Monday, July 3, 2017

Around the Kitchen Table: Family Food Traditions and #Book #Giveaway

We're sitting around our kitchen table with cups of coffee and a delicious coffee cake. Pull up a chair and join us!

Do you have food traditions in your family? 

PEG:  Our family had holiday food traditions but other “food traditions” as well.  Saturday was ALWAYS steak night.  We never had steak any other night and even now, as an adult, I often don’t think to grill a steak on any day but Saturday. 

Sundays we either had chicken (usually roasted) or, if we went to my grandmother’s, we had pasta with her fabulous pasta sauce.  Since we were Catholic, and this was before the rules changed, we had fish or a non-meat dish on Friday nights.  If my father wasn’t home for dinner, it was often tuna salad. 

I used to spend one week every summer staying with my (other) grandmother.  My first night there she always made my favorite meal—potato soup and what we called “German pancakes.”  The German pancakes were actually crepes filled with cottage cheese sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. 

My husband and I have a few traditions other than just the steak-on-Saturday one.  Friday night is for “fun food” – like tacos, pizza, take-out Chinese, sushi, etc.  And Sunday night is usually for “comfort” food like shepherd’s pie or roast pork with mashed potatoes.   


Sowed to Death comes out tomorrow!  I am giving away one copy to someone who comments below! Let us know what food traditions (if any) you follow in your family.


LESLIE: If we messed with the menu for our annual Holiday Brunch, I suspect half our friends wouldn't come! But beyond holiday menus, we've got just a few customs. Sunday morning breakfast is nearly always baked bacon, eggs, and muffins or scones. Sometimes I bake, sometimes I defrost -- Erin's Sunday Morning Scones (from Butter Off Dead, my second Food Lovers' Village Mystery) and Krista's Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake both freeze exceptionally well! The eggs might be scrambled, an omelet, or Omelet Muffins. Pizza night isn't as predictable as it was when Mr. Right worked in another town twice a week and got home too late on Thursday to help in the kitchen. (Now that he works at home full time, his Thursday night tradition is staying up late to watch martial arts movies with the cat. Who knew cats admire both Bruce Lee and Jet Li?)

But while we might not repeat a lot of the same foods, we do traditionally cook together. Who takes the lead depends on the recipe---he handles meats and I handle baking, although he often makes his own huckleberry birthday pie! We both took the knife skills class at the community college culinary arts school, so we can share chopping duty. And we both take direction well, thank goodness!


SHEILA: My mother was a competent cook but not a very imaginative one. Our meals were usually meat/starch/veg, with nothing as exotic as a sauce (although there was always plenty of butter!). I don't think she tried to make a homemade pasta sauce until I was in high school, and shrimp wiggle was a staple: frozen shrimp plus Campbell's frozen cream of shrimp soup, heated together and served over rice. Sunday dinners with the grandparents were always a standing rib roast with potatoes. Would you believe I've never attempted to make one myself? Of course, now you need a second mortgage to buy one.

But it wasn't that she wasn't interested in food, because she did love restaurants. Since my grandmother lived in Manhattan, those restaurants were often rather nice (which was wasted on me since until college I was a very picky eater, but at least I knew such places existed). When we were young, lunch (while shopping at the big name department stores) was often at The Women's Exchange on Fifth Avenue, a rather odd place that served such things as corned been hash patties, and had a sale room upstairs for hand-made crafts made by impoverished but genteel ladies, which accounts for the many embroidered pincushions I still have. Dinner in the city was usually at Trader Vic's, where we always had the Pu-Pu Platter. I'm not sure what heinous acts my mother thought my sister and I would commit in a nice restaurant, but I know that as an adult I took my own daughter to all and any restaurants (including a couple in Paris), and she never made a scene.


LUCY: I think I said this before, but I believe my mother and Sheila's mother were separated at birth! The one every-week menu at our house occurred on Sunday nights, when we would eat cheese toast, baked beans from a can, and homemade potato salad on TV trays in front of the television. We loved it! And I served it to my husband, and our kids as they were growing up. 

Now my menus are all over the place, but the one thing that cannot be altered is the chocolate cake that most people want for their birthdays. Honestly, two things have changed my cooking a lot over the last few years–joining Mystery lovers kitchen (because we have to come up with new recipes all the time), and the necessity for me to eat a low-sodium diet. So nothing is set in stone these days, which is probably good for the old brain, right?


