Moms who cook often have that one dish that everyone asks her to make for family gatherings. This Mother’s Day, which falls on Sunday, May 9, honor her by learning — and preparing — that dish yourself. Or, try one of these from four local families who agreed to share their favorites with our readers.
Sweet as secret sugar cookies
When Marble Falls Elementary School teacher Becky Reed thinks about her mother, Faye Huebner, she craves the sugar cookies they often made together while she was growing up.
“I don’t even like to bake, but working in the kitchen with my mom was really special, as it probably is for most little girls,” Reed said.
As a child, she would help her mother roll out the dough and carefully ice each baked cookie, unaware of the precious family memories they were creating until much later.
Her mother makes sugar cookies for different occasions, but Reed mostly associates them with childhood Christmases. Each year, she and her mother would get to work, mixing the dough and flouring the countertop. The pair would ice and decorate cookies shaped like Christmas trees and other classic holiday items while cutting out rabbits, ducks, and spades with a set of iron cookie cutters made by Huebner’s blacksmith grandfather.
Reed recalls one Christmas when she was 4 and the family was living near Seguin. Her father worked in the hog business, which had bottomed out, leaving them with a tighter budget than usual. With no extra money for decorations, Huebner decided they would decorate with cookies.
“My father went out and cut down a cedar tree,” Reed said. “We cut the sugar cookies, iced them and sprinkled them up, and we baked (ornament) hooks into them and hung them on the Christmas tree. Those were the decorations.”
Later, as they began to put away the Christmas decor, they took the decorated tree to a nearby field so the birds could have a “Christmas feast,” Reed said.
Until recently, Reed believed the recipe was her great-grandmother’s but learned it came from Irene Albes, a dear friend of the Huebner family. Albes used to bring buckets of cookies to community events, often receiving compliments as everyone begged for the recipe. That was a no-go with Albes, who eventually shared her secret sugar cookie recipe with Faye.
“(My mom) still makes them every year, and I make them every year, too,” Reed said. “I have three sons, and that was always the big deal. At Christmas, we’d make their favorite cookies, but we would also make the sugar cookies together. They carried a lot of weight with me, I guess you could say.”
(Story by staff writer Brigid Cooley, email@example.com)
Secret Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 2⅔ cups flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond flavoring
Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and milk.
Sift together flour and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture.
Chill dough for about an hour for best results.
Roll out on a floured board. Cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour. Bake at 375 degrees on a greased cookie sheet until just browned on the edges.
Decorate when cool with icing and sprinkles if desired.
Combine sifted powdered sugar and flavoring in a bowl. Add just enough milk to bring to a good consistency for spreading on cookies.
Norma Uhls’ cheese enchiladas
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Norma Uhls’ last name as Unce. DailyTrib.com apologizes for the error.
Norma Uhls cooks cheese enchiladas by the hundreds, usually for Thursday night monthly meals at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Marble Falls.
“The first time we made enchiladas, it was for 250 for a retreat,” she said. “We had rice and beans and salad. We made 400-plus enchiladas.”
Uhls, 76, has been cooking enchiladas since she was 18. She learned from her mother, Juanita Gutierrez Ortiz, when they lived in Beeville. A 30-year resident of Marble Falls, Uhls has worked on kitchen staffs in nursing homes and cooked for those attending solitudes at Eagle’s Wings Retreat Center in Burnet and at her Marble Falls church.
To recreate this seasoned chef’s much-loved enchiladas requires a sense of taste and smell but no measuring cups or spoons. Unce uses her eyesight, the palms of her hands, and her tastebuds to achieve just the right flavor.
The dish is a combination of Monterrey Jack, medium cheddar, queso quesadilla, and asadero cheeses rolled into hot corn tortillas that have been dipped in hot oil to soften. This is done as the hamburger meat for the sauce is browning.
After she rolls each tortilla around portions of the cheese mixture, she adds spices to her meat: chili powder, beef bouillon, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Each pan holds 18 enchiladas, which is topped with meat sauce, onions, and more cheese. Baked in the oven until the cheese is melted, no batch ever tastes exactly the same, but all are delicious.
Uhls happily reveals two secrets that make her signature dish special.
“I buy 93-7 (percentage of hamburger meat to fat); that goes further,” she said. “I’d rather pay a little bit more to get better quality. And enchiladas without onions is not an enchilada.”
(Story by staff writer Jennifer Fierro, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Banana cream pie by Lynda Reed French
Using a metal spoon to stir the custard for Lynda Reed French’s banana cream pie changes the flavor, the Briggs resident said. A native of Oatmeal, French learned from her mother, Frances Reed, to keep a specially prepared wooden spoon set aside for making her high-demand pie.
“She soaked her spoon with maple extract,” French said. “You were not allowed to use that spoon for anything else. We knew better than to use that spoon.”
The original recipe, which has been adapted for additional flavors such as chocolate, coconut, and pineapple, was given to her mother years ago by lifelong friend “Ma” Roach, who lived in Mount Blanc near Oatmeal. This recipe makes two pies.
(Story by Executive Editor Suzanne Freeman, email@example.com)
Banana Cream Pie
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- butter the size of a walnut (about 1 to 1½ tablespoons)
- 1½ to 2 bananas
- 2 cooked 9-inch pastry shells, cooled
- whipped cream
In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar and flour. Beat the egg yolks with about 1 cup of the milk and pour into the pan with the sugar and flour mixture and mix well. Add the remaining milk and stir into the other ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir into mixture until well incorporated. Allow to cool.
Layer the bottoms of two precooked pastry shells with thin slices of bananas. Pour cooled cream filling over the bananas. Top with whipped cream. Refrigerate until serving time.
For chocolate pie, add ½ cup cocoa to the dry ingredients in the saucepan and cook.
For coconut pie, add 1 cup of coconut along with butter and vanilla after the filling is cooked.
For banana pudding, alternate layers of vanilla wafers and sliced bananas in a large bowl. Pour cooked pudding over it and allow to set for a while to absorb the filling.
Note: When making the coconut pie, save the egg whites for meringue and bake at 350 degrees until the meringue is lightly browned.
Sue Kennedy’s Cajun gumbo
A hungry crowd at Sue Kennedy’s home means she is making her most requested dish: a five-meat Cajun gumbo. The recipe was given to her by a sister-in-law in 1967.
“I fixed it when my kids came from Alabama in October,” said the Marble Falls resident. “It was just like a holiday. I fixed a big pot, and all of them bought stuff. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Along with garlic powder and pepper, the dish calls for filé powder, the dried ground leaves of the Northern American sassafras tree that thickens the dish.
“Gumbo filé is the main ingredient,” Kennedy said. “I make a roux, a brown gravy, to pour in. I don’t want it to be thick or too watery.”
From start to finish, the gumbo, which requires attention to method, takes about two hours to prepare.
“I go by taste,” Kennedy said. “I don’t need to measure.”
Her tricks of the trade include putting the seafood in last as it cooks quickly. Also, no oysters. The main ingredients are chicken, weenies, smoked sausages, shrimp, and crab. She adds garlic (as well as garlic powder), onions, pepper, and, of course, the filé. She typically uses two pots on the stove to prepare.
“Sometimes, people put a little tomato and okra,” she added.
Now that Kennedy’s kids are adults, they are interested in learning her techniques and helping in the kitchen.
“They cut up the smoked sausage, the weenies, the onion,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes, I sit down and tell them what to do.”
(Story by staff writer Jennifer Fierro, firstname.lastname@example.org)