HERE AT COOK'S COUNTRY, we’re known for our ability to take recipes that remind you of home and streamline them into foolproof, everyday favorites. But we couldn’t do it alone. We gather inspiration from lots of sources, and in many cases, that means turning to what we’ve learned from some of the most important women in our lives.
Many of the cooking tips and recipes we rework to make more convenient for home cooks have been passed down to us from our moms. So this year for Mother’s Day, we’re putting the spotlight on a few of our recipes that were influenced in some way by these women.
The Women Behind Our Heirloom Recipes
In every issue of Cook’s Country magazine we feature an “heirloom” recipe—that is, a recipe that’s been handed down from readers’ or test cooks’ families or communities. Here are a few that can be traced back to moms (and grandmothers!).
Neiman Marcus (Inspired) Dip
A reader from Sugar Land, Texas wrote in and shared with us the childhood memory that inspired this recipe: “When I was growing up, I hated the shopping trips my mother made me go on—except to Neiman Marcus, where we could have this dip in the department store’s restaurant. I still love the dip (and I still hate to shop).”
Old-Fashioned Coconut-Pecan Squares
A reader from Eugene, Oregon sent in this recipe along with the following anecdote: “When I was in college, my mother would send a box of these to me every semester, just before exams.”
Finding Inspiration on the Road
We travel all over the country learning about America’s hidden dishes from the people who make them and then recreating them back in our test kitchen. Each of these “On The Road” trips helps us tell the stories behind these undiscovered gems and then create foolproof versions of them so that our members can have a taste of the road at home. Of course, many of the stories behind these recipes and restaurants start with the family matriarchs.
Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie
In 2012, Holly Ricciardi left her brand agency job to open up her own bakery, Magpie Artisan Pies. She now makes award-winning pies influenced by the ones she made with her sisters and mother growing up. (Read our On The Road story to learn more about how her mother’s touch influences her bakery’s offerings.)
Grilled Steak Fajitas
If you walk into Ninfa’s restaurant in Texas you’re greeted by a portrait of the woman behind it all: Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo (also known as Mama Ninfa). Our readers told us we had to visit this restaurant known for its fajitas and it was worth the trip. This place was the inspiration behind our recipes for Grilled Steak Fajitas, Carne Guisada, and Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos.
North Carolina Dipped Fried Chicken
Benjamin Franklin Cureton Sr. made this craggy fried chicken famous in the 1940s, but it was his wife, Nannie Mae Stevenson-Cureton, who helped develop the "dip" that became its trademark.
Potato Cheddar Pierogi
When in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, we got a lesson in pierogi-making from Elaine Kitlowski, a home cook and longtime pierogi-maker who learned how to make them from her mother. The crash course—during which Elaine insisted that when it comes to pierogies and their fillings, less is more—led to some of our best discoveries when developing our pierogi recipes.
Recreating Mom’s Recipes
Many of our recipe discoveries are formed by our food experiences, including those we’ve had with the mother figures in our lives. Here are some of the ways these women have influenced our recipe choices.
Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
This is a recipe that members can’t stop raving about! But here’s a fun fact: The baked sour cream topping idea came from a test kitchen colleague, who said her mom uses it in her cheesecakes. This novel idea helped give us the results we were looking for: strong strawberry flavor without the sacrifice of the cheesecake’s signature creaminess.
Growing up in Baltimore, one of our test cook’s moms fed her a steady diet of the only foods she would eat: breakfast cereal, plain hot dogs (no ketchup or bun), and Bergers cookies. She never stopped loving them and convinced us why we should love them too.
Pork Chop Casserole
One of our test cooks grew up in the midwest and claims he was raised on his mom’s casseroles. He thought he’d seen every type there was—until he stumbled across some recipes for pork casserole. Equipped with all he’d learn from his casserole-filled childhood, he created a version that would make mom proud.
The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook
Get every review and recipe from all 10 seasons featured on TV, including many inspired by home cooks (and moms) we've encountered in our research. It’s the perfect book for fans of the show, and anyone who appreciates great home cooking.
Do any of our recipes remind you of the meals a mother figure made for you growing up? Let us know in the comments!