Side Dishes, Uncategorized

Scalloped Potatoes

Brother Stuart sent a note recently to tell me he had come looking for Mom’s Scalloped Potato recipe. I’m a little slow, but here it is, Stuart and Valerie, with many thanks for your generous donation to my recent Walk to End Alzheimers .

This is one of the last recipes we cooked together while Mom was still in her home, and I was able to photograph it and everything, but fell behind on  posting new recipes during that transitional time.


When we made the recipe out of Mom’s favorite Good Housekeeping Cookbook,we were fairly certain this was the standard recipe the boys grew up with. The photos and the recipe at the end of this post are what we made at that time.

HOWEVER, I just found this version sent as an email to our daughter from LaVerne, dated 2004.

Scalloped Potatoes

“Dear Kendra, Here is the recipe you wanted. It’s something I had to work out for myself over the years as I was never satisfied with cook book recipes. And you may want to fiddle with the proportions to suit your family or for larger servings. For the three of us I used:

3 medium sized baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin.

Half a medium onion, sliced thin

About half to 3/4 pound of ham bits or slices (or whatever you put aside from the last ham you served)

Mix well one can mushroom soup with 3/4 can milk and several splotches Tabasco. Warm this in the microwave for faster cooking.

In a buttered pan (I used 7 x 11 inch porcelain) and in single layers arrange:


Cracker or bread crumbs



A little of the sauce, saving most to top casserole.

Repeat for at least three layers then put one final layer of potatoes on top. Pour remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with a thin layer of crumbs.

Bake at 400 deg until potatoes feel fork tender. Test after 30 minutes but plan on 45.

The crumb layer is the secret ingredient that separates the potatoes enough to cook nicely through without turning grey and unappetizing.

Other than that, you can’t go wrong. For a bit of color, it is sometimes nice to add a little grated carrot. Have fun. Bon Appetit, Grandma LaVerne.”

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From Good Housekeeping (photos are of this recipe)

4 cups thinly sliced, pared potatoes

2/3 cup minced onions

2 Tbsp flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 Tbsp butter or margarine

1-1/2 cups scalded milk


Start heating oven to 375 F. Arrange layer of potatoes in greased 2-quart casserole. Cover with some of onions. Sprinkle with some of combined flour, salt and pepper. Dot with some of butter. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ending with butter. Pour milk over all; sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, covered, 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer, or until tender. Makes 4 servings.

With ham: Arrange 2 cups ham strips between layers of potatoes.

All right, Brothers Stein, what do YOU remember best?

Side Dishes, Uncategorized

Five Bean Barbecue Bake

The Stein family traditionally turns to this dish for those big family gatherings in summer, but we recently made it on a cold drizzly October weekend and it’s really good comfort food.


I’m not even sure I met cousin Barb at the gathering with which I most closely associate my introduction to this dish, but I’m posting this as a thank you for her generous donation to my recent Walk to End Alzheimer’s event.

I was newly married into the Stein family when a reunion was hosted at the folks’ Washougal house on a 4th of July weekend. As always, we were there and pitching in. It rained buckets the day of the gathering and instead of overflowing onto the deck and into the yard, we set up rows of tables in the garage and Mike grilled burger after burger with the grill tucked under the eaves.


We doubled this recipe at least: ten cans of beans (well, not really – we always used Mike’s own home canned green beans, so one of these was a quart jar) and all the other ingredients went into LaVerne’s vast cooking pot, so huge that James carved her this spoon for cooking in it.


Five Bean Barbecue Bake

Drain one can each:
Green beans, Yellow beans, Kidney beans, Lima beans (baby limas are best).
Open but don’t drain one can pork and beans.
Brown then dice six slices bacon, and sauté one chopped onion in the drippings. Drain off fat.

Combine above ingredients and add 1/2 cup ketchup , 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 – 1/2 cups brown sugar, and 1/4 pound diced cheddar cheese. Place in casserole, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake 350°F for one hour.


Because of the richness of this dish, it really is a side and not a main offering. Our advice is to save it for that crowd. It was a really big commitment for just the two of us.

We found that if you pack the brown sugar as usual for measuring, it can make the beans very sweet.

