Category: family (Page 3 of 5)

A Recipe For Cheater Runzas

Rejoice with me! I found my old binder of favorite recipes.

It’s easy to misplace things when you move frequently. During our first move from the Twin Cities to Fargo, I packed away my old binder of recipes I collected from cookbooks, cooking classes, friends, and family. I have been looking for these recipes and old photos for three years. Finally, I found them at the bottom of a box underneath a stack of boxes in our garage.

I pulled out a series of handwritten recipe cards my cousin sent me when I graduated from college. She has two daughters and made little notes about how these were some of their favorites. Her recipe for runzas, little bread pockets filled with meat and cabbage, caught my eye. I’ve seen Runza Restaurant featured on television but have never encountered runzas in person. They seem to be more popular in other parts of the Midwest like Kansas and Nebraska. Jake and I love meat pies of all varieties, so I made them this weekend.

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Grandma Dorothy’s Hot Crabmeat Sandwiches: Oops I Made Crabby Snacks!

This is the eighth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Rice PilafSalad with Cashew NutsHam & Sour Cream CasseroleOld Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Oops, I made crabby snacks.

The next recipe in this series comes from Grandma Dorothy, my mom’s mom. We spent a lot of time at their Cuyahoga Falls home where I played on their tree swing and spent hours in their attic looking at antique post cards. She gave me my first taste of coffee (which I promptly spit out) and read us books. She always kept a filled candy dish and taught me how to make homemade mashed potatoes.

This weekend I asked my Facebook fans which of my grandma’s recipes they’d like to see me make next and received the most feedback about crabmeat sandwiches.

First, A Mystery
Before I could start, I had to figure out what on earth is Velacta cheese?


I could not find information online for “Velacta Cheese” or even “Velacta.” However, I found an MLM company Velata that sells kitchen products, fondue sets, and processed cheese spreads. A reader pointed out that Velata is owned by Scentsy whose website says Velata was introduced in 2012. This made me wonder if Scentsy bought an old company’s line or if Velata is a new brand. Unfortunately, the company does not list a corporate phone number and has not returned my email yet.

Readers wondered if Dorothy actually meant Velveeta, with Velacta being a typo. I went with this assumption because Velveeta came into existence long before the 60’s and 70’s and I would have only been able to purchase Velata by mail ordering it from a direct sales representative.

Canned Crab
I live in a smaller Iowan town and we don’t have a large selection of seafood. I could not find frozen crab so I chose this canned variety.


Cans ranged from $2.99-$10, with jumbo lump being the most expensive. This can cost $5. The meat smelled unappealing and didn’t taste to great out of the can, either. If I had found frozen lump crab, I’m assuming it would have cost more than $10. Would I really have wanted to mix a higher quality product with Velveeta?

Crabby Snacks
I soon realized these sandwiches were actually a variation of the appetizer known as Crabby Snacks/Crabbies/Crab Bites. Jackie Weaver pushed this retro dish back into the spotlight when she mentioned Crabby Snacks in the film Silver Linings Playbook.

I have to confess I made some adaptations:

  • I cut the recipe in half so I didn’t waste a whole stick of butter.
  • I substituted butter for Oleo because I just can’t.
  • I substituted sliced bread with the crusts cut off for buns because I totally missed that part when I went grocery shopping.

Crabby Snack

Notes On Preparation 

  • Velveeta does funny things when you try to melt it with butter. It may separate into little globules so stir hard, and it will eventually form a paste.
  • I rinsed the crab before stirring it into the cheese because that smell.

Concluding Thoughts
These crabbies tasted better than we anticipated. This is not saying the canned crab meat tasted good, but that its flavor was mostly masked by the Velveeta mixture.

While I liked the idea of broiling each sandwich with a slice of fresh tomato, this turned out to be better in theory. The tomato slice blocked the cheese from getting golden brown and the underlying texture was unappealing.

Would I make this again? No. But it was fun to finally try this iconic retro appetizer. I have a hard time moving beyond the flavor of the canned crab lumps. If you like tuna fish, you might not feel too bothered and even Jake said he didn’t mind the crab’s flavor. I’d prefer surimi’s flavor (fake crab) to this canned product, though I typically don’t like its texture when it’s cooked. It reminds me of paste.

Have you ever eaten Crabby Snacks? How does your recipe (or your family member’s recipe) vary? What do you know about Velacta?

Trying Grandmother Jane’s Mysterious “Fruit Appetizer”

This is the sixth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Salad with Cashew NutsHam & Sour Cream CasseroleOld Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

For Fat Tuesday, we went sweet. Way sweet.

I forgot to add Grandmother Jane’s “Fruit Appetizer” to my list of retro recipes I still had to prepare. I found it at right moment considering I was just lamenting about wanting to sip a beverage from Psycho Suzi’s in Minneapolis, MN. More specifically, the type they require a credit card deposit for and serve in a wild tiki glass. Mmmm. . . yup.

How does grandmother’s “Fruit Appetizer” relate to a tiki drink? I can’t speak for all fruit appetizers, but Grandmother Jane’s resembles a granita more so than a traditional appetizer. It does not contain mayonnaise, cream cheese, or melted ice cream, just an ungodly amount of sugar.

I was very curious about what the end product would look and taste like.

Fruit Appetizer Recipe

Like many other recipes in this old church cookbook, it’s written vaguely in paragraph form. I was unclear about the first step so I just boiled the sugar and water until it was thicker.

Palin Collage.jpg

Then I added the fresh fruit juices to the sugar syrup along with four cups of ginger ale. I mixed the ingredients together, poured them into a large baking dish, and set it in the freezer. Every hour or so, I whisked the mixture to break up the large frozen pieces and it resembled a slushy or granita.