DARYL: I can't remember any "traditions" other than Christmas, and that was steadfast: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, stringed beans with butter. I added to the tradition when I grew up by making sure we always had a yule log for dessert.'s summer, so let me share one of our summer traditions. We would go to Lake Tahoe for two weeks and my mother always served peaches with milk and sugar for breakfast. We adored mornings! We always had scrambled eggs. And for lunch, it was always tomato soup and grilled cheese or cracker and cheese. We barbecued at night. Always barbecued. It could be anything from ribs to burgers to steak, but we always barbecued and sat out by the barbecue having beverages and snacks and just lapping up the beautiful smells and sounds of Tahoe at night. These are some of my all-time favorite memories!


VICTORIA aka MJ: I love hearing about everyone's traditions and am not above stealing ideas. Peaches with milk and sugar? Mmmm. If there's a family get together in winter, there will almost always be lasagna (which my mother-in-law always made and now my daughter and granddaughter also make as do we) but this is summertime, so it's a grilling tradition in the warm months. Although there's an out of town wedding this year, four generations usually gather at MJ's house for Canada Day. We use our big green egg, which is a type of smoker and everyone thinks that's fun. The tradition, aside from 'boys' around the grill, is that everyone brings a salad. The family favorites are bean salad, lentil salad and potato salad. I can't imagine a get together without them. Now, coming in my next post, there will be an awesome new broccoli salad, from Victoria's sister. 

Despite the fact that it has rained throughout the last four gatherings, we stubbornly continue to grill, peering at the rain through the windows. Like in Roberta's family, there is an expectation of chocolate cake, which we make with mocha buttercream icing or whipping cream with Kahlua. Sometimes it's layer cake and sometimes babycakes. Same one-bowl recipe though. We swear by buttermilk and cocoa.

Have a fabulous 4th of July and a great summer! We hope you all enjoy your family favorites. Come by and share what they are.


CLEO: I grew up in a big Italian family with so many food traditions I'd quickly run out of space listing them here, so I'll limit today's memories to this season! And summer was all about my dad's garden...

During the Depression, my father's father kept his large family fed by working a small farm from which they sold produce. Every spring, my dad helped plant 2,000 tomato plants for his family, so he had no problem tending the 100 tomato plants that he sowed for our own little family. Fresh spaghetti sauce was always part of that yield, and for those of you who've made sauce from fresh tomatoes, you know the very smell of the sauce cooking is like nothing else on earth--and the taste has an amazing vibrancy that you simply cannot get from canned tomatoes or jarred sauces. Sadly, I lost my dad four years ago this week. He went into the hospital right after Father's Day and never came out again. Now every summer, I make this delicious Meatless Italian Spaghetti Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes. The heavenly smell that fills my house always brings back those sweet memories of my father, his garden, and my childhood home.


KRISTA: Wow, Cleo! I can't imagine 100 tomato plants, much less 2000!

In my family, we always have a traditional Christmas goose with German potato dumplings and a yule log for dessert. The yule log was often requested as a birthday cake, so my mom called it a Lincoln Log, which made it appropriate any time of year.

When I lived in Northern Virginia, just across the river from Washington, DC, it was a tradition to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the Virginia side of the Potomac river near the Pentagon. People bring radios and everyone tunes in to the broadcast that is synchronized with the fireworks. It's always wonderful! (For anyone planning to go, be sure to park your car headed in the direction you need to go when you leave. Saves a lot of time getting out of there.) Everyone goes early to claim a great spot so we always brought a picnic dinner. It became a tradition for me to bring Barley Corn Salad. For some reason, it's very popular with men and I actually got annual requests for it. There was also the year I made my own salsa and burned my hands in the process. Ouch! Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. 

Oh, and every New Year's Eve, I make cheese and beef fondue for my friends. It's the perfect leisurely meal to linger over while catching up.

LINDA:   I like your New Year's tradition, Krista! My foodie memories from childhood aren't too exciting for the everyday fare. My Mom did the basics and although it was good, there was no flare. Except at Christmas! She went all out with traditional Swedish dishes, some I've tried to re-create (not as successfully) and others, I just long for. 

Christmas Eve always, always featured Lutefisk, the infamous white fish that's been re-hydrated in lye. Yes, lye. I remember the weeks-long process. That was served with a white sauce, perhaps to mask the taste, boiled potatoes and a veggie, also boiled. It took many years before I actually started looking forward to the Lutefisk. My sister still shudders at the thought. 

