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.

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.

When My Two Loves Combine: History and Food

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

The National Archives has a really neat initiative launching soon and it will involve more than just an exhibit — it will include a restaurant too!

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam” will open in conjunction with America Eats Tavern in D.C. The former will feature original records about food. The latter will produce dishes using native ingredients and historical recipes. How neat!

Read more at the NARA blog. Also, listen to the chef behind America Eats Tavern on D.C.’s NPR station.

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...

Those Places Thursday: Woodmoor

Soon after my 1st birthday, my family moved to the Woodmoor neighborhood in Silver Spring, also known as Four Corners.  I absolutely loved that house — it had all kinds of nooks and crannies and quirks. Initially, I slept in the “nursery,” a room with built-in drawers in the wall and bright red, yellow and green plaid wallpaper (ah, the ’70s).

The backyard was the perfect size. My parents eventually installed a swingset and then our yard was the yard to play in. The previous occupants had drawn pictures and their initials in the patio out back when the cement was poured. It was the perfect size for a make-shift baseball diamond, when we had enough players.

We were walking distance to Pinecrest Elementary School, which had a great playground. I walked to St. Bernadette’s, where I went to school. The neighborhood was so quaint in the snow. During the summer months, I’d walk with the kids on my street to a creek around the corner — a branch off of Rock Creek.

Woodmoor Shopping Center also was a quick walk away — I drooled over the cupcakes and cookies at Woodmoor Bakery and my parents were on a first-name basis with the proprietors of the Chinese-food restaurant there. Thankfully, both of those establishments are still around.

We moved away from Woodmoor when I was 9 years old. Many of my friends from St. B’s still live there and I will occasionally drop by the bakery for their to-die-for Parkerhouse rolls.

For Wild Grandmas Everywhere

One of the presents my sister gave me at Christmas was this box of British biscuits:

Grandma Wild's Dark Chocolate Gingers

Everyone exclaimed when I opened it, of course, because our grandma was Grandma Wild. Just not the Grandma Wild pictured on the box above.

Alas, my Wilds weren’t British at all. They were German, so it would be pronounced “Vild” and their photos would be on boxes of lebkuchen instead.

Actually, the cookies above were very similar to lebkuchen, so maybe all these Wilds are related after all!

On another note, I really hope the title of this post doesn’t bring out the Twitter spammers. In a similar vein, I predict a whole new contingent of web traffic may be visiting shortly.