Monday, October 20, 2014

Valentine Cake for Mother's Day, and Pumpkin Ice Cream for October


(This column was originally published on Sunday, May 4, 2014, in the newspaper where I was employed for 25 years. I lost my job a few weeks later. It has been a life change for me. I am so very blessed to be able to be a stay at home mother after all of these years. However, the reality is that it is true what the doctors say, that the loss of a job can be compared to a death, divorce, etc. It ranks right up there. Let me tell you. I had a pretty good summer easing into sleeping in late and staying up later, and of course vacation was a blast. But truth be told I have struggled with my identity since my children have gone back to school. I haven't decided what I am going to do but I am working toward finding my way to be productive and happy without my newspaper job and also dealing with the loss of friends. One of the ways is writing this blog, which I have been ignoring. I believe my mother would be just as proud of me today as she was of me six months ago, when I shared my story about her. As a side note it should be mentioned my mother died on this day - October 20 - in the year 1968.)

Since I won't be writing next week I want to celebrate Mother's Day by sharing a story about my late mother, Sandra Ellen Watson McDonald, and two of her recipes.

My mother died at the age of 24, just two months shy of my third birthday, a victim of leukemia.

I do not remember my mother but many in the area do. My grandmother, 88, certainly remembers her, and my father, her boyfriend and then husband, remembers her well.

She had many friends, now in their late 60s, some with whom I've become acquainted that knew her.

For years I've wondered about my mother. Seeking something more.

And a year ago on Valentine's Day I finally met her.

"Spent a few hours with my grandmother this afternoon, and found in the attic a scrapbook belonging to my late mother of her school days. I broke down when I came across the photograph of her class touring The Daily Jeffersonian and comments about that day in her handwriting. Awesome discovery that made me just weep," I posted on Facebook.

A photograph of my mother and me, and a page from her scrapbook showing she visited The Daily Jeffersonian, and in her handwriting a list of the names of her classmates who toured the newspaper where I used to work.
In that attic I found my mother's youth and the years leading up to me.

Finding the newspaper clipping from The Jeffersonian was profound.

I have been employed with this newspaper since June 1989 and to know that my mother, when she was 11 years old in the spring of 1956, set foot in a space that I now occupy brings me comfort.

Before I came to work in Cambridge, the Jeffersonian plant she toured was razed and a new Jeffersonian building constructed next door. The lot where I park my vehicle is where the old building stood, the place where she and 17 of her classmates from Mt. Ephraim School toured.

I have become familiar with my mother's handwriting as in the attic I also found many handwritten English assignments from both Sarahsville High School from where she graduated in 1963 and The Ohio State University where she attended.

Career exploration was apparent from her writings. In one of the assignments she talks about being in the College of Education but intending to major in home economics, and in another paper she talks about becoming a flight attendant.

My mother attended classes at OSU until she learned she was pregnant with me. She then became married to my father, Fred, and then I was born.

Since finding my mother on Feb. 14, 2013, I have also found recipes in grandmother's recipe box that were clearly written by her. It's no coincidence that one of hers that I've selected to share today is called Valentine Cake.

Valentine Cake

1 1/3 cup coconut

1 regular size package Jell-O (strawberry)

Package white cake mix

6 cups fluffy white frosting

Tint coconut with 1 tablespoon Jell-O - prepare cake mix batter as directed on package, adding remaining Jell-O before beating.

Pour in greased, paper lined pans. Cool 10 minutes. Split cakes horizontally, making four layers. Spread frosting between layers and over cake. Sprinkle tinted coconut around sides.


The second recipe also is from my mother and was part of a term paper she wrote in English composition at Ohio State with Mr. Gross, the fall of 1963. The class met at 8 a.m., according to the theme folder that holds dozens of essays.

In the writing assignment she talks about the month of October. (She was born Oct. 7, 1944). She talks of Halloween, trick-or-treat and masquerade parties. She offers a recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie.

Ingredients for 8 servings.

Date and nut cookies - 1 2/3 cups or about 13 cookies

Sugar - 1/4 cup

Butter, melted - 1/4 cup

Canned or cooked pumpkin - 3/4 cup

Cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon

Ground allspice - 1/2 teaspoon

Ground ginger - 1/4 teaspoon

Salt - 1/4 teaspoon

Brown sugar - 1/4 cup

Vanilla ice cream - 1 1/2 pints

Chopped pecans 1/3 cup

For one pie: Place cookies in a clean plastic bag. Lay flat on counter, open end towards you. Pound and roll with rolling pin until fine crumbs are formed. Add sugar and melted butter. Hold bag and knead until well combined. Turn ingredients into nine-inch pie pan. Press against bottom and sides of pan to form crust. Chill until firm.

