I was looking for a recipe the other day. Specifically, Banana Bars. Delicious, easy and a great way to use a couple of over ripe bananas. Most of my recipes are typed, though some are still handwritten. Neatly held in this cute little Longaberger Recipe basket. I started thinking about my friends and family who have shared their recipes with me. Some have been in my life for decades, others zipped through quickly, usually because we moved.
|The recipe box with all my favorites…|
To me, asking for one of my recipes is the highest form of flattery. How can anyone be offended by this? Incomprehensible and downright snotty. I’ve heard of family favorite dishes being lost forever because no one ever wrote down how great grandma made it, or she couldn’t be pinned down to give the one secret ingredient that no one else can figure out which made the dish so special. I have a tendency to be quite the opposite. Delve into such intricate detail the nuances of the recipe, their eyes glaze over, and I can literally see their expression suggest, (I’m not ever making that crap even though it tastes great. Are you kidding me? 48 steps, it’s a stinking cracker you nut case).
|My own little assembly line of assorted sized Apple Pies…|
Those who know me are probably shaking their heads by now. How could Neese possibly write a story about recipes? The only thing she’s admitted was knowing how to heat water. And that was in a baby bottle sterilizer in 1971. Wait, I know I’m the first to admit being slow on the uptake in the cooking department. I don’t think it was a lack of interest, but truthfully, Mom never took the time to teach me. So I plunged into wedded bliss head first without knowing how to cook anything. Really. Zip, nada. But by year 5, I was embracing the finer things about baking. Making great fruit pies, breads, bars, cakes and cinnamon rolls. Cooking supper was a little tougher, but I cooked almost every night. Nothing fancy, but I was honing my skills and getting better.
|A Dutch delicacy, Saucijzebroodjes. Pigs in the Blanket…|
My mother-in-law Mag was my first real cooking teacher. She had a lot of patience, and was an excellent cook and baker. But it took patience on my part too while I was learning. Because Mag had very few recipes written down. Most of what she made was from scratch, and in her head. She rarely measured anything. Which goes against anything a rookie cook depended on. I needed concrete, precise amounts, and guidance on the steps in order to make a dish.
|Bread N Butter Pickles. One of my most treasured recipes from Diane…|
That was never Mag’s style. Truth be told, I’m probably a better cook and baker having learned some of her loosey-goosey methods. But at the time, I found it pretty frustrating. It would have been so much easier and concise had she said, 2 T. of yellow mustard. Instead, she just turned that yellow plastic container upside down, (all the while yakking 100 miles an hour) squeezed really hard, and squirted a yellow blob on top of the humongous pile of Miracle Whip (never mayo in Mag’s potato salad). This was fine and dandy, assuming the next time I tried this by myself, I was making a similar sized bowl of her famous potato salad. It didn’t take too long before I realized while mixing the Miracle Whip, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper, it actually had to be a ‘certain’ color to taste really good. Yup, that shade was just right, so the amount of mustard was spot on. I guess I’m as bad as Mag. I learned how to make potato salad over 40 years ago, yet it wasn’t until my daughter-in-law Erica asked for the recipe a couple years ago that I actually measured the amounts as I made a bowl so I could write it down for her. The first time Erica made it, she texted something like, good grief, that’s a lot of work (ok, she might have been a lot more explicit in her language). Mag always used lots of crunchy veggies in her salad, so of course I do too. Since Erica needed a good sized bowl for the crowd she was serving, so the green onions, celery, radishes and sweet pickles took forever to dice.
|Mag’s Potato Salad. So good…|
Another favorite recipe is cutout cookies. We were living near Dyersville, Iowa, 1974-1977. Jerry was a coworker of John, so both of those lucky guys got to work for the 5 crazy brothers. Jerry and his wife Joann were a bit older than us, and had a bigger family. Maybe 3 or 4 kids when we met. Shannon was 4 and I was pregnant with Joshua. Joann gave me her cookie dough recipe for Christmas cutout cookies. First time I had ever tried something like that. I was hooked. Soon I bought cookie cutters for every holiday. While the kids were small (ok, when they were bigger too) I made cutout cookies about 8 times a year. Never went bonkers like some gals do in the frosting decorating department. Just good old fashioned buttercream. Made extra special because of my Kitchenaid Mixer. (I’m now on my 4th Kitchenaid. No they don’t wear out, they just keep making newer souped up models I can’t live without). I never take credit for my frosting, it’s always been my great mixer that gets the honors. Now I’m down to cutout cookies about 3 times a year, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Yet every time I get that recipe out, I immediately think fondly of Joann for giving me such a great recipe and making me a better baker.
