I love to cook and bake this time of year. There’s just something about cold winter days that makes the kitchen so inviting. I have cherished memories of my mother cooking special meals for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as everyday meals for the family.
Mom also loved to bake. She baked cookies, brownies and cakes. Usually the cake was for a family member’s birthday, but sometimes it was just for fun. The cookie jar always seemed to be full. Anytime my nieces and nephews came over, one of the first things they did was head for the cookie jar (my brother-in-law did, too). Mom loved sending cookies and brownies to me when I was in college and Alaska. She also sent cookies and brownies to my nieces and nephews when they were in college. Years ago, when I worked at a bookstore, Mom used to bring in goodies for the staff on Fridays (that was the day she got her hair done and the beauty salon was next door to the bookstore).
Mom is elderly now and can no longer stand long enough to cook or bake. In fact, she doesn’t even go into the kitchen anymore. Since I live with her, I prepare the meals and I use some of the same pans, dishes and utensils she used when I was growing up. Each item brings back pleasant memories.
I began doing all the cooking when my Dad was still alive. Even though sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was be on my feet in the kitchen, it brought me pleasure to make a meal for my parents. I came to understand why my mom put so much love into the meals she prepared. She was doing it for her family. I consider it an honor to prepare meals for the woman who made countless meals for me and the rest of the family.
My sister inherited my mother’s talent for cooking and baking. I consider myself a good cook and a mediocre baker, but my sister is great at both. She’s always trying something new and it seems like everything she makes turns out perfect. Mom always said my sister must have inherited her ability to make flaky pie crust from our paternal grandmother because she didn’t get it from her.
My sister and I used to swap recipes, but since we both have access to the Internet, we don’t do that much anymore. A lot of the recipes in my collection are from my sister. I can’t help but think of her when I make a recipe she gave me.
Being a creative person, I like to try new recipes and sometimes modify them to my liking. I have some tried and true recipes that I use frequently and keep handy for easy access.
One of my favorite recipes to make this time of year is Captain’s Soup. It’s easy, nourishing and makes enough for an army (well, at least a large family). My mom got the recipe from a lady we met while we were vacationing in Colorado. She and her husband rode the train from Durango to Silverton with us. We got acquainted and they invited us to stop by for a meal at their home in Buena Vista. We did stop at their house on the way back to Kansas and the lady made this soup for supper.
1 pound ground beef
1 can (46 oz.) vegetable juice
1 small can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can cream of celery soup
1 package frozen vegetables
In a skillet, brown ground beef; drain and set aside. Combine soups in a crock pot. Simmer on low heat and stir until well-blended. In a medium pan, cook vegetables until tender; drain. Add beef and vegetables to soup mixture. Heat on High for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with crackers or bread.
Do you have a favorite kitchen memory? Do you have a recipe that has an interesting story behind it? Please share it with me.