Cooking From Scratch

Conewango Woman Knows Her Way Around The Kitchen

Baking pies with flakey crust is no problem for Cora Morrison. She even cans her own apple pie filling.

“When I first got married I really didn’t know how to cook,” says Cora Morrison of Conewango.

She can laugh now, but remembers her husband bringing home a side of beef and crying because she didn’t know how to cook it. She attributes a lot of her cooking expertise to her mother-in-law, her brother-in-law’s critical comments and to Juanita Giddy, the former owner of Randolph Manor, where Mrs. Morrison cooked for 22 years before retiring in May 2015.

Morrison came a long way from the days of not knowing how to cook to being head cook at the home for adults and has taught many people to cook for the facility. During her tenure she was in charge of kitchen operations, ordering, menu planning and making sure dietary needs were met. She also covered for the owners when they were away, served as an aide when they were short-staffed and filled in in every area besides laundry.

She has no trouble filling her time since retirement, because she has a plethora of hobbies including reading, which she does while walking on her treadmill as well as in bed before falling asleep. She also spends her days knitting, crocheting, embroidering or doing plastic canvas. In the days leading up to Christmas, she crocheted 29 pairs of slippers, with some being made with flip-flop soles. In milder weather, she bakes for her daughter’s produce stand.

Morrison’s creativity is ongoing, with at least one project always in the works and her sights on the next and the one after that. Her Facebook friends never know what picture she’ll post next — a baby blanket, loaves of bread or one of some blackberry pocket pies. The latest project completed was a pom-pom rug. A year after completing a crocheted Christmas tree skirt, she stumbled upon it on Pinterest. She learned that one of the crochet groups she belongs to, with members worldwide, had posted the picture and labeled it in the top 12 that year.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Skillet Dinner is a quicker, easier version of stuffed cabbage.

When her children were in their 20s she decided to make a scrapbook for each of them starting with pictures from when she dated their father through their own high school graduation. She included poems and little stories. She then made a video of the scrapbook with recorded music to go along with the pictures of their lives.

“When I’m not here any longer, they will know they were very treasured gifts to me,” she says.

Recently, she and her husband, Dallas “Butch” Morrison, refinished some doll furniture. He enjoys woodworking and she stains his projects.

Cora loves catering to two spoiled dogs. Jenny and Jack, three-year-old Rat Terrier-Shih Tzu litter mates, are so pampered she had two sets of steps made to place under the living room and dining room windows, with pillows at the top to make it easier for her fur children to watch passing Amish buggies, kids and dogs from the house the couple has resided in for 44 years.

Before her husband retired in 2010 from 44 years employment at Monofrax, Morrison would pack an extra piece of pie or extra donuts in his lunch box for the “young guys” who always took a peek, looking for a leftover snack. Dad’s bean recipe was one he had to have after a co-worker brought it to work. Since acquiring it, Butch makes it for most holidays.

Cora Morrison and her children each have this special cookbook put together by her daughter as a surprise for her brother.

The Morrisons have two children, Ron, who lives near Syracuse, and Robin in Ellington. Both like to cook. Robin made a special cookbook filled with family recipes after repeated calls home from her brother requesting recipes while he was attending SUNY Brockport. The book was made even more special due to the stories she added that went with the recipes. The mother and daughter have continued to add to their copies. Occasionally, Ron will leaf through his mother’s book, noticing a new recipe he doesn’t have.

While reminiscing, Morrison remembers her daughter sitting in a chair at the table while her brother was perched on the counter.

“The simple process of them being in the kitchen with me has caused them both to be phenomenal cooks,” she says.

The Morrison children had a great mentor showing them their way around the kitchen. Her food is delicious and her pie crusts are flakey. She uses zippered vinyl pie pastry bags, allowing her to roll out the crust without added flour and requiring less handling.

“The less you handle pie crust, the better,” she said.

Morrison tells of baking six pies at one time when she was working and how she preferred making more labor-intensive pies, such as a chocolate layer pie much loved by residents. She would sometimes switch out the chocolate filling with a banana filling. Morrison shared her secret of making a tastier crust by spreading a little butter over it when the pie was still hot from the oven. Her meals were prepared with a “this may be the last meal they will ever eat” attitude, spurring her on to making meals that were appealing.

“I learned the sweet taste is the last to go, so I tried to add a sweet aspect to many recipes,” she says.

The task of choosing recipes for this article was difficult since she has so many favorites. Ten made the cut, including her husband’s Polish Reuben Casserole that he does a great job preparing, her son’s favorite Shooney’s Macaroni Salad, a dish that she has made for so many years she has no idea from where the recipe came from and the easily reheatable Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls. Morrison included her recipe for Apple Pie Filling, saying she didn’t know why she stopped canning it, but did so again last fall. She stores apples in wood shavings in the garage.

