Erin Zieske’s Trash Rarebit

Erin Zieske

I believe that it’s best to have a well-rounded group of friends. I don’t mean a group every one of which can talk about politics and jazz and also architecture, because that actually sounds really awful. What I mean is, you need to sprinkle in some friends that may or may not get you arrested when you hang out with them. Maybe you need fewer of those getting-you-arrested friends as you get older, but you know what I’m saying. Then, you have those friends who you can really trust. When they tell you about a song, or a movie, or a drink, and say that you’ll like it, you do, and the world is at peace. I have a few friends like this and one of them is my friend Kevin, in New Orleans. For categorization, he is actually my husband’s friend, but I have adopted him as my own. It was Kevin who suggested that I reach out to Erin Zieske about collaborating on a post. Trusting him implicitly, I did. And I’m so glad I did.

I’ve never met Erin in person, but I’ve been following along with her cooking adventures on Instagram, where she regularly entices followers with her home-cooked creations. Erin is a graphic designer who lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, with her cat, Grady. Growing up in Lead, South Dakota, she spent a lot of time alone after school and  got interested in cooking and food after developing a childhood crush on Graham Kerr, host of PBS’ The Galloping Gourmet. She also wrote a cookbook, called Record Recipes, which is available for purchase.

For her contribution, Erin shared a recipe with me that may, truly, blow your mind. I can safely say that I have not featured anything like it on my blog before. She told me that she does know quite a bit about her family history, at least on her dad’s side, but that the recipes aren’t very exciting. Instead she chose a popular recipe that is featured in her cookbook: Trash Rarebit. It’s an updated version of the centuries-old Welsh Rarebit, which consists of toast smothered in a savory cheese sauce. In a bizarre twist, she learned years after developing this recipe that it was, unbeknownst to her, a variation on a recipe that her mom used to make her as a child, thus officially making it a family recipe! The dish features SPAM, Velveeta, cream of chicken soup… basically all of the crucial food groups. She has absolutely no idea where this recipe came from, but her mother does still have a handwritten card in her recipe box.

Trash Rarebit

 

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Trash Rarebit

Trash Rarebit Ingredients:
3.5 oz SPAM
2 oz Velveeta
3 oz Cream of Chicken Condensed Soup
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
½ tsp favorite Hot Sauce (like Crystal or Tabasco)
½ small white onion, minced

Trash Rarebit Instructions:
In a food processor, blend together everything but the onions until a consistent paste is achieved.
Fold in minced onion.
Spread on toast. (Erin suggests using sandwich bread with a fine crumb to avoid “goo loss”). Place in toaster oven and broil until brown and bubbly.

Per Erin: Any extra can be stored in a jar in the fridge for your next 3am craving.

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But back to the recipe: Dang, is it good. Like, makes me angry good. I had a little taste before smearing it on the bread to be broiled. (I hope that this is safe. I figured everything in it is shelf-stable, so eating it uncooked should be fine. Plus, maybe I’m shelf-stable now too!) I failed to follow Erin’s suggestion of using an organic cream of chicken soup, only because I had it handy, but! Next time! My best description of it would be “poor man’s pâté,” which my husband briefly made fun of me for, but then he tried it and I was vindicated. Salty, creamy, and rich. As Erin points out, it’s just a variation of basically what everyone is really looking for in a snack anyway: Bread and cheese.
Erin, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. My prediction is that everyone will be stocking their fridges with tiny jars of this SPAM/Velveeta concoction very soon. I know I will. And, readers, if you’re ever in Rapid City and notice a bright pink door on one of the houses, it just might be Erin’s. You should wave! But don’t knock. That’d be weird.
Happy eating, all!

Sarah (Ferguson) Potter’s Grandma’s Olde Time Bread Pudding

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Alta, as a teenager

As a genealogist, it’s not every day that you meet someone in the same profession as you, at least not in person. That’s why I’m so lucky to know Sarah (Ferguson) Potter. Sarah is a genealogist, who has been researching her own genealogy since she was in 8th grade. Five years ago she started Modern Ancestry, a genealogy company that focuses on combining research with creative products, such as family history books, custom photo albums, documentary-style films and recipe books.

When I reached out to Sarah about this post, I was so excited that she agreed to participate. Sometimes when I interview ladies for this blog, there is some back and forth on the recipe they would like to share. However, Sarah had recently gifted her sister with a collection of their favorite family dishes while growing up for Christmas, so she had several recipes to choose from. On top of that, she had already done so much of her own research on her family that it was fascinating to read everything she had to share about her grandmother.  And what better way to kick off Women’s History Month than by remembering an entrepreneurial American woman?

