Bless Your Spoon: Favorites from family cookbook

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

By Stephanie Williams Dean

A favorite treasure is my printed family cookbook. I received my copy of the book, “Thru the Years — A Collection of Recipes and Remembrances,” years ago at my mother’s family reunion. The book’s highly valued for the cherished memories it evokes, and a special family reminiscence that’s included with each recipe.

Mom’s family, the Greens, was large — she was one of 13 children, 10 of which were girls. Being surrounded by so many strong and remarkable women who loved to cook, I developed an appreciation for food and family dinners at an early age. Nothing fancy, just good ol’ Southern cooking. We were a close-knit family, so holiday and birthday celebrations were quite the events. Any get-together included a smorgasbord of delicious food at potluck-style gatherings. My many cousins, whose ages spanned a wide range, contributed as well — there wasn’t a single inch of table space left.

My first cousin, Leo Vincent, nicknamed “Skipper,” later went on to become the executive chef at the Pineapple Room, at Cheekwood Estate and Botanical Gardens in my hometown, Nashville.

When the reunion was being planned, each family member was asked to provide passed-down recipes for the “treasured recipe” book — a great idea for preserving vintage favorites. What resulted was a priceless heirloom of vintage family favorites that spanned three generations.

Featured today are a few “oldies but goodies” from which you can pull brunch, lunch or dinner together in a snap. With so many shut-ins this time of year, consider inviting someone over for a meal.

Winter’s got a secure hold on us with some cold, snowy weather. If you’re homebound, a worthy project would be compiling your own treasured, heirloom recipes. It’s the perfect time to get your extended family involved. One of the reasons I cook is to honor my culinary traditions.

My Uncle Leon, the oldest of my mother’s siblings, often spoke these words to the children before eating,

“Let’s go to bed said Sleepy Head,

Tarry awhile said Slow

Put on the pot said Greedy Gut

We’ll eat before we go”

Skipper’s Pineapple Room Herb Cheese

• 1½ lb. softened cream cheese

• ½ Tbsp. dry basil

• ½ Tbsp. dry dill

• ½ Tbsp. garlic powder

In a bowl, combine softened cream cheese, basil, dill and garlic powder. Whip until smooth. Transfer cheese to a mold and refrigerate overnight. Serve with artisan crackers as a spread for an appetizer. Can also be used in potatoes, grits, etc. as a flavoring.

Barb & Sonny’s Ginger Fruit Tea

• 4 brewed family size tea bags

• 1-quart water

• 1½ cups sugar

• 1 lg. can frozen, thawed orange juice

• 1 lg. can frozen, thawed lemonade

• 1-quart ginger ale

Brew tea bags in 1 quart of water. Place in a gallon pitcher. Add frozen then softened cans of orange juice and lemonade. Mix well. Add ginger ale. Mix well. Add enough water to make a gallon. Stir well and serve cold.

Suzanne’s Orange Julius

• 6 oz. frozen orange juice (do not thaw)

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1 cup water

• ½ cup sugar

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 14 large ice cubes

In a blender, add frozen, unthawed orange juice, milk water, sugar and vanilla. Blend all ingredients in blender. Makes 1 blender full and serves 6 wine glasses. Serve immediately after blending while still frothy.

Peg’s Buttermilk Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

• 2 cups brown sugar

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 egg

• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. soda

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a mixer bowl, combine brown sugar, flour and oil. Mix well. Remove ½ cup of this mixture to another bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. flour and 1 tsp. cinnamon to the removed ½ cup mixture. Set aside. Combine remaining sugar mixture with the egg, buttermilk, salt, soda and vanilla. Bake in a butter-greased baking pan. Sprinkle reserved topping evenly over the top. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. Peg is my first cousin and serves this coffee cake for small groups at church.

