Mother Of 9 Up To The Challenge

Sandy Davis uses her cooking skills everyday when feeding her very large family.

A large family may be an understatement when referring to the one that Sandy and Dan Davis have created. The couple was just getting started when they had their two biological children, who are now grown and married. Since then they have added eight more to the mix, seven through adoption and one of which they have custody. Most of the children were infants when they came to the Davis home, with the exception of two. The two oldest children have added five grandchildren to the family.

The home where Sandy has resided since she was a year and a half old is never quiet, other than when the gang is asleep or in school. Meals around the long dining room table are rarely boring or uneventful with six children ranging in age from 10-17. Their 15-passenger van provides transportation for road trips and their annual vacations to Myrtle Beach, along with trips to practices, games and movies. A backyard pool serves as the family’s fun, cooling, relaxation spot throughout the summer months.

Feeding a large family doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge for the mother of nine, who must, at the least, double all recipes. She has a shelf full of cookbooks in the kitchen with more stored in boxes for referencing when she needs ideas or guidance, but frequently prepares dishes without the aid of a recipe.

“I started cooking with my grandma when I was little. She never measured and I do things the same way so it was hard coming up with the recipes,” she says. “I loved to stay at my grandma’s and cook with her. That was our thing.”

After she was a little older she would start dinner when she returned home from school. Her mother did not do a lot of scratch cooking and when she decided to make a dish, her daughter would ask if she could make the homemade version. Even though she is a scratch cook, she looks for shortcuts and one of those is the purchase of chopped garlic.

Healthier Veggie Cheese Soup (left) is made with low-fat and low-sodium ingredients. Taco-Stuffed Avocado with Creamy Guacamole (center) and Stuffed Portabella Mushroom (right) are other Davis Family favorites.

Pulling off Christmas is a group effort.

‘Every surface is covered when we make Christmas cookies,” Mrs. Davis claims.

The whole family helps with bread-making on the night of Dec. 23. The 30-40 loaves are packaged and ready to be delivered when the family carols on Christmas Eve. Everyone hangs a stocking on the stenciled, wooden rack that was handmade by their father. Each of the children opens a gift on Christmas Eve, usually matching pajamas. Santa spends about an hour and a half filling the living room with gifts.

“We have a wonderful group of ‘angels’ who have taken a name of each child and provided gifts for them,” says Mrs. Davis. “It takes a village.”

A breakfast consisting of large sheet pans of pancakes and breakfast casseroles is served on Christmas morning. The older siblings, as well as some of the siblings of Mrs. Davis’, stop in.

“We have been known to take in a stray too, if they are alone,” she adds.

Each child chooses their entire birthday menu with some beginning to plan months ahead. Their mom makes a special Valentine’s Day dinner for them every year, complete with candlelight and fancy desserts.

The Jamestown woman was a licensed hairdresser running a shop from her home until five years ago. She has been collecting Temptations stoneware over the past ten years and has acquired a large collection. Other treasures that fill shelves in the kitchen and dining room are her aunt’s tea set and her mother’s tea cup and saucer collection. In the past, she enjoyed having mismatched tea parties and hopes to resume them with her grandchildren. She has several pieces of furniture that once belonged to family members who have gone on before her, having saved a few from being left at the curb.

She takes pleasure in feeding birds and enjoys watching them from her dining room window while drinking a cup of coffee. She also enjoys having her nails done every two weeks. She likes to bake and entertain and is currently teaching the two grandchildren she keeps twice weekly to bake.

“I love to shop,” she confesses. “I am a bargain shopper.”

“She’s the bargain queen,” her husband says.

Mr. Davis has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of children. Not only does he start and end his day immersed in children, his workday is spent teaching middle school at the Gustavus Adolphus Learning Center.

They belong to the Vikings, enjoy traveling and the mother looks forward to her get-aways when she visits her childhood friend at her Texas and California homes. The family attends Camp Street United Methodist Church. They have two Dachshunds and a cat.

Mrs. Davis enjoyed many of the recipes she serves to her large family when she was growing up.

“My Swedish Grandmother’s Rice Pudding is one of our family favorites but my grandmother never measured when she cooked. I have estimated as closely as possible. She used whole milk. I use one per cent and have never had a problem.”

She makes her grandmother’s Swedish Baked Beans for every family party and even though her sister is making the food for her son’s graduation party, Mrs. Davis is providing the Baked Beans.