When this dish was created, canned baby limas were a thing. For quite some time they were not available and we doubled the green beans. Now they are available frozen, but yellow wax beans are very tough to find. Substitute your favorite beans if you can’t find the ones suggested here.

Do not use shredded cheese. The cheddar gets chewy and wonderful in the cubes, and is an important aspect of this dish.

I remember feeling that I must really be a true part of the Stein family that weekend, cooking a favorite recipe for an army of folks, sharing laughter and good food in spite of the miserable weather.

Cousin Barb, do you remember this long-ago party?


Side Dishes, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Onion Roasted Potatoes (AKA Case-Hardened Potatoes)

My apologies for not having a photo of the finished recipe. We photographed as we cooked and ate through these recipes the past year, but toward the end of our time at Mom’s house, it was not an organized effort to match photo to recipe we were capturing, as we were taking more care of the mother than the project.

Many thanks to Trudi for your support for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. This one’s for you!

If you, too, would like to support my fundraising efforts for the Walk on October 1, you can donate to my page here.


Onion Roasted Potatoes “AKA Case Hardened Potatoes”

Preheat oven to 450°F

One envelope onion soup mix
Half cup olive or vegetable oil
Quarter cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Quarter teaspoon pepper
2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, cut into quarters


Blend ingredients (except potatoes) in a roasting pan.
Add potatoes, turn to coat thoroughly.
Bake, stirring occasionally, 35 minutes.
Garnish with fresh parsley.
Makes about eight servings.
Notes: Original recipe says 60 minutes. This is crossed out, replaced with 35, as you can see in the photograph of LaVerne’s copy in her recipe journal, seen above.


This recipe also works quite well in a cast iron skillet. It is one of those recipes that makes everyone in each family generation smile, I think, whenever we mention it. There was a time when LaVerne bought Lipton’s onion soup mix by the case. We make our own blend with bouillon granules, garlic powder, ground black pepper and dehydrated onion now.

What is a recipe that makes you smile?


Side Dishes, Uncategorized

Fresno Potato Casserole- and Some News About Mom

Below is a post I started some months ago – maybe it’s even a year now.  Much has changed in the year since I cooked with LaVerne in her own kitchen. A year ago this month, we moved her into our home. Three months ago, we moved her into a memory care facility. She has settled well there, enjoying her routine and her friends and activities. She feels safe and loved and cared for. We could not ask for better! When we visit, our beloved Mother is still in there, but it is only her essence that remains, and we lose more parts of her with each visit.  

The original intent of this blog was to cook through the traditional Stein family recipes we’ve all loved from Mom’s kitchen over the years. Here is the last post I was writing as things began to spiral farther down the path we have been following. I couldn’t bear to post it then without some editorial comment, but I couldn’t bear to share the immensity of what we were going through.  Dementia and Alzheimer’s one of those diseases, are terrible robbers of loved ones. These diseases burden caregivers and bank accounts. They steal years and moments from all those connected with a loved one suffering from a disease of the brain resulting in memory loss. Inspired by my friend Kevan, whose wife is nearing the end of her journey down this cruel road, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and work to raise funds for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s (our walk is October 1st this year).  As a thank you to each person who donates, I have promised to post a new recipe or poem here on the blog – to share our story and to spread the word. Here is my fundraising page.  If you donate, I’ll add a post for you, too. Here’s last year’s recipe, as thank you to Kevan.

LaVerne is now becoming less and less able to function in the kitchen on her own, and re-visiting her recipes with her is real joy for both of us, so that is what we’re doing.

Finding and recreating these beloved recipes is so gratifying, but it’s also had another delightful result. As we poke through Mom’s favorite cookbooks, sift through recipe boxes, and wander together through our memories, we are finding new recipes in old books. Sometimes they look so good we just have to try them.

The first of these deviations was Chocolate Zucchini Cake, which is getting rave reviews from all over. This time, it’s a creamy, flavorful potato recipe, again from Sunset’s Favorite Recipes II Cookbook. Fresno Potato Casserole caught LaVerne’s eye one evening as we were deciding what to make for dinner, and we just kept going back to it. It was clear that we had to make it when we found all the ingredients in the larder.Here is a rare photo of my mother-in-law LaVerne in action. It’s not been common for anyone to catch her at work in the kitchen, though she’s spent about sixty years in charge of one.

