Prairie Fare: Make memories with favorite family recipesThe other day I prepared a macaroni and fruit recipe that I had heard about for more than a year. My friend had helped his mother prepare the family recipe at her house. “My mom hovers when I help, but she knows how to make this salad without looking. She told me I stir like a girl,” he told me. “That’s a compliment,” I said.
By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM
The other day I prepared a macaroni and fruit recipe that I had heard about for more than a year. My friend had helped his mother prepare the family recipe at her house.
“My mom hovers when I help, but she knows how to make this salad without looking. She told me I stir like a girl,” he told me.
“That’s a compliment,” I said.
I wish I had a video of this parent-child interaction, but I did have the comical transcription of the day’s events. She’s in her 80s and he’s in his 50s, by the way.
“I must remind you that this came from a mother (my grandma) to a daughter (my mom) who didn’t know how to cook. Now it is passed along to a son who is not sure which way is up,” the recipe notes read.
“Separate the yolks from the whites because they fight like crazy,” he wrote in his recipe directions.
Now I wasn’t sure I could believe anything I was reading. I decided I had better get the information firsthand, so I gave his mom a call. I learned that the recipe was used in their family for at least 50 years.
“This makes a lot, but he eats it like it’s going out of style,” she said about her son.
We talked through the making of the pasta, fruit sauce and whipped cream and when to add the marshmallows. I think she wondered about my reaction to the ingredients, such as the abundant whipping cream and marshmallows. But she was right on target with her assessment of family favorite recipes.
“If you eat foods in moderation, they won’t hurt you,” she said.
After our conversation, I added notes to her son’s version of the recipe and bought the ingredients. Then I made a big mistake while I was shopping for the ingredients: I decided to modify the recipe to be healthier.
Can you say “culinary disaster”?
I used 100 percent whole-wheat pasta in place of regular pasta, canned fruit with no added sugar and fewer marshmallows. In theory, these are good swaps, but sometimes you shouldn’t modify recipes, especially family favorites.
As I prepared the recipe, I kept retrieving larger and larger bowls from my cupboard to fit my growing salad. The original recipe made a batch large enough to serve a high school graduation party.
Unfortunately, with the ingredient swaps, my finished recipe featured brownish-gray pasta surrounded by a pale yellow, fairly thin sauce. When I set the huge bowl on the kitchen table, my three kids all looked at me in unison.
I served them each a portion, and they ate the fruit and the marshmallows. Then they asked to be excused.
My husband announced, “Your mom probably is going to serve you the leftovers in taco shells and in stir fry for the next week.”
Everybody around me is a comedian.
I brought my friend a container of the modified version of his grandma’s recipe.
He stared at the concoction in the plastic bowl and then sniffed it. That’s never a good sign.
“I think the flavor of the sauce is too delicate for the pasta,” he noted. He was sounding like a chef on the Food Network now. Then he ate the fruit and the marshmallows and said he was done.
I learned a lesson. Yes, whole-grain pasta is higher in some nutrients and fiber, but I would use it in recipes with stronger-flavored sauces in the future. Regular pasta was the better choice for this recipe. It serves as a “neutral” ingredient that allows the fruit and pineapple-flavored sauce to be the “stars.”
Enriched “regular” pasta is high in complex carbohydrates. It provides energy to fuel your body and brain, along with folic acid, B vitamins and iron. A
2-ounce portion of pasta has about 200 calories.
Pasta is inexpensive and cooks quickly, plus it’s available in numerous sizes and shapes. Have you tried acini di pepe (peppercorns), farfalle (butterflies or bowties) and radiatore (radiators)? To add visual interest to salads and main dishes, try some interesting shapes.
Try whole-grain pasta, too. Pair it with a robust tomato-based sauce or in tuna- macaroni salad. We should try to make half of our grain choices whole grains.
Regardless of your age, you can make memories during food preparation with your family and friends. Here is a pasta salad with very similar ingredients to the one from my friend. It makes a much smaller batch, though. I found it online in many recipes sites, plus I found an original in a church cookbook. It is reminiscent of “glorified rice,” a dessert I enjoyed when I was a child.
Glorified Fruit and Pasta Salad
1 cup uncooked pasta (elbows, acini di pepe or macaroni rings)
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple (in light syrup), carefully drained (reserve liquid)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large orange (sectioned and cut into pieces) or 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained and cut into chunks, or substitute one large banana, cut into small pieces
1 cup green or red seedless grapes, halved
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1½ cups whipping cream, whipped (or substitute about 2½ to 3 cups of prepared whipped topping)
Powdered sugar (optional)
¼ cup maraschino cherries, cut in half (optional)
Cook, drain and cool pasta according to package instructions, then place in a large bowl. In a heavy saucepan, beat the eggs and add sugar, pineapple juice, lemon juice, butter and salt. Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens.
Pour cooked mixture over drained pasta and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Just before serving, whip the cream and sweeten it to taste with powdered sugar if you prefer a sweeter dessert. Gently mix the fruit, marshmallows and whipped cream with the pasta sauce mixture. If desired, garnish with cherries.
Makes 10 servings. With whipped cream, each serving has 260 calories, 14 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 95 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
Made with whipped topping, each serving has 200 calories, 3.5 g of fat, 39 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 85 mg of sodium.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.