Posts filed under 'hillbilly recipes'

My Grama Sanom’s Grapeleaves

This is a recipe that I have wanted to make and post on here for ages…but every time I have made them, I have either forgotten to photograph them, or not had a working camera.

Anyway, these are my Grama Sanom’s grapeleaves! FINALLY!

So there really isn’t one particular story to go with this dish. There were many stories over many years, that I hold close to my heart, and remember every time I make these. Because, whenever I saw my Grama Sanom, we would 9 times out of 10 make grapeleaves together. So this is a recipe that I remember very well. And, as the years go by without my dear Grama, I find that little pieces of her live on in me. For instance, when I look down at my hands rolling these leaves, I notice that they are indeed so very like my grandmother’s hands. And in 50 years, I can see them curling into little arthritic cups…just like hers. A painful, but perfect measuring device. πŸ™‚

Some fond memories I have regarding grapeleaves, were things like driving along in the car with my Grama and Jiddu (Jiddu = Grandpa in Arabic), and hearing my Grama shout to my Jiddu to “Pa! Stop the car!”, and we would come to screeching halt at the side of the road, when my Grama would then calmly get out, walk to the side of the road, and start picking grapeleaves off of the vines growing on the side of the road. I would jump out and help her, knowing that my belly would soon be filled with delicious stuffed grapeleaves.

When we would get home, my grama would wash the leaves in cold water removing all the dirt and any stray bugs that may have made their way home with us. After the leaves were rinsed, it was my job to lay all the leaves out so that the veins were facing up, and trim off all the stems while my Grama made the stuffing. (Recipe below). After all the leaves were stacked, vein sides up, and stems cut off, my grama would lay them in a 9×13 baking dish and pour boiling hot water over them until they were covered with it. She would wait until they became their signature dark green color, and were wilted and pliable enough to roll. After they were tender enough, she would drain out all the water and then it was my job to pat them all somewhat dry so they weren’t dripping wet.

Once the leaves were ready, and the meat/rice mixture was ready, it was time to roll! We would sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours, and carefully roll out each delicious package. Stacking them up into a big pot. When they were done, she would mix up a bowl of water and tomato paste, stirring it until the paste had fully dissolved. She would then place a plate upside down over the pot of leaves, and pour the tomato mixture over the leaves until the leaves were just covered. She would throw in a few teaspoons of salt, and a little squeeze of lemon…and in around 30 minutes…we would be enjoying our grapeleaves feast.

Let me just say, that I have eaten my fair share of grapeleaves at restaurants over the years, and never have any of them come close to these. Maybe it’s just because the way she made them, was what I became accustomed to, what I grew up eating…but to me, they are even more delicious because they are wrapped up in my memories of her. And so whenever I make them, I look down at my hands…and know she is with me and somewhere up there, smiling down on me for keeping her memory and traditions going. I can’t wait to have kids and grandkids so that I can share this tradition with them.

In the meantime, I am sharing it with you! So please enjoy them!

Recipe from Mary Sanom

2 lbs. ground chuck (you can also use ground turkey, but if you do I like to add a little olive oil for some fat)
1 lb. long grain white rice
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz tomato sauce
8 oz tomato sauce or paste
Salt/Pepper to taste
Grapeleaves (from the side of the road! OR you can buy them in the jar at the grocery store in the ethnic food aisle, but they aren’t as tender as fresh picked!*)
1 lemon


