A few years ago, I gave both my millennial daughters cookbook albums with family recipes – most handwritten on recipe or note cards, including a few in the hand of their grandmother or great-grandmothers. They love them.
They also love cooking shows, food photos and discovering recipes online, including on YouTube and food blogs.
They got me hooked on “The Great British Baking Show” – I’ve baked all my life and fancy myself a decent baker. But I’ve learned a few things from that show.
Yet, when my younger daughter, Eila, sent me a link this fall to a Gordon Ramsay video on how to cook a holiday turkey, it gave me pause.
I’ve cooked the turkey for the family Thanksgiving celebration pretty much the same way for more than 30 years, and she wants me to change things up?
Well, she said, you don’t have to. But it looks interesting. Maybe just the butter under the skin. And the bacon.
I watched the video.
He doesn’t stuff the bird, I told her, suggesting that if “we” were going to try this recipe that I cook the stuffing separately.
No, I like it baked in the turkey, she responded.
I fretted. It will take longer with stuffing inside. We might have to get up at the crack of dawn to have dinner on the table before dark because Ramsay says you’ve got to let the turkey “rest” for the same length of time it was in the oven. As I calculated the time, I was wishing that I’d ordered a smaller turkey.
Despite my misgivings, I was intrigued. We decided to try it – although I brought my trusty Reynold’s cooking bag along (we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving at a mountain cabin or house for about 30 years) for backup. I didn’t use it – and probably never will need a turkey-size cooking bag again.
It was that good.
The great turkey-cooking experiment was fun for the onlookers, too, especially the long-simmering gravy mixture. Along with stuffing the bird, we made only a couple of other minor changes – no walnuts in the gravy, and because I added some extra stock, I also used a bit of cornstarch to thicken. And we ate at the usual mid-afternoon time. And I didn’t lose any sleep.
Mom would’ve loved it.
She taught me to cook – and to love cooking. She shared that love with her mother and sister, too.
While plenty of old recipes from family and friends have been passed on to the younger generations, the elder family cooks always welcomed adaptations and new ideas. My mom loved my Asian and Middle Eastern recipes – things she didn’t grow up with.
My girls were surprised to learn that some recipes I’ve made for as long as they can remember are not family hand-me-downs. My Winter White casserole (a puree of parsnips, turnips, cauliflower and an apple with butter and cream) is from a 1990 newspaper food page, and my mom’s Porcupine Meatballs are in the old Betty Crocker cookbook.
Our annual batch of lebkuchen comes from a recipe from Auntie Frey – a woman from Germany who was a friend of my grandmother. I never met her, but two of her old metal cookie cutters are prized among my cookie-cutter collection.
Along with such sacred recipe cards, newspaper and magazine clippings fill our old recipe boxes and are stuck in the pages of holiday cookbooks.
In the internet age, there’s just so many more ideas – and photos and videos – available.
Millennial are bringing their own twists to the table, and we should embrace them. I was surprised when Eila mentioned that older folks like to “hate on avocado toast” because it’s a millennial thing. They’re missing out, I thought. I love avocado toast, and her recent rendition topped with cloud eggs was right up there with the best-ever brunch items I’ve had.
I love that my older daughter, Amy, took my basic granola recipe up a notch with such flavors as salted caramel almond, lemon rosemary, vanilla orange, key lime pie and pumpkin pecan. She sends me samples. And sometimes recipe cards.
Ever the scientist, she also has an ongoing “great pie crust” experiment comparing several crust recipes using lard, butter or a mixture. Results are pending, but I believe an ale crust is a top contender.
Will I give up my tried-and-true Nebraska pie crust? Time – and taste – will tell.
During a recent visit with her in Seattle, we went to the Ballard Market and went home with a red kuri squash for South American soup and a bag of mixed fungi – including lion’s mane – to try.
I have more opportunities to cook with Eila these days because she lives nearby; but the three of us manage to exchange ideas and recipes regardless of the distance.
We have discovered that Meyer lemons truly are wonderful, and that one of us must travel overseas periodically to buy saffron at reasonable prices. (I discovered that while I browsed shops during a layover at a Dubai airport; we since have purchased it at bargain prices in Greece and India. The woman in the shop in Greece commented that I was wise to stock up as it’s “terribly expensive” in the U.S.)
Eila tipped me off to key limes, which add a brightness that you don’t get with a regular lime (at least the ones available in Colorado). Unfortunately, they’re not always available.
We’re more likely to buy herbs and spices at specialty shops where they are fresher – and where you can smell them before you buy. We’ve grown our own sage, basil and rosemary successfully.
We are regular patrons at farmers markets. We roast chiles and corn and freeze them, can farm-fresh tomatoes and make jams, chutneys and pickled beets.
Incidentally, the Gordon Ramsay turkey experiment wasn’t the first time Eila enticed me to change my longstanding ways.