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You’ll have to take my word for it that the dish itself was lovely. We were too busy enjoying making and eating it to capture any pictures except this one of LaVerne slicing the potatoes.

Fresno Potato Casserole

2-1/2 to 3 pounds thin-skinned potatoes

4 strips bacon, crisply cooked, drained and crumbled

4 green onions, thinly sliced (including tops)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 pint (1 cup) sour cream

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup seasoned croutons, purchased or homemade (page 25), slightly crushed

3 T butter or margarine, melted

Pour water into a 3-qt pan to a depth of 1 inch. Add potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender when pierce (about 25 minutes). Drain well, peel and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Arrange half the slices in a greased shallow 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with half the bacon and half the onions. In a small bowl, combine milk and sour cream; spread half the milk mixture over onions, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Sprinkle croutons on top and drizzle with butter.

Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until heated through. Makes 6 servings.

Side Dishes, Vegetables

Dad’s Guacamole Dip

This wouldn’t technically be called guacamole, I don’t believe, with its many extra ingredients. However, it is a delicious dip, creamy and smooth. It accompanies other food well, as we discovered when I made it to go with dinner recently, but Mike made it purely as a snack to enjoy on chips. He shared the recipe with me, handwritten on a sheet of plain paper.

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I can’t currently find it, but thankfully Mom had this version taped inside a cupboard door in her kitchen so I could post this while I frantically search for the treasure of his handwritten version.

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Guacamole Dip
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
1 8 inch stalk celery, cut into 1” pieces
1/4 small onion
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 small hot green pepper (optional)

Put all ingredients into Osterizer container. Cover and process at level one until smooth.

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** Notes

For Mom’s sake, we omitted the hot green pepper this time, but usually I’d add it. It still has plenty of great flavor without.

We used Frank’s Hot Sauce in place of the Tabasco. Use your favorite.

For those of you too young to know, an Osterizer is just a brand of blender. Use anything you like to blend it. A food processor works well, too.

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What’s your favorite creamy dip?

Side Dishes, Vegetables

Coleslaw Dressing

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Until I met this coleslaw, I wasn’t a fan. They were always too sweet or too goopy…

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This one is crisp and carries a bit of a bite. The dressing can be made ahead and that does give the flavors time to blend. It’s mixed with the cabbage right before serving and that makes it the best!

Coleslaw Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons celery seed
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon chopped onion
Blend well and chill. Mix with one shredded cabbage just before serving.

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As always, it’s really fun to make these dishes with Mom, especially at her house (note the nifty salt cellar in the picture above. It has always been a part of her kitchen).

We often make a half recipe of this dressing for a half cabbage, which suits our smaller crew just right. A whole cabbage makes a lot of coleslaw.

If you want it to look funny, use red cabbage. I love the taste (just a tad different), but it does look a bit strange.

Do you have a favorite make-ahead dressing or sauce?

Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Creamy Cucumber Sauce (AKA Dilly Sauce)

For many years, there was never a piece of salmon served in the Stein household without this sauce to accompany it. We put other things on our fish now, but when we made this recipe, I remembered why it was so right with a succulent, fresh filet. On the other hand, why bother with fish to put it on when you can just eat it all up with a spoon?

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Creamy Cucumber Sauce (AKA Dilly Sauce)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
3/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1 tablespoon vinegar
3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon dill weed

Use plain salt if you aren’t a seasoned salt person. Also use a high quality sour cream since it’s the base of the sauce, and a good mayo does wonders too.

It’s really good if you make it a little while ahead. Thirty minutes is a nice amount of time for the flavors to meld. Left over for the next day, however, the juice in the cucumber can separate out and make the whole thing a bit watery. You won’t often have much left over. If it does separate, just stir it well and serve immediately.

As I mentioned, you can just gobble this stuff up with a spoon.

Extra cucumber never hurt anything in this sauce.

Sometimes there was fresh dill available and that is mighty tasty in it too.

We broke the rules recreating it here, because we served it with some grilled shrimp and a fish other than salmon. Also heavenly.