Cousin Boo’s Sausage Souffle

• 1 lb. cooked, drained regular sausage

• 6 eggs

• 2 cups whole milk

• 6 slices, crustless, cubed bread

• 1 cup grated Velveeta cheese

• 1 tsp. dry mustard

• 1 tsp. salt

In a skillet, cook sausage until brown and crumbly. Drain well on paper towels. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Beat in milk and mix well. Cut crusts off bread and cube. Add to egg mixture. Add grated cheese, dry mustard and salt. Mix well. Fold in sausage and mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Bake in a butter greased 8×10 baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300-degrees, and bake additional 15 minutes. This dish was made for a wedding breakfast given in honor of my sister, Suzanne.

Magg & Todd’s Mater-Onion Linguine Salad

• 1 lg. pkg. linguini

• 1 lg. bottle Italian dressing

• 1 diced red onion

• 1 diced tomato

• Sliced ripe olives (optional)

• Garlic salt, to taste

• Dry Italian seasoning, to taste

• 2 sliced hard-boiled eggs

Prepare linguini according to pkg. directions. Drain well. In a bowl, combine linguini, dressing, onion, tomato, olives and spices. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs. Refrigerate for several hours and serve cold. Todd is my second cousin. My cousins span a wide age range, and I have many third cousins.

Zannie’s Chicken Pasta Salad

• 2 cooked, chopped whole chicken breasts

• 4 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar

• 8 oz. cooked, drained pasta

• 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 1 cup chopped celery

• ½ cup chopped green pepper

• 3 tbsp. chopped green onion

• ½ cup chopped parsley

• 2 Tbsp. chopped pimento

• 1½ tsp salt

• ½ tsp. dill weed, and celery seed

• 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• ¼ tsp. Creole seasoning

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

• 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

The day before serving, sprinkle chopped chicken with vinegar and some salt. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, cook pasta and toss with olive oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine celery, green pepper, onion, parsley and pimento. Mix well. Add salt, dill weed, celery seed, black pepper and Creole seasoning. Don’t leave the Creole seasoning out. Mix well. Add mayonnaise and lemon juice. Toss everything and refrigerate at least 3 or more hours. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Serve on lettuce leaves. Serves 8. My sister, Suzanne, is often called Zannie.

Birdie & Tittle’s 3-Meat Tomato Loaf

• 1 beaten egg

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 2 cups bread crumbs/cornbread

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 4 tbsp. chopped onion

• ¼ cup yellow mustard

• 2½ tsp. salt

• ¾ tsp. freshly ground pepper

• ¼ tsp paprika

• ½ lb. ground pork

• ½ lb. ground veal

• ½ lb. ground beef

• 1 can tomato puree

In a mixer bowl, beat egg. Add milk and mix well. Add bread crumbs, flour, onion, mustard, salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well. In a large bowl, combine and mix all three meats. Gradually add the bread crumb mixture to the meat mixture. Mix well. Transfer to a greased loaf pan. Pour tomato puree on top. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1½-2 hours. My mother’s oldest brother, Leon, often was called “Tittle” by his many sisters.

Missy’s Creamy Family Chicken Bake

• 4 skinless, boneless, cooked, cubed breasts

• 1 small carton sour cream

• Can cream of mushroom soup

• 1 chopped medium onion

• 1 bag herbed stuffing mix

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 1 cup reserved chicken broth

Cook and cube chicken. Reserve broth and set aside. In a bowl, combine cubed chicken, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and chopped onion. Mix well. In a saucepan, melt butter. Pour in bag of stuffing and mix well. Don’t cook. In the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, put ½ of the stuffing mix. Spoon the chicken mixture on top. Spread top evenly with the remainder of the stuffing mix. Pour 1 cup of broth around the entire top of casserole. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Missy is married to my second cousin, David.

