JANET RELLER DILL’S HORS D’OEUVRES
By Kimberley Dill Graham
Since my mom passed a decade or so ago, one of the special qualities I wish she had not taken to her grave were her recipes. As all people do, we think we will have time. I’ll get her to write that recipe down or she did, and you have since misplaced it forever only to burn into your memory and your tastebuds with an urge to try to remember all those secret ingredients that were so simple yet so critical to the final scrumptious end.
My mom, Janet Reller Dill, was an entrepreneur at heart. Raised by parents of direct French and German descent, she had that innate talent to invent and create from the basics of gourmet, traditional cooking. Her parents, Freidrich and Evelyn Reller were also hotel and restaurant owners the entire time of her growing up. She spent many a day after school helping out at their family eateries and dining counters.
At home, off the cuff was the name of the game – if you did not have a specific ingredient, like Betty Crocker, you found a good enough substitute to fill in, especially when you were raised and doing culinary feats during World War II.
These substitutes led to a distinctive style of cooking that took the average American housewife/chefette to invent a new style to a Bernaise sauce or Sauerbraten or Chicken Pot Pie. And from my mother, I learned this unique style of interpretation of the classical recipes to create many a dish, I am not certain that I could recreate if asked to as I learned to cook from Mom – off the cuff. I still try to make her basic dishes for my brothers, who like me, miss “Mom’s cooking”.
When I asked Mom, how do you make this? She would say a little bit of this and a little bit of that and just taste. So to have asked for that recipe to be written down or taught would be something like the crude yet yummy recipes that follow: Warning: Up to your own interpretation and experimentation.
***Testimonial: What I will say is that every time I have ever concocted any of these “hors d’oeuvres” whether at a cocktail party , 4th of July celebration, or family get together, they have met with huge raves followed by the query, “How do you make this? I must get the recipe!” Thanks Mom! And could you please visit me in a dream and let me know some of the secret ingredients to your best ever “Pot Roast Stew”?
***Special Note: My mom was in the category of the New Age Donna Reed’s and Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver. Like Mary Tyler Moore on the Dick Van Dyke Show and the women who would follow, convenience foods and microwaves began slowly creeping into America’s kitchens making life easier and less challenging for the moms and wives — what has now become second nature to us women, men, and children: 10-minute rice, frozen vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, frozen TV dinners (now entrees), Costco, prepared snacks, juice in a box, cake mixes and instant frostings, frozen pies, self-cleaning and self-defrosting appliances, frozen pizza, and on and on ad nauseam. This was a fantastic trip down the ‘60s kitchen adding huge possibilities and freedom to women who found cooking boring and not the purpose of their life. These pioneers of modern conveniences also found a new enlightenment in preparing culinary expeditions along this line and were re-enthused to play in their kitchens especially with all the new conveniences: garbage compactors, garbage disposals, dishwashers, ice cube dispensers, microwaves, electric skillets, Tupperware, food processors, etc. – what had once been such manual endeavors now only involved cleaning them and figuring out where to store it all.
CRAB DIP (COLD)
Package of imitation crabmeat (fresh no longer works)
Package of cream cheese
Homemade Chili Sauce*
Spread softened cream cheese on plate. Flake crabmeat evenly over top. Dollop chili sauce generously over crab.
Serve with crackers.
*Homemade Chili Sauce is in a rounded jar found in the specialty section of all grocery stores alongside ketchup and barbecue sauces. It is made by Ventura Foods out of Brea, California. It is the must ingredient.
CRAB DIP (HOT)
2 packages of cream cheese
Green onions, chopped
2 cans of canned crab, drained
Melt butter and cream cheese in double boiler (or in small pan added to larger pan with water on the bottom). Melt add other ingredients to taste. Serve with crackers &/or toasted points.
Note: Also great as a stuffer for baked chicken breasts.
Can of Hormel chili without beans or two
Heat chili, top with cheddar, garnish with green onion. Serve in a warmer dish (sterno) with Fritos or tortilla chips. Salsa on the side.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS WITH SOY
Package of cream cheese
Salted sunflower seeds, without shells
Spread cream cheese on plate. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Drizzle with soy sauce. Serve with crackers.
