Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Ham Salad or Ladies Aid Spread

Ham Salad or Ladies Aid Spread was a staple at the ladies church group Grandma belonged to called Ladies Aid. The ladies would gather monthly at church for fellowship, a program – usually a musical piece or reading of some kind, and lunch which consisted of sandwiches – usually this ham salad or tuna salad, dessert or pie or cake or bars, and good old Swedish coffee. Once when Grandma was one of the people in charge of the program for the day, I was recruited to sing “Beautiful Savior”. I was about 8 years old or so, and I was paid one dollar! I was NOT a fan of singing in front of people, so I’m sure I needed to be bribed to do it. Ha! Singing that day is not one of my favorite memories! For some reason, even now when I have occasion to go into Grandma and Grandpa’s church basement, I still smell the sandwiches and coffee – even though that was years ago. This Ladies Aid Spread has become a staple for our family. I made it a lot when our kids had softball or baseball games or tournaments because it travels well. One time (when we had three children playing in games on the same nights), I just didn’t have the time to make it, so I sent my husband to the store to buy it ready made from the deli section of our grocery store. He seriously asked the girl behind the counter, “do you have Ladies Aid Spread?” Together they finally figured out that he meant Ham Salad. I don’t have anyone going to ball games or tournaments anymore, but I still make this a couple of times a month – just for me!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Ham Salad or Ladies Aid Spread

Mix together:

2 cans chopped ham

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3 Tablespoons pickle relish or sweet pickle relish

It’s easy to tweak this recipe to your own liking. Add more or less mayonnaise, or more or less relish, depending on how you like it.

I use a fork to break up the canned ham. Mix in the mayonnaise and pickle relish – that’s it!

This is a very simple, but tasty recipe. I try to keep it as healthy as possible, but if you don’t mind a bit of extra sugar – and it doesn’t add very much – use sweet pickle relish in this. My sister and her family have found that the best thing to put in it is Grandma’s Sweet Pickles that have been chopped. Oh yes – using those makes a pretty outstanding batch.

I like to put this on buns, but bread works just as well. Buns hold up best if you’re taking these on a road trip or taking these sandwiches for an outing like ball tournaments or picnics.

Most of my family likes the sandwiches just like this, but I’ve been trying to get more veggies into everything, so now I use lettuce as part of the sandwich.

This sandwich spread is great for having on hand, or for packing for a road trip. I will be making this for our summer road trip this year! We should really call it Ham Salad, but in our family we like to refer to this delicious sandwich spread as Ladies Aid Spread!




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Ham Balls

This recipe for Ham Balls comes from one of my mom’s cousins and is similar to Grandma’s recipe for Iowa Ham Balls that I posted a couple of years ago. The name implies, and rightfully so, that they’re Ham Balls instead of meatballs. That’s exactly what they are, even though there is both ham and beef in these. My mom prefers this recipe to the other one, so I made these for her birthday dinner this year. I think this would be perfect for using up leftover ham from your Easter or springtime dinner (as long as you have enough ham leftover). This recipe uses 5 pounds of meat, but I did get two pans out of it and put one in the freezer for another time.

This is a really good recipe.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Ham Balls

Mix together:

2 cups milk

4 eggs

Soak in this mixture:

4 cups bread crumbs (It says Pepperidge Farm, but I couldn’t tell if that meant a loaf of bread or premade bread crumbs. A loaf of crumbs seemed like they’d be too soft so I used premade bread crumbs, but never found that brand.)

Mix into this:

3 pounds ground ham (I don’t have anything to grind it, so I used a food processor)

2 pounds lean ground beef

Roll into balls.

Put into a roaster (I used a cake pan).


1 cup water

1 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

2 cups brown sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

Pour over balls in roaster or pan.

Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, or do not cover and baste every time balls are turned.

First mix the eggs and milk, then add the breadcrumbs.

It looks weird, but I just let the breadcrumb/milk/egg mixture sit while I got the beef and ham ready.

The food processor made quick work of the chunks of ham. My biggest glass bowl would barely hold all the ingredients so I had to move it all to the biggest container I had.

You want to leave yourself plenty of space to mix all the ingredients, and make sure they’re all mixed very well. It does take a lot of mixing! It’s a good arm workout!

I got 20 balls in this pan and another 8 in the pan that went in the freezer. It seems like a lot of work to turn the balls every 15 minutes, but you want that delicious sauce to totally cover and coat them.

You can see how the delicious sauce makes the balls incredibly tasty.

My mom likes these Ham Balls better, but family likes the Iowa Ham Balls better. Why not make both recipes and see which you prefer? Next year you could use these for your Easter dinner instead of a ham because these are absolutely delicious. If you did make a ham for your Easter dinner this year, I hope you have enough leftover to make these. You don’t really have to wait for Easter or use leftovers, just make these Ham Balls. Any way you can.


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Easter Ham

Oh, how we love a good Easter Ham in our family. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that we’re big on traditions in our family. Maybe my kids get it from me, because I think I’ve always been that way. They’re the worst when it comes to tradition – we have to do the same things EVERY year for holidays. They’ve always been that way, too. One tradition that stays the same is the movies we watch for each holiday, and the other main traditional thing that stays the same is food. Each holiday has its own decorations, movies, and food and there is no exception. Additions are rare, and deletions are even more rare, and Easter is no exception. This photo show just where the tradition thing originally comes from. This is Grandma, me (at about 6 years old), my mom, and Grandma’s oldest sister at Easter.

These women were heavy into tradition, and frankly, I’m very grateful for that. We all need traditions – that’s what makes a holiday, a holiday.

My family demands the same food – every year – for every holiday and occasion. I make this Easter Ham every year for our Easter dinner, but the exact recipe for the glaze does change from time to time. Sometimes I use honey or orange marmalade or crushed pineapple. Sometimes I use regular yellow mustard, but this is the basic glaze recipe that I use almost every year. This is also a money-saving meal because you can save the ham bone to make Split Pea Soup later.

Here is the recipe as I made it (this time):

Easter Ham


1 cup real maple syrup

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons grainy mustard

4 ounces pineapple juice (1 of the small individual cans you can buy in a 6-pack)


Pre-cooked, smoked 16.5 pound ham. (We get ours double-smoked from a local store that does their own meats and smoking.)

Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes per pound.

I put the ham in a 9″ x 13″ pan, added 2 cups water, and covered with foil for first hour.

Then it’s time to uncover, baste with glaze and bake another hour. Baste with the glaze again until done. Let  it sit for 10 minutes or so before carving.


I put the pineapple juice in mixing up the ingredients and I knew that I would need a bit more glaze. Double it or make another half batch if you need more for the basting.


This is the ham after the first hour – and after the basting and second hour of baking.


When cutting this ham, try to get a little of the deliciously basted outside crust on every piece.


This has a nice caramelized crust and it’s moist and tender on the inside. Tender isn’t quite the word for it – I think I’d say it melts in your mouth.


Easter Ham is one of those “must have” and traditional food items at Easter dinner. Don’t forget to save the ham bone for a batch of Split Pea Soup! Try this glaze and ham it up! Ha! Ok, ok. I know – that’s enough. What are some of your Easter food traditions? I’d love to hear about them!




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Day 10 – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Swedish Sausage


It’s Day 10 of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas, and today we’re making Swedish Sausage. I’m not sure if it’s really Swedish, or if that’s just what they call it. Regardless, Grandma and Grandpa had this every year for Christmas, and if we weren’t able to be together with them on Christmas, we’d have it whenever we got together this time of year. It’s one of those things where if I have it once a year, I’m good. It’s getting hard to find now, but I called around and found a store that carried this Swedish potato sausage. I remember this so well from the growing up years. Grandma would be standing at the stove in her holiday apron, being so careful with it, making sure it was cooked just right. She was dead serious about her heritage and this was one of those things that seemed to be a big part of it along with lefse, all the Scandinavian cookies, and her stories of her family and their traditions when she was growing up. She loved to tell the stories and she had a rapt audience in me!


Funny thing – when she says that it’s from the “store” here, she means the store in the tiny town one mile from where they lived. They must have gotten the sausage there until the store closed sometime in the early 1980’s.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Swedish Sausage

Cook sausage in a glass pan in 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Cover for the last half of cooking time.

Cut into pieces and fry in pan (she must have originally just left it in the oven but turned the sausage half way through the cooking time but I know that in later years, she would cut it and fry it in a pan).



When putting it in the pan for the oven, I pricked it in a few places with the tip of a knife so there would be no blow-outs. Halfway through she said to cover it, so I used a bit of foil.


After baking, it’s time to cut it into pieces and brown it in the fry pan.


It wasn’t exactly the same flavor as I remember, but it was good. I’m sure every place that makes it has their own recipe and spices that they use.


Try this delicious and spiced sausage, and you’ll be trying a bit of Swedish heritage. It smelled so good in the oven and for a few minutes it took me back to Grandma’s kitchen at Christmastime. I got a bit emotional, but I still enjoyed the warm and wonderful fragrance of the Christmas memory.



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Pork Roast

The recipe for today comes from my sister-in-law. She’s a great cook and served this Pork Roast for dinner when we were at their house years ago, and we all loved it. I coerced the recipe from her and boy, am I glad I did! This is such a tasty way to make pork roast, which can sometimes be just a bit bland. I love that you can get this ready the night before and the next day all you have to do is put it into the oven. You know how I love those things you can make ahead of time. You’re going to want to try this one!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Pork Roast

Mix together:

1 Tablespoons flour

1 Tablespoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

Put all in baking bag (I use a zip top bag) with 2-3 pound pork roast (I used a 2 1/2 lb. pork loin roast) overnight in refrigerator, turning now and then.