Sarah’s grandmother, Alta, was born in 1915 in Minooka, Illinois and raised in Morris, Illinois. She was the oldest of 8 children, and helped raise her 7 siblings with her single mother during the Depression. She quit high school at age 15 and began working at the Cameron Inn, where she lived with the owners and worked every job she could.

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Later, after she married her husband, Chet Ferguson, Alta worked with her mother, Carrie, at the Carson House cooking homemade meals for weary travelers and guests. Twelve years after she married her husband, she and her husband went on to have three children. During that time, she devoted her time to raising her children, but in the 1960s she decided to go back to work. She began working at a restaurant in Morris called Sis’ Drive-In. Later, she and a business partner would buy the restaurant and run it themselves before selling in the early 1980s.

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Sarah and her grandmother, Alta.

While Sarah was lucky enough to have several of her grandmother’s recipes to choose from, she found it difficult to pick one that held the best memories of her grandmother. She settled on her grandmother’s bread pudding. While unsure exactly where the recipe came from, it was a favorite at her grandmother’s restaurant, and years later customers would approach her father and aunts and tell them how much they loved the dish.

It was a dish that Sarah found so delicious that she remembered it through the years. It was not a dish that her grandmother made for every meal, but certainly for special occasions, and she was kind enough to share the recipe here on the Hungry Genealogist. After trying the recipe, let me tell you, you will not be disappointed. The recipe is simple to make and is made with simple ingredients, but the dish comes out of the oven looking quite luxurious and tasting even better than it looks.

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Grandma’s Olde Time Bread Pudding

Olde Time Bread Pudding Ingredients:
6 slices day-old bread
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk, scalded
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Olde Time Bread Pudding Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast the bread and butter while still hot. Arrange the bread in a buttered baking dish that is at least one quart in size. Sprinkle the raisins over the top of the toast.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, and all but 2 tbsp of the sugar. Add the milk and whisk to blend.

Pour the egg and milk mixture over the toast and raisins and allow to sit for about 10 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread down into the milk mixture to absorb.

Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and sprinkle over the top of the mixture.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold.

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Sarah told me that, even though her grandmother is no longer living, her cousin David still makes her grandmother’s bread pudding recipe, with a rum or bourbon sauce. She said that she has not made the recipe since her grandmother passed away, but that she hopes to try to make it for herself and her family soon. If you would like to learn more about the work that Sarah does, please visit her website and check it out for yourself! Sarah, thank you so much for telling us about your impressive grandmother, and sharing her delicious recipe!

Ashley and Her Mom’s Sugar Cookies

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I have known Ashley, since, geez, can either of us even remember? We went to grade, middle, and high school together. Ashley and I were both cheerleaders and I can absolutely say that one of the best parts of cheering at games was having Ashley’s mom cheering along with us in the stands. Her mother, Carol, was a huge personality and one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met.

Ashley lost her mother nine years ago to cancer. Ashley said that being happy and healthy is very important to her, in part because she watched both of her parents struggle with illnesses. Wanting to maintain her own healthy lifestyle, she was drawn toward a career helping others do the same.

After working in retail jobs, Ashley was introduced to massage therapy by an acquaintance. With a background in dance, sports, science, and health, she was interested in teaching her clients how to be more mindful of their own bodies to lead a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. After working for others in the massage business, she decided to strike out on her own.

Today, Ashley’s business, The Compassionate Touch, is steadily gaining clients and, in October, Ashley was named one of the 20 Best Massage Therapists in Louisville for 2016 by Expertise website.

Ashley still feels her mother’s influence through her own work today. I asked Ashley if she would share a recipe from her mother that was special to her. Ashley obliged, saying that, when she has free time, and gets a sweet tooth, she likes to make her mother’s sugar cookie recipe. She remembers that she and her mother used to dance together to the music of the 50s and 60s as they baked, and then enjoy the cookies together. Ashley told me that this recipe reminds her of her mother and the fun they had together.

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Sugar Cookie Recipe
Adapted from Phyllis Pellman Good’s Best of Amish Cooking

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks of margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp vinegar
1 c buttermilk
3 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and margarine together well.

Add eggs and beat well, until fully mixed.

