My Mother’s Cooking

My mother, Jennie Hansen

My mother was not a great cook. To her cooking was the way to prepare food so your family didn’t starve, and in as inexpensive a manner as possible! She had a large family, seven children, too much to do, and it was just another chore. She was an artist, and she saved her creativity for painting, not for something as plebian as cooking.

From the time I was about 14 years old, I became the main cook of the family. Mother had breast cancer at that time and was very ill for a long time, and as the oldest daughter, I took over the cooking, and other chores. I loved to cook, and to experiment with cooking, so it became my job after that. My younger siblings recall many of the meals I made for the family.

Mother cooked plain things—meat and potatoes, eggs, vegetables. She had been raised in a poor family during the Depression, so she never knew anything but plain, inexpensive food. We were a farm family until I was 14 years old, with chickens and a cow. So, we had plenty of eggs and milk. We went up to Burley Idaho each year and brought back bags of pinto beans and potatoes. Dad had a garden where we grew vegetables, which we ate. Mother used her food budget to squeeze money for other things out of, so we had beans for Sunday dinner for years (I don’t remember a roast for Sunday dinner ever). Dad loved eggs so we had Egg ala Goldenrod (we’d call them Eggs Grotten) often. We had potatoes all the time, fixed every way you could fix them. Other favorite recipes were Shepherd’s pie, Scalloped Potatoes, and Macaroni and Cheese.

My brother recently wrote a blog that reminded me of other food items at our house growing up—Mother always had a bowl of sugar on the table (I think it was for my father, who later became a diabetic). Dad put it on tomatoes, and watermelon—ugh!!!!! The kids put it on cereal, as Mom only bought the cheapest, unsweetened puffed rice or puffed wheat. Mom also a bowl of cinnamon sugar handy so you could put it on buttered toast and make your own cinnamon bread.

We got whole milk delivered to our house but with growing kids, Mom always watered it down with powdered milk. She’d skim off the cream and mix the powdered milk and whole milk (minus the cream—half and half. I didn’t mind, I didn’t like milk and never drank it anyway, so I never noticed. It was just another way Mom economized, but still gave us lots of fresh milk.

Mother loved sugar and chocolate. Sometimes when she craved sugar, she’d mix shortening—yes that’s right—and sugar together and eat it!!!! (It wasn’t even powdered sugar so you couldn’t call it frosting. She loved everything chocolate!!!!! Another favorite was cream puffs.

We bottled our own fruit and vegetables, so we never had canned food, except for pork and beans, which we ate when we had nothing else to eat. You had your big Sunday dinner (beans with a ham hock), and then on Sunday night a special treat was canned peaches and bread. You’d get it yourself so there was no big sit-down dinner. I think it was so special because I didn’t have to make it for the family—everyone could do it on their own.

Sometimes we’d bottled homemade root beer by putting yeast in the bottles and seal them. But you had to watch that they didn’t get too old and ferment. More often you’d get dry ice and just make a batch of homemade root beer to drink all at once.

At Christmas time she made raised doughnuts to give to everyone! Her recipe made enough for a neighborhood.  I have the remains of her recipe which she’d cut out of a magazine, but it was an unusual one with nutmeg in it. For years I made them and shared them with friends and neighbors and even typed up the recipe and gave it to others, but the last few years I haven’t made it.

I have several cranberry salad recipes that were hers—but they were typed and not hand-written. I think they were given to her to make for a ward dinner. One is my special salad/relish that I make every Christmas and few in my family eat it. I have three recipes in her handwriting: “Carrot and Rice Casserole” that I’ve never made, nor do I remember her making, and two recipes for Danish Aebliskivers, an apple pancake made in a special pan.

Mother was first generation Danish, but I don’t recall her cooking anything Danish except Danish Dessert—out of the box. We did not have the aebliskivers pans, and Mother never made aebliskivers, so I must have asked her for the recipes. I eventually bought the pan and made the aebliskivers for my family. Mother told me about her mother (Grandmother Hendrickson) making Danish blood pudding out of the blood of meat (YUCK!)


Jennie’s Danish Doughnuts


3 ¾ c. milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm

¼ c. warm, not hot water

1 ½ packages dry granular yeast

1 ½ c. sifted all purpose flour

2 c. sugar

½ lb. Butter

1 tsp. Salt

4 eggs

1 ½ tsp nutmeg

10-11 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm, not hot water, and allow to stand for 5 minutes; add to milk. Add 1 ½ cup flour and beat to a smooth batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until very light and full of bubbles, about 3 hours.

Add beaten eggs, salt, nutmeg, butter, sugar, flour and stir to a soft dough. Keep in a bowl and knead very lightly. Set to rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Roll out on lightly floured surface to ½ inch thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter and allow to rise until double in bulk. Fry in deep fat (375º) until golden brown. Dredge in sugar or frost. Makes 6 doz.

Egg Ala Goldenrod


1/4 cup butter  

1/4 cup flour                

1/4 teaspoon. salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk

4 hard-boiled eggs

6 pieces toast (or biscuits, rolls)

Melt butter; blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth; remove from heat. Slowly stir in milk. Bring to a boil over direct heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Stir in chopped egg whites.

 Just before serving, pour sauce over toast, biscuits, rolls, etc., and top with smushed egg yolks.

4 servings.       

Shepherd’s Pie:

(This is made with leftovers of a roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables)

Mix 1/2 c. diced meat (left-over roast) or 1/2 lb browned ground beef in a casserole dish with 1 c. cooked vegetables, 1 c. gravy, 1/4 t. salt, and cover with 1 c. left-over mashed potatoes.  Bake 30 minutes or until potatoes brown slightly.

Make gravy by browning juices and melted fat of beef with 1/4 c. flour, salt and pepper and add 1 c. water.  Stir until smooth and bubbly.)

All that is left of my mother’s raised doughnut original recipe.

Recipe written in my mother’s hand

Aebliskiver pan

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