Bless Your Spoon: Homecooked meals speak for themselves

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

By Stephanie Williams Dean

My mother wasn’t a fabulous cook, but she had a way of making you think she was. Her secret? She kept a list of tried and true recipes under her belt — a file box of easy, delicious entrees, side dishes, and desserts. While Mom cooked daily, tasty meals for her family, she saved “secret” recipes for special occasions — the best of the best. Mom perfected her favorites to be savored by guests, and she excelled at entertaining. Her secret recipes are still some of my favorites. In a way, you might say Mom was somewhat of an illusionist, giving everyone the impression of being a great cook.

But when it comes to mealtime, some things you just can’t fake, like good table manners. Some folks don’t think they’re essential but they are. I’m grateful to my mother for the good practices she instilled in me: saying the blessing before eating, not putting my elbows or arms on the table, chewing with my mouth closed, not talking with food in my mouth, not smacking, which direction to pass the food, and from which side to serve and remove plates, and proper setting of a table — yes, even placing my glass at the very tip of the knife.

Do you remember those long teaspoons? They’re rarely seen today. Did you ever wonder what to do with the spoon after stirring your iced tea? After all, no one wanted to stain a tablecloth. You’re supposed to keep the spoon in the glass. While sipping the tea, you hold it over to the side with the index finger. I guess that’s why they’re no longer used. We can thank Amy Vanderbilt’s “Complete Book of Etiquette” for that tidbit of trivia. Mom gave me a copy of her book, of course. But it’s true, good manners never go out of style.

So, if you had a momma who taught you the mother lode of good manners, you were blessed. If you were taught to say, “Mother, may I,” you were blessed. And, if you were taught to ask, “May I have more potatoes, please,” or “May I be excused from the table?”, you were blessed. If your momma peppered you with advice, possessing an attitude of “mother knows best,” you were blessed. If you were raised to respect Mother Nature, be sensitive to the earth, and kind to animals, you were blessed. If your momma exemplified Mother Teresa’s attitude, teaching you how to treat people kindly, you were blessed. And if she taught you to thank the Lord and say grace before eating, you were blessed.

Proverbs 31:26 reads, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

Celebrate your mom by preparing any of these homemade meals for brunch, lunch or dinner. She’ll feel like the queen you know she is, and you’ll feel blessed for doing it.

You can’t fake a delicious home-cooked meal. You’ll display no false bravado and no faulty claims will be expressed. Everyone will already believe you’re a great cook. Delicious food speaks for itself — and you.

Marinated Salmon Filets

• ½ cup crushed pineapple

• ¼ cup soy sauce

• 2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger

• 1 tsp. minced clove garlic

• 1 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil

• 1½ lb. fresh salmon filets

In a mixer bowl, combine pineapple with juice, soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic and oil. Marinate the salmon filets overnight, turning once. Grill.

Maple Pork Tenderloin

• ¼ cup pure Maple syrup

• 5 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

• 2 Tbsp. garlic salt

• Salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1 pork tenderloin

Rinse the tenderloin and pat dry with paper towel. Pour the maple syrup and Dijon mustard on the meat. With your hands, rub it in well. Sprinkle meat with garlic, salt and pepper on both sides of meat. Allow to marinate for 1 hour. Cook on a hot grill to sear the outside. Lower heat and grill until done. Don’t overcook as it should be juicy and tender. Maple syrup makes this, so use liberally. It must be pure maple syrup and not pancake syrup.

Baked Sliced Ham with Fruit Chutney

• 1 4-pound boneless, fully cooked ham

• 1 lb. drained peach slices

• ¾ cup cider vinegar

• ½ cup light brown sugar

• ½ cup minced onion

• 1 peeled, cored, chopped apple

• ½ juiced lemon

• 1 tsp. pickling spices

For the ham, in a shallow pan, roast in a 325-degree oven until meat thermometer reads 140-degrees or 1½-2¼ hours. To serve, thinly slice ham with peach chutney on side. For the chutney, chop peaches coarsely. In a saucepan, combine peaches, cider vinegar, sugar, onion, apple, lemon juice and pickling spices. Simmer 25-30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature with baked ham.

