In my family — like many of yours, I'm sure — food, meals, snacks are tangible examples of love.
Every memory I have of my mother, grandmother and aunts involves some kind of food — the summer afternoons when my mother's kitchen was filled with the tart smell of pickling juices, or my grandmother's stew that always came with a very serious warning to not eat the bay leaf when one went unaccounted for in the cooking process. You can't invite my aunts to any family function without an immediate "what can I bring?" response — one usually with a pan of baked beans or rice pudding in hand, the other a cake frosted with my great Aunt Anne's famous sweet frosting.
For the women in my life, one of the most important jobs a mom has is feeding the soul with a hug, a laugh or a pan of creamy macaroni and cheese in the freezer and ready for an easy, homemade dinner two weeks after my baby was born and I could barely get out of bed, let alone feed my new family. It means my mother cooking bacon every Sunday morning she visits because she knows my husband's favorite thing is a big, hearty breakfast that I usually don't have time to make. It's my aunt always making Caesar salad for family parties because she remembers my stepdaughters love it.
It's why when we asked you, our readers, to share your favorite recipes in honor of the moms and mother figures in your life, your entries were as varied as the many women who helped you be the person you are today. There's Barbara Murphy Beach of Housatonic, Mass., who shared her mother's classic tomato soup cake recipe, remembering her mother "slathered it with at least a half an inch of butter cream frosting" and served it at least once a month. Ellen Perry Berkeley, of Bennington, Vt., offered up an easy orange chicken recipe — simply bake chicken covered in the contents of one partially thawed frozen orange juice can at 350 degrees for 45 minutes — because "what mom isn't always busy?!?" Lucienne Williams, of Manchester Center, Vt., recreated her Italian mother's from-scratch raviolis without the work in an inside-out ravioli casserole.
Thank you to all of our readers who took the time to send in recipes handed down from their own mothers' hands. And thank you to all the mothers who have fed us — body and soul — throughout the years.
And the winners are:
Cottage Pudding Sauce
Submitted by Judith Morton, of East Dummerston, Vt.
"I grew up on a farm in Waits River, Vt., and what comes immediately to mind is a recipe for a warmed dessert sauce that my mother served over stale plain cake. We lived on top of a three-mile hill high above the village. Because of gas rationing [during World War II] we didn't drive to the grocery store often, so farmers' wives were forced to improvise with whatever they had on hand. I don't know if my mother created this sauce, but in all of my years, I have only known one other person to have a similar recipe. As children in the 1940s, my sister and I would deliberately let plain vanilla cake go stale so mom would make this sauce, which we called Cottage Pudding Sauce."
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 Tbs butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
dash nutmeg to taste
1 tsp. lemon juice (if available)
Mix dry ingredients and gradually add boiling water, stir and boil for 5 minutes. Stir in butter last. Serve hot in a bowl over stale plain cake. Also good poured over bread pudding.
Submitted by Nancy Shippee Loscarbeau, of North Adams, Mass.
"Our favorite passage of spring was this great, easy cake that most usually got eaten in just one sitting while still warm," she writes. "I still pick rhubarb at my parents' house so they are still with me ... in my cake, although, gone from this world."
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups chopped rhubarb
Mix all ingredients together except rhubarb. Fold in chopped rhubarb. Put mixture into a 9x13 inch greased pan. Sprinkle over top 1/2 cup chopped nuts mixed with 1/2 cup brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
Tuscan sausage soup
Submitted by Chris Stannard, of Arlington, Vt.
"Growing up in an Italian household, we always ate well, and not only ate well, but the cooking was always something my sister, Amy, and I helped with, even at a very early age. It was a time to communicate as a family, hear about each other's day at work or school, and to laugh! I feel that our society has gotten away from this type of tradition, somewhat, as we are all busy all the time and rushing from here to there. I have a 2-year-old son, who I am already grooming to be a great cook, and I plan to do my best and make time to continue this tradition in my household. Communication in a family is so important, and my mother, Patti, always made sure this tradition was kept strong!"
1 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large can of San Marzano plum tomatoes broken a bit
2 Tbs of tomato paste
One 32 oz container of natural chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of cold water
A few leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1 can of cannellini beans, not drained
1 bunch of steamed broccoli rabe, escarole or spinach, chopped
Freshly grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Add the first three ingredients to soup pot and cook sausage until just about done.
Once cooked, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a low boil. Simmer for at least 45 minutes.
To plate, add a few spoons of pasta, then add soup on top and serve with crispy Italian bread.
Additional recipes submitted by readers:
Charlotte Murphy's Tomato Soup Cake
Submitted by Barbara Murphy Beach, Housatonic, Mass.
