The Good Life: Meals Mom Made

Winter brings back a lot of nostalgic memories for me, especially involving some of my favorite meals that my mother made for our family of five.

My momma is a great cook.

Homegirl can't bake, but man, can she cook!

If you're feelin' home-y, try out one of her dishes that we enjoyed so much growing up:

Hash browns - Shred up those taters and heat up a generous scoop of Crisco, cook 'em until crisp and flip. For the last minute of cooking, slap on a slice (or two) of processed American cheese product. Yes, it's likely that the Crisco and American cheese product will shorten your life expectancy by 2 - 4 years, but it's worth at least one serving.

Egg-in-a-Hole - Butter some bread, use a glass to punch out a hole in the center of the bread, and throw it in a plan. Crack an egg in the hole and flip when ready. The best, easiest, and most kid friendly breakfast around - - unless you are my sister, who gags at the scent of eggs cooking. On those mornings you can bet sister ate cereal.

French Toast - I don't know what it is about mom's French toast, but it's delish! I think she adds vanilla to the egg/milk batter?

Homemade Donuts - Using biscuits from a tube, momma sticks a finger in the center of the biscuit dough before deep frying them. After draining on paper towels, the doughnuts get a toss in sugar. Eat 'em while they're hot, though, because these aren't very good cold.

Toast with Peanut Butter and Brown Sugar - Probably the second-most unhealthy breakfast item I ate as a child was toast with a generous slather of PB, with brown sugar sprinkled on top. Granted, there's not much 'cooking' involved in this breakfast treat, but it is tasty!

Enchiladas - Mom would brown some ground beef, toss in some diced onions, and a can of enchilada sauce. She'd wrap up the mixture in some white flour tortilla shells and top it all off with a huge handfull of cheese. Cook 'em in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, and while waiting, she'd shred some lettuce, slice black olives, dice tomatoes and more onions, and bring out the sour cream. I know it doesn't sound too special, but she is a master at enchiladas! I still request this meal for my birthday!

Ham and Bean Soup - Truth be told, I have no idea what is in my mother's ham and bean soup. Not a clue. But it's delish, people! DELICIOUS! And, I know she makes it with her leftover ham. I guess you'll just have to stop by when she's got a Crock Pot of this soup on the counter.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy - There was something special about my mom's mashed taters. They were mashed to the perfect texture, which was almost smooth with a few chewy lumps. She used butter, pepper, and milk in her taters, and her gravy was always made with drippings from the meal's accompanying meat. I don't recall if she used corn starch or flour to thicken her gravy, but I have memories from when I was young watching my mom shake - with much vigor - the thickening agent in her Tupperware "gravy shaker". Good stuff, baby.

French Dip Sandwiches - Being a farmer's wife, mom had access to lots of beef roasts and got creative when making her French dip sandwiches. We knew it would be a good night when we'd see the hoagie rolls on the counter and see her wisking up au jus. Sometimes she'd sneak a slice of swiss cheese onto the top.

Chicken Wings - My mother had the skills to transform Fareway chicken wings into a glorious "snacky dinner" where we'd munch on leftovers and wings for a meal. Her spice drawer is diverse and packed full, and I know that her wing seasoning was a homemade spice mixture. Perhaps she doesn't even know what she seasons her wings with...or maybe she does. I'll never know.

Tator Tot Casserole - I saved the best for last, people! Oh lawdy, this tator tot casserole is the stuff in which dreams are made. Momma taught me to make this awesome casserole when I left for college in 2003, starting with the meat mixture, which is: some cooked ground beef (whatever amount 'ya got lyin' around), a can of cream of mushroom soup, maybe some canned mushrooms, and some frozen veggies (like peas, carrots, corn, green beans... whatever). Add some salt or pepper to the mixture if you want. I usually add garlic and onion powder. Then, pack the meat mixture into a casserole pan and top with tator tots. I like to neatly arrange my tots in rows, or a circular pattern. Sometimes I just toss 'em on. Whatever works for you. Just spread your wings and fly, people! Do what moves 'ya! But do not, DO NOT! forget to add a healthy handful of shredded cheese to the top of the tots. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and the tots are cooked.

CrAAAAAAAAAAzy Crunch - Ok, so this treat is actually one of my father's best recipes, which he acquired from his brother, my uncle Jeff. I have the recipe, but I don't think I have the security clearance to publish it :) Basically, you pop some popcorn, painstakingly sort through the popcorn to eliminate the old maids, whip up a carmel-y mixture (which includes lots of butter!) and pour the mixture over the popcorn while simultaneously stirring as fast as possible. It's a two-man job, and the best people for that job were my dad and sister. Of course, Crazy Crunch is best enjoyed hot, but the caramel mixture just might pull out one of your fillings. No lie.

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