In a measuring cup, add one tbsp of vinegar and then fill to one cup with milk. Add to sugar margarine and egg mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Drop by teaspoonful onto creased cookie sheet, or a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Alternatively, for a more uniform shape, you can refrigerate the dough overnight and form into small balls before cooking.

Bake for 8-10 min. Immediately sprinkle a little sugar on top of each cookie.

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This recipe makes a ton of delicious, little cookies. You will have more than enough to share, which is perfect for the upcoming holidays. And, if you’re looking for a way to work off some of these little beauties, I suggest turning on some 50’s and 60’s music and dancing around your kitchen.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Ashley!

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Sara (Lenton) Cornelius of Cake Over Steak

By nature, I am an extremely shy person. Like, really shy. Which makes this whole internet thing even more mind-boggling to me. A while back, though, I decided that I wanted to start a new project here where I would seek out some cool people to talk about their family history and have them share a family recipe with me. (I’ll try to do this once a month, so stay tuned!) Luckily, one of the first women I reached out to was just an all-around lovely human, which makes things easy. I am pleased to present my first guest on the Hungry Genealogist, Sara (Lenton) Cornelius. A super-talented artist and creator of Cake Over Steak, this gal is doing some cool stuff.

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(Courtesy of Sara Cornelius)

Sara was kind enough to take a chance and agree to do an interview with me. I also did a little family history research for her in return. See Sara’s interview below, along with her family recipe, and check out the amazing family tree she created with the research I did!

Q.) Can you describe a bit more about yourself? Your day job, for example, is awesome. Can you tell me more about what you do and how you got involved with it?

I’m the graphic artist for a memorial company, so my main job is to create custom hand etchings on monuments and I also put together custom layouts for customers involving text and photos that we etch with our laser machine. The hand etchings are my favorite part; I do a lot of scenes (deer and cabins or beach scenes, etc.) and I use a dremel tool to scratch the polish off of black granite, revealing the natural gray granite color underneath. So I’m essentially creating an image in reverse, etching away the parts that are white instead of the black parts like you would with a pencil or pen drawing. It’s fulfilling for me on a creative level, but the actual etching process is kind of mindless for me, so I get to zone out and listen to podcasts. It’s the best of both worlds.

Q.) Let’s talk more about your blog. Where did the idea come from? Is this something you were doing before you actually set up a blog? Or is it something that you had the idea and said, “I’m going to put that out there?”

The idea for my blog came to me the summer after college. I was considering starting a food blog, but didn’t feel extremely confident in my ability to photograph the food or come up with original recipes, and then I had the idea to illustrate the food. Since I’m an artist it seemed like an obvious way to make the blog more “me.” I let the idea percolate in my head for about 2.5 years before I actually started it, and for most of that time I was still trying to come up with the name for it. Even though I was illustrating the food I still wanted the blog to have nice photos, which is part of what held me back for so long. My husband is a photographer, so I finally mustered up the courage to start it when he agreed to take the photos for me. Along the way I had also become more confident in my ability to create my own recipes. Now that my blog is a little over a year old I’m transitioning into being my own photographer (with guidance from my husband, of course), and I’m starting to love that part of the process as well.

Q.) I know that you have an Etsy page where you sell your artwork. What is your intention with the blog? Would you like to do a book someday?

My intention for the blog includes a whole list of things: I wanted a space for sharing my love of food while also giving myself an outlet to create personal artwork outside of my day job. I wanted to interact with the food blogging community, which I think encompasses one of the best groups of people on the internet. I was also excited to have a place to record my life, in a way. Eventually I’d love to make a living from my blog, whether that’s through advertising and sponsored posts, or freelance illustration work and selling prints through my Etsy and Society6 shops. But most importantly, I want to make sure I’m always having fun with it. I think that doing a cookbook would be an amazing project, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I might create an “art book” of my illustrations and recipes from the blog someday, if that seems like something people would be interested in.

Q.) That’s great! I think an art book is an awesome idea! And, speaking of your art, that’s a good transition to your family. I know that you said there were artists in your family. Is it an accident that you became an artist too?

