Elizabeth Fassett and her granddaughter, Maria, (better known as “Reba” to her friends) of rural Geneseo, share a common interest. They both enjoy cooking and whenever they can find some extra time in their busy schedules, they like to spend it together in the kitchen creating goodies for family and friends.

Elizabeth Fassett and her granddaughter, Maria, (better known as “Reba” to her friends) of rural Geneseo, share a common interest. They both enjoy cooking and whenever they can find some extra time in their busy schedules, they like to spend it together in the kitchen creating goodies for family and friends.

Elizabeth said she didn’t really know much about cooking until she was married in 1950, so her knowledge of cooking is pretty much self taught. “I thought if you could read, you could cook, so I just started reading cookbooks,” she said. “I figured you can learn by doing.”

Maria, however, began cooking at a much earlier age. She remembers cooking with her grandmother since she was about 8 or 9. “My grandma and I started cooking together when I got an Easy Bake oven as a gift,” she said. “We would get recipes from the Internet for that oven.”

Eventually, Maria started helping her paternal grandmother bake birthday cakes, or make meals for family celebrations.

“I just like to cook,” Maria said and  Elizabeth adds cooking just seems to come naturally to her granddaughter.

A freshman at Geneseo High School, Maria is very involved in extra curricular activities. She is a member of the Mapelettes and FFA and she is a manager/trainer for the football and wrestling teams. She spent a week in Washington, D.C. last summer with fellow classmates and has detasseled corn for two years. “She has a very busy schedule,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth’s family includes two children, a son and daughter-in-law, Roger and Cathleen Fassett of Geneseo, and a daughter and son-in-law, Linda and Joe Rudolphi of Noble. Besides Maria, she has four other grandchildren, Nolan, Olivia, Kate and John.

One of Maria’s favorite cookbooks is a “Five Ingredients” cookbook by Gooseberry. “I’ve used quite a few of the recipes from that cookbook,” she said, adding she cooks for her family probably three evenings a week.

“My family likes the garlic biscuits I make,” she said. “I just use Pillsbury Big Grand biscuits, then I mix garlic salt and garlic powder with melted butter and spread the biscuits with that before baking them.”

A favorite meal Maria makes is grilled pork chops, cheesy potatoes and the garlic biscuits. “We make up big batches of cheesy potatoes and put them in disposable pans in the freezer,” she said. “Then we can just pull a pan out and bake it for an easy meal.”

Maria remembers a time when she especially looked forward to her grandmother’s homemade meals. “When I was real young I had a lot of sore throats, and  Grandma always made me homemade chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes,” Maria said.

It’s obvious that family is very important to all the members of the Fassett family, no matter which generation. “Maria will call and ask me questions  like what ingredient she can substitute in a recipe, and I like that,” Elizabeth said. “And Grandma always has an answer,” Maria adds. “She is the best cook in Phenix Township, and she has taught me how to cook awesome food.”

The two cook together as much as possible, and Maria enjoys doing things like freezing corn with her grandmother. “We put the corn in the freezer and we also make homemade salsa,” Maria said. “On the days I have time, I like to come to Grandma’s and do things with her.”

The duo has also made and frozen a lot of homemade applesauce. “This year I’ve put several bags of sliced apples in the freezer that I can use later for pies, crisps or sauce,” Elizabeth said. “I like to have things like that in the freezer.”

Elizabeth adds she also likes to keep the staples in her pantry. “Living in the country, you learn to keep things on hand so you don’t have to make a trip to the grocery store for one or two things. I’ve usually got the basics for a meal and can go from there.”

When Maria goes to sleepovers at friends’ homes, she has  been known to take along some bacon and make breakfast for her friends. “They like it,” she simply states, adding the last time she did that she prepared a breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes.
Elizabeth says her style of cooking has been mainly, “trial and error.”

“The first time I made a cherry pie it was really bad,” she laughs. “It never did get thick.”
She does like to try new recipes, however, and said she has drawers full of recipes she has cut from newspapers and magazines. “I like to sit and look at cookbooks and my favorite ones are probably the church cookbooks,” she said. “All those recipes have been tried by someone.”

Some of Elizabeth’s favorite cookbooks are St. Anthony’s Recipes and Recollection and Grace United Methodist Church’s newest cookbook. “I just got that one, and it is very good,” she said.
If Elizabeth had to pick one of her favorite meals, it would probably be pot roast that she browns in oil in the electric skillet. “After it’s browned I add water and simmer it for a while then add carrots and potatoes to it. I cook it at about 350 degrees for about three hours,” she said.

Maria admits to doing a few “out of the ordinary” things when she’s cooking. “I recently learned how to make raccoon,” she said. “It was really good. I just put it in the crockpot with onions, some water and salt and let it cook for about six hours. It was very good and everyone liked it — it’s not tough at all.”

