Tribute to My Mom

My mom's "chunky monkey" birthday cake

My mom's "chunky monkey" birthday cake

My husband and I are leaving for our honeymoon on Monday. Alas, we will be out of the country for Mother’s Day. Since my mom will not get her obligatory card I decided to instead write a post dedicated to the woman who inspired my love of cooking.

My mom will tell you her love of cooking was inspired by her mother’s awful cooking. She grew up eating some pretty unsavory things such as  Welsh Rarebit for dinner. For all of you unaware of this culinary treat it is essentially a cheese sauce melted over bread with a fancy name. At least that is how my grandmother made it. So my mom Janis Orloff Ahearn decided to learn how to cook. And learn she did.

For the first five or six years of my life my mother quit working to stay home with us. We were a family of five living on my dad’s wage as a social worker. You can imagine how thrifty my parents had to be. But we never felt as if we were lacking in terms of our palettes. When my mom made spaghetti sauce it was always home made with fresh tomatoes. For breakfast my mom would whip up large batches of bran muffins – inexplicably called Bonny’s Bran Muffins. I can still taste them lathered in butter and dripping honey. I even recall one night when my parents decided the whole family would cook a gourmet meal together. I think I was seven, my brother John was maybe five and the baby, Kara was two. We spent the day pounding chickens for Chicken Kiev, toasting bread crumbs and green beans together and heating chocolate for what we later called a “chocolate bomb.” I believe we were intending to make something else, but it did not pan out so we just called it that for lack of a better title. I still remember this meal more than 25 years later.

My mom's yummy spread for dad's 60th birthday

My mom's yummy spread for dad's 60th birthday

Mom's antipasto

Mom's antipasto

When we got older and mom went back to work the meals got a little less home made and more thrown together. But she always made sure we had yummy birthday and holiday meals. Recently for my father’s 60th birthday my mom threw a party for him. About 50 of my dad’s friends and relatives showed up. Instead of catering it like a normal person my mom cooked the whole spread – paella, antipasto platter, a vegetable terrine, two quiches and much more. By the end of the night every bite was gone. And my dad was beaming. I think that’s what inspires my mom to cook. She loves to see us happy and if her cooking can do it, then by god she will keep on.

Below are two recipes my mom has made throughout my life – enjoy!

Bonny’s Bran Muffins

1-15oz. Box Raisin Bran (generic brand works fine for this)

5 Cups All Purpose Flour

3 Cups Sugar

5 Tsp. Baking Soda

2 Tsp. Salt

4 Eggs, well beaten

1 Cup Melted Solid Shortening (Crisco)

1 Qt. Buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients in very large bowl. Blend eggs, shortening and buttermilk and add to dry mixture. Mix well. Store in covered container in refrigerator. Keeps for up to six weeks. Makes a lot – you may want to cut recipe by ½.

To Bake: Fill either greased muffin tins or muffin tins with cupcake papers 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 14-20 minutes.

Chicken with Oranges and Olives

4-5 skinless chicken breasts with bone in (or thighs/mixture of each)

1 large onion chopped

2 garlic cloves minced

1 large or 2 small oranges with skin, washed and cut in small sections

1 can chicken broth

15 or so small Spanish Olives (if you use large olives, cut in half)

Curry Powder/Garlic Powder

Two TBS. Olive Oil

Water, as needed (may want to substitute orange juice for part of the water)

Salt/Pepper, to taste

Cut chicken breasts in half – thighs can remain whole. Sprinkle each with salt, pepper, curry powder and garlic powder. Brown chicken in olive oil until nicely caramel-colored. Add onions and garlic, sauté until transparent. Add olives and orange chunks (leave skin on orange). Add chicken broth and use enough water/orange juice to ensure chicken is just covered with liquid. Add additional salt, pepper, garlic powder and curry, to taste. Cook on simmer until chicken is tender and the juices taste and look good (about 45minutres). Serve over rice, barley or orzo.

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