Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mom's Best Recipe Ever

Having talked about Hungarian curses, I feel like I must vindicate my mom. Growing up, I never heard of Hungarian curses, or superstitions, nor did she ever have a recipe she wouldn't share. She actually DOES write down recipes, but often she does them in short hand when she gives them to me, because she KNOWS when I see butter and sugar I will cream it, or that I know how to make a roux. She was and remains a pretty modern person. As my kids would say; Grandma is so KOOL! So when I was sitting at a family gathering, and the whole curse thing came up, I ran into my mom and said "Mom, did you ever hear about this Hungarian curse thing where you put people's names in the freezer?" She looked at me like I had grown two heads. SHE never promoted that stuff. Which was probably why I found it so fascinating. I also have two "married in's" aunts. Aunt Bunny and Aunt Ro. They are sisters. One married my mom's cousin, and at the wedding my mom's brother met Aunt Bunny and they eventually got married. These are the aunts that can still speak Hungarian, and do so frequently when they don't want someone else to know what they are saying. I grew up calling their mom Grandma, so you can guess how close our families were. I love these two aunts to death, but boy, you do NOT want to piss them off.

My mom has her own foibles, to be sure. They aren't really faults, more like quirks. Such as cleaning. When I lived in Japan the exchange rate between the dollar and the yen was great, and very much in our favor. As you can tell from that statement, it was a VERY long time ago. Most of the families had a Japanese cleaning lady come in once a week. I was working full-time, so I got one too. The first woman did not clean like my mom. There was still dirt in the corners, and the glass just didn't sparkle like my mom's house. In fact nothing was as clean as my mom's house. I decided to try another one. I used one that other people had raved about. She STILL didn't clean as good as my mom. Finally I realized. NO ONE could clean as good as my mom, cause she was nearly neurotic when it came to cleaning. Well, that realization was so liberating. From that point on I realized that if a professional cleaning person couldn't clean as well as my mom, then I didn't have to either. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

My kids can tell you that grandma carries the world in her purse. Not only could my mom probably pull all of the ingredients to make a meal out of her purse, sometimes I swear she could even pull out the microwave to cook it in. When my oldest was about two or three years old, she would pick up my mom's purse and proclaim "HEBBY!" To her, the word "heavy" was made for grandma's purse.

My mom also has the gift of hospitality. She can make ANYONE feel welcome. And when you go over to her house for She serves you on fine China, and it's usually a 5 course meal. At least. Dessert is generally three items or more. A restaurant couldn't be better. I mean that literally. She has confided in me that if it wasn't for the service, she would prefer to eat at either her house or my house more than any restaurant. And I second that motion. I was so fortunate to have a mother who cooked. And I don't mean "fixed". We grew up without considering Hamburger Helper as a meal. That was stuff other moms who didn't know how to cook made.

And now, because my mom is as generous as she is beautiful inside and out, I will share with you her BEST dessert recipe ever. She said her mom made this recipe, so I have no idea where it came from originally. I think it's pretty much our signature recipe. No one I've ever met beyond my family makes this, and every time I bring it somewhere, it gets rave reviews. The amazing thing is that it's EASY. I mix it in one larger sauce pan, and cook it in a 9"x 13", so only one dirty pan if you bake it in a "servable" dish. I usually use my smoky glass baking dish. You probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard. Really.

Oatmeal Fruit Squares
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups oatmeal ( I use whatever I have on hand; any kind works)
1 can of cherry pie filling, or whatever flavor you like

In a large sauce pan, melt 1 cup of butter. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup of brown sugar. Add flour, salt, and baking soda. The original recipe says to sift, but I never do. I just make sure not to pack it when I measure. Mix well. Add 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal. I have used quick oats, full cook oats, it all works. Mix again.
Reserve 3 Tablespoons of this mixture. Press the remaining mixture into a 9" x 13" pan. Top with a can of pie filing.
I must say at this step I sprinkle a few frozen blueberries on top of the pie filling. I pick them locally, and freeze them. don't put any sugar on them, just freeze them plain. This really does add to the recipe, but isn't necessary. In fact, I made it without for years. I have tried to put fresh raspberries from my patch on it, but it's just not the same, and that can get a bit mushy.
Sprinkle reserved 3 Tablespoons of mixture as a crumbled topping. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Now for one of my mom's spiffy tricks. If you are taking this to a function, cut it into serving-sized pieces and put each piece in a cupcake paper on a platter. It makes it very easy for people to pick up, and more importantly, you can sneak a piece out and eat it before you go and no one knows.