My annual tomato canning ritual abruptly changed a couple of years ago when she suggested I try roasting the tomatoes. That year, half were stewed as I had done for more than 30 years (including in all-day canning marathons with my mother and sister), and half were roasted. This year, I roasted them all.
They still learn from me, too, and I love phone calls and texts with “cooking questions.” But when I’m stumped occasionally, I just tell them to ask Google.
Sue McMillin, a long-time journalist and former city editor at The Durango Herald, is a freelance writer and editor living in Victor, Colorado. Amy McMillin, 30, is a geologist and lives in Seattle. Eila McMillin, 27, is a teacher and lives in Colorado Springs.Sue’s Basic Granola
Servings: 15 1/3 cup servings
This recipe is customizable in that you can change the “dry stuff” out for whatever you want. Here, the default is: oats, nuts, seeds and coconut (Try 3 cups of oats and 2 cups of a mix of raw pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, coconut and almonds or walnuts; if I add dried fruit, I mix it in during the last 10 minutes of baking so it doesn’t become brittle). The beauty of this is that you can put in what you like and try new flavors.Ingredients:5-6 cups of “dry stuff” (See HEADNOTE)¼ cup coconut oil (or other oil or butter)½ cup honey or maple syrup¼ cup brown sugar½ teaspoon saltMethod:Mix and heat oil (or butter), honey or maple syrup, brown sugar and salt together until warm and sugar and fat (if using butter or coconut oil) are dissolved.
Pour over the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring once about halfway through the time.
Amy’s Salted Caramel Almond Granola
Servings: 15 1/3 cup servings
Ingredients:For salted caramel sauce:1 cup granulated sugar6 tablespoons butter, cut in chunks½ cup heavy cream1 teaspoon vanilla1 teaspoon saltFor granola:3 cups oats1 cup chopped or sliced almonds1 cup mixed seeds and coconut¼ cup sugarMethod:For salted caramel sauce:
Heat sugar in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn, until completely dissolved. Add butter and stir until melted. Slowly add cream, stir for 1 minute and remove from heat; immediately add vanilla and salt.
(Leftover sauce can be stored in the refrigerator; warm in a pan of hot water and drizzle over sliced apple for a quick dessert.)
Heat together ½ cup of the salted caramel sauce and ¼ cup sugar until warm and sugar is dissolved.
Pour over the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to coat; spread on a baking sheet and bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring once about halfway through the time.
Eila’s Cloud Eggs on Avocado Toast
Servings: 4 eggs
If serving with other brunch items, plan on one egg per person.Ingredients:For avocado toast1½ avocados, mashed with the juice of half a lime4 slices whole grain bread, toastFor cloud Eggs:4 eggs, separated (place yolks in individual bowls or shot glasses and the whites in a small mixing bowl)¼ cup finely shredded parmesan cheese1 teaspoon of dried lemon peelMethod:For Avocado Toast:
Spread mashed avocado onto the toast.
For Cloud Eggs:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees; use a stoneware baking sheet or line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold in the cheese and lemon peel. Divide into four mounds on the prepared baking sheet and use a spoon to make a well in the center. Bake for about 3 minutes – until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and gently slide a yolk into each well – if it has filled in, use a spoon to enlarge slightly before adding the yolks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or paprika if desired and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes.
Use a spatula to carefully lift the egg clouds and slide them onto the prepared avocado toast and serve immediately.
Auntie Frey’s Lebkuchen
Servings: About 9 dozen cookies.
The flavor of the cookies improves with age and they’ll keep for 3 to 4 months in a cookie tin. To keep them soft, put a quarter of an apple in a folded foil cup and place it inside the tin.The dough is left to rest overnight in a cool place and baked the following day.Ingredients:For cookies:1 pint light molasses½ pound brown sugar (about 1 cup)¼ pound lard (about ½ cup)2 tablespoons baking soda½ pint sour cream½ pound walnuts, chopped½ pound glazed mixed peel½ tablespoons cinnamon1 teaspoon ground cloves8 cups of flour1 tsp saltFor glaze:1 cup powdered sugar1 tablespoon butter, melted1 teaspoon vanilla 1 tablespoon warm waterMethod:Put the molasses, brown sugar and lard in a large, deep saucepan and bring to a boil but don’t let it boil. Add the baking soda – the mixture will foam up, so be sure the saucepan is deep. Let it cool and pour into a large mixing bowl.
Add the sour cream, nuts, fruit and spices and mix well. Add the flour a cup at a time; the dough will become quite stiff. Cover and let stand in a cool place overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use stoneware baking sheets, or lightly greased metal cookie sheets.
Roll about 1/3 of the dough at a time fairly thick (about 1/4-1/3 inches) on a baking cloth and cut into shapes (animal shapes are traditional). Place on bottom rack in the oven and move to top rack when they become puffy. Bake until just set – about 5-8 minutes total. Cool on racks and glaze with mixture of powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla and warm water (add water as needed to thin). A small craft paintbrush works well for glazing.