Sunday, August 26, 2018

Ramblings and Recipes, Part 2 - Memories of Grandparents

              "On the seventh day God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town."   ~ Gene Perret

Sundays always meant going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We were extremely well behaved there.  The reason?  Any child who misbehaved was given the job of cleaning out grandpa’s spittoon.  Gross.  Grandpa chewed tobacco and there is nothing I can think of that smells worse than a dirty spittoon. 
Grandpa wasn’t the only relative with that disgusting habit of chewing tobacco. 
I had a great-aunt who lived to be 109.  My only memory of her was seeing her sitting in her rocker on the wooden front porch of her little house with a jug of moonshine on the floor next to her on one side and a spittoon on the other.  She would rock forward and catch the hook of that jug with her finger, heave it up to her mouth, take a swig on the rock back and set the jug back down as she rocked forward again.  One easy movement.  A couple more rocks and she would lean forward and spit into that spittoon.  Then it started all over again.  Another swig of moonshine, another chaw of tobacco and another spit into that spittoon.  She was a crotchety old woman and it amazed me that she lived to such a ripe old age.  My dad used to say it was because Heaven didn’t want her and Hell was afraid she’d take over.

My grandma on my father’s side of the family passed away when he was a young child, so I never had the chance to meet her.  She was from Sweden and brought with her my Swedish heritage and my love of Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian foods.  One of those foods, quite common in the Upper Michigan peninsula where my father was raised, is Pasties.  These are little meat and vegetable pies that we served with ketchup.



·       Pie dough, enough to make six 8” rounds.
·       8 oz. ground beef or venison
·       4 oz. rutabaga, diced
·       1 medium carrot, diced
·       1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
·       1 small russet potato, peeled and diced
·       ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
·       Salt and Pepper to taste
·       1 egg, whisked
·       Ketchup, for serving


1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.    Mix together the beef, rutabaga, carrots, onions, potatoes and parsley.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Set aside until ready to form pies.
3.    Cut the pie dough into six even pieces and form into balls.  Flour a work surface and roll out each ball of dough into an 8” circle.
4.    Evenly divide the filling onto one half of each dough circle and fold the dough over in half to cover the mixture.  Crimp the edges with a fork and slice three small slits on top of each pocket to allow steam to escape.
5.    Brush the pasties with egg and bake on the prepared baking sheet until the crust is golden brown and flaky, about 1 ¼ hours.  Serve with ketchup.

After my grandmother died, my grandpa remarried an Italian woman.  She’s the grandma I grew up knowing.  Dinner at her house on Sunday’s was always an Italian treat.  Her pasta and sauces were always homemade and simmered to perfection.  Although I never got her actual recipe, my sister and I developed something that tasted almost as good.  For convenience, we substituted canned tomato sauce for the fresh tomatoes my grandma used.

·       1 lb. mild Italian sausage
·       1 lb. hot Italian sausage
·       1 large onion, chopped
·       2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
·       ½ pound fresh mushrooms
·       2 29-oz. cans Hunts Tomato Sauce
·       1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
·       ¼ cup red wine (more if drinking while cooking)
·       2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
·       ¼ teaspoon salt
·       2 medium bay leaves
·       Dash of pepper


1.      Wash, slice and sauté mushrooms.  Set aside.
2.      Brown meat with onion and garlic until crumbly; drain off grease.
3.      In a large pot, combine tomato sauce, wine and all seasonings.
4.      Add meat mixture and mushrooms to sauce.
5.      Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer two hours, stirring occasionally.
6.      Serve over pasta with freshly ground parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

  Note:  PLEASE do not use the parmesan cheese that comes in a can.  Trust me on this.    Fresh parmesan is so much better!

Here is another recipe that we tried to formulate from our taste bud memories.  It’s pretty close to the real thing in taste.


·       1 lb. lean ground beef
·       ½ cup chopped onions
·       1 cup sliced carrots
·       ½ cup chopped celery
·       2 garlic cloves, minced
·       ½ teaspoon salt
·       ¼ cup chili sauce
·       6 cups water
·       1 (19 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
·       1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
·       1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, undrained
·       1 (14 oz.) can ready-to-serve beef broth
·       1 cup uncooked large macaroni rings


1.      Brown ground beef in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked, stirring   frequently.  Drain.
2.      Reduce heat to medium.  Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic and salt.  Mix well.  Cook 5-8   minutes, or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
3.      Add all remaining ingredients except macaroni; mix well.  Bring to a boil.
4.      Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes to blend flavors.
5.      Add uncooked macaroni; cook 8-10 minutes or until macaroni is of desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.


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