Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: A food-filled family reunion

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Labor Day found me back in Pittsburgh for the second annual Button family reunion. It seemed as if none of us had been separated for a year — the conversations picked up where they had left off last year — and again the food was non-stop.

I was determined to snag at least one of my niece Chrissy's West Virginia pepperoni rolls and a slice of my sister-in-law Julie's cheesecake, made using her mother's somewhat-secret recipe. I pulled Chrissy aside minutes after arriving at my nephew Peter's home, the site of the reunion.

"When you get the pepperoni rolls ready, give me a sign," I ordered her.

"A sign?" she asked, giving me a quizzical look. "I made 72 of them ... "

"And look how that worked out last year," I pointed out. "I didn't get any. You know this family when they see food. So, when you're ready, give me a 'ka-kaw.'"

She gave me a look that clearly indicated it was time to put Aunt Maggy in the old folks' home, but agreed.

She stood up a little while later. "Ka-kaw." Everyone looked at her like she was crazy. I nonchalantly followed her into the kitchen — and scored four rolls before anyone knew they were around. True heavenly bliss ...

They were followed by four kinds of meat off Peter's new smoker, potato salad, coleslaw, two birthday cakes and ice cream in honor of my niece Rachel, cheesecake ("ka-kaw!") and lemon cake with cream filling — and that was just on Saturday. Sunday brought spaghetti with Julie's homemade meatballs, sausage, a tossed salad and bread drowning in garlic butter, followed by more cheesecake and lemon cake (Surprise — Julie had brought two of each this year!)

While this is not my sister-in-law's mother's recipe, this has been my go-to over the past 35-plus years. It's on a typewritten index card that was part of my bridal shower gift — a filled recipe box — from the "girls" at the North Adams Transcript. I think of Mary Trottier, who shared it with me, every time I make these. I crush store-bought vanilla wafers or graham crackers and spread about a teaspoon of crumbs on the bottom of the paper cups before adding the filling. (Use regular-sized muffin tins, not mini-size.) I also top the baked cheesecakes with a blob of cherry or blueberry pie filling. They freeze well; just omit the pie filling topping.

Mini cheese cakes

INGREDIENTS:


Cake:

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the cake ingredients together. Mix with an electric beater until smooth. Pour into paper-lined muffin tins, so each is 2/3 full. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Tops of cakes will collapse.

Mix all the topping ingredients together with a beater. Fill the holes in the tops of the cakes with the topping. Return to the oven and bake another 40 minutes.

Cool and refrigerate.


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