Mothers express their love in a lot of ways.

Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes it’s a delicious coffee cake warm from the oven or a pot of marinara sauce simmering on the stove.

Our mothers give us our first bit of nourishment in this life, so perhaps it’s fitting that so many fond memories are tied to what she brings to the table throughout our lives. Childhood and holiday favorites end up getting passed down from one generation to the next, becoming edible heirlooms.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked readers to share a favorite recipe that their mom passed down to them.

These recipes are not something you’ll find in a chef’s fine dining repertoire. They don’t have contents you can’t pronounce, and they’re not too complicated to prepare.

But they do stir memories of happy times in the kitchen: beating batter, licking spoons, chopping onions.

And they do contain the most important ingredient: Love.


Candace Pilk Karu’s mother, artist Jean Pilk, is a Julia Child fan, so Karu grew up eating dishes such as Biftek Hache a la Lyonnaise (ground beef with onions and herbs, known as Vermouth Hamburgers by Karu and her four siblings).

But it’s her mother’s Velvet Crumb Cake with a creamy coffee-flavored frosting that all five of Pilk’s children crave.


2 2/3 cups Bisquick

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons softened butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Mix half the milk with other ingredients. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed. Stir in rest of the milk. Beat for half a minute. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.


1/4 cup butter

Pinch of salt

1 box confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons coffee (add more if needed)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter, salt and vanilla with an electric mixer. Gradually stir in sugar, beating until smooth. Add coffee and mix until smooth, adding more if needed.


Jim Brown of Edgecomb, former owner of the Upper Deck Cafe in Boothbay Harbor, sent in the recipe for his mother’s marinara sauce. He served the sauce in his cafe, over meatloaf and topped with a little mozzarella, and sold out every day.

Here’s what he had to say about the recipe:

“My Italian mother, Rose Salvati, was one of three sisters whose parents came over on an ocean liner in steerage in the early 1900s. Each one of the sisters had an Italian specialty or two that they excelled at, but each and every one had its origins with the family recipe for a basic marinara sauce that I make in copious amounts and use in my cooking. It is very simple to make, and after you taste it you wonder why you ever would buy commercially jarred sauce.

“Every time I make it, the house is filled with the wonderful smells of simmering onions and garlic. It never ceases to transport me back to thoughts of my Mom and Nanna in our big old farmhouse kitchen in upstate New York. Simple basic house dresses and colorful bib aprons abound. What wonderful memories of my Mom that never cease to make me smile and feel warm inside.”


In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, add:

1/4 to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning

1/2 cup dry red wine (use homemade if you have it)

2 28-ounce cans of ground peeled tomatoes

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

2 28-ounce cans water

1/3 cup freshly chopped flat Italian parsley

4 or 5 fresh basil leaves

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. Simmer until onions are translucent. Add the red wine and cook for 2 or 3 minutes until wine marries with onions and garlic. Add tomato paste, ground peeled tomatoes and water. Stir to incorporate. Bring to a soft boil. Add the parsley and basil leaves.

Reduce heat and simmer for about two hours.


Roberta Record of Limerick says this lemon loaf recipe was always in high demand at home when she was growing up.

“If Mom needed something from Dad, she’d make him a lemon loaf,” Record said. “If any of the kids achieved anything special, she’d make a lemon loaf.”

Her mother, Joan Record, passed away in 2007, but the lemon loaf lives on. Roberta Record says the recipe always turns out well, and you can even make it vegan by using Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer and soy milk.


1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Grated rind of 1 lemon

2 eggs

11/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup sugar

Cream together 1 cup of sugar, shortening, lemon rind and eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with milk. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees in a greased loaf pan. Mix lemon juice with the 1/4 cup sugar and spoon over hot loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. Cool in the pan.


My editor told me I couldn’t do this feature without including a recipe from my own mom.

My mother is known in our family as Reboo (that’s another story), and the recipe that people ask her for most is a truffle-like treat called peanut butter balls that she makes during the holidays.