She said she prepared the raccoon for a wild game dinner. “Everyone asks me when I’m going to do it again, and I’ve actually got one in the freezer now, so I may try it again soon,” Maria said, adding she’s also prepared deer steak on the grill. “We’ve got about 10 pounds of squirrel in the freezer also. I think the wild game is fun to cook.”

Baking and cooking together has given Elizabeth and Maria many wonderful memories, such as making a bunny cake for Easter one year and decorating it with coconut and jelly beans. “We have a fun time cooking together,” Elizabeth said. And Maria remembers one of the first things she made with her grandmother was porcupine meat balls made with rice and ground beef.

Presentation is important to the pair, and Elizabeth said she thinks about color on a plate. “If I’m having green beans, I want other colors on the plate besides green,” she said. “I don’t want all bland colors. I need something sparkly.”

Family get togethers are a fun time at the Fassett home, and a time to gather around the dinner table. “For Thanksgiving we have turkey and all the trimmings and for Christmas it’s usually ham,” Maria said. “And for my birthday Grandma always makes my favorite lemon meringue pie.”
Elizabeth notes they sometimes have to make the time to get together because everyone is so busy with their various schedules and activities.

It’s not difficult for Maria to choose one of her favorite kitchen items, “I have what I call a spoontula, it’s like a spatula but has a spoon-like shape,” she said. “I use it for everything.”

Elizabeth said she uses an electric skillet often. “I’ve got the basics as far as utensils and I don’t really need anything else,” she said. “I do use my good old wooden spoons often.”

Elizabeth is extremely pleased that  her granddaughter has shown a talent and interest in
cooking. “It’s a wonderful experience to have someone you care about interested in the same things you are,” she said. “Maria is a good helper. She can see what needs to be done and then she does it.”

Elizabeth and Maria Fassett share some of their favorite recipes.

Lemon blossoms
Elizabeth Fassett
1 yellow cake mix
1-3-1/2 oz. pkg. instant lemon pudding
4 eggs
3/4 C. oil
4 C. powdered sugar
1/3 C. lemon juice
3 T. oil
3 T. water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray miniature muffin tins with oil spray.
Combine cake mix, eggs and oil, beating for about two minutes. Pour about 1 T. mixture into each muffin cup. Bake 12 minutes. Turn out onto towel.
Glaze: Add lemon juice, oil and water to powdered sugar. Spoon glaze over muffins. Place on wire rack, put waxed paper under rack to catch glaze. Let glaze set up before stirring.

Peanut butter chocolate bars
Maria Fassett
1 C. creamy peanut butter
1 C. butter, melted
1 C. graham cracker crumbs
2 C. powdered sugar
2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Combine first four ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Mix well using a wooden spoon.
Press into the bottom of a well-greased 15x10 inch jelly roll pan. Pour melted chocolate evenly over crust. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Score into bars but leave in pan. Refrigerate until firm.  Slice completely through scoring and serve cold.
Makes 25-30 bars.

Chicken and dressing soup
Elizabeth Fassett
1 chicken breast
3 C. water
bay leaf
1/4 C. chopped celery leaves
1 small onion
Cook chicken, reserve liquid. Cut up.
1 C. celery diced
1 C. diced onion
3 C. cubed white bread
1 t. sage
1 t. poultry seasoning
2 C. evaporated milk
2 T. chicken stock base, bouillon
Saute celery and onion in butter. Add bread cubes and more butter. Stir until well coated. Do not brown. Combine reserved liquid and seasonings, bullion and simmer 15 minutes. Add evaporated milk. Heat to simmer.
Add more water if too thick.

Buttery garlic chicken
Maria Fassett
2 eggs, beaten
2 C. round buttery crackers, crushed
1/2 t. garlic salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 C. butter, sliced
Place eggs in a shallow bowl; set aside. Mix cracker crumbs and garlic salt in separate bowl. Set aside. Dip chicken in eggs, then  coat in crumb mixture.
Arrange in ungreased 13x9 inch baking pan. Dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with fork.
Yield: 4 servings.

Hamburger corn casserole
Elizabeth Fassett
Put in skillet on top of stove:
1-1/2 lbs. hamburger
1/2 C. onion, chopped
Brown together.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 C. sour cream
1 can whole kernel corn, undrained
18 oz. noodles, uncooked
1 can water.
Cook over medium heat until noodles are done.
Watch as it may need more water.

Meat loaf pie
Maria Fassett
2 eggs
1 C. milk
1-3/4 C. soft bread crumbs
1/4 C. chopped onion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. rubbed sage
1/4 t. pepper
1-1/2 lb. ground beef
1 envelope butter and herb instant mashed potatoes
1 t. mustard
1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese
In large bowl, combine first seven ingredients. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9 inch deep dish pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes according to package directions. Stir in mustard.
Drain meat loaf, spread mashed potatoes over top. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before cutting.