Family, Memories, and Meatloaf…

My great-aunt Dee passed away at some point this past weekend. I realize that I am fortunate to have known her as well as I did – she lived across the street from my parents’ house so we saw her often. She was always present at family gatherings, and much joy was had in her home. I know that many people don’t know their great-aunts and uncles; however, I knew most of mine well and cherished my time with them. I am so thankful for a family that loves the Lord because that brings hope in situations like this. I know she is reunited with her husband and her parents, and they’re having a great time in Heaven together.

Aunt Dee is my grandmother’s sister, and I believe that my grandmother met my grandfather as a result of Aunt Dee. Aunt Dee married Uncle Virgil, my grandfather’s brother, making all of their children “double cousins” as they like to say. Because of these two sisters marrying two brothers, our family has always been extra close, and I’m so grateful.

Aunt Dee was an incredible woman with so many talents and passions. Her full name was Descygne, which is French (I believe) for swan. Living up to her name, Aunt Dee was graceful and gentle like a swan. She was a great example to us all of what it means to be a loving, godly mother and wife, and I’m so thankful to have known her for thirty-one years.

I remember so many things about spending time with her – here are just a couple of memories: I remember that she was one of the first people in our family to have a computer and the Internet, and she would let us use it. I remember camping in her backyard with my cousins, staying up with Uncle Virgil singing and laughing for hours. I remember spending time with her talking about our family history and trying to glean as much knowledge from her as possible.

Aunt Dee made many priceless contributions to our family. Without her, our family wouldn’t know nearly as much about our family history and genealogy (including the fact that we are distantly related to the Earnhardt family!). Without her, we wouldn’t have our “reunion books” from each annual Madole Family Reunion, chronicling each year’s gathering with stories, pictures and relevant family updates – truly treasured possessions of us all. She recognized the importance of capturing these memories so that future generations would know their relatives. I’m also fairly sure she was responsible for our two Madole Family Cookbooks, which are not only filled with recipes contributed from many family members, but also with short stories about the recipes and why they are special/where they came from/where the person lived at the time of publication.

I had planned to make our family’s meatloaf recipe yesterday for dinner well before I heard the news of her passing. When I looked in our family cookbook to find the recipe, I noticed that my great-aunt is the one who contributed our now beloved meatloaf recipe to the cookbook so many years ago. It seemed fitting that we had planned to enjoy that beloved meal on that day, and we did so through tears.

My family in California had just gathered last week to enjoy meatloaf for my grandfather’s birthday (photo below), and Aunt Dee was happily present as always.

So now I share with you our favorite meatloaf recipe (in fact, the only one our family makes), in memory of my precious great-aunt Dee.

Everyday Meatloaf

2/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/4 cup grated or chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sage

  • Soak bread crumbs in milk.
  • Add meat, eggs, onion and seasonings and mix well
    (hands work best).
  • Form loaf into loaf pan
    (use a “meatloaf pan” if you have one – it drains the fat).
  • Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
  • After 30 minutes, add sauce to the meatloaf and return to oven for remaining 30 minutes. If you use a regular loaf pan, you may need to remove grease before applying sauce.

Awesome Sauce: The sauce is definitely the best part
*note: we recommend doubling the sauce 🙂
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard

  • Mix all ingredients together and apply to meatloaf after first 30 minutes.

Farewell, my dear Aunt Dee. I can’t wait to see you and our other loved ones someday on those streets of gold.

Penne Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Cooking used to frustrate me somewhat…and it took me quite a while to figure out why.

Though I am organized (i.e. almost a control freak) in essentially every other aspect of my life, I would leave dinner plans to the last-minute, always leaving me frustrated because I would feel pressure to put something together quickly. It didn’t really occur to me until the past month or so that if I plan ahead, the stress would go away!  I know, I know…this was a “duh” moment for me.

I decided to start grocery shopping every two weeks (with the exception, of course, of small trips if something was forgotten) and making a meal list for that time period. The list isn’t rigid–meaning that I don’t have a specific recipe for a specific day (which would drive me crazy)…but it gives me enough guidance that I can come home, look at a short list (rather than a large cookbook) and make my decision. It has helped tremendously!

I feel like a much better wife when I am prepared, because Brennan can come home from work and have dinner ready for him after a long day of work. Not that he has EVER complained or said a word–I just have goals/expectations for myself that I don’t always meet. 🙂 I am so blessed to have a husband who has never once disliked anything that I have made, and who is always appreciative of my efforts!

I’ve also started a small binder where I type out/cut out recipes that I actually use, which helps when it comes to meal planning because I own 15-20 cookbooks…and that is slightly overwhelming. But, I definitely don’t use all of those recipes, so I’ve started collecting the ones that I do use. I have a section specifically for “crock pot” recipes, which is EXTREMELY helpful to have with our crazy schedules!

Anyway…tonight I made a recipe that we had picked up at our company’s “Wellness Fair” recently, and it was not only good, it was very healthy and nutritious! So I decided that I should share…

I did not create this recipe, but I’m not sure who should get the credit.

Penne Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups yellow squash

3/4 cup fat-free chicken broth

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp salt (optional)

1 box (16 oz) penne pasta

6 fresh basil leaves, cut into thick strips

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add asparagus; cook 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and squash; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Add chicken broth; reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking 5 minutes. Season with salt/pepper.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Add pasta and basil to vegetable mixture; toss to combine. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.