Not My Mother’s Beef Stew

(Post by Virginia Allain)

I browned some beef chunks and onions and placed them in the slow cooker with some water. After peeling and chopping the carrots and potatoes, I added those. Then it cooked all day and during the last few hours, I added fresh mushrooms.

This is the version I use to make beef stew these days. It’s not my mother’s beef stew, but it always makes me think of hers. She didn’t follow a specific recipe but used a chuck roast cut into cubes and then added whatever vegetables we had on hand.

potato-Image by congerdesign on Pixabay

Beef Stew from My Childhood

What my mother called beef stew was really a beef vegetable soup. It would have potatoes, carrots, and onions but much more. Mom would send me to the cellar where we stored our home-canned foods. I was to bring back jars of green beans, corn, carrots, and tomatoes.

beans-jar Image by Johan1127 on Pixabay

Those made a colorful addition to the basic ingredients and turned it into a wonderfully savory soup.

I remember now, carefully taking the few stone steps down into the dirt-floored cellar under what must have been the original farmhouse. Merely the outer wooden shell of that house remained, but the cellar continued in use. Around the walls of the dank area, were wooden shelves holding the efforts of Mom’s summer canning.

Gathering the requested jars of vegetables, I’d hurry back up the steps and across the snowy yard to the current farmhouse where we lived for eight years. Mom opened the jars and dumped the contents into the big stew pot. This would simmer on the stove top for hours. It was ready to eat once the potatoes and meat were tender.

Coming in from our evening chores of feeding and watering the chickens and rabbits, the blended smell of beef and vegetables promised a warming meal for us. We placed a plate stacked with white store-bought bread on the table with a container of home-churned butter next to it.

white bread pixabay

White bread – Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I loved dipping that buttered bread into the stew and then scooping my spoon into the hearty broth. It came up with bits of potato, beef, corn, green beans, carrots, and onions. After reheating for another meal, the stew thickened and the flavors blended even more.

Eight of us sat down to the old-fashioned round oak table. It was one that our dad inherited from his parents, Cora and Ren Martin. Dad grew up eating at that table, Grandma fed the harvest crews at that table, and now a new generation of Martins ate hungrily and when replete, we lingered there telling stories of the day’s happenings.

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe

Our guest blogger today is Patricia Cole Tucker, whom I met in an online recipe group. I loved what she shared there.

Patricia wrote, “This is my mom’s handwritten peanut butter fudge recipe. She passed four years ago this month. This recipe was one of my favorite things she made. When she passed away I framed it and hung it in my kitchen.

I sometimes make it just like she did and other times it is a flop. However, every time I make it my mind is flooded with memories of me watching her make it and hearing her laugh with me each time I tried to make it.”

old recipe for peanut butter fudge from Patricia Cole Tucker

Patricia Cole Tucker framed her mother’s handwritten recipe for Peanut Butter Fudge.

The recipe, lovingly displayed with lace and a burlap rose in a vintage style frame, is a tribute to her mother and their good times together in the kitchen.

For easier reading, I’ll transcribe her recipe.

Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar                 1 jar marshmallow creme – small

1 tbls cocoa                  1 – 12 oz peanut butter

1 cup milk                    1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, milk – cook to soft ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, marshmallow creme, vanilla. Beat until thickens. Pour into greased pan, cut in squares.

Someone commented, “there is nothing more comforting than seeing my mom’s handwriting. I miss her so much. Thanks for sharing your awesome creation!”

Hang your framed recipe where it won’t get direct sunlight that might fade the ink or you can buy special glass that blocks UV rays. This is an idea that we all can take to heart.

 

Make Golden Green Beans Au Gratin

Gail Lee Martin posted her recipe on the eHow site in 2009. Try it this summer with fresh green beans picked from your garden and cooked. Then make the following additions for a tasty vegetable casserole.

How to Make Golden Green Beans Au Gratin

During our busy years of gardening with six kids, I tried many different ways to serve veggies to encourage them to eat what we grew. One that has stayed in the family has been Golden Bean Au Gratin. The main reason is that most kids love Velveeta cheese. It’s easy to fix too.

green-beans-pixabay

Cooked green beans ready to use in the Golden Bean casserole.

Things You’ll Need:

4 bacon slices
1 cup onions, sliced into rings
½ lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
¼ cup milk
1/8th teaspoon salt
4 cups of cooked green beans drained well
1 cup seasoned croutons or breadcrumbs

  1. Cut up the onion into rings.
  2. Fry bacon until crisp. Set it aside.
    Drain off most of the fat but reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat to cook the onion in until tender.
  3. Add the half pound of cubed cheese and a quarter cup of milk to the onions. Heat these until the cheese melts. Stir frequently so it won’t stick or burn.
  4. Crumble the bacon.
  5. Add the crumbled bacon, seasonings and green beans. Of course, we use our own home-canned green beans but you could use a couple of store-bought cans of green beans. You could grow your own or buy some fresh-picked green beans from a farmer’s market when they are in season.
  6. Top with croutons. Bake 25 minutes in 350-degree oven.

bacon-pixabay

Crumble the crispy bacon and sprinkle over the green bean casserole.

