Energetic is the word that best describes my mom, Theresa Handlos, of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
When my sisters, Marie, Dianne and Laura, and I were growing up, Mom not only cooked every night for us and our father, but also for members of our extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who frequently joined us at the dinner table.
We always ate together as a family, and Mom made her substantial meals from scratch—fresh, not canned, vegetables and no boxed mixes.
Mom grew up in Austria near the Hungarian border and moved to the United States at age 13. Her cooking reflects traditional Austrian dishes and those of our dad's German heritage, in addition to American favorites she learned over the years.
She is still active in her church and in the Austrian Club and bakes often for various functions. She's constantly on the go and rarely sits down.
One of Mom's most memorable meals starts with Old-World Pork Roast accompanied by bread dumplings. Now that my sisters and I are spread across the country, we prepare this savory roast and dumplings for our own families, but we all agree that no one makes it quite like Mom. When we come home for a visit, we hope it's on the menu.
Her Endive Salad with Potatoes is unique, with slices of cooked red potatoes nestled among the greens and a deliciously tart dressing.
Mom never had a problem getting us kids to eat our vegetables when she served Colorful Veggie Bake. The first time she made this comforting casserole, it was an imediate hit with everyone in the family.
One of her wonderful desserts that never fails to draw compliments is Cherry Cheese Torte. Pretty enough to serve to company, this impressive-looking dessert is easy to make and tastes absolutely scrumptious.
Mom treated us to a variety of other ethnic dishes—many that she learned from her mother—such as plum dumplings, cheese strudel, chicken goulash, paprika potatoes and hot buttered noodles with poppy seeds.
We traveled to Austria several times over the years and enjoyed sampling the food and seeing where Mom grew up. Every time we visited friends or relatives, they would bring out something to eat, usually a torte or pastries. It was considered rude to decline…not that we wanted to!
Mom carried out that custom in our house, always putting out "a little something" when guests stopped by. My sisters and I have adopted the tradition in our own homes, too.
Now when we get together for holidays or special occasions, Mom still likes to fuss over us by making a big meal…and rarely lets anyone help.
Her six grandchildren have learned a lot about Mom's Austrian heritage through her cooking. They call her "Oma," which is the German nickname for Grandma.
In 1998, Mom gave all four of us girls subscriptions to Taste of Home and has continued to renew them ever since. We enjoy discovering other families' favorite recipes in the magazine and are so pleased to share our mom's best meal with you!