Pass the Potato Casserole, Please

Lately on this blog it looks like life is all about the yard and getting it whipped into a shape that can be maintained by someone else, in particular my nephew, Reid, of the Zaal NoFlex Digestor trials. He’s at the age where he’s just young enough that he can’t get gainful employment, but just old enough to know the value of a dollar, plus he’s a hard worker and really smart. So he just found himself a job as our new “Gardener”. I figure I have maybe two good years of letting him be the yard guy before he can get a job closer to home. I look forward to training him on the finer points of weeding.

Reid fishing in the Sea of Cortez. We had a dandy time with him and my sister when they came to visit.

What has been less apparent from this blog is all the weeding that has been going on inside the home. Of course we did most of this kind of stuff; the going through closets and boxes and the like and getting rid of meaningless crap; before we left the house the first time, waaay back in 2016. While all the work I did is sure making my life easier now, what remains is the stuff that I chose to keep way back in that other life when I could actually afford to live in this house because we both had jobs. Now I am forced to choose what I absolutely want to keep from things I actually like and care about, or at  least are useful and I’d have to replace once this wild hair about cruising is over. I’m talking about  things like this cement maple leaf that I made during the years when I spent hours playing with different formulas of cement in order to get a product that would hold up without being too heavy. It took me a year of tinkering to get to this formula, which is now lost to the ghosts of posterity. I love this thing and will keep it until the day I die. I will leave my kids to fight over it when I’m gone. I consider this an heirloom.

The mold for this was made from one of the leaves of our big maple tree out back, the one that was recently given a haircut. It’s about 17″ across.

Lots of families have heirlooms they pass down from one generation to the next and while that has kind of gone out of style lately, what with the younger folks not wanting to be weighed down with ‘stuff’ and all that, we still have a certain amount of bequeathing going on around here. (Hello, Maple Leaf.)  But aside from physical things that represent important parts of our family history together, what I really don’t want to lose is the food. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on a rigid routine of balancing the scales of justice, if not the actual scale in my bedroom, since my months of over indulgence on fine Mexican tacos and alcohol in the Sea of Cortez. Maybe I’m just hungry. But regardless of my dreams of literally eating cake, food is an important part of our family culture and I bet that’s true of your family’s, too.

Yeah, I cannot find it in myself to get rid of this Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I bought before we got married. Some things are just sacred.

If this makes it sound like I still have remnants of that potato casserole my mother made in 1974 hanging around in a box somewhere, well, I’m not actually THAT bad (although Mike’s opinion might differ). But I do have her recipe. It’s written in a tiny book that she gave me years ago where she wrote all of her favorite recipes that were somehow important in our family culture. I call it the “Little Hippopotamus Book ” and not for the reason you think. Sure, there are hippos on the cover, and yes, if I always ate like the recipes in the book I’d be about the size of a baby hippo. But also hippos are symbolic of motherhood and these recipes are from my mother. So now you’ve learned something useful here. I live to serve.

The Little Hippopotamus Book. Well loved and used.

I have her recipe for Beef Bourguignon, Candy Cake, Frozen Salad, and the delicious and terribly terrible-for-you Potato Casserole. Absolutely none of these recipes is in any way healthy. They are all loaded with delicious fat and sugar and carbohydrates and that’s what makes them so good. It’s also why I haven’t made them in years. That Frozen Salad though!  When I came across that one I began to wonder how I could make that on the boat. Memories of that creamy coolness sliding across the palate… they came rushing back in a most visceral way. I cannot lose these recipes! But the little book is falling apart. What to do?

The little book. Falling apart with age and use now.

Enter the new world of computer Apps.  For several years I have been using an App named Mealboard, which is about the dumbest name I can think of for an application that is this clever and useful. In a nutshell, Mealboard allows me to add new recipes, sometimes directly from websites, categorize them, and plan meals and create shopping lists from those plans. It’s simple to use and since I’ve been using it for probably 4 years or more, I can attest to it being bulletproof. I can log in on line, where the typing is easier on my computer, input recipes to their simple and intuitive platform, then sync the application with the one on my phone. This gives me easy access to all my recipes even when I’m offline in the Sea of Cortez. If you are gearing up to go cruising, take a look at Mealboard if you are looking for a way to organize your recipes.

To add a new recipe, just click on “new recipe”. To import from one of the websites they have connected with, click on “import recipe”.