Make Candied Nut Clusters

 Instructions for Gail & Clyde Martin’s Candied Nut Clusters

Things You’ll Need:

  • medium size cooking pan
  • chocolate or vanilla flavored almond bark
  • aluminum foil
  • small to medium sized nuts

Clean and sort the nuts. My husband used different strainers with different size grids, large and medium. The large grid let everything go through except for the largest pieces. Those worked great in the sugared nut recipe.


After that, he had lots of smaller sizes of nutmeats. Really just bits and pieces. So he shook them up in a strainer with a smaller size grid. The smaller grid lets the tiny pieces of shell and other debris fall through. Clyde dumps them into a white baking pan and searches for more shells that slipped through. Some tiny pieces of the shell stick to the nutmeat and can be removed with tweezers. Shaking in the strainers seem to bring out the oil in the nutmeats, making them shiny and tastier.

With the medium size nut meats, we make candied nut clusters. For this process, you need the following: medium size cooking pan, chocolate or vanilla flavored Almond Bark; aluminum foil, and lots of small to medium size nuts.


Break or cut the almond bark into chunks easier melting in the pan. Place it on a very low heat.

When melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the nutmeats. Keep stirring as you add them until all are coated.
 

Drop the mixture by teaspoon onto the foil. Let the clusters cool until the almond bark hardens.

What’s Your Favorite Pie?

My sister Cindy said, “Pumpkin pie with whipped cream is one of my favorites for Thanksgiving, then cherry, apple or chocolate cream. Our dad, Clyde, enjoyed making pecan pie using the pecans he meticulous picked out of the shell. In the winter time, there was always a pan full of nuts and his picking tools next to his chair. When it came to walnuts he used his own method of cleaning the hulls off, then tossing them in the cement mixer to wash before cracking them open.”

pumpkin pie pixabay

Then my aunt, CJ, mentioned that a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie made by family friend, Tonda Alvarez might be the reason she’s feeling better today. I doubt that Tonda has found a cure for flu or colds, but strawberry rhubarb pie certainly perks up your taste buds.

tonda alvarez rhubarb pie - pic by CJ garriott

Tonda Alvarez’ wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie (photo by CJ Garriott)

My husband favors apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top. I like that but in the fall, pumpkin pie is my first choice. How about you? What’s your favorite pie?

 

Stocking Up for Thanksgiving

Time to buy the turkey or ham and all the trimming for the holiday feast. I’m sure your list on the week before Thanksgiving includes cranberry sauce, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and other traditional foods. The Publix Supermarket that I use was so busy today, there were no shopping carts in the cart area. My husband hunted around the parking lot and returned triumphantly with one.

retro-1950 shopping pixabay

Shopping for groceries in the 1950s

Much of our Thanksgiving meal was homegrown in my childhood years. We didn’t raise our own turkeys but the mashed potatoes and the green beans came from our bountiful garden. Gail Lee Martin would have shopped at the local IGA market for the cans of cranberry sauce. We always had the jellied kind that you served in slices. Now, I opt for the whole berry, but still from a can.

The pies were homemade with Gail rolling out the pie crust in the farmhouse kitchen. There would be pumpkin pie and whipped cream to go on it. Someone would assemble the 5-cup salad with the luxury of mandarin oranges, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, pineapple, and a sweet creamy sauce tying it all together. So the shopping list would include those.

Gail wrote about the Thanksgiving meals from her childhood. The 1930s holiday didn’t necessarily include a turkey. Read the details at We Gave Thanks Prairie Style. The description shows how times change but the family gathering was still special.  The desserts included a gooseberry pie made from berries they picked along the Cottonwood River. Sometimes pumpkin wasn’t available so a faux pumpkin pie was made with other ingredients.

Clyde and Gail Martin just finishing Thanksgiving dinner_Shanno

Thanksgiving in the 1970s – Clyde and Gail Martin.

What special dishes are you serving this Thanksgiving? I hope you don’t forget any of the special ingredients while shopping.

 

I Found the Carrot Cookie Recipe!

I was afraid the carrot cookie recipe was lost. I’d found one recipe labeled Helen King’s carrot cookies, but I wanted Mom’s recipe. She started making these after we were all grown up. She had a batch of the tasty cookies ready when I visited one time from Baltimore. They became my new favorite cookie.

It turns out that I had a copy of the recipe all along. I found it as I cleaned out my over-full, seldom used recipe box. As I tossed dubious-sounding jello recipes and any baked goods that called for Bisquick, I found the carrot cookie recipe written in Mom’s handwriting.

carrot cookies

Gail Lee Martin’s Carrot Cookies

  • 1 cup finely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup shortening or oleo
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the ingredients, then drop by teaspoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. (She doesn’t mention greasing the baking sheet, but I’d recommend it)

Icing for the Carrot Cookies

  • powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely grated carrots
  • orange juice

Mix these together to use as a glaze. Wait for the cookies to cool first.

What is lurking in your recipe box? Take a look to see if some heirloom recipes are there. Treat your taste buds to a trip down memory lane.

 

retro fifties foods pixabay

Graphic from Pixabay