  • Mix ground chuck, rice, onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato sauce in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I use around a teaspoon, perhaps a little more). I usually just take a little bite of this mixture to make sure it is seasoned correctly, which freaks a lot of people out to eat raw meat, but I’ve been doing it all my life, and never once have I fallen ill from this. πŸ˜‰
  • Pour in some tomato sauce enough to moisten the meat. You want the meat mixture to be slightly moist, but not so it’s so wet that it’s falling apart
  • Place enough grapeleaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot. This will keep the grapeleaves from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • Lay out a grapeleaf with the vein side up. Place a small amount of the beef and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf (see photo above), tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat, and begin to roll up like a cigar
  • Continue rolling your grapeleaves, and laying them in rows on the bottom of the pot, which has been lined with unfilled leaves. When your first layer of grapeleaves has lined the bottom of the pot, you want to start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves easier than it would if they were all going the same direction and packed in tightly together
  • Keep rolling up all your leaves, and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or your pot is full! I never like to fill the pot more than 3/4 with grapeleaves to allow room for the liquid, the plate, and for the liquid to boil and bubble up over the leaves without spilling out of the pot
  • Once you’ve got your leaves all rolled, place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the leaves from floating during cooking, and coming unrolled.
  • In the bowl that your meat mixture was in, scoop out a 8 oz can of tomato paste and mix with enough water to cover your grapeleaves
  • Pour the tomato/water mixture over your leaves until they are just covered.
  • Add a teaspoon or so of salt, and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot
  • Cover the pot with a lid, and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and let cook for about 30 minutes or until meat is cooked thru and rice and leaves are tender (if you have a lot of leaves, this may take longer – to test, just take out a leave from the top of the pot and taste it)
  • Once your leaves are cooked, remove from heat. Take out the plate, and start removing your grapeleaves with a pair of tongs, arranging them on a pretty serving platter!
  • DIG IN! They will be super tender and moist and full of flavor.
  • I like to reserve the rest of the sauce from the pot, and use a little bit of it to pour over leftover leaves before I reheat them in the microwave

I hope you enjoy my Grama Sanom’s recipe for Syrian grapeleaves!
Click here to see the whole photo set on my flickr!

*If you do buy grapeleaves from the jar, make sure that you rinse them thoroughly and pat them dry. Also, you CAN freeze fresh grapeleaves, but only after they have been wilted with boiling water, just pat them dry and put stacks of them into ziplock bags and throw them in the freezer. These will last you through the winter months, when you can’t pick them. The best time to pick grapeleaves in Michigan is during July, early August, when they are big enough, but haven’t been eaten by all the bugs.

4 comments February 3rd, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Well, it must be officially summer. I’ve baked my first strawberry rhubarb pies of the season. This is an old photo, taken with an old camera phone a long time ago. I was just too tired to photograph some new ones last night, but you get the idea. Maybe next time I bake some them, I will take some better photos and replace this one.

Anyway, sometimes I just crave the rhubarb. It reminds me of my Aunt Fran and Grama Dee. They used to have it growing in their backyard in Detroit, and I remember having plenty of rhubarb desserts as a little girl. As I was strolling through the grocery store last night, I spotted these very fresh and perfect stalks of rhubarb, and knew what must be done. Especially when I saw some super sweet strawberries a little ways down the aisle. There’s nothing like a little late-night baking for me to conjure up memories of my childhood. I was just in the mood to spend a little time thinking of my Aunt and Grandma last night. So here’s to you girls! And here’s to summer! Hooray!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Recipe from Julie Foxworthy

INGREDIENTS FOR CRUST (makes two crusts)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose white flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, any variety. (I prefer sea salt or kosher salt)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup (16 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter or shortening, cut into cubes. Just cut the stick once lengthwise, then four or five times across to make about ten chunks. You can also use half butter, half shortening if you like.
Approximately 8 tablespoons ice water. This water must be very cold: put some ice cubes in a bowl or measuring cup of water to keep it cold.

2 – 2 1/2 cups diced fresh rhubarb
2 – 2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 – 1 1/4 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of strawberries you can add a little less)
1/3 cup flour
cinnamon to taste
1 egg (for egg wash for top of pie crust)

I have used this recipe with much success, so I’m passing along to you. Of course I was lazy last night, and just used the refrigerated pillsbury pie crusts. πŸ™‚


  • Combine diced rhubarb, sliced strawberries, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl until all the fruit is coated
  • Pour mixture into unbaked pie shells
  • Cover pies with 2nd layer of dough
  • Seal edges around the pie, pinch with thumbs to make pretty pattern along the edges, or use a fork to seal
  • Cut in some venting slices on the top of the pie
  • Whisk egg in small bowl until slightly frothy, and brush on top of pie.
  • Sprinkle top of pie with a little sugar
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Depending on your oven, if crusts become too dark, turn heat down to 375ΒΊ halfway thru baking

Do not refrigerate fruit pies. Also, you have to let them completely cool before covering them with any kind of foil/plastic wrap, or else the top of the pies will become soggy.

