’s; from my mom, my great grandmother, and great aunts and some from myself in the 1980’s. These letters are a series of conversations about the weather, favorite subjects and grades at school and their plans to visit.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a few letters about making Springerle cookies. One side of my mom’s family emigrated from Germany and brought many of their recipes with them. One of those recipes was for springerle cookies which are still being made. Springerle cookies are traditional Christmas cookies from Germany and Austria and date back to the 1600’s. They  are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. They taste best when made a month before they are eaten. I found three letters in which my great grandmother Ella and her daughters (my great aunts) were making Springerles for the holidays. In a much later letter my great aunt referenced a conversation to my mother about my interest in learning how to make them. I don’t remember if my aunt showed me how to make them but I did find a recipe and made them years later. I found the old family recipe from my great aunt and combined the two recipes. Below is my family recipe, the oldest recipe I have in my cookbook. It dates from 1850.

What family kitchen stories do you have?

Springerle Cookies (1850 recipe)

From the kitchen of: Bess Blackwell Meyers

Ingredients:

· 4 eggs, large

· 1 pound confectioners’ sugar

· 4 cups flour

· 1 round teaspoon baking powder

· 1 pinch salt

· 1 Tablespoon anise seed

Directions:

1. Separate the 4 eggs.  Beat whites until very dry and stiff.  Beat yolks till light and creamy.

2. Beat yolks and whites together.  Add 1 pound of powdered sugar, beating till light.

3. Add 4 cups flour, 1 Tbsp. anise seed, pinch salt and 1 tsp. rounded of baking powder, mixed together before adding to egg and sugar mixture.

4. Beat in flour—probably you will have to work some in by hand.  If a small amount won’t go in—save to flour pastry board.  Roll out about 1/8 inch or little more and press small piece into mold or  roller.

5. Cut into shape and dry face up on floured towel.  I make them about 7:30 p.m.  When I go to bed, 11 p.m., I turn face down to dry.

6. Bake in a 350 oven 6-7 minutes.  Bake only until very light cream color.  They raise a little more than 1/2 original size.

Let cool and store in a closed container in a cool, dark location.