Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook" & "Favorite Recipes - Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary" - Porcupine Meatballs and Coconut Honey Dessert

Date I made these recipes: March 4, 2008

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book by the Test Kitchen of Better Homes and Garden
Published by: Meredith Corporation
© 1976
Recipe: Porcupine Meatballs – p. 42 (Chapter 2 – Barbecues and easy meals)

Favorite Recipes – Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary by members of the Munising Memorial Hospital Auxiliary
Published by: General Publishing and Binding, Iowa Falls, Iowa
© 1986
Recipe: Coconut Honey Dessert (submitted by Rose Marie Verme - my mom!) – p. 51

So you’ll notice it’s been a while since I posted a blog entry. I had every intention of doing something for Oscar night in late February but I couldn’t commit to any recipe from all my cookbooks. And so like most people, I thought “Well, next week.”

Well, Thursday of the following week rolled around and I got a phone call that changed my life. My mother had suffered a massive stroke and was not going to make it. Of course, she and my father lived in a small town in Michigan’s U.P. and that’s an eight-hour drive in the best of conditions. My husband and I made it as far as Wausau, WI that night (in a snowstorm) and made it to the hospital in Marquette, Michigan the next day. It was the longest trip of my life.

Sad to say, mom passed away on March 2nd. We were up at my dad’s for so long that every morning since we arrived back in our own home, I’ve awakened totally disoriented with my surroundings. It will take a while to adjust to the loss.

One thing I am not at a loss for, however, is my cookbooks, now totaling over 900 and I have my mother to thank for that. My mom gave me my very first cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, when I moved into an apartment with three other women during my junior year at college. We cooked a lot that year and on Thanksgiving, we did an elaborate turkey dinner with all the fixings as noted on the “menu” you can see hanging on our refrigerator in the background of our group photo.

Cooking, however, did not always come naturally to my mom as she was the youngest of seven children in a house that contained a phenomenal cook – her mother, Mary Wollner Barr. What my grandma did with a pot roast is legendary and her wild mushroom soup (dried herbs and mushrooms were constantly hanging in the basement) was out of this world although it was the stinkiest soup on the planet. When a bunch of us cousins rode shotgun back to grandma’s to pick up the soup one year for Christmas, it being forgotten in the rush and all, we made one of my uncles who volunteered for this mission, drive with the windows down (in the middle of winter) until the soup was safely delivered unto the adults who were eagerly awaiting its triumphant return to the table. We were grateful that grandma’s other specialty, poppy seed nuts rolls (we called them Kolache rolls) were far less…fragrant!

But my mom needed a little help and so one of the gifts from her wedding in 1957 was the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book—no “new” needed at that time. And she cooked from that book for the rest of her life. I am grateful that she had the wherewithal to give me the “new” version so that my roommates and I could eat high off the hog.

Mom also had help from my dad who liked to hunt and often brought home game birds and wild animals for mom to cook. He gave her some hints on how to prepare things but she pretty much figured things out on her own. Although mom hardly ever used cream of anything soup in our house, she managed to doctor up some wild birds with a can of cream of mushroom soup and for that I am eternally grateful.

Mom also became a pressure-cooker cook long before pressure cookers were in vogue. She always made beef stew and porcupine meatballs in the pressure cooker and both meals were quick and delicious. I made my porcupine meatballs the old-fashioned way in a skillet, on top of the stove, and it was good but not as moist as mom’s. By the way, one of the charities we are contributing to in memory of my mom is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. My mom was a 22-year, almost 23, breast cancer survivor. Wouldn’t you know, the can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup I used to make the meatball sauce had a pink and white label on it with the breast cancer ribbon logo. Campbell’s is donating a portion of the proceeds to fight cancer. I feel the hand of my mom in this one!

Mom’s only kitchen “misstep” if you will, and it was hilarious, was that after returning home from her honeymoon trip – three weeks in the southwest – she made my first-generation Sicilian father Chef Boyardee spaghetti. To this day, we think that is just one hilarious story. Although my grandma Verme lived a thousand miles away in New Jersey, she managed to teach my mom how to make really good sauce that could give many a chef, not just Boyardee, a run for his (or her) money.

In addition to cooking, cleaning and otherwise keeping a happy home, my mom was a member and former president of the Munising (Michigan) Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, authors of the second cookbook showcased in this week’s blog. The recipe I selected, Coconut Honey Dessert, was actually prompted by two of the Verme cousins who came to her funeral. They included a honey bear jar in the flowers they sent because my mother always called them (and everyone else) “honey.” She called me “sweetie” so I guess I had some kind of pull. This dish is just so representative of my mom – sugar and spice and everything nice. I hope you like it and the meatballs. They’re both comfort food at its best at a time when I need some comforting.

As a final note, inside the auxiliary cookbook that she gave to me in 1986, there’s a post-it note: “Hi Sweetie, Hope you’ll enjoy using some of these recipes. Love you, Mom”

I do indeed, mom, I do indeed.

Porcupine Meatballs – Makes 4 or 5 servings
1 pound ground beef
¼ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 slightly beaten egg
1 tablespoon snipped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 10 3/4 –ounce can condensed tomato soup
½ cup water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine meat, rice, egg, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and ¼ cup condensed tomato soup. Mix thoroughly; shape in about 20 small balls and place in skillet. Mix remaining soup, water and Worcestershire sauce; pour over meatballs. Bring to boil; reduce heat; cover and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, stirring often.

Note: I don’t know why, but we always served these with mashed potatoes.

Coconut Honey Dessert – no serving size noted
¼ cup margarine or butter
1 c. coconut
1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. evaporated milk
1 c. boiling water
1 pkg. lemon Jell-O
½ c. honey
2 T. lemon juice

Melt butter or margarine, add coconut and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden. Mix in graham cracker crumbs (I used a Cuisinart to pulverize my graham crackers) and press the mixture onto the bottom of an 8 inch square pan. Put evaporated milk in the refrigerator to chill. Pour boiling water over Jell-O and stir until dissolved. Add honey and lemon juice and cool in refrigerator until thick as raw egg whites (Note: about 40 minutes). Beat the chilled evaporated milk until it holds a shape. Then fold gently into the Jell-O mixture. Spoon over crumbs and chill until firm.

1 comment:

Kimberly Ann said...

What a touching post about your mom. I'm sorry to hear about your loss but grateful that you shared the stories and the recipes. Thank you.