Happy Summer, Enjoy!

Add comment January 16th, 2009

Ketchup Spaghetti (AKA “Depression Spaghetti”)

Grama Dee grew up during the Great Depression in one of the most poverish towns in Missouri. They raised rabbits and chickens to eat and growing up in such dire straits as she did, she was not one to ever waste food.

Many times I would watch her in disbelief as she scraped the mold off some old bread and eat it with a slab of butter. When she caught my looks of shock and horror, she would roll her eyes at me and say…”Julie Anne, a little mold never hurt anyone.” I begged to differ…but that’s beside the point, because old habits die hard, and for her…wasting food just wasn’t an option. Many times she would scrape our plates clean, and then…when the last spoonful of green beans just could not be eaten…she would save it in an old margerine tub, put it in the refrigerator to be eaten another time.

This used to drive my mom crazy because whenever my grama came over for dinner (which was a few times a week at least), we’d have 20 margerine tubs full of food that NOONE was ever gonna touch. But then Grama Dee would come over again the next day or so, and sure enough…she’d take out that margerine tub full of those 10 green beans and eat them. So nothing ever really did go to waste.

Anyway…one of the most important food memories that I (and everyone in my family) has of my Grama Dee, is her most beloved Depression staple, ketchup spaghetti. From the time I could slurp down a noodle, I’ve been eating it. And it’s my dad and cousin Brian’s favorite food. I’m not kidding, it really is. There are so many memories surrounding this one dish, that they’d be far too many to write here.

But one of the most comical, was the first time my poor brother-in-law, Mark encountered this infamous dish. Now, Mark is 100% Italian (or EYE-TAIL-YUN as Grama Dee used to say) and he was horrified that a spaghetti noodle could be so abused. IN EVERY WAY. But he was a good sport, and for my sister (and our grama) he obliged us all, and tried a bite. After his first gag reflex kicked in…my dad howled with laughter, and my poor grama was never able to convince Mark to eat another bite, no matter how many times she tried.

Yep, true enough, ketchup spaghetti is not for the weak of palette, because unless you were raised on the stuff like I was, I can’t imagine most people would react much different than Mark did. But as gross as it must seem to most, it is the one food I hold dearest to my heart, and will never, EVER tire of eating until the day I die.

So I probably don’t have to tell you that ketchup spaghetti was born out of the Depression because all it required was spaghetti and ketchup and of course, the hillbilly requirement to any dish…BUTTER.

Times were tough, and that’s all I know. My grama used to tell me that when her family did happen to have a few extra pennies, they would fancy it up with some sugar, onion and ground beef. But most of the time, it was just simply noodles and ketchup. While my grama was known to mix it up every once in a while and make it with elbow macaroni, for my purposes here, I’d like to keep it real, and stick with the way she usually made it – with spaghetti noodles. So here it is…(and I’m giving you the fancified version, with the onion and ground beef, and if you’re too poverish for that, then you can just omit those from the recipe)…

KETCHUP SPAGHETTI recipe from Doris Foxworthy

INGREDIENTS: (see photo)
1/2 lb Spaghetti
1 24 oz bottle of Heinz Ketchup
1 lb Ground Beef
1 Medium Onion
1/4 stick Butter
1 Tbsp Sugar
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste


  1. Cut up medium sized onion to a small dice.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  3. While the spaghetti is boiling, heat a large skillet over high heat and throw in the diced onion with a little bit of butter.
  4. Saute the onion until it’s just translucent (not brown) and then add the ground beef.
  5. Saute the beef mixture until the meat is cooked through.
  6. Drain the cooked spaghetti and return to pot.
  7. Combine beef mixture and spaghetti.
  8. Squeeze in about 3/4 of the bottle of ketchup until the noodles are good n’ saucy then add the butter, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Heap a pile of noodles on your favorite plate and see what all the fuss is about.

I really, really hope that you like this ketchup spaghetti, but if you don’t? Well, I won’t feel so bad, as you probably only wasted less then $6.

4 comments January 18th, 2006

Would you like some squash with your butter?