If I visit my parents that time of year, I always bring back a tin of these candies to share with friends at work, and they disappear faster than Charlie Sheen’s career. If, for some reason, I can’t travel, my mother sends me a batch of them.

These peanut butter balls are not health food. They are decadent, and it is hard to eat just one. My niece gave them up cold turkey when she found out what was in them, but her self-imposed peanut butter ball drought didn’t last very long. Thank goodness she’s thin, because she can really inhale them. (Sorry for outing you, Laura.)

The good news is they freeze well, so if you’re like my niece and have no will power, just tuck them away for another day.

The only other thing you’ll have to watch out for is people making fun of the name, something that only started happening after “Saturday Night Live” aired a certain sketch featuring Alec Baldwin. (I showed that skit to my mother a couple of years ago, not sure how she would react. She laughed until she cried.)

My mother found the original recipe 30 years ago on — believe it or not — a telephone bill. They were called Pecan Peanut Butter Balls. Reboo tweaked them, using crunchy peanut butter instead of pecans and block chocolate instead of semi-sweet morsels, which she found didn’t harden well. You can use any kind of chocolate you like.


1 pound butter or margarine

2 pounds crunchy peanut butter

3 pounds confectioners’ sugar

2 pounds block chocolate

Melt butter and mix well with peanut butter and sugar into dough-like mixture. Roll dough into balls about the size of large marbles. Set on waxed paper.

Melt chocolate in double boiler or in the microwave. Using a teaspoon, dip balls in chocolate, coating each one well. Set on waxed paper to cool.

Makes about 200 pieces of candy.


Kathy Gowen of Westbrook sent in a recipe for Black Forest Pie that her grandmother, Goldie Peterson, made and passed down to Gowen’s mother, Rhoda Gordon.

The pie has been a favorite at both the Highland Lake Congregational Church and Highland Lake Grange bean suppers in Westbrook for almost 40 years.

“After my mother passed away, my grandmother and I continued to supply the pies until she was well into her 80s and was no longer able to make the pie,” Gowen said in an email. “I have continued to make the pie each month, and now my teenage daughter, Hannah, helps to make the pie. (It is also a traditional favorite at every Thanksgiving, as this is usually the only time we actually get to eat it.)”

The women have tried to send other types of pie to the community suppers, but they always get complaints. Over the years, the pie has become known in Gowen’s family as TDP, short for “That Damn Pie.”


1 pie crust

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/3 cup milk

1/4 cup margarine or butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 21-ounce can of cherry pie filling

1 9-ounce container of whipped topping

1 1-ounce square of chocolate, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie plate with crust. In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, milk and margarine. Cook until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add a small amount of hot mixture to the eggs and mix well before adding to the pan. Thoroughly mix egg mixture into other ingredients. Fold in 1/2 to 2/3 can of pie filling. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until center is set but still shiny. Cool. Chill for one hour. Top with whipped topping and garnish with grated chocolate and remaining pie filling. Chill until served.


Mario Pascarelli’s son played football at Cheverus High School in Portland. Each week the day before the game, parents gathered in Pascarelli’s kitchen to make 300 meatballs so they could serve the team a spaghetti-and-meatballs dinner.

The recipe for those meatballs came from Pascarelli’s mother-in-law. Pascarelli enjoyed cooking with her.

“I was fortunate to have such a fine person in my life who was willing to share the heritage that she grew up with,” he said. “Her name was Lucretia Ferri, and she was a master at creating fine Italian traditional dishes. (She was also just as happy helping me can dilly beans from our huge garden.) Fortunately, she detailed many of those recipes to me when she was alive.

“After she passed away a number of years ago, I created a bound pamphlet entitled ‘Special Memories — Lucretia Ferri,’ in which I listed all her family favorites.”


2 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 1/4 pounds ground pork

Pepper to taste

Garlic powder

Fresh parsley

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup water

3 eggs

Mix all ingredients well. Make into meatballs. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, and add to spaghetti sauce.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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