I suppose you could say it was an accident and that it wasn’t an accident. I didn’t have any close relatives that were professional artists to act as role models for me when I was a child, but I knew I wanted to go to art school by the time I was in tenth grade, and ever since elementary school I was always considered to be “artsy” by my peers and teachers. Looking at my family now, though, it comes as no surprise. My father is a writer but can also draw very well for someone who doesn’t do that on a regular basis. His father became a serious watercolorist in retirement, and his paintings are hanging all over my parents’ house. I recently discovered that the cousin of my paternal grandfather was a professional artist, dabbling in music, painting and puppetry. I learned to play piano on the piano that belonged to my great-grandfather, and my father sings and plays drums in a band in his free time. My uncle on my mother’s side has recently turned his photography hobby into his full-time job. Both of my grandfathers enjoyed playing with photography, so that has definitely been passed down. My eldest brother is also a professional photographer, and while my other brother does not create art professionally, he is a talented photographer and painter as well. (And now I’m married to a photographer.) My only cousin on my mother’s side is currently working on starting his career as a graphic designer. So as you can see, the creative arts run rampant within my family on both sides.

Q.) It sounds like it definitely runs in the family! What did you think when I first approached you about being a part of this little project of mine? I wonder especially about what you knew about genealogy at your day job.

When you first approached me about this I thought it was a unique request and I was really excited about it. In particular, I was excited to learn more about my family. I live in an area where families have grown here for generations and they have large, close-knit families. By comparison, my family is extremely small and half of it is in Georgia, sixteen hours away. There were no other Lentons and at times I felt like my small family of Lentons (and Ecklunds) were the only ones to exist in the country. We also didn’t know much about our heritage (which, it turns out is a real mumbo-jumbo of western Europe, more or less what we had expected), so learning more about that seemed like it might give me a better sense of my place in this world.

At my day job I don’t often interact with customers, but it can be interesting to learn how they feel about their relatives through what they choose to put on someone’s headstone. Sometimes people want to put an image on a headstone that represents their relative’s job, which can be as mundane as an old-fashioned adding machine or something like a policeman’s badge. Other times they focus on things that remind them of the person or something they knew the person loved, like their favorite flower or their favorite spot on the beach. That’s what I love about my job–even though I might think they’re putting something ridiculous on a gravestone, I know that it means a lot to someone else, which makes it important, no matter what. It gives my day-to-day job a lot of purpose and meaning.

Q.) Were you surprised by any of the things I found? I know that your parents were involved a little. Did you find it interesting and what would you like to know more about? What did you already know? What are you going to do with this information?

I was surprised that it was mostly the great-great-grandparents that came over from other countries, and that most of my great-grandparents were born in Pennsylvania. My parents were really enjoying the process of learning about this, too, and some of what you found helped to jog their memories about pieces they had forgotten. I wish I could know more about my relatives’ day-to-day lives: Where did they work? How did they spend their time? What were their relationships like with their kids? But I’m glad to finally have the information you found, and it’s something I can eventually pass onto my own children so they can know a little bit more about their family history.

Q.) I’m always interested to know if a person’s family history managed to make it to the family dinner table. Do you know if anyone in your family was a good cook? Have any recipes been passed down?

I wouldn’t say that cooking is a strong part of my family history. The family dinner has always been important within my family, but I’m not sure that anyone before me was necessarily passionate about cooking. It was more just something you did because you had to and that was how you put food on the table for your family. My grandparents weren’t really well enough to cook a whole lot when I was younger and they were around, but my mom often makes things that both of my grandmothers used to make all the time. When I asked my mom what she thought of as being a quintessential recipe in our family, she thought of her mom’s coleslaw recipe. As I mentioned, the family dinner has always been important, and both of my parents’ families had a tradition of eating a large dinner on Sundays. My mom’s mom would make a roast every Sunday and she would also make this coleslaw, shredding the cabbage by hand.

Sara was nice enough to share her family recipe with us and suggested I try it on some pulled pork sandwiches. If you would like to try Sara’s grandmother’s coleslaw, you can find the recipe below. I tried it and I was not disappointed.

Coleslaw

Grandma Ecklund’s Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 small head of cabbage or 1/2 of a large one, shredded (approx. 8 cups)
  • 2 cups shredded carrot (from about 2 large carrots, or the matchstick variety)
  • 2 tsp sweet relish
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Directions

  • Combine the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine. (You might want to start with 3 tbsp mayonnaise and work your way up as needed.)
  • Taste and adjust seasonings and mayonnaise amounts to suit your preferences.
  • Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Thanks so much for agreeing to tell me about your work, your family, and your blog, Sara! And I’m so glad you were able to turn my research into a beautiful piece of art! (Don’t forget to check it out, guys!)