2 C Sifted Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 C shortening
1 C sugar
1 can tomato soup
1 C chopped walnuts
1 C chopped dates
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices 3 times.
Cream shortening with sugar. Add sifted ingredients and soup alternately to the shortening mixture in small amounts beating thoroughly after each addition. Stir in dates and walnuts.
Pour into 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Let stand one day before frosting.
Chicken A L'orange
Submitted by Ellen Perry Berkeley, Bennington, Vt.
"Only two ingredients, and probably only two minutes of actual prep."
Chicken parts, skinned, as many as you might want
1 can frozen orange juice (large or regular size)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
While the oven is heating up, line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the chicken on the foil. Spoon the o.j. (frozen or melted) over the chicken.
Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes, basting the chicken several times.
Remove the chicken so it won't get too tough, and leave the o.j. (now getting delightfully browned) in the oven for about 10 minutes more.
Return the chicken to the oven (to the same pan), to reheat it for a few minutes more.
Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake
Submitted by Patricia Paduano, Pittsfield, Mass.
"This is a recipe my Mom made for me while i was growing up. My favorite part was swirling the batter together in fancy patterns! As I grew, she sent it to me in care packages when I went away to college, and even when I moved out on my own. We still make it together on occasion when I visit her in Vermont, and swirling the batter is still my favorite part!"
1 TBSP margarine
1/3 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
Melt margarine and mix in small bowl with other ingredients and set aside for topping.
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate pieces
2 TBSP milk
Melt together in double boiler
2 cups bisquik
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 TBSP vegetable oil
Mix with spoon in medium bowl
Transfer 1/3 of this batter to a small bowl and add melted chocolate mixture.
In a greased 8 x 8 cake pan, alternate spoonfuls of chocolate and white batter in a checkerboard pattern. Reverse pattern for each layer, till batter is gone.
Make swirling cuts through the batter with a knife to marble it. Sprinkle topping over batter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, Test with toothpick. Cool slightly, best served warm!
Inside-Out Ravioli Casserole
Submitted by Lucienne Williams, Manchester Center, Vt.
1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
7 ounces elbow macs or shells, cooked, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup soft bread crumbs
1 lb. ground beef
2 well-beaten eggs
¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 large jar spaghetti sauce (1 lb. 14 oz.)
Salt and pepper, as desired
In oil, brown onion, garlic, and ground beef. Cook spinach as directed on package.
Drain spinach, reserving liquid. Add water to make 1 cup liquid. Add to meat.
Add spaghetti sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.
Combine spinach with pasta, Cheddar, bread crumbs, eggs, ¼ cup oil.
Spread in 13 x 9-inch baking dish; cover with meat and sauce.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serves 8 to 10
Submitted by Eileen T. Miclette, Pittsfield, Mass.
To make the Shell:
3 egg whites
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
21 Ritz crackers, crushed
2/3 c. nuts, crushed
Beat egg whites until very stiff. Add sugar &vanilla. Fold in cracker crumbs & crushed nuts. Spread in lightly buttered 10-inch Pyrex pie dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. confectioner's (10-X) sugar
Blend cream cheese and 10-X sugar. Spread over cooled meringue shell.
1/2 pt. heavy cream
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
Whip heavy cream (lightly sweetened) and combine with the drained pineapple. Spread over cream cheese filling. If desired, sprinkle top with more crushed nuts. Refrigerate.
Mom Mom's chicken
Submitted by Marianne Duane-Handerek, Pittsfield, Mass.
"My Mom created and made this chicken for my Dad, my two brothers and I. We would devour it and later on in years when I was a teenager, my Mom taught me to make it. I then made it for my friends and dinner parties in my later years spent in Boston, and passed this recipe on to many friends. Then, I married and had children and begun making it, and through my children we gave it the name, 'Mom Mom's Chicken.' They named it after their grandmother who they called Mom Mom. Whenever my children come home from travels or college, they request a dinner of Mom Mom's chicken! It is heart warming as we always remember my Mom.. their Mom-Mom!"
Four chicken breasts (split in half) or two 1pound packages of chicken tenders (I usually use these)1
8-12 slices American cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sherry
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 package of 15ounce Arnold Herbed Stuffing
1 cup butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a 9x13 baking dish — you can also use a little bigger baking dish if you like. Top chicken pieces with the cheese slices. Whisk together the soup, sherry and cream and then pour over chicken. Sprinkle the stuffing over the chicken mixture. Melt butter and then pour over the chicken and cook uncovered at 350 degrees for an hour. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Serve. Scrumptious. Divine!!