Mary Ann’s Tuna Salad

IMG_2517 Sometimes I forget that something I have made and eaten for as long as I can remember is considered a “family favorite” recipe. I think that is why no one ever wrote down Grandma Terrell’s tea cake or cornbread recipe, or Daddy’s recipe for homemade rolls.They were made so often that they were learned by heart and hands but now, generations later, the recipes would be treasured, knowing that we were doing it just like they did..

Tuna salad is like that for me. When I was a little girl, I loved our famiy’s tuna sandwiches. They were a staple when teenage friends gathered at our house.  I still make it just like Mother did with 2 slight alterations:  I use white albacore tuna packed in water, not the Chicken of the Sea packed in oil that Mother always used, and I use a lighter version of mayonnaise. Neither of these products was available all those years ago!  I have eaten many variations of tuna salad in different places. I know I can add onions if I want, or chopped pecans. Or celery and fresh dill. I know it does not have to have boiled eggs and apples. But as a family favorite, here is the way I make it.

Mary Ann’s Tuna Salad

2/ 7 oz. can’s white albacore tuna packed in water.  (Costco’s version is very good.)

2 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1 large apple, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup dill relish, or 1/3 cup whole pickles, chopped fine

1/2 cup Mayonnaise  (I prefer Hellman’s Mayo with Olive oil)

Drain tuna and add to bowl along with eggs, apple, relish and mayonnaise.

Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Mix and spread on bread slices or served on a lettuce cup.

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Fried Okra

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In East Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s  I grew up eating many more fried foods than I choose to eat now.  That means most of the okra I grow in my garden will wind up in gumbo or roasted whole, both delicious and healthy.   But fried okra will  always remain as a favorite comfort food for Joe and me, and our children love it, too. So occasionally, I slice a batch, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add some chopped onion, toss in cornmeal, and fry it in oil, not bacon drippings (the traditional choice of cooking fat).  We really don’t use enough bacon to save the drippings in a container on the back of the stove like my Mother and Grandma did  This is one of those foods I have cooked for so many years and with varying amounts, according to how much okra I had. So it seems odd to produce a recipe, but if you really want to know….

Fried Okra

4 cups okra pods – small ones, not longer than about 3 inches

1/2 onion, chopped

salt and pepper

1 cup cornmeal, or enough to dredge okra

Remove stem and small amount of pointed end of okra, then slice in 1/2 inch rounds.  Add to a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add chopped onion and toss.  Heat an inch of oil in cast iron frying pan. Fry okra in small batches to allow crisp browning.  Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Serve immediately

We like ours just like this, but you can spice it up a bit by slicing in a jalapeno pepper or mixing in some cayenne pepper or other seasoning with the cornmeal.  Also, since dipping sauces are so popular, you can try mixing a little mayo with lemon juice and garlic powder or serve with Ranch dressing on the side.

Summer Squash Casserole

IMG_0575Summer squashes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors -round balls or long, shiny zucchini, glossy yellow globes of  crookneck yellow squash, scalloped patty pans, and dozens of others. But growing up in East Texas, when gardeners talked about squash in summertime, it was always the crooknecks.  By the time they appeared on the dinner table, they were sliced, dipped in cornmeal, and fried along with chopped onions in bacon grease.  Once in awhile, a squash casserole showed up at a church potluck.  Just about every church cookbook, and all cookbooks featuring Southern Food will have some variation of this recipe. In our own church cookbook, it is billed as “pastor’s favorite.” This particular recipe is my adaptation of one found in Jan Karon’s MItford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader under the title Puny’s Squash Casserole.  Truth be told, you could use any thin skinned summer squash, but yellow ones make a lovely dish.

Yellow Squash Casserole.

2 Tablespoons butter plus enough to butter the baking dish

6-8 medium yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

2 large eggs

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips

Sprig of fresh rosemary or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Butter a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Steam squash and onions until tender, place in bowl and mash slightly with potato masher,  add butter and stir to melt butter. In a small bowl,  whisk eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, then add this mixture to squash before pouring into baking dish.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven, and add topping.  Return to oven for 10-15 minutes to brown..Add garnish.