“We’re big picnickers in the summer so I make a lot of potato salad, baked beans and rice pudding.”

Her mother’s Potato Salad recipe was always a hit at the many family gatherings to which it was taken. As in many of the recipes submitted by Mrs. Davis, the onions and celery are pureed. She says the salad is even better the second day.

“The Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms are absolutely delicious.”

My Mom’s Potato Salad

1-1/2-2 c Miracle Whip

1/4 c mustard

1/2 c sour cream

1/4 c sweet relish

1 lg onion

3 stalks celery

5 lbs potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut in small chunks

3 lg sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut in small chunks

6 eggs, boiled and chopped

Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Mix together dressing, mustard, sour cream and sweet relish. Set aside.

Puree onion and celery in food processor. Place potatoes and purÈed vegetables in a large bowl. Add dressing mixture to the potato mixture. Mix well. Stir in salt, pepper and garlic powder. Refrigerate.

My Swedish Grandmother’s Rice Pudding

1 c cooked rice

12 eggs, beaten

3/4 c sugar

1/2 gal milk

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large baking dish with butter. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat slightly. Stir in sugar. Add the milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and extract. Beat slightly. Pour rice into the mixture and stir until blended. Place bowl into a roaster pan filled with 2 inches of boiling water. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Bake for about 11/2 hours until knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

My Swedish Grandmother’s Baked Beans

1 lg can Grandma Brown’s beans

2 cans butter beans, drained

2 cans vegetarian baked beans, drained

1 lg onion, purÈed

1 1/2-2 c ketchup

1/4 c mustard

1 1/2 c brown sugar

Bacon for top, optional

Mix all together in large baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Crustless Cheesecake

5-8oz blocks cream cheese, room temperature

6 lg eggs

1 1/3 c sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1 pint sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10″ spring form pan and then wrap foil around it. Fill a roasting pan 1/4 full of hot water. Beat cream cheese one block at a time. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Add remaining ingredients. Beat for 7 minutes. Pour into spring form pan and place in roaster pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce temperature to 375 degrees. Bake an additional 50-55 minutes. Top should be set. Turn off oven and leave cake in oven for 1 hour. Store in refrigerator up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 weeks.

Healthier Veggie Cheese Soup

1-52 fl oz container of low-fat Fair Life milk (50 percent less sugar, 13 G protein per serving)

6 c chicken broth, lower sodium

1 c low-fat sour cream

2 c each low-fat shredded cheddar, low-fat shredded Colby and low-fat shredded Mozzarella

1/2 lg onion, pureed in food processor

cooked broccoli florets, sliced carrots and cauliflower

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour milk, chicken broth, sour cream and cheeses in crock pot. Set on high and cook until cheese is melted. Add vegetables, salt and pepper and cook on low for 11/2 hrs.

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

4 Portabella mushrooms

4 oz cream cheese

2 T sour cream

4 oz cooked spinach

4 oz chopped artichoke hearts

2 T chopped garlic

1/4 C Parmesan cheese or Boursin cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Mozzarella or provolone cheese

Remove stems and gills from mushrooms. Brush both sides with olive oil. Broil on middle rack for 4 minutes on each side. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients, except mozzarella. Spoon filling into each mushroom. Top with mozzarella or provolone cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. 16g protein per serving

Taco Stuffed Avocado with Creamy Guacamole

1/2 lb ground turkey

1/4 c chopped onion

1 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c black beans, rinsed

1/4 c salsa

2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted

1 T fresh cilantro

1 tsp lime juice

1/2 c shredded Mexican cheese

Brown turkey in pan with onion, chili powder and salt. Stir in beans and salsa. Set aside. Carve out the flesh of each avocado half, leaving 1/4″ border all around. Place scooped out flesh in a bowl with the cilantro and lime juice. Mash together until blended. Mixture will be chunky. Fill each avocado with bean mixture. Top each with cheese and avocado mixture.

Sloppy Joe

1 lg onion

1/2 lg green pepper

2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey

1/4 c chopped garlic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2-2 c ketchup

1/8 c prepared mustard

1/4 c Worcestershire sauce

1/2-3/4 c brown sugar

Puree onion and green pepper in food processor. Brown with meat and garlic.

Drain grease. Add salt and pepper. Combine ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and sugar. Stir into meat and cook over low heat until hot. Serve on hamburger buns or your choice of bread.