One of the best things about this application is that you can enter a recipe via regular text typing, then hit ‘done’ and it will show up in the dedicated columns on the recipe page. If I want to copy a recipe on line, I just copy the ingredients into this page and it populates the correct boxes with that information. Then I simply copy and paste the directions into the appropriate box. There is a place for you to reference the website so you’ll always know where you got the recipe. You can also add a photo if you like. There is a place for notes as well, so you can put in variations or additional information.

Easily type all the ingredients in the text box. Then hit done and the ingredients show up like this:’

Notice that the cheese didn’t get put in the correct grocery category. That’s because I used the words ‘sharp cheddar’, rather than ‘cheddar, sharp’. I can easily correct that on this screen by using the dropdown menu if it’s important to me.

So yesterday I began adding all the recipes from that little book Mom gave me years ago; the one that’s falling apart now and the pages yellowing with age. I’ll be able to get rid of the book, knowing I won’t lose the vision into 1970’s eating and church potlucks that it represents for me. The tastes, smells, feelings of repletion are saved for posterity, I hope. I do admit to being a little hesitant to ever throw away a hard copy of anything. What if the internet goes away? How will I get my recipes? That’s a rabbit hole I’m not prepared to engage with.

Now what to do with the same kind of book I created for my own kids? It has my famous ‘never the same twice’ Chicken Soup, my spicy and thick  Beef Chili, Mom’s Famous and Delicious Chicken Salad (that would be me, not my own mom), and the family favorite ‘Goria’s Taco Soup’, so loaded with carbs you’re sure to be bloated after eating a bowl. For the cookie monsters among us there is the Christmas favorite ‘Molasses Platter Cookies’, the recipe for which exists on an old Tacoma newspaper clipping from 1986.  And speaking of Christmas, I would never want to lose the recipe for the incredibly important French Breakfast Donuts that we have only on Christmas morning with our mimosas. Do my kids want to carry around a book of my old recipes from their childhoods? Probably not. Maybe I’ll just give them my Log in information for MealBoard before I die.

The book I created for my own kids is a little fancier with some useful general information included.

Here are a couple of those fabulous 70’s recipes Mom passed down to me. You might enjoy them, too. And if you have a favorite recipe I can add to my Mealboard App, post it in the comments!

Frozen Salad

Crushed, drained pineapple
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
chopped pecans
1 large carton CoolWhip

You be the judge of how much fruit you want, but I think the pineapple is just one can. Cut up the fruit and mix it together with the lemon juice and sour cream. Fold this mixture into the CoolWhip and then freeze in a pan. Cut into pieces to enjoy.

Potato Casserole

2 pounds hashbrowns
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pint sour cream
1/2 tsp pepper, or to your taste
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups grated cheese

Optional topping: 1/4 cup melted butter mixed with 2 cups crushed cornflakes. I highly recommend this addition.

Combine hashbrowns with all the rest of the ingredients except topping. Put in 3 quart casserole, greased. Sprinkle topping over the whole thing. You might need two batches of topping if you want it to really be good. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes of until crispy and brown.

Easy to freeze recipe so maybe for your next blue water passage?

French Breakfast Donuts

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (half cup for donuts, 1/2 for rolling)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Sift flour with 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Combine milk, egg, butter, vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until moistened. Do not over stir or they will be tough. Bake in muffin tins at 400F for 20 minutes until golden. Remove from pan while still warm and roll in the remaining sugar mixed with the cinnamon. I brush the tops with more melted butter before rolling. Because why not?

What are your favorite family recipes? I’m ready to add to my repertoire.


4 thoughts on “Pass the Potato Casserole, Please

  1. I loved my Grandma’s “Celestial Chicken” recipe, but it takes EVERY pan in the house to make. One cool days, I like to make my chipotle chicken soup, just add stuff. Onion, garlic, browned chicken chunks, water, chicken stock, corn, black beans, stewed tomatoes, green chilies, chipotle in adobo sauce for whatever heat you want. Avocado, cheese, sour cream, or crushed chips can garnish. Bill likes to add a knorr veg cube for added flavor. That potato casserole sounds yummy.

    • Anything with that combination of goodness passes my taste test. I’ll put that combination in my Mealboard app as ‘Donna’s Chiplotle Chicken Soup’.

  2. I solved the problem of my kids asking for those old recipes by starting a cooking blog. Now they can just go there for them. Here’s the link if you want some true comfort food.

    SV Kintala

    • I’m excited to see your cooking blog. A brief look showed me a recipe using plantains to make allergy free pancakes. I’m on board with that! We don’t have allergies per se, but I love a good gluten free recipe and especially love to use plantains. I’ve made grain free tortillas with them and they are very good.

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