 

 

Cool Cucumbers

008Summertime in Texas means a jar of cucumbers (preferably homegrown) sitting in a jar  in the refrigerator – cold, crunchy, snappy goodness that are a perfect side for almost any meal. No cooking required, so cool food, cool kitchen!  My mother kept a jar of these cucumbers in her icebox, and I remember my grandmother making them, too.  I usually make mine by heating water and the small amount of sugar needed until the sugar completely dissolves, then mixing with vinegar before pouring over layered cucumbers and sliced onions seasoned with salt and pepper.

There are many variations created by adding  another vegetable or spices.  If I have dill growing in my herb bed, I add a few sprigs of it.  I have added celery seeds, cherry tomatoes or a sliced jalapeno.  We like this best alongside a serving of fresh purple hull peas and a wedge of cornbread.  When we lived in Indonesia, we learned to enjoy a version of this dish prepared in much the same way, but adding hot peppers and carrots, all chopped in small pieces.  This is called acar, and is served as a condiment, served with many foods there, but always with nasi goreng (fried rice).

Marinated Cucumbers

2-3  cucumbers, sliced (I peel them if they are storebought, but skip peeling when I bring them in from the garden)

1 onion, thinly sliced

½ cup either white or apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Layer cucumbers and onions in a jar or container with cover and sprinkle a little salt over them. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and cook until just hot, not boiling. Pour over the cucumbers and onions. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Lovely Leftovers, or Still Thankful

One of the joys of preparing a family holiday meal is having leftovers.  OK, I know not everyone enjoys putting them away and then figuring out what to do with them.  And I do have a husband who does not complain about eating leftovers.   I really do like Thanksgiving leftovers, and thought it might be fun to look at some before pictures and then talk about how the remains were revisited. Some of the “leavings” went home with guests, but here’s how we took care of ours.

First, the bird!  I am the first to admit, the turkey was in the roaster a bit too long.  This was my first time using an electric turkey roaster but it won’t be the last.  No basting, shorter cooking time, and even though it was falling off the bone the meat was tender and moist. I rubbed it with olive oil and a Texas salt rub that had plenty of cayenne and paprika and stuffed it with slices of orange, Meyer lemon and fresh bay leaves, rosemary, and basil straight out of the garden.  I glazed the turkey with pomegranate jelly.  Honestly, there was not alot leftover.  We had enough for turkey sandwiches.  But usually I make turkey tetrazinni and turkey noodle soup.  Any that remains after a couple of days gets chopped up and stored in Ziploc bags in the freezer.  This can be used in just about any chicken recipe.

Fruit salad with cooked dressing is one dish we included this year that I remember my Mother always putting on the table for holiday meals. Our cornbread dressing is another.  In the 40’s and 50’s we never had turkey or pumpkin pie.  We had baked chicken and cornbread dressing and sweet potato pie.  We had alot of this leftover because the recipe makes alot and since it competes for dessert as a sweet, I think people “saved for dessert.”  That is OK, because I love it.  We have eaten it as a side with sandwiches but my favorite way of eating this leftover is for breakfast!  I will include this recipe.  The dressing is delicious drizzled over fresh fruit.  I included the cherries and marshmallows because that is the way Mother made it, but I prefer to omit them.

Our sons and their wives are good cooks, so we are fortunate to have their great contributions to our family gatherings.  My son Ben made our mac and cheese, green beans amandine, and the cranberry sauce, which he tells me he cooked by adding honey and some garam masala to fresh cranberries.  This was tasty spread on toast to make a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich.  The last 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce got whirled in the blender with Greek yogurt and orange juice to make a cranberry smoothie.  Son Sean made a beautiful berry pie and his wife, Teion, made Paula Deen’s pumpkin pie. And although we didn’t get to taste, son Jeremy made campfire turkey and dressing which they called from their camping spot to say turned out great.

Fruit Salad with Cooked Dressing   (just like Opal made it)

8 or 10 oranges, peeled, sectioned, each section cut into bite size

2 cans pineapple chunks, drained

1 jar Maraschino cherries, drained

1 cup of miniature marshmallows

1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

Toss with cooked dressing and whipped cream and let set in refrigerator to chill.

Cooked Dressing

2 Tablespoons vinegar

4 Tablespoons sugar

2  whole eggs

2 Tablespoons butter

Combine and cook, stirring, until thick.  Cool before adding to fruit.

