Cooking to Heal

Eating food to soothe emotions may result in a negative impact on your health. Of course, anything to excess can become an addiction, but food consumption as an event can provide emotional expression beyond filling your stomach. For example, I discovered a treasure trove of recipes after my Mom's passing. They were not a surprise, just something I had long forgotten—what better time than now to dive into those recipes.

I remember many foods from childhood and a few I would like to forget. The ones to forget are few and result from being eaten like an overplayed pop song you never want to hear again. A couple of others were admitted failures by my Mom, and we never had them again. The memorable foods are more significant, and finding those recipes was exciting. I have spoken of a few of them in recent years with a fondness that made my mouth water. Those recipes would be the first to cook and remember childhood's good times and tastes. This journey begins with rummaging through my Mom's recipe boxes and continues into the world of TikTok recipes. Along the way, the addition of kitchen tools and happy smiles along with some happy tears.

The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library. The ones in many homes in the early 70s alongside The Joy of Cooking. I dove into those first, and the memories came flooding back. I could not wait to cook. There was a small box with handwritten or typed cards from the Underwood typewriter days. When I was around six years old, I loved a dish in particular. Barbeque Cups was a sweet-tasting ground beef dish made in a cupcake pan in the oven. This recipe had to be the first one to cook once I found the recipe. I found a card for ‘BARBECUPS,’ and my mouth started to drool.

Barbecups (spelled as noted) are a barbeque sauce, ground beef placed into a refrigerator biscuit-lined cupcake pan, topped with cheese, and baked until gold and bubbly. Shopping for the ingredients brought about a discussion in the spice aisle most welcome in the days of social distancing and isolation. Instant minced onions versus dehydrated versus chopped is not a considerable topic until you fast forward 40 years into the future with the changes in cooking. Once I settled on the bottle of minced onions, it was time for the biscuits. Time has a way of changing the way recipes as written, as I would discover in this recipe. Much like the toothpaste aisle, the food ingredients' choices at our disposal have changed a great deal. We now have so many options rather than a handful of choices that finding what you need can be challenging. Fortunately, the Pillsbury biscuits still exist as called for in the recipe. Almost. Thanks to ‘Shrinkflation,’ the recipe would now be yielding only 10 instead of the 1970s version of 12. They were delicious, and I was six years old again. They even tasted good rewarmed the next day.

Ground beef, as well as tuna fish, was a staple in the 70s in our house. However, a pattern emerged that indicated the cheaper choice for food compared with today. Add to that how health has played a factor in our choices. Tuna fish was a cheap purchase back then, and I will not speak of it again as that is the pop song overplayed one too many times. I will, on rare occasions, make a cold tuna fish sandwich, but add any heat to it, and we are done.

Pillsbury used to do Bake Off competitions, and in 1966 the runner-up was a bundt cake called Tunnel of Fudge. I loved this cake. The inside came out all gooey, like chocolate syrup. It was so decadent that it would only be a special occasion that my Mom made it. Unfortunately, one of the ingredients was discontinued, and I had to do some research to find an updated recipe. It came as no surprise that it remained popular, and the formula had been updated to accomplish the exact gooey middle. I made it for the first time in my life, and it was delicious. Warm it and plop some ice cream on top, and you’ve got a meal! I meant to say dessert. Wink.

Another dessert was the Magic Florida Lime Icebox Cake made in a newer version of the metal ice tray without the insert. If you ever remember the frozen desserts from the 60s and 70s, this one would be a favorite. There are no fruit pieces and no Jell-O in this one, and it is refreshing and goes a long way despite the smaller amount. It resembles the taste of a Key Lime Pie, only richer. Excellent for a hot summer day treat.

One night I decided to go for three recipes at once. All three came from the box of cards from the Betty Crocker set. Waikiki Meatballs, Sweet Sour Red Cabbage, and Lace Roll-Ups. Waikiki Meatballs have pineapple, green peppers, and onions in a sauce over rice. A bit of a Polynesian flare. On the side, I made Sweet and Sour Cabbage, the red cabbage. The dessert was the Lace Roll-Ups, only I just left them like a flat cookie. The meatballs and cabbage were like I remember, and I could eat it weekly with no problem. The cookies did not turn out quite right, and it was because of a single ingredient. I used light corn syrup instead of regular. The flavor was good, but the texture was not quite right. I will try again.

When visiting with my Bonus Mom on my way back to Montana, she had some extracts on her counter brewing. So I decided to purchase some bottles in two sizes and take that further. I have never made homemade extracts. I ended up bottling vanilla, cinnamon, and coffee. In larger bottles, I made various versions of herb-infused olive oils. The extracts will come in handy once they are ready and the oils are already in use.

I became a TikTok fan over the summer, and to my surprise, I have found many cooking ideas from people around the globe. Finding so many easy-to-follow recipes is especially exciting because I have been incorporating more vegetarian and vegan options into my diet. I have always eaten and enjoyed tofu, but I found the secret to giving it a fantastic texture. The trick is to freeze and thaw twice before using it. Who knew? There will always be tofu in a cycle in the refrigerator, ready to go from now on. It is that good. TikTok has also refreshed my interest in bread making. I made focaccia that was out of this world.

For the upcoming holiday, there is a dessert loaf my Mom has been making for gifts for the last many years called a Harvest Loaf. It is a pumpkin-based cake made in a loaf pan with chocolate chips. There are many other ingredients, but it makes for the perfect companion to a cup of coffee in the evening. It freezes well, which is a good thing as it is extremely rich. I have never made it myself, so this will be my first try. Some of the meals I will be trying include Hungarian Goulash, Beef Paprika, and Iowa Short Ribs. I remember enjoying them all, and through the cold winter should be an excellent accompaniment to the snowy season. The sweets my Mom is most famous for is her chocolate chip cookies. It is not her recipe but an older version of a current Publix recipe. They changed it at some point, and she retained the older version. Her cookies have been mailed and distributed all over the place to happy recipients. The torch is now passed, and for the first time in my life, I have to make them myself. I hope I make her proud. That will be one of the fondest memories with her…making cookies together. She was a master at them.

All of this cooking can be dangerous, so this week also began a shift towards getting more nutrients. Last Friday was the beginning of a twice-a-day shake made with healthy fruits and vegetables along with plant-based proteins. After the first two days, it shifted to one shake and one regular large meal with a healthy midday vegetable snack. It has been challenging to stop the constant grazing but made more manageable by feeling full. Today was cheat day. It was excellent, and I do not feel guilty.

I encourage anyone to check out some retro recipes. It is super fun and comforting for the soul. One of my cousins is a vegan in her early 20s, and she has inspired me to expand my vegetarian options. Although, I must admit the options today are much better than even 5-10 years ago. The tofu trick will go a long way to making it a better choice now.

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