1. Please share your name and location, and tell us about your family:
Official “business” name: Cecelia Futch; Hebrew married name: Chana Rogow-Futch. We are presently living in Silver Spring, MD. I have three grown children and two wonderful, adorable, awesome grandchildren! None of them lives close by 🙁
2. What do you remember about family meals when you were growing up? What was your mother’s cooking style (if she did the cooking of course)? Were you involved?
We ALWAYS had breakfast and dinner together. Breakfast was always hot—no instant or cold stuff, usually oatmeal and toast. We never varied from that. Mom was adamant that we start the day with a hot breakfast. I did that with my kids, too. They disliked it as much as I did, but today—well traditions die hard! 🙂 Dinner was a sit-down affair every evening. Mom was very conscientious about serving balanced meals (meat and potatoes with plenty of veggies), and frequently experimented with new dishes. Some worked, some didn‘t!
3. How is your cooking style different from that of your mother?
I rarely cook meat. If left to me, we would be vegetarian, but my husband likes meat or fowl at least once a week. I keep kosher, Mom did not. I usually cook a lot for Shabbat (Sabbath), then we have left-overs through the week. I also prepare a lot of salads with homemade dressings, bake most of my own challah, soups, and rarely do we have sweets in the house. One of the many things I learned from Mom was the importance of providing balanced and colorful meals.
4. How old were you when you started cooking? How did you learn?
I don’t remember how old I was when I started cooking. I do remember Mom taking an active role in teaching me how to make different dishes, and by the time I was 12 I could prepare an entire simple meal for the six of us without assistance. I also joined the 4-H club when I was about 10. We did a lot of cooking, and participated in state cook-off competitions. But Mom is the one who taught me, and drilled it into me to “clean as you go,” which is something I still do.
5. Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date?
In the past few years I don’t entertain as much as I used to. I do enjoy it, and when we have guests over it is usually for a Shabbat meal. The biggest party I’ve ever cooked for was probably 25. For Shabbat we usually have anywhere from 2 to 10. I love having folks over, but enjoy more intimate gatherings as opposed to big parties.
6. Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu?
Oy! This one is hard: breakfast is usually cereal (oatmeal), fruit, sometimes toast, juice and coffee; lunch is anything I decide to put together–soup, sandwiches, fruit, cut up raw veggies, maybe some tuna or egg salad; dinner is almost always soup (we eat a lot of soup around here), cooked veggies (frozen, canned or steamed), pasta, usually fish, and some sort of bread (pita, matza, rye bread, whatever). We have simple meals and save the special stuff for Shabbat.
7. How has your cooking style evolved over the years?
I have definitely become more health conscious. And for the past 12 years, I’ve been keeping kosher, so many of the foods I enjoyed growing up are no longer a part of our repertoire. I’ve learned to make substitutions—salmon does well for shellfish!
8. What is your biggest cooking challenge now?
My husband is Polish, but grew up in Venezuela. There are many ethnic foods that he likes, both Polish and South American. I’m always on the lookout for foods that remind him of his childhood. He also did not keep kosher when he was growing up, so sometimes it is tricky trying to prepare something that is foreign to me, not originally kosher, and still replicate something that brings fond memories for him. For instance, we eat a lot of beans and rice sans the pork, and I’ve found many kosher soy products that taste surprisingly similar to sausages he ate as a child.
9. Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you?
I’m addicted to cookbooks! I read them like novels, although I am NOT a gourmet cook, just don’t have the patience or the pocketbook for that. However, there are some books that I refer to again and again: the tried and true Chabad cookbook SPICE AND SPIRIT; some of my favorite challah recipes come from A BLESSING OF BREAD by Maggie Glazer; and the two books that I use almost every week are 1,000 JEWISH RECIPES by Faye Levy, and THE BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD: AN ODYSSEY FROM SAMARKAND TO NEW YORK by Claudia Roden. I love the cookbooks from Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Detroit, as well. There is something special about cooking a dish that comes from a friend or place that one is familiar with. The folks in Detroit are special to us, and cooking some of their dishes is a way of maintaining a tie with them. Food works that way, doesn‘t it. There are also many other wonderful cookbooks I enjoy (the Susie Fishbein series, for example) but the ones I have listed are the ones I use most often.
10. What posts on CM have you enjoyed? Do you have suggestions for future posts?
I am new to CM. I discovered this site through a good friend, Tikvah Sasson, and loved the site right away. You have such good, solid, healthy information and tips. The information you provide is practical and useful in this day and age with all of its distractions and busyness. You provide a great service for those of us who eat simply kosher and also want the best in nutrition for our families. Thanks.
11. Please share a favorite recipe or cooking tip.
The following recipe is one I got from my Rabbi’s wife’s sister years ago. I lost it soon after she gave it to me, and did not make it for years. However, recently when I was hunting for another recipe, I discovered this tucked away in a book, and have since made it, to the rave reviews of my husband! It is now one of our regular Sabbath dishes. For those of you who don’t like gefilte fish, give this a try. You might be surprised!
Ingredients: 1 large onion cut in rings, or strips, or diced (I’ve done all three)
chopped garlic to taste (optional–we like garlic so I use quite a bit.)
½ each of green bell pepper, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper cut in long strips
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 can sliced mushrooms (I used ½ lb of sliced fresh mushrooms; the gadget used for slicing hard boiled eggs works like a charm when slicing fresh mushrooms)
1 loaf of gefilte fish (See Note)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
2 Tablespoons of olive oil for sauteing
NOTE: Chana is referring to prepared, frozen loaves that are available in neighborhoods with large Jewish populations. Click here for my recipe for gefilte fish from scratch. You can prepare the loaf from that recipe and bake using Chana’s method.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 Celsius).
Dice and sauté onions. Add peppers and celery. Then add mushrooms and tomato sauce. Mix ingredients together over medium-low heat until warmed through. Remove paper from frozen fish. Place fish in pan and cover with the sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for one and a half hours. Serve hot or cold.
12. Finally, what do you have in your refrigerator that needs to be used up right away?
This is embarrassing. We have a salad that has to be eaten TODAY or else!! Also homemade cranberry sauce is in need of finishing off—it may last a while, but it’s been around for enough time that tonight it will be a part of our dinner for sure. What is not eaten tonight is history.