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.

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Side Dishes, Vegetables

Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce

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Here’s the cookbook that still resides on Mom’s counter. It’s missing the title pages and the tape that reattached the last page of the index, but the duck tape repairs on the spine still hold.

It’s been a part of the Stein kitchen as long as the boys can remember, and it’s filled with treasures and memory.

Mom didn’t ever share a recipe for this, but it started with a classic white sauce and a high quality cheddar, so this is the one from the Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

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I always marvel at how simple this really is.

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Stirring and stirring is the  key to smooth white sauce – while adding the milk slowly.

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Medium White Sauce (cream sauce)

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

2 Tablespoons flour (some people prefer to reduce flour to 1-1/2 T)

Speck pepper

1/2 tesaspoon salt

Dash paprika

1 cup milk, or part milk and part light cream

1. In double boiler (or in saucepan over low heat), melt butter; add flour, pepper, salt, paprika; stir until blended, smooth.

2. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

3. Cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened. Makes one cup.

To make cheese sauce, add 1/2 to 1 cup grated cheese and dash cayenne pepper. *

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Our cauliflower was cooked in chunks. Not nearly as lovely as that whole globe.

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*Notes

This original recipe calls for mustard powder here but I never remember that being used in the Stein kitchen. In my memory, maybe my own Mother’s addition of cayenne makes its way in here, but I’m fairly certain it was a part of LaVerne’s sauce, too.

A double boiler was never used, just a good heavy saucepan.

Always use a high quality cheddar. In the Stein’s house, it was invariably Tillamook.

My husband and I couldn’t agree on how the cauliflower was cooked, though it was always whole. Was it boiled or steamed? It was always lovely in the serving dish, that warm pale yellow cheese sauce flowing down the sides of the head of cauliflower.

He doesn’t remember this, but as I recall, his Mom made cheese sauce for broccoli sometimes, too. When our daughter disdained all vegetables except raw ones, she would eat cooked broccoli this way with pleasure. All the various Steins can correct me if I’m wrong…

Do you remember a sauce that made everything better?

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