Aunt Gin Gin’s Hot Almond Chicken

• 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

• 2 cups chopped almonds

• 2 cups chopped celery

• 1 cup cracker crumbs

• 6 fine-chopped hard-boiled eggs

• 2 cans cream of chicken soup

• 4 Tbsp. grated onion

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixer bowl, combine chicken, almonds, celery, cracker crumbs and finely chopped eggs. Mix well. Add coup, grated onion, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a well-greased baking dish in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes.

Aunt Hattie’s Asparagus Casserole

• 1 can asparagus

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

• ½ cup evaporated milk

• Reserved asparagus liquid

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ cup fine cracker crumbs

• 1 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• ½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Drain asparagus and reserve liquid. Set asparagus spears aside. In a skillet, melt butter. Blend in salt and pepper. Add enough milk to reserved asparagus liquid to equal 1½ cups liquid. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes. In a butter-greased baking dish, layer asparagus, cracker crumbs, chopped eggs, and sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Tittle & Birdie’s Cauliflower Au Gratin

• ½ stick melted, salted butter

• 1 heaping Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 cup whole milk

• 8 oz. cubed Velveeta cheese

• 2 Tbsp. melted, salted butter

• 10 crushed saltine crackers

• 1 cauliflower (or other vegetable)

In a skillet, melt butter. Add flour and stir out any lumps. Remove from heat. Add milk while slowly stirring until incorporated. Add cubes of Velveeta. Heat until it melts while stirring. Crush salting crackers. In another skillet, melt butter and mix in crushed crackers. Heat until browned. In a saucepan, boil cauliflower or other vegetable. Drain and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour cheese mixture over cauliflower. Sprinkle browned crumbs on top. Do not cover. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Aunt Hootsie’s Fudge Pudding Pie

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 cup sugar

• ½ cup softened, salted butter

• 1 oz. melted, unsweetened chocolate

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ cup sifted all-purpose flour

• ½ cup finely chopped pecans

• 1-pint vanilla ice cream

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Beat in sugar. Beat in softened butter, melted chocolate, and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add flour, beating just until it combines. Fold in nuts. Spread batter evenly in bottom of a butter-greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool. To serve, cut in wedges and top each with a scoop of ice cream.

Aunt Rene-Rene’s Vinegar-Cornmeal Pie

• 3 beaten eggs

• 1½ cups sugar

• ¼ cup melted, salted butter

• 2 tsp. vinegar

• 2 Tbsp. heaping, cornmeal

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 9-inch pie shell

• Sprinkle of nutmeg

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and mix well. Add melted butter and vinegar. Mix well. Add cornmeal and flour while alternating with milk and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a 9-inch pie shell. Generously sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes or until done. This is easy to make and like an old-fashioned chess pie. Delicious!

Lindy Lee’s Chicago Sunshine Cake

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix (no pudding)

• 1 small box instant vanilla pudding

• ½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• ½ cup water

• 8 oz. sour cream

• 6 oz. chocolate chips

• 1 oz. grated German chocolate bar

Butter Cream and Nut Frosting

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 8 oz. cream cheese

• 1 box confectioner’s sugar

• ½ tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ cup chopped pecans

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add cake mix and vanilla pudding while alternating with oil, water and sour cream. Mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and a grated chocolate bar. Reserve some shavings for cake decoration. Bake cake in a well-greased Bundt pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 55 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. For the frosting, in a mixer bowl, cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Fold in chopped pecans. Mix well. Frost cake and top with chocolate shavings. This recipe was submitted by my second cousin, Lindy Lee on behalf of her mother, my first cousin, Mary Ruth, who passed from breast cancer.

Judy’s Easy Jell-o Cake Dessert

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 box Duncan Hines plain white cake mix

• 1 small box strawberry Jell-o

• ¾ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• ¾ cup water

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Beat in boxed cake mix and small box of Jell-o (your favorite flavor) while alternating with Wesson oil and water until mixed thoroughly. Cake batter will be thin. Bake in a well-greased tube pan in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Does not require icing — just eat! Judy is my cousin Skipper’s wife.