By Suzi Lewis Pignataro
My mother Nancy was a frustrated Bohemian who lived out her fantasies of escape through cooking. As one of the benefactors of her rich inner life and innate talent for concocting all things edible, I grew up dining on feasts normally found in far-away lands. This “tableside traveling” was more than fine with me: savoring other countries’ gastronomical offerings without having to leave the modern conveniences of my parents’ home suited my sensitive disposition.
We had specific dishware and place settings for each cuisine we sampled. Depending upon my mother’s instructions, I knew exactly where we would be supping that evening: chopsticks and lacquered rice bowls meant Japan, large spoons and wine glasses meant Italy, the silver tea set and Franciscan Ware meant England, and Lotus cups with tiny copper spice shakers meant India – my favorite.
I don’t know how my mother came up with her recipe for Curry, but I’m pretty sure it involved some benign form of witchery. She tended to ignore cookbooks, opting for what she called “intuitive cooking”. I know this method and apply it to most of my own efforts in the kitchen, but not without trial and error – and my kids shoveling the latest experiment down the garbage disposal while my back is turned. I didn’t throw away my own mother’s meals. None of us did, including the hundreds of guests who over the years attended my parents’ dinner parties.
Yet, I never once saw her so much as break out in a sweat over one of her creations. I would have known if she had been spending time torturing over a recipe; the evidence would have been in her eyes that hid nothing. No, she truly knew her ingredients and trusted her “intuition” – which, I suspect, was really her high IQ working in concourse with her keen senses of sight, sound, taste, feel, and smell.
When I left for college and set up my first home, my mother offered to help me play hostess: “I’ll just write down some of your favorite dishes to cook for your friends,” she stated in her weekly letter. “Far out!” I enthused back. Two days later she called. “I’m having a little problem with the recipes,” she confessed. “I’ve never had to think about how I actually prepare a meal.” “Well,” I replied, “just do the best you can. And, please, give me your recipe for Chicken Curry.” There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, then my mother said, “I’ll try,” in a very unconvincing tone.
I give you NANCY LEWIS’S CHICKEN CURRY:
Servings: Three college girls, two college boys, or one defensive linebacker.
Prep Time: Figure on 45 minutes, but don’t let anyone distract you, especially the linebacker.
1) The Chicken:
Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
2) The Curry Sauce
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp white flour
2 cups half and half (substitute one cup for milk if you are on a diet and one cup for cream if you’re living it up)
½ cup dry white wine (and a glass for the cook!)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp cumin
As much curry powder as you like – mild, medium or hot – but start with 1 tsp.
3) The Condiments
Slightly toasted shredded coconut (use a 325 degree oven and baking sheet to toast, stirring frequently)
Major Grey’s Chutney – the best!
4) The Rice
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
½ tsp salt
Place water in a pot; add salt; boil. Add rice. Bring to boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Cube the chicken breasts and sauté in butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, but do not overcook. It should take about 12 minutes on medium heat. Set aside.
Blend the milk products with the white wine.
In another pot, melt the 5 tbsp of butter, slowly, over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the salt, flour, white pepper, ginger, cumin and curry powder. Blend thoroughly. If too dry, add a bit more butter.
Using a whisk, add a small amount of the wet ingredients to the butter and dry ingredients mixture – very, very slowly – all the while whisking to make a paste. Gradually add the rest of the wet ingredients, whisking constantly to create a smooth sauce.
Add the chicken cubes. Stir with a large spoon. Taste. Adjust spices as needed.
Still on medium heat, stir the sauce constantly until it thickens. If the sauce is too thick, add milk.
Serve the Curry on a bed of rice with the condiments served in separate bowls. It’s very nice with a Chenin Blanc, but if your guest is the linebacker, save your money and give him a Coors.
