Friday, February 6, 2015

Vintage recipes from Mom’s and Grandma’s little black books

Meals I grew up on were served with genuine love.

Parents can pray and take an active role in their children’s physical and spiritual growth.

Mom was an excellent business woman, planner, shopper, baker, gardener, cook, seamstress, bookkeeper, chauffeur and homemaker. She had Biblical-Martha virtues, but her true Spirit was like Mary in chapter 10 of Luke. Eleven years after my parents’ 1950 wedding, I was was given life—their fifth child (out of six made our family of eight). Mother had been baptized into Christ’s self-sacrificing love. She focused on Christ as she graciously placed my father and us as her priority. Her goal seemed to be to encourage us, to bond our family to our Savior. As a child, I took her nourishing, delicious meals for granted and often didn’t appreciate her religious guidance in preparing me for life as I, thankfully, do as an adult. Sharing good food and Good News has been passed on from generations before me.

Austaraa (Ostra)-Hagen-Bjornjeld-Olson Family
4 Generations before me
Children pictured: Uncle Robert Olson and my mother Ruth Margaret Olson Busse, 1929–2011. Back, left to right: my Grandma Ida Marie Bjornjeld Olson, 1904–1994 and Great Grandmother Rebecca Sophia Hagen-Bjornjeld, 1875–1963. My Great-great-grandmother Martha Austaraa (Ostra)-Hagen, seated, was born in Suldal, Norway, June 1836. In 1864 she came to Waseca, Minnesota, USA, where she had a cousin. The trip took 13 weeks on the ocean. That year, she met and married her husband Ole. Ole was born in Roldal, Norway, nine years before her. He came to Waseca 12 years before meeting Martha. In 1866 they resided in Swift/Chippewa County. A few years ago while waiting in Benson, MN, with my mom while her car was being fixed, during a visit with my mom’s cousin and my late great aunt, I heard a story that Big Bend-Hagen was named after my Great-great-grandfather Ole. As I recall, he started the town with a mill there where Graham flour was invented (or made). Ole died in 1898. Martha died in April 1939, at nearly 103 years.

I was blessed by my parents example in their Christ-centered everyday living. I cherish Mother’s culinary wisdom and creativity during days with a tight budget and only a few convenient foods emerging. Memories…
  • No fast food restaurants in the area we lived. There was a drive-in and a family-owned cafe or two. Eating at these places was a very rare treat, maybe to try a pizza burger or stop for an ice cream cone. 
  • Pizza was made from scratch and there was frozen pizza when that became readily available, but, there was no delivery, carry out or eat-in. 
  • So many comfort foods like Tater Tot Hotdish
  • Norwegian ethnic foods—see How to make Lefse, a delicious Norwegian tradition 
  • Apples and garden produce—raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, onions, peas, corn, radishes, carrots, potatoes, green beans, dill…
  • Pigs on the farm eventually filled the kitchen with aromas of basil-seasoned pork roasts or sweet and savory country style ribs cooked so tender, the meat fell off the bones.
  • Our table was adorned with special china for Christian holidays. See How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner—A Comprehensive Pictorial Guide
  • To enjoy God’s creation, sometimes we ate outside on the picnic table Dad built
  • Serving guests with special attention to menu and visually appealing foods is an art. My mother enjoyed entertaining as a highlight of her hard-working lifestyle. Our company varied from cousins and other relatives to couples card parties (triple-decked sandwiches) and Mom’s intimate bridge club table of four (desserts).
  • Free refills of The Spirit, confession, absolution and praise at church every Sunday was often followed by a fried chicken “dinner” at noon, a nap, rice pudding with cinnamon and butter for the evening meal.
  • Ice cream and cake were sweet staples throughout the week.
  • Contributing to potluck dinners and smorgasbords were common in the Appleton, Minnesota community for 4-H, church and school events.
  • Family meals (together) were preceded with a prayer. Relaxation and gentle teaching came afterward as mom read a daily reading and Psalm from the Bible, plus, an inspirational story from the Portals of Prayer devotion book. We closed by reciting The Lord’s Prayer.
  • During my teen years I sometimes strayed away from the Word and into the world. Home from Alexandria Technical & Community College some weekends, Mom sent healthy home-canned soup and other foods back with me. I’m sure my parents were constant in prayer while I was “gone”, perhaps even more than when I was “home”. By grace, the free refills of Spirit kept the spark in me through those years. Still, it convicts me and supplies daily forgiveness when I admit that I mess up and don’t measure up. The Holy Spirit moves me to fess up and comforts me to look toward heavenly eternal promises with confidence.
I married and had a family of my own. My husband and children sometimes help with meals, but for the most part, I kept the traditional role of chief chef. I had a career outside home so I often served less healthy, more convenient, processed foods. Items like Rhodes frozen bread dough satisfy my cravings for homemade bread and hints of the past. I often called Mom for recipes, advice and companionship. When I moved to Kansas, over 500 miles from “home”, the phone became our best friend until Mom became ill and lost her voice.

