Sunday, September 2, 2018

Ramblings and Recipes, Part 3 - Life was good in Mom's Kitchen

"My mother's menu consisted of two choices. Take it or leave it." ~ Buddy Hackett
Mom used a percolator coffee pot, with that unmistakable sound and aroma every morning.  We had a wringer washing machine and we hung clothes out on the line to dry. Dishes were washed by hand, towel dried and put away in the cabinets. The grass was mowed with a push mower that used muscle power instead of a gas. We kids all had our chores to do.  Perhaps that’s why families were larger back then. More help around the house. Or maybe it’s because without NetFlix or HBO, parents spent more time in the bedroom instead of being in front of the TV.
Looking back, even with the rough spots, my childhood was good. Not like today. We would come home from school to the scent of freshly baked bread.  We would grab a hunk while it was still warm, smother it with butter and sometimes sprinkle a bit of sugar on it.  Yum!
One thing about my mother is that she loved to bake.  Other than the French fries she would make and drain on plain brown paper bags which we would scoop up to dip into her homemade chocolate pudding (don’t wrinkle your nose at that unless you’ve tried it!) most of the food I remember from her was something she would bake.  My mother loved her cast iron skillet and this is one of those treats that I remember her making in it:


·       1 large can Dole pineapple slices in syrup
·       ¼ cup butter
·       2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
·       ¾ cup sugar
·       1 cup flour
·       1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
·       ½ cup milk
·       1 egg
·       ½ teaspoon salt
·       ¼ cup shortening
·       1 teaspoon lemon juice
·       1 teaspoon vanilla
·       ¼ teaspoon lemon peel, grated
·       Maraschino cherries


1.    Drain pineapple, reserving 2 tablespoons syrup.
2.    Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet.  Stir in brown sugar until blended.  Remove from heat.
3.    Arrange pineapple slices in sugar mixture.  Place a Maraschino cherry in center of each slice.
4.    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add milk and shortening; beat 2 minutes.  Add egg, reserved syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and lemon peel; beat 2 minutes.
5.    Pour over pineapple in skillet, spreading evenly.
6.    Bake in a 350° F oven for 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.
7.    Invert onto serving plate.  Serve warm.

Another family favorite was my mom’s chocolate pudding-cake.  This was also one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.


·       1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
·       1 cup all-purpose flour
·       7 Tablespoons Cocoa, divided
·       2 teaspoons baking powder
·       ¼ teaspoon salt
·       ½ cup milk
·       1/3 cup margarine, melted
·       1 ½ cup vanilla extract
·       ½ cup light brown sugar
·       1 ¼ cups hot water


1.    Heat oven to 350°F.
2.    In a medium mixing bowl, combine ¾ cup sugar, flour, 3 Tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Blend in milk, melted margarine and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
3.    Pour batter into square 8x8x2” or 9x9x2” pan. 
4.    In a small bowl, combine remaining ½ cup sugar, brown sugar and remaining 4 Tablespoons Cocoa.  Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter.
5.    Gently pour hot water over top.  Do Not Stir!!
6.    Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Spoon into dessert dishes.

Another favorite treat when I was growing up was my mom’s homemade fudge.  I found her recipe tucked between the pages of one of her favorite cookbooks.  Apparently it had been torn from the back of a box of Hershey’s Cocoa.
I don’t recall my mom ever owning a candy thermometer when I was young. To test the fudge, she would simply drizzle a bit of the cooking fudge into a glass of water. If it stuck together into a soft ball, it was ready to be taken off the stove.


·       2/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
·       3 cups sugar
·       1/8 teaspoon salt
·       1 ½ cups milk
·       ¼ cup butter or margarine
·       1 teaspoon vanilla


1.    Lightly grease an 8” or 9” square pan.
2.    Thoroughly combine dry ingredients in a heavy 4-quart saucepan; stir in milk.
3.    Bring to a “bubbly” boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. 
4.    Boil without stirring to 234°F (soft-ball stage).  Bulb of candy thermometer should not rest on bottom of saucepan.
5.    Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla.  Do not stir.
6.    Cool at room temperature to 110°F.  Pan is barely warm to touch.
7.    Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and loses its gloss.  Quickly spread in pan.

That fudge was always a welcome after school treat!
Sometimes on the walk home from school we would sneak onto Mr. Chisholm’s pasture where his sheep were grazing.  If you got them right before they were sheared, a light weight person could dig their fingers into the wool and hop on for a little ride before old Mr. Chisholm could come running out to chase you. 
Saturday mornings were spent watching Mighty Mouse and Tom & Jerry on the TV.  When mom had enough of us, she would chase us out the back door to go play outside.  We would stay out there, riding our bikes, roller skating (if we could find our skate key), skipping rope, playing hide & seek, jacks, marbles and other games or just taking turns with the hula hoop, judging who could keep it going the longest before it slipped down to our ankles.   We built go-carts out of scraps and old skates, usually realizing too late that we didn’t know how to add brakes to our inventions.  We ate worms on a dare and made mud pies out of dirt.  We would take an occasional drink from the garden hose and we wouldn’t go back in the house until it started getting dark outside or until mom stood on the front porch and yelled for us to come home.  We didn’t have cell phones or computers, and our TV was still black & white.
I remember the first time I saw a color TV.  My dad took us to a family-type bar not far from home so that we could watch Bonanza on the color TV there while sipping a bottle of orange pop and munching on some chips.  It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen!  The blue sky and the green trees and the flesh tones of Hoss and Little Joe.  We did eventually get a color TV and we eventually got a telephone that wasn’t on a party line too.  Yes, life was good.


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