MY MOM, BILLIE SEXTON’S CABBAGE ROLLS and OTHER FAVES
By Aleene Sexton Queen “Queenie”
1 large head Cabbage
1 pound Ground Beef
1 small Brown Onion
1/2 cup Uncooked Rice
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
Cumin Seeds (if you have some)
2 medium cans Diced Tomatoes
1 can Tomato Sauce
Core Cabbage and place in large cooking pot with 2 or so inches of water
Cover and bring to a boil and steam Cabbage long enough to soften leaves
Leave Cabbage in pot while you …
-Drain liquid from Diced Tomatoes and mix Tomato Sauce with liquid and reserve
-Mix together Hamburger, drained Diced Tomatoes, chopped Onion, uncooked Rice, beaten Egg, and Ground Cumin
-Remove Cabbage leaves from cooking pot and place on plate or flat surface and put
2 (or so) Tbsp of meat mixture onto firm end of Cabbage leaf… Roll once, fold in sides
Roll again, enclosing meat mixture in Cabbage leaf. You’ll use less meat mixture as the leaves get smaller
-When all leaves are rolled … Cover bottom of cooking pot with small amount of reserved Tomato Liquid and layer Cabbage rolls. Top all with smaller Cabbage leaves and cover with balance of Tomato Liquid. Sprinkle V* teaspoon Cumin Seeds (if you have them) or l/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin over top before covering pot.
Bring to gentle boil then lower heat and cook 45-50 minutes. Keep heat low enough to not burn bottom layer of Cabbage Rolls!
Let cool for 10 minutes before placing on serving plate.
Serve cooked Cabbage Rolls with Lemon Wedges.
Boiled Potatoes make a great companion.
Good idea to make a slit in top of Cabbage Roll and squeeze Lemon to flavor inside. Top Potatoes with liquid from Cabbage Rolls and Sour Cream. YUM!
BILLIE’S PISTACHIO SALAD
1 small container creamy Cottage Cheese
2 small cans Mandarin Oranges (drained)
1 medium can Crushed Pineapple (use juice)
2 small pkgs Pistachio Pudding Mix
1 small container Cool Whip
*you can add chopped walnuts, coconut, etc. if desired
Put ingredients together in a bowl, mix with mixer to blend.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Mom served on top of lettuce leaves
MOM’S FAVORITE SNOWBALL RECIPE FOR CHRISTMAS
1 cup butter
6 rounded Tbsp Powdered Sugar
2 cups Pastry Flour (measure before sifting)
1 cup walnuts or pecans – chopped well
1 Tsp Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
Cream butter, add Sugar, Flour, Salt, Vanilla, and chopped nuts
Make balls (about 1 to 2 inches) and put on cookie sheet
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes
While still warm, roll balls in powdered sugar. Cool and pack in airtight container. Improve with Age!!
SPECIAL NOTES ON MOM:
My son, Kev, reminded me that his Nana taught him to make fried eggs without having to turn the egg and breaking the yolk. Here’s how: put raw egg(s) in cup or small bowl and pour into prepared frying pan, add one tablespoon water in pan next to egg(s) and cover until desired doneness. Works every time!
My Mom, Billie Sexton, could make a meal for a houseful of people with just a few ingredients! Her Bridge Club requested her Cabbage Rolls often, and her brothers and their buddies came to our house for dinner every Sunday they could during WW2. My Mom’s Spaghetti sauce was desired by ladies’ past their due date. In fact, two of my grandkids were born within 12 hours after enjoying Nana’s spaghetti dinner (Momma’s secret ingredient was chili powder!). Imagine the food challenges during WW2 when many ingredients were rationed? Momma made a Ketchup sandwich sound like a feast with Sugar sandwiches for dessert as she put fresh-picked flowers on the table and told the stories of growing up in a Utah Pioneer family and how she met my Daddy who was traveling from Coronado to Washington D.C. to work for a year and stopped to have a sandwich at Keeley’s in Salt Lake City. She was his waitress and they just ‘clicked’. Billie and Skip corresponded during that year and married a few years later here in Coronado where they spent the rest of their happy lives and they never stopped ‘clicking!’.
P.S. Will look for Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce recipe to share!
MALLIE CARTER NICHOLS HOME COOKING
By Helen Nichols Murphy (Battleson)
My Mom was a wonderful cook. Since her mother died when she had just turned two years old in the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918, she was raised by her grandmother, Mallie Kelley Carter, who had been born in 1853. My Mom grew up in Texas and cooked by taste. She never followed a recipe. They were all in her head; and now that she is gone, my sister Joan and I do not have anything written down. I did get her to verbally give me some of her recipes when I published my Hewick Cookbook in the early 1990s.
