As a young girl, there were times I couldn’t help but wonder why and how some people could actually thrive on spending time in the kitchen, cooking and baking. After all, when done, you simply watch your creation be consumed, then start all over and repeat the whole process again.
Time moved on. As I got older, the more I learned about cooking and baking the more I found myself flipping through cookbooks, gathering new ideas and discovering more unique combinations and ways of cooking. Before I knew what was happening, I also turned into one of those who thrived on dumping ingredients together, whisking it up, sticking it in the oven, then watching my parents and siblings enjoy it.
I loved making huge batches of whatever I made. The extras went into the freezer or were kept for the following day. With a large family, food doesn’t seem to last long — whether it’s casseroles, desserts or baked goods. It all seems to vanish in no time.
Occasionally, when Mom was gone for the day, I took the chance to have “bake day.” It motivated me to know how delighted she would be to come home to fresh cookies, a big batch of granola, or pie. Peanut butter cream pie was a family favorite so that’s the kind I made most frequently. Mom preferred coconut pie above peanut butter so I usually made a coconut pie for her as well.
My first experience with attempting to plan and prepare a full-course meal was when I was 14 years old. I decided to make an anniversary meal for my parents and another couple along with their family who shared their anniversary date. There were a total of 14 people. I was excited about it, yet keeping the menu a secret from Mom was challenging. I had told her that I planned to make supper for them but didn’t give details on what would be on the menu.
The family that joined us for supper had a 10-year-old daughter who came and helped me for the afternoon. We were both filled with ambition as we sent Mom out of the house and set to work, rolling out pie dough, breading chicken I had ordered at the nearby Villa’s Country store, peeling potatoes, mixing up homemade ice cream, etc. It didn’t take long until I began to realize that we didn’t allow enough time to prepare everything; neither did I know how swiftly these afternoon hours would zoom by when preparing supper for guests. By mid-afternoon, a friend who is older than I (and a well-seasoned cook) dropped in by chance and offered to help. We accepted her generous offer. Glad for the lift.
I did have a few of those “cook moments” when you see that things aren’t turning out the way they are supposed to. One problem I had was the peanut butter pie. For some reason, the filling just didn’t get as thick as it generally does, so Mom to the rescue. I told her about it and she advised me to whisk in some instant pudding. I did as she instructed but had a problem with getting it smooth enough. Mom to the rescue once more. “Stir some peanut butter crumbs into the filling, rather than just layering into the pie crust,” she said. “Then no one will notice.” Wow, mothers do have amazing advice.
The boys froze the homemade ice cream which worked out well for me. I decided to use the recipe we usually used, only we decided to omit the frozen strawberries and make vanilla instead. We call it the “Shlick and Quick” ice cream. “Shlick” is an Pennsylvania Dutch term for “simple” or “easy.” Anyway, I dumped the ice cream ingredients together, whisked it up and — believe it or not — I forgot about adding vanilla to replace the strawberries I had omitted. To say the least, I wasn’t exactly impressed when I thought about it afterwards. Thankfully, most of them had eaten it with the syrup and pie.
All in all, we had a great evening and, yes, it was a learning experience for me.
QUICK ICE CREAM
2 cups sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup Instant Clear Jel
½ teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 quart frozen, chopped strawberries (optional)
Stir the sugars, Instant Clear Jel and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Add cream, stir vigorously.
Add vanilla and several cups milk.
Pour into a quart ice cream freezer.
Add milk until quart ice cream freezer is 3 inches below the rim to being filled.
Freeze with ice cream freezer.
We like dividing the recipe into small batches and making it in a blender by using frozen milk cubes to freeze it.
It then has a consistency similar to shakes or smoothies.
We also prefer using less sugar and replacing it with maple syrup.
(Editor’s note: Instant Clear Jel is a specific kind of commercially available thickener most commonly found in bulk food stores. It is available via mail order from Amazon.com.)