Grits Ring with Creole Shrimp

• 5 cups boiling water

• 1¼ cup white hominy grits

• 1¼ tsp. salt

Creole Shrimp

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• ½ cup chopped onion

• ½ cup chopped green pepper

• ½ cup chopped celery

• ¼ cup all-purpose flour

• 2 cups tomato juice

• 2 minced clove garlic

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

•1 tsp. salt

• 2 cups small cooked shrimp

For the ring, boil water. Slowly add grits, cover and cook 30 minutes while frequently stirring. Pour into a greased 5-cup ring mold. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, unmold onto plate and pour shrimp mixture over top. You can just serve the grits regularly, but the ring makes it more festive.

Potato, Pepper and Corned Beef Skillet

• 12 oz. cubed cooked corned beef

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 lb. peeled, cooked, cubed russet potatoes

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• 1 chopped onion

• 1/3 cup each chopped green, red, yellow bell pepper

• 3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

• ¼ cup half and half

• 3 tbsp. white wine

• ½ tsp. dry mustard

• 1/8th tsp. freshly grated black pepper

• 1 Tbsp. salted butter

In a large saucepan, boil water. Add salt and potatoes and boil for 5 minutes. Drain well. In a heavy skillet, melt butter. Cook onion and peppers for 3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. To the onion mixture, add corned beef, potatoes and parsley, and gently mix. In a bowl, combine half and half, wine, mustard and pepper. Add to corned beef mixture. Mix well. Wipe out skillet, add butter and melt. Add corned beef mixture. Cook hash 15 minutes while pressing down firmly until browned. Turn with a flat spatula several times until evenly browned.

Asian Egg and Bok Choy Scramble

• 1 Tbsp. salted butter

• 2 cups chopped Bok choy

• 2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 tsp. instant chicken bouillon

• 1 tsp. sesame seeds

• ¼ tsp. ground ginger

In a 1-quart baking dish, melt butter and cook Bok choy and onion on high for 1 minute. In a bowl, beat eggs and add bouillon, sesame seeds and ginger until blended. Pour over vegetables. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, stirring each minute or until eggs are set.

Cheese, Ham and Onion Omelet

• 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ cup chopped onion

• 4 large eggs

• 2 oz. cooked, diced ham or bacon

• 1 tsp. salted butter

• ¼ cup finely grated Swiss or cheddar cheese

• Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a deep skillet with lid, heat oil. Add onion and cook on medium heat 4 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat eggs with whisk until foamy. Chop meats and set aside. Remove cooked onion to a bowl, and wipe skillet clean. Add butter and melt. Pour in beaten eggs and cook 3-4 minutes until edges are set. Reduce heat to low. Sprinkle onion and ham over half of omelet. Add cheese on top. Salt and pepper. Using a wide spatula, fold plain half of omelet over the filled half. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes or until cheese melts and omelet is done. Serve whole or cut in half.

Roasted Asparagus

• 1 large bunch of asparagus

• 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tsp. or 2-3 chopped cloves garlic

Cut off tough ends of asparagus spears making all the same length. Place in a glass baking dish. Toss with olive oil to coat all spears. Allow to stand 30 minutes. Salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and toss. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove and toss. Perfect and crisp.

Green Bean Salad

• 1/3 cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 1 cup vinegar

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. oregano

• 2 chopped cloves garlic

• 2 cans drained green beans

• 2 cans drained yellow wax beans

• 2 cans drained red chili beans

• ½ cup chopped peppers

• ½ cup chopped onions

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing, in a large bowl, mix oil, vinegar, sugar, oregano and garlic. Set aside. Drain all beans and add to dressing. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

Prima Pasta Salad

• 8 oz. cooked, drained Rotini macaroni

• 1 head steamed broccoli florets

• 1 cup diced fresh tomato

• ¼ cup chopped green pepper

• ¼ cup diced onion

• ¾ cup premium mayonnaise

• ½ cup zesty Italian dressing

Cook macaroni and drain. Steam broccoli florets. In a large bowl, combine macaroni and broccoli and gently mix. Add onions, tomatoes and peppers and gently mix. In a bowl, combine mayonnaise and Italian dressing. Gently fold into pasta and mix thoroughly.