And, of course, there was tons of baking -- pepperkakka (ginger cookies), sugar cookies shaped as an 'S' (for years I thought it was because that was what our last name started with -- turns out, not so), cookies with jelly centers, and my favorite, Swedish Coffee Bread. That's the one I faithfully try to make every year. Sometimes, it doesn't turn out so well, but all times, it brings back those wonderful memories.


Do you have food traditions in your family? 
Share with us in the comments below!


  1. 7 layer salad at holidays we always had it.


  3. We always serve my paternal grandmother's Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe on family members' birthdays.

  4. Growing up once a week we ate pierogies. None of my friends had any idea what it was until they ate. Ours were always potato and Farmers cheese. When we all had families of our own don't you know they all served pierogies to their family, especially since they come in boxes in the freezer section. My father's family was from Slovakia (as in Czechoslovakia). I know variations of these are made in most Eastern European countries but of course the ones grandmom made were the best.
    Replies to:

    1. It seems that Grandma was always the best cook, right?

  5. Had to make no-bake Peanut Butter Date Ball cookies for my boys when they were growing up. A must have cookie for Christmas!

  6. My dad made the old family fudge recipe only a couple times a year, one time always being Memorial Day. I know it was labor intensive--I remember how dark his fingers would get from shaving the chocolate with a paring knife and the magic of whichever ball stage he would swirl into a cup of cold water. Sure miss it! Thanks!

  7. My mother made chocolate fudge icing. We always had, and still do have, Mamas fruit salad for big occasions. Different fruit but Queen Anne cherries, crushed pineapple, marsh mellows, and whipped cream were standard. My mother also made an asparagus casserole with canned asparagus, boiled eggs, and lots of cheese. She and my dad also made the best cheese log ever.

  8. Congrats on your upcoming release!! Sunday dinner was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob with lots of butter, dinner rolls, and a tossed salad. One year I tweaked a brownie recipe and took that to grams and it was picked as a second staple for dessert Sunday night. There was 17 of us. Often Grams had a cherry sauce that she often made and it was always served at her meals for whomever wanted it. I loved her fried chicken. as is. But my younger sister loved pouring that sauce over her chicken. And then, over the brownies. Sometimes grams would use plums, rhubarb, apple or something else with the cherries. She had them all growing around her garden. Always lots of tomatoes with everything. Now that she is gone the family doesn't gather as much. But at family reunions it has fallen to me to do her traditional potato salad for the summer get togethers. And the brownies and carrot cake
    Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc (dot) com

    1. I want to come to your house for Sunday dinner! I love fried chicken.

  9. Wednesday nights, we always had hamburgers and potato soup. I have all brothers and mom wanted them full so they would not complain "I'm hungry" during church.

  10. The only real tradition is the Sabbath Eve meal. When the kids were small I always made the same main dish (pot roast) every week. Now that it's just the two of us we're down to the wine, challah, and my homemade chicken soup. The main rotates between a small rib eye roast, baked veal neck roast and occasionally a turkey breast.

    The left overs are eaten during the week so I don't have to cook so much.

  11. Our family loves to grill so if we are all home on Saturday night my hubby usually grills us some delicious hamburgers or chicken.
    Wendy Clark
    clarksrfun at gmail dot com

  12. The only tradition we have is funfetti birthday cakes because it was my son's favorite from when he was little.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  13. When the kids were young, we had a few financially lean years. There were several school friends living in the same area and all of them spending lots of time together. Each of the families took turns feeding the horde, everyone on about a once every two week rotation. We came up with the inexpensive but fun baked potato bar as our standard for the situation. It was ideal because baked potatoes are inexpensive and no fuss. The toppings options were: diced ham, heated chili (tinned), tiny broccoli florets, creamed spinach, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, chopped green onion, and minced parsley. We usually also served boiled eggs on the side and whatever fruit was on sale with a banana bread for desert. The latter could get changed from slices with diced fruit, to using residual heat from baking potatoes to toast the banana bread slices or fingers and serve with a bit of ice cream and/or fruit, whatever was cost efficient at the time. It was a hit with the kids and whatever adults were present.
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

    1. Lil, baked potatoes with toppings sounds like a terrific tradition. Good for you and your family for making do and making "great" memories! ~ Daryl