Six months after my Grama Dee passed away, my family was a sad mess. It was the first time in all our lives, that we’d not had our beloved grandma around to prepare us our New Year’s Day feast. And to add to that gloom, it was also the first anniversary for me and my siblings of my father telling us that he was divorcing our mother. Needless to say, January 1st, 1999 was not the happiest of days for me.

So in order to give myself a little bit of comfort, I decided that I would make my own little New Year’s Day feast. One of the essential menu items being my grama’s “squash” as she called it. But unfortunately, I’d never learned how to make my grama’s squash. So I furiously went through all my recipe cards she’d sent me over the years, and then realized that I did not have it. I really did not know how to make her squash. And when that fact hit me, well…I guess you could say that I had a bit of a meltdown. My back slowly slid down the front of my refrigerator, until my body was collapsed into a heap on the floor of my tiny apartment kitchen. My body racked with sobs, missing my grama, and our family traditions, wanting so much for my mom and dad to be together again, and feeling just plain miserable that our family had deteriorated so much in one short year.

Then somehow, the tears stopped, and it occurred to me that I was being stupid, because of course my Aunt Fran would know how to make Grama’s squash! She was her only daughter, and my Grama Dee had lived with my Aunt Fran and her family for over 20 years! Excitedly, I called up my aunt and said “Aunt Fran, I’m really sad. I want to make grama’s squash, but I don’t know how.” She cracked up laughing and said “Well, Julie Anne, all it is, is a can of pet milk, a half stick of butter, and some boiled yellow squash sliced up in a pot.”

I was dumbfounded. Something so tasty? THAT SIMPLE? No way. But yes, it’s true. I found out, that some of the tastiest things are no more than a can of pet milk and a stick of butter, plus a vegetable or two.”Sweetie…that’s it. And Grama Dee used to like a lot of pepper, so don’t forget to add lots of pepper.” I sniffled…”I remember. I won’t forget.”

And so, here it is. A recipe so simple, even my dad could make it (and he barely knows how to open a can of Campbell’s).

BUTTERED SQUASH recipe from Doris Foxworthy

5-6 small yellow squash
1 can pet milk
1/2 stick butter
dash salt
dash black pepper


  1. Slice up your squash, in about 1/4″ slices.
  2. Add squash to a pot of boiling water (a medium-sized saucepan will do the trick).
  3. Boil until squash are tender, then drain.
  4. Return squash to pot, and add pet milk, butter, salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally until sauce thickens slightly, and squash begins to break down
  6. Ladle a huge spoonful into your favorite bowl, and enjoy!

Add comment January 18th, 2006

“Cornbread! Ain’t nothin’ wrong wid dat!”

Those words were once uttered by Chris Rock. And I say, “No there isn’t, Mr. Rock, indeed there is nothin’ wrong wid dat.”

Now, when it came to cornbread…my Grama Dee was known for just poppin’ a box of Jiffy cornbread mix in the oven, and callin’ that shit a day. Which, yeah I know…not very southern of her…but then again? It WAS pretty dang tasty. Anyway…as I was making my “good luck” beans this year, I didn’t happen to have a box of Jiffy in my vast and expansive pantries just then (SHOCK, i know since just about everything else is in there). I did have, however, a box of yellow cornmeal that was just begging to be joined with a little sugar, milk and eggs. So I scoured the web for a decent cornbread recipe and I stumbled upon a pretty tasty one from Jeremy Jackson found in his book titled “The Cornbread Book” and so I share it with you all here:

SWEET CORNBREAD recipe from Jeremy Jackson’s “The Cornbread Book”

INGREDIENTS (see photo)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-cup cornmeal
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2-teaspoon salt
1-cup milk
1/3-cup canola oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease and 8 or 9-inch square pan.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Form a well in the mixture and add the milk, oil, and egg. Stir just until everything is combined Γ’β‚¬β€œ there should still be scattered clumps of flour, about the size of baby peas or BBs.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 24 to 30 minutes, until the cornbread is starting to brown slightly (especially at the edges) and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve hot.

The only thing I changed was that instead of the square pan, I used a cast-iron skillet, it just seemed more legit to do it that way. As for the recipe…it was pretty tasty. Could you expect anything else from a mizzoureh-raised hillbilly boy? Nice work, Jeremy.

Add comment January 18th, 2006

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