Fruit Appetizer edited

Of course it tasted delicious because it’s made from soda pop, sugar, and fresh citrus juices. Next time, I won’t add extra ginger ale to each glass upon serving because it melts the slushy and compounds on the sticky sweetness.

My addition of rum helped immensely, though I’m not sure if Grandmother Jane would approve. All of the fresh fruit juices just scream for rum and it helps to cut the sweetness. Alcohol or no alcohol, the fruit appetizer tastes pleasant and would make an interesting dessert or party punch. I prepared Jake a test glass and he finished it immediately.

I’d recommend preparing this for a family celebration or party, unless you don’t mind having a giant pan of “fruit appetizer” taking up a whole shelf of your freezer. If it keeps snowing, though, this might not seem so inconvenient.

Discovering My Grandmother Jane: Trying Her Salad With Cashew Nuts

This is the fifth installment in my series in which I cook all eleven recipes I found my grandmothers had submitted to their old church cookbooks. Previous recipes include Ham & Sour Cream Casserole, Old Fashioned Cauliflower SlawApricot Jello Salad, and Ship Wreck casserole (the one my mom hated). 

Salad greens say what?

After two weeks of weird, creamy, retro recipes, Jake begged me to take a break from preparing my grandmothers’ dishes so we could eat healthier food. I granted him mercy, well, mostly, by preparing this recipe for Grandmother Jane’s “salad with cashew nuts.”

Fresh salad greens, homemade dressing and cashew nuts. How bad could this be?

cashew salad collage.jpg

This salad dressing provided us with a break from mayo but called for a 1/3 cup of sugar. I had another just can’t moment and reduced it to 1/4 cup. I also added an extra squirt of mustard, and used half olive and half vegetable oil since I was running low on olive.

The salad dressing tasted completely palatable, but far too sweet even with the 1/4 cup of sugar. However, those who like dressings like poppy seed, french and raspberry vinaigrettes might not mind. The dressing is not something I’d make again, but I won’t have a problem eating it as long as I dress salad greens very lightly. It might also work as a component of a pasta salad if I add more vinegar of lemon juice.

Salad Dressing Clipped

And since I’m talking salads, I can’t help but go on a little rant about those salad dressing recipes that instruct you to dump everything into a jar and shake. If you slowly stream the oil into the vinegar/seasoning component of a dressing as you quickly whisk, you’ll never need to shake (unless you want to). Seriously. This dressing has remained like this for days all because I took a few minutes to emulsify.

I know this to be true, for I just made a shake-in-a-jar-dressing. It just seemed so easy, but in reality, was a separating, dripping mess that just wasn’t so cute when I actually served it to guests.

The next step of this retro cooking journey will lead us to fruit cake and rice pilaf. Next week, maybe next week, we’ll be ready to face those mayo-filled crab creations.

Discovering My Grandmother’s Recipes: Cheesy Ham & Sour Cream Casserole

My husband has begged me not to make any more of my grandmother’s recipes, so I’d say this experiment is going quite well.

Two weeks ago, I discovered eleven recipes my grandmother’s had submitted to their old church cookbooks and decided to embark on a journey to cook them all.

So far, I’ve prepared Ship Wreck Casserole (the one my mom hated), a creamy Apricot Jell-O Salad, and creamy Old Fashioned Cauliflower Slaw. Sunday supper involved making Grandmother Jane’s Ham and Sour Cream Casserole.

Ham and Cheese

What I liked about this recipe was that the ingredient list was minimal and seemed very simple to prepare. Plus, none of the ingredients seemed objectionable since they just included noodles, ham, eggs, sour cream, and cheese. How bad could this be?

Just like when I prepared the past few recipes, I had an I just can’t moment while I was attempting to grate the pound of cheese. I grated a half pound of cheese (a mix of sharp cheddar and swiss) and just had to stop. I stared at the looming mountain of cheese shreds and thought of grating twice that amount blew my mind.

Other adjustments I made included adding even less than the 1/2 pound of cheese I grated and diluting the sour cream with a little milk since it was too thick. When the casserole had finished baking, I broiled it for a few minutes to see if the top would brown. It didn’t.


Concluding Thoughts
The casserole matched my initial prediction that it wouldn’t taste that bad because the ingredients were so basic.

My husband made a sad face and commented that it couldn’t be that healthy, so we ate small portions along with big bowls of our favorite kale.

We added plenty of black pepper, and, although he did not return for more casserole, admitted that it tasted decent. I brought it with me to work for lunch during the week.

If you prepare this recipe as written and mix the eggs and noodles together in the baking dish after it’s sprayed, the egg layer will stick to the bottom of the dish. And yes, this layer does taste like scrambled eggs. You’ll find some hot ham water gathers in the bottom and the cheese will congeal into a chewy layer. I didn’t even use a half pound of grated cheese and the casserole was extremely cheesy and a little bit oily.

A whole pound of cheese would be obscene, so, if you must, proceed at your own risk.

I’m going to give Jake and I a break from these retrotastic casseroles and prepare healthier meals this week. Otherwise, I’m afraid he’ll quite literally run for the hills screaming should he catch sight of another mayo and cheese-based concoction. We live in Iowa, so he’ll have to run pretty far to find those hills and I don’t want to have to catch him.

Join me next as I tackle Old Fashioned Fruit Cake, Chicken Marengo, Cashew Salad made with fresh greens and homemade vinaigrette and Pilaf before I try each grandmother’s version of crab casseroles. These will give you the mayo shivers. With the predicted blizzard, who needs any more shivers? We can all afford to make these wait.

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