Over the years, Patricia Robitaille of Lewiston has understood the value of being able to take one ingredient and make a meal out of it. “From one hamburger loaf, you can get so many things. Of course, you have leftover loaf, but then it can be added to spaghetti sauce or even be used to make a stew. Meat can go a long way.”

Now 88 years old, Robitaille learned at a young age how to make the most out of what is in the kitchen without frills. “I’ve never gotten my ideas from a cookbook. Our family was too big to have those kinds of things. I helped my mom as I grew up and then I learned the recipes from her.”

As the mother of eight children (including two sets of twins), Robitaille was able to take those lessons and apply them to her own kitchen. “With that many children, it was constant work. But, the more you cook, the better you get at it.” Some of her family’s favorite meals are her crepes, stews, chicken with the trimmings, and spaghetti. She herself has two favorite dishes that she likes to prepare: ham dinner with noodles, and fried rice. “I cook up the rice and add things, like turnip, carrots and celery. Sometimes I even put the leftovers in soup. Oh, I love that!” Fudge is something else she’s famous for, especially around the holidays.

True to her no-frills upbringing, Robitaille says the only must-have item in her kitchen is her Borner V-Slicer with mandoline. “That thing does it all: slices, shreds, dices. It’s wonderful and makes things a lot easier.”

Robitaille has 18 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. When not helping to feed her large family, she enjoys making pillows as gifts, especially for the sick.

Baked beans
2 pounds small pea beans

2 medium onions

½ pound salt pork

3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon dry mustard
½ cup white sugar
Soak pea beans for three hours. Rinse two to three times and drain. Add them to a 4-quart bean pot or crockpot. Place onions and salt pork on top of the beans.

In a separate cup, mix together: molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard and sugar. Pour this mixture over the beans, onions and salt pork. Add cold water until water level is 2 inches above the beans. Place covered pot in oven and bake at 350 degrees until boiling. Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake for approximately 8 to 10 hours (overnight or all day).
Maple fudge
2 pounds light brown sugar

1 pint heavy cream

½ cup light Karo syrup

¾ stick of butter

Pinch of salt

8 ounces Marshmallow Fluff
Cooking spray or butter
Stir sugar, cream, syrup, butter and salt together in an 8-quart pot. Cook on high heat for seven to eight minutes. Test a few drops in cold water. If it forms a soft ball, remove from heat. Stir in Marshmallow Fluff (important – do not substitute with cream). Beat until it’s smooth and has a satin finish. Pour fudge into a 9-by-13-inch pan that’s been greased with cooking spray or soft butter. Let cool, cut and serve.
Patricia’s notes:
I use molds for my fudge. For angel fudge, use white granulated sugar instead of light brown sugar.
Canadian honey cookies
½ cup Crisco

1 stick butter or margarine

1 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

3½ cups white flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
Apricot jam
Mix shortening (Crisco and butter), brown sugar and eggs thoroughly. Stir in honey and vanilla. Mix flour and baking soda together and add to mixture. Chill several hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll into walnut-size balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until no imprint remains when you touch one. Remove from oven. When cool, put together with apricot jam. Makes 3 dozen double cookies.

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