Way-Back Advent Calendar: Holiday Foods

This recipe of my grandma’s for Cocktail Meat Balls can be used any time of year, but I associate them with winter-time parties, especially around Christmas, New Year’s and the Superbowl. I need to figure out a way to make them without eggs (due to an allergy), because I love these things. She claims this recipe makes 65 servings. That’s not 65 Missy-size servings, I can tell you. Thanks to my Aunt Dorrie for letting me scan this.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Guest Post: Finding Community Cookbook Collections

Note from Missy: Below is a guest post by my friend Gena Philibert-Ortega on using community cookbooks to further your genealogical research. How fun it would be to discover a new-to-you recipe once cooked by an ancestor or relative. Enjoy!

By Gena Philibert-Ortega

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com. From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

During this week of guest posting about food and family history, I’ve mentioned the importance of community cookbooks. In my opinion, community cookbooks are an important source that is overlooked in genealogical research. Researching these cookbooks can yield names, addresses, photos, ethnic origins and family history. In addition to the information about an individual family member you also glean clues about the organization that published the cookbook, their history, local business advertisements and other gems. In one church cookbook where I found a list of those buried in the church cemetery. This type of information can help you recreate your female ancestor’s community.

Community cookbooks like other genealogical documents do have their down side, they can be difficult to find.  Many repositories have not considered them worthy of archiving so to find a collection for your ancestor’s locality can be difficult.

To begin your search, as with any genealogical search, start with the homes of relatives. In some cases they may have a copy of a cookbook that they or another family member contributed to. From there consider checking available bibliographies, archival/library collections, digitized book sites and online auction websites. If you are in the area where your ancestor lived, you can expand your search to local library collections, used bookstores, antique and thrift stores.

Two bibliographies that may assist you are:

Cook, Margaret. America’s Charitable Cooks: A Bibliography of Fund-Raising Cook Books Published in the United States (1861-1915). Kent, Ohio, 1971.

Driver, Elizabeth. Culinary Landmarks: A Bibliography of Canadian Cookbooks, 1825-1949. Toronto [Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2008. I

Collections of community cookbooks can be found in libraries.  I have links to these collections on my blog Food.Family.Epherma.  The following is a list of just a few of these collections:

Los Angeles Public Library

William L Clements Library, University of Michigan

University of Illinois Library

Radcliff Institute, Harvard University, Schlesinger Library

While a library or archive in your ancestor’s locality might hold the promise of a collection of community cookbooks, another place to search is an Internet auction site like eBay.  Community cookbooks are well represented on eBay.  These cookbooks run the gamut of church, school, and organizational books spanning the 19th and 20th century.

When searching on eBay, make sure to try various keywords so that you search can be as comprehensive as possible.  Some search terms to try include “community cookbook” “church cookbooks” or “charity cookbooks” “fundraising cookbooks.” You can also specify a type of cookbook in your search like “Grange Cookbook” or “Methodist Cookbook.” Consider creating an alert for an ancestor’s locality, church, membership organization  or a cookbook search to be notified by eBay when new items come up for sale.

One book that explores community cookbooks is the book, Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories edited by Anne L. Bower.  A preview of this book is available from Google Books.

(c) 2012 Gary Clark, http://www.PhotoTree.com

To read more about community cookbooks, please consult my new book From the Family Kitchen. I also spotlight recipes from community cookbooks weekly on my blog Food.Family.Ephemera

Mom’s Fried Flounder Plus a Tale of Soggy Spinach & Childhood Angst

This post also is available at my food blog, Freezer Full.

When I was little, my mom made fried flounder. A lot. And she always served the same thing with it. Soggy, boiled, previously frozen spinach that no amount of “Real Lemon” juice from a plastic bottle was going to save.

I hated flounder night.

I avoided the fish for years. Then, one night in my twenties, I had an epiphany. Flounder didn’t have to be served with spinach! I called mom to tell her about my discovery and asked for her fried flounder recipe.

