Before there was Pinterest, the women in my family used spiral notebooks and three-ringed binders to collage together all their go-to recipes. They would get out scissors and a glue stick, rubber cement, Elmer’s, Scotch tape (oh I don’t know what adhesive!) and snip successful recipes right out of the magazine or cookbook and stick it into their homemade version. Some recipes had handwritten notes in the margins and some were just penciled in completely, the wisdom of years in the kitchen preserved for future reference. I loved looking through those pages, and imagining all the feasts and dinner parties mom’s and Nana’s magic spells could invoke.
“Never fear, Retha’s here!”
In the back of my mind I always thought I’d end up with those kitchen scrapbooks on a shelf in my own kitchen one day. That hasn’t happened yet. I can’t find that magical Thanksgiving Oyster Dressing within the turn of a page. Or the perfect custard pie. Mouth-watering plum preserves. Pot roast with the inevitable yorkshire pudding. When I move to Sacramento later this year, I will remember to reserve space on my bookcase and raid Mom’s stash!
To continue the tradition on my own merit, though, I feel I must preserve for myself a few of the recipes that have (and regularly continue to) rock my world. And make me feel like the consummate hostess. And give me a sense of identity and confidence as a home cook. So here they are! Never to be forgotten by my addled mom brain!
Otsu – A Cold Japanese Noodle Salad
This recipe comes from Catherine Woodiwiss. Jefferson 202 and Quincy Haus roommate during the Washington DC years. We loved to make this recipe in bulk and eat if fer dayz. This girl has the most eclectic tastes – sometimes eating a microwaved hot dog wrapped in American cheese / sometimes making asparagus soup from scratch like her Carolina mama / sometimes experimenting with a sushi roller at home. Of all her kitchen shenanigans this is my fave.
Peanut Butter Chicken – A Crockpot Endeavor
Ok, in all honesty, I just turned off the slow cooker an hour ago and this new recipe is already going in the Hall of Fame. I love Thai peanut noodles. Vietnamese chicken satay. Kentucky peanut bitter pie. American PB&J. A spoonful of crunchy at midnight. Pretty much anything peanut buttery. This will now be my go-to for easy chicken thighs!
Beet Salad – Roasted Not Pickled
After I turned 25 I was adult enough to like beets. The beets my brother Eames introduced me to were no Sizzler salad bar twin of canned cranberry sauce. These were savory roasted balls of nature candy! I couldn’t get enough once I got started with these gems. This is my favorite way to eat them, though I’ll take order them from literally any menu that offers them without fail. (Beet carpaccio was a fun endeavor at a Czech restaurant in Georgetown.)
Spinach and Cheddar Pancakes – Wait, Come Back!
This tends to be a tough sell to breakfast purists. I’ve only had good feedback from the brave mouths who have ventured to taste my all time favorite make-ahead freezer-to-toaster food. I would post a link, but all I do is add handfuls of fresh spinach (or baby kale, arugala, etc.) and grated sharp cheddar to the normal Krusteaz batter. Word to the wise – it is nearly impossible to add too much greens even though they look commanding in the mixture. Sometimes I beat it all down in the Kitchenaid mixer so it is smoother (less leafy) to pour.