The Coronado Pharmacy Lunch Counter circa 1950
My Mom cooked for a living her entire life. First for both the pharmacy lunch counters in Coronado that Maxine and Lyman Latham owned — one was at 1122 Orange Avenue and the other at 918 Orange Avenue. She cooked the main meal of the day and walked them back and forth between the two pharmacies. She made wonderful meals daily such as Spaghetti, Meatloaf, Pot Roast, Salmon Patties, Chicken & Dumplings, Open-faced Pot Roast Sandwiches with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Chili, Fried Chicken, French Dip Sandwiches, and Fabulous Homemade Soups, the Best Hamburgers in town — something new each day. She and my Dad worked for the Latham’s from the time she and my Dad came to Coronado in 1937 until the new Coronado Hospital was built and opened in the 1960s. Then she was hired in the Dietary Department and worked there another twenty years until she retired in the early 1980s. There were doctors in town who would poke their head in through the door to ask if Mallie was there cooking, and if so they would come in to eat, and if not they went on their way! Many times they would ask what she was cooking and put in their reservations so she would have a meal reserved for them.
When she was at the drugstore, there were so many movie stars in those days coming to stay at the Hotel Del Coronado, and they would head to the pharmacy lunch counter to get my Mom’s home cooking! I still run into people who have never forgotten her cooking! She was a real Coronado treasure with a kind heart! There were kids growing up in Coronado whom I have now learned who ate only because my Mom fed them and never said a word to anyone. After my Mom’s neighbor, Mrs. Todd, who lived next door to her at 8th & J died, I learned from her son that my Mom had fixed a meal and took it to her every night! I am sure if there is a hot stove in Heaven she is standing there cooking her heart away!
Here are some of my Favorite Recipes of Mom’s Home Cooking:
MALLIE’S COUNTRY FRIED CHICKEN
1 frying chicken, cut up
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 c. half and half cream or evaporated milk
Cooking oil (Crisco)
–Mix dry ingredients together. Wash and dry chicken pieces. Roll them in flour mixture and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. Did quickly into cream, then back into flour mixture for a crispy crust.
–Brown in hot oil, then lower heat, and cook until tender. Remove lid from iron skillet and cook briefly to re-crisp chicken. Serve at once.
MALLIE’S APPLE PIE
3 c. apples, cut up, peeled and cored
2/3 cup sugar (more if apples are tart)
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
3 Tbsp. butter
–Layer apples in the crust (recipe below) with sugar, spices, flour, and butter. Drizzle with a bit of cream. Cover with top crust, crimping edges. Cut slits in top to let steam escape. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes until top is golden.
MALLIE’S PIE CRUST
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. shortening plus 1 Tbsp. (Crisco)
–Mix flour and salt with 1/2 cup of shortening. Blend with pastry blender. Add the remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. shortening and blend again. Add 4 to 5 Tbsp. of cold water and mix with fork. Roll out and put into pie tin.
MALLIE’S DINNER ROLLS (12 Rolls)
1/4 c. milk
2 Tbsp. butter or oil
1/4 c. water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. of 1 Tbsp. yeast
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 1/4 c. flour (about)
–Heat milk, water, and butter. Place in large bowl of mixer. Stir in yeast and let dissolve. Add sugar and salt. Add 1 cup flour and heat 2 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour. Beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board, knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in buttered bowl, turning to butter top. Cover with a towel, place in a warm place, free from draft, until double in bulk, about 30 minutes.
–Punch down, turn out onto a lightly floured board, cut into 1/2 equal size pieces. Shape into rolls, turning each roll so top is buttered. Let rise 15 to 20 minutes. Bake in 375 degree oven (if glass is used, 350 degrees) 12 to 15 minutes. Butter top of rolls, if desired.
MALLIE’S SPOON BREAD
1 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 c. cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, separated
–Add salt to milk and gradually stir in cornmeal. Cook in top of double boiler until thick. Cool to lukewarm, add baking powder to beaten egg yolks and combine with cornmeal mush. Mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in. Bake in well-greased square pan at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve with a spoon.
MALLIE’S CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE
1 Tbsp. butter or shortening (Crisco)
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Brown sugar mixed with Cinnamon
–Cream butter and sugar, then add sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Add egg and beat well together. Pour in flat cookie pan and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Dot with large lumps of butter and pecans. Cook in moderate oven, about 35 minutes.
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