Tea and shortbread are good for an afternoon phone call with mom or to top off a homey meat and potatoes supper.

I’ve been talking on the phone more with my 87-year-old mom in recent weeks. Our conversations often include a fair amount of looking back on other tough times we’ve been through in our lives and how we dealt with them. We took care of our families. We helped others and shared with them. We made do with what we had. We prayed together at the supper table, and again before we went to sleep.

My parents worked hard and knew how to stretch our resources. Dining out, going to the movies, and toys were special treats. New clothes were sewn by mom or purchased when we had outgrown what we already had in the closet. Our clever father had tools and a workshop and fixed everything from clocks to cars.

We four children were very blessed to have a mom who was an excellent cook and truly enjoyed holding court in the kitchen as she stirred pots of soup, jam, and applesauce, and baked cakes, cookies, pies and bread. She had supper preparations down to a science, with every component ready for the table the minute dad walked in the door from work. For example, meatloaf and scalloped potatoes were a family favorite, served up with vegetables that had been fresh-frozen from the garden.

This meatloaf recipe is very forgiving, as it can be made with ground turkey as well as different seasonings to suit your family’s taste buds. The potatoes can also be gussied up with shredded cheese if you like. (Both these recipes can be cooked with an adjusted time in muffin pans or ramekins for individual servings to be reheated later.)

For dessert, there is three-ingredient shortbread. This recipe stands on its own or can be flavored with almond or maple extract, lemon peel, and even dried lavender flowers.

The shortbread freezes well, so you may want to double the recipe and bake it in a 9-by-13-inch pan. The cookies can be dipped into melted chocolate or crumbled onto pudding or ice cream.

Pat the dough into a larger baking pan or pie plate and adjust the baking time slightly to use for all sorts of sweet creations, including key lime pie.

If you are blessed to still be able to, call your mom and ask for her advice. Even if you can’t be with her right now, keep in touch however it works for both of you.
Even if mom lives miles away or is in another realm, remember that she has eyes in the back of her head. Practice your social-distancing and survival skills like she’s watching you. Make her proud.

Mom’s Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs, torn bread, or quick or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 eggs
1/4 cup milk or tomato sauce
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and squish it all up together with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form into a ball and press into a loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until nearly done.
Stir together 1/2 cup ketchup and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Spread over meatloaf and bake for 15-20 more minutes. Yield: 4 servings

Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups milk or cream, heated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place potatoes and onions in layers in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, sprinkling each layer with flour and seasonings then dotting with butter. Pour hot milk over all, stir, and bake uncovered for about 1 1/4 hours. Yield: 4 servings

Shortbread with Versatility

1/2 cup white or brown sugar
2 sticks salted butter
2 cups flour
In a large bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the sugar and butter until combined and smooth.
Mix in flour until a soft dough forms. Place dough in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper that overhangs on the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and pat the dough down evenly. Pierce the dough all over with a fork, making small lines around the edges, then chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake shortbread for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cut into 1-by-2-inch rectangles while still warm in the pan. Continue to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove shortbread (and parchment paper) from the pan. Yield: 32

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