Good Hot Dish and Fruit Salad—ha, such clever titles for simple recipes to serve a large family or a large crowd, right?


These inherited little black books remind me of my roots. Recipes are named after the women who introduced them to my grandma and mom. One of the books contains items I cannot imagine making such as blood sausage, head cheese and tea for 50 (3/4 cup leaves)—although I would like to try the tea.

little black cook books
Grandma’s and Mom’s “little black books” have handwritten and typed with red ribbon recipes. One cookbook is marked with a hot pink note, “Lutefisk in this book”. My parents often went to an annual lutefisk dinner hosted by a Lutheran church in our neighborhood. I vaguely remember going along one time when I was very young—many people were in a line to the church basement and there was a distinct scent, but I don’t remember eating it. Mom made it once when I brought my fiancé home for a visit. I remember that she claimed it didn’t turn out quite right. I don’t remember ever having courage to eat more than a taste of lutefisk. I believe I opted for the entrée options she served such as ham or meatballs. I appreciate that she offered my young gentleman, of German descent, a taste of our Norwegian heritage.

Good Hot Dish below is Grandma Bjornjeld-Olson-Thuras Sonnack’s handwriting. 

Many of the recipes in sketched these books are not fully descriptive because they were personally demonstrated or discussed from one generation to the next. Since I’m publishing them for the world, I’ll add [my thoughts].

good hotdish recipe
Good Hot Dish
Brown: 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
1 large onion (chopped)
1 cup celery
Add 1 can chicken rice soup
1 can cream of mushroom [or] chicken soup
[small condensed variety of soups above]
1 can mixed vegetables (with liquid)
1 box frozen peas [about 10 ounces]
1/4 lb. chow mein noodles
Bake 45 min. to 1 hr. in 350° oven or store in refrig & bake next day one hour.

Note added 1/9/15: We tried the Good Hot Dish. It’s not bad, so it must be good! The chow mein noodles came in a 5 oz. can (close enough) so I tested a few and mixed them all in. They saturate the flavors, get soft while baking except those that poke out the top get crispy. I didn’t have cream of mushroom on hand so I used low-fat cream of chicken. I tweaked the recipe by adding 4 oz. of sliced fresh mushrooms and a drained 8 oz. can of sliced water chestnuts. Nathan garnished his plate with deli-sliced jalapeño peppers and sriracha chili sauce. I added black pepper and soy sauce to mine. Stan ate his “as is”.

The fruit salad below (Mom’s handwriting) was a favorite for church luncheons and wedding receptions. 

After you mix things up and refrigerate it for several hours, the marshmallows dissolve in the sour cream to make a yummy, fluffy white coating on the fruit. Hey, sisters, if you have more details about this recipe, please let me know. I must have been playing while she made this.

fruit salad (one ice cream pail)
Fruit Salad (one ice cream pail)
577 [I’m guessing this has something to do with number of invited guests for an event Mom may have been planning. I just checked our 5 quart ice cream pail and it contains 40 half cup servings. Wow, I never knew a serving size of ice cream was only a half cup!]
1 sour cream [1 what? cup? container? if so, what size? ha! I guess 12 oz., but your guess is as good as mine]
1 miniature marshmallows [probably a bag, but I don’t know what size. My guess is about 6 cups?]
More or less of the following: [how forgiving!]
3 chunk pineapple
2 fruit cocktail
2 mandarin oranges
[common size cans of above, well drained]
4 bananas [sliced]
4 apples [chopped]
[I imagine the bananas and apples should be stirred in just before serving]

Verses for you: Do Not Be Anxious

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)
Thanks for reading my blog post.
Elizabeth B. Knaus

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