The first part of this story began with me reminiscing about my mother, her cooking and why it is the most real food ever. After writing Autumn, Cooking, Motherly Love: Part 1, I decided to invite my mom out to spend the week cooking with me. Before I share her recipes with you, I'd like to relay a few lingering thoughts I’ve learned from these experiences in the kitchen, with my mom.
Cooking is a gift. My mother is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, and one of the biggest ways she shows that generosity, is through her cooking. You can bet that if she’s baking bread, a couple extra loaves will go to the single man at church. If it’s orange rolls, there will be an extra dozen for her dear friend Nancy who adores them so. At Christmas time, the baking begins December 1st and doesn’t stop until the neighbors and friends have all been personally delivered a plate stacked high with her favorites and theirs. No one will ever come over for a meal without leaving with a bag of freshly baked cookies in hand or a jar of freshly canned raspberry jam to go.
She uses it to bless others and I have often been the recipient of that, at home and now away. I probably don't need to remind you that there is little as comforting and soothing as a delivery of freshly baked goodness. If you have a talent (or are working on said cooking talent), share it.
There is little as satisfying as cooking with and for your family. Cooking with my mom will always be a treasured activity for me, and I know without a doubt, that my mother absolutely loves to cook for her family. Holidays when the kids are home means mom in the kitchen even longer than usual and a smile on her face radiates when she sees us piling our plates with seconds. It’s a priceless thing. There are only two, my dad and my mom, at home now. Still, he comes home to full course meals every night. That’s love.
Eating food that is good for you brings a whole new level of happiness with a dish. I’ve always had many food and dietary restrictions that have me “tweaking” dishes, but I find immense pleasure in discovering ways to create dishes I love in new healthy and fresh ways. It makes me feel even better about my cooking, about my eating habits, even about myself. And my mom was always the first to find new ways to make apple pie on my birthday without sugar, dairy or wheat, for example. Her inherent ability with food allows her to be flexible and still make dishes that turn out just right.
Good food doesn’t have to be expensive nor fancy. You will not find daintily portioned meals with swirls and sachets at my mother’s table, nor will you find her shopping for the most expensive ingredients. On the contrary, she’s always shopped on an extremely tight budget. But, to me, her food looks better and tastes better than any other I’ve ever eaten. You don’t have to be world’s best chef with all the best resources to create food to dazzle and impress. Keep it simple and do it right.
A little salt & a little butter can salvage almost any dish. Words straight from my momma. And she’s kinda right. Try it next time you don’t know what’s “wrong” with a dish.
As promised, here are two of my mother’s favorite fall recipes. I can vouch for them both, they’re both divine. Though, I will say that if you can only pick one, please pick the Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce. Do not substitute anything for the butter and do not skip the caramel sauce. You just can’t. From my mom and I both, we hope you enjoy! *(Parenthetical expressions per my mother.)
Zucchini Dish (really original title!)
4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
4 TB butter or olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
2 beaten eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Sauté zucchini and onion in butter or oil until both are lightly browned. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
Add parsley, salt, pepper, basil and oregano.
Combine eggs and cheese and stir into zucchini mixture.
Pour into a flat casserole dish or 11x7 pan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until set and lightly browned.
This can also be poured into a baked pie shell and then baked.
Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
6 cups peeled and grated apples
1 cup chopped nuts
Cream (beat well) the butter, sugar and eggs.
Add the flour, soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. It will be a stiff dough at this point.
Stir in the apples and then gently stir in the nuts.
Bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan at 325 until done.
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
Melt the butter in a saucepan.
Add the rest and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for a few minutes.
Add the vanilla.
*Serve warm over the cake.
*Tara’s note: and serve to those you love.
Tara Alley is a Montana girl at heart gone Californian for just a season. A local food lover, you'll never find her without avocados or fresh berries in the fridge and when not blogging, you'll probably find her baking in the kitchen in her never ending attempt to become half the cook her mom is. Someday, she'll return to Montana where she plans to live off the land and be forever surrounded by milk cows and chickens once again. Tara is currently writing for an online company and their upcoming winter fireplace heater guide.