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Recipes Mom Gave Me

May 6, 2009

I’ll be completely honest here…our family was never culinary. A tremendous amount of food was bought pre-cooked or didn’t need to be cooked. Plus, we spent a lot of time dining out…at fast food joints. It’s certainly effected how I view food.

I currently don’t have full-time access to a kitchen at home, so I don’t cook much myself. But I plan to. I’ve been stockpiling cookbooks and circling recipes I’d like to try. I’m especially excited by Mark Bittman’s Food Matters and the bread recipes he mentions. And I’d like to try making wild rice bannock, mentioned in a fantasy novel I read awhile back.

The following aren’t “recipes” in the grand sense, and I have no illusions about them being original. I’m sure lots of folk have tried these or something very similar to them. They are, however, the few things I’ve picked up at home. Hopefully, this post will eventually have a sequel.


Homemade Fudge

My mom made this for me as a kid. I haven’t made it in years. It was way cheaper than buying Jawbreakers. And it’s good. Really good.

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk (I use 2%) or cream
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup

Mix in pot over medium heat, stirring constantly. When boiling, pour into a bowl and continue mixing until solid or cool. Store in fridge. Keeps for a week or so.

Optional ingredients include peanut butter or maple syrup. I’ve never tried adding jams or marmalades, but they may be possible. You can mix almonds or cashews into this, as well. I’d like to try this with cane sugar mixed in.

Right after writing this up I flipped through Mark Bittman’s Bittman takes on America’s Chefs, and found almost the exact same recipe called English Toffee. His version adds much more corn syrup, cream and butter, and uses plain white sugar. The version above makes a very granulated, gritty mixture, and requires only a pan or pot. You can buy Bittman’s excellent book if you want a more smooth, traditional toffee instead of a fudge.

Sunshine Salad

This was my favorite salad at Toby’s, which, alas, I believe is now completely defunct. You can find a variation of this in practically every cookbook out there, and I’ve modified it to suit what I can get at any grocery store.

  • ½ a lettuce, shredded
  • 2-3 whole carrots, shredded
  • a small package of whole or diced almonds or cashews, unsalted
  • 2 mandarin oranges, segmented (I usually buy a small can and drain)
  • diced chicken (typically, I buy ½ a cooked rotisserie chicken from the deli and use about ½ of it in the salad and the rest for sandwiches)
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • ranch dressing

Combine ingredients in a salad bowl, minus the chicken and oranges. Add the ranch dressing and toss. Add the chicken and oranges and lightly toss. Serve. Store in the fridge.

Optional: The ranch dressing is what I prefer, but you can use any dressing that gets you through the night. The almonds can be substituted or enhanced with any other nuts. Add apple slices and some lemon juice for extra zest and flavor.


Everyone has at least one mixed drink under their belts.


Mainly non-alcoholic, but pleasant nonetheless.

  • 1 can ginger ale
  • ½ cup grapefruit juice
  • ½ cup orange juice (not from concentrate)

Place ingredients in a large glass or container and stir gently. Makes 2 medium size glasses. Serve on the rocks.

An ounce of Grand Marnier or Triple Sec can be added if desired or warranted.

California OJ

I have no idea where I found this (never been to Cali, so not there), but it’s good. The actual quantity of each ingredient (and whether you use actual fruit or store-bought juice) is adjustable to taste and means, but it should be mostly OJ (hence, its name).

  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Tangerines
  • Apples (primarily red, but green ones can add some welcome sweet-and-sour action)
  • Limes

If you’re using fruit, remove skin and seeds and frappé the hell out of it in a blender. If using juices, combine in a pitcher. Serve with ice. Lasts about a week in the fridge.

Optional: shaved ice makes you look so sophisticated. A little bit of lemon and different types of oranges change the tenor in subtle ways.

Orange Coke

Jones makes the non-alcoholic version. This one has a little more bite.

  • 1 2L bottle of Coke
  • 2 (or more) shooters of Triple Sec

Mix. Serve. Pass out.

If you need to send people home with their car keys, use shooters of orange Crush instead.

Rice and pasta

Not a recipe, just some advice for the undergrad: add a coffee-spoon of salt to the water you boil it in. Before you boil it, rinse it a few times in water to de-starch it. If you don’t rinse it, you’re going to end up with a big, sticky, mushy, inedible ball that’s only good for gluing your alt-rock posters to the wall.

Paprika and basil go surprisingly well with pastas and cheese. Gouda mixed with marble cheddar is also a good combo. If you’re using very mild cheeses like gouda, a dash of either mint, lemon, or vanilla is a pleasant change.

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