Interestingly, the couple does two big grocery runs per year. She keeps a detailed inventory list of what she has on hand.

“We buy what we figure we’ll need for six months.”

Angel Biscuits

1 pkg dry yeast

1/4 c warm water

2 1/2 c flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/8 c sugar

1/2 c shortening

1 c buttermilk

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside. Mix dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Stir in buttermilk and yeast mixture, mixing well. Dough will keep in refrigerator up to 3 days. Knead lightly. Roll out and cut with biscuit cutter. Let set and rise slightly at room temperature. Bake at 400 degrees 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Veggie Pizza

16 oz sour cream

1 pkg ranch dressing mix

1 tube refrigerated crescent roll dough

2 c shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 c black olives

1/2 c mushrooms

1 1/2 c fresh broccoli cut into small pieces

1 1/2 c fresh cauliflower cut into small pieces

Mix sour cream and ranch dressing mix. Refrigerate overnight. (I don’t always do this.) Pat dough into an 11” x 15″ pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned. Let Cool. Spread sour cream mixture over crust and top with the rest of the ingredients. Cut into serving size squares. (May use whatever fresh vegetables you like.)

Shooney’s Macaroni Salad

1 lb. macaroni (about 4 cups)

1 lg onion

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 c mayo (must use mayo)

1 lg green pepper

2 c shredded carrots

3/4 c white vinegar

1 c sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Cook macaroni. Rinse and drain well. Combine remaining ingredients. Add macaroni. Let set several hours. Stir well before serving.

Polish Reuben Casserole

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

1 1/3 c milk

1/2 c chopped onions

1 T mustard

2-16 oz cans sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

1-8 oz pkg medium width egg noodles

8 oz sliced corned beef

2 c (8 oz) shredded Swiss cheese

3/4 c bread crumbs

2 T melted butter

Combine soup, milk, onion, and mustard in medium bowl, blending well. Spread sauerkraut in greased 13 x 9 pan. Top with uncooked noodles. Spoon soup mixture evenly over top. Top with corned beef slices and then cheese. Combine crumbs and butter in small bowl, Sprinkle over top. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until noodles are tender.

Dad’s Bean Recipe (Cowboy Beans)

4-5 strips bacon

11/2 lb ground beef

1 lg chopped onion

4-5 strips bacon

3-1 lb cans kidney beans

3-1 lb cans northern beans

1-1 lb can Lima beans

2-20 oz cans pork and beans

3/4 c brown sugar

16 oz bottle ketchup (I prefer Heinz)

2 tsp vinegar

1/4 c mustard

Fry bacon. Drain and then break into pieces. Brown ground beef with onions. Stir in bacon. Drain and rinse the kidney beans, northern beans, and lima beans. Place in crockpot. Stir in pork and beans. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Add about 1/2 cup water. Cook on high setting for several hours until thickened to your liking.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Skillet Dinner

1 lb ground beef

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small cabbage, chopped

2-14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes

1-8 oz can tomato sauce

1/2 c water

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef, onion and garlic. Cook stirring until ground beef is no longer pink and onion is tender. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Serves 6-8. (I have precooked the cabbage before adding. I also like to sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on the top before serving.)

Shrimp Dip

1 can tomato soup

1 envelope gelatin

2 small cans shrimp, rinsed

2-8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1 c salad dressing

1 c chopped celery

Bring soup to boil. Add gelatin and mix well. Remove from heat and mix in rest of ingredients. Put in bowl and refrigerate. Serve with club crackers.

Grandma’s Corn Pudding

4 eggs

1 c milk

1-15 oz can cream style corn)

1/2 c sugar

5 slices of day old bread (crust removed)

1 T butter, softened

In bowl beat eggs and milk. Add corn and sugar and mix well. Cut bread into 1/2” cubes and place in a greased 9″ pan. Pour egg mixture over bread and dot with butter. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean

Apple Pie Filling for Canning

Empire or Granny Smith apples

41/2 c sugar

1 c cornstarch

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

10 c water

3 T lemon juice

3 drops yellow food coloring

Peel and slice apples. Put sliced apples in 9 qt canning jars. Mix remaining ingredients in large pan and cook until thick and bubbly. Pour over apples in jars. Seal jars and process 20 minutes in hot water bath. Do not over process. (When making pies in winter, I generally add a bit more cinnamon and nutmeg before putting in pie shells.) Bake pie at 425 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

9″ baked pie shell

1 c brown sugar

4 tsp unflavored gelatin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

11/2 c canned pumpkin

4 eggs, separated

2/3 c milk

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

2/3 c sugar

In medium saucepan, stir together brown sugar, gelatin, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, egg yolks, and milk. Stir into brown sugar mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until mixture boils. Chill stirring occasionally until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from spoon. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in sugar little at a time, continuing beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill 3 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream.