The BTR Staff's Favorite Family Recipes


In honor of Food Week here at BreakThru Radio, we asked our staff for favorite family recipes to contribute to our latest photoblog. Needless to say, we received some interesting (and delicious) results. In keeping with respective family traditions, we kept our requirements for this assignment open ended. Meaning, if a recipe called for a very specific ingredients list, great! If not, well why not work with what grandma gave us? With that in mind, here are five delectable dishes handed down from the generations.

Grammy’s Mac-n-Cheese

By DJ Emily Smith (‘DJ Emily BTR’, ‘BTR Top 10’, ‘Ladies Skate Only’, ‘BTR Cooking Show’, ‘Revolver’, and ‘Alt-Country’), Editorial Director

Ok, so technically the ‘mac’ in this recipe isn’t macaroni at all. Nope. The noodle in this dish is vermicelli… and maybe that’s what makes it special. That, or the fact that not one person in my family can tell you the true recipe.

I asked a few of my relatives for the recipe and they all gave me a different version. The reason being that, Grammy (my grandmother) didn’t have a recipe. She eyeballed it and when you ask her how she makes it, she’ll give you the ingredients but no true measurements. Note to self: make it with her next time!

I decided to pool the collective knowledge I was able to acquire and come out with averages for the amounts on the ingredients. Where my uncle said to “use three cans of carnation milk,” my mother said, “use one.” So, I went with two. Where my aunt said use the pre-packaged cheddar cheese, I went ahead with another tip to grate it myself.

The end result was pretty darn good but came no where near the deliciousness of the side dish that is the first emptied when we do our buffet style holiday dinners at my Grammy’s house. Grammy’s advice when told by her family that our versions never taste the same? “Add more cheese next time.”

Ingredients and amounts (that I used):

1 box vermicelli pasta
2 cans carnation milk
16oz cheddar cheese block (I will use more next time)
4 eggs
1 Stick of butter

And a casserole dish big enough to hold it all


Boil pasta and leave slightly al dente. Drain pasta and pour into casserole dish. Add one can of carnation milk. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours until the noodles have pretty much absorbed the milk. During this time, grate your cheese. Once the pasta is cold and has absorbed the milk, cover in salt and pepper (eye ball it), add butter throughout. I cut it into ½ tablespoon size slices and spread them throughout the dish. Now add the cheese. I added a bit at a time and used my hands (it’s ok to get a little messy) to layer/mix it in. I made sure to leave a good bit to sprinkle over top. Then add the second can of carnation milk. Put the dish back into the fridge to sit for a few more hours. Then cover with tin foil and pop in the oven for approximately one hour at 350 degrees. Check the top to make sure it’s just turning brown when you take it out. ENJOY!

Grandma Rifkin’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs

By DJ Meredith (‘The Afrobeat Show’, ‘Xtreme Endurance’, and ‘Carribean Fever’)

This recipe for sweet and sour meatballs has been in my family for over 100 years! My grandma (my father’s mother) used to make them for every holiday and for all of our family dinners as appetizers or as a main dish. Everyone loves the distinctive sauce. The meatballs never varied and were always as addictively delicious as the last time my Grandma made them! I think it was the perfect balance between sweet and sour that made them just right. A soft piece of challah bread (the raisin one is my favorite!) is the perfect vessel for sopping up the extra sauce on your plate. They’re also great over egg noodles or some rice! I just made them for my Dad on Father’s Day and my whole family agreed that they were exactly like grandma’s.


1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 small onion, finely grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
14 ounce can tomato puree
4 tsp. sugar
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup grape jelly


In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs and onion. Mix thoroughly and shape into small sized balls. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine tomato puree and sugar. Once the sauce tastes slightly sweet, add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly, then add meatballs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. Allow the meatballs to cook for about 10 minutes before you begin stirring, so they don’t break.

Stir in the grape jelly and taste test the sauce. If the sauce still tastes acidic from the lemon juice, add another spoonful of jelly to taste for the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes. These meatballs are best served hot and taste even better the next day!