Purple Hull Peas


Summertime when I was growing up in East Texas meant having fresh vegetables on the table. Tomatoes, yellow crookneck squash, onions, okra, mustard and turnip greens, melons, corn and peas. Blackeyed Peas, Crowders, Lady Peas, Field Peas, and best of all – Purple Hull! They may be the hardest of all to shell, but they are certainly the prettiest on the vine and the tastiest in the pot. I have tried lots of ways to cook them and things to put in them, but the way Grandma and Mother cooked them is still my favorite way to eat them – along with a hot pan of cornbread, of course! I even enjoyed shelling them. It took me almost an hour, but there is something very satisfying about popping these lovely peas with their lavender centers out of their pods and filling up the bowl. All they really need is a good rinsing, and into the pot with some bits of bacon and salt and pepper. Add water as necessary as the liquid cooks down. We like to eat them with some onion and tomato slices, chow chow or green tomato relish, and a wedge of crusty cornbread. Cook about an hour, or until done!

Elbows on the Table

Pasta was not a word in most families’ food vocabulary in 1940’s East Texas. However, they did eat noodles in chicken noodle soup and occasionally buttered instead of potatoes with a meal. Appearing also at family meals, macaroni, specifically small elbow macaroni, was the star in macaroni and cheese (not Kraft dinners) and a potluck favorite called simply Macaroni Salad.

The latter was favored by a woman who not only made it for her table at home, but also bore it proudly to Sunday School luncheons and church potlucks. Opal grew up on a farm, picked cotton, packed tomatoes and proudly sold tins of Cloverine salve to buy her first set of pots and pans. A hard worker at any of those jobs, she set herself to perform well at any task, cooking included. Opal’s blue eyes snapped with both humor and determination when she decided to do something. Permed curls bobbing, hands on her hips, arms ready to hug she demonstrated wit and will as well as how loyal and loving she could be. Raised in the Great Depression, she was thrifty to the bone while being generous with what she had. Food she made in her kitchen in the little house on Sunset Street in Jacksonville, Texas was prepared with what she had on hand. Macaroni Salad was no exception.

After tying on a brightly colored apron trimmed with ric-rac sewn on her Singer, she hard- boiled eggs in an aluminum pan whose handles had long ago burned off. With the cooled and peeled eggs set aside, she rinsed the pan and brought salted water to a boil for the little crooked macaroni elbows. She never worried that they needed to be al dente! Once she had drained the noodles into a metal strainer, she dumped them into a Pyrex bowl. Next came the chopped eggs and whatever other ingredients that were available. Most of the time, celery was in the icebox to be scrubbed and diced, along with American Cheese sliced into small cubes, chopped pickles, and a small squatty jar of pimiento pieces. Opal’s skinny, bespectacled young daughter often peeled eggs, pulled strings from celery and forked out pickles. Sometimes she cut onion into small pieces while tears ran down her cheeks.

Perhaps there was a recipe Opal learned from working in a cafeteria before her girls were born. Or there may well have been directions on the Skinner macaroni package. More likely, Opal helped Clyde Terrell, her own mama, so she knew how to make this for her husband Howard Teal when they married in 1931. Or it could be that Clyde’s gift of a cookbook was the source of the all those macaroni salad filled Pyrex bowls. There is a recipe for Macaroni Salad in a worn copy of The Service Cookbook by Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen,  inscribed “From Mamma, Dec. 25, 1933.”

Opal Terrell Teal was my mother. Until very near her death in 2006, one month shy of her 93rd birthday, she claimed Macaroni Salad by saying, “I always liked it.” No longer young or skinny, still bespectacled, and ever grateful for growing up loving to be in the kitchen, I like it too. My granddaughters like to wear the ric-rac trimmed aprons.

Macaroni Salad

2 cups cold cooked elbow macaroni
½ cup diced celery
½ cup finely chopped American cheese
1 Tablespoon minced onion
½ cup French dressing
½ teaspoon salt
A few grains paprika
Lettuce
Mayonnaise

Combine the macaroni, celery, cheese and onion; marinate with the French dressing, and season with salt and paprika. Chill; arrange in individual nests of lettuce; and garnish with mayonnaise and a little paprika.

Note: I don’t remember Mother using paprika, nor do I remember any nests of lettuce. Boiled eggs do not appear in this recipe, but they did appear in the Pyrex dishes.

 

 

   Opal Terrell Teal’s cookbook.        The apron on which it rests belonged to Clyde Terrell.