  14. Gosh, I can't think of any traditions we have carried on with. Mom and I both got tired of the set in cement Thanksgiving menu. Last Thanksgiving I skipped turkey entirely and made a King Ranch casserole instead. That hit the spot. We do try to have a jello salad that has become known as green stuff. You've probably had it too: lime jello, cottage cheese, pineapple, whipped cream, pecans, and other things I've forgotten. We first ate it at an aunt's house. She'd gotten the recipe from a friend, Mom got it from her, and it became a Thanksgiving/Christmas tradition. Which I passed along to some friends in Ohio. Its real name is Angels Delight, but I prefer green stuff.

  15. Hmm, now that I think about it, we really don't have any food traditions in our family. I'm going to have to change that and get something started.

    Thanks so much for the chance!


  16. I always serve special side dishes that our family has always enjoyed at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Red currant gravy. Pineapple stuffing and sweet potato casserole.
    marypopmom (at) yahoo (dot) com

  17. I make Divinity every year at Christmas and give it to family and friends. Growing up my Mommade spaghetti sauce from scratch and she would cook it for two days. It always smelled so good!

  18. Most of our food traditions come around the winter holidays, like certain cookies we always make at Christmas but one that's a little random is that we always have to have taco soup when my sister-in-law visits in the summer. She loves it and only gets it when she's home.

  19. I cook during the week, and weekends we either eat out or my husband will cook up something on the spur of the moment. lcee59(at)centurylink(dot)net

  20. Being Czech, my food traditions are similar to Krista's. For Christmas, I would make roast goose, dumplings and braised red cabbage; the kids have decided the love geese and do not want to eat them, hate turkey, and so now it is evolving into roast chicken with my grandmother's stuffing, which was always a Sunday meal. New Year's Eve has always been, since I was 6 or 7, a traditional cheese fondue. When we lived in Switzerland, where there is practically no take-out, cheese fondue was on regular rotation! Christmas Eve is has always been breaded and fried fish and potato salad. My dad was a schnitzler extraordinaire, and so he was always in charge. I have switched from the heavy mayonaise-based Czech potato salad to a lighter Swiss potato salad, which is made with white wine and capers. There is a tradition for Czech women to bake at least 12 different varieties of Christmas cookies -- some go overboard, and make 40 or more! My husband always helps, and we wind up baking cookies through the night at least once. They are dainty, extremely beautiful, cookies. I have at least a couple of dozen cookie cutter for gingerbread alone -- little hedgehogs, pigs, shooting stars, Christmas trees, angels, devils, cats, dogs, fish, hearts... the list goes on. Weekends we always have either crepes or tiny sour cream pancakes or waffles or pannekoek or German apple pancakes. I pretty much embrace as many food traditions as possible! -- Monika

    1. Oh my--12 kinds of cookies? My step-grandmother (my mother's second husband's mother) came from a Swedish family, and she usually made eight or so (and didn't ask for help!). And you have a hedgehog cookie cutter! We must be sisters under the skin. All of your traditions sound wonderful, especially because you all worked together.

  21. Strawberry pie as long as strawberries are in season!

  22. Birthdays and holidays (and whenever we could talk her into it) featured Grandma's homemade chocolate sauce over ice cream. Amazing. Sadly, none of us ever learned to properly duplicate that recipe. When my kids were young Halloween was always Orange Food night (my granddaughter does this with her 4 little ones now, and hubby still sometimes looks for it), and Sunday is always homemade pizza night.

  23. What fun! Thank you all.

    My parents developed into foodies after having served cooked-to-death frozen vegetables. My father had calves brains in the freezer--just for him! No one else would touch them.

    They got The Art of French Cooking and had a great time cooking from it. So much so with the various reduced cream sauces, that our dog got a heart murmur from the leftovers!

    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  24. Italian Cream Cake and pumpkin rolls at Christmas.

  25. My children loved their grandma's apple salad. I try to make it for holidays also.

  26. The only food tradition we really have these days is that every Saturday we have French toast for breakfast.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

  27. We always have BBQ ribs on my hubby's birthday and always have hamburgers on the 4th.

  28. My Mom used to volunteer at school on Wednesdays, so we always had hamburgers on Wednesdays. We also always had ham on Christmas.

  29. We always have roast beef & yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner. My sister & I do the cooking now, with my mom directing us.