Bake at 325 degrees for 2-2 1/2 hours (2 1/2 hours was just right for this size roast).

You can also do this in the crockpot.


1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon orange juice

5 ounces red currant jelly

Warm until jelly is melted.

Serve over or on the side of the pork roast.


I put all of the marinade ingredients into a zip top bag, close the top, and knead the outside of the bag to mix it all together.


Put the roast into the bag, zip it shut, and put it into the refrigerator overnight. I also put it into a bowl or container in case of leaks – not that I have any experience with that happening or anything.


The next day, it’s time to roast the pork. I put the marinade into the pan, too, but you don’t need to. The marinade dries up (don’t be shocked – it turns black but smells so good roasting), but I think it does keep the pork moist.


The pork does come out moist and perfect, and the time given for roasting is right on.


What a special meal – a baked potato, some frozen corn on the cob (still left from last summer), and the amazingly delicious sauce with the pork.


You really should try this recipe. It’s melt in your mouth delicious, and special enough for a special occasion, but it’s so incredibly easy to do! I highly recommend it. You guests will love it, and rave about it, and take pictures of it. My family sure loves it!




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Everybody loves Meatloaf, everybody has their favorite, and it’s usually the way mom made it. My family has a “thing” for this meatloaf. It’s been a staple on our menu since our first child was little and I’ve been making it ever since. Whenever someone gets to request a special meal, it’s usually meatloaf. With mashed potatoes and gravy. From a packet. (I know, I know, it’s store-bought but I started making this when I didn’t know HOW to make gravy yet and it’s FAST to make and get on the table.) And frozen peas. They have to be the frozen ones. And there has to be ketchup. So funny – it’s always the same. I guess that meal brings up those warm and comforting feelings of family at the table and the love that’s around that table, too. Being around the table for dinner was something we were adamant about. We tried to have dinner together every night and I think we succeeded at that. We had unbelievably busy kids in a LOT of activities, but dinner together was just mandatory, and we made it happen. It was important to hear about everybody’s day, how classes were going, how sports were going, how the play was coming along, what was going on with their friends, what music was being tackled and/or listened to, and TALK to each other. I think it’s been one of the things that’s made our family very close. We kept it up through the college years (all 3 kids stayed fairly close to home for that) and still try to get together for family dinners every week or two.

I’ve made meatloaf this way since I was in high school and I don’t have it written down, so I’ll just type it out here.

Here is the recipe as I made it:


1 pound ground beef (I use the leanest I can get)

1 egg

1/2 onion, finely chopped (or you can sneak in dried minced onion if one of your children doesn’t want to eat onions – ha!)

6 saltines, crushed

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

Ketchup for the top

Mix all ingredients together and pat into loaf pan or mound onto baking sheet.

I squirt some ketchup on top before baking. Sometimes I take a brush and smooth is over the top, sometimes just squirt a squiggle (that’s a technical term) down the top of it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-90 minutes, depending on how thick your loaf is. I usually cut through the middle to make sure it’s done.


There is nothing easier than meatloaf. Mix it all up and put it in a pan. Done. Into the oven.


My family can’t get enough of this and therefore, there are never leftovers. Ever.


This is total comfort food. Make a meatloaf and get the family together for a meal. Make it something that will become their favorite and they’ll beg for over and over again. It’s amazing how fast they can get to the table when the favorite meal is what you’re serving. That’s where the best family times are – at the table – eating, talking, laughing, loving. There’s nothing better!




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Round Steak Marinade

The recipe for today comes from a cookbook called “The Outdoor Cookbook”. I got the cookbook sometime in high school, and I’ve been making it ever since. We like to use this Round Steak Marinade when we make kabobs with round steak and assorted vegetables: cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers. Just cube the steak before marinating, skewer them all, and grill. This marinade is also just plain good on steak. Any steak.

Round Steak Marinade

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup cooking oil

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 pounds round steak

Combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well.

Pour over steak (I put it into a zip top bag) and refrigerate for 2-4 hours (I have done it overnight).

Grill steak to desired doneness.

Cut in strips against the grain to serve.


Put all the ingredients into a zip top bag and once the steak is in, put it into the refrigerator. I sometimes do it overnight.


The marinade caramelizes on the steak when it’s grilled.


This skirt steak is so tender and flavorful when marinated in this. You’ll love it! Give it a try!


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Killer Turkey Burgers

I’m sharing such a cute photo today. This is my mom and her little brother, and it was taken indoors. Most of the photos were taken outdoors back then – maybe they didn’t have flash on the cameras yet! Whoever took this one was taking a chance on it not turning out because it looks like they were made to sit by a sunny window in hopes that there would be enough light. It could have just as easily been totally black. I’m so glad it turned out ok!

mom and paul

Oh my gosh – it’s just so cute!