Let ice cream stand at room temperature to soften.

Combine pumpkin, spices, salt and brown sugar in a bowl. Stir in softened ice cream and pecans. Pour into chipped pie crust and freeze until firm. If desired, use chocolate frosting in a tube to make a pretty cobweb design on pie surface. Or garnish with shipped cream and nuts.

On her paper the instructor writes in red ink, "Rewrite this in English English which is different from cookbook English."

I wonder what she would think of my writing?

P.S. I'd like to wish the woman who raised me and never treated me like a step daughter, Judy Behringer, a Happy Mother's Day also. See you on Mother's Day, Mom! Love you much.

Republished with permission from the newspaper publisher.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

3 Vegetable Casserole and Circus Peanut Salad for Easter dinner



Easter Sunday then and now

Welcome to the Easter Sunday edition of Vintage Family Fixin's.

Christ The Lord has risen today, Hallelujah!

My family and I will be spending the afternoon with my mom and stepdad, Judy and Dan Behringer, and my siblings and their families.

My mom Judy - the woman who raised me - came into my life in 1970 when she married my father, Fred McDonald who had lost his first wife, my mother Sandra McDonald, to leukemia.

I was an only child but in 1971 I got a sister, Amy, and then another sister, Molly, in 1974.

In 1979 we got a brother, Matthew.

Fred and Judy were together until after Matthew graduated from high school.

After Dad, Mom, Amy and I moved from Columbus to Caldwell, we lived with my dad's parents Fred and Ruth on upper Belford Street.

After Molly was born we moved to 605 Belford St.

Fred and (the former) Judy McDonald with daughters, Amy, l, Molly and Lisa (me), r, on Easter Sunday 1977.
Shortly after this picture was taken we moved to 704 West St. (I helped carry a large swing set down the street when we moved because it was only a block to our new house).

Among our new neighbors were two older women who lived in the stone-faced house at the corner of West and Belford streets, Helen Ellerman and Jeannette Marshall.

Helen lived downstairs and Jeannette lived upstairs.

Jeannette and my mom shared conversations, and recipes.

Mom asked me to bring to her house today a vegetable and a Jell-O dish for Easter dinner.

Today's featured recipe of 3 Vegetable Casserole was given to my mom by Jeannette. I found a copy in my recipe box.

Mom made this dish for our family on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

It is very good.

3 Vegetable Casserole

1 package of frozen peas

1 package of frozen lima beans

1 package of french green beans

1 cup of medium white sauce (see below)

1 cup of mayonnaise

3 hard-cooked eggs

4 strips of crisp bacon

Combine the white sauce, mayo and eggs (chopped) and set aside.

Cook vegetables separately according to directions and drain well. In a buttered casserole place the peas and cover with 1/2 the sauce. Next place the lima beans and remaining sauce. Then make a wreath of the green beans around the casserole and place the crumbled bacon in the center of the wreath. Place in a 300 degree oven just long enough to heat through.

Medium white sauce

2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of black pepper, 1 1/2 cups milk. Melt butter, stir in flour using wooden spoon or wire whisk. Stir or whisk until there are no lumps and then stir in milk slowly until smooth and bubbly. Use a small heavy pan.

The Jell-O dessert I've chosen to take to mom's Easter dinner is called Circus Peanut Salad and I can't wait to taste it. It's been a while since I've eaten a circus peanut. How about you?

I found this week's bonus recipe in Grandmother Ruth McDonald's recipe box.


Circus Peanut Salad

40 circus peanuts cut up in bits

Mix with 1 large box orange Jell-O. Stir in 3 cups boiling water till dissolved. Add 1 No. 2 can (crushed) pineapple and juice also. Refrigerate till thickens enough to add 1 medium size carton of Cool Whip. Frost when set with topping (see next).


Mix 1 small box of lemon Jell-O with 1 small package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and stir in 2 cups boiling water.

Let stand in refrigerator until almost set. Add 1 small Cool Whip and mix well.

Frost Jell-O and garnish with mandarin orange slices.


Happy Easter, Dad!

Originally published in the newspaper where I used to work on April 20, 2014, and reprinted here with permission of the publisher.