|Cutout cookie recipe from Joann many years go…|
Most of my recipes from Mom are baked goods and candies. Not too much of a surprise because we both had huge sweet tooths. Sweet teeth can’t be right, is it? Banana and Coconut Cream pies. Her homemade German Chocolate Cake frosting recipe. Mom’s suppers consisted of roasts with carrots and potatoes or pork chops. Simple fare. I do make several of the same casseroles she used to make though. But it was Mom’s grandma Berghuis’ special Fudge and Penuche recipes that have meant the most to me. Seems like in the olden days, not many ingredients were used or needed to make something taste incredible. Believe me, I’ve tried other recipes, with enough expensive ingredients forcing me into getting a second mortgage. Still Grandma Berghuis’ simple recipe tastes the best. Not the easiest to make perfectly every time, but for taste, there’s not a better recipe.
|My great grandma’s Fudge recipe made perfect (this time)…|
Mom and I shopped in Sheldon quite often when I was young. On such a trip, we ate at a small cafe downtown on the corner. Can’t remember the name of the place anymore. I always ordered a hamburger and fries. Mom, however would order a bowl of homemade soup and a salad (this was before there was even such a thing as soup and salad combo). They had several soup choices, making Mom’s decision tough. But she never wavered in her salad choice. She always got Pea Salad. One of those tiny 6 oz. sauce dishes piled high with ice cold Pea Salad. Disgusting. I could barely look at it. When I finally grew up, I asked for Mom’s Pea Salad recipe, and still make it all the time.
|Mom’s recipe for German Chocolate Cake Frosting…|
When I became curious (as opposed to obsessed) about home canning, the first thing I wanted to can was pickled beets. The store bought ones don’t have very much flavor or zip. This was about 25 years ago. I mentioned to Mag I wanted to try my hand canning pickled beets. She tried to explain how to make them. Then she reached over, grabbed a scrap of paper, and wrote it down for me. She was about 80 then. Later I stopped at my sister-in-law Mary Jane’s house and mentioned Mag had given me the lowdown on pickled beets. Mary glanced at the recipe and said, “sorry Denise, Mag’s got the wrong amounts and she’s missing an ingredient.” I jotted down Mary Jane’s recipe, and have been making the best pickled beets ever since. But I’ve never been able to toss that precious, badly stained, handwritten envelope recipe which Mag took the time to write for me. It’s been nestled in my recipe box all these years. By the way, I need to thank Mary Jane for the best 1000 Island Dressing Recipe in the world. It’s the only highly guarded secret recipe I own. Which totally contradicts my whole theory on sharing recipes. That’s do as I say, not as I do.
|Mag’s handwritten version of pickled beets, circa 1989…|
My good friend Diane gave me her recipe for canned Bread N Butter Pickles about the same time as I was learning how to pickle my beets. It’s been one of my yearly staples every canning year. They are the best pickles. Absolutely the best. No kidding. The other recipe I got from Diane was a fluke. We were having them over for a barbecue. Diane said she would bring dessert. Diane walks in with a flower pot full of tulips. I thought to myself, how in the world does this centerpiece help me? Now what can I conjure up for dessert? Little did I know. This clever friend of mine made dirt. I had never heard of such a thing. She had a special flower pot filled with silk flowers. But the dirt was a surprise. Made of layers of a vanilla pudding concoction, with crushed Oreos in between. Which really resembles dirt. She even brought over a small spade used to serve the dirt. Complete with gummy worms throughout. Cutest dessert I’ve ever seen. She sure had me fooled.
|Another Mag recipe. Pecan Tassies…|
About 10 years ago, Joshua decided he wanted to make a banana cream pie. He called and asked for the recipe. “Just email it to me ma.” Well, I was fairly new to the computer world, and something about emailing that recipe just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was Mag’s recipe written on the envelope. Emailing it just didn’t feel right. I bought him a recipe box, and wrote by hand several of our family’s favorites. Like Taverns and fudge. I wanted him to have them in my half cursive, half printing scrawl. Something real to remember that I took the time to do for him. I did the same thing for my granddaughter, Ari. Bought a Longaberger Recipe Basket, filled it with my sloppy handwritten favorite recipes. She cried when I gave it to her. So did I. I imagine I’ll do the same thing with the rest of the grands as they grow up. If they want some recipes. So, many thanks to all the gals who have shared their favorite recipes with me over the years. Or asked me for one of mine…
|Mom’s Banana Cream Pie recipe…|