The recipe for today is one that I originally saw on the Food Network show, The Kitchen. Anne Burrell was a guest and she made these burgers. They sounded so good, I immediately looked up the recipe and printed it off. You can find the original recipe here. These burgers are incredibly tasty and good. They’re one of our new favorites.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Killer Turkey Burgers


1 onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice

2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped

(The original recipe says to cook the onion and garlic until soft, but in a hurry recently, I put them in uncooked and it was just fine.)

2 pounds ground turkey (original recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds, but I have found 2 pounds works for me)

1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, coarsely chopped (I didn’t use them in this batch)

1/4 cup soy sauce, plus more if needed

1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves finely chopped

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

2 Tablespoons Sriracha or Asian chili sauce, optional but recommended


1/2 cup mayonnaise mixed with 2 teaspoons Sriracha

Burger Buns

America cheese slices

Tomato slices

Red onion slices

Lettuce leaves

Mix in a large bowl, ground turkey, water chestnuts, soy sauce, cilantro, ginger, Sriracha, and the onions and garlic (whether you’re cooking them or using them raw).

(The original recipe calls for some water to keep the turkey moist, but I have found that the burgers tend to fall apart if you use too much, so I don’t use any water in these. Ground turkey can be too moist, especially if you use it after freezing it, so if your burgers are too wet, add some dry bread crumbs and let it sit a couple of minutes to help the burgers hold together. I never use frozen ground turkey for this particular recipe.)

Use your hands and mix well until blended.

Make patties.

Coat your pan with a bit of olive oil and heat pan to medium-high heat.

Add the burgers – don’t crowd the pan – and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side or until browned and cooked through.

Serve with toppings.


The burgers are pretty moist, as you can see by the juicy-ness here. I’ve never really had these be too dry. In fact, they’re so moist that I wouldn’t even try to do them on the grill. I just don’t think they’d hold together. It seems to work well in the fry pan.


This burger doesn’t have cheese on it, but you can see how important all of the beautiful toppings are. They all help to make the burgers so fresh tasting and delicious.


These are so good and so good for you. You HAVE to try this recipe. You’ll love these killer burgers!! Maybe make them for your little brother (if you have one), cuz he’s just so darn cute!!



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Ham Loaf with Mustard Glaze

Today’s recipe for Ham Loaf  is a good one for using your leftover Easter ham. I can’t even explain the aroma of this dish baking in the oven. My son came home from work while this was baking and he said, “wow – this really smells like Svea!” Grandma made dinner for us so often and, I can’t explain it, but there is a certain aroma to her cooking and recipes that is unmistakable. Sometimes it really makes me – and all other family members – homesick. I can’t say that I really miss her, because when I’m making her recipes, I feel like she’s still here and has never left us. This is definitely one of those recipes. It’s a great one!

Ham Loaf

Note, again, the “V. Good” connotation on this one!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Ham Loaf

Mix together:

1 pound lean ground beef

4 pounds lean ground ham (I used a boneless ham and used my food processor to “grind” it)

1 1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs, crushed

3/4 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Makes 2 loaves.

Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

Baste last 1/2 hour with Mustard Glaze.

Mustard Glaze

1 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons prepared mustard

2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used cider vinegar)

3 Tablespoons water


There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe and I tried to use my biggest bowl, but I had to use my big Tupperware container to be able to really get in there and mix it all with my hands without it coming out all over.


I made one loaf in a bread pan and 5 small foil pans to put into the freezer.


The mustard glaze gives it almost a caramel look.


Even though it seems like a lot to handle, this is really an easy recipe, and it’s so worth it!


This is a great recipe. Make a batch and start a tradition of sharing memories with your family.


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Marinated Chicken Wings

The recipe for today is unusual for one of Grandma’s recipes.

Grandma and Grandpa were not really snack type people.

They were Scandinavian farmers so they had a standard 3:00 pm coffee every afternoon, but this was usually coffee with a sweet – not savory snack – unless there was the occasional cracker.

There weren’t many snack/appetizer/party type recipes in the bunch.

Marinated Chicken Wings would be a good one for a New Year’s party.

Marinated Chicken Wings

These aren’t spicy wings – more of a teriyaki type wing.

And soooo good – as you can see by the “good” connotation!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Marinated Chicken Wings

Mix in a zipper type bag:

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 Tablespoons white sugar

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

3 Tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 clove minced garlic

Add 1 package of chicken wings and marinate overnight.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.


I put the bag into a bowl in the refrigerator just in case of a leak.


The marinade isn’t thick – maybe it wont do much?


Wrong! The wings get sticky and sweet . . .


and perfect and delicious.


Try this one for your next party – New Year’s or otherwise.

You won’t be sorry.

So good.


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