Mom’s Fried Flounder (this is how I wrote it down during our phone conversation)

coating of flour w/salt & pepper
egg white w/water

coat one hour before

canola oil and butter or corn or olive (I’m sure I asked her, “But what if I don’t have canola oil?” Personally, I wouldn’t use olive oil)
1/2 in. thick in non-stick pan
enough heat for flour to sizzle nicely
1-2 filets at a time
serve with lemon

Tonight, I added Old Bay to the flour instead of salt and pepper. I coated the fish in the egg white-water mixture before dredging in the flour mixture. Then I let it sit in the fridge for a while before finishing the dish pretty much as described above (I used just canola oil in the pan). I fried the flounder for 2 minutes on each side and then patted the excess oil off with paper towels before putting it on the plate.

Instead of spinach, I served roasted broccoli and roasted potatoes. The broccoli was really, really good. I’m just glad I checked on it early because it was done in the oven in less than 10 minutes (the broccoli I bought at the farmer’s market is way more delicate than what you find at the supermarket).

For the roasted potatoes, I just washed some small potatoes (also from the farmer’s market), dried them and cut the larger ones so they were all the same size in the pan. I tossed them in olive oil and Old Bay and popped them in the oven with the broccoli. They did take 25 minutes. I cooked the fish during the last five minutes.

Voilà.

Fearless Females: Favorite Recipe

This post is part of the Fearless Females series for the month of March, Women’s History Month. Thanks to Lisa Alzo for putting together this list!

Today’s prompt: “March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.”

As I type this, the sauce described in this post is bubbling on my stove. My absolute favorite meal growing up was my mom’s spaghetti sauce. I loved coming home from school to the familiar smell of it simmering on the stove. It doesn’t taste like any other sauce I’ve ever had.

Including my own attempts to make it. Lest any of my relatives think I’m blasphemous for posting mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe on the Web, never fear. I’m not. Because I don’t have it.

Oh, I have a recipe, but it’s not the real deal.

What I do have is a recipe that mom dictated to me about eight years ago. My mom was dying of cancer and as I spent time with her during those last couple of months, I asked her to tell me how she made some of my favorite dishes.

She struggled with this one. She never made it from a recipe herself and she almost never measured, so she had to guess as to whether she used a tablespoon vs. a teaspoon of this or that.

At a different time, she dictated a recipe for the same dish to my sister, but there were differences. In the photo I’ve taken of my version of the recipe, which is much splattered with tomato sauce, you can see some ingredients written in different ink from the rest. These I added when my sister and I compared notes after I complained that I just couldn’t get the recipe right.

In the years since, I’ve come close to recreating the spaghetti sauce of my childhood. What’s simmering on my stove now smells like what I remember. But it won’t be the same.  I’ll never be able to adjust the recipe for what’s missing.

Mom.

This batch actually came pretty darn close...

Preserving Family Recipes

Someone recently found my blog after searching for the phrase “preserving recipes through scrapbooking.” This is something I love to do — last year, my Christmas present to my sister was a book I produced by scanning in recipes hand-written by our mother and grandmother. I put them all together using digital scrapbooking software. (Let me know if you want to see the result!).

If this is a project that is of interest to you, check out these pre-designed pages just for recipes. Let me know if you need assistance putting it all together!

Follow Friday: Anything & Everything Thomas MacEntee

First of all, I’m going to try my best to list all of the various blogs that Thomas MacEntee writes (and for each one, there’s usually a Twitter account and Facebook fan page to follow/like as well). I know I’ve written about Thomas in this Follow Friday spot before, but he really deserves as many props as possible — he’s the glue that keeps us genea-bloggers together! He’s supportive, resourceful, prolific (obviously) and hilarious. I don’t know how you do it all, man!

Personal family history blog: Destination: Austin Family

Genea-Bloggers (keep track of blogging themes, events, challenges, etc., in the geneablogging community)

High-Definition Genealogy (his business arm, providing market research, consulting and more; check out the cheat-sheets!)

