When wondering just how to approach the subject of recipes, and since it covers such a massive range of topics itself, I thought maybe a sampling of our family favorites might be appropriate. Compare them with some of your own. Most of the following offerings come from the days of comfort food, but also the times when physical work was a large part of daily life so there wasn’t a need for such concern as today about gaining weight. You may find a couple of ideas worthy of consideration even now, however.
Greens ‘n More
For example, since salt pork, which flavored all kinds of greens, is insanely bad for you, a beef bouillon cube comes to the rescue as seasoning. In fact I have been using this for years when I was out of ham or bacon, and because we include them so rarely in our meals. Our family has been enjoying kale, collard, and turnip greens for years, long before the current kale craze. Two quarts of boiling water with two beef bouillon cubes provides the medium for well-washed and trimmed greens; a mixture of greens is often very flavorful as well. And, by the way, cooked greens eaten with a few drops of apple cider vinegar with a piece of grilled trout or tilapia along with about a half cup of tangy apple slaw is an amazing detour along the path of heart rending fats. There are other recipes for slaw, but I was avoiding the use of mayonnaise of any sort. Of course the slaw and grilled tilapia make for tasty fish tacos, too.
Uncomplicated Macaroni and Cheese
My offerings would not be complete without the contribution of one of my grandmothers…I really don’t know which, maternal or paternal. Because of its tasty simplicity, children have lapped it up for at least four generations; adults consider it an all-time favorite as well. Here is the jewel:
- 2 Cups small elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions; drained (do not rinse) and tossed with about a half teaspoon of butter
- A bit over 1Cup of scalded milk (either 1 or 2%)
- At least one pound of sharp cheddar cheese, sliced; if you like it nice and cheesy, like our kids like it, keep a bag of the grated 2% sharp cheddar handy to fill in any “gaps.”
- In a well-greased 2 quart ovenproof bowl, make three layers of macaroni noodles, completely topping each one with cheese. Add grated cheese on top as desired. Pour milk over all.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 – 30 minutes till top looks nicely browned. Once out of the oven, let set for about 5 minutes.
Whenever our kids come to visit, this is a must have.
The Chocolate Cake
Another required item for family gatherings, especially birthdays, is “the” chocolate cake. My mother-in-law made this chocolate cake for my husband for his birthday one year and it quickly obtained a place of honor in the family favorites. It is really not a big secret, but how she put it together is what makes it special. It consists of a well-known quality yellow cake mix, made as three eight inch layers and two cans of the same brand of chocolate fudge frosting. I guess when making the delicacy either the morning of, or the day before eating, it becomes moister with the fudge flavor. But whatever the reason there is sweet closure to the event if that dessert is present.
The last treat that must make the final cut is strawberry parfait. As a senior in college, Elaine and Zack, good friends of mine, taught me how to make boiled custard. Now that might seem really boring to you, but made by their instructions turns into the most beautiful vanilla flavored silk you have ever tasted. Layered with fresh, pick of the season sliced strawberries, gives a sweetness you want to never end. After graduation, my husband and I went to live in England and had the privilege of going strawberry picking. The parfait fast became a favorite he longs for at many special occasions.
I am sure your repertoire of family favorites differs to a large degree, but no doubt there are must haves along with lots of stories to go around. The next gatherings, whether at holiday times, or other special occasions, pull out a long lost, treasured recipe and try your hand at preparing it. Or, better still try it for a meal during the week, you might just have hit upon a new beloved stand by. Remember, you can eat comfort food; portions are the key factor in controlling this occasional pleasure. Have fun!
Jennifer Hawkins is a professional chef and restaurant owner who knows what meals to make to keep the family happy. She often covers topics relating to diet and nutrition and she recently wrote an article about nutrition in nuts.
Photo Credit: More Good Foundation