Strawberry Filled Corn Muffins

• 2 beaten eggs

• 3¾ cup all-purpose flour

• 1¼ cups yellow cornmeal

• 5 tsp. baking powder

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

• ½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 1½ cups buttermilk

• 1/3 cup fresh strawberry preserves

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and nutmeg while alternating with oil and buttermilk. Mix well. Fill muffin cups half full with batter. Drop a tsp. of jam into center of batter. Then fill up with batter. Bake in a 400-degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Leave in pan and allow to cool.

Strawberry Preserves

• 1 quart fresh sliced strawberries or peaches

• 3 cups sugar

Put 1½ cup sugar with fruit and boil 5 minutes. Add remaining sugar and boil 10-15 minutes. Turn into an earthenware jar and allow to stand 24 hours before canning. Boil only 1 quart at a time.

Strawberry Preserve Cake and Butterscotch Icing

• 2/3 cup Crisco shortening

• 1 cup sugar

• 3 eggs

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp soda

• 1 tsp. allspice

• 1 tsp. cloves

• 1 tsp. cinnamon

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 cup chopped fresh strawberry preserves

Butterscotch Frosting

• 1 cup firm packed light brown sugar

• 3 Tbsp. Crisco shortening

• 2 Tbsp. salted butter

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ¼ cup whole milk

• 1½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

In a mixer bowl, add cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition. Add flour, soda, allspice, cloves and cinnamon while alternating with milk. Mix well. Fold in jam. Mix well. For the icing, in a saucepan, combine brown sugar, shortening, butter and salt and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. Add milk and boil for 3-4 minutes. Cool. Add confectioners’ sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread on top and between layers.

Family Style Strawberry Dessert

• 1 pound softened, salted butter

• 2¼ cups sugar

• 2 quarts quartered strawberries

• 1 cup chopped pecans

• 2 boxes crushed vanilla wafers

• 3 stiffly beaten egg whites

• Whipped cream

In a bowl, add cream butter and sugar. Add quartered berries and chopped nuts. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the fruit mixture and gently mix. Crush vanilla wafers. Line a large flat pan with wafer crumbs. Add a layer of berry mixture, thin layer of crumbs, and so on until pan is filled, ending with crumbs. Chill 12 hours. Serve in squares and garnish with whipped cream. Serves 24. You can half the recipe if you have fewer to serve.

Strawberry Punch Bowl Cake

• 1 white or butter Duncan Cake mix

• Fresh strawberries

• Crushed, undrained pineapple

• Sliced bananas

• Chopped pecans

• Cool Whip

• Maraschino cherries

Bake cake mix according to directions on box. Crumble small amount of cake in bottom of a glass bowl. Add layers of fresh sliced strawberries, crushed pineapple, sliced bananas, chopped pecans. Last layer should be Cool Whip. Top with maraschino cherries. You can use pound cake instead as well as other layered fruits, coconut, and raisins if desired. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Layered Mandarin Cream Cake

• 4 beaten eggs

• 1 box Duncan Hines plain yellow cake mix

• ½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• 11 oz. undrained Mandarin oranges

Pineapple Icing

• 3 oz. instant vanilla pudding mix

• 9 oz. refrigerated whipped topping

• 1 large can undrained, crushed pineapple

For the cake, in a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add yellow cake mix and vegetable oil. Mix well. Fold in mandarin oranges with juice and gently mix. Pour into 4 well-greased and floured, 8-inch cake pans. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes. For the icing, in a mixer bowl, add pudding mix. Mix in whipped topping and pineapple with juice. Spread on top and in between cake layers. Refrigerate.

Celebration Citrus Milk Punch

• 1½ quart softened vanilla ice cream

• 3 cups chilled pineapple juice

• 1/3 cup fresh orange juice

• 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• 3 cups cold whole milk

In a mixer bowl, while beating softened ice cream, gradually add fruit juice and then milk. Beat until frothy. Serve immediately. Pour directly into glasses or a cold punch bowl. Serve with Mandarin Cream Cake. Yields 3 quarts.