Potato Salad

By DJ Marie (‘Sew and Tell’)

This is one of my top-treasured recipes of my mom’s. Though the ingredients are simple, it is truly a labor of love because of all the dicing and chopping, which can take a surprisingly long time, but the end result is SO worth it! You’ll enjoy this if you have a taste for tangy things; my mom usually serves it with BBQ chicken, corn, and green beans for the perfect summertime dinner. It’s also a dish that seems to get better the longer it sits in the fridge, so you can make it a day or two ahead. (It also never hurts to make a double recipe… leftovers of this dish are fabulous!)


3 cups diced cooked potatoes
2 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons oil (canola, olive, grape seed, etc.)
1/3 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip)
2 cups chopped hard-boiled eggs (approx 8-10 eggs)
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon grated or finely diced onion


While the potatoes are cooking, dissolve the salt into the vinegar, dice the potatoes and toss while still warm with the vinegar/salt, pepper and salad oil. Then combine remaining ingredients together and toss lightly with a long fork. Lastly, add to the potato mixture and enjoy!

DJ Marie and her husband, Tim, enjoy in public displays of potato salad.

Debbie Waters’ Special Baked Shrimp

By Matthew Waters, Editorial Intern

This excellent dish is par for the course at the Waters residence, where my mom Debbie has been spoiling us for years and years. Here’s how to make her special baked shrimp: You start with one pound of clean, large shrimp. Pour a quarter cup of butter and one tablespoon of parsley. You add two tablespoons of white whine and a quarter cup of panko crumbs before pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees. You place the shrimp in a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, melt the butter, add the parsley and wine, pour it over the shrimp, cover the shrimp with panko crumbs, bake in oven for twenty minutes, and serve over a nice rice pilaf.

Spaghetti Bolognese

By Lauren Hawker, ‘BTR Pulse’ Host

This recipe was handed down from my grandmother, who learned the dish in the 1950s from the Italian immigrants that moved into her town in southeastern Australia. My grandmother taught my mother to make it and she handed the recipe to me. It has always been a favorite and everyone that tries it goes back for a second serving. Spaghetti Bolognese is a traditional meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy, however, there are many other variations on the typical recipe which always includes grounded beef or pork.

Lauren with her freshly made Spaghetti Bolognese.


Heat oil in a large saucepan, put in a white chopped onion and three crushed garlic cloves then cook for a few minutes, watching so it does not burn. Then add ground beef cooking lightly until it has just changed color. Then add a can of tomato paste on tinned, whole-peeled tomatoes, tomato, basil sauce, and a green pepper (just wash it first and add WHOLE). Bring slowly to boil, then turn down and simmer for about half and hour. Add washed and sliced mushrooms, then simmer for another 15 – 20 minutes. Carefully remove and discard green pepper (this is the secret). Taste and see if flavor needs adjusting, maybe a little more pepper, sugar, basil or oregano. Choose your pasta, spaghetti, penne or linguine. The sauce is always better the next day!

Monkey Bread

By Margaret Jacobi, Managing Editor

This is my father’s famous monkey bread. He always said, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” So Christmas morning invariably begins with a broad array of dishes, collectively composing the most epic of meals. Monkey bread has pretty much exclusively been a sweet treat rounding out a largely savory brunch. Simple to make, the recipe involves only five ingredients: two packages of refrigerator biscuits, one stick of butter (melted down), one and a half cups of sugar mixed with two tablespoons of cinnamon, and half a cup of chopped walnuts. First you preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt cake pan. Then you cut each biscuit into quarters and roll those quarters into balls. Next, dip the biscuit pieces into the melted butter, roll it in the cinnamon sugar mixture, and place them into the pan. Alternate biscuit pieces with nuts, pour any excess butter over top, sprinkle with excess sugar, and bake the cake for 35 minutes with foil over top, then 10 extra minutes sans foil. Voila, delicious! Best served warm.