Illinois State Genealogical Society Blog (brand new and I’m really excited about this one since I have ancestors from Illinois)

And I Helped! (his family recipes)

There are still more blogs that Thomas has worked on in the past like the Graveyard Rabbit of New York Rural Cemeteries. Be sure to check some of these out too if the topics are of interest to you!

Don’t miss the GeneaBloggers Zazzle store (which Thomas also runs) for all your genealogy-blogging merchandise needs.

I feel like I’m missing some of his other links and contributions, so feel free to add them as comments!

My All-Time Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipe

This is post #8 for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Okay, so I got the appetizer out of the way. Now, I’m skipping straight to dessert.

One Christmas about a decade ago, while visiting my mom, I pored over her cookbooks, recipe cards and magazine clippings for the dishes I loved so much growing up. I was finally out of college, with a kitchen I could cook in, and I was desperate to recreate many of those dishes on my own.

Among the recipes I copied down were several for cookies. Chocolate chip cookies were the standard throughout the year at our house growing up, but at Christmas… Oh, at Christmas. That’s when all the special recipes were made — gingerbread men, chocolate butter cookies (for the cookie press), peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s Kisses on top, molasses cookies, pfeffernüsse (literally, pepper nuts), almond crescents, we made them all.

My all-time favorite holiday cookies always mesmerized me as a child, the way the powdered-sugared crusts of the cookies would split and crackle, revealing the dark chocolate yumminess inside. And all of this was topped with a nonpareil (Now, how do you pronounce that? Non-peril or Non-pair-eye?).

I so wish I had a picture of these cookies. Hmmm… might just have to bake some, so I can take some pics. That’s the kind of sacrifice I’m willing to make for you, my readers. In the meantime, imagine these with these on top.

Here is the recipe for Sugar-Coated Chocolate Cookies:

Ingredients:
1/2 c. butter
3 1-oz. squares unsweetened chocolate
2 c. sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 pkg. nonpareils

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees (F). Melt the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat; combine the sugar, flour and baking powder in a large bowl; add the chocolate mixture, eggs and vanilla; mix until smooth (will be thin). Cover and chill for 2 hours. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll these in the powdered sugar. Bake 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets for 10-12 minutes. Press one nonpareil onto each cookie as soon as they come out of the oven.

12/29/2009 UPDATE: Picture now available! Just baked a batch of these with my sis:

My All-Time Fave Holiday Family Recipe

This post/recipe is my contribution to the GeneaBloggers 2009 Holiday Recipe Cookbook.

My all-time favorite holiday family recipe has earned me quite a rep among those I’ve met at the parties to which I’ve brought these tasty appetizers (actually, I’m now required to bring these to most tailgates, showers and other gatherings). Good thing they couldn’t be simpler.

Some of my earliest memories of family gatherings feature these Sausage-Cheese Balls (alternatively dubbed Cheesy Poufs, Snausage Balls and Cheesy Sausage Nums Nums, by those who have had them).

Below is my mom’s hand-written recipe card containing the recipe, which has an (almost) embarassingly small amount of ingredients and work involved. They can be incredibly messy to mix together, but the end result is well worth going through all that.

I have made these with turkey sausage for those who don’t favor pork and they have come out splendidly. They are practically impossible to mess up. Too much Bisquick and you just end up with cheesy, sausagy biscuits instead of balls. No problem! Play it off like that’s what you meant to make all along.

I believe that one of my aunts came across this recipe when she lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Our family has enjoyed them ever since.

Treasure-Chest Thursday

Some of my most treasured possessions are the hand-written recipes my mom and grandma left behind. I miss them both terribly, but can bring back wonderful memories of them by cooking their recipes. I recently started scanning many of these recipes into Creative Memories Memory Manager software, to make sure I’ll always have a copy. This has allowed me to start a digital cookbook in CM’s Storybook Creator software as well. I’ll be able to share this cookbook both online and in print form with friends and family when I’m done. If you’re interested in seeing my cookbook or learning how to create your own, please contact me!

Flank Steak Marinade